Characters: Snow & Fang, Light, Hope
Warnings: Includes story spoilers up to and including the events of the Fifth Ark.
Summary: Fighting with Fang is like fighting at the centre of the storm. A hero's scattered thoughts.
Author's Note: Written for Zerrat over on ff_land for their 2012 Secret Santa gift exchange.
In the Wake of the Storm
First time Snow laid eyes on her, he knew right away what to make of Fang, and maybe that's where all the trouble started. He didn't know much else about her just then, let alone her name, but he knew, down to his bones knew, that he'd stumbled across the path of someone he didn't want to be messing with.
Now, first impressions are hard to forget, harder yet if they leave a nasty bruise, and so it's with welt-coloured glasses that he looks back and thinks that this unlikely, grudging partnership is most likely to be what's going to get him killed.
Funny thing, he always thought that honour would go to, well, him. Or maybe to Lightning, if she ever gets her way.
It's tough, really, being this good with people....
The first few days after Bresha only serve to show him how wrong he's been about Fang – and how right he's been, as well. For what it's worth, she seems to have taken a shining to him, with all the grace and delicacy of a hammer. Another thing he – and his skull – have learned fast.
A woman after his own heart. There's been a lot to learn from her, in fact, and not all of it's been good.
On his first night, Fang comes to the cell where they keep him. He's pacing, angry, and all he wants is to think of Serah, to find the sweetest memories of their short time together and wrap them around himself until he can't see or hear anything else but her, and yet every time he closes his eyes, there's nothing but crystalline blue. All her bright facets shine so painfully clear, and it's all he knows.
Fang interrupts his brooding, spinning a chair round on one leg to sit astride the back of it. Says she's got a story for him, and at once she begins, weaving her tale of Pulse and fal'Cie and Serah. All the while, she's shrugging her shoulders and shaking her head, so detached and free of guilt that before the end he falls to his knees and he rages inside, shouts and curses and cries. The dark metal belly of the Cavalry cruiser rings with the echoes of his frustration and his pain – and it doesn't make a lick of difference.
Smug, she smiles and offers him a hand to rise. "All finished, then?"
What other choice does he have but to take that hand?
As he stands, he pulls the bandana off his head, and with shaking fingers unties the knot. Without much to-do, he wraps it twice around his forearm to conceal his brand. When he looks up, Fang is glaring at him, and furious as he is with her, he withers a little under her hard green eyes.
"No," she says, and the tone she gives him brooks no argument. "Not when you're with me."
She reaches over and puts a hand on his arm, and he's surprised by the strength in her grip. She pulls at the bandana to reveal the black mark on his skin, still so alien a sight. One more symbol of his devotion to his beloved, for all the useless silver hanging around his neck.
"You ashamed of this?" Fang asks him, jabbing at his brand with her thumb. "You let me know right now if this is gonna be a problem."
"This must be your first visit to Cocoon," he says drily, raising his hands palms up in surrender.
"This here," she says, jabbing him once more before letting him go, "this is your only ticket to salvation. You wanna see your girl again?"
He grunts, unable to manage a single word. His teeth are clenched too tight as he watches Fang closely. There's no pity in her face, no anger, or shame, only honesty and cold resolution.
"You want my advice? Stop sulking and complete your Focus. Worry about yourself while you can still fight. You don't need to worry about the girl anymore."
Silence follows, and the words sink in slowly, a lonely weight to bear down on his soul. He doesn't have to worry about Serah now. She's in stasis; she's safe. She'll awaken – someday.
"The world ain't gonna help you with your Focus," she says, and tosses the bandana back to him. "That's a fight you gotta face on your own. Now, put that damn thing back on before your hair blinds me." She shakes her head, and if he thinks he sees a trace of a smile as she walks from his cell, it's probably only his imagination.
The next day, his training begins.
Fighting with Fang is like fighting at the centre of the storm.
This revelation isn't one that hits him right away. Not on the Lindblum, not when the cuffs come off and she starts driving toward him, a whirlwind of double-bladed terror. Her muscles are tight and controlled, each motion measured, it seems, to what he can handle and fight against, and the moment he finds his footing and his confidence, that's when she starts pushing him, and the sweat at his temples freezes with his focus.
