Warning: Things get a little perilous for our heroines so this chapter is quite dark and violent.
Final Fantasy XIII series: Fang x Lightning
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Square Enix and I'm not Square Enix.
The sound of the closing door awoke Fang with a start.
Bolting upright and still confused by sleep, she looked around the dark room. It was rare for her to fall asleep on the couch (she always preferred her comfy bed) so it took her a while to realise she must have fallen asleep in the living room and a little while longer to realise what had woken her up. (The proud huntress added to herself that falling asleep on the sofa had absolutely nothing to do with trying to avoid disturbing the grumpy feline now occupying her bed. Nope, nope, nope, not a Etro damn thing).
Yawning she swung her legs around into a sitting position. "Vanille?" Fang called, thinking the closing door had been her sister returning home. She turned on the lamp and checked the time. It seemed odd that Vanille would come back from Hope's house so late at night. "If that dewy-eyed charmer has done something upset her, I'm gonna kick his little behind," she muttered, figuring that the only reason Vanille would return home so early would be a lover's tiff.
Concerned that her little sister might be upset, she called for Vanille again and gaining no reply stood and began searching the house for her. But Vanille wasn't in her bedroom or the bathroom. Walking past her own bedroom door she realised that the door she had closed after Vanille had left, was now slightly ajar and surmised that the vet must have thought Fang would be in her bedroom and had gone there looking for comfort from the brunette. But poking her head inside she couldn't see the redhead or for that matter, the cat she had left sleeping on her bed. Turning on the light she stepped inside and made a noise, a mix of surprise and revulsion, as her bare feet met the cat fur covering her carpet. The feeling of cat hair between her toes and the soles of her feet felt absolutely disgusting. I read some cats shed their fur but this is ridiculous, the inexperienced cat owner said to herself as she hopped on alternate feet, turning each foot to brush away the cat hair.
Stepping over the pile of hair she searched every inch of her bedroom for the furry culprit but couldn't find her. All the other doors in the house were closed when she had begun her search so she walked straight down the stairs and into the open plan living space, but despite scouring every inch of their living room and kitchen the cat was nowhere to be found.
And that's when Fang began to worry.
There was only one possible, though unlikely explanation for the closing front door and the absent cat. She picked up her phone and called Vanille.
"Fang?" The redhead answered with a yawn. "Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"Vanille where are you?" Fang asked hurriedly, ignoring Vanille's question.
"I'm still at Hope's. Why?"
"Did you just come home and get the cat?"
Fang knew it was a stupid question (why would someone even do that in the middle of the night), so she did not appreciate Vanille's snort of laughter.
"No," Vanille sniggered. "I've been here all night."
Fang cursed through her teeth. Just one day with a pet and she had already lost the little bugger. But she realised there was one place left to check.
Hearing the worried curse Vanille wasn't finding it funny anymore. "Fang," she said seriously, "what's going on? You're scaring me."
Fang pulled on her shoes and grabbed a coat while relaying to her sister everything that happened since she had woken up, "...and now I can't find her anywhere," she finished.
Grabbing a torch Fang stepped out of the front door to look for any signs of the cat. The huntress' trained eyes focussed on the few strands of blonde cat hair trailing down from their porch steps to a set of fresh human footprints on their lawn "Just a sec...there's human bare footprints outside," she updated Vanille and followed them to find a set of handprints either side of a strange mass that was sitting on their front lawn. Crouching down she pulled some of it and her eyes widened in horror as she realised what it was that she was holding. "Ah yuck! There's a pile of pink hair on our lawn," Fang yelped, throwing the strands of hair between her fingers as far away from her as possible.
"Like a wig?" Vanille asked.
"No long human hair, roots an' all," Fang groaned in revulsion and scrubbed her tainted hand on her jeans. Vanille was however, more concerned about the cat than her sister's exposure to some gross skanky hair, and began worriedly constructing an imaginative scenario which involved Lightning being kidnapped by gangs high on mind bending drugs that made them pull their hair out.
