Vanille opened her eyes and stared up into the barrel of a gun blade. Before she could scream, a gloved hand clamped down over her mouth. She was dragged out of bed in nothing more than an old, baggy t-shirt and her panties. Her gaze went to the sleeping form of her girlfriend. She had to fight. She had to protect Serah –
The tip of the gun blade's barrel came to a rest against her temple. Vanille went still.
"In a moment, I'm going to take my hand off your mouth. You're going to sit in that chair over there, and I'm going to sit in the other chair. If you scream, I will hurt you. If you try to fight or raise the alarm in any way, I will hurt you. Do you understand?"
Vanille swallowed thickly. Her captor was a woman, and her voice was soft and slightly husky. But there was no mistaking the coldness beneath the words. This woman meant business.
"Do you understand?"
The red head looked at the bed again. Serah was still fast asleep. She wanted to fight or scream or something, but she couldn't risk getting the other woman hurt. She nodded.
"Good." The woman let her go. "Sit down."
Vanille stumbled over to the chair and turned to look at the other woman. It wasn't quite dawn yet, but she could just barely make out the features of her attacker. The woman was tall, and the body beneath the Cocoon Guardian Corps uniform was slim and toned. With an almost predatory grace, the woman sat down in the chair opposite Vanille. A few, dim rays of light crept over the horizon and spilled through the window.
The woman's features held a wintry sort of beauty, aloof and regal. She wore a pair of sunglasses, but she took them off and slipped them into her pocket as she leaned forward to glare at Vanille with the coldest blue eyes the Dia had ever seen. The growing light washed over pink hair.
Cocoon Guardian Corps? Blue eyes? Pink hair?
This wasn't some crazy serial killer come to murder her and Serah. Well, maybe she'd come to murder Vanille, but Serah would definitely be fine. This was Serah's older sister, Claire 'Lightning' Farron.
Maybe she would have been better off against a serial killer.
Vanille hadn't thought very much of Serah Farron at first. Serah had been one of the first people from Cocoon to come down to Gran Pulse to help with the reconstruction effort after the peace accord had been signed. From the very moment she'd arrived in Oerba, Serah had been met with a generous helping of suspicion and dislike. But the pink haired woman had refused to let that bother her. Instead, she'd rolled up her sleeves and let her actions do the talking. She'd opened her own school to provide free education to all the young people orphaned in the war. If that wasn't enough, she'd spent almost all of her free time helping out at the hospital. As one of Oerba's foremost scientists and doctors, Vanille had run into her quite a few times.
She hadn't been sure what to expect from a viper – her older sister's favourite insult toward people from Cocoon – but a smart, beautiful, cheerful young woman was not it. Serah had taken all of the resentment with good humour and done her best to show everyone that not everybody from Cocoon was a war-mongering psychopath.
Vanille's grudging acceptance had turned into grudging admiration that soon gave way to a remarkably firm friendship. And it wasn't long before that friendship gave way to something more.
Fast forward one year and Vanille couldn't be happier. Serah had won over the people of Oerba, and they had their own little apartment near Serah's school and not too far from the research facility and hospital where Vanille worked. Life was good. Even Fang, Vanille's older sister who had fought in the war, had taken a liking to Serah. And Fang hated Cocoon.
But Lightning Farron was another story.
It had taken Serah months to work up the courage to tell Vanille about her older sister, and Vanille couldn't blame her. Lightning Farron was a legend, the closest thing in the world to the bogeyman amongst the brave warriors of Gran Pulse. There were even stories about how if a warrior said her name three times while looking in the mirror, then she would come for them the next time they went into battle.
Lightning had led some of the most successful and devastating attacks on Gran Pulse during the war. The only reason the clans of Gran Pulse had not demanded her head as part of the peace negotiations was the fact that Lightning never went after civilians, nor did she tolerate any of the soldiers under her command going after civilians. The clans might despise her for all the warriors she'd slain, but they respected her for never targeting the defenceless.
