Etro's Keepers: A Day in the Life
A/N: And here we have the final chapter. :)
Yes my steadfast readers, this is the last chapter for this story. I originally wanted to carry this story on indefinitely, but over time my inspiration and time to write for it has quickly lessened. As mentioned when I first began the Etro's Keepers story, humor and comedy were not my forte. In fact, it takes me at least double amount of time and energy to write a chapter for this series than it does any of my other stories. And for this reason, I've decided it was time to wrap things up now. It's been a great run, but rather than leave this one hanging, like I've seen happen to many awesome stories, I wanted to end this on positive note. Thank you all for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read, review, follow and favorite this piece. You all have been incredibly supportive and I could have asked for nothing more. Thank you again.
Due to the content, expect some OOCness for our favorite heroes/heroines.
Disclaimer: The characters and the worlds I write in do not belong to me. The stories that I write are intended for entertainment purposes. I do not make any money from them.
*** ~ Once Upon a Time ~ ***
(featuring the former l'Cies family chibis and Mog)
Claire "Lightning" Farron didn't believe in fairy tales.
Not since her and Serah's parents died at least.
Before that, she was like any other young girl, enraptured by the tales of knights in shining armor and princesses in beautiful white dresses. But unlike her sister, who imagined herself as a princess waiting for that handsome knight to sweep her off her feet, Lightning always saw herself as the knight, protecting all the ones she held dear. Notions of such fantasy lands were immediately forgotten upon the deaths of the elder Farrons, Claire becoming Lightning as a means to cope with her shattered childhood. While those memories were forever lost in time, the stories of knights and princesses were not forgotten. For many years later, like today, Lightning would find herself thinking back to those stories, wondering if she had somehow stepped inside one of them.
"How..." Serah swallowed nervously, looking up at her sister through the reflection in the mirror in front of her. "How do I look?"
Breath taking. Gorgeous. Divine. There were so many words Lightning could have used to the describe the sight before her, but she chose a much more simpler word.
The smile which blossomed on Serah's lips, along with the blush on her younger sister's cheeks, made the soldier chuckle.
The sun was now beginning its descent for the night, the sky awash with oranges and purples. The waves on New Oerba's beach were calm and soothing, the pure white sand cool to the touch. Never in her wildest dreams did Lightning ever think this day would come to pass, so fast that is. Yet here she was, standing right behind her baby sister, helping her get ready for one of her biggest days in her entire life.
While Lightning originally wanted to get this over and done with at the crack of dawn, the younger couple felt it was better to exchange vows just as afternoon turned to evening, when the day cooled down from its regular heat wave. The ceremony would be held on the gorgeous beach front, only attended by very close friends and family. It wouldn't be anything too lavish, too over the top. Neither Serah nor Snow had the resources for a big wedding, and neither wanted a large gathering either.
Days after they announced the official date for the big event, Lightning would surprise them both, announcing to the family during one of their family dinners that she'd be paying for everything. Nothing would be left to chance, Lightning calling in every single favour owed to her since the beginning of time. Serah deserved nothing but the best, and if it meant that Lightning had to bring down Cocoon again, along with Orphan, somehow she'd manage to do it. Thankfully, she didn't have to go to such extremes, and things worked out just fine.
And now they were here.
"I still can't believe this is happening," Serah said, breaking Lightning out of her thoughts. "I'm so nervous."
Lightning smiled, resting her hands down on her sister's shoulders, making the youngest Farron jump slightly. "Calm down, Serah. Everything will be fine."
Lightning glanced at the closed flap to the tent they occupied. Just outside she could hear Fang, Vanille and Lebreau chatting away merrily, the rest of the women in the bridal party voicing their excitement about what was to happen. On the ground near Serah's chair, Chibi Siren was in the care of her sisters Chibi Stiria and Chibi Nix, Chibi Brynhildr also keeping the Farrons company in the bride's tent. Chibi Odin, Chibi Bahamut, Chibi Hecatoncheir and Chibi Alexander were with Snow and the groomsmen in the groom's tent. Mog was the only exception to this, the tiny Moogle also keeping the girls company. Ever since Lightning accepted him, he never strayed far from the soldier.
