Hello! This is my first story; a rough(ish) draft of the first chapter of a Light/Fang (Final Fantasy XIII) fic I'm working on. And when I say first story, I mean first story. Not just first story on FFnet, first story period. So I'd appreciate reviews and constructive criticism from Light/Fang fans and writers! Any tips are welcome, as I'm always looking to improve my writing.
The story is rated M for future chapters. All characters are property of Square-Enix, so don't sue me! Enjoy and review, I look forward to seeing what you guys think.
Most experts in the field of acoustics agree that of all sounds currently known to mankind, none is so annoying as the ringing of an alarm clock. Most of us begrudgingly roll out of bed and violently attack the clock, slamming the snooze button for another nine minutes of blessed peace before the next alarm shakes us back to reality. Most of us do this four or more times each morning, assuming we don't have urgent business to attend to. But most of us aren't soldiers.
Lightning's body switched to autopilot as soon as the brazen alarm ripped through her dreams. It rolled her over, gently switched the alarm off, and sat up on the edge of the bed. Her body rose from the bed, stretched, and slipped on a robe to protect its owners' modesty before padding off to the bathroom. Her brain, however, remained in bed, pointedly not reminding her that today was Saturday and she didn't have to report in at eight o'clock. Her brain was still dreaming. About her.
Lightning's mind wandered as she stripped off her robe and stepped into the shower, hissing as the cold spray hit her in the chest. Her mind didn't wander all that often, but when it did, it got into strange territory. 6 months. Had it really been half a year since they had defeated Orphan and saved Cocoon? No, scratch that. Lightning didn't save Cocoon. She was just along for the ride. Fang and Vanille had saved Cocoon. And while herself, Sazh, Snow and Hope had awakened from crystal stasis only a day or so after the floating world ceased to float, the Pulsians were nowhere to be found. Presumably their crystals were locked somewhere deep within the massive pillar that now held Cocoon aloft, and whether they could be reached, or would ever wake up, was questionable.
Lightning sighed as the water started to warm up, squeezing a handful of body wash into her palm and working it into a lather. From the moment they'd met, Lightning had had a love-hate relationship with the huntress. She hated Fang's cocky attitude and her flirtatious behavior, and although she was loathe to admit it, she was also a touch jealous of her fighting skill. But she loved the way the Oerban strolled confidently into battle, and she loved how much of herself she saw in Fang. Above all else, she loved the sound of Fang's voice, the smell of her after a hard fought battle, and the feeling she got from looking into those deep green eyes. Light prided herself on keeping her emotions a closely guarded secret, but when Fang tried to read her it felt like those eyes were peering into her soul. She felt that she could control her libido better than most, but when Fang's gaze passed hungrily over her; practically undressing her with her eyes; she melted like butter, feeling a sudden and desperate urge to get some time away from the rest of the party. Thinking about those eyes now, Lightning let out a small moan as her hands worked the lather over her stomach and chest.
They had had a lot of sexual tension between them. That much was certain. But nothing had ever happened between them, and it wasn't until after the adventure was over that Lightning was able to admit her deeper feelings for Fang. To herself, of course. She hadn't confided in anyone else, not even Serah. Of course, it was too late by then. Which brings us to the present. A sexually frustrated soldier daydreaming about a potential lover and desperately trying not to let her hands wander as far as her mind had. She was just about to fail, too, when she was jerked back to reality by a loud knock on the bathroom door. Serah. Trying to hide the tremor in her voice, Light shouted above the shower. "Occupied. What do you need?"
"Lightning? Why are you up so early?" her sister replied. Why was she up so early? She mulled the question over in her head as her brain lazily rolled out of bed and snuck into the shower with her. A few seconds later she realized why that question made sense. Shit. How did I forget the day of the week? Light had been distracted lately, certainly, but she didn't think she'd slipped up that bad. Maybe she was working too much. She made an excuse up on the spot as she finished rinsing the suds off of herself and turned off the water. "I'm taking Hope down to Pulse for some training. Need to head out early." It was as good an excuse as any. She had been spending a lot of time with the youth. After she had taken him under her wing during their time as Pulse l'cie on the run, Hope had become somewhat attached to her. Now she would regularly take him hunting or training in order to toughen him up. He'd been entertaining thoughts of joining the Corps for awhile.