Even so, some of the children Serah taught still told stories on dark, rainy days about how Lightning Farron would come and snatch away all the naughty children. And now Vanille was looking right at her.
"My sister used to tell me everything." Lightning's voice was smooth, silky, and utterly terrifying. "But ever since she came down here, she's been hiding things from me. So, I decided to come down here and see for myself. I've heard all about the good work she does at the hospital and about the school she's built. But she never mentioned a lover."
Double crap. If Vanille somehow managed to get out of this alive, she was going to kill Serah. How could Serah not tell her sister about them?
"You can imagine my surprise then, when I arrived at her apartment to find the door locked. It wasn't hard to break in – you should really improve your security – but then I realised she wasn't living on her own." Lightning tapped her cheek with one finger. "Maybe, I thought, she had a roommate, or perhaps one of her friends had spent the night. But then I find you in bed with her, a young woman from the Dia clan. How very interesting." Lightning's lips curled. "Did you know that your clan still has a bounty on my head?"
Vanille did not know that. "How much is the bounty?"
Lightning told her. It was a shocking sum, especially since the Dia were usually so peaceful.
"So tell me, little Dia, am I seeing things or are you and my sister in a relationship?" The gun was pointed squarely at the centre of Vanille's forehead.
"She's my girlfriend."
"I see." Lightning's brows furrowed. For someone with such a fearsome reputation, Lightning wasn't as large as Vanille had thought. Based on all the stories, she'd kind of built up an image in her head of Lightning as a walking mountain of muscle. But Lightning was shorter than Fang and looked to be built more for speed than raw strength. "How long has she been your girlfriend?"
"We've been together for three months, but we were friends for almost six months before that." Vanille looked back at Serah. Why hadn't the other woman woken up yet? Surely, Serah would be able to convince Lightning to put away her gun blade. "We're very happy. We moved in together a month ago."
"Is that right? Congratulations." Lightning smiled thinly. "Tell me, how long have you been sleeping with her?"
"I asked you: how long have you been sleeping with my sister?" It was a growl this time.
"Two months." Vanille prayed to every deity she could think of. If she got out of this alive, she would leave offerings at all the shrines and temples.
"Is this a plot?" Lightning leaned forward, eyes burning with carefully leashed fury. "Are you working for the Yun clan? Did they tell you to go after my sister?"
It took Vanille almost ten seconds to understand what Lightning was getting at. Then it hit her. Lightning thought this was some kind of set up, a way of getting at her through Serah. A wave of horror swept through Vanille. Had someone tried that before? But horror quickly gave way to fury. Vanille would never do that to Serah.
"How dare you!" If it weren't for the gun blade, Vanille would have grabbed Lightning by the scruff of her uniform. "I love Serah, and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. This isn't about you – I didn't even know you were her sister until she told me. I –"
"Vanille?" Serah yawned and stretched. "Are you on the phone? Does your lab need you to come in early again? It's a weekend." The younger Farron rolled over and opened her eyes. Lightning and Vanille froze.
And a whole lot of things happened one after the other.
Serah took one look at Lightning and lunged forward, only for her legs to tangle in the sheets. She tripped and landed face first on the carpet. Vanille lurched forward to help, and Lightning shot to her feet and barked a warning for her to stay where she was.
Then the bedroom door burst off its hinges.
Vanille almost felt like crying. It was Fang. Her older sister liked to drop in one them from time to time and as much as Vanille usually enjoyed her visits, now was not a good time. She had less than a second to explain things because if Fang saw Lightning pointing a gun blade at her, all hell would break lose.
Naturally, Vanille managed to get all of half a word out before Fang saw Lightning.
Fang carried her spear with her everywhere. Her eyes widened at the sight of Lightning, and she hurled the bag of fresh bread she'd brought at the soldier. In the same instant, with the bag of bread blocking Lightning's line of sight, Fang pulled her spear off her back and thrust it right at Lightning's heart.
