Splendor

by: fluffy pantoufle

A/N: I dare you to listen to Foxy's "Get Off" while you read this chapter. It's a 70s disco classic (my mom randomly downloaded it onto my iPod one day and I NEVER looked back), and I feel that it creates the proper setting for club Edge. Go ahead, try it. I'd bet any amount of money that you'll laugh even harder.


Now, lest you have forgotten the scene which is currently unfolding, allow me to lay it out for you in the least amount of words possible. Be forewarned that complete sentences shall not apply.

Quistis. Kiros. Touching. Alcohol. Xu. Nuts. More alcohol. Seifer and Zell - drag queens. Glitter. Too much makeup. High heels. Pissed the fuck off.

While fragmented and altogether rather confusing, this is far more than Quistis Trepe could process or handle as she watched Seifer and Zell leap down from the stage and stomp in her general direction. Whatever happened between Zell's erotic gymnastic pyrotechnics and this particular moment was above and beyond both the instructor and Kiros, but whatever it was must have warranted this kind of behavior…

Or did it?

"What in the world are you thinking?" Quistis leapt to her feet and threw her hands in the air once Seifer and Zell got within earshot. It didn't immediately occur to her that club Edge was in a state of confusion themselves; half of the crowd was transfixed by the scene that they were creating (precisely the opposite of what they wanted to do), and the other half was clamoring for another performance. "You just ruined any chance that we had of getting Nida back without a fight!"

Behind the rouge, eye shadow and all-around fierceness, Seifer was seething with an entirely different kind of fierce - one that was prepared to do far more than bitch-slap Kiros across the face. Nay, that was child's play compared to what the gunbladist wanted to do to him. "Get the hell out of the way, Trepe," he growled. "This doesn't concern you."

Her jaw dropped. "How does this not concern me? Why in Hyne's name did you jump off that stage? We're fucked now, Almasy!"

Zell stood a step behind Seifer, too preoccupied with removing his drag attire to participate in the conversation. Sure, he was pissed off, but damn it - this club was hot underneath a beehive wig! The martial artist tore it off his head and placed it on the closest table - a table, need I mention, that was occupied and thoroughly irritated by his gesture. "How could you let him do that, Quisty?" he demanded once his attention was directed back at his friends.

"I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about," she replied, raising an eyebrow. "Are you two all of a sudden mad at each other? Because if that's the case, you sure as hell picked the wrong time for that!"

"Shit, no!" Zell cried, stabbing a finger in Kiros's direction. "How come you let him put his hands all over you, an' yet you'll barely even talk to me!"

"Or me!"

"Uh…yeah! Or Seifer!"

Kiros was not one to stand idly by, and he made his presence known by taking a step closer to Seifer and Zell - probably not one of his wiser moves. "Seifer, Zell - is this something that we can discuss later? Right now we have far bigger issues at -"

The adviser's words got stuck in his throat as his face just barely missed Seifer's right fist. Unfortunately, throwing an effective punch whilst wearing stilettos was far easier said than done, and the taller blond went teetering this way and that. Onlookers gasped and tried desperately to evacuate the area around them, but alas - unlike the song, evacuating the dance floor at this particular time was all but impossible due to the size of the crowd. Zell debated trying to get a hit in, seeing as hand to hand combat (regardless of footwear) was his specialty, but there was something in Quistis's expression that kept his fists steady.

She saw Seifer's fist coming - he was quick, but Quistis was trained to see those types of attacks, however clumsy they may have been. Instinctively, she had grabbed Kiros's arm and pulled him back. "You are impossible, Seifer Almasy!" she cried. "What are you trying to prove?"

He was about to retort in his typical, smartass attitude. If this had been several years earlier, he would have - no doubt about it. But then again, several years earlier he wouldn't have been caught dead in a purple dress and fake eyelashes to save a person that he wasn't even sure he considered a friend. As the seconds ticked by, Seifer's mouth became dry. He looked around - at Quistis's face, which had become all but friendly - Kiros, Zell, the drag queens…

What the fuck am I doing?

"You all right, man?" Zell asked meekly. The perplexed look on Seifer's face that had taken the place of its usual smug grin was more than a little bit frightening.

"Yeah, yeah," Seifer conceded, much to Quistis's surprise. He turned to Kiros. "Get Quistis and Xu out of here, all right? We'll find Nida."

Kiros was bewildered at this sudden change in his demeanor. "Seifer, but-"

"Can you just hurry the fuck up and do it?" The blond snarled, angry at both Kiros and himself. "Before I change my mind!"

