Fang's head lifted at the first creak of the door. Serah peeked in, finding Fang still on the bed. Her head lifted, finding Serah with wide, sorrowful eyes. She started to stand, but Serah's flinch set her back down. She swallowed, at a loss. "Light, I'm so sorry," Fang apologized from the bed, yearning to stand and go to her. "I'm sorry," Fang repeated. "I didn't want to upset you— I never want to upset you. Was it… because I mentioned Serah?" At Serah's minute wince, Fang took her cue to apologize again. "I didn't mean to sound callous," Fang reiterated again, "About Serah, I don't mean you shouldn't mourn, I just— "
"Fang," Serah interrupted, quivering with the sincerity in that confused apology. She sounded so lost… still, Serah gripped the miniature taser in her pocket just in case. "It's okay," Serah forgave. A new spark of hope opened up in those eyes, shrouded by confusion and doubt. "I was just… startled. I know you didn't intend."
"I didn't," Fang insisted too, eyes glimmering so bright. She lowered her head again. "I'm sorry."
Serah's weary heart squished a little at the sight of her so crushed. She'd begun to understand why Claire always caved like she did for Snow. With looks like this, it was a miracle they'd ever won a fight before. "I forgive you," Serah reiterated. Fang looked up, but seeing her across the room, she still seemed kind of glum. "I called Vanille. She's coming over now."
"Vanille?" Fang's breath caught on her stand, "Is she okay? Did the Behemoths— "
"She's okay, Fang," Serah hurriedly answered, not wanting to incur Fang's wrath over the beasts. "She just wants to see you after you've been out so long."
"Good, good…" Fang winced when she sat this time, twitching Serah, who started for her, then hesitated.
Fang caught the move and glummed, saddest expression Serah'd ever seen in her life taking those eyes.
Serah couldn't stand it. She crossed the room to her. "Fang," Fang glanced up as Serah dropped to the bed beside her, reaching over her stomach. Fang winced, not even touched. "Do they hurt?"
"A little bit," Fang glanced at her, shy. "…I really am sorry about what I said of Serah."
"Oh, Fang," Serah abandoned her grip on the taser and grabbed her in a hug around the shoulders, physically feeling Fang breathe and relax.
Fang lifted an arm to rub Serah's back, who pressed her more fully over the front so Fang could hold her better. She did, gratefully.
Her arms were like a miracle in and of themselves, so strongly comforting her, the same way his giant arms engulfed her in a pool of warmth…
Serah winced at the pulse of agony in her pure heart.
"How long have I been out?"
Serah pulled away beside her. "Six days." Fang's eyes widened. "They sedated you at the hospital," Serah explained, "And told us to give it five more. I pulled the plug a little early."
Fang offered her a sad smile. "I appreciate that." Serah nodded once. "Was anybody else hurt?"
"Not badly. Well, not as bad as you. Maqui's got a broken arm, Gadot, a few scratches, and Yuj is hobbling with crutches, but we all pulled out okay." Serah quieted a long moment. Her stomach knotted and twisted. How could Fang hold up a conversation so normal, but not even see her for who she was? Was she just pretending it to avoid the pain or loss, or did she actually think Serah was Claire?
Serah was inclined to believe the latter. Fang had proven herself a terrible liar twenty times over now. It wasn't possible she could be fibbing now… right?
"Fang," Serah drew in a slow breath, needing answers for this, "Do you remember the attack?"
"I should've been at your side," Fang lamented, "We could've stopped them. Could've saved them…"
The sheer loathing in that alone stung Serah almost as much as their actual deaths. Fang twistedly blamed herself for something Serah could've prevented… why had she been so worthless, frozen there as they died for her?
Serah squeezed Fang as another wave of shameful guilt crippled her inside.
Fang held her so well, surprisingly gentle for how strong Serah knew her to be. She imagined Claire had enjoyed this about Fang, being held so secure, but tender as handling silk. She almost felt safe in Fang's strong arms.
If only she could've moved…
"Whatever you need," Fang offered, forehead pressed to Serah's. "Anything."
Fang's soft lilt soothed her quivering heart. Serah just wanted to hear it. Focusing on that, focusing on anything but the well of pain inside her. Serah closed her eyes. "Talk," she requested quietly, "Just talk to me."
"Okay," Fang agreed, searching her mind for a safe recollection away from her pain and the agony that existed in Lightning. Good memories. Something happy. "Okay," Fang agreed, searching her mind for a safe recollection away from her pain and the agony that existed in Lightning. Good memories. Something happy. "…The first time I first saw you, I stopped breathing a bit." Fang checked down at Serah in her lap. The girl's eyes had closed, head snuggling to the crook of Fang's arm, folded into her more. The mention of Claire in Fang's delusion that it was she hurt a little less than she would've expected. Maybe it was Fang's compliment to her memory of Claire, maybe it was how she spoke. Serah didn't know, but with the twinge of pain came a meek, but stronger ebb of pride for her sister. She squeezed Fang's shoulder to encourage her to go on.
