Lightning had gone from contemplative to enraged in seconds.

Nearly leaping up from the swing, she took long, purposeful strides to where Serah sat with Maqui, and grabbed her by the skinny forearm.

"Light?!" she near squealed, scrunching her face when Light yanked her to her feet.

Lightning didn't hear the blond kid speak up at all when Serah was hauled away... not that she cared to listen. She did make a note, however, that if it were Snow she tore Serah from, he'd not let her go so quietly.

Dragging her to the privacy of the kitchen, Lightning all but shoved Serah into the room, closing the patio door behind her and rounded on the shocked youngster.

"Are you being unfaithful?" Lightning demanded.

Serah's face blanched like a kid who'd been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. "What?!"

She wished she could have said something like Mother taught you better. Or, at least, I taught you better! But she couldn't. Mother should have been here to deal with this and she wasn't, so it fell to Lightning; just like everything else had, and once the question hung heavy in the air, she didn't know what to follow with. What did Lightning know about such things? She had no idea how to deal with matters of the heart; she'd always shut hers away.

Feelings like love served only to make one weak; this was a perfect example.

Uninspired, she ground out the only thing she could, scared that if she spoke that sentence again, the words might fall out of the air and leave their imprints on the linoleum for all to see.

"You heard me."

The silence was deafening and Serah was unable to even meet Light's gaze.

"But why? He risked everything for you!"

Lightning watched as Serah's head sunk into her chest.

"Dammit, Serah! What the hell is wrong with you?"

As an absentee sister by choice for the last few years, she didn't have any rights or any claim on her crumbling sisterly relations. She knew she'd given those up when she told Serah to never come back to their family home, but she couldn't help herself.

Why this mattered wasn't clear to her either; it just did!

"Serah?"

Both pink-haired heads snapped to the patio door, Lightning's vision left a bit blurred after such a quick movement.

Snow, face unusually serious, crossed the room to stand protectively beside his fiancee.

"Is everything okay in here? I heard shouting." he said more to Serah than to Lightning.

Lightning snorted obstinately and rolled her eyes.

"Butt out, Snow."

"It's ok, Snow." Serah made a show of putting her hand on Snow's thick bicep "Claire and I are finished speaking."

It wasn't surprising that Snow was concerned with Serah's well-being; that's all he ever was. He obviously had no idea what was being discussed before he'd come along. Lightning almost wished he had been eavesdropping, so she could call Serah out. But Serah has been right; Snow shouldn't have been the one getting hurt... so why was she doing this? Sneaking around, plotting, leading him on like she was.

Weakness.

Lightning would never let herself fall prey to such a thing; to give up her heart would be the last thing she ever did. Snow had no idea what was happening, and the woman he loved the most in the entire world was about to shatter the heart he entrusted to her.

Never.

Lightning left the next day; caught the first flight off Pulse before anyone was even awake.

It was for the best. She didn't think she could stay in that house another minute knowing what she knew about how Serah was going to break the poor guy's heart. He might have been a blowhard, but he was a good guy.

Lightning never had an opportunity to have a boyfriend while she was growing up, having to watch over her little sister the whole time. She barely even had time to foster a crush, but that didn't mean she hadn't ever wondered what that type of thing would be like.

Tom-boyish, blunt and unapproachable, no one ever even looked at her twice.


Later that morning, nearly the second she arrived home – save for a few minutes to change into her uniform – she was standing in Amodar's office requesting an early return to duty.

She received an enthusiastic "Absolutely not!" for her trouble.

"But Sir."

"No means no, Farron."

She had to try again. Surely he needed her help, even to take her men off his and Fair's hands to free up time and resources.

"But Sir, I would very much like to – "

"I don't want to see you until Monday morning." Amodar informed her curtly. "Am I understood?"

He looked down at his paperwork, the question entirely rhetorical, but she didn't budge, waging her silent protest. After a moment, he spoke to her again, but didn't look up.

"Is there something else?"

She swallowed against the frustration bubbling up in her throat, wanting to jump over his desk and slam his head into it.

"No, Sir. Thank you, Sir." She replied tight-lipped instead of acting on her violent urge. Placing her hat on her head, she strode angrily out of the office.

"Well, look who's back early!" Smiled Zack Fair as he rounded the corner, taking up the middle of the corridor.

She felt her eye twitch at the sound of his voice.

"Captain Fair." she replied icily, side-stepping past him at the last moment.

Great. Just had to run into that guy.

They would probably comment about what kind of working stiff she was – asking to return to work early – and laugh. She was fully aware that people knew she was more dedicated to her work than anything else, but no one knew why.

And that's how she liked it. Her reasons were her own and she didn't share with anyone.

Allowing one's personal and professional lives to intermingle was also a weakness. She never allowed any personal information to reach anyone; but particularly her subordinates. If people knew too much about you, they could use it against you.

"Nice to have you back!" he called after her.


It burned as it went down.

It always burned.

The burn was good; kind of like someone rubbing out a knot in your shoulder. It was a good sort of pain.

It reminded her that she was alive; that there were still simple things in life, honest and straight-foward reactions instead of dishonesty and mind games. She was never one to hide her intentions and even though some people didn't know how to take her, she always tried to make sure others knew where she stood with them. That was the best way; be clear about what you expect from others in the most uncomplicated manner possible.

Uncomplicated.

The desire for simplicity obviously wasn't a family trait. She didn't want to think about Serah and the cruel little game she was playing at the cost of her fiancee almost as much as she didn't want to think about her last day on Pulse. It had been a mistake to go in the first place; she didn't belong with those people anymore.

It was time she just forgot about it now and moved on. She couldn't get involved, none of it was her business, even if she had already crossed the line...

Not that she wanted anyone to get hurt, but sometimes it was unavoidable. There was nothing she could do about Serah and her choices, but Snow didn't deserve what was coming to him, that much was clear. Maybe she'd come to her senses and see what she was throwing away, but it didn't sound like that was an option anymore. Lightning might not know the whole story, but Snow couldn't have done anything to deserve that kind of heartache, especially not from the woman he risked life and limb to return to.

Swishing the amber liquid around in the bottom of the glass in her hand, Lightning sipped thoughtfully, nose wrinkling in distaste, but not from the drink.

She'd never know what any of that would be like, and was sure to be glad for it. Who needed it?

And as for Amodar, she despised his stubbornness. He could be so incredibly unyielding. Sure, he was her boss, but since he treated all of his subordinates more like friends it was always a surprise when he pulled rank on them. Lightning, however, was never treated like she had been today.

Almost done her vacation, Light failed to see how returning to work a few days early really could be so disruptive.

"You'd think he'd be happy to see me back early..." she muttered, tipping the glass against her lips to drain it.

And just what the hell was she supposed to do for the rest of the weekend?

Setting the glass down on the coffee table, she turned it around and around absently, attempting to clear out her mind. Yawning, she leaned back in the plush chair, the footrest popping out as she pulled a blanket over herself, cuddling into the soft cushions.

Maybe she should catch up on her sleep.

Letting her eyes droop comfortably, the warmth in her belly spread through her body, and soon she drifted off.

Come the morning, however, Lighting would realize that her dreams weren't an escape.