Lightning groaned and trudged the last few steps to the front door of her house. Normally, she wouldn't have looked twice at the doormat, but right now it looked very tempting. Maybe she could just ring the doorbell and lie down there until either one of the girls or Fang came out to get her. She sighed. As tempting as a little sleep sounded right now, her pride would never survive the beating it would take if her kids ended up dragging her through the door, not to mention Fang would never let her hear the end of it. So, despite the exhaustion that seemed to fill every iota of her being, she dragged her keys out of her pocket and opened the door.
"I'm home," she croaked.
Hardly a second had passed before there was a burst of excited laughter from the living room followed by the rapid drumbeat of small feet across the floor. A moment later, Diana appeared, her big, blue eyes filled with delight.
"Mom!" Diana took three steps and was about to hurl herself at Lightning when Averia rounded the corner and threw her arms around the smaller girl's midsection.
"No jumping at mom today," Averia said as Diana struggled to free herself. "Can't you see how tired she is?"
Lightning gave Averia a grateful nod. Normally, she wouldn't have minded getting an armful of hyperactive Diana. In fact, it was usually something she looked forward to. But today, she wasn't sure she could handle it. Her entire week had been one disaster after another. First one of her officers had called in with the flu and then another and another until before she knew it, she was leading almost all of the local patrols personally. Combined with all the work she had coming in from Guardian Corps Headquarters, she must worked at least a hundred hours over the past week.
"Are you okay, mom?" Diana asked as she finally managed to squirm out of Averia's grasp. "You do look a little tired." She pointed at Lightning's head and gasped. "And your hair is all droopy!"
Lightning lifted one hand to her head and winced. Now that Diana mentioned it, she really couldn't remember the last time she'd been able to wash her hair properly. "I know." She forced a smile onto her face. "So, how about you tell me what you and your sister are doing, and what do you think mommy is making for dinner?"
Diana gave her one last suspicious look and then grabbed her by the arm, tugging her toward the living room. "Come on, mom. I'll show you, and don't worry, mommy's been in the kitchen for a while now and nothing has caught fire!"
When they got to the living room, Lightning took one look at the plastic blocks scattered everywhere and sighed. Getting upset about the mess would take too much energy – energy she simply didn't have at the moment. Besides, the blocks were the girls' latest obsession. One of Diana's friends had gotten a set of plastic blocks for a birthday present, and after seeing them in action, Diana had immediately demanded some of her own.
Fang had argued with the Diana for precisely thirty seconds before caving. Honestly, the girl had Fang wrapped around her finger, even if the huntress would never admit it. In short order, Averia had been dragged into things as well, but to everyone's surprise, Averia wasn't just good at making things with the blocks, she was great. The older girl might not be able to draw a picture to save her life, and her snowman construction skills were far from spectacular, but the blocks seemed to be right up her alley.
The girls had started by enthusiastically following the instructions on the first box of blocks to make their own castle. However, the resulting structure had been somewhat less than impressive, and after pronouncing it as the 'single lamest thing in the universe', they had quickly moved on to building their own things. And when one box hadn't been enough, they'd ruthlessly exploited Fang's weakness for fake tears and pouting to get another nine. Probably the only reason that Lightning hadn't strangled Fang was because the blocks had to be at least a little bit educational, and they did get the girls away from the television.
Armed with a seemingly endless supply of blocks, Diana and Averia had moved on from building simple things like castles and spaceships, to using the little motors and gears that came with the more advanced sets of blocks to build remote control cars and robots. Lightning had actually found it quite intriguing to watch the pair at work, although there was something bittersweet about it too. She and Serah had played with blocks when they were little, but once things had started to go bad, there hadn't been time to play around anymore. They'd had to grow up, or at least, Lightning had.
"So," Lightning asked, picking her way through a maze of plastic tanks and robots. "What are you making now?"
Diana grinned. "Averia came up with it." She pointed at something on the coffee table. "We're making a gun blade."
