Pairing - Fang/Lightning
Fandom - Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Warnings - BDSM (mental/emotional), strong language, blood and gore, explicit sex, power plays.
Rating - NC-17
Word Count - 124,000
Summary - With Bhunivelze dead, the New World belongs to humanity. Human nature inevitably leads to more problems for the Savior to solve--with Fang by her side. Post-game AU.
Full story - https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11107363/1/Narcissus-Narcosis
Nothing left to fear, l'Cie
Cradled in eternity
Shore of sand, your fate awaits
Oh, surrender in the light (chaos)
There are spoilers here underneath the cut. Click at your own risk.
I must have listened to half of the Lightning Returns soundtrack while writing this. No joke. The end of FFXIII where Fang is tortured by Orphan has stayed with me over the years. Partly because of where I was, physically and mentally, when I got to that scene. The rest is because that is the only visceral scene in the first game, at least for me. I've kept that impression in my hands, holding it as gently as possible, letting it grow with me since 2009. I'm not saying that I'm going to destroy Fang in this story. It's merely the foundation for things moving forward. As you can guess, it inspired the idea for Fang's struggle right at the beginning of the chapter.
I did my best to offer exposition while moving things along at a fair pace. If anyone remembers, Lightning was a Gemini back in the first version, and in Effervescence. I allow her to be something less rigid than, say, a Capricorn. We have to remember that Claire became Lightning. That is not who she truly is. She may have grown into the persona, certainly. I refuse to believe that Lightning is as one-dimensional as she is in the games. She has her humanity back. It's only a matter of time before we see more of her.
For the time being, I'm updating these chapters in tandem with Black Waltz. However, Black Waltz only has two more chapters to go.
2. Elysium (The Sleeping City from Lightning Returns // The Depths from Bayonetta 2)
This chapter was a bit longer than I anticipated. I wrote about 2000 words yesterday, then I stopped. I didn't exactly know how I wanted to frame this mini-adventure. Better ideas came to me later on. I wrote the rest of the chapter in one sitting. That part took about seven hours. It's 7:09am now... Ugh, what else is there to even talk about at this hour. The Ragnarok is from Final Fantasy VIII. Also an obvious reference to Fang and Vanille turning into Ragnarok at the end of FFXIII (if this is a spoiler for you.......) God, I am going to sleep and editing this later if it's necessary. I don't think it will be.
Mmm, a shorter chapter. I was conflicted about the beginning. I didn't know if I wanted a high action sequence or not. Considering it's still the beginning of the story, and we haven't seen much of Lightning and Fang together, I decided against the battle. I died of laughter from the suggestion of Fang blurting out what she did from the lab. It's actually a nod to a short, sweet and hilarious Fleur/Hermione crackfic that I've had on my HDD for years, called French Traditions. No idea if it's on fanfic these days. If it is, it will be in my C2 on my profile. Oh yes, and this is the Cocoon script versus the Pulsian script. I've been looking over pictures of Fang and Lightning's weapons, and they both have Pulsian script on them. I wondered how it is they speak the same language even though they come from different worlds. The explanation (cop-out) is that Cocoon's people and Gran Pulse's people have always spoken the same language, but they write them out differently.
Final Fantasy Type-0 is out today and I've no motivation whatsoever to play it! I essentially spent $60 for the Final Fantasy XV demo lol. I'll get around to it soon. Had to finish this first.
Ugh, this chapter -__- It did not want to cooperate with me. There's the balance I have to keep between the central conflicts (fragments of memories and relationship tension) and moving the story along. Keeping that balance here was not easy. The temptation was REALLY there for them to fuck already. I hate sex with little-to-no build-up. So the biggest challenge was to give the illusion that they were about to, and to (believably) make them stop before it happened. Vespair is not a cop-out for Lightning's feelings. You could say that she's merely a catalyst. Nothing more. I had to lol at Hope and the placebo. I imagined some old school FF text going on. "This is actually a very potent cure for fevers... *mumble, mumble*..." Don't be deceived by the lightness of the story so far. I've set enough groundwork for everything else. I'm not going to tell you what to expect... Just be open to anything happening at this point.
