Disclaimer:

I do not own Final Fantasy XIII. All rights go to Square Enix.
Though, a girl could dream!

Chapter 2 - The Other Cocoon

She reached a hand over her back to feel the weapon strapped nicely against her uniform. Soon she would get to use it again, to experience the rush of adrenaline as she claimed victory over a majestic creature of the wild.

The wounded beast was still prowling on the Steppe, Cursed, searching for its prey. Or predator, if it knew what was coming.

From afar, the woman admired her work. The creature had suffered many stab wounds on its limbs and was bleeding profusely from its nose. It would have plenty of difficulty trying to catch a whiff of the former l'cie who was instructed to dispose of it. One of its horns was also chopped off. Quite an achievement for someone who had just begun to learn how to wield a gunblade. Nothing personal, the woman thought, but last I heard you've been a nasty, nasty beastie.

She cast one after another Deprotect at the Behemoth King until she was certain the spell managed to stick. The effects of the previous one was running out. The beast released a deafening growl, sending earth-shaking tremors throughout the land.

The woman in the ranger garb signaled the sharpshooters to hold fire. She quietly tucked the Blazefire Saber into its harness. Distracted, the Behemoth King did not pick up on that. She was the master huntress. She was in control. She would go for the kill if the beast decided to charge.

Eventually, the Behemoth King located her scent and faced her. In a split second, their eyes met. A pair of determined emerald green versus a set of devilish black. With no way out and nothing left to lose, charge it did.

"You're gonna squirm!" Fang pulled out her trusty Kain's Lance from its strap and ran towards the beast too, welcoming its approach with a mighty roar. At arm's length, the Behemoth King stood on its hind legs and tore the air relentlessly, believing it would strike the human. But Fang was too quick for it. Over the past twenty minutes, the beast had been drained of much of its energy, and had become a lot weaker and clumsier. Its current stance provided an opening for her to attack its belly, where the hide was softest and most penetrable. Without further ado, she lifted her lance and gave it a painful slash.

"Left yourself open!" she cried.

The beast howled in despair as it crashed and tumbled, narrowly missing the huntress who slipped out just in time. But just as quickly as it fell, it got up again.

"Too stubborn to die, aren't ya?" she chuckled as the Behemoth King conjured its full form. It swung its knife at Fang, who dodged and leapt onto the creature's weapon, using its momentum to propel herself several hundred feet higher into the air, before bracing herself for impact, the blade of her lance aiming directly at the creature's core.

"No escape!" From above, she yelled for what she hoped was the last time. The battle had dragged on long enough.

The weight of a thousand men came crashing down as Fang unleashed her ultimate Highwind attack in cold blood. The spear pierced through the monstrous beast, terminating its life and drenching it in its own blood. Fang hopped down from the dead giant and stretched her arms in relief, as though she did this every day.

Which was pretty close to the truth.

"Crisis averted," she spoke into the communicator, just as other members of the Guardian Corps gathered around the beast, examining the corpse and looking for scraps. They were the ones dispatched across various cliffs and ledges earlier, armed with basic-level guns. They were rookies whose main role was to observe the fight and only meant to intervene if instructed. Sergeant Lightning Farron was supposed to lead them that day but got a last minute reassignment. Still, it was not every day that the common folk got to see the long-heralded Oerba Yun Fang in action.

"Good. Report back to base and you're good to go," a stoic voice replied. It was music to Fang's ears.

Fang waited for more instructions. When none came, she pressed, "That it?"

"What do you want, Fang?" the other voice said, growing impatient.

"You know I just filled in for you."

"You're free anyway. Besides, the money's all yours."

"I could've been doing nothin' all day. With you," Fang said. She heard a moment of heavy breathing from the other side. "You done yet?"

"I'm busy, Fang. We're not there yet."

"What?" Fang was expecting a cuddle after all this was done and dusted.

"Hope's giving me instructions on the other line. Where we are, it's pretty steep. See you at home, Fang."

"Tell me again why I don't get to go with you," Fang said, not asking.

"Confidential. Later, Fang." Lightning hung up.

