because she is lovely,
and made of awesome,
and perhaps i just love her
AND WELCOME BACK.
"Arr!" said Vaan.
"Vaan," I say patiently, counting to ten in my head. "That is not how sky pirates speak."
"Aye, Penny, join in the chantey and grab a draught!" Vaan holds up a suspiciously alcoholic drink, grinning.
"I refuse to socialise with a moron," I reply through gritted teeth.
We've been having this argument for the past hour. It's not getting anywhere.
two. swishy-swishy pants.
"Vaan!" I call out excitedly, pointing to the shop window. A beautiful pair of pants are displayed in the window, flaring out at the ends and dyed in pastel colours. It's love at first sight.
"What is it, Penny?" he rubs his eyes wearily.
"I want them!" I gesture at the pants. "I really, really want them!"
"But you already have pants," Vaan glances at the ones I'm wearing.
I pout. "Yes, of course I do. But a girl can't live with one set of pants."
"…you have other ones at home, too."
"And didn't you know three is my lucky number?" I clap my hands together, lustily staring at the pants for longer than I probably should. I'm imagining all the places I can possibly go while wearing them, impressing attractive rich noble men everywhere!
(Or maybe just Balthier, for starters.)
"We don't have enough money for them," Vaan says petulantly, almost as if he knows what I'm thinking. Which he very well might; I'm very transparent when it comes to Balthier.
"I want me to have them," I smile prettily, attempting to make my eyes shine expectantly. Mostly I think I just look like I'm going to die of consumption. "They are beautiful and pretty and after all this fighting, after fighting against the Archadians for so long––" my voice hitches with unshed tears in just the right place. Ahaha. "––I just really want to… really want to feel like a real woman. Like…like Ashe!"
Vaan stares, unaccustomed to female outbursts. I would not have to explain my desire for the pants to a woman. Men.
"Okay," he says uncertainly. "You can have the pants."
"Yay!" I fling myself at him. "You are made of awesome, Vaan. I will somehow repay you and am very, very grateful for your kindness. Did I mention you are extremely awesome?"
"Did you take the drugs those street urchins were selling?"
(Typical Vaan comment.)
I look down. "Vaan?"
There is, indeed, a blonde male sprawled beneath me. He appears to be conscious, and very annoyed.
"What the hell, Penny?"
I fidget uncomfortably. "Well…well, um…see, there was a slight mix-up at the dress store––I kind of maybe took this woman's dress that she had just paid for, and I was about to give her some coins when the guards ran after me, and then it was a dead-end so I had to jump…"
Vaan pushes me off of him. "You mean you shoplifted?" he seems almost impressed.
"It was only a twenty-gil dress," I say defensively. "You see, Ashe––Ashelia––has invited us to that ball next week, and I have nothing good to wear, and no money, either, so…"
"I think you're finally getting influenced by me," says Vaan reverently, taking my hand. "I think some of your responsible nature is killed. I think I broke you, Penny."
I hmph irritably. "I am not broken. I am perfectly whole."
He smiles slightly. "Never any less than that."
I just tell him he's a 'lump of squishy', although I am unsure what that means and think I just happened to ramble because his smile makes my heart do flips.
There's an incredibly attractive masked blonde boy in the far corner, by the balcony. I have been staring at him for almost ten minutes, wondering if I should pester him for a dance. He doesn't look particularly light on his feet––he tripped over a pot plant three minutes and twenty-nine seconds ago. But he looks very, very pretty. And I have a weakness for pretty men.
Also, I'm alone. Vaan has decided to be elsewhere this evening, and I feel like a loser, dressed up in my twenty-gil dress. I'm like one of those gaudy decorations that street merchants sell, whereas the other women here are gold necklaces with diamonds and pearls.
I fiddle irritably with my hair. It's too long to be properly manageable. I feel far from well-groomed, and less than respectable. If Vaan were here, at least I'd know that I'm not the worst looking person.
The attractive masked boy is moving towards the punch bowl. I clasp my hands together uncertainly. Should I or shouldn't I? What do I have to risk? I'm a street urchin from Lowtown, parentless and with barely enough funds scraped together to afford a decent meal three times a day. It's not as if these nobles would spare me a glance on any other occasion.
(I thought maybe being saviour of the world would help. It apparently does not.)
I look up, and then flounder. Incredibly attractive masked boy is talking to me!
"Uh. Uh. Yes?"
"Do you want to dance with me?" he smiles sheepishly, almost as if he's expecting disappointment regardless. It seems familiar somehow.
"Um. Okay. I mean yes."
It turns out that he can at least hold himself up without falling, but I appear to be doing most of the leading. He compliments me on my grace and swiftness, and asks if I'm a dancer. I tell him yes, I am, and his brow furrows.
The clock's midnight strike interrupts our dance.
"Okay, dancers, remove the masks of your partners!"
I squirm excitedly. A chance to see the face of attractive masked boy! Unless he has third degree burns, I am sure to be impressed.
We pull each other's masks away at the same time.
And then I stare.
No, we never spoke of that night again.
I'm unsure whether I liked that resolution.
"Ice-cream is cold, like ice… yet not crunchy, like cream," says Vaan dubiously.
"I am astounded at your philosophical capabilities. Whatever will you think of next?"
"You don't have to be so sarcastic," he pouts.
