dedication: to Mars.
notes: this is the start of the goddamn rich people au. whaddup.
notes2: yes it's another series of oneshots what do you want from me I can't help it do you understand
title: electra goes to war
summary: I'd rather be his whore than your wife. — Kaidou/Rei/Jadeite; AU.
Rei came home early.
Her apartment smelled like vanilla cigars and shitty Chinese takeout. Mina had been there, maybe with Serena on her arm, maybe not—but the six pairs of new heels stuffed in the closet told Rei everything she needed to know. It was the third time that week.
"You can come out now, Mina," Rei said. "I know you're there."
"We're in here, Rei," Serena's voice floated to the entrance hall from the direction of her bedroom. "We've got cake! And vodka!"
"If you get it on my bed, I am going to hurt you," Rei called back, good-natured, strangely happy. She kicked her pumps off, left them behind without putting them neatly away like she did every other day, and she couldn't even bring herself to care.
"If you're implying that I'm a mess, Hino—"
"You are a mess, Serena," Rei said as she walked through her bedroom door, following the trail of expensive clothes that Mina left everywhere she went.
She hung there for a minute, clinging to the door frame, and just sort of looked at her friends. They were all there—Mina and Serena lounging on the bed, Amy curled on a pinstriped chaise, Lita's long athlete's limbs sprawled out in the window seat. The ashtray on the night table was still smoking thinly.
"Only a little!" Serena said. There was frosting on her lower lip. She licked it away, and stared almost pleadingly at Rei. "A little!"
"Or a lot. Why are you all here, again?"
"Because you—" Mina flipped the long golden sheet of her hair over her shoulder with a haughty little shake of her head, "—have that thing tonight. And you are totally not getting out of it. We're all going!"
"My father's going to be there," Rei said. She busied herself with stripping off her work clothes. She slung her purse to the floor, peeled off her stockings, unhooked her skirt, and ignored her friends entirely. She needed to unwind, and though she loved her friends dearly, they were not conducive to chilling out.
(Ironic, really, because she was always the one who wanted to start the fires.)
"Your father is always at these things."
"More reason to avoid them," Rei said stiffly.
"Rei, I know you have—I know there are things. Things that he did that weren't, y'know, kosher," Amy said quietly, so quietly, gentle out of the corner of her mouth. "I know that. But you… sometimes you look so lonely."
"And he sent you another dress," Mina sang. "We brought it up 'cause the doorman wouldn't!"
Rei's shirt dropped from nerveless fingers.
It had almost become a routine. The dress would be laid out in a box—always the same, thick lovely cream-coloured cardboard with her name emblazoned in gold, where did he find these things. Rei would open it, slide a thin sharp knife along the seams to pull the top off and she would stare down disdainfully at whatever it was that her father thought she would appreciate that week.
And then she'd set it alight in the kitchen sink.
She normally sent the ashes back in the box, wrapped in a red ribbon. There was a fierce satisfaction to the motion.
He still hadn't gotten to her, yet.
This was different, because two dumb blondes (and Lita and Amy, who deserved a mention despite being neither blonde nor dumb) were loafing around her apartment, taking up all her space and chattering like lunatics. They were dumb and fluffy with their heads full of stars—airheads chasing butterflies, the both of them.
But Mina's eyes were a shade colder than they ought to have been, and Serena's smile trembled just a little. Lita sat with her head thrown back, the afternoon sun sunk deep into her hair. Amy just looked at Rei for a long, long time.
They would stand behind her, for this.
Rei's heart contracted with a sudden wave of affection for the four of them.
"He probably won't even be there, you know," Serena said.
"Your father. He, y'know, he usually doesn't come to these things. I know. I've looked! So it could be totally speculation! You should come. Please?" Serena clasped her hands together, and pulled the most horrific sad-kitten-eyes pout-face that Rei had ever seen.
They were so ridiculous.
The sigh that escaped Rei was from deep in her chest; full-body and resigned, she was. The world coloured up melancholy pink, to be her burning resentment. Serena perked up.
"Rei?" she asked, blue eyes wide and hopeful.
"Fine," Rei huffed. "Fine. Gods, fine, be like that. I'll go."
