phoeny: (Mulan: Who is that girl I see?)
[personal profile] phoeny
Fandom: Final Fantasy XIII
Title: Soul Sister
Characters/Pairing: Lightning, Serah, eventual OCs, hint of future Farroncest
Warnings: Angst, mention of death, shifting POV, language and violence later on
Rating: M
Notes: I realize this is 3000 words, and all it was a conversation and a flashback. Either I've been watching too many Tarantino flicks or I REALLY love dialogues.

// Prologue\\//Chapter 1\\






“Excuse me, miss, can I help you?”

Claire turned her head towards the receptionist that was sitting up front and center of the room. She looked like the typical secretary type, only that she was probably a decade older than her wearing the fashion of some decades older than her.

“Yes. I don’t have the proper student I.D.; it’s my first day.” Claire explained, handing out her general identification card.

“Well, scan that on that machine—yes there,” she clarified, “and we’ll take a picture right now while you’re in uniform.”

“Stand right there after.” She pointed at the boxed off area in the corner of the room.

Claire did as she was told, scanning her card while the machine retrieved the information from her previous school, and loaded the information into the school’s database.

“Uh huh…Claire Farron, yes?” The secretary was staring at Lightning, partially for confirmation, and partially to get her to budge over to the section of the room where a camera was focused on.

Better now or never.

“Yes. But…”

“What’s the problem?”

“Can you change the given name on my identification card?”

The secretary paused for a moment, taking off her glasses, as if that would help her analyze Claire Farron further.

“Now…why is that?”

“I just like my nickname better. Is that allowed?” Claire stopped herself from fidgeting out of nervousness. Bad habits needed to break, period.

“Hmm…no one ever asked me that so I have no idea if the policy would be enforced,” The secretary smiled, tapping her chin as if thinking intensely. “Tell you what. Tell me why you want the change, and I might do it for you. We’ll even add the nickname on your official papers.”

Her voice lowered just a tiny bit. “It’ll be our secret.”

Okay, I was not expecting that. How do you say to the secretary that since your mother died, you refuse to be such a spoiled brat anymore, yet the name given by your dead parents felt like it was holding you back from becoming an adult? Hmm… well, that was a compelling story in itself.

“Okay. As you know I’m an independent ward of the state. Independent. The name ‘Claire’ still ties me with my dead parents. I don’t need that kind of baggage when starting in a new school, a new city. That’s not what I want. I’ve chosen a name for myself instead. I want to be called ‘Lightning’. Yes, like the element. I want to get rid of my past, start a new life. And I can start with my name.”

Claire ‘Lightning’ Farron was looking expectantly at the secretary and what her reaction would be. But it seemed she was intensely wearing a thin line for a mouth, and narrowed eyes, trying to analyze her further. In part, it was true. ‘Lightning’ was something fearful, but at the same time, not to be feared. It was to be understood, dependent on, yet independent from others. It was the perfect namesake for her. But this secretary was spending an awful lot of time just trying to digest that information.

Stop fidgeting, stop fidgeting. You have to stop these bad habits or you will never get rid of them. Stay calm. Just breathe, you are invincible. ‘Lightning’ is invincible, impenetrable. And you are her, in spirit and soon, in name as well.

“…That is certainly interesting, Ms. Farron.” The secretary then placed her glasses back on the bridge of her nose, and typed something into her file. “Please stand over there to get your picture taken, Lightning.”

The secretary turned her smile into a full-blown grin once she had seen how relieved ‘Lightning’ was. She knew she was trying hard to be emotionally stoic, but again, she understood how nervous she must have felt. ‘Poor child,’ she thought, and made it a sort of mission to change that name, because she seemed as if she would be using that name for a very long time, in one function or another. Another reason was that it made her ambiguously gender-neutral, just from the name itself.

“You’re almost done. Do you know your schedule?”

Lightning actually did not, but she knew the homeroom. Surely there was no reason to refute the implied request.

“I don’t know my schedule. I thought we were to get them in homeroom.”

“Well I’ll print it out for you just in case. Your first class is on the second floor, but—yes, go to homeroom first.”

“Thank you.” The machine hummed and a lazer scanned through a blank piece of plastic that was suddenly decorated with her picture and essential information. Hmm, it was interesting procedure to see, to say the least. It was in a small chamber that the lazers were inscribing on both sides simultaneously. The security in the Academy must be top-notch. ‘Lightning’ was mesmerized by how simple yet complex it was. She saw the word ‘Lightning’ as the card twirled around in the chamber. Seeing that made her proud. She took those baby steps into becoming the kind of adult she wanted-no, could be.

“Here you go, Lightning. Along with your class schedule. Now if you have any problems, you’re free to come to me for anything.” And in a lower voice, the secretary leaned over close to Lightning, “And I do mean anything. You look like you would excel in the Academy.” She then winked at Lightning, while the teenager fought not to blush at the praise. No, she hadn’t met exactly this kind of forward person in years. It was nice, and made Lightning smile a little ever since the funeral.

Serah was the exception, of course. This was the first stranger to give her something to be happy about.

“Thank you…again. Maybe I’ll take up on your offer, Miss…” Come to think of it, the secretary never gave her name.

