I don't own Final Fantasy XIII.

Serah is pretty. She's sweet. She's kind. She's cheerful.

Serah is eighteen. She has just graduated from high school. She's ready to greet the world with a smile.

Serah is staring blankly at her reflection in her mirror.

Serah is fake. Serah is lying.

The truth is that she doesn't believe any of it, and the truth is that she hasn't told anyone the entire truth since she was twelve. She has no idea what she's doing with her life. School was a quick blur – a succession of assignments and projects all done with an almost automatic mindset and trying so very hard not to let her grades slip or fall asleep in class. And now she's done with that, it's all looking at the sky wondering what to do next. Certainly, she can go to a college or university. She's a good student, and she's pretty sure that if she applied, she'd be accepted. But after that, what can she do…?

It's easy to know what she wants out of life. She wants happiness. Happiness is the warm feeling in her stomach when she knows everything in the world is right and everything is fine. Happiness is sitting with her younger sister and making her smile. Happiness is sitting on the roof on her house, and watching the sun set.

Happiness is doing the same thing over and over again. Happiness is the bland expression on her face and the bitter laugh that everyone mistakes as real. Happiness is…

…someone else's definition she's sick of.

She wants to know that she's done everything right. She wants her sister to be safe and happy by her definition. She wants her sister to see her as not useless and respect her.

Funny how so much of what she wants revolves around her sister.

Then again, she hasn't had any respect from her sister in years. Claire stopped respecting her when she broke down at their mother's funeral. When she started crying and Claire… didn't. And when Claire had somehow decided that she was responsible, and Serah wasn't. That Serah was fragile, Serah needed to be loved, Serah needed careful handling because she was much too breakable to be taken seriously. And Serah didn't notice that until it was far too late, and then it turned out that all her little sister thought of her was that she was a weak little girl that needed to be protected.

She never cried again after she figured that out.

But once you're labeled weak, it's so much harder to climb back up to being strong again. And she wants to be strong. She's the older sister. She isn't supposed to be the pretty glass ornament on the mantle. She shouldn't need to be protected. She shouldn't need Claire to hover over her shoulder, worrying about if she might hurt herself, worrying about if someone would hurt her feelings, worrying if something might happen. That's… That's supposed to be Serah's job. Not Claire's.

And she can't even do that properly. She loves Claire - of course she does - but she can't help but feel a bit of resentment whenever she talks to Claire about her worries. There's this almost indulgent feeling around her, as if Serah's just silly for worrying about Claire. Of course, Serah, you don't need to worry about Claire. Claire's going to be fine. And her voice is just ever so slightly condescending, like the way a parent speaks to a very young child.

Serah is sick of that.

Maybe it's all because she's too nice. Maybe she's too soft.

Either way, she still doesn't know what she's going to do with her life.

She does have a job, of course. Getting a means of support was the only way she was allowed to keep Claire - the only way that she could avoid the foster homes and being split up. So she smiles and laughs for the tourists of Bodhum – she's a guide, she's a waitress, she's a cashier, and it all meshes together so perfectly that everything she does is on schedule and there are so many different masks to put on she's not quite sure what she is anymore. She had planned to be a schoolteacher after school– she loves children, and teaching wasn't hard. But… Claire wouldn't…

Claire wouldn't think any less of her, but she wouldn't think any more of her either. Because that was just like Serah, wasn't it? Predictable, predictable Serah? Predictable, soft, nice, weak Serah?

So like her to pick a job where she smiles and laughs and nothings ever hard and she's sick of smiling like that and lying and lying and lying -!

Serah doesn't see why she shouldn't be different for a change.

So that is the reason…

That is why she is wearing her shiny new uniform.

That is the reason why she is a new recruit of the Guardian Corps.

Who'd have thought?

She laughs. Laughs at her reflection in the mirror. Laughs at the pistol resting at her hip. She laughs and she laughs and maybe she's just a little bit hysterical but no one cares about that. She's stupid to think this way. She'll get herself killed, and she probably won't be remembered. She'd be better off working as a schoolteacher, marrying a nice boy, and having a big family that she can keep house for. Wasn't that what she wanted, all those years ago? Hell, wasn't that what she wanted two months ago? Two days ago? Two hours ago?

And yet…. and yet - !

That wasn't what she wanted at all.

She looks into the mirror - and maybe she never even stopped looking at it - and her reflection looks back and smirks at her. This is who she is. And she wants her pride back. She wants her respect. She takes a deep breath, turning the pistol loaded with blanks in her hands, over and over again.

This is who she is.

Or maybe it's who she wants to be.

It's all so terribly self-centered, isn't it…?

She can't help giggling. She's so stupid to think this way.

But this way…

"Serah! I'm home!"

She'll have something of her own to be proud of.

I really should be trying to edit. Instead, I wrote this. Because it's been a while. I've been thinking about it for a long time. I kind of thought it'd be longer, y'know? Like, multichapterall (I don't think that's a word) and stuff...? For now, I guess, it can stand as a oneshot. I can continue it if I like... Or maybe I'll delete this in a few days.

Anyway, the title... anyone get the reference? Technically, I don't even own the title, I'm sorry to say. I thought it fit well enough, though.

This is a bit too short, isn't it?