Somehow, Lightning saw the attack coming. She ducked beneath the bread and twisted away from Fang's attack. The tip of the spear grazed the edges of her red cape, and Lightning fired once, twice, three times in quick succession. Fang darted to the side to avoid the first two shots and caught the third with the blade of her spear.
The gunshots echoed through the room as loud as thunder. Vanille hissed in pain, ears ringing. But Fang was already in motion. Her spear leapt back and forth, its tip only inches away from Lightning's hip, her shoulder, and then her chest. Lightning's gun blade transformed and Fang's next strike ground to a halt against the sword form of the weapon.
For a split second, they paused. Then they were moving again. Lightning shoved Fang's spear up and then lunged forward. She was fast – faster than anyone Vanille had ever seen. Her sword swept up and across to cut Fang from hip to shoulder, but the dark-haired woman yanked her spear down to intercept the blow. Sparks flew, and the pair shoved against each other.
The small confines of the bedroom made it almost impossible for them to fight properly but that didn't stop them from trying. They exchanged blow after blow, a furious, percussive drumbeat of spear on sword that took them from one side of the room to the other. Finally, Lightning managed to shove Fang against the wall, their weapons locked together.
Blue eyes met green, and Fang dropped her spear and reached over to wrench the gun blade out of Lightning's hands. The weapon flew out of Lightning's grasp and dug into the bedroom wall. With a growl, Fang shoved the shorter woman back, and she and Lightning tumbled to the ground.
Serah screamed – had she ever stopped screaming? – and Vanille seriously considered joining her. Lightning and Fang were breaking everything.
Fang kicked Lightning into a set of drawers and stepped forward to land another kick only for the soldier to rip one of the drawers out and smash it over her head. Serah's panties went flying everywhere, and Lightning landed a solid hook to Fang's jaw before she grabbed another drawer – this time full of Vanille's bras – and broke that over Fang's head as well.
The dark-haired woman stumbled back and grabbed the alarm clock off Vanille's bedside table. Lightning ducked the makeshift projectile when Fang threw it but ran headlong into a savage elbow that snapped her head back. Fang tackled her to the ground and threw a punch straight at Lightning's chin.
Lightning jerked to the side and grabbed Fang's arm before she threw both her legs up into a triangle choke around Fang's head and shoulders. Fang hissed in frustration, and Lightning's eyes widened in disbelief as Fang somehow managed to stand up and shove her back into the large mirror that hung on the wall.
The mirror shattered, and Fang shoved Lightning off, gasping for air. Shaking her head to clear it, Lightning knocked Fang's legs out from under her. The taller woman toppled to the ground. Lightning pulled her knife from its sheath at her waist and pressed it against Fang's throat. But the other woman wasn't to be outdone. Fang had managed to grab a shard of broken mirror and had it flush against the skin of Lightning's neck.
"Drop the knife," Fang growled.
Lightning glared. "Not a chance."
Silence reigned as the pair gazed into each other's eyes.
"What do you think you're doing?" Serah roared. Before either Fang or Lightning could react, she grabbed Lightning by the arm and dragged her off Fang. Vanille and Fang could only stare as the younger Farron hauled her sister into the dining room and started yelling. And yelling. And yelling.
"Okay…" Fang sat up and rubbed one of the bruises on her head. "What just happened?"
"That was Lightning," Vanille said.
"As in Serah's sister? That Lightning?"
"She's pretty tough." Fang chuckled. Blood was trickling from a cut on her lip. "And she hits damn hard for a Cocoon viper. You know, she is the sworn enemy of my clan."
Fang glanced through the door at the arguing sisters. "But somehow, she doesn't seem so scary anymore."
X X X
It wasn't often that Lightning felt like an idiot. Right now, though, was one of those times.