Mina jumped up from the bed punching the air, violent in her joy. Rei could almost taste the girl's victory—only Mina, she thought. But behind Mina's thick layer of dumb blonde was another layer, an old, ancient sentiment that ran deep along all their bones:
We're still here.
Rei reached for the dress box.
It was, of course, the stupidest thing Rei had let he friends talk her into since the last time they'd talked her into one of these parties.
That time, at least, Serena had just gotten engaged. Rei had been allowed to drink herself into fucking oblivion without having to interact with her father at all, and it had been great. If only.
(And though she would never admit it, but that night, Rei had let herself hate Serena's fiancé. She let herself hate his perfect hair and his perfect medical degree and the perfect way he looked at Serena like he'd found his salvation in the long golden length of her friend's hair. Rei let herself hate him, but only for one night because she knew that in another life Darien had probably been prince to Serena's princess. Whatever. She didn't think about it when she was sober, and that was probably for the best.)
"Do I have to," Rei said, and it wasn't a question.
"If I have to, so do you," Amy replied patiently. She wore a floaty periwinkle dress that fell softly around her thighs for all its modest neckline.
"I can't believe Serena ditched us," huffed Mina. Rei watched her check her lipstick in a glittery gold compact, before she snapped it closed and tossed her hair over her shoulder in a lemon-yellow wave of silk down her back. People had mistaken Serena and Mina for twins for as long as Rei could remember. Her heart hurt. "How does Darien even get invited to these things?"
"He talked Serena into marrying him," Lita sighed.
"That was coercion! He—he corrupted her! Into marriage! She never should have said yes, and, like, this is coming from the Goddes of Love, that dude is so bad news—!"
"Give it up, Mina," Amy patted Mina's arm consolingly. "You're not winning this one."
Mina opened her mouth to say something else (or, more likely, to continue ranting about her deep-seated dislike of Darien Shields). But just then, Serena bounced back towards them, cheeks flushed.
"Rei, Rei, don't—there's—"
"Breathe, stupid," Rei said easily.
Serena pushed her curled bangs out of her eyes, and took a deep breath. "Don't freak out, okay? Your father's here, I'm sorry, I didn't think—!"
"Can I go be sick?"
"No, really, can I be voluntarily sick?" Rei asked flatly. Her gaze burned along the other occupants of the room: the shady dealers there to smooch politician ass, the drug lords, the hospital owners, the CEOs, and there, horror of all horrors, was her father.
With Kaidou was at his side.
Rei's hatred was suddenly a tangible thing, sick-sweet on her tongue.
Serena, fingers curled in the crook of her elbow, held on a little tighter. "He won't—Rei, he won't come here, I won't let him, I promise I won't—"
"It's okay, 'Ren. Not your fault," Rei murmured. The old nickname calmed Serena some, but there was nothing that Rei could do to wipe away the anguish on her best friend's face. Serena was going to be blaming herself for weeks.
Rei straightened her shoulders.
The only thing she could do was face it head on.
She'd been a primadonna, in her time: she was beautiful and smart and graceful, raised by a sickly mother then a credit card when her mother passed away because her father didn't have the time to deal with a little girl. And okay, whatever, it was what it was.
Rei could have the world wrapped around her finger, as long as she wanted it.
So she set her shoulders back, forced herself not to muss up whatever it was that Mina had done to her hair, and went to smile at her father.
Senator Takashi Hino was not a large man by any stretch of the imagination: in her bright red pumps, Rei was a full three inches taller than her father. She looked down at him, and did not swell with pride. That was common, and she was anything but that.
"Hello, Father," she said without moving her lips. She did not smile.
"Hello, Rei. It has been a long time," her father said. He didn't smile either, but then, Rei didn't expect him to. She had no memories of her father smiling. Even in the wedding photos, he didn't smile.
"I'm sure you've been busy," Rei said. It came out thin, came out fake, but she wasn't about to put the effort in.
"Ah," he said. "Yes, we have. Kaidou and his wife—you remember Elise, yes?—have a daughter now."
Rei smiled like the shine of light off a bead, plastic-fake but with enough pizazz to get her through the night. "I remember," she said. "Raine, right? She's two now, isn't she?"
Kaidou's eyes flashed behind his glasses. "Yes," he said simply. "Raine."
