"So, Noctis," Fang began, heaving a breath as she tossed her cloth pack onto her back and settled it until it was steady. "Are you coming?" She looked me up and down, almost hesitant, as if she didn't want to invite me along, however unfortunately for her, I did not have anywhere else to go – since, sad as it was, the only home I could remember was blown to bits and currently run amuck by – enemy, I suppose, they'd have to be my enemy at least – soldiers.
I nodded, and as discretely as I could, while Vanille packed up the cooking supplies and Hope packed up his sleeping bag, I pressed lightly against my back, where broken, uneven skin of a heavy wound's scarring. I scowled lightly, before allowing my hand to trail along the skin, until it was met with another long, angry and wide scar from what had to be either shrapnel, or when I fell I got caught on some metal piece.
Not to be vain, but I honestly wanted to see what my own body looked like. Or what my face looked like. Though more the former than the latter, and that reasoning was simply to see the amount of scars that have accumulated on my skin.
I yawned, Vanille giggled at it, and I couldn't help but smile in return. "So, you're coming?" She asked, tilting her head to the side and giving me this hopeful look, I couldn't help but be confused.
"I am." I clarified. She mustn't have seen the nod, actually, not that I think on it, it was possible that Fang hadn't seen either, as she was still standing, looking out on the ruined city, the light of day reflecting off of her eyes and making them unreadable.
Not my problem.
I glanced over at Hope, but he was merely sitting on his pack and glaring off to the side, an angry pull at his lips and dip between his brows. I sighed. Well, it was ignorant of me to think that all would accept my accompanying them. Well, to be fair, there were only three of them, and Vanille did seem to like it, while Fang was okay and Hope was really the only one who opposed it.
"Well," Fang sighed, rolling her shoulders and cracking her back in slow movements, "anyone know where we can get a car?"
"I saw one over there!" Vanille pointed out in the distance, jumping up on a flat chunk of building before turning to the rest of us. "Anyone know how to hotwire a car?" She asked, looking expectant. Hope shook his head, Fang scrunched up her face before nodding.
"I think I do."
No, you don't. The thought came to me, but I honestly had stopped caring about it. They will come, they will go – I can't really stop them. "Here," I began, though I honestly didn't know where I was going with it, "The cars run on a system of hydraulics and hydrogen, and because of that they can't be hotwired." Interesting. I actually knew something useful.
"How do you know that?" Fang asked, honestly curious, but Hope merely stared hard. I shrugged.
"I live here?" The sentence came out more of a question than anything. Fang raised a brow, but didn't comment.
"You live here." Hope echoed, his brow pinching together "Oh, right." He crossed and uncrossed his arms, while I managed to stand on feet I have not used in days. They felt shaky, almost as if I was walking on uneven ground rather than the clear concrete I actually was. "Do you know what happened here"
"We were attacked." It was stating the obvious, but it sounded better than 'I don't know' would have, so I stuck with it. I held out my hands in front of me as the world swayed, trying to stabilize myself – something that was actually harder than I thought it would be.
"Wow!" Vanille gasped, dragging the word out in wonder, I glanced up at her. I gave her the best confused expression I could manage, and she began to wave her hand just above her head, and then raised it higher, and waved it again.
"What are you doing?"
"You're so tall!" She exclaimed, before skipping over to where I was and then placing her palm against the top of her head, and she struck it outwards, until it hit my chest, about a palm's length away from my collarbone. "See?"
"Maybe you're just short, Vanille." Fang joked lightly, and Vanille murmured to herself a serious 'maybe', that was more comical than anything else the young girl had done. Before I knew it, a smile had grown on my face.
"If we can't hotwire any of the cars, how are we supposed to get to Province 8?" Hope asked, standing as well, bag on his shoulders.
"Province 8?" I asked, feeling very foolish and young asking it, even though it was very possible that I was older than all three of them – or at the very least older than the majority of them. Fang's age was a variable – she could either be young, or someone who aged gracefully, I couldn't tell.
"Sanctum has eight provinces," Fang explained, "come'on," she nodded and began to walk, "we need to find a garage and matching keys if we're going to get there on time."
"Whose fault is that?" Hope muttered bitterly, something that made Vanille's light bounce halt suddenly causing her to trip slightly, and Fang to sigh in length.
All three seemed to pause, hesitating, before they continued on with walking. "Sanctum has eight provinces," Fang started again, in what seemed like an effort to continue with conversation and not let an awkward silence fall around them.
Vanille looked at Hope, her gaze lingering, before she turned and jumped into my path, a bright expression on, but no smile. "Our home, Nexarrus, is actually the third province of Sanctum, and Hope is from Pallum Pollem, the first province."
"Vanille!" Hope tried to hiss, though it sounded more like a whine, and Vanille merely smiled brightly at him. Strangely enough the angst-filled teenager relaxed and looked off to the side, memory haunting his eyes in a very painful way.