While there was only a few more minutes to go before the official ceremony started, Serah pleaded with the others for some alone time with her big sister. To deal with last minute jitters and stuff like that. Lebreau, Fang and Vanille understood of course, leaving the two sisters in peace. It wasn't everyday Serah got married after all. Yet even now, with it being just the two of them (and the chibis), Serah's nerves didn't calm any.
"I kn-know, Claire," Serah said, stuttering slightly as her nerves got the better of her. "It's just that-"
The youngest pinkette looked up at her sister.
Lightning looked down at Serah's dress once more. On top of paying for the entire wedding, the biggest surprise Lightning had for the young couple (or rather just Serah) was Serah's wedding dress. It was hand made, by none other than Sergeant Lightning Farron herself. Apparently, Lightning had learned the craft of the needle back in the Guardian Corps, having had many instances and opportunities to adjust her uniform to the one everyone knew her for. Under both Lebreau's and Serah's tutelage (also known as stylish guidance), Serah's dress was put together in three months time, her sister's beauty rivalling that of the goddess.
"I was wrong before, Serah," Lightning said, swallowing down the lump in her throat.
Tears glistened in Serah's eyes, Lightning fighting back her own.
"Snow is a good guy. He'll take good care of you."
Guests occupied the normally quiet far right edge of New Oerba's beach, dressed in various types of formal wear. Of those in attendance, there was Team NORA, the former l'Cies family including the chibis, a few local townsfolk along with Rygdea and some of the Guardian Corps. Gadot was chosen as Snow's Best Man, Sazh, Dajh, Hope, Maqui and Yuj being his groomsmen. Lebreau was Serah's Maid of Honour, Lightning ever so thankful for that decision as both the barmaid and her sister knew how much Lightning hated such girly responsibilities. Fang and Vanille filled up the rest of the bridal party as bridesmaids, the sergeant also taking up that mantle.
The chibis weren't without tasks, the girls acting as flower girls, cutely walking down the aisle tossing flower petals in the air ahead of the bride at the beginning of the ceremony. As for the boys, they were the page boys, each of them responsible for helping Serah with her dress down the aisle, all of them wearing a chibi-sized bow ties. The girls wore baby blue ribbons. Amodar officiated the exchange of vows, some of the locals providing the music for the ceremony.
As soon as the band caught sight of Serah, the music started, causing the seated guests to rise to their feet to look back at the bride. Lightning glanced at her sister, the hand on her own having suddenly tightened its grip tenfold. It took all that she had not to flush three different shades of scarlet, walking up the aisle with her nervous sister in tow. For this special day, the sergeant traded her typical Guardian Corps. uniform for a baby blue slim fitting strapless dress which flared out at the hips, her accessories being a navy scarf around her shoulders and long white gloves which went up to her elbow. While Lightning was not unaccustomed to being stared at, usually because of her hair, it still unsettled her from time to time. She could only imagine what was going through Serah's mind right now, as her sister's grip was like a vice.
"Relax," Lightning murmured, just loud enough for Serah to hear. "It's just us and the family. And a few friends."
"I know, I know," Serah said, in a shaky whisper back. "It's just-"
"You're nervous," Lightning finished for her. "I know." The soldier smiled when her gaze landed on the just as nervous groom.
"But what if something goes wrong? What if-"
"Stop that," Lightning chided. "Don't worry about the what ifs. If there's anything you should be thinking about right now, it's mister tall, blonde and grinning up front."
Serah chuckled at that description, her worries quickly washing away the moment her eyes landed on her future husband.
