Disclaimer: Final Fantasy XIII and its respected characters are the property of Square Enix, Inc. This is a work of fanfiction, and no profit has or will be made off of the work. By stating this disclaimer, I refuse to be hold liable of violating copyrights.
Warning(?): This work features the pairing of Snow x Lightning, and will have adult situations in the future. The game only takes place in Final Fantasy XIII and will not consider XIII-2 at all. The story was actually conceptualized before XIII-2, but since there are elements that coincidentally collided, I just borrowed the names.
As always, comments are loved and welcomed and worshipped! ^^
“Wishes can come true, but not if you just wait for miracles. Miracles are things we make for ourselves, here and now.”
Turning off the water, I wrung the long, pink mane of excess wetness before taking a towel from the rack next to the tub to pat it dry. The bathroom was quiet with only the sound of leftover water dripping from the shower head, and the soft cotton towel brushing against the silky strands. Light’s half-lidded eyes were without any shine, as they had been of late. She stared into the space before her blankly as she sat in the chair that I had dragged in from the kitchen as her make-shift resting place when I give her sponge baths. It took me three days to finally get the headrest correct so Light wouldn’t feel any pain or discomfort when she leaned her head back so I could wash her hair, and I had a new appreciation of beauticians and the work they do. Feeling slight shivers from the naked girl, I apologized softly and pulled the sliding throw up to Light’s chin so she wouldn’t catch a cold. After placing a small kiss on her head, I resumed my task of drying her hair and noticed her closed eyes as she slipped into slumber.
It had been three weeks since we returned from Mah’habara, and considering what happened, I have to say Hope and I did a really good job covering up the truth in a short amount of time. We faked a radio mayday with a computer-generated voice that sounded somewhat like Light, and used static to mask anything that might rouse suspicion of its authenticity. I wrote an initial investigation report that described those three bastards triggering a hidden trap within the shrine, which called forth two King Behemoths that attacked the unsuspecting cadets and Light. By the time Lightning reached the behemoths, the three cadets had been killed and mauled to pieces, and she suffered massive injuries in the subsequent fight. When I found the injured Commander, according to the “official story”, several fiends had already been lunching on the corpses, and Light was spared only because of the fiend-repelling device she activated before she passed out. I had to hand it to Hope who came up with the idea. After we took care of Lightning, we worked together for over thirty-six hours straight to doctor documents, forensics, and any other relevant evidence. Hope managed to make the scene gory enough that subsequent investigators could only find pieces of flesh and signs of the tunnel dwellers having a feast on free meals of behemoth and human, if they didn’t run off vomiting first. I suspected that the gruesome crime scene was Hope’s way of venting his frustration and anger at the situation.
For the first week after the incident, Hope and I had been adjusting to our switched roles, where I became the one nursing Light and dealing with paperwork while he was out in the field. It absolutely disheartened the young man whenever he tried to touch Lightning to heal her wounds as she would struggle and tremble furiously, and though no voice came out of her opened mouth, she continued to scream until he backed away from her. His eyes were desolate the first time that happened by the pond; he left the area quickly and didn’t return until I calmed Light down. I didn’t know how to feel about the situation – or perhaps I was too hurt to feel anything – about the fact that Lightning trusted only me to touch her. Worse yet for me to find out about this trust through such ordeals.
“Snow!” Hope cried when he jumped off the aerobike, then dashed through the woods and paused on approach. I turned to look at him, the young man has never appeared so horrified since witnessing Nora’s death. I was both relieved that he was here, because that meant Light could finally get the treatment she needed, and disgruntled that he got here so quickly, because I didn’t want anyone to see Light like that, bloodied and defeated. “Lightning….”
“Hurry,” I growled when Hope didn’t move, glaring at the Director before focusing my eyes on Light again, reprieved that she finally was able to relax, even if it meant she was completely unconscious. Hope snapped out of his shock, and hurried over to kneel next to me. His eyes scanned over Light’s injuries quickly, before he reached out to the gaping wound on her side caused by the behemoth. Familiar incantation of an Esuna spell was interrupted when his palm covered the gash, and Light stiffened suddenly. Her eyes flew open in fear as she thrashed, her broken limbs limited her movement, but she managed to push Hope away. I tightened my hold on her, pressing the frightened girl to my chest as I whispered some random comforting words, while Hope sat on his ass, stunned. When tears fell from Light’s large, empty eyes, her mouth moving in mute pleadings, I closed my eyes painfully, whispering directly in Light’s ears that everything would be okay, that she’s safe now, and that it was just me.
Some point between promising that I would never leave her and confirming the fact that it was me that’s holding her, did Hope jump up from where he sat, and dash off into the cave entrance, probably to cool off the anger I knew he must have been feeling. I could only focus on the beauty in my arms, who turned to bury her face in my shirt, shielding herself from the world. I winced when she bit through my shirt, her teeth dug into my chest as she wheezed. Pressing my hand firm on her back, I silently prayed to the Maker to let me take the hurt she must be feeling and put it on myself, if it would only make her whole again. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how she might be feeling, or how traumatic the experience was for her. The only thing I knew to do was to hold her tightly, covering her and shielding her with my body, in faint hope that she would sense the love I have for her and the promise that she wouldn’t be alone facing this. We stayed in that position for some time, before I moved, carefully and slowly, towards the stream. I sat down on the bank, and looked around for a while until I realized the only somewhat-clean fabrics were the clothes on my back and my trenchcoat. I took off my tank top, and ripped it into shreds, the sound causing the broken girl in my arms to jump, but thankfully didn’t react any more than that. I dipped the cloth into water, and asked her softly for permission to wash her wounds so she wouldn’t get infected before Hope could heal her. When Light didn’t react, I took that as a ‘yes’ and began my task. Dabbing the dried blood by her side, I paused briefly when she hissed in pain before continuing. Once the gash was clean, I moved on to cleanse the dried blood and semen off her inner thighs, stopping when a small sob escaped from Light. I paused with my hand on Light firmly, letting her know that I didn’t mean to cause her any harm. Her trembles eventually subsided, then she let out a small sigh before slumping against me. My eyes stared at the dried, pinkish semen stain down her thighs, recognizing the sign of her lost invincibility, and felt my heart constrict so harshly that it might halt in misery. When I moved again, I couldn’t, or didn’t want to, stop myself, and I placed a kiss on her forehead, murmuring directly into her ear.
“Relax, Light… I’m right here, and I’m never letting you go.”
Since then, Hope has been forced to accept the fact that he must heal Light through me, and we managed to find a way where his hands wouldn’t directly touch her body, but rather the magic would pass through my hand and transfer into her. It slowed the healing process, but I felt it was best for Light mentally as anyone else’s touch made her tense and stressed. In addition, I couldn’t bring myself to stop the intimate feeling of the curative magic. It was like an extension of my soul as it traveled into Light’s body, caressing her softly, reassuringly mending her broken flesh. Thankfully, he agreed with me that Light was more receptive to the cure if it came from me, though he was none too pleased about this indulgence being stolen from him. We were both appalled by the number of injuries that Light suffered after scanning her the first time using the portable scanner, not to mention the torture she endured when we determined the burnt skin came from taser wires. Since we have returned to the Academy, Light went through two surgeries to reconstruct and set her broken and shattered bones. I got to play nurse to Hope as he gave step-by-step instructions on what I needed to do, and we managed to complete the procedures without creating more damage to Light’s body. It wasn’t until after Light was off the various support machines that Hope told me how reckless I was to insist that only he and I be the ones to perform the surgeries so I wouldn’t be forced to kill anyone that might have a clue of what happened to Light. And in hindsight, I was gambling with Hope’s intelligence and Lightning’s resilience. But I stood by my conviction that it would be better for her to know that only the people closest to her knew about the attack, and the less the better.