5. Patiently (Nothing Burns Twice by Made By Grey)
I actually don't have much to say that the chapter didn't say already. Fang wants to be chased a certain way...and she also wants to call the shots. There are contradictions everywhere *cough*. All the while, she's watching Light to make sure that this is right. You could call her selfish. That's not quite the angle I'm going for. It's more like, Fang knows exactly what she wants. Lightning shows a lot of promise. It's only a matter of time at this point. How much time is entirely up to Fang. That's the way she wants it, and that's how Lightning wants it, too. Things have to come to a head eventually... Take that as you will.
It's so difficult to not blurt out what the next chapter has in store. I've never written anything like it before. I'm so fucking excited.
6. Debut (Kiss in Taksim Square by Chinawoman [Jay, I think you'd like this band if you don't already.])
I wasn't able to finish this in one sitting. It took me two whole sittings to finish this! After spending about a week agonizing that it wouldn't be good enough, woe is me, artist angst, etc., I sat down and got to work on it. There were a few moments throughout where I had the characters knock on that fourth wall. One of them was inspired from FFXIV chat from one of my free company members months ago. I think it was Dino. He said something like, "do you have a moment to talk about our lord and saviour, bahamut?" It sounded like a meme, so I looked it up. Then I cracked up and thought of this bit with the nerdy kid preaching about Lightning. The others were nods to Effervescence or other real-world things that should be obvious.
The preparation for this chapter was more intense than actually writing it. I knew what I wanted to do. It's all about that balance. Keeping the tension while moving the story along. Never giving away too much, too soon. I had to spend a while refining it internally before I could write it with any clarity. That involves weighing all the temptations with the rest of the plot. "Well, if I let Fang give it up, there won't be any more suspense..." Mystery and suspense! At the same time, I can't turn this whole thing into Lightning's conquest over her. That's demoralizing. The overarching plot is steadily coming out. It's either I have a bigger plot or make the story all about the drama between their relationship. Why not make both happen masterfully? That's the goal.
Oh, and the play! It was inspiration from Final Fantasy VII. Since Lightning is supposed to be a female version of Cloud, I thought it would fit. In Lightning Returns, the play in the Augur's Quarter is also a nod to FFVII. In that game, when you're on your date with Tifa or Aeris in the Gold Saucer, you both get wrapped up in a play at the Event Square. Cloud plays the hero, Alfred, who has to save the princess (Tifa or Aeris) from the Evil Dragon King. Only true love can save the princess from the spell that binds her to the EDK's control. There is an option at the end to kiss Tifa or Aeris during the show. You can also run contrary to the plan and kiss the Evil Dragon King instead...lol. The title of this chapter is the same name of the song that plays during the production. I wanted to make an homage to that since Effervescence. Seriously. I toyed with the idea of making it silly like in FFVII, but decided against it. I don't think anyone is terribly upset over my decision.
Hmm. I admit, this chapter surprised me. I didn't plan for it at all. The only things I did plan for were Lumina bringing that recording, and Lightning and Serah arguing over Fang. I spent a few days considering the possibilities, based off of the previous chapter. Things could have easily gone to the land of no return (fluff), but if you know me at all, that's something I don't do. So, it was time to deepen the plot instead. I find it amazing that Fang has no lines in the present day. Instead, in the flashback, Light is mostly "absent." As for whether or not it really happened, I'm not answering that yet. It will come up later. With the report, I had no problem with giving that answer right away. I'm not a fan of red herrings. I want it to be obvious that Vespair has a plan. While it seems ambiguous now, things will fall into place as the story progresses.
Do you know what to believe? :D
8. Scapegoat (Anxious Heart from Final Fantasy VII)
I put off writing this chapter for a few days. The tone of the narrative mirrors how I've been feeling lately. I thought it would be a bad idea to write like this. That was just me being hard on myself, like always. This song is basically how I feel when I can't sleep at four in the morning. I know why I feel this way. It's not something that I talk about to anyone. Easier to keep it to myself and express it through writing when I can get away with it.
