Her breath came in short, ragged gasps as she tore through side streets and narrow corridors, her forehead already gleaming with perspiration. She was tired, worn out, but she knew she couldn't stop. She had seen the explosion, as had the exotic tribal woman known as 'Fang', and she knew that Hope and Snow were probably not far from whatever had blown up. They had a knack for finding trouble and, as always, she was right.
The sudden, unexpected stop nearly caused Fang to crash into her, but she couldn't help it. Seeing Hope flat on his back, struggling to rise as a giant subjugator threatened to beat down upon him was more than she expected. She had seen enough to know that he had tried to take on the fiend alone: Snow had collapsed not far from Hope and, instead of struggling to rise, he seemed perfectly content remaining unconscious. Even from a distance, Lightning could see shining bruises beginning to well on the exposed skin of his arms and face.
Was the creature responsible, or had it been the sheer power of the explosion that caused such bruising? Was Snow okay? Did he
"Time to party...Light, get over here!"
Lightning snapped back to the present situation, drawing her gunblade and charging the enemy simultaneously, the path of her sword driven by the image of the unmoving Snow behind her. Fang moved aside quickly: Lightning wouldn't have slowed for anything or anyone. She had every intention of making that monster pay for the damage it caused.
The strength of Lightning alone was enough to carry Snow's dead weight the remainder of the way to Hope's house. As soon as they arrived, Hope escorted the awkward duo, with a trailing Fang, into a guest room complete with a quaint bed that would be claimed by Snow. Fang immediately went to retrieve the necessary medical supplies from Hope's father, who they had passed in the hall and had looked utterly alarmed and confused, but had nonetheless complied with Hope's demand to use the extra bedroom.
Now Hope was standing besides Lightning, shifting his weight uncomfortably from one foot to the other, peering over her arm to watch her study the extent of Snow's injuries. He watched on as Lightning removed Snow's overcoat and shirt with great efficiency, and Lightning noted the way his eyes flickered towards hers while she surveyed the damage done to Snow's body.
"It's all my fault," Hope croaked weakly, seeing the many bruises and lacerations that stretched across his torso. "I tried to
I almost went through with it, then the explosion hit and he...he saved me from the fall, and I
"Hope," Lightning stated, placing a firm, comforting hand on the boy's shoulder. "He chose to save you. It's not your fault."
"I would have killed him, Light! If that explosion wouldn't have come, I would have"
"Hope." Her voice was lower, more forceful this time. "Pull yourself together. He isn't dead. He's here, now, with us. Don't worry about what may have happened. What's important is that it didn't happen."
Lightning's eyes hovered on the fair-haired boy before her, waiting to see some reaction other than the countenance of watery-eyed misery that he now wore. Her patience was rewarded when Hope finally nodded in understanding. The heavy burden on his shoulders lifted slightly by her words and, finally, Hope was able to give a small smile.
"Go help Fang." Hope nodded again before retreating. He reached the door and turned back, his face full of apprehension when he looked once more upon Snow. His anxiety lifted when Lightning leaned over Snow's body and carefully began to examine each one of his injuries, her brows knitted together as skilled hands went to work.
Snow was in good hands.
"What do you mean you don't have antibiotics?" Fang cried in the background. "Are you all barbarians? Who doesn't have antibiotics?"
"Best go, Hope," Lightning warned, never looking up from her careful efforts. Hope left without further delay. He didn't know much about this Fang, but from what he could tell, she wasn't one to cross.
Finally alone with Snow, Lightning was able to concentrate fully on the task ahead. She removed the satchel at her side and slung the holster for her gunblade over a chair in the room, which she had pulled near Snow's bed.
Her fingers swiftly went to work, massaging and manipulating each inch of Snow's upper body to find the hidden injuries that lay beneath the surface of unbroken skin. She methodically made her way from Snow's arms to his ribs, and once she reached the latter she felt his body involuntarily respond to her touch. Normally, most wouldn't have felt the reflexive response, but Lightning's trained hands were not only able to feel it, she was able to identify the source as a hairline fracture of the third rib. She committed the injury to memory as her fingers proceeded with their descent, finding two more similarly fractured ribs, along with several bruised muscles and bones.
After finishing with the front she needed to reach his back to repeat the process, but knew that moving him herself would be no small task. She called for Fang, who appeared moments later carrying a wide variety of ointments, salves, and six different rolls of gauze. Fang smiled sheepishly when Lightning arched a brow at the mass pile of goods. "I didn't know what you'd need, so I brought it all. Better safe than sorry, yeah?" She shrugged, setting the items down on the nightstand besides Lightning. "What did you call for?"
