My first new piece in a while...largely written at stupid o'clock to Kwoon – Eternal Jellyfish Ballet.

For Yoshiyuki Ly.

Disclaimer: Don't own FFXIII.

Shadows are looming as steep alabaster walls of ice and compressed snow tower over us, all around us. The sharp contours where the glacier has broken apart looks like some monster's crooked teeth in a kid's fairytale and I swear, in this light, it's like these cliffs are sneerin' at us or something. It's like they know there's gonna be no scaling them this time – we're stuck. I sweep my eyes along their unfriendly façade, scowling when I gotta dismiss a possible exit 'cause I know from experience that that jut is just way too shallow a recess to get purchase, or that ridge ain't strong enough to hold our weight. High above, the sympathetic moon watches with a secret smile and drenches us in all its pity; suddenly, illuminated is the reality that there ain't nothing I can do to get us out of this and my senses re-awaken, like they know I better make the most of 'em while I still can.

Fuck, I'm cold.

I shift a little – and just a little – 'cause I hear the ice beneath us creak and groan with the movement. I only lift my shoulders from the ground slightly to find her already crawling over to me, leaving the small, oval distress beacon in the snow behind her, pulsing an angry red. She must have had enough guile – more sense than me – to bring that with her before we set out; I guess that gives us a chance at least, albeit a small one.

The rapid puffs of misty vapour trailing in her wake is the only indication of how hard she's breathing with exertion and the drop in temperature. I don't hear it, not 'till she gets closer to me; 'till she positions herself over me with her forearms flush against the frozen lake either side of my face. She stares at me, looks right through me – I see myself in the black of her eyes as they draw closer, stop mere inches away from me, reflecting the awe I have of her strength and beauty; they're shining with an unnatural love...desire that is surely not human and we stay locked like this for a moment, wordless, breathing only the air each of us lets the other receive. I don't even blink when I feel the sting against my cheek of freezing droplets falling from the ends of her hair. It looks darker and dishevelled when damp and I gotta frown at myself when I start thinking about how this is how is looks after she's had me. We could actually die out here and this is what I'm thinking about – seriously?

Surely that's a sign of how deeply in love I am with this woman – how truly, utterly, madly obsessed I am with her; to want her to take me, right up against death's door, and then to make her body my coffin...

...to lie with her here, alone and accepting of our end...

...disappearing in a flurry of devotion, dead to the world, like ghosts in the snow...

The foolishness of my heart is what brought us to this; dragged us, through storms of reason and intellect – decisive, destructive – a bullet through a flock of doves. I told her not to follow me, but I knew that she would; I knew it because she loves me too much to let anything happen to me, despite her anger with all the trouble I'd been causin' of late. She wants to protect me, even when I'm bein' ridiculous and tellin' her things I ain't got no right to be saying to her. She sacrifices her pride to satisfy my needs.

It took a while for me to realise it, but it's only 'cause of Lightning that I understand love.

Where we were was a lonely place – a soulless wood, thick with skeleton trees. I reckon in the summertime it looked all kinds of pretty, but in the winter, the look of the bare, twisted branches set against a dirty sky only added to the desolation of the area. It was bleak, like my mood was when I led her there, but the powdery snow dusting the wood lent a much-needed brightness to the gloom. Each footstep I took into the forest was with a decisive crunch – it'd been snowing all day, and my footfalls were weighted with my determination to get away from her and all the guilt I was feeling at starting another stupid fight. I heard her shallow panting behind me as she struggled to keep up; in all honesty I was sobbing to myself like such a baby so I was desperate for her not to see that, being the stubborn, proud arse that I am. That drove my powerful legs through the drift, kept them moving mechanically, distancing myself from the source of my anguish.

