All Disclaimers Apply
Summary:Brother has exotic tastes. Cid has dynastic notions. Paine's not sure where she fits in until circumstances make things perfectly clear or serve to confuse her even more.
A/N:I felt like writing something exceedingly cliché and smexy (and if it's not cliché it should be). At first I thought to do it Rikku/Gippal, then I realized that while it was plausible the personalities weren't quite correct. So… wah lah, finally a brother/paine story. Full version at my fic LJ; prettygoth ink.
Brother had exotic tastes. Buddy told Paine one night over a couple of beers. It was a friendly warning, one that would've made more sense if Paine hadn't been able to see that Brother was mooning over Yuna like a love struck puppy and had been mooning for a year or more. Buddy went on to explain Brother's taste wasn't something normally talked about, but since Paine was living with them and becoming an integral part of the team. Buddy felt she should know. She'd accepted this with a raised eyebrow and almost choked on her next sip when Buddy continued by informing her not only was Brother an equal opportunist, he preferred people of the non Al Bhed persuasion.
"So that's what it means to have exotic tastes." She said in her driest tone.
Buddy gave up on whatever it was he was trying to do and had moved on to the next topic of conversation and soon it became nothing but a footnote in Paine's memory. Nothing she mulled over in the darkness of night in her bunk. She had more important things to do and Brother wasn't high on her list of priorities.
After Tidus came back, Brother moped. It was rather pathetic to see but there was nothing that could be done about it. Yuna loved Tidus and that was the end of it. Matters weren't helped any by the way Cid barged on and off the ship, making rash demands for grandchildren before he became 'old and gray.' Rikku had pointed out multiple times that he was already old and it was hard to go gray when you had no hair. Cid ignored her most often and pressured Brother to find a nice Al Bhed girl, settle down, and raise a couple of kids. Brother then would protest that why was he the one having to do that, Rikku was just as perfectly capable of having children and moreover she wanted them. At this point Rikku usually coughed, turned red, and discreetly retreated from the argument.
After a couple months of this, Paine caught Rikku caressing her stomach while Cid and Brother still shouted at each other. Their eyes met and Paine frowned and quirked one eyebrow upwards. Rikku's hand stilled, she flushed and bit her lip nodding slightly.
Just because Cid had the tenacity of a charging ruminant didn't mean he wasn't observant. He noticed that little interchange, came to the correct conclusion, and proceeded to ream Rikku out for being pregnant without being married. After which she'd shouted at him that he couldn't have things both ways and it wasn't his decision and other things that weren't repeatable. Cid appealed to Brother and Brother had kicked her off the ship for 'maternity' leave.
Rikku was in Djose six hours later talking to Gippal who hadn't known and immediately whisked her away to celebrate, an insufferable smirk on his face. There would be no living with him after this. Fortunately, Paine didn't have to, that was Rikku's prerogative and she was welcome to the arrogant jackass.
Yuna and Tidus set off to fix a problem with their marital status so Cid wouldn't have cause to chew them out as thoroughly as he'd chewed Rikku out. Rikku had refused Cid the right to even talk to Gippal until after the baby was born or he'd calmed down, whichever came first. From the dark looks Cid gave off, the baby was going to be born first.
So of the three of legal age left on the Celsius were rather at loose ends. Two years of living and work together had given them a level of comfort with each other, enough that they could tolerate each others company. Enough that going to a Lucan bar and comparing the opposite sex (or in Brother's case, both sexes) with each other wasn't completely out of context. Though listening to Brother saying Bickson had a fine ass but a shitty personality was a little strange at first. She agreed with the personality assessment, she'd pass on the ass. Buddy at least stuck to girls and always Al Bhed girls at that. Of the three of them, he had the most luck with picking up a partner for the night. A smooth smile and a few correct words and women were putty in his hands. It reminded Paine of Gippal, except Gippal had never been serious. It seemed Gippal saved his favors for Rikku. With Buddy gone, this left Paine and Brother to go back to the ship and fight over who got the next pilot's watch. Brother never being happy with anyone else flying his 'baby.' He was becoming more tolerant of the notion.
It usually wasn't much of a fight. Brother would throw his arms in the air and rave for a few minutes while she stood there with crossed arms and tapped her foot. He'd stop, pronounce he was going to bed and vacate the bridge without once looking back. It was an equitable arrangement that let her ride shotgun from time to time and let Brother get some sleep without feeling bad about abandoning his post.