“Aira. You can just call me Aira or Miss Aira, whichever you prefer. By the way, your homeroom…ahh, is on the third floor. Not too bad.”

“Okay, Miss Aira. I’ll come and see you again.” And with that, Lightning left the main office in search of her homeroom. Seeing stairs near the office, she took them up two floors, where a little plaque in the middle of the wall indicated it was indeed the third floor.

‘Room 358,’ Lightning muttered to herself, checking the nearby doors for the numbers. It seemed as if she was going in the right direction; the numbers were getting larger. Other than that, the Academy looked more sterile than the hospital at Bodhum. Everywhere, the walls were bleak grey, metallic, but not enough to see a clear reflection off it. As she walked, Lightning couldn’t help but think of Miss Aira. She really was beyond nice to her. Lightning fully knew that student identification cards must contain their birth names, and Miss Aira had gone ahead and practically gave her a legal name change. Well, at least in this Academy, her ‘official’ first name would be Lightning, and not Claire. That was all she needed.

-------------


“Claire, are you awake?” The voice beyond the door, asked. The sound echoed more than usual in the silence of night. After all, no one else occupied the house but two sisters.

“Claire?” The voice was louder, a young female by the tone, scarcely no older than twelve years old. The background noise of thunder boomed every once in a while, not enough to be a constant source of ruckus. However, every single time lightning flashed, a squeak tumbled out of the young girl’s lips. When lightning was followed by thunder, the squeak from those lips transformed into a full blown whimper in need of relief and comfort.

The comfort the little girl so desperately needed…was asleep at the moment.

A flash of lightning appeared—she knocked on the door, a timid action unsure to awake the occupant—followed by the roars of thunder—and the knocking was louder this time, insisting on having comfort, damn her judgment.

Shortly after the knock echoed what seemed to be the whole house, the door opened, revealed a much tussled and still sleepy Claire Farron. Adjusting her eyes to the darkness, Claire blinked frequently while scratching her hair, mussing it up even further after tossing and turning from the knocks and voice.

“Serah…what’s going on? Can’t sleep?” She muttered, voice a bit raspy from the slumber.

“Yea…I’m scared Claire.”

“Of the storm outside?”

“Uh huh,” Serah nodded, to emphasize just how much she was afraid of the storm outside. Another flash of lightning lit up the room, and Claire could see how pale Serah was, trembling at the sight.

“Could I sleep with you tonight?” Serah asked, as if ashamed at how she was behaving. But to her, the storm was just too scary to fight it off alone. Claire felt sad for her, because usually Mom would come in and sleep amongst her little stuffed animals but now…

She was all her sister had. How could she not comfort her? Taking a deep breath when the thunder from outside rang after the flash, Serah squirmed in front of her, and Claire agreed, head too tired to refuse her.

“Fine,” she said, noting that Serah lit up in relief, and was nodding her head up and down in excitement.

“You can take Mr. Pickles in the room…and a pillow.” Mr. Pickles was the first toy she had, barely grasping onto its fluffy body when she was a baby. Now that Serah was twelve, on the cusp of adolescence, Mr. Pickles was a tiny rabbit taking up space on the corner of Serah’s bed.

“Will you come with me?” Claire tried peering through the darkness at Serah, but it was a bit too dim. If she could, she would’ve seen Serah with a quivering lip at the storm despite her age.

“Okay, you big baby.”

Claire followed Serah into her room, while Serah hastily grabbed her pillow with her hand and cuddled Mr. Pickles around the arm. Claire was busy observing her little sister and though it was a bit cute to see her twelve year old sister act like she was four. Well, maybe a little bit sad as well. It reminded her when she was a little child, being coddled by Mom and Dad. Dad paid lots of attention to her, taking her out on walks and Serah would have been a baby, not able to remember Dad. Dad was always the easy-going type, despite working for the Cocoon government. Claire was definitely daddy’s little girl…

“C’mon,” Claire said as she clasped her hand onto Serah’s free one, guiding her back towards her room. Serah instantly settled in Claire’s bed, taking up a side, flopping the pillow above her head. Then she snuggled under the thin comforter, still cuddling Mr. Pickles, facing the other side of the bed.

Rolling her eyes, Claire took the side left, but was facing towards the ceiling as she tucked herself in. Feeling that Serah was pouting for not even looking at her, Claire sighed and slowly faced her sister. Using her big sister senses, Claire swore that Serah was smirking that she made her big sister do something for her.

“You feel better now?” She questioned her, and Serah replied with an affirmative nod, motioning through the shadows of the room. Claire understood as her eyes adjusted to the darkness of…what time was it again? Seeking out that otherwise-pesky-but-useful alarm clock, it dimmed out two in the morning. Serah had gotten closer to her, and she can feel Mr. Pickles and Serah’s arm pressing against the middle of her chest. The warmth and fur was seeping through her shirt, and Claire slowly felt content for the first time in what seemed forever.