Lightning's eyes widened and despite her tiredness, she found herself sitting on the couch and examining the device more closely. At the moment, the blocks had been put together to resemble a sword, one that bore a great deal of resemblance to hers.
"Does it transform?" Lightning asked.
Averia scowled. "Sort of."
"Sort of?" Lightning started the transformation sequence. There was a whir of plastic and the gun blade began to transform, only to jam about halfway through. Still, she could already make out the general form of the gun, and with a few additions it probably could go all the way… Dear Maker, her daughters had almost reverse engineered a gun blade. She didn't know if she should be pleased or terrified. "This is really good. You're almost there. Does it shoot?"
Diana took the gun blade from Lightning's hands and set it back down on the coffee table. "Not yet." She picked up a plastic rifle that was lying on the ground. "But this one does." She pointed it at the wall and fired. A plastic block hurtled out of the barrel with surprising force and bounced off the far wall of living room. "See?"
Lightning nodded and made a mental note to make sure that Diana didn't bring the weapon to school. Knowing Diana, she would use it shoot at any birds she thought were looking at Mr Cuddles funny, which happened to be just about all of them.
"Evening there, colonel."
Lightning looked up as Fang walked in. The other woman gave her a lazy grin, and Lightning felt a smile tug at her lips as she took in the bright pink apron that the huntress wore. It was a gift from Serah, and although the colour was just a tad ridiculous on Fang, Lightning certainly wasn't going to complain about how tight across the chest it was. After all, Fang did have a very nice chest – one that she hadn't had much time to look at or touch over the past week.
"Hard week?" Fang asked as she leaned over to give Lightning a quick kiss on the lips. Anything longer and the kids would probably try and shoot her with the rifle they'd made. "Please tell me it's not going to be like this next week."
Lightning gave a sigh of relief. "Actually, it should be much better next week. Most of my officers have recovered, and I'll be taking Monday and Tuesday off." She leaned back and closed her eyes. "If the world decides to end on Monday, it's up to Hope to fix it."
Fang laughed and gave Lightning a pat on the head. "Well, just lie back and relax. I've got a traditional Yun roast cooking the kitchen." Lightning's eyes snapped open and Fang smirked. "And no, I'm not going to burn down the kitchen. Sure, the microwave hates me, and I'm convinced the dishwasher is going to try and kill me in my sleep, but roasting is something I can do. You just stay here and relax." She looked at the plastic weaponry scattered through the living room. "Or not. You know, I'm just glad they haven't tried to build a plastic Bahamut."
Diana and Averia looked at one another.
"You know, mommy," Averia said slowly. "That's actually a good idea. We already know to build a dragon, so we'd just have to make it bigger, and I'm pretty sure we could get the arms and legs to work…"
Fang ignored the dirty look Lightning gave her. The other woman was probably just annoyed they hadn't thought of building a plastic Odin. "It'll be about another forty-five minutes. Do you want me to get you anything?"
"No." Lightning paused. "Actually, how about a cup of coffee?"
Fang shook her head. "Not a chance, love. You've been living off coffee all week. I'll get you some water instead."
Fang came back with a bottle of water and then headed back into the kitchen as Lightning stretched out on the couch. She kicked her boots off and lay back, watching out of the corner of one eye as the girls continued to work on the gun blade, their voices rising and falling as they argued good naturedly about how best to put the thing together. She smiled faintly. It wouldn't take them long, especially since they'd seen her weapon transform hundreds of times.
Slowly, without her even realising it, her eyes began to close.
X X X
Averia looked at her mom. The pink haired woman was fast asleep, one arm tucked beneath her head, the other splayed out across her stomach. "Diana." She nudged her sister. "Look at mom."
Diana looked over and her eyes widened. "She's asleep." She glanced about suspiciously. "Do you think she's faking? I've never seen mom asleep. Even when we sneak into her room, she's always awake. I bet she's just resting her eyes or something." She frowned. "Do you think she even sleeps? She might be spying on us."
