Saturday Nights Are Family Nights

Just Another Saturday

There was nothing quite like a lazy Saturday evening at home with the family. For Fang, it meant lying down on the couch with Lightning's lap for a pillow while the girls sat on the floor with a big bowl of popcorn, their eyes locked onto the television. Most Saturdays, they watched an action movie – the wonders of democracy had so far kept Diana's lifelong dream of an entire Saturday of Gary the Gorgonopsid at bay. However, the occasion documentary did find its way onto the television from time to time.

"Did you ever think we'd end up like this?"

Rather than reply to Lightning's question, Fang reached over to put the other woman's hand on her head. She wanted her hair stroked, and she couldn't be bothered explaining herself. A bellyful of pizza tended to have that effect. With a soft chuckle, Lightning started to run her fingers through Fang's hair, drawing a contented sigh from the taller woman.

"Well?"

"Not really." Fang cracked one eye open as Diana and Averia cheered. On the television, a pair of giant transforming robots engaged in a life and death struggle. At least, Fang thought they did. The camera work was so jittery that it has hard to tell what was going on. "I actually thought we'd have killed each other by now."

"Idiot." Lightning gave Fang a gentle bop over the head and then, to Fang's delight, leaned in to kiss it better. "We'd never kill each other. We might have yelled at each other a lot and fought even more, but I don't think we'd ever go that far." She paused. "Well, maybe." Another pause. "Actually, you might be right."

"Of course I'm right. I'm always right." Fang didn't have to look to know that Lightning was rolling her eyes. "Although… we could always have ended up having lots of angry sex. That wouldn't have been too bad." She brought Lightning's hand to her lips. "We could even have some after the movie."

Lightning poked Fang's nose. "We're not angry."

"Well, how about happy sex? That works for me."

"Mommy!" Averia turned and glared. "There are children present!"

Fang grinned. "Fine, fine. Go back to the movie. One day you'll understand." She eyed the bowl of popcorn. "And don't hog the popcorn."

"But you only what it because I have it." Averia clutched the popcorn to her chest. Diana took the opportunity to snag a handful of it. "Hey!"

"What? It's not yours. It's everyone's." Diana grabbed another handful of popcorn and made sure to eat it right in front of Averia.

It would have been very easy for Averia to let things go. But that wasn't Averia, and it didn't help one bit that Diana was wearing the most evil grin she could manage with her cute features. In a somewhat accurate re-enactment of the scene taking place on the television, the two girls sprang at one another with all the fury of a pair of mangy cats fighting over a can of fish.

Diana grabbed a stray cushion and whacked Averia over the head with it. The older girl stumbled back, grabbed another cushion and returned the favour with interest. Diana lurched away and grabbed a second cushion to try and even the odds. In the meantime, Fang grabbed the bowl of popcorn.

"You know, I never did answer your question properly." Fang sighed and closed her eyes. The explosions coming from the television were punctuated by a symphony of angry shouts and outraged wails from her two daughters. "If you're asking me if I thought we'd ever have two kids, a house and all of that…. then I'd have to say no. I always thought I'd be a warrior for the rest of my life, going from one fight to the next and never settling down. But all we need now is the a dog, and we'd have the whole stereotype."

"Funny how things work out, isn't it?" Lightning offered Fang a piece of popcorn. Fang nibbled away, pausing for a moment to kiss the tips of Lightning's fingers.

"Yes, but it's not half bad. In fact, I think things are pretty good." Fang opened her eyes to find her two daughters rolling on the ground, still locked in mortal combat. Averia seemed to have the upper hand as she applied a powerful noogie to Diana's head, but the younger of the two was working her way into position to launch a tickle attack of titanic proportions. "You?"

Lightning offered Fang another piece of popcorn. "I wouldn't have things any other way."

X X X

Saturday nights in the Villiers household were cooking nights. Serah was nothing short of remarkable in the kitchen, combining Lightning's almost obsessive attention to detail with an artistic flair that worked wonders when it came to taste. As for Snow, he hadn't started off as much of a cook, but he'd learned. If cooking was something Serah enjoyed, then he was determined to learn it so they could enjoy it together. Besides, he happened to like food, and learning how to cook it himself was an appealing thought.

Then there was Claire. She was currently entering that phase of childhood when her stomach more closely resembled a black hole than an actual physical organ. In between complaining about wanting more food, whining about how all the nice tasting food was bad for her, and just wanting something to do when she couldn't spend time with her cousins or friends, she'd pestered her parents into letting her help out in the kitchen.

Her first attempt had not ended well. After seeing her mother's skill with a knife, Claire had decided to give it a try. Only her father's fast hands had kept her from losing a few fingers. After that, knives were out unless they were blunt enough to leave all of her fingers intact even if she messed up. Her second attempt, cooking pasta, had ended in the form of a pasty sludge after she'd lost track of what she was doing.

