Disclaimer: I don't own the setting, nor the characters of all things Square Enix and Final Fantasy, and no matter how many times I wish it, I especially don't own Squall Leonhart and Lightning Farron.
Lightning let out an exhausted breath before panting heavily just as the last of the fiends had fallen, the proud knight of Etro herself dropping on one knee and thrusting her gunblade into the ground for stability.
Despite her body feeling much heavier than it should, the white Valkyrie's mind raced, her eyes darting from shadow to creeping shadow in case something- or someone- decided to tempt her metal.
They'd be sorely disappointed if they thought that fatigue was enough to get the jump on her.
Bracing herself, Lightning pushed off the ground and swayed unsteadily from the sudden motion before righting herself completely. After one final scan of her surroundings, the strawberry blonde sheathed her sword and shield at her sides.
"Odin, come out." Her voice, despite the command, lacked its usual luster; her words came off with a tired hopelessness that made her eyes shut tightly as she tried to reign in her thoughts and emotions, her fist pressed against that spot on her breastplate that hid a familiar mark.
Her Eidolon came as requested, the armored stallion circling her once, assessing its master, before bending its front legs to help the tired l'Cie climb on top of him.
A small smile made its way across her lips as she panted her steed's head- "Thank you."- before mounting its back. She leaned forward to press her front against the back of her Eidolon's head, her cheek molding itself against the stallion's white mane, partly to whisper her command, and partly to finally get whatever rest she could afford. "Same direction, Odin. Go."
The white war horse let out a loud neigh- as if to cheer for its master- before it took off into the desolate wasteland.
In this small moment of reprieve, Lightning's eyes half-opened to stare forlornly at the land before her.
The future of Gran Pulse.
A hollow city devoid of life.
A ghostly kingdom where the Goddess Etro resided, and one where she was transported to against her will.
And as she stared at the tall buildings that kissed the dark skies, Lightning couldn't help but wonder what she could do to prevent all this from happening…
…and what it would cost her to do so.
Lightning pressed her eyes shut as she once more tried to think objectively.
This wasn't the first time she had been transported to a world not her own by powers far beyond her.
She had escaped that world of endless war; she could escape this world, too.
It wasn't a matter of how, but a matter of when, because if there was one thing that Lightning knew, it was that there would always be a way.
It was simple, really.
She'd find out what happened to her world that turned it into this wasteland, and prevent it.
She'd find the way to return home, and take it.
All the while protecting the Shrine of Etro from Caius' intentions, no matter what they were.
Her course of action was simple; just do it.
Because there was too much at stake for her to hesitate about, never mind the fact that she wasn't one to hesitate in the first place.
The thinking and worrying was Squall's job, not hers.
She wondered how Squall was coping.
Lightning entertained the idea of the man throwing a fit when he visited New Bodhum only to not find her. Serah would most likely unload all her worries on the reluctant SeeD Commander, to which Squall would silently listen to despite his own growing irritation. Squall was like that- she smiled wryly to herself- always one to listen to other's even if he didn't want to, and as in most cases, nobody else would notice how his right foot would shift impatiently as they would ramble on.
Her tired blue eyes shimmered with mirth at the thought.
She wondered what Serah was feeling.
A part of her hoped that Squall would be able to calm down her no doubt hysterical sister. Squall was a brutally honest man, and should Serah ask the wrong question, she would be in for an earful. Lightning had learned, however, that when Squall spoke the truth, he was not being needlessly cruel; it was just the way he was. Direct and to the point, lacking any form of tact, but comforting and insightful to those that weren't quick to judge.
What was he doing at this very moment? She hoped the man wouldn't retreat back into his world; she wasn't there to smack some sense into that muddled mind of his.
And even if the brunet wouldn't succumb to his separation anxiety, the next question wasn't if he'd bother looking for her- he would, because he had a bordering obsessive compulsive need to know that his friends were safe- but a question of 'how long?'.
How long before he gave up?
How long before the truth that she was far beyond his grasp would hammer the final nail on his psyche's coffin?
How long before her partner would stop considering her as his partner?
So, her course of action really was simple.
She'd do everything in her power to fulfill her objectives, because there were just too many things at stake for her to even consider fail.
Hope, Fang, Vanille, Sazh, Snow and Serah.
