XXX

Fang smiled contently, fingers following the outline of Lightning's fair jaw as she made her way to Lightning's lips. Drifting that touch across her chin, Fang paused at her lips. Just barely grazing, Fang traced Lightning's bottom lip carefully, long ago having memorized every crease and contour to that perfect face.

Lightning's mouth twitched, just a little. Fang paused, watchful. "That lip isn't going to kiss itself, you know." Lightning opened her eyes, remarkable, bright twin azures that shone like crystals around Fang. She nipped playfully at Fang's finger, gently taking the edge of her pointer digit between her teeth, she smiled at Fang.

Fang practically gleamed, glowing in Lightning's presence. "Morning, Claire."

Lightning released her finger to give her a body-warming, genuine smile, one that she saved only for Fang. "I still don't feel your lips on mine."

Fang complied then, leaning in to brush their lips together where Lightning took up her pace, passionately massaging Fang's lips before she suckled the bottom one. Giving Fang's lips one last chaste kiss, she pulled away with a grin, as satisfied as Fang, murmuring. "Mmm, now it's a good morning."

Lightning lifted her hand to Fang's hairline, eyes flickering up, where she smiled fondly, stroking Fang's cheek. "Checking out my bedhead?"

"Mhmm." Lightning licked her bottom lip, where Fang's mouth had been. "You make it sexy."

Fang grinned easily. "What can I say? My wife likes to pull."

"Oh yeah?" Light danced through Lightning's eyes. "She likes it rough, hmm?"

Fang winked. "My wife likes it every way I give it to her."

Lightning rolled on the bed, moving up on top of Fang and hovering over, body leaning into Fang's. "That sounds like a theory we should test."

Fang moaned softly as Lightning pressed into her, lips once again meeting in a soft, wet tumble of kisses that already had her body soaring. Kissing Lightning was like tasting paradise, and Fang would never be able to have enough of it. Lightning moved down to her chin, planting kisses and affectionately chewing her skin. Fang hugged her to her body. Best wife ever. "I love you, Claire."

Lightning let Fang roll them again so she was on the bottom, eyes shining up at Fang. She spoke against Fang's chin, her kisses and hot breath leaving Fang tingling. "I love you too, Fang." Lightning murmured, warming Fang to her core. "I always will." Hand snaking up Fang's cheek to her hair, Lightning gave that sexy bedhead a playful tug. Fang smiled and cherished her.

XXX

"You made me breakfast! And it's different than yesterday's!"

Serah smiled at Snow's enthusiasm as she sat down to their daily shared morning meal. Passing the syrup on over to her husband, Snow gave her a winning grin that warmed Serah's heart before helping himself to a great gallop of a serving, drenching his pancakes and behemacon alike as he started in on the meal, practically wolfing it down.

Serah shook her head, starting in on her own meal at a much more respectable pace than her late-for-work husband. "Mmm," Snow mumbled through a mouthful. "Thisisdeliciousbabe, thankyou."

Serah stood and fetched her forgetful man a glass of water. Coming to his side, she put a hand on his shoulder and handed him the cup, which Snow gratefully took and drained back, washing down breakfast. Snow swallowed a great gulp and stood from his chair, turning to his perfect wife, he wrapped his arms around her tightly, holding Serah. "Thank you, sweetheart."

Serah rested her head against his chest fondly, knowing no greater feeling than being wrapped in, held by those strong arms, protected and loved by her adorable giant. Snow leaned down and kissed the top of her head. Serah turned her chin up and caught his mouth, giggling a little through the kiss as his scruff prickled her face. She wrapped her arms around his neck affectionately, savoring his warmth.

"Go save the world some more, honey."

"I'll be home early today," Snow promised, remembering without prompt. "For our lunch-and-market date with Sis and Fang."

"I'll see you then," Serah told him, glowing. He was such a good man, her only man. Serah kissed him. "Love you, Snow."