The power of the l'Cie is one that he struggles to maintain. He fights too hard and his stamina drains to nothing. Forget learning to control it, he's on his knees with the burden of it, panting hard, and she's still on him, goading him, shaming him.
For her, it's as easy as breathing.
And so he watches her, follows her, listens. The engines of the ship hum so loud he can hardly hear his own thoughts, and so he doesn't think, and moves on instinct, and when instinct fails him, he does as she does, and learns.
And soon he begins to see the storm, but he will not be at the mercy of it. So he plants his feet and braces his arms, and though the winds rise and the rain drives against him, he will not be moved.
There's a softness that comes into Fang's eyes sometimes, one he knows too well. It reminds him of Light, that same gentle glint that comes and goes so quick when she talks about her sister. It's the only time he's able to put the two in the same head-space. The world just doesn't seem big enough for Fang and Light to stand side by side.
It's talk of the girl that brings that softness to Fang's otherwise sharp eyes and stills that quick and clever tongue. He doesn't quite know what to make of it, and he likes his fingers too much to come right out and ask.
But searching for the girl only turns up Light and the poor kid who'd been dragged into their mess, so just as soon as Snow figures out how to reconcile the thoughts of Fang and Lightning in his head, he's faced with the two of them in the flesh, in a polished city courtyard, while all the might of the Sanctum bears down upon them and the screens flash the spectacle of their demise to the world.
For a while, everything he knows narrows down to a blur of blades and long hair and arcs of glittering ice.
And then – and then Light is gone and he's with the kid, alone, and his mouth runs without his mind. There is chaos and smoke, and the crowds of angry civilians seethe and swell as the tide, and his mouth –
Retribution comes swift for him, and cruel as it is, it doesn't kill him – the kid doesn't –
Everything dims, fades, contracts to nothing but red, and his ears are filled with the kid's last scream.
He has been brought low, and he has risen up again.
Still, he fights.
He doesn't know why he still pushes on, watching Lightning's back, keeping an eye on Hope – both when he can spare them, sleep be damned. There's a long sleep waiting for him at the end of this road, somewhere in the hazy future that's all coloured deepest blue. It's the warm promise of home, somewhere in the distance.
He fights because there is no other choice open to him. He fights for Cocoon, for her innocence and her ignorance, for all those fear-twisted faces that don't know any better but to hate him. He fights for himself, for all the good he knows he can still do in the world. He fights for Serah, peaceful in her crystal embrace.
He knows now, he was not chosen. He laid himself down as an offering, and the fal'Cie took him, and burned its curse into his flesh. It took the others, marked them all in kind, chased their dreams with seeds of destruction.
And so he fights for the others, because saving the world means saving them, too.
When they storm the Palamecia, he's not sure who he's fighting for, but he's got the why tucked safe away, that one eternal tear is what keeps him going.
He will not let that slip away.
Fang is beginning to slip away.
She would take on Cocoon alone. He wonders if she'd do it with two hands bared, destroy the world just for the sake of one friendship. Then he sees her brand, glowing soft white in the gloom of the buried Pulse ruin, and the only answer he can find makes him shudder.
He doesn't see it until after, the subtle moments that skip along behind them like trailing strings, all those times when he should have noticed but didn't, and there's no one to blame but himself. Too preoccupied with his own demons, all his thoughts funnelled down to sorrow and despair.
Raines has shaken her, that much is true, but they're all shaken, but more than that they're not broken, and so they fight on, and fight on, and on.
The Ark tests them all, Fang most of all, he sees that now. She's a blaze across the battlefield, wild and brutal, a fury glorious to behold. But then the last enemy falls, and she levels him with that cold, distant gaze, and he's left with no ground to stand on that she hasn't already put behind her.
What is strength when you stand alone? What is courage when there is no one to share your fear? She takes nothing from the others, least of all from him, and he's so stuck in his wallowing that he can't see she's backing off. The shining she'd once taken to him slowly dies away.
When finally she turns her back to them, he knows in that instant that once more he's failed a task he hadn't known belonged to him. She turns her back to him and to Light and their Focus, and it's in the moment of her anger that the beast comes to take her.
It comes for her and she strikes it down to claim it as her own. Just as he had, the day he met her.
So maybe there's hope yet.