Hello everyone ^_^
Thanks again for all the support. I really like this chapter, I hope you do to.
On a side note, I realize that I've been making Rygdea quite unlikeable :p but I guess we can't all be nice.
FFXIII does not belong to me, unfortunately.
"Sir, your dinner is ready…."
The small, plump butler hovered intrusively in the doorway of the study, where the Primarch was reading through documents acquired from that afternoon's meeting. He had found it most unnecessary, and his hand was beginning to ache from all the constant scrawling and signing. Besides which, he had much more pressing matters to attend to. Menrva had seen something very interesting the previous night, very interesting indeed, and the thought made him smile a little inwardly.
"Bring it up to me, if you would, Hawkins…"
Damn humans and their regular eating patterns.
Hawkins nodded humbly.
"Very good, sir," he announced, before withdrawing from the doorway and disappearing back into the corridor.
Dysley put his pen down and leaned back into the soft padding of the velvet chair, breathing out slowly, and then inhaling the scent of parchment and a cup of coffee from the desk that had long turned cold. The slow, languid pace of political life was an encumbrance he found hard to endure, but his own disinterest was immaterial. No, what mattered were the historical developments, the knowledge that no one save himself, and one other man, was privy to.
The boredom will disintegrate once the chaos comes; war had become nothing but a primordial memory to these people, they were thoroughly unprepared. The thought made him feel sick.
And at that precisely incorrect moment, Hawkins reappeared with a tray laid out with silverware, and Dysley's meal on ornate white china. He placed the tray on a side table, cleared the desk of papers, and then placed the meal delicately in front of the Primarch.
Very efficient. I think he shall become a permanent fixture.
"That'll do, Hawkins. I appreciate your coming in at such short notice; I'm not sure what has happened to my regular man, but your services have sufficed…"
Hawkins bowed his head.
"Yes, sir. Actually, sir, the housekeeper bade me tell you, there is some news as to the whereabouts of Mr. Porter…"
Hawkins could have sworn he saw a grin breach Dysley's usually deadpan face.
The Primarch already knew the news he was about to receive.
"Yes, apparently his wife telephoned early this afternoon – Mr. Porter fell ill during the night and passed away…"
Dysley tried, with all his might, to portray a rueful expression.
"That is sad news, Hawkins, but I suppose for a man of Mr. Porter's age and constitution, it can hardly be unexpected. Still, you will see to it that some form of condolence is sent to his widow."
"Yes, sir. Of course, sir."
"And would you be interested in replacing him in his regular duties?"
"I would be much obliged, sir…"
The Primarch smiled warmly.
"Very well then. The housekeeper will have Mrs Porter's address, and if you would kindly give her yours…"
Hawkins bowed briefly, before taking a swift exit from the large room, and closing the door softly behind him.
It was ever so nice to get the little domestic matters out of the way, Dysley wondered happily, as it allowed one to focus on the larger issues at hand. Right on cue, Menrva appeared on the windowsill, and hooted.
"Yes, yes, come over here…"
Happily, she fluttered across the room to land precipitously on the edge of the dinner tray, and looked up at him with large, green eyes. She hooted again.
"Was he now?" murmured Dysley with some interest, eyeing his questionable meal with some distaste.
Menrva continued, letting her eyes fall curiously to the food in front of her.
"An 'appointment with a lady'?" the Primarch chuckled heartily, "Oh, how nice for him. How lovely that it's all falling into place. I couldn't have imagined it going better myself!"
Menrva nodded in approval, before whimpering, and bowing her head in shame.
"Now, now, don't worry about the young girl; we'll get to her in due course. Not everything can go right the first time – that simply would be too good to be true. We'll have to bide our time a little, and try again when they let their guard down. For now, let us enjoy the developments…"
He playful popped a pea into Menrva's awaiting beak.
"Time, my dear. All we need is time…"
The problem was, of course, that she had to look good, without looking as though she'd tried to look good. Hair down, brushed, but not styled. Everyday clothes, except they were clean, ironed, and vaguely colour-coordinated. No perfume, but she had decided that putting some flower oils in the bath would have a similar effect and not constitute having made an effort.
Serah was putting herself through a similar, but slightly more intensive process. Apparently, this Snow was cooking for her tonight, an idea that Lightning was highly sceptical about, and so she had made a lasagne earlier on that Serah could eat when she got home if said boyfriend's cooking turned out to be dire. When Lightning decided she had reached the ultimate state of apparent unpreparedness, she sat down on the sofa and pensively watched the television, wondering when it was that Cid would show up. There was a horrible sickly feeling in the pit of her stomach, the kind of nervousness that she didn't often feel, and that was impossible to shake. She didn't really know what to expect tonight, what she should say. She couldn't even fathom why he even liked her.
