Serah clutched her pillow and closed her eyes tight, curling in her spot on the bed like she could make Hawke pop into existence again. Red streaks stained her cheeks from tears far from over in crying. Serah squeezed her pillow and willed herself to come together. No matter how hard she tried, the tears wouldn't stop. Not with the constant reminder of how she had screwed things up!
Hawke couldn't take it anymore. Serah had pushed her patience too far. Now, the very thing she was afraid of happening from sex was— for exactly the lack of it! Hawke had had enough and wanted to break up with her. Serah's heart ached so sore. She should've known not to push this far. She should've stood up to Hawke a month ago and told her to take her in love. Now, everything fell apart. How in the world would she convince Hawke she'd been ready for this is she couldn't even bring herself to make it happen? Serah twitched on the bed. She couldn't let them fall apart over this—not with Hawke thinking she'd failed her for struggling along without her love. Not when Serah had been keeping it from her in fright.
She had to pull herself together over this.
Serah let out another long, shaky breath. She continued to breathe in such a fashion until her racing heart calmed. She closed her eyes and tried to temper the hailstorm of emotion bringing her near to tears in her head. The first thing she had to do was clear her head about all this. Maybe she should start writing to Claire. That always calmed her down.
Knock, knock, knock. Serah's head lifted in an instant with incurable hope in her eyes. "Hawke?"
"It's Summer." Serah couldn't help her heart from dropping in disappointment. She sniffed and wiped under her eye in a vain attempt to cover the streaks.
"Come in," Serah called politely.
Summer opened the door partway and came in with a half-bowed head. "Serah,"
Serah's eyes roved shyly to the ground. She'd been living with the beautiful woman for months now and she'd watched her children on more than one occasion, but Serah couldn't say very much about her direct relationship with Summer. It was all just a little bit awkward from the whole ordeal with her sister. Serah knew she and Summer had come to some form of privately-reached truce or some sort, but there'd been a time not very long ago when the two women had hated each other. As friendly and warm as Summer was now, Serah hadn't much initiated the opportunity to grow closer to the woman like she had the rest of Fang's family while here. It felt like a small loyalty to Claire to keep it that way.
"Hey," Serah greeted shyly, a little awkward. Not only was Summer a standing beauty among women, she was also close to ten years older than Serah. "I guess you heard me crying, huh?"
"You weren't loud," Summer offered in solace.
"You heard me," Serah pointed out, shifting. It was hard to live with supersonic people sometimes, people who could hear or literally smell when something was wrong.
"A mother is more sensitive to the sound of pain."
Serah gave half an effort at a miserable smile, still not looking up, and offered. "You can come in if you want." She heard the door shut softly behind Summer and couldn't help but feel a little intimidated, alone with an amazon who could turn her inside out in a second. Not that she would, but… Claire had disliked her for good reason, Serah remembered. It was kind of easy to when someone so stunning stalked straight into the house and kissed Fang passionately right in front of her girlfriend. Not that she and Fang had been real girlfriends at that point—but Summer hadn't known that. Some, Serah could chalk up to Yun culture, but that had been pretty spiteful.
"I guess you heard the argument too," Serah said softly, more than a little embarrassed by it. Every Yun in the household probably knew already.
"I try not to listen in on conversations not meant for me." Summer offered with an apologetic look. "I've taken to humming." Serah glanced up at her. She wasn't sure if the woman was being serious or kind to pretend she didn't know, but Summer seemed earnest. "You want to talk about it?"
"I don't know what to say," Serah admitted, especially not to her. Talking to anyone else would've been easier about this, but Summer had been the first one kind enough to offer, so… "Hawke wants to take a break from us," Serah told frankly. "It's my fault. I've been ready to…" God, this felt awkward. Summer came over and sat beside Serah on the bed as she struggled through that awkwardness. "You know… move on in our relationship."
"Have sex?" Summer easily posed, probably to make her feel more comfortable. And it did, sort of. Serah was really getting more used to blunt Yun conversation about it.
"Not sex," Serah tried to clarify, but felt that message came out all wrong. "I mean, not wholly. I wanted to tell her we could… play around… a little more. And get to sex eventually, I mean. But I wanted to try other things with her first… to sortof prepare me for it, you know."
"But you didn't," Summer assumed correctly.
"I got scared," Serah countered, almost defensively. "I kept thinking: what if I got too into it. What if I let her go too far, and if I did, what if she thinks I'm horrible at sex and doesn't want to be with me anymore. Then I'd be—I'd be deflowered and alone."
