Lightning slowly tapped her finger against her glass, eyes narrowed. In front of her, Serah was futilely trying to slap Fang silly from across the table as the huntress effectively ended the game with a royal flush. It was futile because, one, Serah was too short to reach all the way across, and two, Snow was holding her back with one of his ginormous arms. Vanille was giggling uncontrollably next to her, happy despite the fact that she'd just lost. Sazh had his arms crossed and sharing an amused look with Hope, who was rubbing the back of his head with a sheepish grin on his face as if to say, We really should have seen this coming. All six were engaged in the finale of the card game - no one paid her any attention.

She pursed her lips and immediately ceased her tapping once she noticed what she was doing. It was a nervous habit, something she never did. The fact that she had even started one without her knowledge caused a measure of alarm to arise, but it was quickly brushed aside by her next thought: It must be the alcohol. With a small sigh of relief, she raised her glass to take another sip but came up empty. Only a drop remained within her tall, fat glass. A twitch of an eyebrow signaled her annoyance as she set the glass down and simply retrieved the bottle. Definitely the alcohol. Why she felt the need to drink so much, she couldn't say. Perhaps she had been around the two native Pulsians too much, or perhaps it was the fact that she had not had a single drink in many months. Either way, she felt in no way hindered in her quest to simply drink, so she tilted the bottle back and took a long draw of the savory liquid. She eyed the bottle for moment; the buzzing had not yet begun and she still had plenty to go. Satisfied, she returned to the table of chaos.

"Well, well, Sunshine, it seems you've finally decided to have some fun!" Fang exclaimed as she noticed the soldier pass her by. Lightning merely shrugged as she returned to her seat, noting that Serah was now quietly fuming from under Snow's chuckling form and Vanille was still giggling. Secretly, Fang was slightly worried that Lightning had chosen to drink whiskey, and straight from the source no less. It did not pass her sharp eyes that Lightning carried no glass, and was proven correct when the soldier brought the bottle to her lips and took a long sip. Lightning only drank on the occaison and most times, if not all, was because Serah coaxed her into it for celebration's sake. Whenever Lightning drank of her own free will, and heavily at that, it was for one of two reasons: she was beyond pissed off or something was eating at her. Seeing as how she had not been anywhere near the levels of anger required for this level of consumption, Fang could only assume it was the latter. She pursed her lips and looked down at her hands to hide her expression as she shuffled the cards for another game.

"Hey, now, why are you in such a hurry to get drunk, Light?" Sazh asked, watching the soldier warily as she took another swig. Fang glanced up and was pleased to see Lightning was not yet flushed and her eyes were still clear. "I'm not," Lightning responded simply, accepting the cards Fang sent her way without complaint. "And before you think I'm just saying that, I simply felt like I needed a drink. Is that a problem?" Sazh shook his head and raised his arms in compliance before accepting his own hand of cards and sinking into his poker mindset. Fang, watching, puffed on her cigar and filed away that piece of information for later. For now, there was a game to dominate.

"Faaannng, that's the..fiiiii-sixth!..time you've won tonight! Can we do something ellllllse?" Vanille drunkenly whined, too far gone under the influence to realize they had by now played way beyond six times. However, Fang had still won each and every one, so within Vanille's intoxicated mind it didn't really matter how many times they had played. What did matter was that she was bored and wanted something exciting to do. Hope was already passed out in the lounge area, having been removed there by Snow. He and Sazh were making stupid jokes and jibes at each other, well into their own drunkenness. Serah was watching on with amusement, giggling at two being silly. She was still sober, having opted to be the designated driver home.

"I don't even know why we still play any card games with you," Lightning grumbled from Vanille's left. "You'd think we'd have learned by now that it's just a waste of time and money."

Fang chuckled as she counted her profits with glee. "It's called wit, Light - ya always come back because I make you come back." She looked up and winked at the soldier, grinning like the player she was. Lightning raised an eyebrow and reached for her dwindling supply of whiskey - there was only a quarter of the bottle left. She eyed it mournfully for a moment then downed the rest in a single drink. Fang stopped grinning momentarily to slightly gape at the chugging soldier, a sight few had ever seen before. Lightning drank and drank, finally setting the empty bottle down with a hard thud, lips pressed together in a thin line. She was slightly flushed and her eyes unclear - not fully drunk but definitely not sober, either. Another thud sounded as Vanille slumped over on the table, passed out. Fang sighed and pocketed her winnings as she stood, pushing her chair back with nary a squeal.