Sighing, she got up, walked into the kitchen and procured a bottle of red wine from the shelf. Usually she saved them for special occasions, but there rarely were any. She took the bottle through to the living room and poured herself a glass, starting to relax a little as a ridiculous news story about a chocobo beauty pageant came on the TV.
Serah emerged from her room looking positively angelic, her hair swept back gracefully, leaving only a single curl dangling down to frame her delicate features, which were adorned with a little more rouge and powder than usual. Dubiously, she eyed the bottle of wine on the coffee table.
"Making a night of it, are we?"
Lightning looked her sister up and down, drinking in the whole ensemble with a grin.
"Could ask you the same thing…"
Serah smiled, and did a little turn.
"Do I look okay...?"
Serah put her hand on her hip, and scowled.
"No need to be sarcastic."
She really wasn't.
Serah picked her bag up off a chair and got a little jacket off the peg.
"Oh, and Serah?"
The younger sister turned, gingerly, and saw a stern expression on Lightning's face.
"CALL ME when you get there. DO NOT stay out past midnight and MAKE SURE he walks you home."
"Right, right…" mumbled Serah, sighing in exasperation.
"No smoking," Light continued, "No alcoholic beverages, no parties, no drugs, no talking to strangers, no running with scissors, got it?"
Serah couldn't help but smile mischievously at her sister's over-protectiveness.
"Yes, boss…can I go now?"
"Sure," Light conceded, having done all she could to prevent an encore of the previous evening's events, "Have a nice night…"
Serah huffed, and grinned.
"Without running with scissors? I'll try…"
Bless her, and her cutesy sense of humour. A little smirk appeared on Light's face, and she listened regretfully as the front door closed behind Serah, and she was left to wait, alone.
Cid, still in his uniform, bumped into Serah on the sidewalk outside the Farron household.
"She's just up there waiting for you," Serah said chirpily, "I think she's a little nervous; she's hit the wine already…"
Cid nodded thoughtfully.
"I'll calm her down…"
Serah pulled a face.
"I bet," she mumbled, too low for Cid to hear, before waving and bounding on down the street.
"Behave yourself tonight, Serah…" he called after her, a playful seriousness in his tone.
She shouted something fairly intelligible over her shoulder.
"…...as bad as she is…deserve each other…."
It was all he heard of her response as she disappeared around the corner, and out of earshot.
He paced up to the front door, and gave it a gentle knock.
When Light appeared, she smiled at him amiably, and his anxiety seemed to subside a little. She looked….pretty, her hair flowing beautifully and a hint of colour in her cheeks.
"You look nice… Sorry, I didn't have time to change…"
It was all he could say.
She shuffled a little, and tried her best to be nonchalant.
"Don't worry, I like the uniform. You going to come in?"
She stepped aside and led him into the living room.
"Make yourself comfortable," she offered, "Would you like some wine?"
Slumping down onto the sofa, he positioned himself amongst the cushions, attempting to get comfortable.
"After the week I've had, I think I deserve it…."
She smiled, and wandered into the kitchen to fetch a glass. She poured him a generous amount, handed the glass to him, and picked up her own.
"Cheers," he said, raising his glass with a smile. Light clinked their glasses together.
"Cheers," she confirmed, and they both took a long sip. An interested look appeared on Cid's features.
"Mm, how old is this?"
"Ten years or so," she mused, glancing over to the bottle, "I was saving it, but what the hell…"
She took another long gulp. Her senses were telling her it was not good to be inebriated in her current situation, but with each little sip the fear pooling in her belly was a little quelled. They chatted a little of life, and Light disappeared briefly to receive a phone call confirming that her sister had not befallen any catastrophes on the way to Snow's place. On her return, Light confided in Cid her concerns about Serah's new beau, and as always, he was keen to listen and quick to reassure her. As he did so, Cid noted that the bottle of wine had depleted significantly over the course of the evening.
"I didn't have you down as the drinking type, Light…" he said, smiling happily.
She shook her head, and put the glass down.
"I'm not, really, but I guess I needed it. I've been a little under the weather recently, and what with work…Serah…."
She trailed off, and Cid nodded knowingly.
"Believe it or not, the Response Unit is pretty complicated too. We're scrapping the T-91A and bringing in a new prototype. It's only in the paperwork stages at the moment, but it's going to be a long and tiresome process."
"The T-91A? Didn't they just build that?"
"That was four years ago. Remember, it was how we met. You were only, what, sixteen?"
She nodded, recalling the incident in his office. She was so young then, so afraid and vulnerable after the loss of her mother. Never would she have imagined when she met Cid that they'd end up, well, like this. She'd never really imagined herself like this with anyone.