"I need you to pull him forward for me. I have to get behind him," Lightning responded, picking through the goods Fang had brought, hoping that the Estheim's at least had a basic disinfectant.
"Wouldn't it be easier to roll him over? He's a bit big to hold for a long period of time
Lightning quickly shook her head. "He's got a few fractured ribs. I don't want to put the extra stress on the ribs by laying him on his stomach. Just grab his shoulders and pull him forward."
"Oh, and that's not gonna add any extra stress?"
Fang dropped her point quickly when she found herself on the receiving end of Lightning's cold glare. Hopping on the bed without further protest, Fang grabbed hold of Snow's shoulders and heaved him forward. The groan that escaped from Snow was enough to make Lightning winceshe didn't need to imagine the pain he would be in when he woke if this wasn't treated properly.
Once he was sitting upright, Lightning settled in behind Snow, placing her knees on either side of his torso to help prop him up. Though the angle was awkward, she promptly went to work, continuing the process that she had completed on the opposite side minutes before. There were no broken bones, somehow. It's probably because of all the muscles on his back, she thought to herself. They absorbed the brunt of the fall
that would explain the number of and severity of the bruises, but lack of breaks...
Lightning's fingers slowed as they reached his shoulder-blades, unable to pay attention while simultaneously marveling at the hard mass of muscle beneath her touch. Everything about him was an excess of strength, and every ounce of that strength was beautifully crafted and molded to form the slumbering giant before her. She immediately understood the attraction that Serah had for him, and also the attraction that she herself had towards Snow that she had denied for so long. She became lazier in her task as her memories drifted off to times long since passed, before Serah had even met Snow, when Lightning was a budding star within the Bodhum Guardian Corps., when
"Are you done yet? He's no dainty daisy, you know," Fang panted, readjusting her slipping grip on Snow. Lightning nodded quickly, too quickly, and clumsily reached over to grab the gauze and ointments.
"Just another second," she mumbled, slathering the creams hurriedly on his wounds; too embarrassed about her lackadaisical performance moments before to apply it properly. Once finished she followed the cream trail with the gauze, wrapping a tight bandage around his midsection before tying it off over his shoulder. All in all, it was a pretty damn good field dressing.
"I've got a date with lunch." Fang released Snow as soon as she saw Lightning finish the bandaging process with a flourish. Snow's sudden weight pressed heavily against Lightning's knees. Lightning used the excuse to throw another scowl in Fang's direction. "See ya," Fang saluted, turning on her heel to leave, massaging her arm as she went.
"Big oaf," Lightning mumbled, nudging Snow with her legs. While she had been finished with the dressing of the wounds, she hadn't been entirely done with healing him yet. She still could have used Fang, but she wasn't about to ask for that wench's help any time soon. Instead Lightning ensured that her legs were firmly planted on either side of Snow, using a large portion of her remaining stamina to do so. The other bit was used to conjure a hopefully potent cure spell.
She felt the warm, familiar tingling of magic deep within her core as she summoned her increasingly useful l'Cie powers. Mentally reaching within herself, she grabbed hold of the now-pulsating ball of heat and slowly withdrew it from her body, guiding it forward from her center of being to between her breasts, just beneath the surface of her skin, then slowly pushed the orb to her arms and down to her fingertips.
Gingerly placing her hands upon Snow's back, she allowed the magic to seep from her body into Snow's, noting how greedily he absorbed it. She continued pumping the spell out of her, imagining the bruised sinew and broken bones that were her target and directing the cure towards those same injuries. She made her way from Snow's back to his abdomen, never once allowing her concentration to slip. Her brows were furrowed, sweat was beading at her temples but, for Snow's sake when he woke, she could not allow herself to become distracted. It was hard, though, considering the pace with which his body was absorbing the magic.
Once reaching his lower torso, her fingers crawled upwards, seeking out the broken ribs. When she found them, the magic took its course towards those bones to help them mend. The careful process ended abruptly when her hands slid off the bandage and onto Snow's bare skin. Her concentration had been shattered. Why?
As if I need to ask, a small voice within her chided. She was still in her awkward sitting position behind Snow, her arms wrapped snugly around his waist while her hands were resting comfortably on his chest. Were she to drop her knees to the side, Snow would have fallen back to rest his head against her shouldersa nice thought, she added absentmindedly while wondering what it would feel like to have his weight against her in such a manner.
She traced lazy patterns against his skin as she continued fancying the idea, a small smile threatening to play upon her lips. No, it was more than an ideait was a craving deep within her, one that she had banished long ago when Serah had first started dating Snow.
Lightning jumped out of the bed without a second thought, the small smile that had been present moments before replaced with a horrible grimace. This is Serah's fiancée. This is my future brother-in-law. This is Snow! What the hell am I doing?