"Love you too, baby." Snow told her, breaking away to squeeze her hand. "I'll see you in a few hours, Serah."

Serah watched him go, love tingling in her heart. "Bye, Snow!"

XXX

"Ahh! A meal fit for a hero!" Snow smiled broadly, clapping a large arm around Serah's shoulders as the troupe exited the restaurant after a nice lunch. Standing next to Fang, Lightning's arm brushed her wife's as they walked, content to now stroll the streets for the market produce, both families needing a restock after the week's hungry meals.

Fang particularly enjoyed these excursions they shared every week into the city to restock. Neither she nor Lightning had much of a knack for picking food, but Serah did. Serah would often shop for all of them, using Snow as her tall man to reach higher shelves or send him off with a list and the three of them plus Vanille conversed while paroozing about the past week. Fang enjoyed her time with both the Farrons, talking to Serah, even just listening to Serah and Lightning talk was enough. It was like their family time spent together, and Fang enjoyed the company of her new family.

"Hey," Fang touched Lightning's shoulder, looking over at one of the outdoor stalls. "There's Vanille. I'll get her."

Lightning lifted a hand to Fang's arm and halted her momentarily, pulling Fang back over to her, where Fang found herself delightfully brought into a kiss. Lightning caressed her mouth only moments, but it was enough to get Fang's blood pumping already, with that sweet, familiar scent... "Hurry back." Lightning told her, offering Fang her smile once more.

Fang was almost dazed with her bliss, already longing to be at Lightning's side once more, though she had barely left it. "Be right back," Fang cast her wife a dazzling smile and turned away. Beside her, Serah giggled at her sister.

"And you call Snow and me lovey-dovey."

Lightning bristled and Snow grinned, hugging Serah closer to his side to rub her arm soothingly. "Guess you really are a cookie inside, Sis!"

Lightning nudged Serah at the teasing, making Serah grin and chuckle all the more because of the truth behind Snow's joke.

A low thrum passed through the ground, the hum mostly unnoticed for the busy interactions in the street, but Lightning paused. "Do you hear that?"

Snow stopped, looking cautiously about. "Hear what?"

The long, warning howl of the town's emergency sirens broke the air, filling the busy streets with flashing blue and yellow lights that poured into the town from the watch towers' spotlights, the color of evacuation and retreat.

The streets went crazy.

Everyone was trained to learn the emergency colors of New Oerba and everyone knew that yellow was for 'fiend assault' while blue signified a mass exodus into homes or places of shelter. As a massive wave, people immediately pushed outward, desperate to make it into shops and homes. Lightning had half a second to spot Fang grabbing Vanille before the two were rushed over by a sea of people coming from nowhere and everywhere at once. Lightning instinctively reached out and grabbed Serah's arm, only seconds before being roughly shoved back by a frenzied man looking for shelter. Lightning's grip on Serah's arm tightened. Snow had moved his back to the crowd, leaning over Serah protectively as the rush of people fled. He grabbed Lightning's arm too and dragged her over next to Serah, sheltering them both from the mass exodus. Lightning could already hear doors being slammed and locked.

"BEHEMOTHS!" All at once, the frantic street filled with a rush uniforms from the south as military garbs flooded the streets and the town warning horn sounded off. "BEHEMOTHS ARE UPON US!" Behind them, the most horrifying horde of Behemoth Kings of every kind fought the GC soldiers, ripping Oerba's Guardians limb from limb in a stampeding rage as they raced into the city. A cloud of dust opened up before their pounding hooves and many simply ignored the gunfire altogether just to plough through. Screams tore through the air and blood rushed freely as soldier and civilian were devoured alike.

Lightning gripped Snow's arm tightly, nails piercing through his shirt. "Come on!" There was no way Snow heard her over the roaring rush of screams, but the pinch and his own instincts did the trick. The slamming of doors was becoming regular as people crowded outside, barricading to get in and Lightning knew they'd never make it to the front of one in time anyway with so many people crowding, even with Snow's massive frame. Dropping his arm, her grip was iron-fisted around Serah's wrist as she dragged them off with the retreating crowd, anxiously scanning for a cubby to dive into.