"Bedtime," she said goodnaturedly as she gently scooped up her adoptive sister. Vanille curled her arms around Fang's neck and sighed. Lightning had her head resting on one hand, watching Fang with an almost sad expression. It puzzled Fang, but the sound of more chairs being scraped back caused her to look up. Lightning's eyebrow twitched at the sudden noise; Fang held in a chuckle. Sazh was mumbling something about it being way past his own bedtime as he made his way over to the other couch and stumbled onto it. Snow muttered something back as Serah tugged on his large arm. She looked back at Fang, an apologetic expression on her face. "I'd better get him home," she said, continuing to tug. "Thanks for the good time, Fang! I'll see you later."

"Bye, Serah," Fang responded, smirking as the youngest Farron continually failed to lift her large husband from his seat. "Having trouble?"

Serah, hating to ask for anything, ceased struggling and slightly nodded her head. Fang adjusted Vanille's weight onto one arm before walking over to stand beside Snow's chair. She ruffled Serah's hair affectionately and then reached down towards Snow's arm and got him to his feet with a powerful tug. He yelped in alarm and staggered about until Fang's iron grip got him steady again. "Easy there, hero," she said, placing his arm in Serah's tiny hands. He moaned something incoherent as Serah smiled appreciatively and dragged him out the door. Fang waved back and snickered when Snow almost fell over onto poor Serah. Fang made to follow suit and make sure they would make it back to their car okay, but the sudden appearance of Lightning by her shoulder stopped her.

The soldier was half an arm's length away, watching the two go with that same strange expression. Fang, knowing exactly what she was about to do, placed a halting hand on her arm. "Don't even think about, Sunshine. You're crashin' here tonight," she commanded, absolutely serious. Lightning regarded her solemnly, blue eyes searching hers. They were more vulnerable than Fang could ever remember them being; she could see a desire Lightning herself couldn't understand, and a near sadness the soldier couldn't place. Her observations were halted when Lightning dipped her head in acquiescence and motioned for Fang to precede her. Fang sighed and kept her hand on Lightning's arm as she walked, removing it only to shut the door behind them. Just like she suspected, Lightning was in no shape to drive home - her footsteps were slightly stumbly and her movements more controlled. No one remained in the house, knowing Fang's unbendable rule of leaving by two hours before sunrise. It was also clean as could be, with Fang's other rules being to clean up whatever mess you made and not venture into private bedrooms for whatever reason. Not a single person ever broke her party rules; to provoke the ire of Oerba Yun Fang was a death sentence.

Lightning paused in the kitchen and waited for Fang to return from depositing Vanille in her room. The soldier felt disconnected and incredibly tired, the effects of the alcohol complete in her system. The strange feeling she had felt had disappeared, smothered under her beloved whiskey. But she felt strangely..desolate. It puzzled her as she found a suitable wall and rested her head against it. Her mind searched for every possible reason, but in its current state, there wasn't much she could think through. She stayed there for an impossible time, simply waiting and hoping she wouldn't fall asleep on the floor. A warm hand broke her from her state, causing her to slowly open her eyes halfway and blink. Fang was standing next to her and speaking, but she couldn't quite catch it.

"Say again?" Lightning asked, rapidly becoming more sleepy by the second.

Fang paused and looked at Lightning worriedly. "I said, do you think you can make it up the stairs to your room?"

"Mm.." was Lightning's reply as she tried to take a step forward and ended up toppling over into Fang's arms, having lost the battle with sleep. "Guess that's my answer," Fang chuckled, adjusting Lightning's weight in her arms before striding her way towards the soldier's room. Lightning shifted and nuzzled her head into Fang's neck, murmuring something about warmth. Fang smiled warmly and held her closer. Leave it to Lightning to be unconsciously adorable when almost drunk. She ascended the stairs with ease and gently opened Lightning's door, approaching the bed slowly. A thought occurred to her then, a thought which caused her to laugh out loud. She set Lightning down carefully.

"Sorry, Light, but that outfit's gotta come off if you plan to wake up unsuffocated in the morning," Fang said, slowly and gingerly removing the suit. She breathed no small sigh of relief when she saw Lightning had clothes on underneath the suit, if only a little. A small tank top and her customary shorts were all, but it was more than Fang could have hoped for. She tucked Lightning in with a motherly smile, bending down to kiss the top of her head when finished. "G'night, Lightning," she murmured, pleased to hear a small one in return. She left the room quietly, leaving Lightning to snuggle down into the blankets and sigh happily.

