Get Up and Use Me

Summertime in Midgar. The schools are empty, the streets are crowded, and the patchy grass is brown. Buildings just stand around, radiating heat like an oven-tray and offering nothing in the way of shade, and the road ahead of me blurs with sunlight and lingering exhaust. I don't get a vacation, not now and not ever. My job doesn't change, no matter how many bustling strangers fill the city, no matter how they fill their days.

My hair is getting shaggy, and it sticks to the back of my neck. I reach up and run a hand through it—dark auburn, it's almost as bad as if it were black—and I think I could fry an egg up there. The city's hot enough to cook your brains inside your skull this time of year. I've seen it once or twice in the papers—some poor kid faints and ends up in the hospital, not remembering where he was just hours before. That cloud of smog that's starting to gather above us isn't helping, either. Sometimes I think we've created a monster.

It's damned hot in this suit, too. Five more minutes and I'll be seriously tempted to leave him here.

As if on cue, the kid exits the store, his fingers hooked into a twelve-case of beer and a tell-tale bulge in his left pants pocket. He's walking around without his jacket, his shoulder-holster exposed for all the world to see. I know they recognize the suit anyway, but I don't like drawing unnecessary attention—though it's not like he's gotten blood on it this time.

I push myself up from the hood of the car and settle into the driver's seat, starting the ignition. I'd thought I could cool off outside, but the breeze wasn't what I had hoped for, and damned if it isn't hotter now than when I'd first gotten out. Should have left the air running.

Valentine sets the beer in the back seat and sits down next to me while I wait for the vents to get going. I hold my hand out in expectation, not even looking at him really—I try not to do that as much lately. He hands me the pack, and I smack it against my palm a few times, but pause in tearing the plastic away. Then I do look at him.

Goddammit.

"They didn't have non-filters," he explains, shrugging. "I could have gotten you another brand, or this." And then he turns that damned crooked smile on me. It's flashy, only not. It's not the kind of smile you give your colleague, and I swear he does it just to fuck with me.

"Could have asked," I mutter around one of the cigarettes, lighting up and putting the car into drive.

"I didn't want to put the beer down, come out here and then go back in."

I frown. I know he didn't get laid last night—if he had, he might have considered doing someone else a favor. Then again, maybe not. I've never really understood why Valentine does anything. Something's off about him. He's not without emotion—it's just not based on anything. He channels anger and sass at whim, like getting into character for an act. Unpredictable.

Though I wonder now, why he didn't go home with the girl from the bar. We had a late morning—he would have had the time. She was attractive and easily impressed—one night with Valentine probably would have ruined her for anybody else. I would have thought he would jump at the opportunity.

"Just pull the filter out," he says. "That's what I do."

It's a perfectly good third of a stick gone to waste, but I do it anyways. It's not like I get to sit around and enjoy much of anything leisurely and uninterrupted these days, certainly not an entire cigarette. In fact, it's getting worse—sometimes I'm so unfocused I can't even think straight. I blame most of it on the kid, though part of me hopes it's just some phase I'm going through. If that's the case, it won't last, but I know the kid will stick around for a long time.

Valentine's unnaturally good at his job.

He's smiling again as he raps the backs of his knuckles against the window, and I fight to keep my eyes on the road. I knew that if I let his eye catch mine early today I'd end up watching him all afternoon. I'm a diagnosed obsessive-compulsive—and while most of the time I have no problem keeping my outward composure intact, my mind is an entirely different story.

His body is slouched in the seat, sprawled out across my leather, something that used to drive me up the proverbial wall—still does, especially on bad days. My own fucking shadow, and whenever he's around, my bad days get worse for completely different reasons. Especially when he's readjusting himself constantly in the corner of my vision—his legs, his arms, the headrest.

The road is clear for about twenty feet ahead of me, and my eye flicks over in his direction to find that he's already staring at me. His eyes are hard and intense like crunching broken glass underfoot, and for a second I want to forget about driving. Then his mouth twitches, and he looks out the window.

This isn't normal for me. I'm—I'm not like that. He knows this, because it's come up before, and I think he thinks he's got something I want, and it makes him feel even better about himself. If that's all it is, then he's right—but I don't have to say it, and I won't. It's just a phase. I can't be that, because I've never been, and the last thing I need is for him to be thinking it's his doing.

That's what I keep telling myself. But the situation seems to be arguing with me on that one.

I'm not in love or anything like that. It's a hard life, and everyone needs something to hold onto—everyone except maybe Valentine himself. His lust for mayhem is the very thing that keeps him going—that and those guns of his.

Of course that's not all it is, but I try not to think about it. That sort of thing can get well-meaning people into trouble. Not that I'm the poster-boy for good intent, or that I have much control over my thoughts lately. I in fact hold no intentions for most people, but when it comes to Valentine—he's more able to take care of himself than even I know sometimes, self-sufficient and resourceful in the field and out, but—I'm responsible for him in a lot of ways.