But rather than get mad, Serah had done the same thing that Lightning had done for her all those years ago when she'd first learned how to cook. She'd pinned a list of rules to the fridge and made Claire learn them. When Claire was better, she could start deviating from the rules, but until then, she would have to follow them. The rules were simple:

#1: ALWAYS read the instructions completely BEFORE cooking.

#2: ALWAYS make sure everything was prepared BEFORE cooking.

#3: The instructions were there for a reason. Follow them and if anything isn't clear, ASK.

#4: NO USING the sharp knives without asking.

#5: ALWAYS know which parts of the stove and oven are on.

With those rules firmly in place, Claire slowly but surely improved. Her first real success – a chocolate cake – had received the seal of approval from Diana, who had promptly moved her up her list of favourite people (temporarily displacing Hope until he countered with a trip to the park). From there, Claire had gone from strength to strength, and Saturday nights had turned into a family affair with all three Villiers bustling about the kitchen.

Tonight it was pizza, pasta and spiced herb bread. In true Villiers fashion, they would be making everything from scratch. No store bought pizzas for this family! Of course, it wasn't all hard work. They had fun. There may even have been a fight with the flour, and her father may have thrown her mother over his shoulder and urged Claire to rub dough onto her face with the promise that she wouldn't be grounded. Her mother may also have chased after her father with a carrot in one hand and a radish in the other.

But it was all in good fun, and for Claire there was nothing like spending time with her parents. Sure, they weren't as crazy as Diana and Averia's parents, but it was nice for things to be normal sometimes – well as normal as they could be. She loved the way her mother always knew when she needed help, and she loved watching her father's big hands as he moulded the pizza dough into just the right shape or finished the icing on a cake with all the care of a sculptor. She even loved the way her parents would sing together off key while they cooked. They got all the words wrong, but they didn't seem to care.

But most of all, Claire loved the fact that when everything was said and done, whatever they cooked tasted better than anything they could buy in a store.

X X X

When he got right down to it, Sazh knew he was a sentimental man. His idea of a good day was watching the clouds go by with two of the most important people in his life. That was if Chirpy counted as a person.

"What do you think that one looks like?" Dajh pointed at one of the clouds drifting overhead.

"Kweh." Chirpy squawked. "Kweh."

Dajh shrugged. "You're right, it does look kind of like a giant chocobo."

How on earth they could understand the chocobo, Sazh would never know. They just could. Right now, they were out on a hill close to the ranch. He was back in town for a few weeks and with Dajh back from his first semester of university – he'd finally decided to go in person rather than do everything via correspondence – he wasn't in the mood for hard work. Later, he'd drop by and see the other former l'Cie, but right now, he was perfectly happy right where he was.

An amused 'kweh' from Chirpy drew Sazh's eye. It was funny. The bird was bigger than him and Dajh now. It seemed like only yesterday Dajh had been a little kid, and Chirpy had spent most of his time in Dajh's hair. How times changed. One of these days, he'd look over and Dajh would have a wife and kids and Chirpy's golden feathers would be grey. Damn, he needed to keep that kind of thinking to himself. Vanille would never let him hear the end of it.

"What about that one, dad?"

Sazh looked up at the cloud in question. It didn't look like anything, but that wasn't the point. "I think it looks like a dragon."

"Seriously?"

"Kweh."

Neither the young man nor the chocobo were impressed.

"Sure." Sazh grinned. "That bit there is the tail, and those two bits are the wings. It really does look like a dragon."

Chirpy gave him a gentle peck on the leg. Not enough to hurt, but enough to make his opinion clear. Dajh settled for rolling his eyes.

"No wonder everyone thinks you're going senile, dad."

"I'm not old enough to go senile, son." Sazh settled back onto the grass. "So, how is university? I know you were worried about spending more time there since you like to fly."

"It's okay." Dajh scratched the back of his head. "It's not as fun as flying or working at the ranch, but it's not bad. I made some friends too." He nodded at Chirpy. "None as cool as you though."

"Kweh."

Friends? There was something in Dajh's tone that piqued Sazh's interest. "I don't suppose one of them is a lady?" Ever since Hope and Vanille had brought their relationship into the open, Dajh had been in a bit of a funk. It wasn't easy getting over his first real crush. "Well? Can I expect grandchildren anytime soon?"

"Dad!" Dajh flushed. "Maybe there is someone I like, but… I don't know if she likes me yet. I think she does."

"Kweh kweh." Chirpy nodded sagely. "Kweh kweh kweh."

"That's good advice, Chirpy," Sazh said. "You can't go wrong with dinner and a movie. If you're nervous, you can make it a group date or something like that." He tossed a look at the chocobo. "Although I have to wonder how you know about that, Chirpy."