Averia rolled her eyes. "Don't be silly, of course mom sleeps." She paused. "Maybe. But remember, she's been working a lot this week. Aunt Serah had to bring us to school and pick us up almost every day, and since mommy got back on Tuesday, she's been the one looking after us. We didn't even see mom at all yesterday!"
Diana scowled. "I know. I talked to Uncle Hope and he said it was because lots of other people got sick, and if mom didn't look after the new people then they'd probably all get eaten or something."
"He's right though. I saw some of the new people last month when I went with mom to work. Some of them are pretty bad." She sighed. Having parents who were heroes could be tough sometimes. "But at least she's getting some sleep now."
"What if we wake her up?" Diana sounded horrified. Sometimes their mommy could get grumpy when she woke up too early in the morning, what would their mom be like if she got grumpy?
"Stop worrying." Averia padded over to her mom and waved her hands around in front of her face. "She's really asleep, I think. So long as we don't do anything dumb like set off the smoke alarms again, we should be fine."
"Oh, okay." Diana grinned. "Since this is the first time we've seen mom sleep like this, we should do something to remember it."
Averia's lips curled. "I think I know what we can do."
X X X
Fang padded out of the kitchen, a spring in her step. The roast was almost halfway done, and the scent of it filled the house. It had been a bit of a hassle tracking down all of the herbs and spices, but it would be worth it. Traditional Yun cooking was unsurpassed when it came to the art of roasting, and it felt good to do a bit more cooking around the house, especially when Lightning so obviously needed someone to lighten the load a little.
However, she came to a sudden stop as got to the living room.
Lightning was still on the couch, looking as deliciously rumpled as ever, but the rest of the room looked a little different. Rose petals had been scattered across the couch and over Lightning, and a veritable forest of block trees had been thrown up around the couch, along with a block castle. It boggled the mind, and she couldn't help but wonder how exactly the girls had managed to get the whole thing up in less than twenty minutes. Hopefully they hadn't constructed block robots that could make other block things because if they had, they were all in deep, deep trouble.
And speaking of the girls, the two of them were conferring in hushed whispers over by the coffee table. Diana was wearing what appeared to be a fairy costume, while a somewhat less enthusiastic looking Averia had a pair of clothes hangers taped to the back of her shirt.
"What are you two doing?" Fang whispered.
Diana grinned. "You don't have to whisper, mommy." She pointed at Lightning. "She's really, really asleep."
Fang shook her head slowly. Lightning really must be exhausted if she was that deeply asleep. Normally, Lightning only got like that after the two of them had, ahem, engaged in marital relations.
"I see." Fang gestured at the rest of the room. "So, what is all of this?"
"My class is going to be putting on a play at the end of the year. I'm probably going to be the narrator, so I thought I could practice telling a story." Averia pointed at the video camera perched on a nearby shelf. "Diana said we should record everything so we could watch it later, and well, everything else just sort of happened."
Fang smiled faintly. A lot of things around their house just sort of happened. "So, you're telling a story. What does that have to do with your mom? Shouldn't you wake her up for this."
Diana shook her head. "No, mommy, she has to be asleep for this." She pointed at Fang. "And you have to do your part too."
"My part?" Fang asked. "And why does your mom have to be asleep?"
"Because it's going to be the story of Sleeping Beauty." Averia glared at Fang. "Didn't you read the school newsletter? That's the play my class is doing later."
As a matter of fact, Fang hadn't read the newsletter. However, she knew better than to say that. "Of course, how silly of me to forget." She waved at Averia. "By all means, go on."
Averia's eyes narrowed. "You didn't read the newsletter, did you?" She sighed. "Never mind, let's get started." She glared at Fang one more time and then went to check that the video camera was on. "A long, long time ago, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived a beautiful queen and a handsome king." She paused dramatically. "And they both had pink hair."
Fang raised one eyebrow. Perhaps her habit of twisting fairy tales to fit their family and the others had begun to rub off on the kids. Oh well, at the very least it meant that this should be interesting. "Pink hair, huh? That's kind of rare, don't you think?"