Wrapping her long curls with a bath towel, I pulled away the throw that covered Light’s body and bundled her with a larger towel. I lifted her up easily, pushing the chair away with my foot as I walked towards the bedroom, my Goddess stirred only slightly from the movement and sadly did not open her eyes to look at me. Every day I prayed to be the day when she would snap open her large, sapphire eyes at me, and punch me for treating her like a baby. That would be one bruise I happily receive, and probably beg her for a few more just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. But as it is, she was quiet as I placed her on the bed, and pulled away the towel. For the past three weeks, Light had mostly been asleep, and when her eyes opened her vision never focused. It was as if she wasn’t ‘here’, but rather, this was only an empty shell. I just hope she’ll come back to me, soon. Dropping the towel carelessly on the floor, I retrieved some clothes for Light from her closet and dresser, and returned to the bed, where I began to dress my precious Goddess expertly. Pulling a pink-striped white panties upward, I couldn’t help but find it a great irony that I had become as good at dressing a woman as undressing one. Once Light was raimented in her pajamas, I rolled the IV drip stand over and began setting it up methodically, adjusting the needle to make sure it was comfortable for her as it provides nutrients and pain medications. When all the machines and other medical stuff were connected to her, I pulled the blanket over her body before picking up the dropped towel and headed for the shower in the en suite bathroom of the spare bedroom.
As cold water splashed down my body, I watched with an almost detached perspective at my erection as it calmed, knowing that it was a physical reaction that was only natural since I’ve been touching a very naked girl who just happened to have captured my heart. But my mind couldn’t focus on that – not even as a fantasy – as another pink-haired girl occupied my mind lately, and not in a good way. I must have looked insane when I asked Hope to repeat his investigation to me three times, where he explained the bartender had pulled Serah out of a group of photos as the one who had a long conversation with the three fuckers a couple of nights before the advancement exam. How could the girl that I had loved for her innocence and kindness be the person who orchestrated this? Why? After everything Light did for her? I knew the resentment she had for Light – Serah was never shy about relating that to me, how she was often alone and had to deal with the loneliness because Light was always away training or working, and I thought I understood it as years of disappointment of missed dinner and school events. But to go so far as to plan for Light’s… attack… It was unfathomable and unforgivable.
I know that I was rude and offensive when I threw Hope out of Light’s dorm after his words finally registered, and thankfully he didn’t hold a grudge. I have vague idea of what happened the rest of the day, but when I finally came to my senses, I immediately ordered a brand new set of china to replace what I had destroyed. It did take me longer to find an exact replica of the coffee mug that Light favored, but it was worth it if it meant one less life on my conscience.
Pulling down a random T-shirt, I returned to Light’s bedside, setting a mug of coffee and a sandwich by her nightstand. Taking a look at the prone girl, I walked to the bathroom to wash and disinfect my hands, and took the med kit from the closet. I sat down on the chair that had been my home the last three weeks. I applied elixir gel on the wounds, then began wrapping the bandages on Light’s wrists and thighs. When my task was done, my hand lingered as I took one of Light’s, marveling at how small it looked in mine. Resting my forehead against her knuckles, I asked the question that had been plaguing me as if I was expecting my Goddess to answer. What am I going to do now?
Well, one thing I knew for sure was that I was definitely leaving Serah. In fact, I would have killed her already if she wasn’t Light’s sister, which was what made this so difficult. Hope and I reached a consensus very early that Light was to never know about the truth – we both doubt she could handle it. Not that we distrust her strength, but we would rather not risk an explosive reaction if she found out about Serah. But that made it difficult for me to give a good reason to leave Serah, especially since both Farron sisters were still holding me to the promise to let the crystal tear be Serah’s last under my watch. I kissed the long, slender digits in my hand, sighing when they didn’t move. Besides, how would one go about getting a divorce? How could I tell Serah calmly when even the thought of her made me want to kill? When she probably wouldn’t want one and would see it as an embarrassment to her, as she had commented to me about one of her friends who was a divorcee?
Reaching my hand out, I placed my palm on Light’s cheek, thumbing her forehead which I have developed the habit of kissing daily as I watch her sleep. My fingers outlined her face, and eventually rested on her lips, now paler than their past color, and imagined how they would feel if I kiss them. I knew so long as I continue to be her brother-in-law, even when I have made a decision that I would no longer be in Serah’s life, I had no right to express my love for Light. It would not only be disrespectful towards Light, but also towards my love for her. I wanted, even if just for my own mentality, to prove to myself that my love for Light wasn’t just a sexual attraction and obsession of one that I couldn’t have, but something real. If I touched her any more than what I have been now, I would not only be defiling her, but tainting my love as well. It might not be logical, but when that thought entered my mind, it stuck and never let go, even when at times all I really wanted to do was press my lips to hers, if just to feel her heat intimately.
If only just to feel her life pulsing to chase away the image of her prone, wheezing body on the ground, covered in pinkish semen and blood.
Floating in the middle of darkness, I sighed in contentment for what seemed like the first time in eternity, grateful that I was no longer feeling nor hearing anymore. It was a comfortable place to be, almost as if I was in the middle of a deep, unmoving ocean, the buoyancy supported my limbs mid-air as I curled up tighter to myself. The silence and numbness were blissful, the grunts and derogatory words no longer surround me. I held my knees closer to my chest, resting my chin on top of them as I let go of the feeling of being me. Being ‘Lightning’. It felt good for once to admit that I was weak, that it was okay for me to hide from the world, and not worry about the responsibilities and expectations that were placed onto my back whether I wanted them or not. No more being a protector, or a soldier, or anything that asked me to give of myself beyond what I was capable of just to fulfill an unknown cause. I just wanted peace and quiet as I rested, for eternity if possible.
I must have been in this state for some time, so long that I was beginning to let go of myself, as if someone had opened my mind and began to let out my memories. I didn’t care, really, as I felt pieces of me begin to fade, when light suddenly shined into the ocean of darkness, as if someone opened a curtain and let in the sun. I buried my face deeper into my lap, annoyed at the stinging rays that threatened to take me from the blissful shadows. A hand was suddenly on me, gripping my arm none-too-gently, and I felt I was pulled upwards toward the light. I struggled against the hand, wanting nothing but to return to where I had been, but it was relentless as it continued to pull, soon joined by another smaller, less muscular one that wrapped around my shoulder. I should have felt scared, panicked about the nightmares returning, but somehow while the hands were persistent, I only felt annoyed at my disrupted rest and wanted to swat them away. Which I did, hitting and batting the hands, particularly the one on my arm, kicking aimlessly. I heard a strange, whimpering sound, almost like whining that was suspiciously similar to mine. How could it be? I hadn’t whined since my father passed away. It must have been the meddlers’ fault, so I expressed my displeasure by trying to bite the hand that was holding me close to a soft warmth.
“Whoa, there, Sunshine,” a familiar accented voice said, hint of humor clear in her voice as she pushed my fighting hands away, patting my head placatingly. “Easy, now.”
I stopped mid-swing, my eyes opening a sliver, and the sight of blue and white sari came into full view. I felt the hand on my head stroking my hair gently as I rested against the woman’s chest, and heard another familiar voice giggling softly. Relaxing almost instantaneously, I closed my eyes again as I settled against the woman’s bosom, feeling the rumbling of her low chuckles at my tactics. The other girl gently brushed my hair away from my face, making me wince as the light become bright again, before asking softly if we were ready. I shield my vision turning towards the sari and shut my eyes tightly, wondering what the younger girl meant. Ready? Ready for what?
“You just rest, Sunshine,” the older woman said softly, “We’ll be here when you wake up.”
When I opened my eyes again, I wasn’t sure if I was hallucinating, or I had officially lost my mind. The setting sun shone into my eyes, making me squint as I studied the field before me. The hill descended until it reached the horizon, and as wide as eyes could see. The entire field was covered in flowers of different kinds, blooming happily and creating the most magnificent view that dwarfed any gardens in both Cocoon and Pulse combined. There were individual fruit trees scattered to provide shade in various places, and the air was permeated with their delicate fragrance. The temperature was comfortable – not warm, but not chilling either. Soft wind caressed the plants and my body, gentle like a mother fanning her children lovingly to keep them cozy. Noticing movement from the corner of my eye, I turned to look at various small, furry animals that must have curled up with me stirring from their slumber. A small, white kitten took several steps away from the ‘camp’, still half-asleep, as it tripped on its foreleg and fell to the ground. I chuckled softly, helping the very confused kitten up so it could continue to head to its destination.
If there was a heaven, this place would be the definition of it.