I left out a lot of internal monologuing from Lightning about her depression. There was also a scene I had in mind about her going off on everyone in the Command Center. I was going to include another with Fang's gang during the meeting. The third scene I cut out will happen at the beginning of the next chapter. I felt like I wanted to keep things contained to Lightning following after Fang into the airship at the end of the chapter. I didn't want anything to overshadow that scene. Anyway, the next chapter won't have this same tone, no matter if my mood persists. I have to have a good balance. I don't want to overwhelm you. Not yet.
9. Water, Lightning
It feels like this one took forever, even though it didn't in reality. I already have people asking me if Fang is really a narcissist. The short answer is no. The long answer is to look at Vespair instead of her. I'll touch on this soon. The first scene evolved beyond my plans. I'd say every scene in this chapter was based on a personal memory or experience I've had. Even Serah talking to Board Shorts. This entry would be too long if I explained all of them. Most of them were inspired from living in San Diego for most of my life. Bodhum = SD in this story as far as I'm concerned.
I have very specific plans for the next chapter. I might push it back a little later to answer questions about the plot. I'll most likely go with the latter. Lightning still needs some more time, you see.
The first version of this chapter was the worst thing ever. I had to spend a long time editing. I love, love, love Chekhov's guns. They are everywhere in this story. I also cut this installment short, unfortunately. There was to be a certain scene at the end. Except I've learned to not put THOSE scenes at the end of my chapters because that's lazy writing. Put them in the beginning! Or somewhere in between. Just not at the end, because there is no way to add continuation. I hope I don't chicken out again and avoid putting it in the next chapter. If I don't (I will try not to), then it will happen straightaway, and you'll all know what this rambling was for. Overall it will be something I haven't done before. I keep saying that, but this is a good thing. I'm growing and challenging myself to get out of this box.
You have burning questions about what happened, you say? Don't ask me, because I'm not answering. I will let the next chapter speak for itself. No hints, no. I'll just update as quickly as I can without sacrificing quality.
11. Venomous Fang (Lilitu by Blueneck [Jay, listen to this. It's kind of like Kwoon])
Sigh, another one of those chapters where dawn's knocking on my window once I finally finish it. I'm not complaining! I'm a writer. This is what I do. Oh, and thank you Jay for helping me come up with the word "cascading." Now you see where it went.
This one was really challenging for me. Not because I didn't know what to write--far from it. Initially, I went through a number of concepts. The first scene, Lightning's jumbled thoughts and winding up on the street, and the events surrounding the hospital visit were the same in all of them, but the tone was different. I was going to listen to Roads by Portishead. The drama in that draft was centered around Lightning not quite grasping how to feel during the act. That was wrongfully inspired by something else (my bad mood), so I decided to wait until that passed. I then grumbled and listened through all the songs on my iPod again, trying to come up with something else. While DF'ing Steps of Faith and commanding a run, this one started playing. I had to stop for a few seconds on top of one of the towers, letting the realization wash over me: how I have a paralyzing fear of stillborn love, and of love dying after a long life. I have it stuck in my mind that if it's realy love, then it should be unconditional and forever. If it could wax or wane because of anything, then...it's nothing. I've gone through a few trials and tribulations with this subject. I admit to spending time as a judge, having watched people to see how long they "loved me" for before they gave up and moved onto something simpler. I've also privately agonized over falling out of love with someone whom I thought I'd always love. There was also a time when I was perfectly okay with no longer loving another person who rejected what sustains me, like Snow. Mixing it all into one chapter and transitioning the ideas seamlessly was more difficult than I anticipated.
Amazingly, this song encapsulates all of that by way of interpretation. It's over nine minutes long, and I have nearly 200 plays from when I listened to it while working on this. It helped a lot to keep me focused. I did have to write very slowly... I was afraid of transitioning things too quickly. I had to avoid a fear of being too dramatic with this, or else I ran the risk of understating everything. I kept things as they needed to be. I'm very proud of this chapter and the work behind it. It's a little discouraging to know that people can digest a week worth of work within a few minutes, but oh well... It's there for you. If you want to look deeper into everything I've put into it, you can. There's always that option.