"Deflowered," Summer actually chuckled. Serah looked at her incredulously. "I'm sorry," Summer apologized, sobering. "The Cocoon notion that sex would… 'deflower' you," she chuckled again.
Serah balked, red-checked. "Stop laughing!" Summer did and glanced at her, but she was still smiling in such a way, Serah actually started to smile herself. "Stop it!" she chastised, biting back the growing grin. "It's not funny."
"Not at all," Summer agreed with that smile and a lightness to her tone. It just made it all that harder to keep from it herself. Eventually, Serah gave up biting it back, but looked away from Summer with her own, guilty, but moody grin. "You're horrible. You're supposed to be listening to me." When she looked the gorgeous woman's way again, Summer's eyes were shining with the same warmth. "No wonder my sister hated you," Serah hmphed with moody intent, unable to really stop how her heart felt a bit lighter after the laugh.
"Should I take that as a compliment?"
Serah gave her stubborn eyes, resistant to the floaty uplift Summer inspired. "Cocoon girls would hate you for being so confident."
"What an odd thing to hate me for. Is confidence not an attractive trait in Cocoon?"
"For opposite sexes, maybe," Serah granted, "But for two girls… that's more like fuel for jealousy for us. Girls don't like other girls who are beautiful—especially if they know it."
"If they know it?" Summer questioned, "How would a girl not know it if she were lovely?"
Serah grinned. "That's easy to say in a world where every girl is beautiful."
Summer shook her head, "I'm afraid we're venturing off into topics I do not know. Your world and its dynamics, jealousy, doxy girls who don't see straight in a mirror…"
Serah smiled again because she couldn't help it. "Gran Pulse doesn't deal with any of that, does it?"
"Doxy girls? Not that I know of." Summer nodded, "But we sometimes have jealousy, just the same as Cocoon."
"Well… probably not just the same." Serah cautioned.
"No?" Summer asked, "I do think we frown on it a little more, but I'm by no means a Cocoon expert."
"Probably not a jealousy one either." Serah said, which earned her a smile. Summer was so confident and… cocky, but it wasn't really bothering Serah like it might've on a beautiful girl back home. Maybe it was the Gran Pulse culture as a whole, but it just seemed to easily fit her. Like Serah would be more bothered if she wasn't that knowing. The switch was quite a strange little turn.
"I'll tell you a secret," Summer told her, which raised Serah's brows in immense interest, despite herself and her seemingly-fading vow to keep from being friendly with this woman.
"You can't tell anyone," Summer encouraged, engaging her so much to know this.
"I won't," Serah promised.
"Not even your sister," Summer added, startling Serah, but she was much too involved to give up the information.
"If it's not dangerous," Serah promised again, which made Summer chuckle. Then, in a soft voice, probably very aware of the ears in this place, Summer whispered to her ear softly.
"I was jealous of your sister, Serah."
Serah's jaw dropped. She blurted without meaning to. "No, you weren't!" Summer laughed.
"But…" Serah hit upon an answer. "Is that why you were such a bitch to her?" She realized her words after she said them and sucked in a breath, but Summer was chuckling, not mad like she might've been.
"She had Fang," Summer offered her in explanation, "And Fang loved her so. There's a bit to be envious there."
Serah wanted to tell Claire. But Summer had tricked her into a promise not to. "I really can't say anything?"
Summer's eyes twinkled with that light that caught them sometimes in her joy, making the golden specks shine. "I might've had a bit of a possessive nature over her, but that wasn't the primary reason I wanted Fang away from her."
Serah gave her an eye. "Uh-huh."
"Believe what you will," Summer chuckled, "You're sworn to secrecy with me over it, I'm not worried."
"So," Serah wondered, "Saying I believe that wasn't the primary reason—which I don't. Why were you so against Claire being with Fang?"
"Fang loved her." Summer gave her sad, knowing eyes. "Lightning didn't. At the time."
"You believe she did after?" Serah asked, curious now to Summer's opinion of the matter.
"It takes an extremely brave or stupid woman to admit her faults to a family of Yuns," Summer told her boldly. "And stupidity is not one of Lightning's faults."
Serah had never heard Summer compliment her sister like that. It had a strange feel to it after having witnessed a few catfights between the two. "You have a good sister, Serah." Summer told her, reaching out a hand to rub her back comfortingly, which didn't feel as weird as it would've, had this conversation just started. "And that, you can tell her I said. It wouldn't hurt to warm her a little more to me." Summer said it lightheartedly, but Serah couldn't help feeling there was something a little deeper there. Why would Summer need Lightning to be warm to her at all? Lightning was stuck in Cocoon, and visits didn't seem likely in any kind of near future.