"Doesn't feel like all that long ago, does it, Cid? I guess we haven't changed much…"
Cid glanced from his glass of burgundy liquid to the deep blue eyes of which he had grown fond. It didn't hurt when she looked at him – it didn't hurt when he heard her voice. The pains in his chest, the dull meagre throb in his gloved hand, they skulked away like a frightened animal in her presence, leaving behind them the feelings of complacency and contentment that Cid had been known to feel only whilst human. There was such confusion, such convolution in his mind. He was still refusing to believe what he was, what he would become, and he knew, in his heart, the less involved he was, the easier it would be for Lightning. Why then, did he feel that the closer he got to her, the more he would find out? As though she was involved in this long before he ever was? Putting to rights the wrongs in his heart and mind - was she written into Dysley's script as well?
Lightning….why couldn't we have been together before…before I became this monster?
"On the contrary…" he said quietly, into his glass, "I think you've changed a lot since then…"
She'd noticed an alteration in Cid's tone, in his expression, but said nothing, and retrieved her glass from the table.
"Oh? You think so?"
He nodded, sullenly.
"The girl I met then….well, she was just a girl. Very alone, very afraid…."
Light looked at him sideways.
"And now…you're an accomplished soldier, you've successfully raised a bright, if a little wayward, young girl, and managed to run a household all by yourself. That's….well, that's very impressive…"
Light exhaled, and made a sound like a pleased hum. She was not really used to compliments – she thought about saying something nice in return, but he continued before she had a chance.
"And then, well, look at me," Cid could feel the wine beginning to loosen him up, "I've done well in my career, yes, but I never see any actual combat, never been a war hero. I have a small, bare apartment, no family, a very limited social life…"
Cid placed his glass down on the table.
"Excluding the estimable Farron sisters," he continued, "I have a grand total of one friend, and I haven't been to a non-work-related party in over fourteen years…."
Light saw the amusement in Cid's eyes, and chuckled a little, realising that perhaps they were both more similar than she had previously thought. But suddenly his smile was gone, and a strange moroseness filled his features. He looked straight towards her.
Cid began to wring his hands, and his eyes seemed to sink into his skull, and become sorrowful.
"Moreover," he began again, his voice now softer, "I am completely and utterly…enamoured with a woman who is far, far too good for me."
Lightning felt her breath hitch in her throat, and her heart pick up the pace. It was the sincerity in his voice that truly astounded her the most.
He honestly believes that...she thought in wonderment.
He honestly believes that the paranoid sociopath who distress-calls him in the middle of night is too good for him.
She didn't let her face depict her feelings. Instead, she remained calm, expressionless, placed her glass down on the coffee table, and reached for his hand.
Cid did nothing as she pulled herself closer, lifting her free hand to tilt his head towards her.
"Look at me…" she whispered, almost inaudibly. It was hard for him to look, because he knew once he did that he would not be able to turn away. Her eyes were invigorating.
This time, she kissed him. Forcefully, unrepentantly, she moulded her lips around his and forced him to acknowledge her. There was something affectionate, and yet belligerent about it. Something that made him want to cower and run away, but he was too engrossed in her. She pushed her hand under his uniform, and managed to find skin at his waist. He leaned back against the corner of the sofa, and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her in to feel her exuberance and warmth. As she traced her lips across his neck, he wished dreadfully that he could remove his gloves and feel her skin, feel every strand of hair between his fingertips. Light still savoured the gentle caresses, and trembled a little as his hands ran from her shoulders to her hips, stopping only once to pull her head back to his. Must have those lips. He kissed her deeply again.
A moment later, she detached herself from him, and gently placed her head on his shoulder, breathing against his neck. Placing her hands on his chest, she pushed herself up, and sat back on her knees, rubbing her forehead.
"I think….I think the wine's made me a little tired…"
Cid smiled, and lifting his legs onto the sofa, he pulled her into his arms, and lay back against the cushions.
Lying in his arms made her feel like a child again.
When Serah came home, she noticed with some dismay, that she was late.
"Urgh, she's going to kill me…."
Tiptoeing through the house, she peered into the living room, and saw a sight that pleased her heart.
Cid Raines was dozing peacefully on the sofa, with Lightning beside him, one arm draped across his waist, and her head on his chest. Two wine glasses lay half empty on the table, and the TV was murmuring quietly in the background.
"That…" she whispered, to herself, "…is too cute..."
Trying her best to be as silent as possible, Serah switched off the television, cleared away the wine glasses, and turned off the lights. An idea came to her, and she cautiously opened the door to Light's bedroom to retrieve her sister's plain white quilt. Careful not wake either of them, she draped it across the sleeping figures, and tucked it around them as unobtrusively as she could. Standing back to admire her handiwork, she couldn't remember the last time her sister had looked so tranquil and peaceful.
Feeling the weight of the day on her eyelids, Serah drank in the scene once more, before shuffling off to bed, as silently as she could.
Thanks for reading.