So, when Paine finally did figure out that all those months if not years ago Buddy was trying to warn specifically her about Brother. It was a little too late.
By all logic, it should've been her that went after some airship part in the middle of Macalania ice plain. That's what she was there for, ground crew, fetch person, and go for girl. Brother insisted. He knew the ice plains. She didn't. He was used to traversing ice because of where they found the Celsius. He knew what to look for. He was the leader. He gave the orders. Why didn't anyone ever listen to him? He'd gone. She'd stayed, locking all protests and arguments behind her teeth because all her arguments were for the less logical points he'd brought up and none of the logical ones.
She'd just have to trust him that he knew what he was doing. The fact that he didn't know anything about anything did cross her mind quite a few times. No wonder Rikku beat on him so much. He was a frustrating person.
Once again, by all logic she should've contacted Buddy or Yuna or even Rikku before going after him. Just by the point she figured something was wrong, the few hours it would've taken to go get anyone by airship, Brother most likely would be dead. She'd left Shinra in charge, which wasn't the greatest idea but was she to do. Cid would never forgive her if she left his only son to die in what turned out to be a blizzard in Macalania, nor would Rikku who for some reason was inordinately fond of her brother even when he annoyed her beyond all reason.
She found him, half buried in snow and turning blue. Consolation one, he had the part. Consolation two, he had been heading back to a pick up point when he collapsed. She dragged him back to O'aka's, cursing him and his Al Bhed desert physiology every step. O'aka's abandoned shop was a welcome sight. There was no way Shinra was going to be able to land the ship in the blizzard.
She forced the door open, laid him down on the skin rug, barred the door, and started a fire. She could still see her breath. The building only took an edge off the chill by blocking the wind. She glared at the fire, hoping that it would heat the room faster by sheer force of will. It didn't work, plus they were both wet and Brother barely breathed.
She scrounged for blankets and did what had to be done. She stripped Brother, dried him off with a blanket and wrapped him in another so she could do the same. She created a nest for them on the rug, stripped, used a fire warmed blanket to dry off and wiggled under the blankets with him, pressing her body against his, rubbing his fingers with her hands, hoping to keep circulation in them, noticing how long and delicate they were, calluses on the fingertips. She blanked her mind to the fact they were both naked as the day they were born and concentrated on making him warm instead of the clammy chill that seeped from his skin to hers.
She slipped out from time to time to put fuel on the fire and grabbed the now dry blankets to add to the pile. Gradually he warmed to the point where she didn't fear so much for his health. She didn't move away, shifting about so she could look down at the cause of their current troubles.
Asleep he didn't look like someone who did these things on purpose. Of course, no one looked guilty while sleeping, unless they slept with some sort of smirk on their face. Brother was just another little boy with long eyelashes, whose tattoos under his eyes masked the dark rings he had. That much told her this sleep was long overdue. Paine noted the hollows in his cheeks and wondered if that was really his facial structure or lack of eating. His torso was well muscled, though he could be eating just enough to stay in shape and not much else, eating enough to survive as it were.
She frowned. There was more than enough food on the Celsius. She stood as many watches as she could so he could sleep. Of course, she'd never paid attention enough to see how often he ate, nor could she check to see if he really was asleep. She also couldn't recall when Brother, in all the time she had known him, hadn't looked this way, a shade too thin, a bit too tired and all masked by a boisterous personality and extravagant overt gestures. She'd just assumed this was normal. On closer inspection, she was wrong. She sighed. Whatever was eating at him, started long before Yuna's reunion with Tidus.
Could she help? Did she even want to help? Was it her place? She yawned. They were friends of a sort, more thrown together than seeking each other out, but they were still friends. Brother on a very basic level amused her and he was dreadfully easy to manipulate. She curled up around him as fatigue washed over her. She'd think about it later. Under weight Brother may be, he was still no featherweight. At least the room was warm.
Warm, he was warm. In that good way, not the, I'm losing track of my fingers and toes need to lie down in the soft fluffy snow way. Though there was something soft between him and the hardness of the floor and something soft in an entirely different way pressed against his side, something with curves, something, or rather someone of the decidedly female persuasion. He normally wasn't one to ask questions about that sort of thing. Just the last thing he remembered was miles and miles of snow and the dread certainty he was walking in circles.