12. White Tiger of the West (Blood on the Leaves by Kanye West)
Up until a few days ago, this chapter wasn't going to be anything all that different. Suddenly on Saturday night, I had to abort everything I was doing and go to iTunes. I have a wide variety of songs on my iPod. For some reason, I hadn't redownloaded my Kanye West songs to my newest iPod, including the songs from his Yeezus album. I usually don't like rap since most of the shit out there is misogynistic trash. I don't give a fuck about that noise. This song is about something real: a juxtaposition of the black lynchings that happened in America by way of a cover, and the subsequent death of a relationship from false pretenses. I can't follow this song word-for-word in this story. In real life, I sure could, from a memory I have. A couple of memories, actually. I kept those feelings separate from the events here.
I've never (really) had my characters break up in the middle of a story before. As for Light almost calling things off...I've lost count of how many times I felt like that. Being filled with pride and rage, wanting to just break things off and forget/move on, so fucking loudly like the brass in this song... But in those situations, I didn't feel the same way that Light does about Fang. Lightning says herself that it wouldn't have been that big of a deal if not for the possibility of that role-reversal. If it had only been questionable consent, she would have been okay about it, since she already had her reaction in Nautilus, technically. This is new information that goes against the persona she'd built for herself. I'll get into her issues with that more in the next chapter. This one was for me to throw everything into a blender and let you reflect on Fang's actions in the interim. Maybe the bit at the end, too. That can have some spotlight.
13. Androgynous Anxiety (Sunset Prism from Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII)
Lots of monologuing here, I know... I did my best to not overload the chapter with them. There's dramatic irony present in that you all know Lightning's general reasons for her sexuality. Fang still doesn't know yet. I specifically set up that change in dynamic as a source of fear for Light. Tipping over to the stereotypical masculine side of the scales is familiar for her. She's comfortable with that much because she doesn't have to be reminded of her femininity that way. Going to the other side requires being reminded--that's the part she can't handle. She'd built this illusion for herself of being neither gender. Breaking that illusion breaks her down as a person. I will definitely explore this more as the story progresses.
As for everything else, it seems improvised as I read it back over. I like that, though. It flows nicely. Nothing is forced. It's creepy that I can plan every little detail like this. I'll let everything else speak for itself ^^ It's 7am now! It's time to go to bed...
14. Love Me Tender
I had to remove most of this chapter because I used it...someplace else.
As for the semi-recurring chapter title of Love Me Tender for chapter 14--there's a funny story behind it. One of my favorite singers, Laura Pausini, is Italian. When she was eight years old or so, she put out an EP of covers of songs in English and some in Italian. Sometimes that line will be stuck in my head, with her adorable thick accent and all~ Very ironic.
These notes have a specific tag as well: 'fiction as public revenge.' There are certain people in this world that piss me off just from thinking about them. I like to get along with as many people as possible, but I acknowledge how idealistic that is. This set of memories...I include them here, subtly, and work through them as plot points. These are things that only I can pick out and understand. If I made them any more obvious, I might as well start a witchhunt with actual names and everything. This is the first time I'm making a point to pull from my own experiences with this much clarity.
15. Am I Free? (Am I Free by Wax Tailor)
This song <3 The dissonant wind instruments fit so well with the title. It also goes well with Lightning's dilemma. She's dutiful by nature. She will keep taking orders for Fang's sake, all while setting her own needs aside. If you remember from chapter seven, Serah got on Lightning's case about something similar. Now you see that she was actually right. I initially picked this song as well because it's dark enough to be voyeuristic. Overall this chapter didn't take me very long to write. Maybe six hours total. I had to take breaks every now and then, mostly to help random groups with their T13 clears in FFXIV. There were a lot of details to consolidate in this chapter. Playing that game somehow helps me keep track of those things. I've had each scene planned for some time now. I was able to ballpark that the whole chapter would be about 6k words. There was another scene I wanted to add, but then the chapter would have been too long, so I'm relegating it to a later time.