"Tsk," Fang stared at the device before putting it away. Impatience rolled off her tongue. She left the scavenging work to soldiers, having no interest in finding out what they were going to do with the beast. Standard operation procedure dictated that they would send the Behemoth for a lab test, and save whatever scraps they could find for future weapon upgrades.

She also wondered whether the GC kitchen served Behemoth steak.

Ever since coming out of crystal, she had been working as a huntress for hire. Leading excavations and slaying wild beasts was her specialty. Lightning was the one who hired her to take down the rampaging Behemoth, right after Captain Amodar demanded the sergeant's service elsewhere. Fang knew that much, because she was right next to Lightning when the conversation took place. Lightning had leapt down from the bed immediately and tossed Fang her Blazefire Sabre, telling her to practise her newly acquired swordsmanship on a random monster.

So much for sleeping in. How could they enjoy marital bliss when they keep getting interrupted? But this was the nature of the sergeant's job, and sometimes her own. Despite the odd hours, Fang would not have it any other way.

From her spot atop one of the highest points of the Steppe, she surveyed New Bodhum. It would take hours to get there by foot. Bahamut could drop her there in a matter of minutes, but she would not want to abuse her eidolon like that. Lightning and the gang and the rest of the survivors built the town from scratch ever since Cocoon's fall. By the time Fang and Vanille returned to the land of the living it had developed into a thriving city. The two needed no introductions as the saviors that made it all possible, and no one was surprised when Lightning invited the Oerbans to move in with her.

New Bodhum, named after its predecessor, was no stranger to monster attacks from time to time. The GC would occasionally receive reports of Adamanchelids stepping on vegetation, or of Megistotherium and its pack of wolves terrorizing downtown. Civilians had described these monster sightings as 'Godzilla attacks', and the old gang had to explain the term to the confused pair of Oerbans. Vanille found it quite interesting and had since set off to learn more Cocoonian lingo.

While Vanille busied herself with cultural studies, Lightning invited Fang to join her in battle multiple times, and subsequently asked her to join the GC. Fang turned down the offer, opting to remain as a free agent and because she would not want to get entangled in workplace romance. The last excuse was meant as a joke, but earned Fang a gentle slap on the arm.

Months later, after Vanille suddenly announced her decision to get her own place, Lebreau won the biggest wager when Fang asked for Lightning's hand in marriage.

Lightning put on a brave front when Fang popped the question. She would never admit that her heart was melting on the inside or that she was mad because Fang beat her to the punch.

And this had been their life ever since. Keeping the peace by daylight and making love by moonlight (or whenever they can).

"Ma'am, we're ready to haul the beast," one soldier came up to her and said.

Fang stepped away from the ledge, one hand rubbing the muscles on her neck. "Alright, soldier. Get us outta this joint."


The team dispersed after a post-mission meeting at the GC headquarters, and Fang went home on her velocycle. Thank Etro for Cocoonian technology that she did not have to summon Bahamut every time she made the distance, though that would be cool too. After a quick glide across the sky, her vehicle brought her back to the house she shared with Lightning. It was the exact replica of the sergeant's accommodation in her seaside city in Bodhum, back before Cocoon fell. For someone whose mood only switched between default and anger, Lightning certainly held a lot of sentiments for the past and had a very concrete idea of home since long ago. There was a place for everything and everything had its place. Serah's departure did not change that. Lightning's little sister would always have a room to stay in the event she decided to leave Snow. Lightning only ever told Fang that she was looking forward to that.

Fang loved the place. To think she would have somewhere to belong after everything that had happened never seemed to cross her mind until Lightning showed up. When she and Vanille first woke up from crystal to a whole new world, she knew they did not belong there. Losing their people was painful. Finding love was something else.

The house was quite big for the two of them, thanks to Lightning's GC perks. Their friends often crashed in. Although Lightning did not particularly like company, Fang could tell she had a soft spot for their ex-comrades. Serah and Snow dropped in for festivities, and every so often just to check on Lightning. Fang made a point to keep their bedroom door heavily locked after the few times they had barged in and almost caught the two women in a compromising position. Vanille, who used to occupy Serah's bedroom before moving in to Lebreau's place, was a frequent visitor, and usually came knocking without prior notice. Fang wondered why the redhead even bothered moving out at all, if she often allowed herself into their house for the simplest reason such as borrowing milk. Short after that Fang admitted that she and Lightning could be quite loud at the oddest hours.