"Where is Xu, anyway?" Quistis inquired nervously.

Zell smacked his forehead. "Oh, fuck - she could be anywhere!"

"NO, YOU CAN'T READ MY POKER FACE!"

The instructor shook her head, embarrassed. Xu should have taken far more pride in her position, but no - after a few stiff drinks, the SeeD operative would have gladly given over any and all authority that she had within Balamb Garden. And for what? Quistis watched as Xu tried to get a leg up on the stage, drag queens helping her hoist her drunken weight.

At the very least, she's wearing underwear tonight… the blonde thought to herself as her best friend inadvertently flashed the crowd.

"I'll be the next act!" Xu cried when she finally ascended the catwalk. She swiveled and shook her hips as the crowd cheered, slur-singing into a beer bottle that she found and conveniently made into a microphone. "Baby, when it's love - if it's not rough, it isn't fun!"

"We need to get her down!" Quistis shouted, mainly in Seifer's direction. Without waiting for a response, she made her way towards the stage, shoving whoever she needed to out of the way without so much as an 'excuse me.'

There was an awkward moment as the three men stared at each other, not knowing whether or not to follow the instructor. Neither of them wanted to deal with an angry Quistis - it was similar to an angry Xu, sans for the fact that Quistis being angry at you probably wouldn't leave as many scars physically or mentally.

"I'll go!" Kiros finally volunteered, breaking the uncomfortable staring contest. "Meet you outside!"

Seifer and Zell nodded as the adviser tried to follow the path that Quistis had initially taken, but the undulating crowd knew no pattern and would not let him through without a struggle. Luckily, he was just as tall if not taller than many of the patrons, and he could see quite clearly that Quistis was at the catwalk, trying to get Xu's attention.

"Xu! XU!" the blonde called, outstretching a hand. "We need to leave, right now!"

"QUISTIS!" Xu cried, dropping to her knees in order to get closer to her friend. "Can you read my poker face?"

The alcohol on the brunette's breath was enough to make anyone standing too close to her blackout drunk. Quistis grabbed her wrist. "Xu, I'm not worried about your poker face right now! Remember Nida? He needs our help!"

Xu's hazel eyes searched Quistis's face, as if her sober mind was trying to remind her drunken mind of something really, really important. "…shit!" she finally exclaimed. "That's why we came here, wasn't it?"

"Yes!"

"It wasn't to get shit-wrecked, was it?"

"No!"

"He's my husband, isn't he?"

"YES!"

"FUCK!" Xu leapt up, exulted and with her arms high in the air. "LET'S DO THIS!"

Quistis grinned and held her own arms up to Xu so that she could better help her down from the catwalk. She felt herself being pushed around by the unruly crowd, but it didn't matter. "Come on, Xu!"

"XU, WATCH OUT BEHIND YOU!"

Kiros was only several feet away from Quistis and Xu, and was in a prime position to witness what happened next. Lady Zsa Zsa appeared from behind the curtain, and as Xu pumped her fists in the air, the drag queen conjured up a formidable Thundaga spell and aimed it directly at the back of the brunette's head.

Both Kiros and Quistis squeezed their eyes shut, not willing to see Xu get magically pummeled into submission. There was a loud CLAP of thunder, a bright flash, and…

"Bitch, please!"

The crowd suddenly came alive with fear. Patrons were running in every which direction, screaming and crying and doing everything except being civil. Kiros saw his chance and ran to Quistis, who still had her eyes closed.

"Look up," he said in her ear, shaking her gently.

Xu still stood tall, and was laughing at Zsa Zsa from the opposite end of the catwalk. She held up her hand, and on her ring finger glittered a piece of jewelry that was not only fabulous, but functional - a Bolt Ring. "Did you really think that I came to this party unprepared, you sparkling hussy?" Xu queried. Quistis almost felt the need to throw her head back and laugh - she forgot that one of the brunette's talents was instant sobriety! Inexplicable, and yet it got the SeeD out of several precarious situations, not including this once. The instructor always just liked to think that Xu had trained her liver much in the same way that Rinoa had trained Angelo. "You have no idea who you're dealing with!"

The surprise on Zsa Zsa's face was anything but invisible, but the queen quickly disguised her emotions with atypical arrogance. "SeeD! Bunch of tacky whores that know how to ruin a party, that's what you are," she growled, directing her attention at Quistis and Kiros. "But I bet your friends ain't wearing the same bootleg-ass jewelry that you're flaunting!"