"Congratulations," said Rei. Her mouth pulled into a smile, but it was a hollow thing, jagged and mean around the edges. It could have been an ugly expression, but she'd long honed her cruelty into something coloured red and deadly-sharp.
Because Rei Hino was cruel, and there were some things she was never going to forgive.
This was one of them.
"Oh, pardon me, I see Serena. Lovely to see you, Father," Rei said. Over her shoulder, she said "Thank you for the dress."
And she turned and left before he could say anything else.
Serena wasn't anywhere in sight.
There could not be enough alcohol in the world to satisfy Rei, tonight.
She'd downed three flutes of the champagne that was floating around the room on nearly-invisible waiters and grabbed two more. She scanned the room for her friends, and: Mina stood in a crowd of panting teenage boys laughing; Amy had cloistered herself up with the old codgers who played speed chess in the park; Lita was—where was Lita, anyway—and Serena—
Serena was standing by Darien with her arm tucked up in his, eyes shining.
Rei tried valiantly not to vomit into one of the palm shrubs in the corner.
She would have happily spent the night getting thoroughly trashed from that point onwards, because eventually the girls would find her and take her home; they'd put her to bed and hold her hands, just like they always did when one of them was out of sorts.
And it was fine, it was okay, she was going with it.
Until fingers closed around her wrist, and Rei Hino was presented with the man who broke her heart for the second time that evening.
And suddenly it was not fine. Suddenly it was not okay. Suddenly she was not going with it.
Because Kaidou still stood tall and blond and, ugh, attractive, why was that even a thing? Why was he even allowed to be here, to be around her when he'd kissed her and then proceeded to gamely get married to someone else?
Why hadn't she fought harder?
Rei's eyes went cold as ice.
"Pardon me," she said.
Kaidou's grip didn't ease. "Rei," he said. "Please."
"Please," she repeated. The disbelief choked at her throat, because disbelief was easier than hurt. Disbelief led to rage, not hurt. "Please. Do you even know—no, of course you don't. Of course you have no idea. Let go of me, Kaidou."
"You're drunk," he said.
"That's true. Does your wife know where you are?" Rei asked, and watched a myriad of emotions flicker over his face. They were all ugly, and they all gave her an awful sense of satisfaction.
She thought I will make you hurt. For everything you did, I will make you hurt.
"She doesn't—Rei, it's not—"
"You have a daughter," Rei said. Her voice ripped through an octave, too high suddenly, raw with emotion. "You have a daughter! You always wanted to be like my father, Kaidou, so congratulations! You're going to be just like him, because you're making all the same mistakes, and I—ugh, whatever. Let go."
He let her go, finally. His eyes were shaded behind his glasses.
"What are you going to do? No one is ever going to love you," he said.
Because you are hard and sharp and despite your beauty, Rei, you are not loveable, he didn't say.
Like it was a certainty. Like it was inevitable. And she could hear it, hanging thick in the air between them like sour milk.
Rei wanted to scream.
She wanted her fire, her friends—she wanted peace and quiet and her apartment with the lights turned down low. She looked into his eyes and found nothing but cruelty, nothing but contempt, and she wondered how she'd ever really loved him.
"You say that like someone doesn't already," Rei said.
Her gaze settled on Serena and Darien, and—and Darien's friends.
The dark sticky part of Rei's soul crowed in ugly delight. She'd ruin Jakob's night, one-up him while stabbing the heart out of her own cowardice. And maybe she'd stick it to Kaidou, too, crunching the heel of her too-high crimson stiletto down on what was left of his soul.
"Him?" Kaidou laughed quietly, more of a disbelieving chuckle than anything else. "Really, Rei, I thought you had better taste. He only has whores."
Rei smiled sweetly. "I'd rather be his whore than your wife. If you'll excuse me."
The click of her heels was loud against the muted babble of the people around her—it seemed that tonight she was digging in, getting back, hurting and tearing and finally, finally saying what she needed to say. It was a sharp and clean-cut feeling, bright on the inside of her eyelids.
She didn't do peace, Rei. Not well, anyway, always too strung-out and angry and hungry for peace to mean anything.
Revenge, she could do.