"Enough about that, though," Summer closed off the topic. "We're supposed to be discussing your problems with Hawke here, aren't we? You shouldn't really worry about being bad at the sex, Serah. It's like riding a wyvern—you get it after a few scrapes and falls."
Serah's eyes widened. "Riding a wyvern?"
"Oh, afraid of heights?" Summer asked, "That kind of makes the comparison more perfect, though. You seem awfully scared of the sexual aspects themselves. Maybe it's like that at first, but you learn to enjoy it pretty quickly. And not everyone is disinclined to virgins, you know. I actually kind of like it when my partners are cute and squirm." Even for all her growing-Yun-comfort, Serah's face went brick red at that. "Too sharing?" Summer asked when she saw it.
"Serah?" Anya's voice came from the door. Summer gave Serah a knowing smile.
"What'd I tell you about moms?"
"You can come in," Serah called back to her. All of the Yuns were super polite to her with asking; they didn't usually have to do so for the rest of the family or others. When Anya entered, she came in with a hot cup. Serah smelled hot coco as she came near.
"Hawke's sent it up with me and her regards," Anya told, handing it over as Serah motioned for her to sit on her other side.
"See?" Summer chided gently. "She still cares about you, Serah. Hawke's merely experiencing a bout of weakness for sex. We all get it sometimes."
"A weakness I caused," Serah sighed, saddened, and looked to Anya, "Do you know about it too, then?"
"Hawke didn't say much," Anya reached a hand to her side gently. "But I understand the gist. Some of these things, we just can't force, Serah."
"But I'm not forcing it," Serah insisted with a heavy sigh. "I'm really ready for it. I have been. I've just been… shy to tell her about it."
"Being ready isn't just in the words, Serah." Anya coaxed softly, wise, and rubbed her back. "She has to see it for herself too." Which Serah had failed at when she'd had the chance. She slumped with her little cup of perfectly flavored hot chocolate with just the right hint of a mint flavor from the tiny mint leaf.
Anya gave her a small smile and tried to relate it for Serah. "I remember when Fang was younger, when she still had her chastity about her as a little thing."
Serah's eyebrows went up. She'd heard concerning things about this before. "Please don't tell me she was twelve."
Anya chuckled. "Twelve is the age sex and pregnancy is first possible, Serah. But we don't usually start those habits till later.
"Around fourteen." Summer told. Serah's eyebrows went right back up. Summer chuckled, but Anya shook her head with a small smile, crystal green eyes glimmering so cleanly.
"She's just kidding with you, Serah." Serah wasn't so sure who to believe. "Our curiosity may begin around that age," Anya looked over Serah's head with those soft eyes, "But very few of us start that young."
Serah looked at Summer too and blurted, "You're one of them? Fourteen?"
"Fifteen," Summer chuckled at her surprise. Serah supposed she shouldn't really have it concerning Summer, but… fifteen! She was nineteen and still hadn't done it! It seemed so very young to her. Any Cocoon girl who'd been broken at that age would've been termed and labeled as easy and cheap by her world's standards, let alone if the poor girl had become pregnant at such an age. They didn't even use birth control on this planet! The whole thing just seemed so big and scary a prospect to Serah's brain, even as she'd been in Gran Pulse for four months now and understood the rules. Adopting them was another matter altogether.
"It's okay, Serah," Summer cautioned, probably seeing the disbelief on her face. "I think it's brave that you consider matehood around your age."
Serah's cheeks reddened a little. "Well, we don't live as long in Cocoon, you know."
"No?" Summer asked, "Some of our tribes are like that. They only last around 120 years. The Brells have an exceptionally diminishing lifespan, but most of them are climbing with Yun mating and the bloodline. I suppose I can see that making you want to rush. Why, what's Cocoon lifespan? I saw some pretty elderly when we went to Cocoon."
"Um," Serah cleared her throat because it was almost embarrassing next to these fit, beautiful Yun women who were superior in almost every facet. "Seventy to eighty years is common."
"Seventy— " Summer made an effort at holding back her shock, it looked like, but it wasn't a successful one. "Oh… Oh, Serah." Serah understood her shock. It was less than half the life expectancy of Yuns if they lived out to their full potential, which wasn't common either, but seventy years… a Yun could still birth then. It was natural Summer would find this shocking and alarming as hell. "That's not from… occupational deaths?"