Every breath of frosty air I sucked in made my eyes water even more as I felt the chill spread throughout my lungs; I felt my throat dry, causing me to punctuate the blanket of silence with an occasional short cough, frightening the birds nesting overhead and making them scatter in a chorus of alarmed chirping and flapping of feathery wings. I'd pause and watch this through narrowed eyes when it happened, using my hand as a visor to block the strong sunbeams that would penetrate the wood and thinning overcast skies; I'd only move to dodge the armfuls of snow falling from the upper branches in the disturbance, but otherwise I was still. This gave me an excuse to catch my own breath, and to detect how close she was to me, behind.

Light was never too far away.

Still, I wouldn't let her gain on me; I marched on, fuelled by my bitter thoughts and a perverse thrill in what she'd try to do to me if she managed to catch up. In my selfish tantrum, I hadn't really been dwelling much on how she might have been feeling about all this, but Light's temper was something even I thought twice about provoking; turning over the possibility in mind that she was angry made me think I should steel myself against my furious angel, so I convinced myself in my darkness that I was right – she was wrong, and kept on walking deeper into the wood.

Light was wrong, not because of her differing opinion – no; wrong in her method of disagreement. Today was supposed to be our anniversary; a celebration of the beginning of our love, our promise to one another to never stop; to never, ever leave. But she was leaving! On the next damned transport for some top secret bullshit she can't never tell me nothing about 'cause I'm some kinda security risk or what have you. You shoulda heard her!

"Seriously, what is the big deal? Look, Fang, it's not like I want to go, but get a little perspective, will you? This is important."

Oh yeah, Sunshine. Real important. So important that no one but Super-Farron can handle the 'slightly elevated numbers of Monsters encroachin' on civilian settlement'. So important that you can't even say sorry that you're leavin' on a day like this? Well, I got your perspective alright. You can trail after me all night if you want to; I ain't interested in talkin' to someone who don't give a damn about my feelings. Now, how's that for perspective, huh?

I was so caught up in my imaginary ranting that I hadn't noticed the sun slipping below the horizon – I'd been walkin' for hours by this point. Light was still a little ways away when I came to a stop at a clearing in the wood and collapsed in a heap of snow there, exhausted from the trek and drained, emotionally. I sniffled to myself, shifting my gaze skyward, watching the hue of blue deepen in the creeping darkness. Transfixed, I witnessed the theatre of hours spiralling and coiling to black; smiling softly to myself, I saw the timid starlight blush at the night.

The majesty above me made it easy to ignore the quiver in my body as it fought against the chill in the air; but the fierce beauty fast approaching me from the South made me feel shivers of a different sort: not purely physiological. I suppressed them anyway, determined to hide them from her in case she saw it and used that to her advantage over me.

I kept my eyes as hard as the thud in my chest, as cold and sharp as the icicles hanging treacherously from the tree arms; in the biting wind, I stiffened my posture as best I could with the way I had my knees so close to my chest, hugging them tight. I probably didn't look so imposin' but I was too knackered to maintain the pretence for much longer. I had to conserve my energy if she was gonna keep followin' me around all night.

When she reached me, she paused, leering over me but saying nothing. As she watched me through passive eyes, I glared up at her in all my glowing defiance – or petulance – and snorted.

"Tired?" Light asked after a few long moments, so calmly that I was immediately suspicious of her intentions. If I had the energy, I might have leapt to my feet and gone off at her on one of my fun but tiring rants, just on the off chance she was being sarcastic; but seeing as how I couldn't muster the strength to unwrap my arms from about my legs, I didn't see myself doing much leapin' anywhere at all. Instead, I let my silence speak for the torrent of emotions swelling in my chest and said absolutely nothin' at all.

Light heaved a heavy sigh as I turned away, looking for something else to focus my attention on – anything, really; the loose snow on the ground complained underneath her boots as she shifted her weight onto her other hip and folded her arms. Behind her, her long military overcoat flapped around leisurely in the breeze, only occasionally wandering into the scope of my periphery vision.

"You can't stay out here all night," she pointed out as her eyes drifted between whatever she thought I was looking at and the side of my face I'd let her see.

I snorted again, mostly at the audacity of her confidence. "That right?" I muttered over the curve of my shoulder, absently acerbic.