He cracked an eye and saw a ceiling. Well, that was an improvement over cloud filled skies and stinging snowflakes. He closed his eye. Oh he needed to stretch, every muscle ached in a way that made him feel like he hadn't moved in days. Brother opened his eyes and carefully sat up, hoping he wouldn't disturb the girl. He stretched, twisted back and forth, working out the kinks.
Then he looked down and almost bit his tongue in half keeping the explosive 'Paine' from escaping. He scrubbed his face with his hands and called himself ten types of a fool. A girl had had come to rescue him from a damn fool scrape he'd gotten into. His hands shook. What a way not to impress the ladies, he thought trying to sidetrack himself from yet another blow to his self worth and self esteem.
Why oh, why couldn't the Celsius be enough?
He brought his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, hiding his face. He knew the litany of unanswered questions, partial truths and half formed regrets that followed that question. Questions he liked to bury beneath false cheer and booze. Questions that didn't let him sleep or eat or even function normally, like he had when Home was still around.
He bit his lip.
Home. He had tried making a new one. He had the Celsius. He didn't want to rebuild Home. It'd be a lie, sacrilege, blasphemous. It wouldn't be his Home. He argued long and loud with his father when pressured to do so. Home was where he had had friends, family, purpose. Now he didn't even have that. Rikku was off with Gippal and Cid was off doing Yevon knew what, Yevon knew where. Buddy was still around but some days it felt like a thin thread of loyalty was keeping him there. Yuna had Tidus, whom Brother wanted to hate but the boy made it impossible to do so. Things just kept falling apart before he could glue them back together and he was tired, oh so tired.
He risked a glance at Paine, the soft milky whiteness of her, just slightly more rose than the fur underneath them. If she'd been smart she would've left him to die. The Celsius would've been hers for the taking. She loved it as much as he did. It was her home, a place she would always come back to. He understood that, which was the only reason he let her pilot. Her love for the ship assured him she'd never let it crash. Plus she always had this 'put up or shut up' expression he liked as he ineffectually argued, argued just to see the expression.
Yet, she'd saved him. Put her precious dignity aside to make him warm again. He owed her, owed her his life. He realized his glance had turned into a stare and closed his eyes, resting his forehead against his arms. He should be dead. He'd be better off. He should walk out that door and never look back, let them find him when he was past saving, frozen solid. At least he wouldn't have to watch everyone around him become happy and stable while he grasped at straws to ground his life again.
His shoulders shuddered as he repressed a whimper. "Why?" Why him? He'd tried so hard to make things right, do things right and things just kept going so wrong. His eyes burned and he closed them tighter. He was too old to cry over things that couldn't be changed. Home was destroyed. Home didn't have to die. Part of him was sure that Cid didn't have to blow it up and that he could've done something to stop it.
"Brother?" Paine said, her voice still sleepy. He felt her hand on his shoulder, warm because the room had chilled him a bit. He stiffened and tried to pull his emotions together. The leader shouldn't fall apart. A leader didn't have cracks in his armor.
Fuck, he wasn't the leader. He needed to stop deluding himself. Yuna was the leader. She made the decisions. He just smiled and nodded, deferring everything to her. The Celsius didn't need him, never did. Rikku said it so many times. They could run on autopilot. His own sister talked like that. His shoulder's stiffened more. The habit of not crying taking over even if he desperately needed it. Paine didn't need to see him cry. She'd pity him then and he didn't want pity.
"I'm okay," he said into his arms. He wasn't okay. Any idiot could see that. Paine wasn't an idiot. So he was sure that she could see it too.
Her hand didn't move. "I can't understand you."
He forced a smile as he looked over at her. "I'm okay." He repeated. "Thank you for-" He cut it off and swallowed. He couldn't lie that much. He looked away from her concerned eyes. "I owe you."
"You would've done the same."
He snorted. "I would've tried. It's not at all the same thing." Silence. "You don't have to call me Brother, just because Rikku and Buddy do. I'd actually prefer it if you didn't. Makes me feel like you and Yuna are more like younger siblings. I don't want that." More silence. "Sudran named me Anikki, it means something bullshitty pretentious, like Rikku's name." More silence and he'd just run out of things to say.
"Don't you ever get angry?" Paine asked. "I mean, not angry like at your father angry, because that always looks routine to me. An expected play, everyone knows the lines, follows them accordingly with the correct inflection and stage movements. I mean, really angry."
"No." She said.