The scenery and the accompaniment of animals had a calming effect on me, soothing the once boiling turmoil that threatened to rear its ugly head in my psyche. I sat among the sleeping animals, watching the sun slowly set down the horizon, until the largest moon I’ve ever seen slowly rose from behind the mountain, casting its silver light across the field. I gazed as the flowers danced in the gentle breezes, petals of different colors reflecting the light in lustrous illumination. I was no artist, but this was the most mesmerizing scene I’ve ever seen in my life.
“Like what you see?” I looked up as the dark-haired woman sat down next to me, shooing away some of the reluctant animals. I studied her features that were the same as the day we parted – unruly black hair framing thin, flawless face, her eyes forever twinkling in amusement, and a perpetual smirk completed her image. Even the black tank top and the blue-white sari remained the same; disguising the muscular, agile body underneath. It felt good to see her again.
“Fang…” I acknowledged softly, before turning my eyes on the scene ahead once more. “It’s beautiful.”
“It should be, seeing as Vanille spent a lot of time working on it,” the lancer said with a grin.
I watched as a small brown bunny poked its ears upward among some yellow and lavender-colored flowers of Cocoon, as if listening for any objections from the humans, before it hopped over and nestled against my foot. Bending over slightly, I pulled my knees to my chest as I brushed my fingers through the soft fur of the rabbit, petting its head as it squinted happily.
“Where are we?” I asked after some silence, neither one of us felt the need to speak in this tranquil field. My voice sounded almost booming in the quietness of the night.
Fang shrugged, shooing away another puppy that tried to capture her attention. “Inside the crystal chassis.”
Information that should have caused me to panic only gained a nod, “Then… I’m dead?” The thought was both bittersweet and relieving.
Fang frowned as she turned to study me, my voice had probably betrayed the welcome thoughts of my demise. I ignored the elder Pulsian, focusing my attention on the bunny by my foot that snuggled to my palm, enjoying the petting. Feeling the sharp sting of an examining gaze, I focused my eyes on the rabbit until its friend came snuffling nearby, and the two animals ran off deeper into the flower fields in a game of late night chase. My fingers felt momentarily cold, I rubbed my thumb and index finger in an attempt to recapture the warmth before I wrapped my arm around my knees once more.
“They’ll be heartbroken if you were,” retorted the Pulsian woman, her voice holding a tinge of displeasure. I eyed the woman with a sidelong glance, noting her relaxed pose of having one knee bent to her chest so her elbow could rest on it, her fingers deep in her ebony hair as she studied me. I shrugged.
“They would, I hope, at first…” I found myself saying, my voice muffled somewhat by my arms. “But they’ll be okay. Sazh has Dajh, Hope has Bartholomew…” I paused, ignoring the prickling of my heart as a certain blonde flitted before my eyes, “And Snow has Serah. They’ll move on.”
Silence surrounded us after my comment, and I preferred it that way. I closed my eyes in the little dark sanctum that I created with my arms and my body, and forced myself not to let the thoughts of my beautiful sister and the keeper of my heart together pain me too much. I knew I was a hypocrite and a fraud, both frustrated at Snow for upsetting Serah in their separation and happy for the time I got to spend with him. The man would probably look at me with disgust if he found out how I savored each moment I had in his company, when I had beat him senseless in the past for loving my sister. And Serah… my precious, innocent, sweet little Serah… The thought of her disappointed and tearful eyes over my betrayal for loving her husband would kill me.
Certain images of men on top of me flickered before my closed eyes, and I felt my body tremble as I tried to shut out the thoughts. If I wasn’t dead, it means that someone must have found me after they were done. I shuddered to think if it was Snow, how appalled he must be to clean up the filth and dirt with the knowledge of my complete failure as a soldier. It was my fault that he had to witness my defeat in such a disgraceful way, and he must have felt ashamed of the fact that I was his sister-in-law. How could I have not fought harder? How dare I subject Snow to such a precarious position where he had to clean up after me? Wasn’t I enough of a pathetic, miserable wretch that it would be best if fiends would kill me, if for nothing more than having my body as their sustenance for another day or two?
“Hey,” warm hands on my arms woke me from my delirium, and I looked up in a daze at Fang who hovered before me, her face full of concern. I studied her features with confusion, wondering why my body hurts. Could spirits feel pain, I wonder?
Her hand reached up to brush away the hair in my eyes, and I surprised myself by not flinching away. How could I, when the woman had been so much more than just a comrade to me in the year and a half that we travelled together? Like the older sister that I never had, she hid her wisdom in her jokes and casual cognizances, and was relentless in drawing me out of the shell of emotionless, perfect soldier that I had created around myself. When the days and nights of travelling and searching for our Focus became too much, she would be the first to pull me into an embrace just so I had a place to rest. She was never shy of voicing her opinion, and I found that I was powerless when she spoke her demands and always ended up doing her bidding. Thankfully, most of her demands tended to be whining or jokes, which could easily be ignored. I never understood the liking she and Vanille took of me, but I was grateful for the attention.
Her observant eyes studied mine for a moment, before she pursed her lips in aversion. Standing up, she pulled me to my feet with her none-too-gently, holding my hand tightly as she began the hike up the hills. “Fang?!” I cried when I nearly tripped on the footing, which she ignored as she tightened her hold on me. Staggering after the woman, I looked at her swaying sari in confusion, not understanding the source of her anger. Was it me? Was it because she saw the failure and shame in my eyes? Did she finally realize how incompetent I was? Or how impure I was now that I might stain this sanctuary that Vanille had created?
Would I be abandoned again?
My chaotic thoughts stopped when Fang slowed as we reached our apparent destination. My eyes widened at the gorgeous lake before me. The water rippled gently in sapphire blue, the bank framed by weeping willows and other flora. A large, thick waterfall could be seen in the distance, but the sound was dulled into soothing background music, accompanied an ensemble of singing birds that hid among the branches. Mountain ranges painted the background in dark greys and blacks, and even though it was late at night, the view was nothing short of breathtaking. Fang waited patiently next to me as I took in the sights, then she guided me towards an opening near the water. Letting go of my hand, she sat down on the shallow bank and patted the ground next to her in invitation, while dipping her bare foot into the crisp, refreshing water. I sat gingerly, almost afraid of disrupting the serenity of the scene, or contaminate it with my presence.
“Take a look in the water,” Fang said when I settled down, and I looked at her quizzically. When she only responded with an encouraging smile, I followed her subdued command and moved closer to the water. The once serene water rippled without wind, and before I was ready, my breath was caught in my throat as I saw the man that I had longed for as clear as if he was right in front of me. He looked exhausted, the stubble on his chin was longer than I remembered, yet he somehow looked both clean and disheveled at the same time. How he managed that I had no idea.
The scene before me started to expand, and my eyes widened as I saw myself on my bed. My wrists were bandaged, and from beneath the comforter I could see other bandages wrapped around my shoulders. I didn’t recall being that pale before, or ever sleeping so deeply since I enrolled in the Corps. It was surreal to watch myself and Snow as if I was watching television, except having full knowledge that this was reality. Snow sat close to the bed beside the mess he made on my nightstand with a jug of water, a couple glasses, some medkit stuff, and what I suspect was an empty beer can between my furniture. I gasped softly when I saw Snow move, reaching a hand out as he brushed my hair behind my ear, and caressed my face with his thumb in a way that I’ve only dreamed of before. The look in his eyes was a mixture of pain and something more, something I was afraid to identify. It was a look I’ve seen when he gazed at Serah before the war, but more intense and with deeper passion.
The familiar chime of my doorbell sounded suddenly, and Snow looked up from his task of studying me. “I’ll be right back, Light,” he said softly as he got up, and walked out of my view.
“He looks smitten with you, Sunshine,” Fang commented casually, brushing and tickling my bare arm with a long piece of grass. I ignored her at first, but when she persisted, I swatted the grass away in annoyance.
“He’s just… pitying me,” I retorted, my argument weak and unsure.
“I don’t know,” Fang grinned as she tossed the grass away, “I think you’re refusing to see the obvious.”
I decided not to dignify that statement with a response.