Lightning put her hands up in what she hoped was a calming gesture. "Serah –"
"Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP!" The last two words came out as little more than a screech as Serah grabbed a plate and hurled it at Lightning. She followed that up with a bowl of day-old stew that went a few inches wide of the mark and splattered an assortment of beef, vegetables, and soup all over the wall. "You don't get to talk!"
Serah let loose another scream and dived over the table to grab Lightning by the lapel of her uniform. The fruit bowl tipped over, and she grabbed an orange and started hitting her sister with it. "You just broke into my apartment and pointed your gun blade at my girlfriend! You shot holes in my bedroom wall! You smashed all of my bedroom furniture!" Serah had abandoned the orange in favour of a lemon, and Lightning had to grab the younger woman's wrists before Serah could mash the fruit into her eye.
"That other woman –"
"That was Fang. She's Vanille's sister. She probably thought you were some kind of psycho trying to kill us!"
Fang? Oerba Yun Fang? That explained a lot. The other woman was as famous as Lightning was. Maybe she was right about the Yun trying to get at her through Serah. She then made the mistake of saying that aloud.
"Are you serious? They didn't even know who I was until I told them! Hell, I had to practically jump Vanille to get her into bed with me!" Serah's fingers curled into claws, and Lightning tightened her hold on her sister's wrists. Serah would strangle her if she got the chance. "I'm happy here, Lightning. I love Vanille, and she loves me. The people here like me – Fang likes me even though I'm from Cocoon." She managed to wrestle free, and she grabbed one of the loaves of bread that had somehow managed to end up in the dining room. She whacked Lightning over the head with it. "I'm happy here, Lightning! Happy!"
Lightning backed away. "But you never told me any of this. You never mentioned Vanille or Fang in any of your letters. What was I supposed to think, Serah? Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because I knew you'd act like some kind of overprotective psycho and try and kill everybody." Serah sank to her knees. She began to cry. "And I was right."
Lightning bit her lip and winced at the taste of blood. Fang could hit hard. "Serah…" She'd never been able to stand her little sister's tears. "Serah… try to understand. They're from Gran Pulse… our parents were killed by –"
"Vanille didn't kill our parents! Fang didn't kill our parents!" Serah sniffled and scrubbed at her cheeks. She hated crying in front of her sister. "We've all got blood on our hands, Lightning. How many people have you killed? And what about me? I served during the war too. I'm not innocent. But the war is over. Can't we just stop hating each other? Can't we just try and be happy?"
Lightning's gut clenched. Their parents had died when a group of Yun warriors had attacked their transport. That was why Lightning had joined the military. That was why she'd cut her way through every Gran Pulse warrior she could find. But even if Serah had fought in the war, she'd never felt the same way as Lightning. Serah had always been much kinder than her.
And now the war was done, and Serah wanted to move on.
Was that wrong?
It felt wrong to Lightning, but she knew what their parents would have wanted. And if this Vanille really made Serah happy, then… Lightning sighed. It wasn't often that she did this. Gently, she wrapped her arms around Serah, wincing a little when the younger woman hugged her back. Fang must have bruised some of her ribs with one of those kicks. "I'm sorry."
"You better be." Serah sniffled. "And I'm so sorry for not telling you. I… I should have, and I can understand why you're mad. I thought you'd hate me for loving one of them and that –"
"That I'd go all psycho?" Lightning looked back into the bedroom. "I think you might have been right about that."
"Does she make you happy, Serah?"
"Then I suppose I can overlook the fact that she's from Gran Pulse. And you're right. I probably could have handled this better."
"You could have used the doorbell!"
"I'll do that next time."
"Good." Serah smiled shakily. "Do you think you could apologise to my girlfriend and her sister for trying to kill them?"
Lightning walked back into the bedroom. The place was a mess. Vanille watched her warily while Fang just smirked. They'd listened in on her and Serah's conversation. How humiliating.
"Vanille. I'm sorry for doing what I did." Lightning's jaw clenched. "I probably shouldn't have woken you up by pointing my gun blade at your face."
