"Claire. I miss you."

Mom?

"Come find me. Come see me."

Mom!

"Mom!"

Throwing herself violently forward, Lightning sputtered as she gasped for air, her lungs seizing painfully from the sudden influx of oxygen. The room spun, the shadows on the wall loomed over her, and she strained in the dimness against their half lit forms.

Where am I?

An army camp?

Her hands bawled up in the damp sheets under her as she reeled.

As far as she could make out, she was in a real bed, not a commissioned cot. Her eyes flitted around the space as she attempted to regain her lost equilibrium but the only thing she saw before she was forced to close her eyes against a wave of nausea was a darkened window on the other side of the room.

Okay, not a camp... but...

Unsteady hands knotted in her petal coloured hair, her head falling forward into her chest.

A breeze brushed over her skin before the mattress beside her dipping under the weight of something.

Lightning shuddered from the cool rushing over her body; an undeniable presence forcing her to once again survey the room.

And then the shadows moved independently of her own unsteady vision. Like ripples in a dark pond, they seemed to lap against her harmlessly, but they were black and frigid, leaving her muscles tense.

"Lightning..."

Hands slid possessively around her torso, one hand cupping a taut breast, the other hard and tightly gripping her hip. The name was a chill on her neck, and she shuddered bodily, her held breath being squeezed from her chest when panic started to swallow all sense.

Under her pillow was a handgun; something she began to keep near her since she'd managed to become one of the only female captains in the Neo-Sanctum. She expected this type of thing from one of her male subordinates. She'd always suspected there were a couple who would get handsy if she let down her guard for one second, and it happened to more females than the reports ever told. She could see the type coming from a mile away.

Able to move, she didn't twist in the strange arms like she should have; hand searching underneath her pillow, but instead, each icy second sapped her will to fight or flee.

"Light..." The voice rumbled behind her again. Even thick and resonant with shadowy promise, she knew it from somewhere. It wasn't a voice that she was wary of even though her nature demanded it of her.

And then it was gone; the jumpy shadows, the embrace and the voice.

"What the...?"

Heartbeat still in her ear, Lightning blinked away the fog before her eyes, only to have the nausea return. Moving as quickly as her name, she darted out her bedroom door and into the bathroom across the hall. Heaving into the cold porcelain toilet bowl, she emptied the boozy contents of her stomach.

She knew where she was - when she was - as the present pushed its way into her consciousness, and the more it did, the more the memory of the hallucination seemed to evaporate even though she desperately tried to hang onto it. It meant something – she was sure of it... but what?

Weak and unable to stand, the only impression left with her before she passed out on the floor of the Farron family bathroom was the sense of something cold and powerful lurking beyond the edges of twilight in her mind.


He asked once about Lightning's hasty departure and received a very half-hearted response from his fiancee. Barely a word, really, but he knew not to ask again. Serah got a strange look on her face when he was silly enough to attempt to broach the subject for a second time. Whatever had happened between them that night when he walked in on their conversation had pissed Serah off. Actually, he wasn't quite sure that was it, because he'd not ever seen Serah in the state she was in since that night. His instincts, however, told him to just stay away from it.

And even though Snow was usually content to stay out of the Farron's sister's family issues, this turn of events concerned him in more ways than one; he just wasn't quite sure how. Lightning told him to 'butt out', which was in the vein of the fare he usually received from her, but the air in the room felt different than usual.

It could have just been him, but he had the nagging feeling he was missing out on a huge piece of the puzzle and no one was forthcoming with any information. Out of both concern and curiosity, he posed the question of Lightning's departure to Hope. Hope claimed he had no idea, but it was very obvious there was something going on. Even so, he didn't press the boy.

It had been eating away at him for days. He needed some sort of resolution, but no one was willing to give it to him.

Especially the one person who should have confided such things in him.

She was colder toward him than she had been lately, even going to far as to ask him to sleep on the couch.

He chalked it up to the pregnancy.

That would have to do until he could somehow uncover more of what was really happening.

So every morning for the last week he woke up on the couch, got ready to go into the city to oversee operations at NORA only to leave halfway through the day to drive aimlessly around the countryside, or sit in quiet contemplation at his favourite spot overlooking the fast growing metropolis. Only when the day aged into dusk would he head home, making a stop at Serah's favourite little market to pick up some things for her. And every night he walked through the door of their home into silence. Serah wouldn't come out of the bedroom unless he beckoned her; tried to tempt her with food or affection – the latter of which she had zero interest in.

With Serah completely closed off to him, Snow was at a complete loss.

He wasn't good at silence.

Or women.


She needed a good workout. Unable to get back to sleep after the strange dream, Lightning decided that working herself until she dropped was the best course of action. And the best place in town for that was where she had been forbidden to even step foot into until Monday morning. Still, it was Saturday and Amodar always took Saturdays off. Saturdays were her day to run things at the barracks, but since the arrival of a certain overly-friendly officer, even that wasn't a pleasure anymore.

Though if she acted quickly, she'd get in and out before Fair had even turned the lock; just over an hour until he opened up shop for the day.

Grabbing a sweater to keep off the cool of the early morning, she sprinted out the door and down the street.

She would have been lying if she said that dream hadn't shaken her somewhat. But even now she wasn't sure why anymore. What little she thought she managed to retain was lost to her and the more she even considered what it may have meant, the more it confounded her.

Not to mention her mother had been on her mind the whole time and she, for the life of her, couldn't figure out why.

A few minutes later, barely registering the passing scenery of the neighbourhood, Lightning swiped her badge to unlock the door to the training area.

Training kept her thoughts contained inside the boundaries of her task but it was all too obvious when distraction pushed its way inside her head. A weak punch or a missed connection with her foot left her cursing aloud and starting the exercise over again. Mental soundness was something that she prided herself on, and maybe because it was the end of her first week back, but she was completely useless after the days stresses. With a deep breath, she set her stance to restart the last set of drills – for the third time.

Alright. Focus, Farron.

"Didn't expect to see you here." Echoed a male voice.

Fuck.

Taking a deep breath before reluctantly breaking form, Lightning turned casually around to see Zack Fair standing on the perimeter of the gymnasium.

Her eyes shifted to the clock on the wall; ten minutes passed the hour. She should have been gone fifteen minutes ago to steer clear of him, but instead, she managed to get herself caught. It could have been so easy...

Without a spoken word, though mentally scolding herself, Lightning strode purposefully to the bench near where Zack was standing, picked up her towel, dabbed her forehead and headed for the door.

"Hold up!"

She stopped without quite knowing why, flipping the towel over her shoulder.

"What are you doing tonight?"

"Going to bed." She said a little more miserably than she would have liked.

"Without supper?" he asked, regaining a playful lilt in his voice.

Tch. Lightning turned around to face him. "What do you want, Fair?"

Obviously refusing to be phased by her short tone, he didn't skip a beat.

Avoidance seemed to be an effective tool to keep Fair at bay, but now she felt trapped and only had herself to blame. Why didn't she just keep walking? Why stop? There was nothing he had to say that might interest her in the least.

"Let me take you out to eat."

"No."

"Great! I'll pick you up at seven." He said cheerfully, his long legs striding easily passed her. With one hand pushing the bar down and the door open, he smiled, waving her through.

She didn't move, not knowing quite what to do with the situation.

"Ladies first." He grinned.

Lightning ground out a curse and stomped passed him.