Averia shrugged. "It's not that rare." She grinned at Diana. "Besides, pink hair is the best and – ow!" She scowled at the younger girl. "You punched me!" Diana gave Averia a dirty look and raised her fist again. "Fine, dark hair is pretty good too." Diana nodded firmly and gave Fang a smile. "Anyway, the king and queen were very, very happy, except for the fact that they did not have a child. Finally, after years of waiting, the queen gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. The king and queen were so overjoyed that they decided to invite all the fairies in the kingdom to celebrate. Unfortunately, they made a mistake."
Fang had a feeling about where this was going…
"They forgot to invite one of the fairies, and although a normal fairy wouldn't have minded, this fairy was a bad fairy." Averia shook her head. "And when this fairy found out she wasn't invited, she became very, very mad."
Fang smirked. "What was the fairy's name, Averia?"
"Uh…" Averia winced. Clearly, she hadn't considered that. "Um… Jill. It was the evil fairy Jill."
Fang bit back a laugh. The girls had heard the several abridged versions of their adventures as l'Cie, and in none of the versions did Lightning have anything nice to say about Jihl.
"So, the evil fairy Jill cursed the baby princess and said that when the princess turned sixteen, she would cut herself on a sword and die." Averia gestured at Diana, and the younger girl looked into the video camera with the proper amount of horror and dismay.
"So, what did the king and queen do?" Fang asked.
This time, Averia was ready with an answer. "Well, they were very lucky because there were to very good, very awesome fairies that just happened to be there to use their magic to change the curse that the evil fairy had put on the princess." She pointed at Diana. "The first fairy said…"
Diana did a pirouette and pointed an improvised wand at Lightning. "When the princess cuts herself with a sword, instead of dying, she will fall into a deep, deep sleep." Diana pointed her wand at Averia. "And then the second fairy said…"
"When her true love kisses her, she will awaken." Averia looked at Diana, who had begun to glare at her. "What? I said what I was supposed to."
Diana put her hands on her hips. "You have to do it right." She handed her sister her fairy wand. "Here."
It took every bit of willpower that Fang had to keep from laughing.
Averia's eye twitched in a very Lightning-like way, and she glared first at Fang and then Diana, before finally turning her glare on the very, very pink, and very, very sparkly fairy wand. "I'm not doing this."
Diana pouted harder.
Averia glared more evilly.
And Fang wondered how long it would be before one of her daughter's suffered a stroke.
Finally, Averia gave a great sigh. "Fine." She twirled with all the grace of a ballerina and then pointed the fairy wand at Lightning. "When her true love kisses her, she will awaken." She stabbed the fairy wand in the air. "There? Happy?"
Diana smiled sunnily. "Now, I am."
"Anyway," Averia continued. "The princess grew up to be the most beautiful person in the whole kingdom, but her parents never forgot about the curse. Even though the princess wanted to learn how to fight, they made a law forbidding anyone from giving her a sword, and they made extra sure that no swords were ever kept where the princess could find them. Yet even if she couldn't have a real sword, the princess learned all about fighting from watching the soldiers practice from her window, and when no one was looking, she practiced with a wooden sword that she had made in her spare time."
Fang grinned. "Sounds like my kind of princess."
"She is." Averia nodded, and Diana ambled over to Lightning, putting the plastic gun blade in the pink haired woman's hands.
To Fang's amazement – and Averia and Diana's awe – Lightning actually picked up the weapon and proceeded to wave it through the air in threatening fashion, all while still asleep. Dear Etro, the woman was a sleep fighter. Talk about dedication to her job.
"But one day, the princess managed to sneak away. Even worse, one of the guards had left a sword out in the practice yard, and it wasn't long before the princess found it. She was in the middle of practicing with it, when her parents found her. They cried out in horror and startled the princess, who cut herself by accident."