Tifa, Yuna, Vaan, Laguna, Kain, and Squall.
But that one dark thought slithered into her half-conscious mind like a venomous serpent.
What would happen to her once she completed her Focus?
Would she once more lose her brand, or would she finally turn into crystal?
Lightning's eyes snapped open as she banished those doubts back into the oblivion they came from.
Where the hell was her partner when she needed him? !
Odin's low grunt forced her fist to relax, letting go of the white mane her fingers had unconsciously been pulling on.
"Sorry." She muttered to her loyal companion.
A reassuring huff came from the war horse as it continued to gallop purposely.
Lightning let out another tired sigh as her gaze started to refocus.
She had gotten too used to Squall's presence. Too used to having someone to share her thoughts and burdens, and too used to the knowledge that someone was there to watch her back.
After Cocoon's fall and after that farce of a war, where had the strong, independent Lightning gone? The army of one who never thought twice about the future as she charged forward towards victory; where was she now?
She needed to become that woman again, now, especially now.
Lightning had been born to overcome the weakness of Claire Farron, the young girl who could only watch weakly as the people she cherished slipped between her fingers like grains of sand.
It was a pointless exercise to grasp time's sandy grains and hope none would escape.
And yet, that didn't matter to the fleeting flash; Lightning struck relentlessly and without hesitation. That woman was far stronger than Claire had ever been; so willing to fight without question to reclaim what was hers.
Until she lost Serah.
When Lightning failed, the Valkyrie no longer knew what to do, and it was Sazh, Snow, Hope, Fang, and Vanille that had carried that woman's comatose body as she struggled to pick up the pieces of herself.
And when Serah was recovered, the gods were only too cruel as they snatched Fang and Vanille, her sisters in all but blood, in exchange for her sister in all including blood.
So she had embarked on a journey, one in hopes of finding the answer, when the hatchling of a dragon god had pulled her into another world to wage a war she hadn't had any reason fighting for.
But it was in that one world where she obtained a strength that Lightning had only begun to grasp with Serah's return.
And it was in that one world where she found the man that would walk behind her, beside her, and in front of her.
And a leader.
And, at times, a shoulder for her burdens.
They had made a pact to watch over each other and their allies, to make sure their comrades would pull through Shinryu's scheming and Cid's rage in one piece.
And through countless battles, through countless wounds both physical and intangible, they succeeded despite the knowledge that once the war was over, their experiences would fade like a fleeting dream.
It was then when she woke up to Serah's calling as she pointed to a massive mobile fortress traversing the plains of Gran Pulse.
And then when she realized…
That Squall Leonhart had kept his word.
The stubborn fool would never let his friends out of his sight, that the bonds he had learned to believe in, shackles that Lightning thought would never be strong enough to temper time and space, would bring them together no matter where they were.
It was funny, and Lightning had lowered her pride as she learned from the teenaged man and once more picked up the chains that Claire had treasured and Lightning had torn asunder, slowly mending each link with every passing day.
The thought made her lips twitch in wry remembrance.
That man with what she once thought was an angry scar running between his disinterested irises, so socially awkward and yet, so endearingly earnest all the same.
Odin let out a shrill neigh before prancing to a stop in front of a rundown building.
It was far different than what she remembered it being, but something inbuilt, her instinct she mused, told her that this was the place.
This was home.
The house she and Serah had constructed following Cocoon's fall.
She dismounted from her steed, trailing a gauntleted had affectionately through its white mane- "Good job, boy."- before turning her attention back to the dilapidated mess in front of her.
Lightning's metal boots clanked hollowly in the deafening silence as she raised her awareness and hardened her gaze.
She didn't really know what she had hoped to find in visiting this area.
She really didn't know, and yet travelled here all the same.
And as she entered through the broken front doors of the building, eyes scanning for any creeping shadows, her metal boots scratching against the floor, her ears picked up a hollow sound.
Curious, the white Valkyrie knelt on one knee to rap her knuckles against the floor.
A dull thud.
Another dull thud.
And… a hollow one.
In a flash, her weapon was drawn and she stabbed the floor beneath her, her eyes narrowing suspiciously as her blade went through what was supposed to be solid cement.
"Curious." She muttered to herself as she traced the opening with her blade.