The sound of conversation soon drew my attention back to the water, and I saw Hope come into view behind Snow. He had a bag of some kind that he set next to Snow’s previously occupied chair, and he began to take out pieces of equipment that were eventually assembled into a scanner. I was captivated by how expertly Snow was helping Hope with the setup, and stunned when Hope eventually handed the blonde the scanning wand. Pulling the comforter off of me, Snow began the scan with a sense of authority and understanding that I’ve only seen when he was fighting. It might be inappropriate, but somehow, I found him extremely attractive as he narrowed his eyes in concentration.
“Admit it, you love him,” Fang whispered like a devil in my ear. I glanced at her sideways, noting how close she was snuggling up to me as she watched the water with an amused smile.
I scoffed, “I never denied it.”
“Mmh, yet you aren’t willing to open your eyes and see his feelings for what they are.”
“Shut up, Fang,” I growled, “He’s my brother-in-law.”
Fang chuckled and pulled away from me, lying down casually with her toes in the water, twiddling them lazily to send ripples across the lake; inevitably distracting my view. She crossed her arms behind her head, and only stopped disturbing the water when I slapped her thigh, hard. She complained softly under her breath, but otherwise made no more sound. When the water finally stilled, I saw Hope was standing by the foot of my bed, watching intently as Snow finished wrapping up my bandages. The blonde picked up the bag of IV medicine and attached it to the stand next to the bed, then sighed as he sat down in his chair.
“Stop looking at her like that, Hope,” he broke the silence after a while. “You know it’s not her fault.”
“I know that,” the younger man snapped back.
I frowned. What was not my fault? What are they talking about?
The two didn’t speak, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of Snow’s hand, now holding mine in his, his thumb caressing the back of my hand as he studied Hope. Whatever internal struggle the silver-haired youth had eventually stopped as he glared at Snow, his eyes fixed on our joined hands. Snow’s eyes followed Hope’s, and he smiled softly before returning his eyes to the younger man, this time they were firm with resolve. I didn’t know why, but I felt my face heat up when I saw Snow tighten his grip on my fingers.
“You have no right to do that,” Hope growled after conceding to the staring match, and he began to pack up the scanner, not caring of the rough treatment as he took his anger out on the machine. Snow waited until the boy disassembled most of the hardware, before he put my hand on the bed and moved to help put the parts into the bag. Hope let the blonde take over as he sat on his heels on the floor, watching while Snow systematically put the parts back into the bag and zipped it up. He breathed in deeply before letting out a sigh, closing his eyes as he returned to his calm, logical self again. “I’m sorry, Snow. I shouldn’t have snapped. I know how you feel about her, but I couldn’t forget that you’re still married. You can’t just…”
“I know,” Snow said, the sadness in his voice pulled at my heart. “I’ll fix that, I promise. And I won’t make any advances on Light before I have the right to do that.”
I inhaled sharply at Snow’s promise and the implications beneath. I turned to look at Fang, who only smirked at me with a wink before she looked back up to the sky. Am I to believe what Hope had said? Or could it just be my wishful thinking? No, how could I think of Snow having reciprocal feelings for me, when that would break Serah’s heart? Snow was so much in love with Serah that he was willing to risk his life, traversing two planets and fighting the Creator just for the flimsy chance that she might return to him unscathed. He never gave up on her when I was on the brink of accepting her death, and he promised that he would always keep her happy. How could he have stopped loving her? And why would he give someone like me – whose only worth was being a perfect soldier and which I failed miserably at – gain his passionate love?
Hope must have been delirious. That had to be it.
My inner monologue was interrupted when Snow entered the screen again, and took the seat that he now claimed his own. He studied my pale, sleeping face for a while, before he picked up my hand again. I felt myself blush furiously when he began to kiss each digit, slowly and lovingly as if he was worshipping them, yet I couldn’t avert my eyes from the sight. My heart leapt to my throat when I heard his voice, filled with emotions of love and longing, as he pled quietly, just loud enough for me to hear.
“Come back to me, Light… Give me a chance to prove to you…”
I never got to hear the rest of the sentence as the water was disrupted again. Droplets began to fall onto the serene surface, causing ripples after ripples that eventually washed away the sound and image of Snow. I couldn’t help but reach out, trying to touch him, plead for his return to me, but all I touched was chilling lake water. The droplets simply refused to stop. Why wouldn’t it stop?!
A sob escaped me as two hands held onto my shoulders, and I looked up to see Fang watching me with concern, the sight of her blurred from what I realized were tears falling from my eyes. I wiped away the tears in anger, hating these signs of weakness, yet they kept coming despite my angry mantra of ‘Stop’ to myself. I soon found myself in the embrace of the elder Pulsian woman, as she whispered into my ears, telling me it was okay for me to cry, that I needed it and I should just listen to my heart for once, instead of my head. The same exact words she and Vanille first confronted me with about my feelings for Snow, all those years ago when we first arrived in Pulse.
And like before, I succumbed to the suggestion, letting tears flow out of me freely as I clinged to the stronger woman, wailing like I never had before. I raved about how scared I was during the assault, the hopelessness and the shame, and how I wish I would’ve just died right then. I cried about my unrequited love for a certain blonde, and how he certainly wouldn’t want me now that I’m tainted. And I wept about how lonely I was without him and Serah, and how hurt I was when she shunned me from her life after the Fall.
Before I eventually surrendered to the darkness of well-deserved sleep, I felt a smaller pair of hands on me as gentle, warm healing magic began to flow into me. Different than Hope’s cool cures. I whimpered as I clung more tightly to Fang’s waist, and fell asleep listening to the tingling giglges mixed with sighs of relief of Vanille as she bid me good night.
“Well, if you’re willing to give her everything, it’d all come down to whether or not she’ll sign it willingly,” the munchkin said as he fixed his crooked glasses for the third time in the past fifteen minutes. He continued to read his tablet, which contained a huge legal document file that he had prepared based on our phone conversation the day before.
I shrugged, leaning back into Light’s chair, the one that she sat in the first day I arrived at the Academy. It gave me a sense of connection to her when I’m away. I know, I’m pathetic. “As long as I get the storage space, I’m golden.”
“And alimony? You are the breadwinner.”
I paused, my eyes narrowed with disdain, “No, I’m not giving her anything.” Not anymore. Not when she used that money to purchase the means to attack my beloved. There was nothing I wanted from her except my freedom, and she could keep the money in our joint account. I’m disgusted by any connection to her as is.
Nida chuckled at my comment, and resumed his typing while I sipped my coffee. Hope sat in the chair opposite mine, flipping through the muted television channels probably just so he had something to do in the silence. I insisted on his presence when he brought Nida up, who, according to both he and Sazh, was the best divorce attorney in Pulse. While the two planets were now on their way to becoming independent entities, their laws intertwined and probably would for the next ten years, until the Neo-Sanctum congress finally begins working properly. Therefore, professionals such as lawyers, doctors, and accountants can practice on both planets until the law says otherwise. For my divorce, I needed a witness for the papers, and I needed Hope to know the details. Why I felt the obligation I hadn’t a clue. Maybe out of respect for him as someone who also loved Light, or that he knew about the truth behind the official story. Either way, I wanted him to see my actions clearly, even though he was uncomfortable at first. He got past that quickly once we began treating Serah more as an enemy than Light’s sister. Who said divorce wasn’t tactical warfare?
It took Nida nearly a week after our initial phone consult for him to meet with me. The man did wonders in researching into Serah and my assets and histories, especially since I was no help with that information. When I was on Cocoon, my job deposited my pay directly into our shared bank account, and Serah insisted that she be the one doing the finances at home. Something about this being her contribution to our home since she wasn’t working, she should carry more responsibility for household chores. She assured me that she would ask for more money if she needed, which became a constant with her various home improvement projects or stuff she just “had to have”. I never knew how much I was making, nor how much money I had in my account. I had a credit card with a reasonable limit, and I lived with that knowing I was in good shape as long as it wasn’t maxed out. Which gave Sazh a good reason to laugh at me when I looked at both he and Light in confusion after I received my first pay stub on Pulse about all of the numbers and deductions listed, and asked the intelligent question of who was the bastard that took away nearly a fifth of the Gil in my paycheck. I think I saw Light turn away to try to stifle her chuckles.
