a Final Fantasy VIII fanfic
"You're getting kind of boring," he says from his place in the recliner, his voice quiet but lively in the dark room.
The cigarette in his hand has burned almost down to the filter and he stubs it out on the chair's stained velvet arm, holding the last drag in his lungs for a moment before blowing it slowly out into the room. She hates smoking and both of them know it, and that's the point. She likes to drink, though, oh yes, and he'd lured her to the bar with the others tonight on that pretext, insisting it would be fun, applying that sharp, false-cheerful pressure that he's learned to use so well. She agreed readily; she had learned that lesson long before he had ever met her, and the past six months had only sharpened it.
Just another night of drinking until the clock tilted over to the new year, staggering through crowd-swarmed streets, bidding the others a terse farewell, up the stairs and into bed, then out of it again, his mind still buzzing with alcohol, with the need to speak and be heard, and so he tells her he is bored, and she is silent for a moment.
He looks at her, reclining naked in the bed, sheet rucked up between her bare breasts, hair spilling around her head in a raven-dark corona against the white pillowcase, and thinks of the flies he used to torture as a child.
"You don't mean that," she says. She tries to make it sound cavalier, but he can hear the fear in her voice, sense it in the way she moves nervously beneath the sheet. He learned to read the nuances of body language and expression before the end of his first year at Garden, and if there's any emotion he has had the opportunity to observe in others, it is fear.
A faint memory dances across the surface of his mind, and he remembers a shaft of sunlight spilling through the narrow window onto a bright blue quilt, remembers the fly's wings gleaming ersatz in the sun, its tiny body twitching dumbly as he pulled gently with the tweezers, plucking its legs off one by one.
"I think I do," he says. He means to force a laugh, but the chuckle that emerges from his throat is genuine, which scares him almost as much as he meant it to scare her. He should be used to the feeling now, after all their months together, but he feels suddenly drunk in a way that has nothing to do with the bourbon they downed earlier, giddy with the joy of twisting the knife in her. "You know, I really think I do."
He remembers how Zell howled when he discovered the game. The chicken-wuss had found the courage to dart forward and grab the mutilated thing, hurling it out the window, and he had cuffed Zell on the side of the face, because he was always so stupid. Zell smashed those dumb things a million times a day, especially if they came near his food, and the damage was already done. The fly was going to die anyway.
But Zell had said that it was different to do it that way, to hurt them on purpose, and screamed and screamed until Matron had come and he had been sent to bed early for a week, no desserts and no storybooks, burning with the injustice of it all, but there was no Matron to scold him now, and no reason to stop.
She shifts, the sheet sliding down her body to reveal the smooth plane of her stomach, her bare, pale thighs. A tendril of electric blue light trails up her side and blossoms into red on the side of her face, appearing and disappearing as the neon sign across the way blinks on and off. They've opened all the windows in the little flat but it is still sweltering in the grip of Balamb summer; he can see the beads of sweat standing on her skin, slicking down her hair.
The night breeze from the window brings with it the sound of noisemakers, fireworks, drunken songs. The New Year's celebration is still raging in full force; down below girls will be flashing their breasts and men will be downing whole pitchers and young couples will be fucking like rabbits in all the alleys and he wonders if any of them are having as much fun as he is right now, watching her squirm.
"God," she says, voice thick with alcohol and disgust. "You're such an asshole."
His laugh is a short, sharp bark. "There's a shocker. Any other zingers you wanna lob my way while you're at it? Might make you more interesting."
"Fuck you," she says, but now her voice is quiet, cowed by the simple truth. "This is about what she said, isn't it?"
He doesn't even know what she's talking about, but it's bound to be good. He waits, letting the silence stretch out, playing out the rope for her to hang herself with as she has a million times before. The drunks outside reach a crescendo. She crosses her arms over her chest as if to hide herself from him, as if she wouldn't give him everything if he asked.
"Fujin, I mean. At the bar, earlier. You went to get more drinks and she told me..."
"She said..." and she licks her lips, relishing the moment a little, even if she doesn't realize it. "She said it killed her to see you with someone like me. She said I didn't deserve you."
The laugh bubbles out unexpectedly, joyful and free. "Well, Fuu always does speak her mind. What did you say?"