Lightning pulled the robe tight around herself and tied it off as she stepped out into the hall. Serah was already dressed, and by the smell of things she was working on breakfast. Aside from her dryness and state of dress, the younger Farron sibling looked like slightly smaller duplicate of her sister. She'd even taken to wearing her hair down. Said Snow liked it that way. Speaking of whom...
"So where's your hero at? Still in bed?" Lightning asked as she padded back to her room, Serah in tow.
"No, he's been up for almost an hour. He went to the grocery store. We're out of eggs."
"Oh." Light crossed the threshold into her room and turned on her heel. "Well, at least he's useful for something," she quipped as she shut the door and locked it. She could practically hear her sister rolling her eyes before she turned and walked away. Lightning had been thinking more and more about Fang lately, and as an unintended side effect, she had been harping on Snow all the more. Jealous? Maybe. Either way, Serah didn't seem to mind too much. She probably thought Lightning was just joking. Light herself didn't know if she was serious or joking half the time when it came to Snow. She was usually somewhere in between.
I've gotta stop thinking about him. She sighed as she stripped off the robe and took a towel to her hair, mercilessly rubbing it to the point where it was almost dry and then pulling it down into its usual shape with a comb. As she pulled her hair down over her left shoulder, she admired herself in the mirror. Lightning wasn't particularly vain. But she knew she looked good, and so did everyone else. The only complaint she had ever received about her appearance was from Snow's friend, Yuj, regarding her unusual hairstyle. Coming from a grown man who wore his hair bright teal and with more product than most of Serah's friends, the remark was so ridiculous that Lightning hadn't even had the heart to smack him upside the head for it.
Light casually dropped the comb on her dresser and opened her closet, picking out some of her usual garments. She toyed with the idea of finishing her "personal time" that Serah had interrupted, images of the dark Pulsian huntress flashing through her mind, but she thought better of it. She had said she needed to meet Hope, and anyway, the sooner she left the less time she'd have to spend near Snow. She pulled on her underwear before she could change her mind, followed by the tight shorts she favored and her usual brown leather skirt and belt. She then pulled on her brown, zippered turtleneck. On top of that went her jacket. She pulled on her gloves, flexing her fingers as she did so, then slipped on her armbands and started belting her various accessories; cloak, thigh pack, rank insignia, gunblade holster; to her person. Finally, she pulled on her boots, drawing the belts on them tight, and gave herself one last look in the mirror. Her outfits tended to lean this way. To the untrained eye, they looked needlessly complicated. But they were functional, and they looked alright, and that was good enough for Light. Satisfied with her appearance, the soldier unlocked the door and headed downstairs to see how long she could avoid talking to Snow over breakfast.
Crystal sleep isn't like regular sleep. It's difficult to explain to someone who has never experienced it, but there are a few key differences. The first is the most obvious. When you sleep, your body is still working. Your lungs are pumping air into your blood, your heart is taking that blood to your brain, and your brain is painting dreamscapes. These processes are bypassed in crystal. In the ageless slumber, your body is completely still. Your mind is awake, though, fueled by the magic in the crystal around it. For some l'cie, this awareness is barely perceptible. They are only cognizant enough to realize that they are, in fact, still living. In a sense. For some, the awareness extends beyond their crystal coffin, allowing them to hear and see everything that goes on in the vicinity. Most however, are kept in what appears to them, in all respects, as a normal slumber. Complete with dreams and nightmares.