Keeping her cool, despite Vanille's verbal anxiety in her ear, Fang stood, searched around the hair and found a single set of cat prints heading away in one direction. "No, it looks like Lightning got loose and ran off alone," she told Vanille. She walked beside the trail, following it across their lawn to the sidewalk and then picking it up again on the other side of the road next to the small woodland leading into the city park. "And she's headed into the park."
She stopped at the tree line and frowned thoughtfully at the animal tracks. Standing still she shone her torch-light around the tracks and then away from her then back across to the pile of hair. Fang was perplexed. The clues and patterns didn't make any sense to the experienced huntress. There were the cat's prints leading into the wood but what had happened to the person who had taken Lightning from the house? Where was their trail?
It didn't really matter now, she decided. She didn't have time to get angry about someone breaking into their home and stealing her cat, or stand around trying figure out the mystery of what had transpired after they'd left the house. Lightning's tracks were still fresh, and thanks to the rain this morning, nicely visible on the soft ground even in the poor light cast by the torch. The huntress judged by the timing of the closing door and the probably speed of a cat that if she started following them now, she might be able to catch up with her.
Fang set off in pursuit using her torch to follow Lightning's pad prints through the trees.
"Okay," Vanille said agreeing with Fang's narrated plan, "I'm coming to you with the car."
"No Nille, ya don't need to do that."
"Oh right, so when you find Lightning you're gonna pick her up and carry her all the way home?" Vanille said sceptically.
An image of Fang trying to contain the squirming, angry feline in her arms suddenly entered the brunette's head making her stumble slightly mid-stride. "No," she admitted with a defeated sigh, moving a branch out of her way.
"Well then stop fussing. I'll swing by the house, pick up the carrier and then come and meet you," Fang heard Hope mumbling in the background. "No it's okay Hope, if anyone can find her it's Fang. I'm only going to pick them up," Vanille reassured her worried boyfriend. "Text me to let me know where you are," she told the huntress.
"We have to find her Fang," the vet added seriously. "She hasn't bonded with us long enough to come back and she could get lost or run over."
"I know, I know," Fang said gently, "don't worry I'll find her. See you soon."
Fang closed her phone and shoved it into her coat pocket. She quickly looked around her as she ran. Being in the city park after dark was not safe and the faster she got out of the dark woodland the better. So she concentrated on her hunt, but made sure to regularly refocus onto her surroundings and check for any signs of danger and unsavoury characters.
Finally she pushed through the trees and into the park without incidence and took a moment to breathe a sigh of relief before setting off again. The full moon and cloudless sky meant that the light was much better out from under the trees, and in the relatively open space of the parkland Fang was able to pick up the pace, occasionally slipping on the wet grass as she ran beside the trail. From what Fang could glean from her trail Lightning's tracks only showed a few signs of hesitation where the cat had paused and slightly changed her direction. One thing was for certain, they didn't appear to be the tracks of a frightened or lost animal, Lightning seemed to know exactly where she was going and she was going there fast.
Despite being worried about the cat, Fang was finding the experience kind of exciting - the blood coursing through her veins, her leg muscles aching with the activity, the challenge, the anticipation - Fang had forgotten how much she had missed the hunt. Vanille was right, sitting behind a desk day after day, doing a job she hated was really sucking the life out of her, leaving a gaping hole that gradually filling with apathy and boredom. But at least the proud Yun was pleased to find that she hasn't forgotten any of her tracking skills as she managed to follow the animal in the dark across the entire park and out into the edge of the well-lit clubbing district of the city.
"Damn it!" She cursed turning off her torch. She really wished she had caught up with the cat in the park. Even for a seasoned hunter like herself, tracking on concrete or any hard stony ground was virtually impossible.