Lightning found one in an alley that branched off diagonally from the road. It wasn't perfect; the alley half-circled around from the south everyone was escaping from, but it was empty and Lightning knew their chances were better in seclusion. With so many people, it'd be impossible to defend Serah out in the open and it left too many points of attack that the beasts could take advantage of. Set away from the rest, they'd be able to move without being trampled.

Fighting the crowd that pushed them north, Lightning yanked Serah closer up against her body so she wouldn't lose her. Snow saw where she was looking and stomped on in front of them, blocking them from being run over as people pushed and shoved to escape. Snow stood firm, steelguard up and ready as they slowly progressed through the flood of rushing people to the slanted alley.

When they'd finally made it to the clearing, Lightning released Serah to Snow to check around the bend of the alley- where it became clear why no one else had taken up residence here. At the back of the curved alley stood another opening into the street, an opening where rampaging Behemoths stampeded past in a rushed blur of muscled madness. Lightning withdrew quickly back around the bend, not wanting her scent to be caught on the air with a curious Behemoth rushing by. She turned back to Snow - startled with creeping fear for Serah's life as a broad-chested Kaiser Behemoth approached. Lightning raced forward, grabbing Serah's arm with one hand while she unsheathed her gunblade with the other. She pushed Serah partially around the bend near the small trashcan. "Stay there- scream if one of them comes from the other end."

Without further instruction, Lightning took off to aid Snow as the brawler fended off the beast. Lightning leapt into the fray, slashing down and cutting a thin slice through the beast's throat as the Behemoth roared. Snow stepped in front as she landed and took a heavy, clawed paw to the forearms, cleanly blocking the blow that would have squished Lightning. He grunted as the paw came away, slicing into his arms sharply as Lightning jumped at it again, cutting a deeper strike down its eye. The beast howled, jerking back, and Lightning took the opportunity to gut it through the stomach. Snow unhooked a grenade from his belt as Lightning cut it again across the chest. "Light!"

He tossed the grenade and Lightning instinctively bounced back at its appearance. Before the beast could stand and heal itself, the grenade went off under its middle and exploded its belly into a million guts, viscera splattering the walls of the alley entrance as it collapsed.

Serah gasped from behind them and Lightning whipped around to note two new Behemoths stalking down the alley. "Snow!" Snow had turned at the peeping sound of fright too and promptly unbuckled two more nades from his belt,which he bit off while Lightning fired at the approaching beasts, both of them moving in front of Serah protectively from the other side now. Snow threw his explosions directly at the beasts this time. Both of them hit the right Behemoth, an Alpha who collapsed upon impact. The rising smell of burnt flesh and blood hit her as she rushed forward, blade back out to slash at the second. It took her first strike across the shoulders unflinchingly and lifted a clawed paw to swipe down at her, one that Lightning caught against her blade and strained with, cutting into its paw as the monster shoved it further down at her.

Snow ricocheted in and slammed a metal-knuckled fist into the beast's throat, who startled as Snow's fist pierced skin and released the pressure on Lightning, who cut through its paw and sliced unkindly through its neck, severing the head from his body, which rolled.

Beside him, its friend, apparently not dead, reared back on both feet and yanked a blade out the soft side of its skull, wounds healing over in a jiff. Lightning glanced back Serah's way, where another standing Behemoth, a Humbaba, stopped to sniff into the alley. "Fuck." Lightning waved over to Snow, signalling to the other Behemoth. Snow nodded and barely managed to bring up his arms in time for another block, crying out a little as the beast's blade cut deeply into his guarding forearm.

But Lightning had no time. The other had started in. Lightning dashed over, ready to cut the monster limb from limb for ever threatening her family.