As the meeting started today, Nida brought to light some surprising revelations. Apparently, the Farron parents had insurance policies on themselves, which Light had cashed in and continued to deposit regularly into the account after she joined the Corps. Serah’s college fund, it was. In addition, both Light and Serah inherited the house, but Light had transferred the deed into my name after Serah made the announcement of us moving to Cocoon as a belated wedding gift. She had joked that it was her making up for punching me one too many times during our travels. It finally dawned on me that my wife was richer than I would ever be, and she had just conveniently forgot to tell me.
Which made the decision even easier, for me anyway.
“All right, sign here,” Nida said, handing me the tablet and the stylus. After I signed, he took the devices and gave them to Hope. “And witness signs here.”
Once we were both done, Nida finally took off his glasses and folded them into his pocket. “Well, the sheriff will serve Serah with the divorce papers within the next 48 hours. I pulled some strings with the court, and a judge will hear the preliminary in a week,” Nida said, the man looking much too wise for his age. “If we’re lucky, you could be back here within a week. But judging from what I’ve learned of your wife, I’d be ready for the long haul.”
I sighed heavily in defeat, and ran a hand through my messy hair. Hope reached over and turned the TV off to give me some time to think without distraction. Nida started sipping his now-cooled coffee, and declined my offer to make him a new cup. Once finished with the drink, he continued as if he had never paused. “If my guess is correct, this might take longer than you’d like. You’d also need to follow my game plan, since she or her lawyer might play dirty and paint you to be the cheating bastard. That might hurt you on your requests.”
“Whatever it takes,” Hope answered on my behalf, the young man visibly irritated by any mention of Serah. Can’t say I don’t share his sentiment.
Nida smirked and nodded, standing up as he put his tablet away inside his briefcase. Hope got up to walk the lawyer out, who promised he would give me the time to meet him at the train station once he heard from the Cocoon court. I waved my goodbye to the man, and once the front door slid shut, I sighed again. I picked up mugs and put them into the sink, lost in thought until I found myself watching the water run even after the ceramics had been rinsed thoroughly. Nida was right; Serah would never sign willingly. She was, after all, Light’s sister, and she never admitted defeat or backed down without a fight, except she used it not in battles but solely for the purpose of driving me insane. This process had proven to be more difficult than I anticipated. I already hated being away from Light longer than a couple hours; to be away on another planet for an indefinite period was surely going to kill me with worry. But I needed to if it would give me the right to stand next to my Goddess, even if she never forgives me.
Turning off the tap, I put the mugs into the dishwasher and started it. The hum of the machine faded into the background as I went back to Light’s bedroom, and sat in my seat as I watched her slow breathing. It had been over two months, yet she showed no sign of waking up. My hand automatically went to hers, holding the delicate hand in mine as I thought about how to work with Hope to take care of Light when I’m gone. He probably would need help as he had the most insane schedule of anyone I knew, but I wouldn’t want anyone else to invade Light’s – our – sanctuary. Besides, we still didn’t know if she could tolerate others’ touch now, so we had to find that out before I left. Maybe I should call Nida and ask him to postpone the court date until she wakes up, so I can focus on the impending trial.
I yawned when a sudden sleep spell came over me. Blinking and shaking my head, I yawned again, confused about my sudden exhaustion. It was as if a Sleepga spell went off on me, or three. I pushed the chair back slightly, and put my head down on the bed, snuggling Light’s now-healed arm like I would a stuffed animal. The second my head touched her sky blue sheets, I was enveloped by darkness, the last thing I remembered was the delicate rose scent from Light’s body wash surrounding my senses.
Looking around me, I wondered what sort of psychological meaning there was for me to dream of a completely grey world with nothing for miles. There was some white mist curled around my feet, and I didn’t feel hot nor cold. It was as if I’m in the middle of a huge expanse of nothingness. I walked around the perimeter to see if I could find any clue as to why I’m here, and after circling thrice, I was as informed as I was when I first opened my eyes… in my dreams. Yup, insanity here I come.
A chuckle sounded behind me. “Hey, Hero,” she said, and I quickly turned around, my eyes widening at the sight of the older Pulsian woman, who grinned at me with her arms crossed.
“Fang!” I gasped. “How… what…?”
She laughed, swaying in her arrogant stance as she walked towards me, and circled me as she checked me out. I stared at her incredulously before I looked around, expecting Vanille to pop out of nowhere, until I drove myself dizzy. Fang snickered at my show of stupidity.
“Well, it was good to see you,” she drawled.
I nodded, “Likewise. You look good. So… is this like, a not-a-dream dream? What is this?”
“Technically, we’re inside your head,” she shrugged, and leaned against a transparent wall. “But that’s not what you really wanted to know, right?”
I tilted my head, trying my best to keep up with her thoughts, and finding myself coming up empty. It would be ridiculous of me to ask her how she and Vanille had been, seeing how they were frozen in the crystal chassis. But aside from that, I couldn’t think of other reasons which would involve the Pulsian women in my head. “Um… I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean.”
Fang chuckled, shaking her head at my dense mind. “If I can be inside of your head, wouldn’t I know what – or rather who – is on your mind?”
She grinned her confirmation, and I felt myself tensing. She waved her hand at me in dismissal. “Relax, she’s fine. She wasn’t when we found her, though.”
“Found her?” I asked, not sure if I wanted to know the answer. “Tell me, Fang.”
She smiled, and with a wave of her hand, we were suddenly sitting in Light’s living room, and we each had a bottle of beer. I didn’t know how she did it, but man, was I grateful. She waited until I had a couple of gulps of the bottle before she spoke, diving straight into the subject. “Light suffered severe injuries from the attack, both physical and mental.” She paused, taking a sip to organize her thoughts, before she continued, “She’s a strong woman, don’t get me wrong, but no one could really come out of an attack like what she went through unscathed. By the time we found her, she had nearly given up all of her will to live. She was in a darkness of the mind that, if left untreated, she would eventually be absorbed and we would’ve never gotten her back.”
My grip on the bottle tightened to the point that I could feel the cool glass groan as it neared its breaking point, and I bit my lower lip to prevent me from speaking. Fang studied me carefully to judge whether I was ready for her to proceed, and when I nodded, she resumed. “We pulled Light out of the darkness, and took her to the crystal chassis with us. The best way for me to explain this is this – the wounds in her psyche would reflect in her soul like a physical wound, and whenever that happened, Vanille was there to heal it, you catch my drift?” When I nodded, Fang carried on, “The thing is, we had to let Light internalize her thoughts, which often triggered her wounds to surface, and heal them again. One heal wasn’t gonna do anything, even for someone as strong as her.”
I acquiesced, and the woman gave me silence as I processed the information. The image of Light suffering her injuries over and over again, even though Fang and Vanille were there to give her immediate and direct treatment, made me sick to my stomach. I understood that her mental injuries would be recurring, and the way our friends had been healing her was probably one of the best things that could happen under the circumstances. That didn’t mean I wasn’t pained about it, however. My eyes stung, but I resisted the moisture as I stared at the now-empty bottle. Fang sighed, and reached over, patting me on the shoulder in comfort and understanding.
“I wouldn’t lie to you and say it was an easy process; it’s not. She’s making progress,” Fang remarked softly, “but she will never be the same or get over it. She might still need to see a therapist, Vanille said, but hopefully our method was able to help in ways that normal psychologists cannot.”
“I’ll take her,” I promised, already thinking about a couple of doctors that had come up during my research. “And thank you, really. Tell Vanille I said ‘thanks’, too.”
Fang smiled, “Will do, and I know you will take good care of her. But first,” she got up and stretched, her arms over her head as she cracked her spine. It felt good to see the Pulsian woman that had assumed the role of our big sister soon after we began our adventures together, even when she was without her favorite lance. She was intimidating and a formidable force, and I was happy that she prevailed as Light’s protector when she was needed most. Fang turned to look at me sharply, daring me to cross her, though I valued my life and my testicles too much to do so. “Go tend to your business first, and don’t you dare think about postponing.” When I swallowed in nervousness, she grinned, “She’ll be here and she’ll take care of herself. And knowing her, she’ll wait for you too.”