Fang stepped back to make way for a large group of loud, giggling ladies to walk by. This end of the city street wasn't particularly busy with people as it was more of a thoroughfare from the city bars to the trendy clubs located further up the street. But there was enough traffic for Fang to predict that any trace of the cat, hair or muddy prints, would probably have been disturbed by revellers using the road to reach the nightclubs.
She was going to need reinforcements. She texted Vanille and the redhead arrived ten minutes later looking as worried Fang when she saw Fang was without a cat.
"I'm sure I was close behind her so she couldn't have gotten far," Fang explained after updating her sister on the situation. She grabbed the spare torch from their car's glove compartment, handing it to the redhead. "Let's split up," she suggested locking the car doors with her set of keys. "You take this side of the road next to the park and I'll take the other."
"Okay," Vanille nodded and immediately set off down the road calling for Lightning as she searched the bushes and trees around the park's edge. Fang crossed to the other side of the road to start her own search shining her torch into the alleys between the expensive cafes and restaurants that lined this side of the street. They had closed hours ago and the street was becoming more deserted as the two women searched for the lost cat. The taxis and late night clubbers passing them by became rarer and rarer until eventually only Fang and Vanille were left on the street.
An hour later the two Pulsians had ended up right back where they had started. "Anything?" Vanille shouted across the road.
Fang shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. She hasn't found a single trace of the cat. "She could be anywhere by now," she said in defeat as Vanille crossed the road to join her, "either that or she's hiding in the network of backstreets nearby."
"Then we will just have to come back during the day to look for her and keep phoning around the rescue centres."
Hands on her hips Fang thoughtfully nibbled her bottom lip while she tried to think if there was anything else they could do to find her tonight. She always hated going home from a hunt empty handed but being worried about her uncaptured prey was a first. "I guess so," she finally agreed when her mind came up blank and emitted a long, deep audible breath.
Vanille linked arms with the glum huntress and began leading her back to their car. "She's micro chipped so I'm sure she'll turn up eventually," Vanille said confidently but Fang wasn't reassured. There was something about thus entire situation that didn't sit right with the brunette and she couldn't quite put her finger on what it was.
They froze as a woman cried out to them from the alley they were walking by. "Did you hear that?" Vanille asked looking up at Fang. Cat forgotten the two women stopped walking and peered into the dark alley.
"Help me please!" the woman cried out to them again between gasping sobs, sounding desperate and terrified.
The city could be a dangerous place and only criminals and idiots wandered its back streets at night. And Fang wanted to help, of course she wanted to help but the alleyway was so dark. She couldn't see anything of what was waiting in there even with her torch, and she was not about to go in there blind and risk Vanille's safety for anyone.
Fang clenched her fists and remained where she was, but another cry for help was enough motivation for the redhead. Fang grabbed her sister's wrist before she could move. "Wait. This isn't Oerba ya know," she said seriously." We should call the police and wait for them to turn up."
"It could be too late by then," Vanille whispered harshly. "We can't just stand here and do nothing."
Vanille matched Fang's stare and the brunette could see by the determined glint in her eyes that there was no use reasoning with her. Someone was in trouble and that meant Vanille was going to help the woman whether Fang was with her or not. Fang groaned. Sometimes her sister could be irritatingly heroic. "Just stay behind me," she ordered moving in front of the shorter woman. Taking her hand she turned on her torch and quickly led Vanille into the narrow passageway.
But the long alleyway was suspiciously empty. Even as she eyes adjusted to the light she couldn't see any woman or any possible attackers. It was just an ordinary alley littered with rubbish and a few large industrial bins from the restaurants either-side. I don't like this, she thought. It was too quiet, too dark and eerily empty. Curiosity she suddenly realised, had brought them half way down the long alley and she was not going to take Vanille any further away from the street. "I don't like this," she repeated aloud beginning to turn back to her sister.
As she turned she suddenly noticed little details that sent her feeling of unease into full blown hair-raising dread. The alley was a dead end, the only exit was behind them, the wall mounted security light was smashed to make the alley dark.