XXX

There. Fang shoved her spear through the risen Behemoth's chest and yanked it out viciously, sprinting over from her corner to jump on a beast and hop from it just as fast, a leap that would have made Lightning proud. Rolling when she hit the ground, Fang dashed over to the northern alley, instinctively feeling Lightning would be there. She'd want to get Serah out of harm's way. Somewhere she could protect her. The alley made sense. Lightning would be there.

Thrusting her spear into a passing Behemoth's shoulder, Fang twisted her spear and leveraged against the thrust, twisting muscle and sinew as she used her forward momentum to spring over the Behemoth in question and another of its ilk on her route to the passageway. She was so close, she could practically taste her wife's presence.

Hang on, Claire. Fang willed. I'm coming.

XXX

"Shit." Pain exploded across Lightning's upper arm as the Behemoth's claws effortlessly ripped through her GC shoulder pad and spiked into the back of her arm, forcibly dragging her forward as the Behemoth's claws tore through skin and muscle. Lightning's gunblade clattered to the ground, though she couldn't feel her hand to know she'd dropped it. Narrowly missing her head being cleaved off by the Behemoth's great swinging blade, Lightning dropped to the ground and rolled, her shoulder pulsing crystal agony through the fresh wound that was already seeping through her uniform.

Lightning rolled close enough to kick out at its leg, but weakened as she was and dizzying from growing blood loss, it did little. The Behemoth brought down its blade to eviscerate her and Lightning only just avoided her instant death by flopping over ungracefully at the last second. The blade burrowed deep into the stone where she'd just been. Serah. Lightning breathed over her fuzzing vision. Serah needs you. She'll die if you fail here.

Lightning was near her gunblade again; stretching out an arm for the piece, Lightning grabbed it up and whirled onto her back, shooting the hand that swooped down for her. Sliding back on the cobblestone, Lightning continued to fire at the beast, who reared back, roaring in rage as she staggered to her feet, still shooting. Coming down from his howl of pure seething, stomach ridden with bulletholes, the beast returned to all fours and leapt at her, paw swiping out faster than the eye could follow. Lightning choked as those claws pierced her, ripping through flesh as if it were mere tissue and slamming her bodily back against a stone wall.

"Nooo!" Lightning vaguely recognized a throaty scream of agonized denial before the claws ripped sideways out of her stomach, tearing flesh and muscle with it carelessly as Lightning's side ripped open with renewed fire.

Lightning barely registered the new onslaught at all, but her broken body refused to support a damaged frame. As her feet slid out numbly from under her, Lightning's head tilted back in time to see Fang. Fang. She tried to smile at her wife's presence, but her numbed mind seemed to have lost that connection and all she managed was a pained, pathetic little mewling.

Atop the beast's shoulders, Fang drove her spear down through its neck with all the savagery of an untamed dragon. As the beast tumbled and fell, Snow gasped audibly and Fang looked up to see the Kaiser Behemoth's blade protruding from his chest. Fang thundered a roar that didn't sound remotely human and yanked her spear from the Humbaba's body to put all her strength behind an arching throw. Her spear whistled through the air before slicing cleanly through the Kaiser's neck, making a sickening squelch as it reached up for the spear, then fell.

"Claire!" Fang was at her side before Lightning could even blink. "Oh, God." Fang felt choked, as if someone had savagely gripped her vocals and suffocated her. "God." Fang started reaching down, down where Lightning's stomach was literally a torn mess of bloody insides that churned Fang's stomach. Five initial stab wounds had been made fatal by the vicious yank sideways that'd almost literally ripped Lightning's abdomen in half. Fang's hand froze, afraid to touch, afraid she'd hurt her further. Even an amateur medic would realize the fatality of such a strike. It was a miracle in and of itself that Lightning was still breathing. Fang could see her blood seeping out with every breath, drenching her uniform and the hard ground.