I smiled, the first in a long time, and Fang waved as she turned to go. I watched Fang’s departing form as the mist thickened around me, and this time, I only sat back and relaxed, feeling relieved knowing that Light was in the good hands of our friends.
I sat on the ledge, dangling my feet in mid-air, not caring about the deep fall of at least a thousand feet below. The sun was setting, which I was told was the only phenomenon that had a connection to the outside world. I found myself addicted to the view of the sky from this altitude.
Sighing, I pulled a leg up to my chest, and hugged my knee tightly, resting my chin on top of it. I felt so tired, yet I was not sleepy. I had been in this state of mind for the last several days, and not because of the frequent healings and mental breakdowns I’d had thus far. It was pathetic how accustomed I was to the hysteria that left me a wreck, a sign of weakness that I detested. There could be only one – no – two people that could make me this tired, and unfortunately they now stood opposite each other on the scale of my mind. It used to be so easy: that as long as Serah and Snow were happily wed, my life was complete and content, even when my apartment often felt empty and lonely. My thoughts drifted back to Snow’s pleading words, the ones that I had been replaying in my mind, trying to guess the parts that I couldn’t hear. What did he want to prove? He had already proven himself so well throughout our battles to the point of making me fall in love with him, what more could he possibly prove to me? Didn’t he know that he was perfect the way he was, and I wanted nothing but him in his natural beauty; cockiness, recklessness and all?
But what about my precious little sister, who always looked at him with adoration?
I sighed, lowering my head and closed my eyes away from the sun. It was so exhausting, this desire, this love. But to love him was to betray the other love of my life, the one I vowed to my mother on her deathbed that I would care for. I’ve sacrificed everything for her – my childhood, my dreams, my aspirations, so she could have everything she wanted. A caring husband, a family, and if she wanted, she could go back to school for her teaching career. I would see to it that she lived a happy, normal life regardless of what I had to do.
And now I’m in love with her husband, who returns my feelings.
I wanted to accept him, especially after knowing that he felt the same. But I’m also afraid to love, to see what that unknown path would take. Would she forgive us? Maybe – she was always so forgiving, so kind. But would I? Could I live with myself, if he asked?
A nestling sound behind me, and I turned my head enough to see the small, white kitten that enjoyed following me since I woke up in the chassis emerge amidst the all flora. Its ears twitched as it looked at me curiously, as if asking me why I was sitting so close to the ledge. When I managed a weak smile, it mewled and came to me, pawing at my bare arm with its clawless foot. If I had been wearing my uniform, I have a feeling that it would enjoy playing with and shredding my cape to pieces. I picked her up and held her close to my chest, nuzzling the soft fur as she twisted until she found a comfortable position. I scratched her chin, and smiled when she purred softly.
Paradise. With no worries of love, no thoughts of betrayal, and no decisions to make. Just peace. Tranquility. Maybe to just—
“Beautiful place, this is, ain’t it?” Vanille’s voice interrupted my dark thoughts abruptly, and I looked up just as she flopped herself next to me in her constant chipper manner, dangling her legs as she watched the sunset with me. I gave her a small smile as acknowledgement, and the kitten in my lap mewled its. We sat in silence as the sun slowly went down beneath the horizon, and the moon began to rise. Another full moon, it seemed.
“This place is such a wonderful place, right?” she spoke again, and smiled as I turned to look at her. She plucked a flower by her; a large, rose-looking one without the thorns. “An entire world made by the wills of its inhabitants, where you can change things whenever you want and it will obey you.” She plucked one of the red petals off, and stared at it as she held it high. “You can have reds, blues, and purples today, and yellows, oranges, and even greens tomorrow. Everything could be changed, the only limit is your imagination.”
I stared at her in confusion, not comprehending where Vanille was taking this conversation. So I waited as she continued, her eyes focused only on the scenery before her. “You know, the thing about this place is that it’s absolutely fascinating to stay if you have no regrets. But,” she turned to look at me earnestly, “If you do, then soon these changes won’t matter anymore. All the beauty, the creativity, the serenity… It would fade into background, and all you’d have left was your remorse.”
She took a deep breath, and stretched her arms forward, straightening her back until we both heard the satisfactory crack of her spine. “Have I ever told you about our lives in Oerba?” she asked.
“You’ve mentioned it briefly,” I whispered, mildly surprised by how mature Vanille appeared now as opposed to her usual little girl behavior. It made sense, seeing as how, technically, she was hundreds of years older.
She chuckled, and sighed as she played with the flower petals in her hand. “I was sixteen when the High Priests of fal’Cie came to Oerba. They sent High Priests all over, to all the towns in Pulse to study potential children, and we were told they were here to give us blessing. So I went about my daily life as usual, caring only about school, boys, make-up, clothes… you know, the usual.”
I shrugged, and she giggled at that, knowing that I wouldn’t know what a normal sixteen-year-old cared about. By the time I was finally about to take a breath from my daily work in the Corps, Serah was talking about marriage with Snow. And my only concern when I was sixteen was trying to master gunblade and beat the Corps record for disassembling and reassembling the weapon. “So when they chose me and Fang, there wasn’t anything I could do. I didn’t have anything accomplished in my life, and my dreams were forever shattered.”
“It’s okay,” she smiled at me, and put her head on my shoulder as she continued to play with the flower, plucking the petals off slowly. “I discovered this world within the crystal chassis soon after I was sealed up, and at first it was fun, you know? I made different worlds, different sceneries, different weather… until I was finally bored. So I began watching my family. My mommy cried every day and night since I was sealed, even though the Priests said we were sacrificing ourselves for our planet. You know how that goes.”
“Un,” I nodded. Regardless of the planet, propaganda and brainwashing were all the same, especially done in the name of war or fal’Cie.
“She eventually stopped crying, when she was pregnant with my little sister,” I looked at her in surprise, since she never mentioned a sibling in the past. “Her name was Vjera, and she was the cutest little baby I’ve ever seen! Her eyes were so round and large, and she had the most adorable smile. I loved watching her, and I saw her first step, heard her first word, and went with her to school on her first day. It made time more pleasant and go faster.”
Vanille chuckled bitterly, tossing the stem of the now petal-less flower away and plucked another one. “My mom told Vjera all about me when she was little, until she ran out of story when Vjera was my age. She always told her to remember me, used to take her to the fal’Cie shrine to see me, until Vjera grew up and got tired of paying homage to a sister she never knew. She met a nice man, fell in love, and got married. Then she had her own kids, and grandkids. And when she died, nobody talked about me anymore. No one remembered. It was as if we never existed beyond the crystal chassis.
“It was then that none of this mattered,” Vanille concluded, poking the chin of the sleeping kitten on my lap.
I grabbed Vanille’s hand, crushing it in my grip. “We won’t forget you. Ever. We’ll find a way to free you, I promise.”
Vanille smiled gently, and patted my hand. “It’s okay, really!” she chirped, “The time we spent with you, Snow, Hope, and Sazh was memorable and fun! And we felt we finally made our mark in the world, that we made a difference. Don’t worry about us; we have no regrets.”
The younger woman shook her head to silence me, and we sat, her hand never leaving mine. The moon was high in the sky, her silver light casting a sheer brilliance over the field. The kitten on my lap stirred, looking at me with an adoring gaze before she turned to Vanille, mewling softly. The younger Pulsian chuckled, and rose, pulling me up with her as we stood close to the edge of the cliff. The height didn’t scare me, but the bittersweet sadness in Vanille’s eyes was distressing. She took my hands into hers, and looked up at me. “Well, it was great to see you, Lightning. But it’s time for you to go home.”
“… …” I stared at the girl incredulously before noticing the kitten that I should have dropped when I stood was perching in mid-air between my extended arms. A warm, white light began to emit from its small body, soon enveloping me like a bubble. I looked around in awe as I began to levitate off the ground, only my hands remained clutched by Vanille as I looked down at her.
“Be safe, Light,” she said, tiptoeing to plant a kiss on my cheek. “And don’t leave any regrets in your life. You have worked too hard not to deserve some happiness.”