"The princess fell into a faint." Averia pointed at Lightning. "And although the king and queen tried everything they could to try and wake her up, nothing would work. At last, they summoned the two fairies who had helped them before. The queen asked them what they could do, and the fairies reminded her that all they could do was wait for the princess's true love to come and wake her up with a kiss. But the king and queen were filled with sadness. How could anyone fall in love with their daughter if she was asleep?" Averia sighed. "Finally, the fairies came up with a plan. They would put everyone in the castle to sleep as well, so that the king and queen would not be sad, and so that when the princess finally did wake up, her family would be with her."
Diana pointed at the makeshift forest and castle around the couch. "But even though the people were all asleep, not everything else was. For a hundred years all the plants and trees grew and grew until the whole castle was hidden behind them." She pointed to the blocks again. "See, mommy?"
"I see." Fang pointed at a plastic tank hidden amongst the plastic trees. "But why do you have a tank there?"
Diana gave her a serious look. "It's to keep away bad guys until the princess's true love comes." She frowned. "I was going to put a few more, but Averia said they didn't have tanks back then."
"They didn't." Averia nodded at Fang. "Now it's your turn to do something."
"Just do what Diana does." Averia cleared her throat. "A hundred years passed before finally a brave warrior from a faraway land rode past the castle." Diana pretended to ride a chocobo, and Fang gave a shrug before imitating her daughter. "When the warrior saw the overgrown forest, she decided to investigate because she was brave and adventurous." She paused and then added, "And maybe a bit crazy too."
"Hey!" Fang said.
"It's just a story," Averia said. "I didn't say it was you."
Fang's eyes narrowed before she looked back at Diana. The younger girl was waving her arms through the air, and Fang followed her, pretending to hack through the forest of plastic blocks before she finally reached the couch where Lightning was asleep.
"At last," Averia said. "The warrior reached the castle. When she saw all the people lying around, she was worried, and she thought that all of them were dead. But when she saw they were only asleep, she tried to wake them up. However, none of them would wake up. So with nothing else to do, the warrior explored the castle. Eventually, she reached the tallest tower of the castle where the princess was asleep on a bed of rose petals."
Diana reached into her pockets and threw a few more rose petals on top of Lightning. Silently, Fang wondered just where they'd gotten the rose petals. She really, really hoped they hadn't gotten them from Serah's rose bush next door, otherwise Fang would have one angry Farron to deal with – and not the one that she could drag into bed to bed for a bit of Yun-Farron style anger management.
"And that was when…" Averia grimaced. "The warrior saw the princess. The warrior had never seen someone who looked so beautiful and peaceful, and she fell in love at once." Fang chuckled at the sour look on her daughter's face. "In fact, the warrior was so overcome with love that she couldn't stop herself from leaning in and kissing the princess."
Fang smiled and knelt down by the side of the couch. In all honesty, Lightning was looking decidedly un-princess like. There were a few smudges of dirt on Lightning's face, most likely from an explosion of some sort, and her hair was definitely a little dishevelled and grimy. The scent that Fang had always thought of as uniquely Lightning was also muffled by the harsher smell of disinfectant, scorched metal, and ozone. But even like this, Lightning still somehow managed to give off a stunning, regal air. Heck, Fang had a feeling that Lightning could make a burlap sack look good.
Giving the girls one last smirk, Fang leaned over and kissed Lightning on the lips. Vaguely, she was aware of Averia and Diana screaming that the warrior had kissed the princess on the hand not the lips, but then Lightning stirred and began to respond. With a groan, Fang forced herself to pull away.
"Fang?" Lightning murmured sleepily as she rubbed at her face and sat up. "Is it time for dinner?" She frowned. "And why am I covered in rose petals and… what happened to our living room?"
Fang gave Lightning another quick kiss on the lips. It was rare to see the pink haired woman so confused, but it was quite adorable. "It's a long story, one that you can see after dinner." She scooped Lightning up into her arms. "But first, you'd better help me in the kitchen. The roast should be finished any moment now." She looked at Averia. "So, what happened at the end?"
Averia rolled her eyes. "Of course, they lived happily ever after." She smirked. "And they had two kids, one awesome kid with pink hair and one not as awesome kid with dark hair."
Diana grabbed the plastic gun blade.
"Make that, two equally awesome kids.