Snow was dressed in a pearl white tuxedo with a silver bow tie. His hair was slicked back and his face clean shaven. Like Serah, he too was nervous, fidgeting with this hands as he waited restlessly, much to the amusement of his groomsmen. But the moment he saw his future wife, all his worries disappeared.
Feeling her sister loosen up significantly, Lightning's gaze went back to the little ones walking ahead of them, the chibis and Mog tossing loose petals into the air like confection. It was truly a sight to behold, albeit a bit strange with Mog partaking in the petal throwing, but all in all, Lightning couldn't think of anyone better to handle such a precious role. Taking a quick glance behind them, Lightning smiled as her gaze landed on the boys gently and ever so reverently carrying Serah's dress train behind her. Chibi Odin and Chibi Bahamut held up the side corners while Chibi Hecatoncheir and Chibi Alexander held up the middle.
By the time Lightning looked forward again, they were fast approaching the front. The Farron sisters slowed down to a halt, just steps away from the groom. Turning to Serah, Lightning hugged her, rubbing Serah's back for a moment before they parted.
"I love you, Serah," the soldier said, fighting to keep her emotions in check.
"I love you too, Claire," Serah said, not too much better off than her sister.
Lightning smiled, squeezing her sister's shoulder one more time before waving her off. "Now go on. He's waiting for you."
"Good morning everyone," Amodar began, now that the bride and groom were side by side. "We are gathered here today..."
Sniffling to her left caught Lightning's attention. Glancing in that direction for a moment, she found Lebreau tearing up.
Lebreau wore a matching dress to Lightning's, though rather than a dark blue scarf, she had a white one. Fang, being the eccentric one that she was, chose to wear her formal sari from the toilet incident, this time the Pulsian wearing the multicoloured mess with pride and not mild embarrassment. Vanille wore a similar outfit, an orange and pink sari to Fang's tie-dyed one, while the groomsmen wore the typical black and white tux.
The raven haired bartender dabbed at her tears with a handkerchief before her mascara could run. "I can't believe this is real," Lebreau said, sniffling again. More tears fell. "Serah's all grown up now."
A small smile stretched across Lightning's lips. "She has," the pinkette said in a softer than normal voice.
It wasn't easy growing up, just the two of them. They both had their fair share of ups and downs. From the loss of their parents, to the whole fal'Cie thing and being branded, it was almost as if the gods were against them, cursing them for some reason. But in spite of that, they survived, stronger than ever, along the way both of them gaining a family they never thought they'd ever have.
Lightning looked to her right, also hearing some sniffles from that side. Vanille was trying her best not to cry, though the poor girl wasn't doing that much better than Lebreau. Fang had an arm around Vanille's shoulder, squeezing her soothingly, her eyes still on the bride and groom not too far away.
Lightning looked down at the two little ones in her arms, Chibi Siren looking up at the soldier before turning back to her battle partner. With Chibi Siren being the Serah's Eidolon, it was only natural for Lightning to watch over her while her younger sister couldn't.
"Kupo," Mog said, agreeing with the water Eidolon.
"She is," Lightning replied in response to them both. She took a quick glance at their feet. Chibi Stiria, Chibi Nix, and Chibi Brynhildr stood next to Fang and Vanille while Chibi Odin, Chibi Bahamut, Chibi Hecatoncheir and Chibi Alexander watched the ceremony to Hope, Sazh and Dajh.
"Serah is very pretty," Lightning said, her voice thick with emotion.
Chibi Siren looked up when something wet splashed on her head, the baby chibi surprised to find her battle partner's sister silently crying.
The ceremony quickly passed by in a blur for Lightning, and before the soldier knew it, the reception was in full swing. Food and drinks were shared in happy celebration, cheers and laughter the only sounds heard on this particular night as the lot of them congregated in Lebreau's newly expanded bar. When the time came for dancing, Serah took to the stage first, expectantly smiling at her older sister as the spotlight shone down on her. As much as Lightning wanted to avoid this part, she couldn't. It was Cocoon tradition after all. Normally this dance would have been reserved for Serah and their father, but with both of their parents deceased, Lightning filled the role.