"I said it was none of her business. I said it didn't matter what she thought, anyway, as long as you liked being with me."
She's always missing the point, he thinks, and finds that funny too. Never realizing that standing up to Fujin didn't mean a thing, not when she still came home with him every night.
For a moment, he hears Zell's shrill childhood voice, telling him to stop, he better stop right now, but he crushes it ruthlessly.
She closes her eyes, flinches a little, as if she's been struck by his words, and he thinks of slumping in defeat, the cool marble floor of Galbadia Garden underneath his cheek, thinks of a single delicate leg breaking away, perfect and precise in the June sun.
Payback's a bitch, isn't it? Isn't it?
"But this isn't about that. If I cared what Fujin thought I never would've started fucking you in the first place."
"Then- but- you-" she moves closer, frowning, almost growing angry. Anger is something that's foreign to her now, something she never really understood. Anger is hard. It is energy, fire, action. So much easier to yield, to gutter into cold silence. "Why? I've- I've done everything you could've asked."
Maybe that's exactly the problem.
He remembers meeting her at some smoke-clogged Balamb club he staggered into looking to kill time, one of those cheap faux-trendy places lit by screamingly bright neon flamingos and palm trees, full of kids with fake IDs and pathetic old drunks. He was squinting through the dim room in search of someone that didn't make him dry heave on sight when he saw her. She sat at the bar alone, nursing the kind of bright pink drink only women and queers could enjoy, listlessly playing with the little umbrella, her eyes gazing into the mirrored glass behind the bar. She wore a strapless red dress, cut low to show off her breasts, slit high to expose her legs, as fine a pair as any he'd ever seen. The cheap neon light that glared from behind the bar became a halo when it touched her, wreathing her limbs in a rosy nimbus, transforming her hair into spun gold, tracing bright curls along the lengths of her eyelashes.
In that moment, she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. In that moment, he thought that he had never hated anyone more, not Squall when he had traced that scar across his face, not Xu when she had sneered at him after his last failed SeeD exam, not Ultimecia she had playfully poked and prodded the surface of his mind like a child toying with a crippled animal. But Xu had been killed in some godforsaken op a month after the war ended and Ultimecia probably wasn't even born yet, and Squall, well, Squall was in love, and that was the worst kind of living hell he could envision. She, on the other hand, was right there, and if he didn't fuck up her night he knew he'd regret it for some time to come.
Her friends and their various attendant fuckables had long ago peeled off without her, and she must have already rebuffed most of the guys there by the time he slid onto the stool next to her and tapped her on the shoulder. He remembers the flash of anger that lit up her eyes, the way she jerked away from him. But soon wariness faded into comfort, into gratitude, and he realized just how lonely she really was, just how true every joke he'd thought up about her turned out to be, and somehow that fact excited him more than the dress that clung to her, the gold choker gleaming at her throat, her red lips.
He remembers the rest of the night only as a series of fragments, alternately clear and muddled, broken razor-shards of bleary glass.
Small talk, meaningless chatter. The hot summer, his freelance work hunting monsters, her new position at Garden. The Timber Civil War. Drinks. The Sorceress War. Squall. Drinks. The things that hadn't happened and should have. More drinks. Closing time. His place? The car.
Elbows smashing against the back window, squirming, sliding clumsily across the seat, her mouth hesitant under his but sweet and sugary from whatever she had been drinking. Kissing her so hard their teeth clicked together, biting her neck, hiking up her skirt, tearing away her panties and all he could think of was fucking her so hard it hurt, making her scream so loud that she would forget that she had ever been better than him, even for a second. She had been so bad that she could only have been a virgin, but she didn't bleed, and the whole time he was fucking her all he could think of was that old joke about all the Garden girls losing their hymens in training. Who popped the SeeD's cherry? The T-Rexaur!
And after, with her resting on his chest and trembling, all he could think of to say was that she was fucking terrible. He wanted the look of hurt on her face, her anger, her humiliation at falling into bed with him, and maybe it would go a tenth of the way towards the humiliation they had all brought him by plucking the wings of his romantic dream, crushing not only him but everything he had ever thought he could be.