Thoroughly disgruntled now, she didn't even care that Snow had let out a low, pained moan when his head had nicked the headboard as he fell backward. She didn't care that his eyelids were fluttering slightly. No, she didn't care about him at all. The only thing on her mind was that she was losing control of herself, allowing the walls she had painstakingly built to come crashing down. She was being weak, and it needed to stop. Now.
Throwing herself against the wall next to the bedside table, Lightning removed the dagger Hope had returned and began to flip it open and shut with great speed, venting the frustration she held towards herself on the small metallic weapon. </i>Careless, Lightning. You're getting careless. What would Serah think?</i>
Not wanting to be alone with her rapidly darkening thoughts, Lightning switched on the television and left it at the first station that came on: the news. She watched the camera pan over a large group of riotous people who claimed they came in contact with l'Ciethem. Rolling her eyes, Lightning resumed her position against the wall and toyed with the dagger.
She noted Snow shifting a few feet away, but didn't go to tend to him, not yet. The ungrounded fear that her countenance would hold something far greater than indifference was presently in her mind, and she didn't want that fear to become a reality. Instead, she flipped the TV off , using the brief distraction to collect herself. When she turned back, Snow was struggling to sit up.
"Lay down," she said quietly. Snow looked up, almost bewildered, and when his eyes fell on Lightning the bewilderment faded into something else, something softer. Lightning flipped the blade shut to sit near him at his bedside.
"All right," Snow sighed, falling back to the downy surface of the bed. His arm cradled his head, andshe may have imagined itSnow glanced over far too quickly as Lightning crossed her legs. "I see you took the kid's toy away," he said casually, his eyes flicking from the dagger to somewhere lower before returning.
Lightning hesitated slightly. Had she truly just seen what she thought she saw? Her eyes were surely playing tricks on her.
I'm acting like a school girl. "He gave it back to me," she shrugged. "Said he didn't need it anymore."
"Go figure." Snow's face had fallen at her words, and Lightning felt a pang of guilt rush through her. It wasn't Hope's fault at all, what had happened to Snow
no, this was all her fault. Every bruise and broken rib was her fault, and she knew it. A long silence grew between them.
"It was too much," Lightning moved on, forcing herself to think of something else. Snow's gaze returned to her, urging her to elaborate. "What happened to Serah," she added, knowing that she had to think of Serah now, to remind herself why she couldn't have these feelings towards the brute before her. "All I could think about was 'what could I have done?' I hated myself for not trusting her. It
" she paused, took a breath. "
hurt too much. I couldn't face it."
She couldn't face it. She couldn't face that it was her fault Serah was gone. Couldn't face the fact that it was her fault Hope had readily attempted to kill Snow. She couldn't face these feelings that erupted within her like a volcano.
Snow, however, remained silent. His thoughts would be a mystery to her, even while she tried to express the tumultuous state of her heart. "Look, Snow," she demanded when he refused to face her. "I
'I' what? She thundered inwardly. 'I think I like you, Snow? Please forget about my sister and run off with me, so we can be crystals together?' Grow up. Snap out of it. This isn't you.
"I'm sorry," Lightning finished. "Forgive me."
That was the last thing Snow expected. He sat up, suddenly very alert, his face every bit as intense as Lightning's. "For what?" he whispered.
Unable to handle the fleeting emotion that she imagined within those crystalline eyes, she stood and turned away. "Everything."
That one small word spoke volumes more than she could ever convey.
Forgive me for treating you so horribly when we first met. Forgive me for the jealousy that I've always harbored towards your relationship with my sister. Forgive me for never believing in you, for doubting your resolve. Forgive me for not being able to tell you the one thing that's haunting me.
Everything. Forgive me for everything.
She wished desperately that he would understand, but she knew that its meaning would go unnoticed.
"If you told me your real name, I suppose I could," Snow said, lifting the heavy air with his jovial response.
Her real name? Why, of all things, would he want that? Maybe
maybe he, too
Pull yourself together!
She laughed slightly at herself, though her mood was far from lighthearted. "Have Serah tell youwhen she comes back," she said, the faintest note of bitterness lining her voice.
Snow turned away, his face saturated with something similar to disappointment. "Deal."
Her eyes lingered far too long on Snow but luckily Hope came in to save the day, breaking the tension that had momentarily settled between them. Hope mentioned something about his father wanting to talk with them.
Snow managed to stand besides Lightning, motioning for Hope to lead the way. Lightning helped Snow walk at first, her arm wrapped around his shoulder to ease him into his first steps, thinking the entire time: this is how it should be.