Just so you know, I actually love white fudge-covered pretzels >_> I also have a white hooded jacket just like Lightning's lol. The next chapter will be a bit of a struggle. A different tone--one I haven't written in a while, but I am supposedly good at... I need to play some more Grand Theft Auto V before I get started on it.
16. Watch the Throne (Kiss + Swallow by IAMX)
I'm really sorry about the long wait. Life happened. I'd lost my momentum for a while because of something that went on. It's been resolved and I'm fine now. For a few weeks, I could barely write a few sentences before falling asleep. Then I did some serious, emotional brainstorming about upcoming events. There's something big that I'm building up to later on in the story. We're about halfway there in terms of chapter numbers. In previous stories, I relied heavily on foreshadowing and being able to incorporate re-readability value (is that a real term?) for you to pick up on all the clues easily. This time I'm going for a different approach. The event itself loses a lot of its meaning if I don't show you certain things beforehand. I had to make up my mind about those things and where I'd put them in. There was a huge one in this chapter, actually... I doubt anyone could pick it out just yet.
I also took a lot of time to do some self-improvement. I'm at the point where I can write well and I can't lie to myself about it. There are still certain elements that I need to work on. Actual enjoyment and entertainment...and fluff to some degree (ugh). I realize the importance of making you smile as you read. That's something I've been missing for a long time. I wasn't afraid to do it in my earlier stories because it just happened. But once I started becoming a "serious literary author," I lost a lot of that along the way. What helped the most was watching clips of Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi together. There's one clip in particular where they go to Portia's old school in Australia and spend time with the students there. Everyone was so excited to see them and Ellen made them laugh the whole time. While Ellen's entertaining the students, there are a few moments when Portia's off to the side, watching her with this glow in her eyes. That's something that I want to capture in my own stories more often. Even though writing fluff makes me complain out loud as I'm writing it ("Ughhh can't I just hit fast-forward on this scene?!"), I will do my best to incorporate what I've learned...
I had many, many, many different ideas for this chapter. The original one was to have it as it is now--the whole gang goes to Yusnaan with the love triangle thing going on in the background, etc. One idea I almost settled on was a little different. Fang knew about the plan for the charity ball from merging with Vespair in chapter 14. So she took Light on a private plane--just the two of them--to the Dead Dunes instead in order to keep her safe. Lightning told her that she really has to be back in Yusnaan or she would've compromised her mission. And so Fang bargained with her...but that part, I will keep up my sleeve for a later chapter. I'll reference this note once that part happens later on.
As for Yusnaan itself, I wanted some things to feel similar to the cities in Grand Theft Auto. I've always been fascinated by how GTA is a satire on capitalism and consumerism in America, and by how candid that satire is. I did want this chapter to include the party, hence the song, but...I had to save that for the next chapter. "I could hold you down by candlelight with indifference." A very memorable line. I wanted to recreate that as well. The next chapter will have to speak for itself.
17. Fuck Me Boots (Nature of Inviting by IAMX)
I cannot believe that I wrote this chapter. I just can't. I almost didn't include the scene at the end because I thought it would be too much. That's no way to live. So I went ahead and did it anyway. Plus, seventeen is my favorite number. I figured I had to make this installment stand out from the rest because of that. Did I make this one memorable enough for you?
I thought about including a NSFW note at the start. That would have taken out the ~element of surprise~ so I didn't include it. But really, the chapter title alone should have tipped you off to the degree of content. I also considered leaving a cliffhanger after the lap dance. The loss of continuity would have been too damaging. You could have inferred that I had this scene in mind, defeating the purpose of a cliffhanger altogether. As for the song, I didn't have it in my library before the other day. I had the previous one for a few years (stolen from Jay's music player). I spent a long time on YouTube trying to find something to fit this mood for the party. I'm pretty happy with it. I don't think I'll be writing a chapter this long for a while. It just kept getting longer and longer as I worked on it. Kind of got away from me. There were so many things to show, especially Fang's self-consciousness and Light's reasons behind her sadism. It all had to be a process.