He had expected her to hit him or at least curse him, but instead, her blue eyes had filled with tears, and she had started to babble drunkenly that she was sorry, she had never done it before. Something in him said that she must just be one of those kind of drunks, but there was more whether she knew it or not.
The part of him that was still decent, that still kept him up some nights asking what the hell he had done when Ultimecia had perched in his brain, the part of him that had told him to take up fishing, to be glad he was still alive, to forget romance and focus a little more on elbow grease, almost loved her for that. The rest of him, predatory and proud and vengeful, saw the weakness in her words and could only love hurting her.
He stroked her hair, and thought of the drops of honey he used to leave on the windowsill, and knew she was snared.
He remembers standing behind her in the bathroom, the sink still streaked with cheap ink-black dye, holding her close and looking over her shoulder into the mirror, where her newly-darkened hair spilled across her tear-slick face, knowing she knew what it meant as much as he did even if she would never say it. Instead, he had simply said, There, much better now. And she had nodded, and they had fucked right there, slamming her thighs against the porcelain so hard it left bruises, and her hair had made it better, not because he could imagine he was with Rinoa, but because he knew how much doing it had hurt her.
It was ridiculous for her to put up with him, which only added to the fun. She could have had any of dozens of men in her bed every night. But they would have adored her, and she could not abide that because she could not abide herself. The only attention she seemed to understand was the kind he so freely gave her.
No wonder she had chased after Squall all those years.
He wondered if it had something to do with her foster parents, but didn't really care enough to ask; the few times she had started to stammer out some explanation, he had quickly cut her off. He'd never been one to listen to sob stories, and he certainly wasn't going to start with hers. Especially not when he had one all his own, one big enough to encompass the world.
He had tried to stand up to the world and been ground to powder. When he tried to seize his own destiny, he had been thrown down, stomped upon, reviled, earned the hatred of his entire race. They couldn't respect his desire to grasp the wheel of change, only the trappings that had surrounded it. And maybe Ultimecia was a monster, and maybe she had done things in his head, and maybe if he had it all to do over again things would be different, but he had acted with more passion than the average numb fuck who sat around all day gorging on television and the 9 to 5 schedule could ever muster, and that he would never regret.
For that, for living, the world had deemed him a monster and rolled over to go back to sleep. Most people didn't know him enough to recognize him on sight, which probably saved his life every day, but his name was whispered to children like he was some bogeyman. He was the living dead, existing only through ignorance, invisibility. He would never be a SeeD. He would never stand astride the world. He would never even be able to run for dogcatcher of Balamb without the ugly past coming out. He was done. An invalid, a leaf in a stream, an idiot screaming in the dark.
If they wanted a monster, he would be one, and she would let him. If he couldn't reshape the world in his image, he could at least reshape her.
But it was getting kind of boring.
Tormenting Zell had been a lifelong pastime, but even as a kid he had never enjoyed it as much as sending barbs at Squall, and suddenly he knew why. Zell would always cry or run away. Squall would just stand and take it most of the time, but every now and then he grew angry, and he would launch himself at Seifer, arms flailing wildly. He was an unknown, a risk, a challenge.
Quistis was none of those things. The fly had stopped twitching. His insults sank into her and became a part of her seamlessly now, and there was no challenge, no purpose in it.
"Don't get me wrong," he says in the darkness. "It's been fun, but I'm kind of tired of fucking a punching bag."
"Don't say that." She has moved closer while he has been thinking. Her fingers trail along his thighs, followed by her breath. "Don't-"
"I already said it."
"You don't mean it." It is almost a sob.
"Of course I fucking mean it!" His hands clench in her hair and he pulls her roughly up to face him, a single savage yank that jerks her almost to her feet. She lurches forward, skin warm and soft against his, and he can smell her now, sweat and perfume and sex in the dark. Her eyes open wide, breath coming quickly, shallowly, pulse throbbing at her throat. She is at her most vulnerable and he feels that knowledge burning inside him, only a spark where it was once a flame, but it's almost enough to make him want her all over again.
Then she gasps, breathless and heedless as the tears course down her face, "I'll let you call me her." And this is something even she has never offered before, the last thing, the ultimate thing, and he feels the need overtake him in a tidal rush and then he is kissing her hard enough to draw blood.