Vanille's eyes widened as a dark shadow appeared behind Fang. She shouted a warning to the huntress but it was already too late.
The hard punch from behind surprised her, striking Fang's cheek and forcing her into the alley wall and making her drop her torch. But this wasn't Fang's first street fight, although shocked she reacted intuitively, immediately lashing out at the general direction of where her foe had stood. But her fist sailed through the air without coming into contact with anything. Instead they suddenly reappeared beside Fang bringing their elbow up towards the huntress's face. This time Fang managed to turn enough to block the jab with her arm. She twisted out of its way, opening their stance intending to follow with a knee to her gut but as she adjusted her balance the attacker was gone.
It was like fighting smoke. Her attacker moved faster than Fang had ever seen. Fang's attacker, who Fang could now see was a small blonde woman, seemed to disappear in one place and reappear in another, always dodging the huntress's attacks and laughing merrily before striking the huntress' face or ribs. For every punch Fang blocked another two would find its target and Fang was becoming more desperate as her vision began to blur with the brutal force of the hits. Breathless and dazed she lost her focus and wildly lashed swung out all around her trying to hit her evasive foe and didn't see the woman appear behind her.
"Get away from her," Vanille yelled while running to Fang's aid, using her torch to hit their attacker's on the head before it could strike her sister. It pitched forward holding its head in agony. Turning towards her, Fang used the momentum and the closing distance to her advantage to finally give it a solid punch to side of her head that sent her attacker sprawling onto the floor.
"FANG!" Vanille screamed as a pair of arms grabbed the younger woman from behind before she could strike the woman again.
Fang looked up from her opponent and her eyes widened in horror saw her worst nightmare realised; a tall blonde man was holding a struggling Vanille captive with a hand tight around her throat and a hand over her mouth.
"No,"' Fang screamed furiously and made to run to her sister but before she could move something hit the back of Fang's skull and she felt herself falling face first onto the pavement.
Everything slowed and stopped.
She had no memory of the strike or the fall and it was only when her senses slowly returned that she put what had happend together. The feeling of the wet, cold ground pressing into her clothes, the metallic taste of blood in her mouth, her throbbing, dizzy head. She heard a clatter of wood beside her and realised the woman must have used something to deliver a blow to the back of her head. Groaning and feeling sluggish Fang slowly rolled onto her back blinking rapidly as she tried to clear her blurred vision.
That sinister laugh trickling through the alleyway again, its joviality a cold contrast to what the assailant was about to do. Fang screamed in pain as the woman stamped on Fang's right shin bone. The fogginess in Fang's brain was replaced by sharp, translucent pain and she rolled onto her side to clutch her damaged leg as her laughing attacker circled the huntress and kicked the stomach hard enough to crack her ribs and silence her cries of agony.
The pain was almost overwhelming. She battled against her body's response to shut down, forcing her heavy eyelids to stay open. Don't pass out. Don't pass out. Don't pass out... Fang repeated in her head trying to focus on her terrified sister, willing herself to stay conscious for Vanille.
"Did I choose well my love?" The woman purred, smoothing down her clothes which had been deshevled by the fight and running a hand through her hair
"Yes Mother," he replied nonchalently, comparatively unemotional and sounding almost bored. "You know how I like mine to be so very sweet."
"And I enjoy breaking the fighters, so no squabbling over the food," she said with a disturbing toothy grin and closed her eyes for a moment as she tasted the dribble of blood from the corner of her own mouth.
Vanille's hand still gripped her torch and its light flicked around the alley as she struggled against the man's grip to light their attackers' shadowy features. The mother and son, as that was how they referred to one another, were well dressed: him in a dark suit and her in a matching dark dress with high heels and a short jacket. It was too dark to differentiate all of her features but there was enough light to show she had too many teeth and her face was just...wrong, and her eyes looked like they were shining. And so was the son's, Fang realised as the male growled lowly and bared his teeth at his mother in a hideous smile revealing rows of small narrow pointed teeth and long oversized fangs. It sent a chill down the brunette's spine that settled uncomfortably in her stomach. It was more than fear it was a primal instinct of a threat and the huntress knew a dangerous predator when she saw one.