The second difference between the two is the awakening. In a normal sleep cycle, a person can be awakened by an outside influence. Or when they realize they're dreaming and will themselves to wake. Or if their body's clock simply tells them it's time to get up. Not so in crystal stasis. In crystal stasis, there's no way to tell when you'll wake up. For the longest time, the citizens of Cocoon believed the slumber to be eternal. The Pulsians knew better. Before the War, all l'cie turned to crystal woke up later. Sometimes it took days, sometimes centuries, but everyone eventually woke up. Aside from intervention by the fal'cie, however, no one on Gran Pulse really knew what exactly awoke a crystalline l'cie. Some said they needed confirmation that their focus was completed. Some claimed that they were only awakened to be given a new focus. Some of the more naive, younger denizens of the lowerworld swore that only true love could awaken a frozen l'cie.
Finally, if a l'cie dreams in crystal, those dreams are influenced by his or her focus. That is to say, they are usually related in some way. If a focus was particularly traumatic, the l'cie may be plagued by nightmares. They might replay climactic battles in their heads. If they shared a focus with others, the l'cie may dream about their companions, even if the dreams themselves have no other relation to the focus. This is particularly true of l'cie who share an especially strong emotional bond...
Oerba Yun Fang awoke on the beach in Bodhum. Alone. Feeling as if she had been drugged. She groggily got to her feet and shook her head to clear it, taking a look around to get her bearings. The sun was just setting over the ocean. It would have made for a beautiful scene if the beach hadn't been so eerily deserted. Fang wiggled her toes, feeling the sand between them. I'm barefoot, she observed. She clenched her right hand a few times, then patted her back. My lance is gone. She took a quick look around. And I'm alone. Great. Fang let out a loud sigh and started padding along the beach. She could have moved up to the pier, or gone to the beach house, but that didn't feel right. There was something further down the beach for her, she could feel that.
Most who dream in crystal aren't aware that they are dreaming until they "wake up." That is to say, the dreams stop and they become aware of their surroundings once more, or else return to their fog. Fang had had hundreds of thousands of dreams across her two periods of hibernation, and every dream still caught her off guard. This one was no different. A small part of her mind knew ahead of time that she'd see Lightning coming over the horizon, but she wasn't listening to it.
Lightning looked beautiful. Even across such a distance, Fang's sharp eyes could make out all the pertinent details. Her hair, a deliciously light strawberry blonde, almost pink, fell loose over her left shoulder. Her eyes were the familiar piercing blue, flashing at the Pulsian across the beach. She was fully clothed, her gunblade in its sheath swinging lazily, bouncing off her hips with every step.
All dreams start out beautiful. The bad ones don't go bad until they get your guard down.
They closed the distance slowly, Fang smiling seductively at the blonde. The beach was incredibly long, but neither of them tired, and slowly, foot by foot, they came together. It wasn't until they got within a hundred feet of each other that Fang noticed something odd about the soldier. Her eyes flicked back and forth from Light's hand to her face. She's not smiling. She reaching for her gunblade. She's scowling. She's drawing it. She's snarling. She's fir-
The subconscious part of Fang's brain that knew this was a dream had been telling her that something was wrong ever since it noticed her spear was missing. You KNOW you can have nightmares in crystal. Get out of here! Wake up, you idiot! Her conscious mind, however, has been ignoring it until just now, and she was now too busy processing the pain of Lightning's first shot entering just under her left shoulder blade to care. Oh, shit! She hissed in pain even as she flipped back through the air, gracefully dodging Light's next four shots.
"Lightning, what the hell! It's me!" Fang instinctively tried to block the next shot with a lance that wasn't there, and nearly lost an ear for her trouble. Light wasn't listening to her at all. She wasn't running toward her either. She was dead calm, taking slow deliberate steps in Fang's direction while squeezing off a steady stream of gunfire. She wasn't Light anymore. Not even Lightning. She was a zombie. She was an uncaring, unfeeling, nightmare-fueled killing machine. And she was getting closer.