I swing my legs idly, ensuring my ice-cream doesn't stain my pretty swishy-swishy pants.
"I think maybe the heat has gotten to your brain," I comment.
"Shuttup," he grouches, scowling.
I rest my head on his shoulder. "Thankyou for buying me ice-cream, though. It was very gallant and chivalrous of you. You can be my ice-cream wielding knight in shining armour."
I always wanted to be saved by my knight. And I'll settle for being saved from being fried alive––summertime in Rabanastre is our most deadly enemy yet.
What are you so afraid of?
I hate birthdays.
I hate birthdays because it means getting older, and getting older is the only way you can measure getting closer to death. But––is that really a failsafe way? So many died in the plague, and in the ensuing wars… so many children, so many people younger than me. My parents. Reks.
I hate birthdays because society believes that people who are older should die. And if I get older, does that mean it applies to me, too?
What are you so afraid of?
I'm afraid of dying. It looks painful. It sounds painful. I remember my parents and how my mother coughed up blood and my father wheezed and spluttered and their eyes dulled out to a pale grey. I remember their bodies covered in bruises and sores.
I see people die in the battlefield, with bullets to their heads and chests and throats. People cleaved in two, people decapitated, burned, disembowelled. People torn limb from limb. Is that really the way humans should burn out? Reduced to a pile of skin and bones and muscles?
What are you so afraid of?
I'm so scared that I lock myself in my room and refuse to come out. This day, of all days, is when I acknowledge humanity and its many flaws.
Vaan climbs through the window, and sits with me, and gives me a solitary cupcake with a lone candle speared through the middle.
I'm laughing so hard through my tears that I forget. I forget I'm afraid.
And I love him for it.
"I can just smell change," Vaan says to me, as we stroll through Rabanastre. "I can almost smell the way people will get richer, better, healthier. You know? It's like a sixth sense."
"Actually, that's one of the five," I tell him mildly, although I don't want to discourage his good mood.
He steps. "But, Penny, don't you feel it? Things are gonna get better for us."
I frown. "Well…if I earn enough money to stop bumming off you, does that mean I'll find my own place?"
He stops. "Um. Uh. Yeah?"
"And what if I don't want to?" I persist stubbornly. I know that Vaan is thick-headed, and I know maybe I haven't been presenting the right signs, but––
But now feels like our time. It's almost a sixth sense.
"Then stay," and the words sound so feeble, like thin ice.
"The change you smell is probably the scent of actual cleaning products, then," I grin. "Because I'm forcing you to clean the bathroom."
The time I decide we're going to be lovers is when Vaan takes me out to see my favourite play, and carriers me home when I fall asleep during the intermission. He puts me in his bed, and when I wake up, he's fallen asleep against me, nose pushed into my chest none-too-subtly.
I poke him in the shoulder to wake him.
"Wassup?" he asks hazily, blinking.
"I love you," I feel the words slide off my tongue, as though they had been there all along.
He straightens, staring at me. "Huh?"
"I love you," tears blur my vision. "Gods, I love you! I think I've loved you for forever. Maybe. I don't remember. I just know that being friends isn't enough anymore, and maybe it never was, and maybe we're destined for this and if you say no then it'll be destroying something beautiful. Or maybe I've got it all wrong and this isn't supposed to be us. But I think we can be. And I love y––"
My eloquent rant is cut off when he sticks his tongue down my throat.
I come home bloodied and bruised because some men decided it would be nice to try and steal my money. I fought them off, five to one. And I would've won, maybe, if I wasn't so sorely out of practice. The fact is I managed to get away with my money, but without quite a lot of blood. And when I stumble in the doorway and Vaan sees me, I think his heart stops for a moment.
"Penelo!" there's a certain urgency there I haven't heard in a long time, not since we found each other aboard that airship after Larsa reunited us.
"Muggers," I spit out, falling into his arms unceremoniously.
"Gods, what––? Muggers? What did you do? You tried to fight them unarmed? You know you can't use your magic unless you have your staff with you, Penelo––"
"You're babbling," I point out, because I can.
"You're an idiot," he protests. "I love you, but you're an idiot."
And as he places me on the bed and goes to get some bandages, I grin idiotically to myself. Because he might not have realised it, but that's the first time he's said it to me.
…I also could possibly be delirious.
ten. the end
"…avast!" Vaan tells Balthier, as the man loops an arm around my waist. "Get your own fair maiden, arr!"
I roll my eyes at their drunken antics.
"You'll both be very maiden-less in a minute," I grouch, pushing Balthier off me. "Can either of you hold your alcohol at all?"
"You're very pretty," Balthier tells me sincerely.
"She's mine," Vaan growls. "Arr," he adds after a moment's pause.
"Thankyou, Balthier. And I am not something to be owned, Vaan," I sigh. "I'm going home. Vaan, can you manage walking a few blocks by yourself?"
I shake my head, plant a kiss to his forehead, and grab my coat.
I don't miss Balthier's comment to Vaan, either:
"You two are so in love."
As if that wasn't obvious enough already.
A/N: This was set in a slightly less happy ending of FFXII. When being heroes doesn't guarantee you riches and sky pirating and airships and cool stuff like that. I thought it fitted better with the story? Although it was kind of random. RANDOM ANGST-FEST...and then copious amounts of humorless humor. So there you go. I still hope you like it, Vixen!