There's not even time to make it to the bed; he takes her on the floor, brutal as ever, moaning another woman's name as her legs tighten around his back, her nails biting into his shoulders, hips rocking up into his eagerly. Her mouth is hot and wet and desperate on his; she is giving him everything, her body, her mind, what passes for a soul, and he takes it without a care in the world, remembering the taste of his own blood, the fire in the Sorceress's eyes, the bright sun searing off the blue bedspread. The world freezes and fractures, pleasure stabbing through him in a brittle moment of breaking glass, and she shivers beneath him.
The fog wafts from his mind and he returns to find himself atop her, his knees and elbows red with the same rug burn that must be scored all up and down her back. She holds him too tightly and the room is too hot and she is slick with both their sweat and he suddenly finds her more repulsive than before. He all but shoves her off of him, shrugging away her clinging grip, causing her to fall back to the floor as he rises and moves over to the window. The neon light blares through the room once more and then vanishes, extinguished.
"Seifer," she says behind him, pulling herself out of the snarl of clothes, wrappers, and trash that litters the floor. "Seifer-"
"I thought I told you I was bored," he says, the words sharp and hot in his mouth.
She flinches again, shoulders jumping in the wan light, and her voice quivers in shame or fear or both.
"Please. I love-"
"Listen, that's great. I'm really touched. But like I said, I can only kick the same puppy so many times before I start feeling a little disgusted with the whole process, and I've pretty much worn you the hell out, wouldn't you agree?"
"You're awful." She braces the heel of her hand against her forehead, and he wonders if she remembering the days when her worst debauchery was a schoolgirl's crush on puberty boy. Remembering what she had thought of herself before he showed her how far she was willing to go just to have someone listen to her babble in bed. Maybe she's thinking of a white picket fence, Squall coming home, a couple of revolting children screaming and laughing and chasing her skirts. What she got was a busted-down flat and a monster and rug-burns on her ass, and that was the way of the world, that was what happened when you viewed a Romantic Dream through the harsh lens of reality.
Big deal, he thinks, crushing the tickle of sympathy that tries to rise in his chest. Fuck with mine, I fuck with yours.
"You're one to talk. You'd stay here and let me rub this shit in your face forever and come back for more. You're begging me for the opportunity. So tell me now, Quistis, who's worse? Me for doing it, or you for loving it?"
"Fuck you," she says, the words lost in a flood of frantic sobs. "Just fuck you."
"I think I've had enough of that." He lets that sink in, the silence drawing itself out for a moment, then he is struck by that malicious gremlin of inspiration in his brain, the one that only pipes up when it's telling him how to hurt someone best with gunblade or words. "I was wrong about you being a poor excuse for an Instructor, though. You're actually just a poor excuse for a human being. Get out."
She wails like she's being stabbed or getting fucked. For her, in the end, they're probably the same thing. There is a discreet rustling as she pulls on her clothes, sobbing. Her voice is hard, bitter.
"If I ever see you again, I'll fucking kill you."
Maybe she believes that. Maybe she has a bit of a spine after all. He knows better.
The door squeaks open on rust-clotted hinges, slams shut in a final, feeble gesture.
He stands by the window, watching her wind her way through the thinning crowd of drunks, shoulders squared, head down to hide her tears, and wonders if she'll think of him on those long, cold, lonely nights.
He wonders if he'll think of her.
The only person who ever loved him enough to take every bit of nastiness he could dish out, if only because she was sick enough to like it. He tries to imagine them walking together in the park, having children, growing old together, and is struck by a belly laugh so hard that it drives him back against the wall and brings him to tears. His head buzzes, his mind tumbling through that hot, glittery fog of hateful affection, and he thinks about running after her, hitting her, fucking her, loving her and none of it makes sense, none of it ever has or ever will, and she is pitiful and she is nothing and she is everything and she is gone.
True love, he thinks, laughing, sobbing. What a beautiful face you have.
Nasty, nasty, nasty. This one just felt MEAN. But since Seifer's character is never really sorted out, and Quistis never really seems to step into her own, I have to say I don't find the thought of them stuck in a horribly destructive and codependent relationship like this all that ridiculous.
Thanks to Zachere, for beta-reading.
Tamilicious Rex for the punchline to the hymen-busting joke.