"That's right," she affirmed in this tone that was all assured and final.

"And just who says?"

"Me. Just there."

That's when I scoffed at her and returned my attention to that impossibly unreadable expression on her face. I don't know how she managed to look at me so blankly and still grace me with sensations that left me feeling not too clever, but I wasn't gonna let any effects of that distant charm of hers read in my behaviour; not when I was so bitterly aware of the time we had wasted out here, the opportunities we had missed all 'cause of her surly, manhandlin' of my feelings.

"I can do what I want, Light – I ain't some kid. If I wanna stay out here all night, then I will. I don't need no one's permission – or protection, okay? You got that?" It bothered me, that I could hear my own agitation. Light sounded so controlled, looked so unruffled, despite the exhaustion she must have been feeling. She wasn't the one shaking in a palace of snow, curled up in some feeble attempt to stay warm 'cause she had such a poor handle on her emotions that she didn't even have the foresight to bring a coat with her. Nah. That was yours truly. It was bloody annoying.

"No, you're not a kid," she agreed, placing a strategic hand on hip, immediately drawing my eyes to the subtle curve there and sparking some real inconvenient thoughts that I could really have done without. "But you are my woman, and if you're set on doing something harmful to yourself, just to get at me, then I'm gonna have something to say about it, Fang. I'm not letting you sit out here all night. I'm just not. Do you get that?"

Strong feelings of indignation seared right through the binding chills of winter that had had me chained to the spot. In a heartbeat, I was on my feet, stationing myself in front of her – posturing.

"You," I said, jabbing a finger at her and givin' her my best glare, "can't do nothin' about it, Captain. I ain't one of your Guardian Corps rug rats and, since it seems to have slipped your mind, you got a train to catch, remember? In, oh..." I let my frayed sentence unravel between us as I got all dramatic and made a show of checking my wrist watch. "...just a little under three hours! So, you can either disobey your superiors, which – let's be honest – ain't gonna happen, or you can try to drag me back home. And seein' as how you couldn't even keep up with me back there, I don't think you'd dare."

Behind narrowed eyes, I saw just a flicker of her discontent – she wanted to pretend that my challenge hadn't pissed her off, but I knew her better than that. Inside, I was so sure that she was seething I was imagining her melting that mound of snow she was frontin' on and sinking right through it, right in front of me. When Light kept her silence, her mystery, I fought pretty damn heroically to control my irritation; it was obvious to me now that I was just lookin' for a fight with her, to satisfy my deep-seated sense of personal justice and to let my rage burn away the pain I felt at her leaving on such an important occasion. I knew it was petty, spiteful, but it's the only way I knew how to deal with my feelings when she was so insistent on ignoring them herself.

"Didn't think so," I muttered smugly before turning away from her, finally succumbing to the cold now I didn't have to face her; I hunched my shoulders when I got a few feet away from her and crossed my arms across my chest, rubbing at the rouge of my skin left by the wind's icy kiss. The friction did little to warm me up – or lift my spirits.

Maybe she could feel the building of my inner frustration; sense the erosion of that band of patience holdin' together all my wits; feel it stretching, stretching...just about ready to snap. Maybe that's why she chose to say what she did, knowing exactly what kinda reaction she'd tug outta me.

"It's got nothing to do with daring, Fang. I just don't wanna break something so...fragile."

The word had barely rolled off her tongue by the time I had spun on my heel, charging at her with a mind to sink my name-sake right into her. She didn't expect me to collide with her at such force – that much was clear with how easy it was to tackle her to the ground; Light might look kinda willowy but she's damn stubborn when she wants to be. She grunted my name as we hit the ground and rolled together in the snow, each struggling to pin the other underneath and impose some kinda control on the other. Each time I found myself atop her, I'd feel the sharp jab of her knee in my side which sent me tumbling, giving her the advantage once more. I didn't let that stop me – I continued to frustrate her dominance, wrapping my legs around her and using the strength in my thighs to dislodge her from her position. I'm sure she was cursing each time I was successful, but we were both so tangled up in one another to notice our yellin' or to make sense of the words.