"Why don't you feed first," she suggested to her son looking down at the fallen huntress. "I think this one deserves to watch."
Whimpering with wide terrified eyes, Vanille struggled against his hold, clawing at the man's hand that clamped around her throat as he leaned in to nuzzle Vanille's long red hair.
"Don't..." Fang mumbled groggily trying to push herself upright, "don't you touch her you basta—ugh." The woman's shoe pressed into Fang's neck, forcing her back onto the ground until she could hardly breathe let alone make a sound. She clawed at the foot on her neck and the woman's bare leg but the woman seemed unperturbed. Fang was always proud of her extraordinary strength but this woman's was in a league of its own. She was like a lead weight on her throat, immovable and heavy. She leaned down towards Fang. "Keep struggling and you can watch him break her neck instead," she promised Fang. She may be smiling but her large green, glowing eyes were cold just like her son's and hard enough for Fang to know it wasn't just an empty threat. Her eyes darted to her sister's and she tried to tell her sister just with her eyes that everything would be okay. Because if she moved they would kill Vanille outright, but if she waited maybe, just maybe she could find an opening she could use to save her. And so all Fang could do was watch the scene unfolded in front of her. It was the hardest and most horrifying thing she had ever had ever do in her life.
Something strange was happening. Everything slowed again. There was intensity in the air, like a pressure on Fang's chest that began to build and buzz with tense energy as the creature picked Vanille up by her throat. Vanille's nostrils were flared and her eyes were wide open and now fixed only on the man as he effortlessly held her out in front of him inches from the ground as if she was weightless. Smiling darkly he whispered something in Vanille's ear and the redhead's torch dropped to the ground as her body went limp, her hands falling to hand loosely at her sides. Fang thought Vanille had fainted but as he positioned his mouth above Vanille's, the redhead's mouth began to slowly open of its own accord until it gaped ghoulishly open, much wider than should be humanly possible. He opened his mouth wide, curling back his lips and exposing his long teeth. But he didn't bite, he breathed in, and an iridescent white light burst from Vanille's mouth illuminating the monster's features and lighting the alleyway. It was pure and bright, almost too intense to look at directly, and it was becoming brighter as his cheeks hollowed sucking in the wisps of glowing light that flowed from Vanille's mouth.
Fang was done with being patient.
Fang couldn't understand what was happening but somehow she knew it was killing her sister and that was more terrifying than anything anyone could do to her. She tried to move, pushing at the woman's foot but the woman reminded Fang of her dark promise with heel of her shoe. Fang choked and gripped the shoe to try and stop it from crushing her airway completely but the woman was too strong and continued to press upon her throat. Unable to breathe, Fang was losing consciousness fast, but she couldn't not yet, she had to stay awake and find an opening, something, anything she could use to her advantage. But what happened next was unlike anything Fang could have never have predicted.
A voice came to them through the night air, strong and clear. Fang didn't know it then but it was the voice of their saviour, and from the most unlikely of sources.
"Mreh," their hero said.
The son's mouth snapped shut and Vanille's closed as well, the bright light disappearing as her head lolled to the side. His eyes snapped to his mother. "What was that?" He frowned.
"I cannot see." The pressure on Fang's neck lessened as the woman searched the alley and Fang was able to take a few short, shallow breaths. The woman's face dropped in fear. "No...no, no. Oh god." The woman wasn't laughing anymore. Fang's eyes tried to follow the woman's fearful gaze but she still couldn't see what was terrifying their attackers.
"Mrrrooooowww," the voice said followed by a long threatening hiss.