Gripping her injured shoulder, Fang turned and bolted back the way she came, zigzagging as she felt, more so than heard, the bullets ripping up clouds of sand at her heels. Before she could get out of range, however she saw another figure in the distance. Is that...Vanille? Fang stopped dead in her tracks. It was. Vanille didn't change gradually into a soulless killing machine like Lightning had. No, the nightmare was done screwing around. Her pinkish-red hair, usually bound into cute pigtails, was loose, and whipping wildly about her face as raw magical energy flowed about her. The girl was harnessing magic she never could have imagined in the real world. Her green eyes, usually glowing with a playful excitement, were now burning with an intense, violent hatred.
At a certain point, bad dreams stop playing with us and go in for the kill. We become completely helpless. You're trying to run from someone and your legs turn to rubber. Rescue is within earshot and suddenly your voice is gone.
Overwhelmed by hopelessness, Fang dropped to her knees on the beach, unable to run any further. As she watched the horror wearing her adoptive sister's skin bear down on her, she replayed every moment of their life together in her head. It was cruel and terrible, but it was nothing to the images that flashed in her head as she felt Lightning's soft footsteps in the sand behind her. Her mind forced images on her, images of Light arching gracefully through the air, of Light training with Hope, of Light training with her, of Light's smile. And Fang had no choice but to view them as she heard a low click and felt the barrel of the Omega Weapon pressed against her scalp.
In dreams or otherwise, Oerba Yun Fang had cried only four times in her life that she could remember. A single tear rolled down her cheek as this nightmare version of the girl she loved put a round through her skull.
Lightning loaded rubberized stun rounds into a training gunblade. They were designed for practice drills and war games. The rounds would hurt like a bitch, but they wouldn't kill. Neither would the blade, which was also blunted and rubberized. The soldier eyed Hope, waiting for the boy to confirm that he was ready to start sparring.
She had called Hope as soon as she got out of the house. She explained that she wanted to take him hunting and sparring on Gran Pulse, and the boy had been ready to go by the time she arrived at his house in Palumpolum. Light was glad to see he had chosen practical attire and had the foresight to bring a practice boomerang for sparring as well as his Nue. He had the practice boomerang out now, tweaking it for the fight.
Hope finished checking the boomerang and nodded to Light, dropping into a defensive posture. They had agreed not to use magic for this fight, which put Hope at a severe disadvantage. He was getting better with every match, but Lightning still had to hold back when they fought. Usually.
Lightning sighted with her gunblade and started jogging toward Hope, squeezing off a few rounds. Hope was ready, deflecting the first two with the flat of his boomerang before rolling to the side, coming up into a run. He tossed the boomerang at Lightning with a casual flick, running perpendicular to its trajectory with a steady spray of stun rounds tearing up the grass at his feet. Light saw the projectile coming and leapt over it, triggering her Grav-Con Unit at the same time to propel herself twenty feet into the air.
Hope saw this move coming and as Light leapt toward him he suddenly changed direction, rolling toward her just in time to avoid the stun rounds whizzing through his hair. Light twisted in midair, struggling to track the boy's movement. She grimaced, flogging herself mentally for underestimating him. He's definitely getting better. Hope ran underneath her, snagging the boomerang on its return arc and immediately flipping it up at Lightning. The soldier shifted her center of gravity, flipping through the air and bringing her blade up just in time to block the projectile. It clanged off her sword, jarring her violently and throwing off balance. The boomerang dropped back into Hope's waiting hands, and Lightning found herself having to roll as she hit the ground to avoid a sloppy landing and a possible injury. She came out of the roll to find Hope ready for her, swinging the boomerang at her ribs. The soldier parried the blow and began to backpedal, desperately trying to gain advantage. Panting, she cursed her lack of grace as she deflected the boomerang for the umpteenth time, unable to find an opening.