Jakob saw her coming. How could he not? He'd watched her all night, gaze prickling the back of her neck while she'd talked to her father and her ex-love, and now, now she could use that. His grin was lascivious, but his eyes were upset. Rei didn't know why, nor did she particularly care.
She thought of the two crows that lived in the tree just outside her apartment window, thought of the shiny things they hoarded along the bark; little bits of trash that were sparkly and pretty enough in the sunlight that it didn't matter that they were someone else's leftovers. When she woke up with the sun on her face, sometimes she would get the reflections on the walls, and it was nice.
Treasure was different for everyone, Rei thought.
"Rei! Are you—?" Serena reached for her.
"I'm okay, 'Ren," Rei said, but didn't spare her friend a glance. She kept her eyes on Jakob, pinned him down with her stare and kept him there until they were nose to nose. She wrapped her arms around his neck.
"Kiss me," she said, simple.
Like he could ever say no.
"I knew you'd come around," Jakob said. His eyes were very blue, but they weren't happy. They were never happy.
Rei had to wonder when she'd realized that.
"Kiss me," she said again, more demanding now. His fingers curled around the sharp jut of her hip, and even through the white fabric she could feel the heat of his skin. It was a kindness, somehow burned away the lingering chill that Kaidou's fingerprints had left all over her soul.
"You don't even like me, Fireball," he snickered.
"Kiss me, Jakob, or I'll never talk to you again."
"You don't talk to me anyway," he said, but it, apparently, did the trick. He best down and… kissed her on the nose.
What an asshole.
Still, she had to smile wryly—this was Jakob, she ought to have expected something like this. He never did anything easily, not even kiss.
Well, Rei didn't do anything easily, either.
"I'm going home," she said. "You coming?"
"Do I have a choice?"
"One-time offer, Jakob," Rei said, and smiled with her teeth.
Everyone was staring at them. Rei couldn't quite bring herself to care, not now under the haze of too many glasses of champagne and her own absolute disgust with the world she'd been born into. The world she'd almost been forced to stay in, Kaidou, damn him. Sometimes she thought back to that night, when he'd towered over her and kissed her on the lips. Rei had to physically restrain her gag reflex, wrap a hand around her throat to stop herself from upchucking.
She'd been so blind.
And now was the time to rectify that.
Only she didn't love Jakob, didn't even like him really—barely tolerated on a good day, loathed on a bad, but he was something. Someone. Someone different. Not Serena and her sad kitten eyes and ridiculous hairdo, not Mina and her sharp edges, not Lita, not Amy. He didn't look at her like somewhere along the line she lost pieces of herself.
(Though Rei would admit to looking at her friends exactly the same way. Mina was only ditzy when other people were around. Lita was never soft until they were alone. Amy did other things than read, but no one else was allowed to see that. Rei remembered long summer days when they were just little girls, playing pat-a-cake and skipping with gaudy plastic ropes like no one's business; before Mina started modeling and Amy's father left and Lita became an orphan with a trust fund bigger than most people's lottery wishes. Before any of that, they'd just been friends.)
Rei took her coat and her purse, and didn't look over her shoulder to see if he was following her out.
The night was muggy indigo blue turning violet soft, the street lit up neon green-white and pink from the billboards blaring nonstop out into the orange-lit streets. The pale heather grey of dawn was still hours away. Rei's world was only coloured at night and she pulled her hair out of Mina's upsweep to cascade around her like a shield.
"Where are you going?"
Rei looked over her shoulder at him.
Jakob stood with his hands shoved in his pockets, staring at her like she'd lost her head; of course he was ungraceful about it. Tousled golden hair, and those eyes—Rei knew want, but that was not what was in his gaze. He watched her like a hawk, but not like a hawk eyeing prey. He watched her like she was a panther, something that could kill him with a look.
"Subway," Rei said, not in the mood. She breathed easier, outside and away from the glitz and glam that her father had thrown at her since she'd been small. "I came with Serena."
"She's going home with Darien," he said, without a trace of irony.
Rei snorted. "Of course she is."
"You okay, Fireball?" he asked.
"Yes," Rei said shortly. She wrapped her arms around herself, wore her dark hair like a cloak to blend in with the night. "I'm fine."