Satisfied, Lightning stood up and thrust her palm against the floor, causing the material to implode in a cloud of dust to reveal a short staircase leading further underground.
Against her better judgment, Lightning casted a weakened Fire and watched intently as the floating flame surged downwards.
The glowing ball didn't have long to travel before it impacted against a metal door, dissipating itself.
Throwing another cautious glance behind her and affirming that there was nothing approaching, and Odin was still there to stand guard in front of the building, Lightning made her way down and examined the metal, hope surging through her worn body for reasons she did not want to entertain.
"It can't be…" her voice was an awed whisper as she traced the engravings on its surface.
The shape her sense of touch had formed was one she was all-too familiar with, one she had committed to memory from visiting her partner.
It was the hollow cross that SeeDs wore proudly on their uniforms.
Her heart seemed to restart before going beyond its steady rhythm and she struggled to breathe. For the first time, doubts and fatigue didn't darken her thoughts as she frantically tried to find a handle or anything just so she could open the door.
After seconds of finding no such thing, Lightning struck the door with all her might- "Damn it all!"- and cursed loudly when it refused to budge. "Open, damn you!"
Blinded by her desperation, electricity started gathering around her arm before she struck her fist against the unyielding metal.
The surge of magick left her drained as it dissipated into the metal along with her strength.
She pressed her forehead weakly against the cold steel.
It just wasn't fair; she was so close!
Her brows scrunched up in anger as her mind lashed out.
This was all Squall's fault!
"Damn you…" she pounded on the door weakly. "You damn, idiotic schoolboy."
A hollow click shattered her angry haze and her eyes widened when she heard the familiar sound of gears shifting.
"Password, authenticated." Her heart once more pounded against her breast and she could hardly believe what she was hearing, as the robotic voice continued. "Voice, recognized. Power at eight zero percent. Requesting magick. Immediately."
Not needing to be told twice, the revitalized Valkyrie took a step back as her body channeled her magick and she thrust both her hands forward.
The surge of electricity struck the door and, much like the previous spells that had impacted upon its surface, was absorbed into the metal.
Lightning couldn't stop the wide grin from splitting her lips as the robotic voice returned.
"Power at one, zero, zero percent. Bunker designation Thunderfall, opening."
There was a dull hiss of air being displaced before the door slid to the side.
"Welcome, Lightning Farron."
Slowly, lights began to flicker in the uncovered bunker and Lightning's eyes widened at what she saw.
Canned foods, cloth blankets, bottles of water- she inwardly wondered if that was still drinkable until she saw the distiller at the corner- and survival gear, to name a few.
The Valkyrie entered the underground room with awed steps, as if unsure if this, too, was but a fleeting dream her mind concocted out of its desperation at being isolated in this unwanted future.
"I see you're still alive, Lightning."
Her heart stopped when she recognized that deadpan baritone.
"Squall-?" she turned hopefully, only to find no one there.
"This is a recording." The voice continued and Lightning strained her ears to find its source, managing to uncover an odd sphere, though one that she wasn't unfamiliar with, for Yuna and her friends were fond of recording their experiences with the device.
It was a movie sphere, and it was showing her a recording of that damn man.
Squall was standing, dressed in his SeeD uniform and looking older than she remembered leaving him.
"You're the only one that can access this bunker." The Squall from the recording spoke monotonously, but to her eyes and ears, she could feel the worry in his tone. Squall's eyes shifted briefly before he added as an afterthought. "Besides me, obviously."
She couldn't stifle her snort.
It really was Squall Leonhart.
The SeeD Commander cleared his throat before continuing.
"It's been a few years since you disappeared. The amount of time is inconsequential." A wry smirk formed on her lips once more as she listened in, knowing Squall said that just so that she wouldn't worry more about her disappearance. "A boy had appeared recently, claiming that you're still alive."
The brunet in the sphere turned to the side as if he was mulling over his words. "I… never had any doubts. You were a more than capable partner, and I've fought alongside you long enough to know that you'd never die unnoticed." His brows furrowed in obvious pain. "That's not what I meant. It doesn't matter. That's not the point."
Lightning shook her head softly. "Coward…"
"The fact that you're seeing this means you're still alive." His voice once more assumed its cool neutrality. "I don't know how far into the future you are in, but know this, Lighting; you are still my partner, and I still have your back."