X X X
Later, when the kids were asleep, and Fang and Lightning were in their bedroom, the two adults watched the video that the girls had recorded. When it was done, Lightning gave Fang a thoughtful look.
"What's wrong?" Fang asked. Her lips twitched. "Not enough action for you?"
"They changed the ending," Lightning said softly. "In the original, the princess's mother and father don't make it to the end of the story. They die of grief when she falls asleep."
"Well, they did cast us as the main characters in the story," Fang said. "And they do know how much you miss your parents."
Lightning smiled. "I just wish they could have met the girls. They'd love them, if the girls didn't drive them crazy in the first five minutes." She gave Fang another thoughtful look, this one far less wistful and much more heated. "I'm just glad they didn't read the original version of the story."
"Oh?" Fang's eyes gleamed.
"It's a little more… risqué." Lightning leaned over, lips a hair's breadth from Fang's. "Why don't you be the princess this time, and I'll show you?"
"I thought you were tired."
Lightning rolled on top of Fang. "We can sleep in tomorrow morning."
X X X
Just before noon the next morning, Lightning and Fang woke up to the sound of excited yelling from downstairs. Almost afraid of what they would find, they headed for the living room. Last night, the kids had put together a plastic block forest in about twenty minutes, who knew what they could do in a few hours?
Waiting for them in the living room were Diana and Averia. Each of them had a working gun blade, and both of them were on top of a five feet tall scale-model of Bahamut.
X X X
As always, I neither own Final Fantasy, nor am I making any money off of this.
So… it's been a while. To make a long story short, my previous laptop, on which I did all my writing, had a massive screen malfunction. In the end, I decided to get a new one since repairing the old one was likely to be expensive, and I've been meaning to get a new one for a while now. However, once I'd decided that, I then had to decide what kind I wanted to get and all that other stuff. But, now that I have finally acquired a new laptop, I can get on with business as usual.
My only gripe is that I'm about two chapters behind where I'd like to be on most of my stories here. I had hoped to finish Wasteland before the end of the year, but now that's pretty much impossible, and I've also fallen behind on Whispers of the Gods. I know that a lot of people are waiting for the next chapter of Whispers of the Gods and I assure you that the next chapter is mostly written – in my head. I also have something planned for Christmas, but we'll see how that goes.
With regards to this chapter, this one is fairly straightforward. It's a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. The main change is that the king and queen survive. I've always thought it was kind of sad that they didn't make it (not to mention, the fairies really missed their timing by letting the queen die of grief before putting everyone to sleep… oops, I guess). As for my reference to the more risqué version of Sleeping Beauty… there's a funny story about that.
As a child, I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on, regardless of what age it was aimed at, or what genre it was. During primary school, I stumbled upon the work of Anne Rice, and I quickly read everything she'd written up until that point.
Parental Tip #1: Anne Rice is probably not appropriate for primary schoolers.
I even submitted a book report about one of her books in sixth grade. To this day, I've always been kind of curious to know what my teacher thought of that. Anyway, I eventually became aware of the fact that she'd written under several pseudonyms.
Parental Tip #2: The version of Sleeping Beauty that Anne Rice wrote under a pseudonym is really, really not appropriate for primary schoolers.
Needless to say, reading that was an interesting experience although I had to read it in the library, since I doubt my parents would have let me borrow it. In any case, there are versions of Sleeping Beauty that are quite old that do put a more risqué slant on things, and it's some of these that Lightning is referring toward the end. Frankly, I'm surprised Lightning never tried taking off a few clothes to wake up Fang and Vanille. It might not have worked on Vanille (or would it?), but it certainly would have gotten Fang's attention, stasis or not.
As for the whole plastic blocks thing (I couldn't just call it Lego since Lego doesn't exist in their universe), I loved those as a kid, and I think they're exactly the sort of thing that Diana and Averia would love too. Of course, I never managed to build weapons out of them, but the Yun-Farron kids are a good deal more mischievous than I ever was.
As always, I appreciate feedback. Reviews and comments are welcome.