Quistis wracked her brain feverishly, yet each potential plan was foiled by the fact that no one had come equipped with their weapons or magic. It was a frustrating situation to be in, especially since the blonde had become so accustomed to being prepared at all times. Unfortunately, bars and clubs were savvy to those who carried dangerous weapons or spells and scanned each and every individual at the door for said items. This week, seeing as Deling City was practically oozing tourists, they were being even more careful than usual…

"Shit, shit, shit…" Quistis cursed under her breath, watching as Lady Zsa Zsa prepared another spell.

I can't let anyone get hurt - but how am I supposed to DO that? Too many people - not enough time - Nida -

"QUISTY!"

Yes! Why hadn't she thought of it before? A small, squeaky voice that she normally tuned out all of sudden became loud and commanded each thread of her attention. All this time, Carbuncle had been curled up in the recesses of her mind; he'd been strangely silent as of late, but that was probably because of all the alcohol Quistis ingested. She couldn't help but laugh, knowing that out of context it probably looked a little weird. Kiros gave her the side-eye as she smiled. Of course! Bouncers scanned for magic and weapons, but they'd never be able to detect a Guardian Force.

"Oh, I've never been happier to hear your voice!" she cried.

"Lemme at 'em, Quisty! Do it!"

Nothing more needed to be said. Knowing the severity of the situation almost made Carbuncle appear in fast-forward; a tiny hole appeared on the catwalk that instantly grew large enough for the Guardian Force to emerge from. Lady Zsa Zsa's jaw dropped as the aquamarine-colored creature sprang free - not intimidating to look at, but its uncharacteristic appearance in Edge made Carbuncle all the more threatening.

Zsa Zsa wasted no time in hurling her second Thundaga spell in the direction of wee little Carbuncle. However, the ruby that adorned the creature's forehead flickered with a curious light as he hopped in front of Quistis and Kiros - and just in the nick of time! The spell bounced harmlessly off of Carbuncle thanks to his own signature spell, Reflect.

…this didn't stop Kiros from instinctively standing in front of Quistis to shield her from harm.

Although the lightning didn't come in contact with Quistis or Kiros, it didn't quite hit Lady Zsa Zsa either. Rather, the Thundaga spell connected with one of the stage curtains and it caught on fire instantly. The club had been in a state of panic before this scuffle broke out, but with the sights and smells of a conflagration it became chaos.

A loud, clear voice from behind Quistis suddenly rang loud above the confusion. "I've heard of flamboyant, but damn! This is outta control!" Zell stood with his hands on his hips, proud of himself for creating a pun; unfortunately, no one else felt the same way. It took him a second or two for the knowledge to sink in. "Tch, fine - see if I laugh next time one of ya'll tries to make a joke in a tense situation…"

"We need to find Nida," Xu reminded everyone as she clambered down from the catwalk. Quistis grabbed her hand and helped to steady the brunette as she placed her feet safely back on the ground, still a little tipsy but coherent enough to function. "I don't want to leave this place without him!"

The blonde squeezed her friend's hand and tugged gently in the direction of the entrance. "Xu, right now we need to think of ourselves! Who's to say that they weren't lying to us anyway?" Thick smoke began to fill the air as several of the club's cocktail waitresses and bartenders attempted to put out the quickly-spreading flames with buckets of water and a shoddy fire extinguisher. "Come on!"

"But Q!" Xu cried, tugging back. "What if he's tied up in some fucking back room and can't get out? Some SeeDs we'd be if we didn't find him!"

Quistis opened her mouth to speak, but she knew that Xu was correct - especially as far as the instructor was concerned. Come Hell or high water, she never left anyone behind, and certainly felt uneasy with the possibility of doing so now. As the fire spread, setting the bar ablaze due to all the spilled alcohol, the anxiety practically began to choke her.

"Why are we even worrying about this?" Zell finally spoke up. "Seifer's looking for Nida! Hell, I bet they're outside by now!"

Xu raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

Zell nodded. "Yeah! So what the hell are we doing standin' here?"

By this point, they were the only ones standing in the center of the club. Even the employees had long since abandoned hope and evacuated, knowing that the Deling City fire department was their only chance of saving the establishment. Kiros was glancing around nervously, watching as the smoke and flames grew around them, boxing them in.

"That's it!" the adviser suddenly exclaimed, grabbing Quistis's and Xu's arms. "No sense in this conversation right now! Let's go!"