Blood pounded in her ears at his words.
The man in the sphere stared at her straight in the eyes.
"I had this bunker built and personally stocked everything in here carefully ever since your disappearance. Inside are rations and weapons to help you in whatever mess you've landed yourself into." Again, the man tilted his head to the side. "With any luck, this should last you long enough until help arrives."
That one word made her blink in alarm and her heart fluttered with the sudden hope.
As if sensing her sudden rise in spirit, the Squall in the video smirked at her. "I told you, right? We're partners. Serah has embarked with the boy, Noel, in order to find you. Fang, Vanille, and Hope are currently researching everything they can find about Etro before they will start their own journey. I, too, have begun my contingency plan, in the off chance that whatever those two have planned will fail."
"Squall…" she found herself calling out that stubborn man's name.
"Lightning…" He returned her call forlornly. "Stay alive. I'll find you, no matter where you are. Don't think about us and focus on your mission. Serah has… briefed me, of what happens when l'Cie completes their Focus." His eyes shimmered worriedly and Lightning bit her bottom lip at the crushing uncertainty in his gaze before he closed his eyes; she could see his chest rise with his deep breath.
When his blue orbs revealed themselves once more, there was only the fierce determination the Lion of Balamb was known for reflecting in the light. "We'll find a way. Your- our-" he corrected himself. "friends returned from their petrified state. And it's not like we're not experienced in bargaining with gods."
"What I'm trying to say is…" He sucked in a deep breath to calm his rambling. "We'll find you, Lightning. I'll find you, because I promised, didn't I? No matter where you are, no matter what you're doing, you're still my partner, and I look after my own. Everyone feels the same way."
"You're not alone, Lightning. That's a promise."
Squall let out a long sigh and Lightning smiled softly at the tension that left with his breath. "Do what you have to, Lightning. We'll be seeing you soon."
A small smirk formed on his lips.
"I do hope you'll enjoy what I have prepared for you."
And with those words, the movie sphere powered down, leaving Lightning to stare hollowly into the round recorder.
"That's a given, Leonhart." She managed to croak out through her parched throat.
One lone moist trail of happiness trickled down her cheek and she pressed her eyelids shut, savoring the nostalgic feeling.
How could she forget?
She would never be alone, not when she had chains that bonded her to another?
These metal links- chains of friendship- that bound her were not meant to shackle her down. Her chains- their chains- extended towards each other so they could follow those unbreakable links until, once more, they'd find each other.
Both those abstract concepts were just worries that plagued a frail heart and wavering will.
And her heart, was anything but frail, her will anything but wavering.
Her eyes opened, blue embers blazing with renewed determination.
Claire Farron was back.
Lightning Farron was back.
She was Etro's Knight, the Valkyrie guarding Valhallla.
And above all that, she was the partner of Squall Leonhart.
Pressing the movie sphere against her breastplate, Lightning scanned the underground store her partner had prepared for her, categorizing and appraising each article with calculating intent.
There was work to be done.
I'll be seeing you, soon.
A/N: La-di-la-di-la~ A random Squall/Lightning oneshot born of my latest MMD manipulation "Transcending Time and Space". Just quickly typed up this piece with that theme and the song that inspired it in mind.
I hope Lightning didn't come across as a weak character. She's strong, incredibly so, but when stranded by yourself with the odds against you in a bleak future, I'd like to know how else you could stay sane?
I haven't played the game, and have no intention of playing it anytime soon, and I'm too lazy to read through the plot summary; this oneshot is based on what I was able to piece together from the trailers, and set in my shared FF Universe AU (name subject to change). I also have absolutely no idea if Lightning really is alone in the future apart from Caius, but I'll just assume so because of the trailers.
As for people that will complain about Squall already mentioning Noel's appearance and Lightning not showing any reaction of knowing who he is, I'll just explain it with "lulz time paradox". At the very least, Lightning knows that she has to save some 'kid' named 'Noel' now, eh?
Credit where its due, also; Squall's oversized 'time capsule' was loosely based on something that happened in Marvel's Cable comics, where Scott Summers does a similar service for Cable and Hope, who were both stranded in the future.
Cyclops is such a boss, and Wolverine is a hypocrite. Nyahaha!