"Anyway, Szah went to the eighth province to go and get his son: we need to go and find him." They climbed over rubble onto the street. "Before he does something stupid."
"Where is this province?"
Fang sighed, pausing slightly as she looked out and about along the empty road, her eyes squinting in the harsh light as broken shards of glass reflected and white concrete near glowed. "We thought it was here, but that's just the thing: It's not. That, and there's nothing around but wasteland, so I'm not even certain where we should be headed."
Well, that was useful. Quite useful indeed. I shifted uneasily, forcing my body to clam itself down. "Hey," Vanille interjected, tossing her hair to the side. "Um, Noctis, was it?" I nodded. "how did you get here?"
Should I lie? The first thought that came to my mind set my nerves on edge. What surprised me even more was that I felt no remorse for the thought, didn't feel like lying would be such a bad thing at all. I would probably be bad at it. Truth.
"A friend brought me here," oh, shit. Stella. Where had the blonde haired girl gone? My face must have shown more than I intended it to, because the others caught on. Fang rapidly tapped Hope's shoulder, who with a cry of indignation turned to face me. Vanille was blinking in confusion. "She's not here." She wasn't there. Where was she? I felt like cursing, and I did, only the three around me looked on with even more confusion.
I wonder if I spoke a different language. Never mind; there was no time for that. "We were attacked-" I began, and for the first time in awhile, I felt honest worry. "I don't really, I can't remember-" It was all fuzzy, and this brought on even more of a panic. I couldn't remember. Again.
"Okay, okay," Fang soothed, slowly, hands extended and face open, walked towards me. "We'll find her, where was the last time you two were together?" I didn't know, I couldn't remember. There had been loud noises and the place was large. Large – castle. And then Stella left and came back and then gone. Then I woke up with them.
I swore, tugging through my hair violently. Where could she have gone? I spun around on my heel, and began to pace. I got shot, my leg – my leg was fine. She had been fine. They had gotten out, but how? Where could she have gone?
"The castle." I managed. "We were at the castle… and then we weren't…" I pushed my thumbs against my temple in frustration. How could I have just forgotten about her? How was it that she only crossed my mind once?
"Okay then: we'll go to the castle." Vanille suggested with a shrug. I shook my head, in an effort to derail her course of action.
"It's crowded with…" Who again? "Sanctum soldiers."
All three froze, I barely noticed it, my pacing was rapid and uneven, and walking on debris and broken glass hardly made my efforts easier. "Then we have to go." Fang reasoned, and I forced my feet to stop. It was harder than it seemed to be, but instead I looked up at them.
"We… have a score to settle." Hope was quiet, calm and collected and I deeply yearned to be like that. I had been, until I realized I had forgotten someone's existence. Stupid, stupid, stupid! The words came out differently than I thought they would have.
Fang sighed, and put a tired smile on. "We're looking for the eighth province, remember?" I nodded, I didn't need to, it was just an automatic response. "We thought this was it, but its not; best ask the source, no?"
Made sense. I nodded again, however it felt like a completely automatic response. There was no thought – I couldn't think. So much, someone wanting to be who I was, someone who doesn't care, a… being that threatened me…
I needed to sit. Wearily, I did so, though it felt more like I had simply collapsed. I tapped my hand against my knee rapidly. "I can't fight." Lie. I don't know how it was a lie, but it was. "I can't remember."
"Don't worry," Fang grabbed my forearm and dragged me back up, giving me an eye roll when I refused to comply. "It's like riding a bike: either that, or just dodge."
Reassuring. Completely reassuring. I gave her a dry look before forcing myself to my feet again. I gave a single nod, because I knew that anything that came out of my mouth would be contradictory to my actions and I didn't want to both with going through the scenario that would occur if I had.
I was getting high strung.
Fang looked me over with a contemplative glance, before nodding decidedly. "Alright then: let's go."
Three Months Earlier
She entered the apartment quietly, making sure that the door barely made a click, before sinking down on it. Um. Yeah. Wow. A light smile tempted her lips, and for the first time in a long time, Lightning felt like a girl – not a soldier, not a superior, not a capable woman. She felt like a silly girl in love, and it almost made her giggle.
Her mouth twitched. Okay, one. It was breathless and nearly silent, but it was a giggle, and to top it off, she twisted her body in a small, jerky, awkward movement – it was her victory dance. Yes, she never used it in front of people. But… she very much so felt like she had won.
She bit her lip, before retreating to the bathroom. She could hop around some more in there. It felt so strange doing those actions, but she felt honestly tempted to try them out. She also wanted to sing aloud that she had had a good date – however that was far too immature.