Serah shook her head.
"You're almost in your prime," Summer realized. "We have to get you back with Hawke."
"You're almost in your prime," Summer realized. "We have to get you back with Hawke. Why would anyone wait in such a position with that lifespan of getting old? Is that why you all marry so young? To have sex?" Serah's cheeks pinked with her understandable conclusions, then Summer made her cheeks infinitely warmer by startlingly coming to ask. "Was Lightning a virgin before Fang too?"
The supposition wasn't farfetched based on what she knew, and though Serah suspected otherwise, the most embarrassing fact was she didn't even know for sure. "It's not like that across all Cocoon!" Serah tried to put in, "People with my beliefs about marriage and sex, I mean," Serah told, horribly blushy about it. "That's supposed to be the traditional method, but many people cheat it too…"
Serah couldn't tell the exact expression, whether it was relief or… what. "So, she wasn't?"
Serah rubbed at the back of her neck, so rosy. "I don't know…" Summer's face remained hard to read at best, but when glanced over at Anya again, her curious interest replaced in politeness and priorities.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Anya— you were saying about Fang before my tangent there? I'm sorry to abstract us so far, Serah. Curiosity got the best of me."
Serah batted an eye, but if she had any suspicions, they faded with Anya. "It's okay, Summer." Anya easily forgave, "The differences between our people is quite interesting and substantial."
"We should get back to Hawke, though," Summer gently led back. "What were you saying about Fang, Anya?"
"Well, if Serah wants to hear it…" Anya looked to her in asking.
"I do," Serah readily agreed, wanting to know. They tended to get off topic sometimes, but Serah didn't so much mind with these women. She already felt better and would probably be able to speak of Hawke with a clearer mind than what she had.
Anya smiled gently. "Fang was a bit of a romantic when her curiosity about sex came along. She didn't want to do anyone until she'd found the perfect girl," Serah's heart lightened a bit. 'See!' she wanted to cry. The only problem was, Serah had already found the perfect woman. She'd just been holding sex back from her girl. "Lucky for us," Anya added, "She already knew and loved Vanille as her closest friend. They weren't… what do you call it in Cocoon, dating?" Serah nodded, "They weren't 'dating,'" Anya used, "But Fang hesitated to sleep with her the first time too. Held it back a little. She was afraid of how it'd change their relationship to each other."
"That's like me!" Serah related and couldn't contain her surprise at it. "Isn't that… unusual though?" Serah asked, "Here, I mean."
"A little bit," Anya confessed with a nod, "We do respect and have that attachment to the first person we make love to. I still remember mine, and I'm sure Summer does." Serah glanced at Summer too, who nodded. "Fang took on a bit of Jaeger's romantic notions more than most, but when she finally came around to deciding to share it with Vanille—and we worried for a time she wouldn't. Fang really concerned us there. But when she did, Serah, it didn't ruin their relationship at all. Fang and Vanille became greater friends for both sharing their firsts together."
She gave it a second's pause, "Now, I know it's not precisely the same as your situation. Hawke has been with many, and you've been brought up differently than us. I don't mean to pressure you either, Serah. Please don't think that."
"I don't," Serah put in, wanting to hear the rest of it as well. Anya gave her another of those warming smiles that helped her along.
"The way I'm hearing it," Anya went on, "Is that you're more afraid of the consequences of having sex with Hawke than the action itself. You're afraid of it taking away your chastity and downward-sloping your relationship with Hawke. Is that right?"
"Our relationship's already taking a downward slope because I haven't," Serah bummed out, which had been wholly her fault. "But that sounds about right. I really want to share that with Hawke—I do! But if something goes wrong… " Serah lowered her head to the cup, cowardly. "What if she doesn't like how I am in bed? I'll just make her feel even worse to break up with me. I know sex is a big thing and very common for Yuns… I know it's important. And she's been so sweet already to me in trying to wait, I hate to lose that. I just… I always start thinking of the what ifs ruining us. It's almost like it's better to break up not knowing she'd dislike me for that, you know…"
"Is that really how you want it to end?" Anya gently pushed. "In a breakup out of safety to keep the chance of a broken heart away?"
"Not really," Serah looked at her cup and tilted it, a bit distraught. She was being a coward and she knew it.
"Our relationships put ourselves out there," Anya told wisely, "Whom we come to care about and love, every one of them is taking a chance, and coupling is even harder for all the new and frightening aspects you may come across. But if none of us are willing to take those chances, we'd never move along. Broken hearts are part of the danger that comes with finding our loves. Even here, heartache happens. Do you know how scared I was to learn the baby I held belonged to Jaeger, who had it in her mind to court me when I was only seventeen? I was petrified of her."