Wait a second Fang knew that growl! She squinted into the dark and a pair of glowing, piercing blue eyes appeared followed by the rest of their lost blonde rescue mau.
Of all the bloody times to turn up...Fang wanted to yell angrily at her cat but if she had been in a position to speak Lightning would have been unconcerned by her owner's threats and reprimands. Hissing and growling, her ears flattened against her lowered head, Lightning only seemed to be interested into their two attackers switching her gaze between them as she stalked closer. And the attention of their attackers was now solely upon the new arrival.
This entire scenario was descending into madness, Fang decided. As far as Fang could see it was just Lightning, it was just a cat, but the mother and son seemed to be terrified. They shrank away from her but responded in kind, hunching their shoulders and baring their long teeth at the approaching cat as Lightning came closer and jumped up onto the bin beside them.
Fang may not understand it but that didn't mean she wasn't going to use it. She pushed the distracted woman's foot from her throat and rolled onto her knees gasping for air. And as if Lightning had been waiting for that moment she bolted to the edge of the bin and with a high-pitched screech pounced at the man's head claws first.
He howled in pain releasing Vanille to pull Lightning away from his face with both hands. "Vanille!" Fang yelled as the redhead dropped to the floor. Grimacing in pain from her injured shin and ribs, she crawled the short space across the ground and turned Vanille onto her back. Vanille looked up at the brunette with a confused frown. "Fang?" She breathed a sigh of relief. Vanille's response was groggy but otherwise she looked unharmed.
Protectively crouching over her sister Fang's eyes were drawn back the fight happening above them as Lightning dodged and swiped at Vanille's attacker. Repeatedly jumping away and onto the ground as he made his strike but then using the walls and bins to gain some height and pouch back towards his head with her claws outstretched. Her attacks were fast, accurate and effective. And it wasn't long before the blood from his injuries began running down his face and into his eyes, making him stumble around the narrow alley bumping into the walls on either side as he tried to defend himself.
His terrified accomplish pushed past the pair locked in battle and without stopping to help the cowardly woman ran for the street. Lightning with her paws locked around the man's throat, paused to watch her run away, seeming to hesitate over whether or not to give chase. And her distraction was long enough for him to pull her from his face, screaming as she tried to maintain her hold with its claws tearing his throat with shallow cuts.
Stubbornly Lightning continued to fight struggling and wriggling against the strong grip around her neck, and trying to claw at his enraged face even as he held her out of arms reach.
Seeing that Lightning was in trouble and thinking of nothing but helping her, Fang tried to get up and grunted as she thoughtlessly put all her weight onto her damaged leg. She cursed through gritted teeth and fell onto her side as blinding white pain pulsed through her body again. And could only watch in horror as he brought his arm back and hurled her cat against the nearest wall.
To fast to right herself Lightning's small body slammed against the wall with a sickening thud and fell lifeless to the ground.
He pulled back his leg intending to finish the unmoving cat with a kick. "Bastard," Fang roared and utilising all her anger and adrenaline she focused her brain long enough to reach forward from her position and grab his raised leg yanking it backwards as she leaned back with all her weight. Unbalanced he fell onto his injured face as Fang fell back. And then he was up on his feet scrambling after his mother and Fang was in no fit state to follow him.
Fang fell hard onto her back as she released his leg and exhausted by the exertion and her injuries, she made no attempt to break her fall and her brain rattled in her head as it met the hard pavement.
At least the pain had stopped, that was good was all she could think, the numbness felt like such a relief. But the loud ringing in her ears was more than worrying and so was her fading vision. Vanille was leaning over her, looking worried and saying something but she couldn't hear a thing. The huntress tried to mumble something to reassure her she was okay but she was struggling to find the words in her confused brain. And then Vanille wasn't there anymore and she was alone with her.
Fang's head rolled to the side to where Lightning was still lying unmoving. And as she finally gave in to the encroaching darkness only one thought was clear in her mind.
It's all my fault.