Sweat dripped from Hope's brow as he pushed the soldier back. He knew he wouldn't be able to sustain an assault like this for long. Suddenly disengaging, Hope jumped backwards, flinging the boomerang sidearm at Lightning. She deflected it handily, but wasn't ready for the boy to follow up with a low, sweeping kick that knocked her legs out from under her. Hope would have won at that instant if Light's soldier instincts hadn't kicked in and overridden her surprise at being caught so completely off guard. Her body caught itself as she fell, tumbling backwards and dropping into a low crouch, gun leveled at Hope's forehead as he moved in for a quick finish.
They froze there, the barrel of the gunblade inches from Hope's face. Sweating and panting, they glared at each other for a few moments before Hope conceded defeat. The boy dropped to the ground and lay on his back, completely spent. "Damn," he gasped, "I thought I finally had you there..."
"For a second, I did too," Lightning admitted as she closed her gunblade with a quick flick of her wrist and sheathed it. Light suppressed a smile as she got up, holding out a hand to help Hope up. She couldn't help but feel an immense sense of pride for her part in helping toughen Hope up and training him. He looked just as gentle and carefree as ever, silvery blond hair blowing in the breeze. But he had been soft on the inside when they first met, and now? Now he could defend himself. And then some.
As the twosome began the trek back across the Archylte to the nearest waystone, Lightning's eyes wandered to the crystal pillar in the distance holding Cocoon aloft. Hope followed her gaze.
"Do you think we'll ever see them again?" he asked. The kid was also severely empathic. It was annoying at times how good he was at reading people. Lightning had been thinking about Fang again, but she wasn't about to let the boy know. She doubled up her emotional barriers before replying.
"I dunno. With any luck, yeah. Why?"
"I'd really like to meet Vanille again..." Hope's thought trailed off into the crisp spring air. Lightning eyed him suspiciously. The boy was only 15 years old. 14, when they had first met, right? How old was Vanille? 18, 19? There was no way the two could have been...involved. Was there? Stop it. Lightning berated herself for letting her mind wander into forbidden territory. Hope and Vanille were even harder than think about Snow and Serah, and she quickly pushed the thought away. Still, she couldn't help but cast one more longing glance at the crystalline pillar before they activated the waystone.
I sure hope we do.
If Fang was capable of breathing, she would have awoken with a panicked gasp. If she could perspire, she'd be drenched in a cool sweat. To someone who doesn't have nightmares often, the occasional one that slips through can be especially haunting.
As it was, Fang slipped away from the dream and into the "waking" state of a crystal l'cie in a state of extreme emotional turmoil. She was aware of Vanille's physical presence nearby. The real Vanille, not a nightmarish doppelganger. It helped to calm her down. During her last crystal slumber, Fang's nightmares had been few and far between, safely nestled in the midst of a plethora of pleasant fantasies. The few nightmares she did have all involved Vanille. Vanille being hurt, Vanille being lost, Vanille turning cie'th, etc. Now Lightning was also a prominent feature in her dreams, both pleasant and horrible. And the Oerban knew exactly why.
Fang loved Lightning. She'd been infatuated with the soldier since the first time they met, and over the course of their adventure those feelings had only grown stronger. Now her mind was playing off of her regret at never having expressed her feelings, her anger at the fal'cie for separating them, and her fear that she would never get another chance to see her. Those emotions were feeding her imagination and producing nightmares that were entirely too vivid, and traumatic enough to rattle even the stoic huntress. Even now, with no functional nerve endings, she could still feel the barrel of Lightning's gunblade pressed against her scalp. If she had skin, it would be covered in goosebumps. The worst part was that, unlike Vanille, Lightning was nowhere nearby. There was no comfortable presence to turn to after the nightmare. Only a sense of emptiness and longing.
Fang's last thought before slipping into her next dream was a prayer to Anima. To make the nightmares stop. To let them wake up. To let her be with Light again, whether the soldier would accept her or not. To give her one more chance to show her how she felt.
I need to get out of here.
Fang faded back into her dreams with visions of the beautiful blonde soldier dancing through her head.