"What did you do about it?" Serah asked, able to relate to Anya's fear, even if her circumstance was different.
Anya soothed her with a small rub. "The baby was hers too. I was scared, but it wasn't my right to keep Fang from her. I went to Jaeger and told her I was pregnant. She wanted to be involved, of course. She was ecstatic, and I'd been more or less forced to let her help. Only in the beginning, it was that way."
"You fell in love?" Serah asked, liking these kind of stories.
"Madly," Anya shared with that gleam in her eyes. "And it was mad. Jaeger and I were both so young and grew so committed, neither of us wanted anyone else, I grew to love her so much. You'd never seen a sweeter Yun after that day I told her. By the look in her eyes alone when she heard about Fang…"
"Awww," Serah's little heart went squish at the story. That kind of falling so early was so unusual for Yuns, it just warmed her like a blanket. "I bet she kept wooing you throughout the whole pregnancy, didn't she, Mom? That's so sw— " Serah's breath caught at the slip. She abruptly looked up with apologetic eyes and struggled to correct the words. "A— Anya. L-Lady Anya," Serah dropped her eyes and head to the cup neurotically to stare at it in trembling hands. "I'm sorry, I— I didn't mean to…"
"Serah," Anya softly chided. In another second, Serah felt a hand touch her leg and her heart sped quickly with it in nervous fright, though she really had nothing to fear from Anya. The mother was always softspoken and kind, even if Serah had just made a terrible, tabooish mistake in calling her that. "I'm not going to hold a slip against you, child." Serah peeped at her from the side of her eyes to see Anya looking a little saddened by it.
"I'm still sorry," Serah offered meekly.
Anya offered another smile straight ahead, not really at her, but Serah could easily see the sad edges to this one. "I think of how different it'd be… if you and Lightning had stayed in Gran Pulse."
Serah hadn't known that, but now she ached for reminding Anya. She kept her eyes down because she couldn't really will herself otherwise. "You do?"
"Sometimes," Anya confessed. "If you had both stayed… before it got so bad. Jaeger would've been able to forgive the pregnancy lie. It still would've taken her time, but she wouldn't have grown to hate Lightning so much… you might've been our daughter-by-matehood already if Fang had her way with it."
She almost sounded like she wanted that in preference. Serah knew she'd forgiven Lightning's involuntary role in Fang's demise, but she didn't know she'd cared this much for her sister. Serah's only relation seemed like a tolerated attachment more than anything, but this… "You sound like you miss Claire a little," Serah bit her lip in case she'd misspoken again.
"I do, a little," Anya confessed with a little huffy-laugh that sounded like a tiny sigh. "I suppose that's strange, but… she could've made Fang happy if events hadn't turned on them. She'd have made me happy to mother her too. Both of you. Everybody needs a mother. I'd have been happy to in other circumstance. For both of you." Serah felt her hair being brushed back behind her ear and finally looked up again because Anya wasn't being scary like she could've for the slip. Anya was already looking at her in a motherly, heartwarming fashion that made Serah's equally ache for being unable to fulfill her wistful thoughts. "It's hard not to see the Yun in you sometimes."
Serah coughed at that to hide the snort because she just couldn't help that one. "Claire, maybe. Here I am afraid of sex; not very Yun of me. And Hell will bend over before I can pick up a weapon and use it."
Anya smiled softly and brushed back into her hair. "Not all Yun strength comes from wielding our weapons, Serah." Anya looked a little over her shoulder and smiled, "But it looks like our conversation's scared Summer away."
"Huh?" Serah glanced that way and had to double-take. The soft spot on the bed beside her was completely empty. "When did she go?!" Serah hadn't heard a thing! Damn, sneaky Yuns.
"I think she was giving us a little privacy about Lightning," Anya nodded, "We can keep talking about Hawke if you need to, Serah."
"That's okay," Serah felt much better already, even if concepts came in abstract relating and much of the conversation had skipped over Hawke, it'd helped a lot to talk to somebody with her problems. She didn't feel so much like drowning anymore. "I know I've gotta prove it to her. I don't want to let Hawke go over this either."
"I'm glad to hear it, Serah," Anya said, standing. "Come on; we'll get your coco refilled. Hawke's gone out for a bit."
Okay," Serah stood too and followed, much happier in the support she had from this family.