The four of them ran towards the entrance, although Xu was dragging her feet a bit more than the rest. Quistis wanted to believe it was because she was still a little intoxicated, but every so often the brunette wore her heart on her sleeve like the rest of the world. She really did care about Nida, marriage certificate or not.

It would be funny to see how things were going to play out once Seifer and Nida -

"Not so fast!" bellowed a resounding baritone voice. "If this club is burning to the ground, we're all going down with it!"

"Oh, fuck," Zell moaned, slapping his forehead with his palm. "Not when the damn ceiling's above to cave in!"

Lady Sunfire, the most elusive of the drag queens (not to mention the most masculine) was all that stood between them and freedom. Her ruby red gown glittered menacingly, its sequins appearing to be on fire just like the rest of the club. She brandished no magic, but instead held a long, curved knife in one hand; her other hand was clenched into a tight fist.

The martial artist looked down at his own fists - puny in comparison to Sunfire's. He could only begin to imagine the damage he'd be capable of if he had meat hooks that were as impressive as the drag queen's! Was she a force to be reckoned with?

"I've had it with all of you!" Sunfire declared, jabbing her knife at them. "You ruin the show, you burn down the club, and you!" She pointed the blade directly at Xu, "You took my prized possession!"

"What in Hyne's name are you jibbering about?" Xu asked with a shrug. "I didn't take shit from you! All I did was borrow Giacomo Gerogero for awhile!"

Zell stared up at the ceiling. "Kidnap sounds about right," he muttered, rocking back and forth on his bare feet - the heels were long since discarded.

The SeeD operative heard him and held up a hand. "Be that as it may," she began, "if you don't kindly get the hell out of our way in the next several seconds, Too Wong Fu, we're all going to burn."

Sunfire scoffed. "Serves you right! Liar!"

"What do we have to lie about?" Quistis was losing her patience with this situation - unless Sunfire had a death wish, this made no sense. None. Not an iota.

"Seriously!" Xu growled. "Why are you such a raging bitch all of a sudden? You never even spoke to us! I didn't even know you had vocal chords until right about now!"

Kiros suddenly had a strange vision of his good friend Ward in a strapless red gown - similar to the one Sunfire was wearing - and he felt his stomach lurch. Bad visual.

The queen took a step forward, holding the knife out in front of her. "One of you has my bracelet! I want it back!"

"You're keeping us from getting outside…over a piece of fucking jewelry?" Quistis had had it. The fire was out of control. The smoke was thick, smelled foul and was polluting every square inch of available air. The perspiration had long since soaked through her shirt. She shook Kiros's hand from her arm and was about to handle the situation herself when Xu began to fish through her pockets and purse.

"It's not just any piece of jewelry!" Sunfire corrected Quistis, her expression twisted and hard. She looked more like a demonic clown than a drag queen at this point, mainly because the heat was melting the makeup from her face. "I won that bracelet! I was a runner up on DruSaul's Drag Race four years ago! That show was going to make me a star!"

"What happened?" Zell inquired. Quistis rolled her eyes - of course he'd want to know the inner workings of a reality television show centered around drag performers.

Sunfire frowned. "What always happens on these shows!" She lowered the knife, as if the memory that had resurfaced was truly painful. "Tequila Mockingbird was my competitor - bitch stole my sequins! How was I supposed to finish my leotard without the tickle-me-pink sequins?"

Now, this story was strange enough - but it was far, far stranger being told in the deep, rumbling voice of Lady Sunfire. Before she could lament further, Xu pulled her hand from her pocket and thrust its contents into the face of the queen. "Here! Take it!"

"Oh!" Quistis watched as Sunfire snatched the bracelet from Xu's hand; it was sapphire encrusted and quite ornate. She vaguely recalled seeing it at some point last night… "Xu! You needed something blue for your wedding!"

The brunette took a moment to absorb that information, then let out one loud laugh. "Oh, yeah! Makes sense, doesn't it?"

A loud crash! suddenly brought them back to their senses. "CAN WE GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE NOW?" Zell screeched, not in the mood for the ceiling to fall on his head.

Sunfire slipped the bracelet over her large hand and stepped aside, following them out the door and into the street. The fresh air was almost overwhelming, and Quistis closed her eyes as she took in a deep breath. A man ran by and accidentally bumped into the blonde, sending her reeling - but Kiros wasn't far away and without a moment's hesitation steadied her.

The crowd was just as dense outside of the club as it had been inside; curious spectators gathered as the club blazed, waiting to see the final outcome. Overhead, an otherwise clear night sky had been disgraced with dark gray smoke. In the distance, live music was playing, uninterrupted by the calamity of the burning building.