Just as I scrambled on top of her once more, she let out a painful yelp and arched her back unexpectedly, causing me to cease my aggression and back off a little, worried that she'd been hurt. I even found it in me to utter her name in between my panting, the subtle rise in my intonation clearly questioning her condition.

"...Light? Light...y'okay?"

She was still for a moment; I watched her closed eyelids twitch below her furrowed brow like they do when she's dreaming, so I leaned in closer, driven by my rising concern. I brought my face close to hers and heard the coarseness in my voice recede.

"Light...are you hurt? Damnit, talk to me, Light, please."

She did her name justice with the speed in which her eyes flew open, got her hands gripped around my shoulders firmly and flung me onto my back, holding me down like she'd got me lodged in a vice or something– not that she really had to; I was too dazed to fight back.

"What has gotten into you?" she growled at me, her diamond eyes hard but not sparkling like they should; dull. My lungs clawed at the freezing air, my reason gradually returning with each passing moment she was sat astride me, holding me still. I felt my temper beginning to cool off and my back beginning to burn with the cold. That heat was not at all like the warmth I felt spreading between my hips; that growing, glowing flush, escaping the core of my rival and speeding a pulse straight to my slowing heart. I wanted, needed more of it but I wouldn't tell her that, no way. I couldn't let her body fool me like I was some lust-drugged teenager. "What has got you this ridiculous!"

Before I gave her the chance to stop me, I suddenly bucked my hips up to her, shifted her from her breathtaking, beautiful prominence, fuelled only by my hurt and sheer outrage at her insensitivity. That violent thrust sent her stumbling backward and skidding across the ice, causing the sheath of her gunblade to scrape noisily along the frozen expanse, carving shallow channels in its pearly surface: visible reminders of my hidden strength.

I wasted no time in clambering to my feet again, chasing her down with a mouth full or words that tasted bad enough to spit. I started worrying about what I wanted to do to her; I hadn't a clue what I'd let my hands, my mouth, my legs accomplish once I had her under me, when I saw her lookin' at me with her surprised expression at just how wrong she was about this so-called fragility.

I had to drive my point home and clear.

I wanted to manipulate her body.

Light slowed to a stop just a little way away and quickly jumped to her feet, lookin' all kinds of pissed off at me. I even clocked her hand hovering over her blazefire behind her, like that was my unspoken warning – my cue to back right the hell down.

Well, fuck that.

"You wanna know what's got into me, Lightning?" I shouted at her, noticing how lost and hollow my voice sounded in the open like this. "You really wanna know? Then listen up and see if you can follow me." I came to a halt only a few feet before her, my chest heaving unnecessarily, but lending a little more affect to my aggression. "You. You are what's gotten into me. You're lodged like a knife in my fucking chest, Light, and it is pissing. me. off! Don't you get how much you're hurting me when you dismiss my feelings like that? Like they don't mean shit! Can't you feel the way it's cuttin' me up, the way you don't care?"


"—Today was real important to me, Light. It meant a lot. I had all this stuff planned, spent ages gettin' it all sorted. I feel like a complete fool. You've made me into a total idiot, I swear it!"

I started comin' over all melancholy, feelin' waves of despondency wash over me, smothering the fury I'd felt brewing in my chest and twinging at my eyes earlier. I couldn't take the way she was lookin' at me – like she thought her vacant staring might discover some reflection, some understanding of how I might be feeling. How I wanted to rip apart her skin and slip right into her; sync with her senses; melt into her mind; bind my bones to hers and make her see what the fuck she was doin' to me. It was the only way she could know, as far as I was concerned, and so...I advanced...

Three even steps, maybe four – that's as far as I got before I was stopped dead in my tracks. A quiet crack is all that preceded that ominous rumble in the deep; the one that built into a distant thunder like the growing crescendo within my chest. Beneath my feet, the ground began to quake and my ears picked up as the pounding of my heart was drowned out by the crunch of grating ice sheets.