"Kweh."

"I see. So some of the chocobo handlers are dating?"

"Kweh."

Sazh turned back to Dajh. "Got any plans tonight?"

"I was thinking of staying at the ranch tonight, or maybe we could go out for a ride. It's been a while since we camped out, just the three of us."

"There's a reason for that. You're not a little kid anymore and I've put on a few pounds. I don't think Chirpy can carry us both." The chocobo huffed. "I'm not saying you're weak, Chirpy, but I don't want you to sprain your back. Besides, I can always grab another chocobo for the ride, Dajh, while you go on Chirpy."

"Sounds like a plan."

Chirpy got to his feet. "Kweh kweh. Kweh?"

"Yes, Chirpy, there will be marshmallows and hot chocolate."

X X X

Hope did not consider himself much of a dancer. Vanille had other ideas. As usual, he'd managed to argue his case for exactly three minutes before being dragged to a salsa dancing class. To his surprise – he should have known better by now since Vanille was the definition of surprise – the red head was already fluent in all the steps.

Perhaps it was pride, or perhaps it was her teasing smirk, or perhaps it was the thought of someone else dancing with Vanille, but he simply refused to back down from the challenge. He might not know how to salsa, but he'd survived years of Lightning's hellish combat training. If he could survive that, he could survive anything.

The first hour was a disaster. It wasn't like he had two left feet – it was more like had had four. But by the second hour, he was hitting his stride, and by the third, the instructor was convinced that he was, in fact, the reincarnation of some long dead salsa dancing genius. Hope was pretty sure that wasn't true, but he wasn't about to question his good luck.

As for Vanille… she was having the time of her life, and whatever annoyance Hope might have felt was fast disappearing. Watching Vanille move to the music, watching the pleased flush on her cheeks and the gleam in her eyes – if he wasn't already head over heels in love with her, this would have sealed the deal. As it was, Vanille drew more than a few admiring looks, and although Hope lacked Snow's intimidating size, he had learned how to glare from the best of them.

"Are you sure this is your first time salsa dancing?" Vanille draped her arms around Hope's neck and leaned in close.

"Yes, but you knew that already, didn't you? That's why you picked it."

A look of utterly fake innocence crossed Vanille's face. "Well, you have been complaining about work being boring lately. I thought I'd surprise you."

"Work has been boring, but my life has been anything but." Hope smirked. "How could my life ever be boring with you in it?"

"Are you fishing for a kiss Estheim? If you are, you're well on your way to getting one."

"Maybe. But how did you get into salsa dancing? It's not actually some weird derivative of traditional Dia culture or something is it?"

Vanille laughed. "No, but I saw it on television once and thought it looked cool. What?"

The music had begun to wind down, and Hope had to swallow his laughter. "That's so you. You see something on television and instead of worrying about how hard it might be to learn, you just go out and do it."

"Well, yeah. Anything else would be boring."

"So… are we doing this again next week?" Hope put one arm around Vanille and headed over to the refreshments.

"If you don't mind."

"I don't." Hope pursed his lips. Vanille had definitely gotten the jump on him with this one. He'd have to return the favour somehow. Maybe… yes, he could take her skydiving. It might even be a good idea to ask Lightning and Fang to come since both women had mentioned, on more than one occasion, how good it would feel to throw Vanille out of a plane. "How about we get dinner on the way home?"

X X X

Author's Notes

As always, I neither own Final Fantasy, nor am I making any money off of this.

Ah, domestic bliss. It's different for everybody, which is what I was trying to get across in this chapter. For Fang and Lightning, it means a chance to laze about with the kids and watch a movie. For Serah and Snow it means a night of cooking and fun in the kitchen. For Sazh, Dajh and Chirpy it's all about the cloud watching. And for Hope and Vanille, it's all about dancing because… yeah.

But don't think the fun and crazy times are over for our married couples – that's what Friday nights are for! Democracy can be a wonderful thing, but when the people voting for what to do include Fang, Vanille and Serah (and sometimes Lebreau), things are never going to go according to plan. It's a good thing that Lightning is head of the Guardian Corps in New Bodhum. But don't worry. I will get around to writing a chapter about one of those Friday nights. I just thought I'd start with Saturday since it lends itself quite nicely to the splitting up format used in this story.

On an unrelated note, in the next month or so, I will be releasing three short stories on Amazon as eBooks (the term short story is deceptive, since they are each between 15,000 and 20,000 words long). One is a high fantasy, another is a darker fantasy, and the third is a paranormal Western. If you want to follow what's going on with those, I'll keep you updated on my blog and deviant art (see my profile for links).

As always, I appreciate feedback. Reviews and comments are welcome.