The next chapter is supposed to be the charity ball. Oh, but I left a cliffhanger with implied sex after the ending. Am I supposed to follow up on that or leave it as it is? I've had to do so much shuffling around with planned chapters as it is. First world problems.
18. Requiescat (A Necessary End by Saltillo)
There are blatant similarities here to chapter 11: sex followed by an oh-shit event. I really, really, really wanted to separate the sex and said event for this reason. That didn't work out. I apologize for that and for the, well, event. As always, there's a reason (many reasons) why I've gone in this direction. I don't like this chapter. It was a necessary evil because of my reasons. I can't write the next chapter until I experience a certain dungeon in Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward. Shouldn't take me too long. That's all I have to say about this one.
19. Anathema (The Vault from Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward)
This expansion to FFXIV was everything I needed it to be. The dungeon really helped me with the descriptions of Luxerion's Cathedral. The one in LR is underwhelming. I figured it could have benefitted from a revamp like Yusnaan. This song isn't dramatic or showy like some religious music. It's steady. I wanted that to be reflected in the tone of this chapter, along with Lightning remembering to stay ~in the moment~ with Fang instead of keeping her barriers up. The scene with Noel was vital because we haven't seen him in the story up until this point. His absence coupled with his actions have made him look like a bloodthirsty dictator. In another universe, Lightning could have easily been in his position. I wanted to show that as a reason for her deciding not to kill him, orders or not. As to whether or not her mercy will have consequences, that's something you'll have to read and discover on your own.
As for Lightning's internal issues, I had some help with describing those as well. Over the past week, I've spent a lot of time preparing for this chapter and making sure events line up for future ones. Needless to say I overworked myself and I was pretty sick one day. I was stressed out about things not lining up until I figured out how to word Vespair's revelations. I know they don't seem important now, but they will make more sense later on. That feeling when the illness finally passed was also in this chapter toward the end.
Overall it only took me a few hours to write this. Everything flowed well once I settled on which scenes to focus on. I've always known about the word anathema, but there's specific inspiration for it here. In FFXIV, there's a black mage weapon, Anathema, that drops from the last boss in the Sunken Temple of Qarn at level 35. I remember looking at the name a few months ago with some interest before filing the memory away. Funny how these things become relevant again later in such unexpected ways.
20. Vermillion Bird of the South (The Dravanian Forelands night theme from Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward)
Like ffnet is wont to do, the login server was down for a whole day. I wasn't able to update when I wanted to, so I started working on another story. I worked on it for so long that I lost track of time and didn't check ffnet again. I most likely could have updated several hours ago. The chapter's there now and I'm very happy with it. I don't write notes beforehand for my chapters. I remember everything via emotional memories linked to visuals or songs. There is a single exception to this: I have a sticky note on my desktop that reads: My love is dying...why is the world not ending? Why is it not on fire in reflection of my pain? I've had it there for a few months now in preparation for this arc.
I had an unexpected week. This reflected itself in the unexpected turn of events in this chapter. I'd planned on having a huge battle with the Steps of Faith song playing while the group escaped Luxerion. I was annoyed with this because it felt predictable. Earlier in the week, I came up with an idea for Noel to be their literal voyeur instead. That seemed a bit much, even for me, so I dialed it back to the current iteration. As for what happened, let's just say that my muse went through a growth spurt. Such a painful yet blissful source of inspiration. I feel that my muse is more mature now. Very beautiful and dynamic. Every chapter from here on out will challenge me to let her grow even more. I wonder why things have lined up this way. I can't talk about what happened because it's too personal. Just know that it drives me. That's all I can do to express what I think, what I mean and what I've seen.
This is as far as I can go with this story.
Artist credit - http://ceaes.deviantart.com/art/Silhouette-437351086