It was only a few hours later that Lightning's eyes fluttered open, gazing blankly at the bright window nearby. She sat up slowly and took in her surroundings; realization dawned a precious few minutes later, but she did not move to leave. Instead, she watched the window and thought of the night's events. Her desire to drink so much still puzzled her, as did the strange feelings that had assaulted her. However, she was pleased to note that she no longer felt conflicted with..whatever that was. Brushing aside the trivial thoughts, Lightning stood and proceeded to her adjoining bathroom. Her room was the only other room in the house that had a separate bathroom attached, Fang's being the other one. Every other resident had to make do with the respective upstairs and downstairs bathrooms, a fact that was not as clear cut as one would think. Vanille spent ungodly amounts of time in the downstairs one, and Hope hogged the upstairs one. Serah stole it from Hope whenever she spent the night, resulting in an all-out war among the rest of the guests. Sazh and Snow would struggle to keep Hope from busting down the door, while Fang kept Vanille's unaccosted. The arguments and screaming would continue far into the morning routine, ceasing only when they dispersed for the day. However, it was well known that no one, absolutely no one, was to try and use those Fang and Lightning had. An amused smirk touched Lightning's face as she remembered the one time Snow had been idiotic enough to try. She had broken his nose twice, his arm in three places, his ability to have children for the next few months, and shattered the bones in his hand.

No one bothered her after that.

As the steaming hot water of the shower washed over her, Lightning considered briefly on how she had ended up in her room without her suit. Fang's face flashed through her mind briefly, providing her with the answer. Of course it would be Fang, no one else was sober enough to do it. Lightning shook herself and quickly finished washing, eager to get home and finish writing her reports for last night's kill. Being a colonel made for interesting field opportunities..and many long nights writing lengthy reports. It was a job that required tremendous amounts of dedication and skill, and Lightning wouldn't have it any other way. She rubbed her hair vigorously with her towel, exiting the bathroom as she did so and headed towards the closet. Serah always told her that she needed to keep outfits around that weren't her uniform, so she chose a simple outfit for the day. It consisted of loose, comfortable jeans with her favourite white tank top, and one of her uniform vests. The only reason Serah had let Lightning keep it was because the vest was a sleek black and more..fashion acceptable than the others. Donning her necessities and outer clothing, Lightning left the room and descended the stairs to face the day.

When she entered the kitchen, Lightning was surprised to see Fang already awake and bouncing around in her usual cheerful disposition. The huntress was humming some unknown tune as she prepared breakfast, a sight Lightning was rarely treated to lately. Fang turned and winked in her direction, flipping the pancake on her skillet with excellent precision and grace. Lightning was almost jealous. "G'morning, Sunshine!" Fang greeted, reaching out a hand to beckon the soldier towards the steaming plates of food on the counter. "Have a pleasant sleep?"

Lightning chose not to respond, instead taking Fang up on her offer of breakfast. Despite what anyone may say of the huntress, she was a damned good cook.. if you were lucky enough to coax her into the kitchen, first. She had prepared a well-balanced meal of eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, omelets, pancakes, toast, biscuits; when Fang cooked, she cooked to feed an army. Pleased with the morning already, Lightning dug in with relish, missing the satisfied smile Fang was hiding. The first few minutes were passed in peace; Fang continued humming her tune as she flipped pancakes, causing Lightning to unconsciously relax as she enjoyed her food. It all ended when Fang finished the very last pancake and turned to address the silent woman behind her.

"So," Fang began, leaning lazily on the countertop near Lightning, "what was eating you last night?"

Lightning's hand froze on the plate for just a split second before resuming it's scooping. The action did not go unnoticed. "What do you mean, Fang?"

"I mean you drank an entire bottle of whiskey. Whiskey, Sunshine. That shit ain't light, and I know you never drink heavily unless you're pissed or somethin's eatin' ya. What was it?"

Lightning looked Fang straight in the eyes. "I don't know what you're talking about." She stood from the stool, carrying her plate to the dishwasher. Fang's eyes narrowed imperceptibly as she watched Lightning deposit the dish and turn back around. "Thank you for breakfast, Fang. It was delicious. I will see you later." Before Fang could even say a word, Lightning was out the door and gone. Fang grit her teeth momentarily. "Bloody soldier," she muttered under her breath, standing to put lids on all of the cooked dishes. Leaving her homemade hungover remedy with a small slice of toast on Vanille's nightstand, Fang headed out back to begin the day.

She did not notice the pale figure watching her with frustrated, icy eyes, nor did she hear the roar of the velocycle as it sped into the sky.

A/N: Mmm, leisure update. Chapter sixteen of A Question of Death is giving me trouble, so the restless itch settled in nicely. I do hope you enjoyed it. I'll be trying my best to get that chapter done soon. In other news, anyone else heard the new XIII-2 stuff? It has potential, if done correctly. That's my thought on it. Muurrrrr.