your life barely starts when loss first hits you. claire takes it much better than you do, even if you don't fully understand what happened yet, but your mother cries for days. hugging her is the best you can do; it just makes her cry harder sometimes, her whole body shaking against you like it is about to break apart. it's not until much later, after your father's death has soothed into a dull pain from slowly faded memory, that you decide you don't want to go through it another time. once is more than enough.
mother becomes ill some years after, and you spend too many afternoons sitting at her bedside while claire takes care of everything. the strain is hard on both of you, and you can only hope for some kind of miracle. you pray at night before bed, hands clasped so tightly your knuckles turn white. you beg the fal'cie in the deepest part of your mind to not take your mother away from you too. you send off wishes and promises to every fal'cie on cocoon that you can name, hoping they might listen to you if you ask often enough and with all your might.
if the fal'cie ever did hear you, they had other plans. your mother dies and claire becomes lightning.
you never see lightning shed a single tear for the now complete absence of your parents. you know there's too much for her to do - she has to take care of the both of you when she never should have had to - but you'd never blame her for crying if she needed to. time passes, and you watch her face gradually close up. she doesn't smile or laugh anymore. you never say anything about it, soon forgetting that lightning had ever been any other way. no, that's not right. you haven't forgotten: you've accepted. you'd love her no matter how she was. putting on a different face isn't something that could change that. acceptance is so easy for you to take hold of because you're used to it. you only have lightning and lightning only has you. it's just the two of you and then everyone else.
there are days when you realize you've forgotten you even had parents. a hole exists where they once were, getting bigger and bigger everyday you spend with lightning. it hurts if you think about it for too long.
so, eventually, you let it go as best you can.
the first time you meet snow you feel oddly charmed. he's loud, sure, and a little bit too full of himself, taking up an entire room just by walking in. lightning would definitely be annoyed by him. he's a bit much to swallow at first glance.
you end up spending more time with him even if you don't really mean to. he tells you about his life. being an orphan just like you makes you feel more empathetic toward him. you find out very quickly that he's way too persistent for his own good and unapologetic to boot. you don't put up with his nonsense if it gets to be more than you can handle, but he just grins like you simply smacked him on the wrist. snow must be the most undisciplined and cocky person you have ever met.
but he has the biggest smile and brightest eyes. his laugh is infectious and loud just like the rest of him. soon, you can't bring yourself to be annoyed at the qualities you once found questionable at best, intolerable at worst.
you fall in love with snow so fast it's like whiplash.
everything else falls down around you just as quickly.
going into the bodhum vestige was the biggest mistake of your life. your arm has long since stopped throbbing from the pulse l'cie brand, but what you feel right now is much worse than physical pain.
being a l'cie means being the enemy of cocoon. no one can save you now, not even the fal'cie. prayer is meaningless if unheard, and surely the fal'cie have closed their ears to you. tears flow liberally from your eyes as you clutch onto the thing that's going to ruin your life. everyone will turn their back on you once they know. snow. lightning. everyone you know will leave you behind to be killed. the brand on your arm might as well be a death sentence you put your own signature on.
you cry until you fall asleep. you dream about destroying cocoon.
snow proposes with the prettiest set of necklaces you've ever seen. you're so overwhelmed with love for him and his dedication to you that you say yes immediately. you almost can't believe how good snow has been to you. after trying to break up with him, after showing him your brand, he still wants to be with you forever. it's so much more than your simplest of hopes. this is a miracle.
the fireworks are beautiful. the necklace around your throat is wonderful. snow feels so warm, you feel so safe, you love him so much.
flying with him in all these lights and explosions, you feel like you can do anything.
lightning is here and so is snow. you're so glad to see them both. you feel so weak in lightning's arms; you couldn't stand or move more than your arm even if you tried. it's too late for that. your body is so far away from you, like you could fly away and leave cocoon at any moment.
the past couple of days become more and more distant the heavier your eyes grow. you still remember lightning's refusal to accept your marriage and the l'cie brand, can still feel the hurt like it just happened. somehow it doesn't seem to matter anymore. lightning and snow are here. you couldn't care about anything else.
your eyes finally slip closed. you sleep. you dream in shining, sparkling crystal.
the first thing you do when you wake up is hug lightning. you forgive her for not believing in you. she holds you tight in return and says it's okay. she smiles at you.
you don't ever want to let go of her again.
lightning was there. you know she was. you saw her truly smile for the first time in years with your own eyes. she gave her blessings to snow and you, yet you can't see how everyone could have forgotten that. you thought at least snow would remember all that, but the confusion and anguish on his face is as clear as the sky. you tell everyone over and over again that lightning was here, you're not lying, why can't they remember, why aren't they looking for her.
what are you talking about? they all say. lightning isn't here anymore.
years could pass and you would never accept their words. lightning was with you. and now she's gone. the last part of what you had left in the entire world vanished like it was never there. all you have left of her is a knife and a memory no one else has.
new bodhum rises up from nothing, and it's almost like you never even left cocoon at all. were it not for the giant crystal pillar off in the distance, you think you might have more trouble telling the differences between bodhum and new bodhum. you all have to adjust to living without the fal'cie, and this is only the start of all the work that needs to be done. snow and you talk about the future often, even if part of you refuses to leave lightning out of it. he has so many plans, but none of them involve getting married because he's forgotten lightning's blessing. your heart breaks everyday without lightning. continuing to hold up your head and think positively couldn't be harder to do.
you have no choice. it's the only thing you can do.
you decide that the best thing you can do is teach. new bodhum has no school; someone has to step up to educate those who are still too young to afford not learning. you want to tell the children everything that happened. you want to tell them all the story about what a band of seven did for them when the entire world was cried for their destruction. you want to know how hard lightning fought for you and cocoon. you want to tell remember vanille and fang as heroes who gave up their lives to keep humanity safe from gods who had given up on them. you want them to recall cocoon as it truly was, without all the masks and lies, and what being a l'cie truly meant. you want them to pass it on to their children so no one will ever forget what was done for them.
snow leaves to find lightning. he doesn't remember her being there after cocoon fell, but he believes you enough to go out and try to find her. three years go by. neither of them have come back. you can't let yourself wonder if they won't return.
peace breaks at the worst possible time, and with it comes visions of places you've never seen and a boy who came from the sky.
he hands you a sword.
fight, he says.
the idea of traveling through time is both a mystery and the best thing you've heard in three years. thinking that lightning might be somewhere out there in a different time makes your chest swell with joy. you want to bring her home so badly.
you float through the historia crux with noel and mog, smiling, and you feel so much hope for the future.
you knew lightning was still alive. you knew deep down in your heart and never truly doubted for a moment when everyone else said you were wrong, you had to be wrong. words can't accurately express the relief you feel from just knowing that she hadn't disappeared for good. worry wars with that relief inside you, but for now you push it aside.
lightning is alive.
you're going to bring her and snow home.
you see snow get attacked before it actually happens.
you've barely thought about what that might mean when he fades away in your arms.