We're almost to the apartments when he finally speaks, asks me what we've got lined up for the rest of the day. Only he's not simply asking the question, he's running through scenarios. Will we be spending time in the office? Will we end up with some boring assignment, done in a matter of minutes and finding ourselves in some dive? Maybe we could go back to that one, he says, because I took so well to it the last time.

He's a jerk for that low blow, but I'm barely listening to what he's saying, just the way he's saying it. He's talking deliberately, with purpose, slowing things down and unnecessarily. His voice is smooth and even as he wraps his mouth around the words he normally wouldn't waste, and I—I need out of this car.

I pull the sedan to a stop and nearly rip my seatbelt from its harness, exiting the vehicle and taking long strides to the front door. It's just a phase—it's not real. I know I'm in some kind of denial, but if Valentine ever gets to the point where he does need something, it shouldn't be me. He'll make bad decisions, and he'll have an even harder time dealing with the ones I make. I know, because I'm already there. And it doesn't matter, I tell myself, because he has to be fucking with me.

"Veld!" He laughs like it's ridiculous, but he knows me well enough by now, and that's just not the case. And I can feel his gaze hardening on my back as I continue to walk, because Valentine never stays light-hearted after a laugh like that, not when I'm brushing him off. I can hear the incredulity in his tone before the words even leave his mouth. "The hell has gotten into you?"

It's hot out—you kept me waiting. I'm tired. I've got the wrong pack of smokes. Go home, kid.

Valentine follows me in, and I take the stairs, because I don't need to be in an enclosed space with him. I'm so damned frustrated I could kill him. I could. Only this time, he hasn't done anything wrong—in fact, he's almost been kind of nice these past few days, and I find that suspicious. This—this is what I've become, a paranoid mess. Conditioned—this is what he does to me. And it's probably for more than shits and grins, but again, I don't want to think about it.

Did I just say in a round-about fashion that he's training me?

It's like that story, where the man kills the other man just because he can't stand to look at his eye, and then he starts hearing heartbeats under his floorboards. How did that man get rid of his nightmare?

I throw my keys down once inside the apartment, and Valentine puts the beer in the fridge. Indecisive, I take off my jacket and set it down on the back of one of the chairs next to my kitchen counter. Part of me wants to retreat to my room, part of me wants to stay in open spaces. I don't need him following me, cornering me. I think that maybe I can stick him in the office and run around town today doing other assignments. I could use the break.

But I don't get the chance.

"So," he says. "Are you going to tell me what's going on, or do I have to drag it out of you?"

It's not like a Turk to care about someone else's problems, Valentine especially—he lives in his own world. But lately he pokes and prods at me like he's got some vested interest, turning business into personal shit, and damned if I don't have mixed feelings about that. "I'm in a bad mood, kid. Just leave me alone for a while."

"Well, are you going to be like this all day? Because I need to know."

"The fuck am I supposed to know?" I growl. "What do you care?"

"I'm your partner, Veld. We have to work together, and your mood affects me. And frankly, I'm getting a little tired of your manic bullshit." Something snaps.

"Piss off, I said!"

I might have made some threatening gesture—certainly not out of the question, given my state of mind—because he slams me up against the wall then, and hard. Valentine can turn ugly real quick, and before I know it we're grappling on the floor. We're both wiry little shits, but although I like to think I'm meaner, the kid is taller, heavier and stronger, and he's got one hell of a reach. I want to hurt him—I should be proud, but some belying part of me wants to break his face, because he's almost laughing. "What's gotten into you?" he asks—amused? I don't know. Confused? Doubtful.

My hands are pinned above my head, and I swallow the sound of my defeat, because it's just as much a confession. And suddenly I know he knows it—he can feel it against my leg, I can see it in his eyes—and rather than succumb to shame, the fighting part of me wants to throw him out on his ass, just so I don't have to deal with it. But I can't move—he's sitting on me.

"Oh," he says, eyes lighting up with some smug sort of satisfaction. "That's it."

Can't, or won't? I throw my weight against him, and he rolls away without a fight. I'm up in seconds and walking away from him—to where, I don't know. "I told you to get the fuck away from me," I hiss on my way out of the room.

"Oh, okay. Sorry, I must have misread you."

And there it is. He shrugs it off like it doesn't bother him, and I know I can walk away and leave things where they are, or I can turn around and blow this thing wide open. But there's a jibe in his tone, so very contrary to his body language, and I know what he's getting at—and the urge to do something about it is addictive. I turn, glaring, and advance on him. "You goddamn son of a—"

I push him. He pushes back. Without even thinking, I try to take a swing at him, but he ducks. Suddenly his hands are on me, and again there's a wall at my back. My body flushes hot, and I'm frightened to hell by the tingling in my limbs—dumb and panicky, and I don't know what to do with this. But we can't go back—we work together. I see him every damned day.