They were both still coping. Claire still hadn’t found a job, despite perusing the papers every day, and a file of her achievements and the little volunteer opportunities she gained before Mom passed away ready to be checked. And yet, day after day, she would ask—sometimes the employers would check out of politeness, sometimes not at all—but in the end, she walked away jobless. She knew they couldn’t live on life insurance and government stipends forever, but how was she supposed to help both of them survive when she wasn’t even given a chance?

‘Must work through this, because moping about it won’t do anyone good,’ Claire thought, easing into her own little world where she can sort out her issues.

“Claire?” The voice snapped her out of her thoughts. Claire looked down at Serah’s head. Hmm, she thought her sister was asleep. What was up now?

“Yeah? Something wrong?” She asked her. She already had Mr. Pickles and her. Maybe she really wanted Mom and not a close approximation of her memory. That wasn’t something Claire can give.

“Nothing. Never mind.”

“Hey. You can tell me.”

“Well…I’m still scared.” Just then flash lighted up the room for a second but the noise followed. Heh, Serah was shaking just as the noise started. They both weren’t going to get any sleep at all if the storm kept going. Claire vaguely remembered the storm wasn’t going to pass until late morning at least. Biggest thunderstorm in a month, the report said. No wonder Serah was scared, although Claire couldn’t remember why how she became scared. She used to hear Serah sneak into their parents’ bedroom late at night. And it was during storms.

Another flash. And Claire had an idea. Well, she had been thinking about it ever since Mom had to stay at the hospital, putting Claire in charge of the house. “Claire” was too soft a name for the ideal adult she wanted to be. But she wasn’t able to think of a worthy enough moniker. She wanted to prove to herself, to the whole world she can make something of herself and provide for this family.

But what kind of name should she become?

“Ahh!” Serah squeaked. The lightning wasn’t letting up, and Serah was snuggling closer to her, effectively thrusting the whole furry outline of Mr. Pickles into her chest.

“Serah, why are you so scared?”

“I just am, Claire!” She huddled closer to Claire’s body, as another bolt of lightning flashed through the room. “I…well, Mom used to go to my room whenever it was a storm outside, so I just figured…” Serah trailed off, not knowing—no, no need to say anymore. The bottom line was Serah needed Mom, and Claire was close enough, but not exactly her. If that was the case, then Claire definitely had an idea.

“Hey Serah…” Claire started, waiting for Serah’s attention. She gave it in the form of a whispered, “yes?” as her head tilted up to make eye contact.

“I’ve got something to tell you.”

“What is it, Claire?”

“No, not Claire. Call me Lightning.” Serah definitely looked confused, angling her head a little towards the right, a habit of hers that she picked up when she was three. And now here she was at twelve, still mimicking the same motion. It was kinda cute.

“Wait, what? I don’t get it.”

“Simple. My name’s Lightning now.”

“Why?” Serah muttered, narrowing her eyes at Claire—Lightning, whoever her sister claimed to be.

Oh.

Oh wait, she thought that this was—

“I’m serious Serah.”

“You’re not answering the question.” Serah inched away, cuddling Mr. Pickles ever so tightly into her chest. Claire swore that if Mr. Pickles were alive at that moment, it was also the moment where Mr. Pickles would choke to death from lack of oxygen.

“Because…then you won’t be afraid.” A rumble could be heard outside; Serah flinched in response, while Claire sighed. She thought it was a good plan but Serah would have to get used to it.

“Are you afraid of me, Serah?” Claire asked, noticing how wide her sister’s eyes were as a flash of lightning lit up the room, the blue wavering in the darkness.

“No…” She trailed off, giving a tiny nod towards the window, “It’s the storm I have a problem with.”

“Well, now that my name is Lightning, you can think of me whenever there’s a storm outside.”

“I don’t think it’ll work like that, Claire.”

A sudden hug from her sister shocked Serah, as she felt herself snuggled tightly in the arms of her big sister.

“I tried, didn’t I?”

“I guess…” She said, a low whisper buried between our chests. Only Mr. Pickles could have heard it. The storm still wasn’t letting up. Another rumble followed a flash, but Serah didn’t move like she did previously. Maybe she was too sleepy to care anymore, Claire wasn’t exactly sure what was the reason.

“Serah? Are you still afraid?” She asked, voice echoed in the silence, seemingly louder than it was.

“…”

“What did you say? Couldn’t hear you.” Claire said, backing off a little bit to hear better.

“Umm…I said not really.” And with that, Serah snuggled closer to get some sleep.

“So you’re not afraid of Lightning anymore?”

“I’m working on it,” a little giggle was heard, and the sisters fell asleep on a happier note. It wasn’t necessary to say that earlier than expected, the storm broke in the early morning.


---------------


Claire ‘Lightning’ Farron stopped in front of Room 358. Time to become the person she needed to be. Taking a deep breath, she walked through the doorway of the class. Most students were already seated, and no one really paid her attention as she walked in. Even the teacher wasn’t here yet. Spotting an area where there were empty seats, she made her way over amidst the chattering of the other students, some standing, some gossiping near the seats.

Pulling a chair out, she sat, cross-legged, and watched the peers in the room. They weren’t much different from any other students in another classroom in Cocoon. The thought gave her a bit of relief. And here she was, being nervous on her first day of school.

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phoeny

April 2012

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