With that, she let go of my hand, and I began to float upwards in the bubble. My eyes widened as Fang emerged from between the flora, putting an arm around the smaller shoulder as she smiled, doing a mock Corps salute at me while Vanille waved with both her hands. Words weren’t exchanged as blinding light finally took away my senses, yet I knew they understood my promises to them.
Live for yourself, Light. Don’t ever give up on things you’ll later regret.
The first thing I felt was the filtered air of the Academy, and the silence. I attempted to open my eyes, but my lids simply refused, so I relaxed in what I’m sure was my bed, figuring another day spent sleeping in wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
My ears picked up some sound beyond my closed door, and instead of panicking, I felt myself relieved at the thought of the blonde moving around in my apartment. The fact that I was not skittish of having someone invading my personal space was a huge improvement, if I did say so myself. Slipping deeper into an oncoming slumber, I chuckled to myself mentally that it would be hard for me to get rid of the man who had so adamantly entered my life and refused to leave.
The sound of door knob turning was the only preamble before he walked into the room directly to my bedside, and sat himself down on his chair. I felt his hand tugging the comforter up to cover my shoulders, and his palm was on my face, caressing. His thumb brushed under my eyes, and if my body were responsive, I would be blushing right now from the intense gaze I felt from him. As such, I convinced myself to simply enjoy his touch and attention, finally allowing myself the luxury of doing so.
“Light…” he started, his voice dark and soft. Strained. Why? “Fang said you should be coming back soon, and I wanted to wait, but the court wasn’t so forgiving. Besides, I doubt I could if I see you awake, whether because you’re gonna kick my ass from here to New Bodhum or because I couldn’t bear leaving you. So… I guess this is for the best.
“I’m taking the two o’ clock airship tonight to Cocoon. Serah and my divorce preliminary is in the morning. Nida said that, optimistically, we can be back in a week, but I doubt that will be the case,” he said, bringing my fingers up to his lips. “Nida had some rules that I have to obey, which included no contact with you for the duration of the proceedings. No phone calls or e-mails, and no visits. It sucks, but he said Serah or her lawyer would try to say that you are the reason why I’m divorcing her, and that’s the last thing that I want to see happening. I’ll keep Hope and Sazh updated, however.
“The only person who knows about Mah’habara is Hope. Nobody else knows. He’ll take care of you when I’m gone, so if you need anything you go to him, alright?” He paused, and even if I had full control of my body, I dared not open my eyes, afraid to let him see the tears in them. Never had I thought such caring words would be directed towards me, especially not from the person that I had dreamed about for the last three years. The emotion in his voice pierced through me, making my heart constrict in loving pain. I knew I was lost in that moment, that it would be impossible to refuse him any longer.
He sighed, and didn’t speak for a while, as if he needed time to organize his thoughts. I felt my hand lowered gently onto the bed, then heard some metal tingling before my head was raised off the pillow. A soft click followed and I felt the warm weight of something draped on my chest, next to my thunderbolt necklace. “I never told anyone about this necklace, really, and I don’t know why… heh,” he chuckled softly. “This was the only thing I had on me when the Matron at the orphanage found me. I never let it out of my sight. So…”
He pressed his forehead to mine, his words were whispers on my lips. “Wait for me, Light. I will return. And when I come back, I have something I want to tell you. So, please, Light… Be strong, like I know you always will, and trust me. Trust me, Light.”
I already do, with my life and my heart, you idiot.
With great reluctance, he pulled away from me, and his footsteps receded before I heard the swoosh of my apartment door closing. Feeling a tear escape at last, I promised myself and Snow that this would be my last showing of weakness.
Blocks of sunshine snuck through my curtains, causing me to wince as I woke with irritation. I opened my eyes slowly, taking a moment to reacquaint myself with my room before I sat up. Looking around in curiosity, I noticed the additional medical equipment strewn around in addition to his chair, and an added side table that served as his work station. While not immaculately clean, the room was definitely tidied, much to my surprise. I swung my legs off the bed with hesitation, testing my own strength before I stood, glancing at the digital clock by the bed. Just past six a.m.
I headed to my en suite bathroom, mildly wondering why I wasn’t caked in soil and didn’t smell like a grat. A quick glance at my bathroom gave me the answers I sought, and I knew I was blushing furiously when I saw a small, wooden stool in the bathtub and a makeshift salon chair pushed to the side. A large plastic bowl with a well-used bath sponge rested near the tub, and if Snow was here I would probably deck him thrice before letting him up. The thought of him seeing and touching my body intimately was so confounding that I sat down on the toilet, and buried my face in my hands as I tried to will the heat on my face to subside.
I warred with my illogical side of wanting to hunt down the man and cut him into pieces, and my logical voice telling me that he did it for legitimate and caring reasons, knowing that I hated grime and being bedridden for three months was not good for one’s personal hygiene. It was a blessing in disguise that he must be in Cocoon to finish his divorce proceedings before I could see him again, so I wouldn’t kill him on sight and regret it later.
The thought of him divorcing Serah halted any rose-colored thoughts I had of Snow, as I got up from my seat and sighed heavily. After removing the little stool and turning on the water, I sat on the rim of the clawfooted tub and watched steam rise. Vanille’s voice still rang in my ears, that I need to start living for myself and find my own happiness, and not live in regret. Maker knows how I’ve tried, as opportunities of interested men weren’t scarce, even as a Commander of the Academy Guardians. There were a couple of high-ranking officers and politicians in Neo-Sanctum that had asked me to dinner or offered a ride back to the Academy, yet I never took them up on their offers. One had tried to kiss me forcefully, and he ended up in the hospital for a week. There was always something wrong with them – their eyes didn’t light up the right way, too polite, too arrogant… Until I had to be honest with myself that I was simply looking for a replacement of Snow, and no one else could ever fit the role. It was so natural with the arrogant blonde, almost as if he sauntered into my heart with his usual cockiness, and that was the end of it.
Maybe… Maybe Serah would understand. Maybe she’ll forgive me. I wouldn’t stop trying until she did, I know. I just hope she wouldn’t stay mad at me for too long. She was always so loving and caring, surely she would forgive us, I hope? I just hope Snow would be gentle when he talked to her….
Turning off the tap, I tested the water for temperature and idly threw in whatever bottle of bath salt was next to the tub, pausing only when the scent of roses filled the bathroom. Rolling my eyes at Snow being the hopeless romantic, I took off my pajamas and lowered myself into the water. Sighing in contentment, I allowed myself to let go of my worries for Serah and enjoy the simple things in life, such as a hot, soothing bath in the morning without the worry of hurrying off to work.
I must have dozed off again – how could one feel so sleepy after three months of coma? – when I woke to the sound of someone prattling about in my living room. Getting up from the tub, I dried myself slowly and put on a plush bathrobe, the snuggling feel of the material reminded me of the numerous animals that always stayed with me when I was with the Pulsian women. I exited my room, and leaned against the wall leading to the living room and kitchen, watching in silent curiosity as Hope milled about. I relished the savory scent of coffee in the air. Meanwhile the young man called as he rummaged my shockingly stocked fridge, “Snow? I thought you wanted to take last night’s airship? I can make some breakfast for you if you want, and you can catch the 9 o’ clock one.”
My eyes turned to the omelette and toast set on the table for one person, and smiled at the mix-matched chairs surrounding my dining table, now that one had been outfitted into a salon chair and another branded and settled in my room. The young Director must have heard me move about in the bedroom to think that it was Snow.
“Snow?” Hope asked, slightly impatient, perhaps from the lack of response he received. He straightened, turned, and promptly dropped the bottle of ketchup in his hand. I gave the stunned man a small, tight smile; the look on his face was priceless.
“Lightning…” he whispered, and took a step towards me, from which I couldn’t help but flinch. My reaction stopped Hope mid-step, and hurt flashed in his eyes before he retreated back into the kitchen to put some distance between us. “Light…”
‘I’m sorry,’ I said, and both he and I widened our eyes when nothing came out. I reached up to touch my throat gingerly, then I looked back at Hope, who gripped the kitchen counter so tight that his knuckles had turned white, but thankfully he didn’t take a step closer. ‘Hope?’