"Fang." Fang's horrified eyes lifted past Lightning's busted shoulder to her pure, flawless face. A mask of the torture she must be in, Lightning's eyes showed only great sadness, and an understanding that Fang couldn't accept. "I wasn't... I just wasn't fast enough...this time."

"No," Fang viciously denied that acceptance she saw in Lightning. "No, Claire! I'll find you a doctor, a cure, a potion- something." Fang started to stand, but Lightning, weak as she was, managed to lift a trembling hand to Fang's wrist, halting her in her tracks.

"Don't go." Lightning exhaled raggedly, her whole body shaking with the words. Fang found herself kneeling again, holding Lightning's hand, cupping it to her face, trembling. Though speech was clearly an effort, Lightning struggled through it, every labored breath delicate and hard-earned. "I love you."

"Claire," Fang's heart was snapping. "I love you too, Claire. I love you so much. Please. Please. Don't- you can make it through this. Claire, please! I love you. I love you! Please. You can't- I can't- you're my everything."

Lightning demanded of her mind to connect and was glad when she felt her lips twitch, just minutely, trying to smile for Fang. Fang felt her hand weakly tug at her chin. She leaned forward and Lightning's lips touched hers, giving Fang her one last kiss. When Fang's lips left hers, their heads stayed together. Lightning rested against Fang. Fang felt something wet on Lightning's cheeks and wondered if Lightning was crying. Lightning's thumb stroked her cheek, one final time. "Take care of Serah, Fang." Lightning asked, her voice merely touching the air, so soft.

"Claire, please... I need you."

"I'm lucky." Lightning told her, making Fang tremble. "To have loved you."

Lightning's hand stilled in hers.

XXX

A ragged scream ripped from Serah's throat as, forgetting all sense of caution, she rushed towards her fallen lover, desperation cutting any sense of self-preservation. "SNOW!" Serah scuttled, dragging herself across the bloody stone as blood rained from the sky, courtesy of Fang's aim. Oblivious to it, Serah appeared at Snow's side, gawking and sickened by the stench of fresh blood that oozed from around the embedded, circular blade in Snow's chest. "Snow..." Serah could scarcely believe her eyes or any of her senses. She wanted to turn and run, to wake up from this horrible nightmare, to do anything-

"Serah." It was impossible that he was even talking to her. His chest heaved, moving the blade with every pained syllable. Snow lifted his hand to hers and took it, wrapping his palm around her little hands all-encompassingly. "Hey baby."

"Snow." Serah's breath was short. She could hardly breathe. This wasn't happening. This couldn't be happening. She waited to wake up. Wake up. She urged. Please.

Reality had little mercy. "Heyy," Snow's voice was soft, faint. "Don't cry." Snow squeezed her hand as hard as he could; it barely registered. "Sis wouldn't like that." Snow almost tried to chuckle, but the effort hurt his chest too much, which was seeping into his shirt. He settled for a smile instead, sad, but genuine. "She'd hurt me if she knew I was making you cry, you'know."

Serah couldn't help it. Her brain had seemed to lose all function. "Snow." Somewhere deep inside of her, it registered that this would be the last time she'd see her husband. Serah nearly choked in her rushed attempt to tell him. "I love you, Snow. I love you. Please. You know that, right? I love you. I'll always love you."

"Shhh," Snow hushed her rising panic. "I know, baby. I know." He breathed in deeply. "I love you too, Serah. You've made my life... worthwhile... undeserving...as I am."

"Snow," Serah's voice was choked. "You're perfect. You were always perfect. So good to me; flawless. Snow, I- " Serah gagged on a sob. "I love you. Please don't leave me."

"When it comes to it, Serah," Snow's breaths slowed, and the words took longer to spill from his mouth. "Don't be afraid...to love again."

"Snow, no- "

"I love you, Serah." Snow told her forcefully. He tried to keep his smile for her. "I'll see you...on the other side."

XXX