The thin grimaces scarring the ice began to crack and split abruptly, creating large, gaping mouths eager to swallow us up whole. Light moved instinctively, bending her athletic legs and leaping as the chunk of ice beneath her halved in two, sending her scrambling for the larger piece, pitching forward awkwardly and cycling her arms backwards to maintain her balance.

I watched on, helplessly, only for a moment, 'cause that's all the time I was afforded.

In a blink of the eyes, I lost my own footing.

I fell.

Lightning's eyes were the last thing I was aware of, callin' out to me silently amongst the anarchy. I felt them reach out and clutch at me greedily, just like the dark above was clinging to the night sky.

My descent was swift; I hardly even noticed the fall. The freeze stopped me thinkin' clearly and I found myself lost in a place I knew too well; a vacuum of the real. I forgot how long I'd been floating in this underwater underworld but was still – somehow – mindful of the time passing by. There weren't no current to deliver me no where...instead, all I could do was bend and sway in the weightlessness that cradled me...floating aimlessly like driftwood, breaking into pieces.

The fire in my lungs accompanied the final glow of the dying day that filtered through the freeze from the crack in the ice above. Below me, the deep swirled with unknown, and I was vaguely aware of my body sinking, each sense abandoning me the further I submerged.

My heartbeat slowed – it trailed like the feet of some sulking toddler. I started resenting myself for having ever been so childish and for letting my vulnerability glow, despite all my best efforts to hide all that.

I felt my nerves begin to deaden and my guilt had me as sodden as the polar waters I was drowning in. In a last ditch effort to redeem my conscience, I spent my last breath on the woman I loved, hoping the sheer strength of my adoration would speed the sentiment straight to her heart:

"I'm sorry, Light. I love you."

And I felt my eyes grow heavy, aware of the pressures of consequence forcing them shut. But in the crush of the dark, in that breeding oblivion, two eyes in the darkness brought hope close...

In a rush of panic, I saw her face.

My eyes glaze over as she starts to speak to me; when I come to make sense of what's happened. I can't believe I'm here underneath her like this – wasn't I just lost to the world a few moments ago? I consider the possibility that I'm dead, but quickly dismiss it, refusin' to believe that she didn't make it to safety herself. I know better than that anyway; know that there's no way that she'd leave me out there all alone.

"I thought I was gonna lose you in there," she whispers, so softly that I imagine the words to be composed of that ghostly haze that articulates with the sound. "I thought you...I thought you were—"

"—I'm not." I stop her before she can say it; there ain't no way I could let her finish that sentence. I don't even want her thinkin' about that right now; don't want to know she can imagine an existence without me in it. Not now, not ever, not no more. Not after everything.

I think she reads that in my expression 'cause her eyes soften a little as she leans down and rests her forehead against mine, lets the gentle slope of her nose brush against my own. I still feel thunder in my chest whenever she touches me – my heart still leaps like she's set a fire underneath it, like her fingers resting in the grooves of my ribs are there stoking it – and provoking it. That's why let out a shallow sigh...one that embodies my softness and femininity and submissiveness and love. One I reserve only for her. Her and all her power.

She growls darkly when she hears that – I always forget what it does to her, how it changes her; how it shifts the balance between her reason and feeling. If circumstances were different, I'd be feeling the flush in her skin right now; those flames. I'd feel her passion pulsating in her veins; the heat in her face, her chest...that molten rush between her legs. I actually start being thankful it's way below freezin' out here...it's a damn certainty that this burning melting me on the inside would send us clear through the ice again.

"You're gonna freeze like this," she suddenly says, seemingly unaware she's in the same damned position as me, "You're shaking". I hadn't noticed with her crouched over me like this, but yeah, I am. Now she's pointed it out, I feel the quiver in my body...and my skin mourns the absence of her heat as she sits up, keeping her legs astride me – arresting me like the cold.