He paused. "Not anymore." He looked over at her. "You think I should."
She shrugged. "It'd be more constructive than whatever it is you think you're doing."
"I'm not doing anything." He said, shoulders relaxing, time to change the subject. "You're beautiful." He caressed her face with his eyes, her cheekbones, her nose, the shape of her lips.
"You almost died."
"Doesn't change the truth."
Her lips twitched upwards. "Anikki."
He knew the rest of the line. 'Not that I'm not flattered but-' His jaw tightened. This was why he didn't do anything. It never worked. He got amused smiles, sardonic ones, much like the one she was using on him now and the entire endeavor went down the drain. As if they came out of the blue, like he'd never noticed her before. He'd noticed her. She was hard not to notice, so different in her black leathers and with those red eyes. He just knew better than to act on it when she carried a four-foot length of sharpened steel. His cheeks sucked in. "I'm trying to do something here and you're laughing at me."
"Seduce you." Golden opportunities didn't fall into his lap like this very often and where would he find a setting more cheesy or romantic than a fur rug in front of a fire. He knew he wasn't Buddy or Gippal but he'd been sincere in his statement. She was beautiful and he was male enough that he had to try to take it farther. And it looked like it was yet another attempt doomed to failure. But shit, he was going to do his best. He was one moody son of a bitch and well he knew it. He smirked at her before leaning in and kissing her, reaching out and cupping her cheek. He pulled away and licked his lips. She tasted like herself, whole and entire, decadent. She looked at him with this very odd expression on her face. He had grown another head it seemed. "You can tell me no, anytime now. No need to get my hopes up."
"You got angry."
"You said you don't get angry." She was definitely amused.
He shifted so he could put his head in the crook of her neck. She hadn't told him no yet. He inhaled deeply, nipping the skin with his teeth before speaking. "I just did." Her neck tilted and he kissed the stretched skin.
He slid a hand to the small of her back, stroking the base of her spine. "Nope."
He pulled her into his lap and rubbed her cheek with his. "Paine, when did you start talking so much?" He kissed her again, parting her lips and tasting her more, stroking the inside of her mouth. He caressed her body. Her hands came up to grip his shoulders. He broke the kiss. "Stop me." He whispered.
"Is that an order?"
"Only if you want it to be."
She licked her lips. "I won't tell if you don't."
He pressed his lips together. "Sex won't heal me. When this is over, I'll still be the same."
She shook her head. "You've taken that first step." She held his head between her hands. "From whatever it is that haunts you." She kissed him. He moaned and took over. Paine gasped as he shifted her higher, kissing a breast, finding and sucking on one of her nipples. His hand covered the other one with a hand, squeezing it and he felt her shiver.
He lowered her back to the rug and there weren't many words needed after that.
"You're heavy," She said. She tried to shove a hip up to topple him off to the side. It didn't work. She poked his shoulder with one of her now free hands.
"You'd know." He muttered.
"Move." She poked him again.
"I give the orders around here." He said and rolled over anyways, bringing her with him. She had to smile because his voice lacked all the usual indignation of when he said that phrase. He only sounded mildly grumpy, like a man told to move when he was exceedingly comfortable. He looked a lot more relaxed, some of the lines in his face that she hadn't realized he had were erased. His eyes cracked open, slivers of brilliant green.
She used a finger to smooth his eyebrows. "Sure you do."
"Hmph, we agree again."
She grinned and then laughed. She hadn't laughed like that in a long time, too long. She wiggled upwards and dropped a kiss on his lips. Maybe he was good for her too. Help her see the absurd in life. She didn't really want to dwell on her motivations for having sex with him, motivations that felt more like instincts than reason. "I recommend more sleep for you."
"The storm sounds like it's abated. I want to see if I can get some contact with the Celsius, talk Shinra into getting Buddy. Luca's better for an auto pilot landing than Macalania."
"Read my mind." He reached for the blankets with his toes. She rolled her eyes and wiggled from his arms. She tucked him in and dressed. He was out before she cracked the door and stepped out into the icy snowfield. She hissed at the lack of warmth and searched for the commsphere. Once found, she picked it up and carried it back inside. It came alive in her hands.
"You find him?" Buddy asked. His forehead creased in concern.
She rotated the commsphere so they could seem him sleeping. "Almost frozen to death, but he's all right now."
"You think so?"
Paine smiled. "Yeah, I really think so."