It happened again on this day. Fang was halfway through stripping out of her blasted ranger outfit when she entered the kitchen, and was not too surprised to hear that her adopted sibling was already there.

"Oh, hi, Fang!" Vanille greeted first, if only because Fang was in the middle of pulling off her top, revealing the black sports bra underneath.

So this time Vanille wasn't here to borrow milk, or other household necessities she seemed to keep running out of, but she was idling in the kitchen with a strange bottle on hand.

"Hey, Vanille," came Fang's muffled voice. When she came up for air a second later, her eyes caught sight of the drink, then back at the younger woman, then back to the drink, then settled on Vanille. She scratched her head.

"I hope you don't mind me getting a taste of this. What is this thing anyway?" she asked, indicating the glass of red wine she had poured herself.

"Not mine. Could be Lightning's. Ya know ya shouldn't be touching other people's stuff, little missy. Especially hers."

Vanille just smiled brightly, the way she always did. She would get away with it.

"Don't you read labels?" Fang probed. To think Vanille would at least have the decency to find out what she was stealing from the owner.

"2017 Caberette... Saw-way-noon? Savage-nun?" Vanille spoke, reading apparently proven difficult for some reason. "What does 2017 mean anyway?"

Fang shrugged it off. "Ask Lightning when she comes back. Probably some Cocoon stuff she hasn't mentioned. And apologize for drinking her juice."

Then she went to get some water for herself.

"So how was your day?" Vanille asked from the table. She took a sip. Nothing had tried to kill her so far. For a foreign drink, the drink was actually quite delectable.

"Interrupted," came the one-word answer as the machine filled Fang's cup.

Vanille just looked at her, bored and not at all surprised. Fang and Lightning were a very... active couple, and her adopted elder sister hated it when Lightning's job would steal her away during the wee hours. This was part of the job, aside from the daily office hours. When duty called, Lightning had to go.

"Didn't you join GC to spend more time with her? To share her burden or something?"

"Yup, that's what I thought." Yet here I am stuck with the leftovers and babysitting the rookies. "But this expedition is special, she says. Amodar only wants her and Hope. She better be filling me in on the details when she comes back. Work is not something ya hide from ya bed mate."

That was the word. Vanille sighed. Perhaps Fang had set her expectations too high. Sure, she was one of the six that helped save Cocoon, and she was one half of Ragnarok, and she was one of the remaining two descendants of the original Gran Pulse. She would no doubt be a valuable asset to the Guardian Corps.

But Fang, unlike Lightning, was new to the military life. She might be more familiar with the Pulsian terrain, but quickly pairing her off with her sergeant wife might not be the best move.

As far as Vanille was concerned, information about this "secret mission" would likely circle back to her sooner or later. She was not the biggest fan of fighting nasties, but she would when the need arose. In the meantime, she was happily settled in the New Bodhum University's anthropology department as the research assistant, a post referred to her by Hope's father, Bartholomew. Lightning had been one of her main respondents. Her missions would, more often than not, turn up strange specimens and curious artefacts and other... stuff that the Oerban had never seen nor heard before. Vanille was, after all, only nineteen during the War of Transgression, when she Fang turned into crystal for the first time and stayed like that for five hundred years. She was 'old', for lack of a better word, but she was not a walking encyclopedia, and she would love to lend a hand in preserving her heritage.

In fact, Lightning was probably out investigating the source of that strange vibration right now.

"Tell you what, Fang. If Lightning's report turns up on my desk, I'll fill you in," Vanille said with a smile. Fang could never resist her good cheer.

Fang smirked. She walked over and gave Vanille a pat on the head. "That's alright, love. I'm just complaining 'bout stuff I needn't have to. Make yourself at home, kay? I'm gonna change into something a bit more..." Fang gestured to her current attire, "... casual."