She barked out a laugh, before slamming her hands on her mouth. Serah had better not be home, otherwise she was going to get mauled for details. They had left earlier than Lightning had thought they would, so… maybe Serah and Snow were still out?
"Ha!" She chocked out. She then retreated to the bathroom and slammed the door, locking it just in case her sister decided to arbitrarily appear out of nowhere. She flicked the light on, and glanced at her reflection. Her cheeks were red, she had a smile on, and for the first time – it was okay. She felt giddy and just plain happy.
She was not in love. She didn't believe in love.
She did not have a crush.
Her blush deepened, and with a frown she turned the tap to cold and turned it on. She flapped the water to her face, before another string of laughter erupted from her. What was wrong with her? Honestly, she had gone on dates before, had gotten the awkward first time done and over with, and this was the first time that she had felt so… happy!
What the hell was wrong with her?
Her phone rang, and she lazily fished it out of her pocket. It was an unfamiliar number, and while she frowned she couldn't help the fact that her toes curled in anticipation. She accepted the call, and pressed it to her ear, her fingers crossing, just for the hell of it. "Hello?" She forced her voice to stay even.
"Hello." The voice replied quickly. "This is Lightning, correct?" His voice was uncertain, and that was just… cute. Dammit. Stop thinking that.
"That's correct." Was this a form of flirting? She never really had flirted before, never really thought it necessary. Serah said it was, to tell a guy without telling him that you were interested, but she never really understood.
"Right." She repeated, because it seemed too early to call. Wasn't there some three day waiting period, as Serah said?
"To be blunt," he began, before clearing his through slightly. "I would like to ask you out for some drinks." Lightning blinked in slight shock, before her toes began to curl and uncurl in a very strange manner. She looked down and blinked at them.
"Where?" She couldn't really think of much else. Oh, right. "When?" Say something else, something else! "I mean, doesn't it seem a little early to call? Or late?"
There was a pause on the other end of the line. "No," he said finally, "we didn't really finish anything regardless."
Her face heated up, and she rolled her eyes. Right, either she was the only thinking of the dual meaning between his words, or she simply had not done it in a very long time. Not that I would mind, of course. She nodded, practically stupidly. Stop it, your scaring yourself Lightning. "Where and when?"
"It's called The Blue Ravine, on Gale Avenue." He sighed, and she heard distant voices somewhere far off. "I'm already there."
So it was an impromptu decision. For some reason, that suited him better. People who thought things through too much lost the big picture. She breathed in and out. "I'll have to change into something more… suitable." Suitable meaning less, however he didn't need to know that. Serah may be an expert in love, but she was far more suitable in terms of getting laid.
Now she wanted both.
Shit. How exactly would someone go about getting both? "I've got to go." Lightning said quickly, her hand hovering over the end call button before Noctis responded.
"All right. See you then." He sounded shocked; his words were rigid. That was perfectly fine. She set the phone down, before throwing open the door, the action only possible because of the click in lock that allowed exist at any moment, before hurrying into the hallway.
She turned lights on, and then rushed over to her suitcase, stepping out of her shoes along the way. She unzipped it in a hurry, and then began to rummage through what she owned. Formal, professional, professional, casual, casual, there.
She pulled it out. It being the only thing she had ever bottom that resembled a dress, it being something Serah did not know about. It, being black, slightly see-through, with crossing fabric arms. It being the sexiest thing she had ever been in.
Why did I bring this in the first place? She frowned at it, before tossing it on the bed and unzipping the dress she owned off. In an instant it pooled around her feet and she grabbed the silky fabric and threw it over her head. Black bra and underwear could be seen, yes, however it was hardly indecent. She checked the sleeves, making sure that the crossed fabric was all in order, before groaning when realising that it wasn't. She tugged her arms out, and redid it.
This time is was perfect.
She didn't have the matching shoes, but black on black worked fine. I don't understand why I'm more comfortable in this dress than the other one. It was probably because it covered her entire cleavage, but had far less thigh. She was comfortable with showing her legs, comfortable with dimly see thought things, not comfortable with deep V-necks or that… other dress.
First of all, it had been red, fine, the colour was fine, not her favourite, but fine. Second, it had an empire waist and was… just girly. She didn't look good in girly – at all. The dress would have just made her puke.
Her black one was fine.
Whatever, like being a hypocrite was a sin. She shrugged. It was only see through in the sense that around her bra it was pitch black, around her skin it was slightly lighter. That was hardly enough to make a fuss over anyway.
She tousled her hair slightly, shoved the heels back on as she did so, then walked back out the door, pausing at the bathroom to collect both her phone and her purse, before leaving out into the night, her pace much faster than it had been before.
A/N: Really SORRY for the time since my last update, however unfortunately I cannot guarantee anything on when he next chapter will be done. So, read and review please! Reviews really are my only incentive to updating, so their KINDA important...