She's shivering now too, but it's not as obvious as mine – she's tryin' to hide it. Light don't want me seeing her looking weak. We ain't gonna last long out here like this...so I guess that's why she starts strippin' me of my wet clothes. Not just mine – hers too. She ain't in the rush she should be, given circumstances, but then...she's always, always taken her time when she's undressed me.

I don't say nothing; I don't protest or even think to. There was a time when I would have – back when she was so locked away in her reason that nobody could touch her. Back when she had to justify everything and anything she ever did; to me, to others...mostly to herself. I stripped that need from her the first time I gave myself to her completely; I replaced it with nothing – the nothing she's always wanted to share with someone. Oblivion, liberation...nihility.

Her movements are clumsy, not nearly as delicate as normal; she can't get a good grip on anything with her fingers trembling like they are. I watch her through the mists that mingle after escaping our lips. For a brief moment I see the struggle of her efforts spike her irritation and she suddenly, angrily uses her teeth to rip off her gloves and toss them aside somewhere, out of sight. This ain't like her; showing frustration like that. I haven't seen it since our days as l'Cie – years ago. Lightning never shows anyone the truth behind her eyes but me and when I feel them fix on mine, I see the concern she's concealing.

She hates her helplessness at the situation. She resents that she didn't foresee this, that she wasn't better prepared. She don't have to say it but I know she's blaming herself. I feel her emotion, just like I always have – it's stickin' to my ribs and clutching at my heart. What's hers is mine – whatever pain she feels, I feel it too – because our souls are sewn together and we ain't nowhere near complete without belonging to one another.

I start to talk, because I wanna apologise. She has to know how sorry I am, how much I appreciate her; I need her to be aware of this deep, dauntless desire I house inside of me for her – only her – so I say her name, I whisper it...I pour my love into my intonation and cup at her face to still her.


"—Shhh," she hushes me, shaking her head gently and taking my hand in hers. "I already know, Fang. It's okay. I'm sorry too."

Freed from the confines of our sodden garments, Light shifts me as delicately as possible onto her heavy coat that she had sense enough to remove before jumpin' into the water after me. She lays me down like I'm some kind of precious relic; a paper dream, ready to vanish like a whisper in the breeze. She lies atop me, her weight bearing on my hips, grinding against my earlier denial of her love; that wears away with the friction of skin-on-skin; dissolves like my protests at being silenced do when I feel her lips, her breath, her tongue, her teeth licking and kissing and biting and fighting my body's shivers against the invading cold. There's a sense of abandon about what we're doing right now, out here in the open in this state of emergency: the abandon of reason, of fear and even decency. I could lie and tell myself that this wouldn't be happening given a different turn of events, but the truth is that we're slaves to our want of one another; when our perversions align like they so often do, it's no damn mystery that our sense of modesty is so effortlessly eclipsed.

Light needs me – she kneads me – my breasts, my hips, my thighs; her hands traverse my slopes and plains and map her territory with the most possessive of touches. Each landmark, she claims, she marks as her own; her mouth baptises every inch of my reverent being and makes my soul a true believer. A believer in her.

She would forgive even my most heinous sin; accept me at my weakest. Gentle when I need her to be, daring when I want it that way – giving, giving, giving; and I'm reminded of how much I wanna treat her the same, keeping her sheltered here in my arms; defending her even in her passionate aggression.

Her relentless love is what drives my life-beat, decimates any doubts like a jigsaw puzzle blown wide apart; we keep that fire between us burning, burning so that heat can stave off the perishing winter; defying any force, natural or divine, threatening to separate us in our union.

This fever that belongs in bedtime covers goes unknown for too damn long - why do I ever think I can cope without it?

I can't go without it; I won't. I need it, need her: her love, her patience, her passion and beauty. Want it more and more and more and more; all the fucking time. 'Cause I can't turn my feelings down for her and it's beyond my means to turn my thoughts around. I express them in every word I ever speak.

That's why she finds strength in my outspoken honesty, because she knows what I tell her, when I tell her, that it's true:

I won't let go; not now or ever.

Nothing, nothing, will divide our beating hearts.