"I'd been locked on the airship for days by then, stuffed up and cramped." Fang continued at the touch, "I was aching for a fight by then, enjoying the Shiva bike," Serah would've rolled her eyes if she had a mind to, but she wanted too much to hear more what Fang would say in that smooth, easing lilt, "when I pulled off before you, and I just… " Fang struggled to find the words, "It was so… refreshing. You were such a woman, it took my breath away. Right there in the middle of battle, I didn't even know what I could say. Pink hair, gunblade raised, beauty like of the tribes, nothing like I'd seen on Cocoon… I could've mistaken you for Gran Pulse, you were a vision."
Serah's heart pumped in equal pain and pride. The exaltation Fang held Claire in had always been obvious, but it was something different, hearing it from her like this.
"Then you turned," Fang added, "And started away. It snapped me back to myself— I didn't want you to go. You were too pretty, too precious a thing of the likes I hadn't seen here. For a short moment there, I'd even forgotten the whole l'Cie mess. I just had to go after you,"
"You did," Serah filled in, remembering this part of the story from Claire telling her how Fang had caught up.
"I had to," Fang claimed, "Instinct told me to follow the pretty girl."
Serah coughed, almost choking at the line in Fang's successful attempt to cheer her up. She sat up, almost even smiling. "Fang!" She swatted at the girl, unexpected mirth flooding her recently depressed state like a sea of endorphins.
"Good instincts, right?" She tempted sad lips even more.
Both Fang and Serah both glanced up, finding Vanille rush through the door to stop at the sight of them. Recent, harsh events smacked her hard like a brick, stealing Serah's smile before it could form from Fang. Vanille surged towards them and practically tackled Fang.
Serah watched, anguish flooding her once again now that the bubble she'd tried to doze in had broke.
She craved reprieve.
"Have you heard of anything like it?" Vanille questioned the good doctor, nervous Serah sitting beside her as they finished describing Fang's case to her. "She… seemed so convinced. We didn't even say anything yet. We don't want her to freak out."
"Hmm," the psychiatrist jotted down the extra patient notes to this case, "Her wife, Claire,"
"Lightning," Serah corrected the woman, not liking her sister's name on a casual, unfamiliar tongue.
"Lightning," the woman corrected herself, "No problems or overt dysfunctions?"
"No," Serah shook her head, voice soft, "No problems. They love… " Serah's breath hitched, head lowering. "Loved each other."
"I'm sorry," the doctor apologized kindly, already filled in on the deaths.
Vanille squeezed her hand under the table. "So?" Vanille prodded, "What can we do?"
"I'll need to see her, talk to her," Serah stiffened, "To access the situation. It was wise not to tell her yet— If Fang truly believes Serah is her lover, Lightning, it would not make much difference to blatantly say so and perhaps only aggravate. I would like to take some brain scans as well, if you'll allow it. She'll have to be sedated for the procedure."
"What…" Serah wetted her throat nervously, "What're we going to tell Fang? I don't want to scare her…"
"For the moment, until I can access the damages and check her condition, it is best we do not frighten or pressure her in any manner. I need to see this as it is before complications, and take my scans as such."
"An examination will frighten Fang," Vanille volunteered. "She's never much liked doctors or hospitals."
"Hmm," the woman pondered, "Serah, you said she trusts this Lightning?" Serah's stomach churned at the question. "If you could carry out the role of her a few moments longer while I am present, then ease Fang to be sedated, I could finish my examinations and figure our best route to proceed."
"You want me to… keep pretending I'm Claire?" Serah swallowed thickly.
"Just for the moment," the woman assured, "So I may access her condition. Tell her it is merely further checkup after the attack—anything that'll keep her calm her will do. I need only a few minutes with her before I can take my scans."
Serah looked to Vanille, who sympathized with another squeeze and pained, pleading eyes. "Can you manage once more?"
Serah's heart squeezed, but if it would help Fang, she'd soldier through. "Okay," Serah turned back to the doctor, "Let's try it."
"Light, Van," Fang managed a sad smile at their return entry, "Who was it?"
An unknown woman walked in behind them, halting Fang's approach to Serah. Serah crossed to her quickly, "Fang, this is Nora. She's been one of your doctors since… you got hurt." Fang's arm wrapped around Serah's slight shoulders, tugging her in. Serah could see the trace of fear.
"She's just here for a checkup," Serah tried to assure. "One of the psychiatrists they've been sending to victims' families."
"Psychiatrist…" Fang's unease radiated. Serah wrapped an arm around her back too for comfort. Fang gripped her, turning away from the middle aged woman to Serah. "I don't like head-pokers. I'm fine."