“Your voice… Light…” Hope said, and he shook his head. “No, your vocal cords weren’t hurt. You shouldn’t have any problem talking…”
Relief washed over me as I nodded, and I signaled with my hands as I spoke slowly to let the younger man read my lips as best he could. ‘It’s okay, I’ll be fine.’
My reassurance seemed to have irritated the Director, as he glared at me, his lips pursed into a thin line. “You always say that, Lightning, but you’re not okay until you’ve been checked out. Since you weren’t injured, your loss of voice may be a psychological effect, and you should go see Dr. Sid right away for an evaluation and treatment.”
I shook my head, not wanting to visit the even-tempered psychologist the Academy retained on staff. ‘I’m fine,’ I said again, this time slightly annoyed. ‘Don’t worry, this is temporary. I’m fine, really.’
‘I’m fine,’ I said with resolution as I walked to the table, pulling the omelette towards me. The heated glare that Hope directed at the top of my head was clearly felt as I dug into the still-hot omelette, taking small bites just in case my stomach disagreed with me. I was on my fifth bite when he let out an insufferable sigh, and stomped back to the kitchen. I felt a small smile of victory curl up my lips as I heard the sizzling of another omelette in the making.
Halfway through the omelet, I flinched again when Hope purposely dropped his plate across from me with a clank, and the boy sat down with a humph. I kept my head down and my eyes focused on the food with his nearness. The mantra of ‘he’s Hope, he won’t hurt me’ continued to ring in my head as I tightened my grip on the fork. I felt my breath quickened in panic, and deliberately took three deep breaths before I looked up at the silver-haired youth, now having the look of both regret and petulance on his face as he watched me carefully, ready to bolt from his seat at any time. I managed a weak smile as I put down the fork, pushing the plate slightly away and gripped my right wrist with my left hand in an attempt to stop the trembling. ‘I’m fine,’ I said again, ‘I just need some time.’
“Bullshit,” Hope informed me of his opinion, before he began eating, keeping one eye on me at all times to make sure I didn’t hyperventilate. Taking several frustrated big bites, Hope finally quelled his anger as he looked up, taking a swig of his coffee to wash down the rice and egg. “You just missed Snow. He went back to Cocoon to take care of some unfinished business, and he’ll return as soon as he’s finished.”
I nodded, not bothering to let Hope in on the knowledge that I already heard it from the blonde himself. When I didn’t respond, Hope continued to study me until he sighed, rubbing his temple to soothe his upcoming headache. “Listen, Light,” the younger man started, “you need to see Dr. Sid. You’re the one who insisted on physical and mental examinations and clearance for any Guardian who went through traumatic incidents, so you have to listen to your own advice. You can’t pretend you’re fine and go on about daily life like this.”
I shook my head again, not even bothering to speak the sentence I’ve repeated multiple times in the short span since I woke. Hope narrowed his eyes as he glared at me, and I met his stare with a small smile. His piercing gaze tried to seek any information to help him determine if I truly was okay or not, or maybe just find a way to break me to eventually agree to his terms. I kept my expression neutral, only the twitches of my hands and my slightly quickened breathing showing my true feelings. It wasn’t as if I was afraid of Hope – never – but I was still having some trouble with any another man that’s not Snow being near me. With time, I hope that phobia will subside, but at this moment I allowed myself to show my weakness, just until I become more accustomed to the living world again.
The Director eventually huffed, averting his eyes and ending the staring match. “Fine,” he growled. “But I expect you to report to Infirmary Room B tomorrow at 0900 sharp for a physical exam. Nurse Terra and I will examine you,” he said, getting up to toss his half-eaten breakfast in the trash, letting me know how he felt about the situation clearly by throwing the plate and nearly breaking it in the sink. More stomped than walked, he grabbed his jacket from the chair and hissed at me, “And until Dr. Sid signs off on your psych eval, you’re chained to your office and on light duty. You got me, Commander?!”
‘Yes Sir,’ I smiled at him, and when he hmphed, I added, ‘Thank you, Hope.’
I stayed in my seat when he left, and eyed the now-cooled omelette warily before clearing the table, considering it a small victory to have managed half of it without any protest from my stomach. Putting the dishes into the dishwasher, I surveyed the normal-looking kitchen, noting the subtle differences that continued to remind me of the blonde. New china sets, added coffee and espresso combo machine, a set of ceramic salt and pepper grinders, a spiral-bound paper notebook.
I lifted an eyebrow when my eyes fell on the paper notebook, a rare find nowadays with the popular tablets, though one could still find them in specialty shops. Picking up the well-worn book, I opened it to find the print more sophisticated and legible than I had anticipated. Flipping through the pages, I felt the mild hysteria of having Hope so close begin to subside, and my heart fluttered as I tried to control the feeling of tears stinging my eyes, refusing to let them fall and ruin the pages. Carefully written in two colors, the pages were covered in different recipes, with black ink for the ingredients and steps and the blue notes in the margins for the blonde’s observations and feelings. Scribbles on how certain dishes were said to be useful for rebuilding bones, and others for a weakened body to regain strength and energy. There were notes about certain substitutions of ingredients, the ones I usually didn’t like were exchanged with the ingredients I enjoyed. Spots on the page told the tale of the author perhaps dripping oil or dropping food during his experiment, and angry scratches about how disgusting a teaspoon of forgotten salt could make a dish, followed by large, bolded letters that were drawn on the recipe demanding he never forget it again.
Holding the notebook close to my chest, I closed my eyes tightly as I let emotions wash over me. I could almost picture Snow trying to cook, the man never known to pick up a spatula, scowling at the pot when the food failed or fist-pumping in excitement when it turned out delicious. The knowledge that he was willing to slave over a stove just for me made each breath tighten my heart even more, until it nearly burst in the painful love I have for him. I may have missed him by mere hours, but Maker, I miss him so much.
I walked slowly towards the room opposite mine – my only guest room – and relished in his aftershave when I walked in. Guest room no more, the disaster within proof of his stay, with stacks of paper books on the nightstand and on the floor by the bed, and another notebook similar to the one I clutched to my chest now resting on the bed, next to the lighter bomber jacket he got when he came to Pulse. Weather decidedly hotter than Cocoon, he made the quick decision of leaving his trenchcoat in his closet unless going to cooler places like Mah’habara, preferring the lighter bomber jacket as part of his daily outfit. I sat down slowly next to the jacket, my fingers grazing over its creases, longing for any warmth that might have been left behind. Picking up the second notebook, I opened it slowly, the now-familiar penmanship covered the pages with his thoughts and notes. Notes on emotional support loved ones should give after a traumatic event, post-traumatic stress disorder and its symptoms, the psychological aftermath of women after a gangrape, and warning signs of suicidal thoughts and severe depression were written down, highlighted, and marked on the margin what he needed to do based on his understanding of me. There were wrinkled pages that were slightly torn from its spiral, as if he had gripped the page so hard that he nearly tore it off, yet eventually decided to keep and attempted to smooth out.
If I ever questioned his feelings for me I wouldn’t – no – couldn’t anymore; not after reading these. To doubt his love would be sacrilege.
Closing the book, I held them both in my arms as I laid myself on the jacket. Burying my face in leather, I drifted off to sleep again, hoping I could dream of him with his scent surrounding me.
— To Be Continued
Author’s Note: Finally! This chapter had been through so much that it nearly killed my creative brain cells all together. It wasn’t so much the writing was difficult, but as some may have know from checking my website (and thank you for doing that! It makes me happy that someone is actually visiting my little web, heehee) my beta Espaa’s computer died in last month. It took nearly three weeks for her to get a new computer, and another week on editing this fic. Which resulted in an update-less June. Thus is life.
Thank you for all the wonderful reviews! I was a little worried for the previous chapter, but all the sweet and encouraging comments kept me going. It always warms my heart when I receive e-mail notification of another review, and brings a smile to my face. So thank you!
The next chapter is done and in beta, but chapter 6 is still eluding me. I have some thoughts but those are jumbled, so I will resume my monthly update to give myself some time to form a good chapter 6. Seems my Light and Snow muse are exhausted from the drama so far, so they’re getting a little rest. We’ll let them… to a point. Then it’s back in the game we go. ^_~
See you next chapter! If you can, please check my website for any updates! ^^ (link in profile~)