Where do we stand? I don't know. Valentine isn't immoral, he's amoral—the rules don't apply to him. He just does what he does, sometimes for no reason at all. I think to myself that he'd make a terrifying lover, all selfishness and possessiveness. Not like he's ever been in any real relationships, not like they've lasted that long. His only long-term love affair is with violence. He doesn't—doesn't know how to handle it. I don't know, either.

A last ditch attempt—but I suppose it's a lot easier to make a move on someone when you already expect to have the shit kicked out of you. Because then, what have you got to lose?

He kisses me.

Just giving me what I want, and I don't need that kind of charity. So, I push him away—he grabs me by the collar and pins me again violently. And then his mouth is back on mine, muffling angry words. I want him to know I'm more trouble than I'm worth, but when his tongue slips in, warm and wet, I fail to stifle my reaction.

He breaks away, and I make a frustrated sound in the back of my throat.

"I see," he answers, hot breath against the side of my face, and then he's at it again with that mouth of his. A fiery brand on my throat—it's good for more than sass. His knee forces its way in between my thighs, his hand fists itself in my hair, yanking back—I'm caught and exposed, trapped between my own wall and Valentine's firm hands, his teeth and tongue—and I let loose a shuddering breath, tinged with a deep moan which grows louder the harder he presses into me.

Cocky. He's got me where he wants me, where I want me, and it's making him feel all sorts of powerful. But if I'm honest—honest—I don't mind if that's how he wants to get off. I'm tired of wondering, tired of fighting. One hand wraps around my throat to still me while the other undoes my tie.

I surrender.

It isn't long before I'm pressing back, my hands just as busy grasping the starched fabric of his shirt, the buckle at his waist. It seems like forever since I've felt this alive, seen someone else act this alive, and I'm practically climbing my way up his body, hard knees knocking together as he advances and I stumble backwards into the bedroom. We land half-on, half-off the bed—and I finally realize, my chest trapped underneath his own—he was right about me, about me and him. I've all but come undone.

Valentine's demanding, but not quite selfish. He's looking for something, adamant about breaking me down. It turns out he really likes making me writhe about for him, comfortable or not, even better when I talk back or offer some resistance, drawing things out. There are so many ways to do this—I've got my dignity, I'm not some needy pup, and I want him to know—but his hands, his mouth, are so damned convincing. It's my reaction that gets him off. Can't wait to see Veld's face when I push this or that button, can't wait to see what he does when I cross this line right here, when I touch him here, there—yeah, that sounds about right. Even in this, he's the same Valentine through and through.

I smirk beneath the bruising force of his kiss, but he doesn't break away or question. The giving side of him is something new. So deliberate and unyielding, and I'm not ready for it to end when it does.

The air is cool on my sweat-soaked skin, exposed again and flushed with that pulsing heat, and I'm sore all over. My back, my legs from being crushed under his weight and smothered—among other things—it had been a while for me to begin with. The room is hushed, save for the sounds of traffic out on the street, until there's a rustle at my side. Valentine settles in next to me, those hard knees against mine, tangled limbs heavy with exhaustion. And god, the smell—it's going to be here to greet me when I come home.

He's quiet for a moment, studying the freckles on my shoulder like he might find some intricate pattern. I can feel the ghost of his breath as his nose follows the curve of my neck, shoulder to jaw, and my heart resumes its pounding. Suddenly the way his chin not-quite holds my neck down is suffocating, and I shift away—but then his rust-russet eyes flick up to mine, a question dancing inside.

"Feel better?"

I think about it. I've just had the best sex of my life with the kid—not my kid anymore, but I still feel accountable—and I'm reminded that we have to be back in a couple of hours. Valentine's lying there next to me, probably feeling very proud of himself, and if his tone is any indication, he's already got the answer he wants.

Gloating, it sounds like—and he's going to be around for the rest of the afternoon, at least.

He flashes that same god-awful grin at me, and I want to jump his bones all over again and pummel him at the same time. He's got no shame—flirtatious, cocky shit—and I've just come to the realization that no, I don't feel better. Temporarily, yes—but that will fade quickly, is fading now with the knowledge that our fights are going to be worse, and they'll probably be over different things—and I know already that I'm going to want this again and again, that he's already made an addict out of me.

But Valentine...

Valentine doesn't need anything, never wants anything—not yet, but he'll give me what I want in the meantime. I don't know why, don't know where to even begin with the assumptions that will get me nowhere. Just another thing I didn't need to drive me crazy. He's—he's a damned fool.

And so am I.

End

Final Fantasy VII and its characters © 1997 Square-Enix Co., Ltd.


Listening To: Franz Ferdinand - 'I'm Your Villain'

Notes: I was writing this for a contest, pressured to write a piece within a month. I waited for a while, and then this poured out of me within a day or two. I had the ending in sight, knew what I wanted to happen, but it just fell out of me at the last second. I like these two—they get shit done, and they get it done right. XD