"You don't look fine."
"Can you not?"
Jakob shrugged, unruffled. Rei hated that about him—there was too much politician in it for her to be vaguely okay with the gesture. She probably had a complex. They swung down into the grunge and the humid heat of the subway without really clearing it with each other. It was easier not to talk, to be honest.
The whistling of the trains as they went by was the only sound for a long, long time. It was hot and sticky and there were a million other people on the platform.
Rei counted down the seconds until she was home like a prayer.
"Hey, Rei, chill out," Jakob said. His voice was close at her ear. His arm settled over her shoulders, and though Rei knew she ought to shake him off before it gave him ideas, she couldn't help the way she slumped into him.
"You never call me that."
"My name, moron," she said. "You never call me Rei."
"Fireball suits you better," Jakob scoffed, like it was common knowledge.
Rei tucked herself up against him (just for a little while, she told herself), settled into the crook of his arm as the train doors slid open with a hiss. Then she pushed him off, and stalked forwards into air conditioned bliss. Even after they'd sat down side by side on the ugly orange-and-yellow plastic seats, his thigh pressed into hers. It was skin against fabric against fabric against skin.
She didn't cling, and she folded her hands in her lap.
"I don't know why I let them talk me into going tonight," Rei said. She wasn't sure who she was talking to. Maybe she wasn't talking to anyone at all.
"Serena and Mina. It was their idea."
"Why?" he asked her, and he stared so intently that if Rei hadn't an iron grip on her emotions, she would have blushed. She tucked long dark strands of hair behind her ear, searching for the right words.
"You've met Serena, right?" Rei asked carefully.
He nodded, gold curls stark in the ugly fluorescent lights. It slicked off him, rain down through the gutters, and a shiver prickled down her spine. Rei tried again.
"Have you met her sad kitten eyes?"
Jakob actually laughed. "Darien has."
Rei's lips tightened into a thin red slash across her face. "Don't remind me."
"You really don't like him, huh," he said. It wasn't a question.
"It's not his fault," Rei almost smiled. "All of Serena's boyfriends have made me angry."
Rei looked straight ahead. "They kept breaking her heart. And then I had to put her back together, and it was… Serena's made of sunshine, and when she's sad… It's not right, okay?"
"I don't think Darien will, Fireball," he said quietly. "He loves her too much."
"I think that's part of the problem," Rei said, then fell silent.
She didn't know which one of them moved first—maybe him, maybe her—but the night had been a joke and they weren't even friends and he was still taking her home. Rei tangled her fingers through Jakob's, and it was easy, so easy. There was something fragile growing in her stomach, and when she looked at him out of the corner of her eye, she thought that maybe… maybe…
Maybe things were going to be okay.
They sat like that, hand in hand, until they got off the train.
"You don't need to walk me home," Rei said. She stood a little stiffly; too much alcohol and vulnerability, probably.
"I want to," Jakob said.
Rei had had boys say that to her often in her life: they always wanted to do things for her, brought her roses and free drinks like she wanted them. They wanted to carry her books, be her boyfriend, see if they could surprise a laugh out of her perfect mouth.
When they couldn't, they called her bitch and went away.
Rei had long ago decided she would live on her own, without any support from anyone.
If being friends with Serena and Mina had taught her anything, it was that being alone was better than being hurt and having to live with that forever. As it was, Rei had three hundred days of watching her mother waste away in a hospital stored in her memory. She wasn't about to start revisiting that pain now. That hurt would last her for the rest of her life.
She thought of Mina, stumbling through life with too many boys at her fingertips. Serena, who always got too invested in the wrong people. And the way Lita couldn't be in an airport without having a panic attack. And how Amy would look out the window in the winter when the snow had turned to slush around her stupidly-expensive-for-what-they-were boots and curled in on herself like the cold hurt her in her bones.
There was so much hurt in this city.
And so Rei took a deep breath of humid summer air. It was wet down her throat, tasted like the park after rain, green and fresh.
"Okay," she said on the exhale. "Let's walk."
Jakob slung an arm loose around her shoulders. "I said you'd come around," he laughed.
Rei didn't say anything at all.
But she did smile, and that was almost better.
notes3: this was not supposed to be this fucking long what even happened here