With a smile, Lightning left her seat and joined her sister on the dance floor. Like the rest of the bridal party, she sat with the bride and groom and bridesmaids and groomsmen at the front of the bar, everyone else taking up residence at the many tables scattered across the rest the establishment. The chibis sat with their respective battle partners. Taking her sister's hand and holding it to the side, her other hand rested on Serah's back, the soldier holding her sister close as the music started.
"I'm so happy right now," Serah said in a quiet voice, her head resting against Lightning's shoulder. She sniffled audibly.
Lightning led the pair in the dance, slow and gentle, turning here and there when they came too close to the edge of the dance floor. It had been a recent addition to Lebreau's bar, the bartender wanting to snazz up her establishment with something different than what she had back on Cocoon.
"I'm happy too," Lightning said, her voice wavering slightly. Anyone else would have missed it, but Serah heard it clearly.
"I'm happy for the both of you."
The youngest Farron looked up, an ache spreading in her chest at the flicker of emotions showing through Lightning's eyes. Happiness. Contentment. Sadness. Loneliness. Vulnerability. Such emotions were foreign (most of them at least) to the soldier, Serah knew, which meant only one thing.
This was not Lightning right now.
This was Claire.
Serah leaned up and kissed her sister on the cheek. "Already thinking about getting rid of us?" she said with a cheeky smile.
Claire snapped out of her thoughts, quickly moving to deny those horrendous thing her sister had voiced out loud. Little did she realize she was falling into Serah's trap.
"W-what? How could you-"
Then the elder Farron caught on, Claire's cheeks dusting pink. Serah had got her there.
"Oh, I see how it is." Embarrassment soon morphed into mischief. "Well then, I'll just have to-"
"Claire Farron," Serah said with dead seriousness, a complete turn around from her previous behaviour. "Don't you even think about it."
It was now Claire's turn to chuckle. "Not right now," she said with a smirk. The two sisters continued to dance fluidly about the dance floor. "Probably later."
"Not a chance," Serah said confidently. "I'll see you coming a mile away."
Claire smiled. "We'll see."
The clearing of a throat stopped the dancing pair.
"Excuse me ladies," Snow said, smiling apologetically. "Mind if I cut in?"
The glare the blonde received from the eldest Farron made him shrunk down a bit, that is, until Lightning chuckled, Serah also giggling. Snow smiled again. He still couldn't get over how much the soldier had changed.
"Of course, Snow," Lightning said, relinquishing the grip she had on her sister's hand. Stepping aside, Lightning moved away as soon as Serah and Snow joined hands and took over the dance floor.
Shoulders tensed the moment an arm wrapped around them, only a familiar chuckle making Lightning relax.
"Quite the pair, aren't they," Fang said, saddling up next to the soldier. Both of them stood on the outer edge of the dance floor.
Lightning glanced to the side to see Vanille happily chatting away with Lebreau at the bridal table. "Yes," the pinkette replied. "They are."
For the next few minutes, both women watched as Serah and Snow danced, the soft music and their shuffling feet sounding in the background.
"Yer parents would 'ave been very proud of 'er," Fang said, giving Lightning a soft squeeze. "The both of ya."
Claire bowed her head, her bangs momentarily hiding her eyes. "I think so too," she said, swallowing back the lump in her throat.
Lightning hated speeches. She never understood the need for them, especially when a simple report would get the same job done but faster and with less hassle. Yet here she was, at the podium now, hers being the last speech of the night. Before hers came Gadot's and Lebreau's speeches, both earning their fair share of laughs and smiles. While in most Cocoon weddings, only the Best Man and the Maid of Honour made speeches, this one of course, was different. Because not only had Serah wanted Lightning to say something, so did Lightning.