"Uh… that's okay." Vanille winced. "I mean… it's not like you shot me. And you are Serah's sister…"
"You went a little overboard there, didn't you?" Fang said. Lightning would have killed for the chance to wipe that smirk off her face.
"What did you say?"
"You heard me." Fang's smirk widened. "Viper."
Lightning's eye twitched. She was going to make Serah happy and apologise. She was going to make Serah happy and apologise. She was going to –
"What's the matter? Afraid I'll kick your ass again."
That was it. Screw apologies. Lightning lunged at Fang.
It took Vanille and Serah five minutes to pull them off each other. The only consolation that Lightning had was that at least this time, she wasn't the only one being yelled at. Vanille had taken Fang into the living room so that she could scream at her for egging Lightning into another fight. In the meantime, Serah picked up where she'd left off in the dining room.
Glancing into the living room, Lightning's eyes met Fang's. The other woman smirked. Lightning glared – and threw an apple at Fang's head.
Breakfast, when they finally got around to eating it, was marvellously awkward. Fang had a bag of frozen peas pressed against her head while Lightning had a bag of frozen carrots pressed against hers.
Fang wiped some more blood off her busted lip. "You're not bad."
Lightning scowled. Her jaw ached. "I could say the same about you."
"Well, you're both idiots, if you ask me." Serah somehow managed to make drinking a mug of hot chocolate threatening. "This wasn't how I imagined introducing my sister to you."
"Yeah, well, you can blame Captain Sunshine and her bloody, horrible temper." Fang smirked again, and Lightning had to fight the urge to grab her plate and break it over Fang's head. "But I suppose we can try to get along since you and Vanille are going steady." She looked at Lightning. "Won't that be nice, sunshine?"
Lightning glared. "Yes, it sounds wonderful."
Vanille sighed and took another sip of her coffee. Oh, the things she put up with for love.
X X X
As always, I neither own Final Fantasy, nor am I making any money off of this.
I've been mucking around with a number of AUs in my head for a while now, and this is the one that managed to step over the mangled bodies of its competitors to get written down. Seriously though, I thought it would be fun to have Serah and Vanille in an established relationship, which then leads to Fang and Lightning meeting in less than ideal circumstances.
In this particular AU, Cocoon and Gran Pulse have been at war for sometime. However, a peace treaty has recently been signed, which is why Serah is down on Gran Pulse. But some people, like Lightning, have a harder time than others of letting go of the past, which is why Lightning was so suspicious of Vanille's intentions. Of course, she probably could have handled it better instead of going all crazy interrogator on Vanille but where would the fun be in that?
I also thought it would be great to write another Fang versus Lightning fight scene but without all the magic, Eidolons, and super powers present in the game. I hope you enjoyed it. Naturally, the lack of super powers didn't stop them from totally trashing Vanille and Serah's bedroom (guess who gets to clean that up!).
Are Fang and Lightning going to end up liking each other in this particular AU? You bet they will, but it's going to be a little trickier than usual. And there are probably going to be more injuries too. The course of true love never did run smooth – plus Fang did just break a mirror using Lightning, which can't be helping their luck.
Finally, I hope that everyone who participated in the free promotions for The Last Huntress and The Gunslinger and the Necromancer enjoys the story/stories that they picked up. If you do enjoy them, please take a few moments to leave a review on Amazon or pick up one of my other stories, The Lord of Dark Waters (the sequel to The Last Huntress) and The Burning Mountains.
My apologies also to anyone who wanted to pick up a copy but could not. Unfortunately, Amazon has some rather strange policies regarding many of the countries in South-East Asia. For instance, there are countries where you cannot purchase an eBook from Amazon without obtaining a US-based credit card or something similar.
If you did enjoy The Last Huntress and The Lord of Dark Waters, I am currently working on the next story in the series. I won't give too much away but there are drakes, hydras… and one badass dragon. Yep, things are never boring for Scarlett and Rose.
As always, I appreciate feedback. Reviews and comments are welcome.