"I— I know. It's for me, Fang. I… I asked her to come. To help us." Serah's stomach twisted at the injured look in those eyes by the lie. She couldn't look Fang in the eyes. "I want you to be here, to do this," she finished, eyes locked on the floor.
Fang's injury softened by her clear pain. She squeezed Serah to her and brought them both to the bed. "Okay," Fang agreed quietly, sitting with Serah pulled close beside her. "Okay, Light. I'll do it."
Serah's head turned with tears in her eyes, "Claire," the name slipped without meaning to, but Fang already hurt so much, she should be allowed to call her delusion what she loved. At least for the moment until they had this solved.
Fang's fingers pressed to her side gratefully, fear lightening in her eyes. She kissed Serah's head, then turned back to the woman Vanille nervously stood beside. "Van," she summoned her over to her left side. Vanille stuck like glue.
"Shh," Fang tried to sooth, seeming marginally better with both of them there. "It's okay."
The psychiatrist took note.
"What do you need?" Fang finally asked her.
"Fang," the woman started, "If you can, I'd like you to recount to me what happened. Take your time and start easy. If you need to stop at any point, it's okay. Just talk it out to me. Where were you when the attack began?"
Fang checked Vanille and then Serah, who gave her a little nod, then turned her head down.
"I'd been across the street with Vanille. She'd stopped at the vendor and we were on our way to lunch." Serah bit her lip, but let Fang go on. "We were going to go shopping like we usually do on weekends, as a group."
Nora scribbled as she spoke. "Forward a little bit," she encouraged, "What happened then?"
"The siren went off. I have good hearing and heard it first. I took Vanille to the nearest storefront and tossed her behind the counter. Everyone else heard it then."
Nora nodded, "What did you do after Vanille was safe?"
"I had to get to Claire," Fang recited, "It's harder to follow a scent with a lot going on, and people were going crazy with the behemoths there. Buncha defenseless sods without the military there." Serah's heart quaked. "Anyway, it took a few minutes, but instinct told me they hadn't made it to a shop. I found an alley up the street. Heard the commotion going on there and I knew, so I went after them."
"Then what?" Nora encouraged, watching her despite the one hand imputing notes.
"I… arrived late," Fang distinctly avoided Serah, but hugged both of her girls tighter. "Light already had taken a hit with her last behemoth. I went to her, but she was already fading. She passed out before I could help. Then I'd realized Serah was dead."
"After Lightning passed out?"
"Before," Fang corrected without pause, rubbing up Serah's side. "Snow took a saw to the chest and Serah was left defenseless. I saw them together… dying. By the time Light passed out, they were dead." Fang lowered her head. "I snapped when it registered… took some hits, then woke up here."
Nora's lips pursed. "Can you describe to me the exact order of events, Fang? Starting with your entry into the alleyway."
Fang exhaled again roughly. "I entered the alley, saw Light take a hit seconds before the blade pierced Snow," Serah winced, shuddering with the recollections this instilled in her, "Serah ran to him before I could get to her. I killed the Kaiser that was on Light, then speared through hers, but it was too late. Serah was on the ground with Snow, and Lightning was down too. I went to Light, she passed out, then realized Serah and Snow were dead. I snapped." Serah shuddered against Fang's side. "You happy?"
Serah could feel the returned quiver in Fang.
"I'm sorry," Nora apologized immediately, "I didn't mean to aggravate, Fang. That recollection's more than enough." She closed her notes, "If you'll allow it, Fang, I would like to scan both you and Lightning now."
Fang's eyes narrowed. "Why?"
"It's… to do with the grief," Vanille tried to offer meekly, filling her respective role in this too. "Please, Fang, I want… It'll help."
Fang exhaled again, visibly at struggle, but unable to reject Vanille's request. It showed in her slouch, where Serah wrapped a second arm around her and hugged. "I'm with you."
"No drugs, though," Fang warned the psychologist.
"No drugs," Nora agreed, standing from her chair at the desk, "But I will need to sedate you both first."
Fang stiffened. Serah gently leaned on back with her to the bed where Fang reluctantly followed, securing her hold. Serah searched Fang's sad sulk and hugged to the woman close, breath hot near her cheek. "It's just a test," Serah tried to help. Fang winced at the needle insert and laid her forehead to Serah's as the drug started to drip. Nora easily found her elbow too without moving them and pushed the needle into her vein.
Vanille slid off the edge of the bed, watching them.
Serah breathed, so troubled inside. "We'll… we'll do this, Fang."
Serah blinked, already feeling woozy after just a few drips. Fang shifted too, but instead of repositioning against her as she'd expected, desperate lips possessed hers.
Serah sleepily faded to that lingering warmth.