"Two years ago," Lightning began, "If you were to ask me if I thought I'd ever find myself here and now, I would have told you no. Things were much different back then, for starters, most of us being back on Cocoon, ignorant to what was about to happen."
Two years. Lightning still couldn't get over how fast things had changed in such a little amount of time.
"Admittedly," Lightning continued as she stared at the guests. "I was not on the best of terms with my sister." The soldier lowered her gaze momentarily in embarrassment.
"Claire-" Serah began, but the older Farron wouldn't let her finish.
"Don't argue with me, Serah," Lightning said, turning to look back at her sister. "We all know it was true."
Serah bit her lip, Snow rubbing her hand soothingly. Chibi Siren also patted her hand too.
The soldier turned back to the crowded bar again.
"To me, back then, no one was good enough for my sister. Not even Snow, the buffoon," Lightning adding the last part as an aside. This earned her a 'hey!' from the said blonde and chuckles from everyone else.
"But that was two years ago, and much has changed since then."
Lightning took a moment to think, her eyes looking down at the piece of paper she had written her speech on.
"It has been a long and arduous journey, full of ups and downs, of life threatening events and moments of joy."
"While there are some who could not be here with us today, I am ever so thankful to everyone who has joined us along the way and made this life worth while."
Looking back once more, Lightning met the gazes of the rest of her extended family, including the chibis who were all keeping the rest of the former l'Cies company. Shifting again, the soldier turned to face the bride and groom completely.
"Snow," Lightning said, making the blonde sit up a bit straighter, his smile a hesitant one. "You have come a long way from two years ago, time and time again proving that you are good enough for my sister. You have earned my respect."
Snow, embarrassed, blushed a little. "Thanks Sis," he said, not quite knowing what else to say.
"But," Lightning said with a smirk. "I still think you're a buffoon sometimes."
That earned Lightning a laugh from the crowd, Snow being the loudest of all.
"Fair enough," he said chuckling. "I love you too Sis!"
Lightning rolled her eyes playfully.
"And Serah," the eldest Farron said, taking a few steps away from the podium to approach her sister. "I know we have had more than our fair share of ups and downs, but believe me when I say this."
Lightning swallowed back the lump in her throat, fighting back the tears starting to pool in the corner of her eyes. "I am proud of you," the pinkette said, showing more emotion now than she had ever done.
Serah raised her hands to her mouth, looking ready to cry herself.
"You have grown into an amazing and strong woman, and wherever our parents are right now, I think they're thinking the same thing."
Cheers filled Lebreau's bar, the crowd on their feet and clapping as Serah got up from her table and hugged her sister tightly. Fang whistled a few times, some of the chibis trying to mimic her only to produce awful but no less cute imitations of the sound. Serah sobbed into Lightning's shoulder, Lightning allowing herself tears of happiness as she rubbed her sister's back.
"Thank you, Claire," Serah managed between sobs. "I love you so much."
"I love you too, Serah," Claire said. "Thank you for not giving up on me."
Claire "Lightning" Farron didn't believe in fairy tales.
There was no such thing as knights in shining armor or princesses in white dresses. There was just reality, which at times were cold, dark and unforgiving. She had learned that the hard way two years ago, when her sister was branded, Lightning following suit. Yet, what could have ended in great tragedy, miraculously ended for the better. They defied fate, freed the people from the rule of the fal'Cie, and truly started living their lives for themselves. So while fairy tales were not real, nothing but a child's fantasy, at least there was one thing that remained true.
A/N: I don't claim to know what order the mini events at weddings go in, so for the purposes of this one, let's just say it went that way. :P As for the chibis, while I realize it wasn't so much focused on them, I think you'll agree that it was alright in this case.
Lightning's words at the end, where she thanks Serah for not giving up on her, that's a nod at FFXIII-2 where Serah never stopped believing that Lightning was alive, continuing her search for her sister no matter what.