Xu was balancing herself on Zell's shoulders as she jumped up and down, trying to find any trace of Seifer and Nida over the crowd. She was exactly the tallest of women and was cursing her lack of vertical prowess. "Do you see them?"

He shook his head. "Nah, but I'm not much taller than you, Xu."

She felt panic take grip in her chest as she looked around. The crowd was constantly in motion - either people walking past, or others clinging to each other - some were even dancing to the music they heard in the distance. It wasn't in her nature to be so nervous; hell, being nervous was actually making Xu more nervous. What if Seifer didn't find him? What if he gave up and escaped? Could Nida have found his own way out? Perspiration formed on her forehead, and Xu tried to tell herself it was from the heat of the flames, but to no avail.

"You okay?" Zell inquired softly, seeing the fear on her face. He was unsure how to respond - Xu was just as likely to punch him as she was to start crying. This was uncharted territory; emotional responses from the operative were few and far between, save for if someone spilled a cocktail or got too rowdy at a party.

"Is everyone all right?" Quistis interjected after regaining her own composure. She placed a hand on Xu's shoulder; the brunette nodded and offered up a weak smile. Kiros took several steps away from the group, presumably to scan the crowd for Seifer. "Don't worry, Xu - I'm sure Seifer and Nida and just fine."

"What if they're not, Q?" she retorted. "We didn't see Giacomo, or that creepy bastard that called me a breadstick -"

"Believe me, Seifer can handle them."

Xu raised an eyebrow. "You have too much faith, Quistis."

The blonde shook her head. "No, it's not that. I just know him extraordinarily well. Seifer's a pain in the ass at times, but for all his complaining the last thing he'll do is let you down."

Zell overheard this and found that a sensation not unlike anger had begun to simmer beneath his skin. What was it - jealousy? No, it couldn't have been. He ran a hand over his sweaty, matted hair… What did he have to be jealous of?

Was that question as rhetorical as it seemed?

Don't kid yourself, Dincht. If you an' Almasy only controlled yourselves earlier, none of this would be happening right now! You know what you're jealous of, and it ain't just Kiros getting all of Quisty's attention all of a sudden…

"Xu!" As if on cue, the sound of Kiros's voice broke through Zell's moment of introspection and added to the ever-growing feeling of ire that had taken root in his belly. "Seifer found him!"

He didn't have to tell her twice. Xu looked in the direction of Edge and saw Seifer emerging from the smoke. The tall blond was barefoot and wigless, but he still wore a soot-covered purple gown that was tattered and ripped along the hem. A man accompanied him, his arm slung over Seifer's shoulder and his head was covered with a burlap bag. Once the gunbladist's eyes fixated on Xu, Zell, and Quistis, he gave an encouraging nod. Finally! Nida was back with his friends - back with the people he belonged with!

"Almasy!" Xu tore away from Quistis and Zell to meet Seifer, her hazel eyes glittering with what could be considered tears, but she would never admit it. "Is he okay?"

"I think so," Seifer replied, more than willing to let Xu shoulder some of Nida's weight as she grabbed his other arm. "Didn't have time to really check - I just grabbed him and got out of there."

Without warning, Nida began to squirm about. "Ah! What the - is there a bag on my head? Get it off! Get it off!"

Seifer stepped away from Nida now that he was able to support his own weight. "All right, Nida," he said as he grabbed the bag and tugged it off of his head. "Hold your chocobos!"

Quistis watched from a distance as he removed the bag from Nida's head. Why he had even left the bag on was a mystery, but the instructor just assumed that Seifer was in a rush - not to mention how much smoke was pouring out of the club. It was probably for the better…

"AHH! WHO IN THE EVER-LOVING FUCK ARE YOU?"

"I'm Nida!"

"The hell you are! We're looking for Nida Casales!"

"…I'm Nida Roth. But hey, I'll be your Nida! Just don't put me back in that dang basement!"

Perhaps it would have been best if Seifer had just left the bag on permanently.


A/N: Ah! How is this fic already a year old - to the day, even? I can't even believe that much time has gone by! I have to thank everyone for reviewing & favorite-ing the story, even though I haven't been as timely as I should have been with chapter updates. For some reason, this particular chapter gave me such a g'damn headache for the past, uh...however many months since my last update. But it's done, and out of the way, and probably SUCKS - but no matter! Now I can dedicate myself to moving forward!

Hope you enjoyed, and feel free to leave a comment or two! I love reading them!