Then Fang left the kitchen and went up the stairs, headed towards the bedroom she shared with Lightning.

Vanille figured she had enough of that red stuff and suddenly craved for some cheese. She barely put the cork back on when she heard barking from the floor above.

"Vanille! Have you seen my bracelet?"


Fang did not know, but it was not Captain Amodar who forbade her from joining the mission. Lightning made that request. As soon as she heard Hope mention Ragnarok, she did not want to get Fang involved. Not if she could help it.

The core of Pulse was... vibrating. For some reason. The signal came from beyond the mountainous region where Titan once resided. Lightning went alone. They were not risking anymore personnel until they got a better reading. It must be Lady Luck's blessing that the GC so happened to have a former l'cie on their side, who so happened to have retained her powers and a higher resistance to alien territory.

She also happened to expect a pay raise.

She had Hope on her earpiece. He had already been considered part of the team since New Bodhum was founded, but because he was currently underaged he was only allowed to help with tech support until his next birthday.

And he was really good at what he did.

She hopped in and hopped out in less than a day. Nothing was out of the ordinary other than the first sign of paranormal activity detected by the GC computers that morning. The very signal that made Captain Amodar feel the need to disturb Fang and Lightning's weekend in bed.

Well, that... and the Behemoth sighting.

She got roused from her bed against her will and did not even have anything to kill. Surely, Fang must have had a better day.

Hope theorized that it could be some kind of wormhole, and he genuinely sounded excited saying that. A wormhole was some kind of portal that could transport matter across time and space, he said. Lightning cut him short before he could explain further. She really did not want to hear any unfounded science fiction fantasies that might or might not have something to do with the beasty side of her wife until they managed to dig up some evidence.

On the way home Lightning burned her brains trying to come up with a story that could throw Fang off her scent. The entire script was scrapped when she noticed the half-finished bottle of strange red liquid on her kitchen table.

"What is that." She asked. No. Stated. Standing at the doorway with her arms crossed, she checked out Fang and Vanille casually hanging out in the room, the latter swinging a glass of… something… and appearing rather tipsy.

"Hey, Lightning! (hiccup) You're back!" cried the tipsy one. The wife turned to her with a raised eyebrow, her hand stopped waving.

"Oh, Light. I was just asking Vanille whether she'd swapped our bracelets by mistake. Ya haven't seen them, have ya?" Fang said, masking her worry.

"No," Lightning said, assuming Fang must have misplaced it in the laundry again. She strode into the kitchen and examined the mysterious drink. "What do we have here?"

2017 Cabernet Sauvignon.

No addresser.

"Never seen it in my life," Lightning answered, her tone flat and uncaring.

"Huh? Ya sure? Cuz Vanille over here has an apology speech ready for ya."

(hiccup)

Lightning observed the opening. Indeed, some of its contents had been drained. It must be some sort of red wine, judging by Vanille's... condition, but Lightning had no recollection of such a brand. The numbers were a mystery. Furthermore, it had only been a little over three years since Cocoon fell. As far as she knew, they had yet to have a winery, the flora on Gran Pulse being too unpredictable to take the risk.

So, how did this get here?

"Ah, well, can't say no to a free drink. Say, what did Amodar want you to do today?" Fang said, putting her hands around Lightning's waist.

While Lightning appreciated the gesture, her mind was somewhere else. She glared at the label so hard it was almost scrutiny, as though daring the glass to break at any moment.

A later search turned up no results for that questionable bottle. It was like it never existed. So, naturally, when it vanished the next day, Vanille feared for her life. In its place was Fang's previously missing tribal bracelet along with its scattered beads.


Author's notes:

The current chapter probably reads like a sci-fi story right now, but trust me when I say this is really more "supernatural" than "sci-fi". I know next to nothing about sci-fi. The wormhole thing is a theory I had to google myself. In situations like this, of course they'd want to go with a logical and scientific solution first. Science still matters, even in FFXIII, especially if it means they don't have to be bothered with fal'cie and l'cie riff-raff. When push comes to shove, they can always "face it later".

Oh, um, I'm out of backup content after Chapter 2 so future chapters might take a liiittle longer time getting here. =D