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aoife_hime ([personal profile] aoife_hime) wrote2008-07-01 08:55 pm
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Quirks: Part III & Part IV

So... it's been a while... I've been sitting on the third part just trying to figure out how to end it for about five months now. Which is utterly ridiculous, I know. But that's the sad truth. Anyways, now not only the third part but also the fourth part is done. Which leaves one more part to go. Hopefully I'll get that done without another six month hiatus >_>

Title: Quirks - Part III
Author: [livejournal.com profile] aoife_hime
Fandom: Final Fantasy XII
Characters: Vaan, Balthier, and the rest of the gang
Rating: Somewhere in that vague range between PG-13 and R (definite nudity but nothing explicit)
Length: 2060 words
Summary: Everybody has their odd habits. Balthier's just happens to be a little stranger than most. This chronicles each party member's discovery of said 'quirk'.
Notes: See here for story notes.


III. Vaan

Vaan was confused.

This was not an altogether uncommon state for him, and Vaan had enough sense to realize this fact. However, this time he was not just confused. This time, Vaan was well and truly perplexed. He could almost feel his brain running around in little circles as he thought through the situation over and over again, and he could have sworn that the faint popping noise he’d heard a few seconds ago was really just the poor thing short-circuiting and dying altogether.

Wiggling his fingers under one overly-long embroidered cuff, Vaan frowned and couldn’t help giving voice to his confusion for the fifth time in the last half hour. “Balthier, what does this have to do with pirating again?”

“Quiet,” Balthier snapped distractedly. “And stand still, Vaan! How do you expect to be measured properly when you keep fidgeting?”

Vaan bit his tongue to keep from flinging a retort in Balthier’s direction. He’d been standing on this silly stool with some equally silly old man rushing around him with scissors and measuring tape and some sort of chalk crayon thing with which he would occasionally mark up the fabric of the shirt currently hanging on Vaan’s frame. The boy’s arms were beginning to ache from being suspended parallel to the floor for the last interminable stretch of time, and his fingers felt uncomfortably tingly, as if they were on the verge of losing sensation altogether (which Vaan thought they probably were). Vaan cast a longing gaze at his trusty vest lying in a heap in the corner like so much garbage; at least his vest didn’t itch like this shirt. His vest also breathed and allowed his arms their full range of motion.

“Balthier, I don’t want to wear a shirt. I mean, yours is nice and all, but I like my vest just fine. I don’t need all this,” Vaan said, flapping his arms to emphasize his last point to the accompanying squawks of the diminutive tailor. The long sleeves flopped comically over the boy’s arms and the body of the thing billowed out from Vaan’s torso like some sort of landlocked sail.

A few seconds later, Vaan almost tumbled off his stool as Balthier smacked him sharply upside the head. “Behave, you’re upsetting one of the best tailors in all of Ivalice,” he reprimanded with a stern look on his face. Turning to said upset tailor, the sky pirate’s expression quickly transformed into one of sincere repentance. “I apologize for the boy’s behavior, Commelius,” he simpered, handing a fallen tape measure and blue chalk crayon back to the tailor. “My friend is unaccustomed to such exquisite work as what you are capable of producing. He’ll come around in time, of that I am certain.” The little man looked as if he was repressing the urge to roll his eyes and instead gave a small indignant huff before indicating to Vaan that he should raise his arms so that they stayed parallel to the ground once again.

Unlike Commelius the tailor, Vaan did not resist the urge to roll his eyes.

To be honest, the fact that he was being subjected to such a ridiculous fitting by such a ridiculous man for something as ridiculous as an embroidered shirt that he would most likely ruin within a week of wearing it was only part of the reason Vaan was confused (not to mention annoyed). The real reason Vaan was confused was because he was being subjected to this fresh concept of torture when Balthier had specifically promised he would be giving him sky pirating lessons. Vaan had assumed, apparently quite presumptuously, that pirating lessons automatically meant a chance to practice flying the Strahl. Balthier, however, seemed to have had other ideas.

“The dress makes the pirate, Vaan. Get sloppy in your attire and you become nothing better than a street rat,” Balthier had iterated to him as they had walked briskly through the current town’s narrow streets, stopping only when they came to the door of the Commelius’s shop. Vaan had resisted pointing out that he already was a street rat, and he didn’t think any amount of fine attire would change that. Besides, was there a rule somewhere that said he couldn’t be both a street rat and a sky pirate? A man couldn’t stay in the skies forever and having an occupation to fall back upon in hard times would always be a handy thing.

An hour later, Vaan wasn’t able to feel his fingers anymore and he was positive that his arms, shoulders, and back would never feel normal again. They protested vehemently when he moved to carry the perfectly wrapped package that was his new shirt that Balthier was to instruct him how to wear in the next few days, and they nearly dropped off his body altogether in protest when Balthier further burdened them with a sack of shiny red apples for the party’s supplies. Upon arriving at the less than respectable inn in which the group had acquired rooms for the next few nights, Vaan collapsed on the sticky wooden floor, not caring that his new shirt was currently squashed under his torso or that his cheek had apparently become stuck to whatever substance was coating the wooden floorboards.

“It gets easier, I promise,” Balthier remarked almost airily as he swept in past Vaan, pausing only to haul the bag of apples over his shoulder. Though he didn’t see him do so, Vaan heard Balthier’s even footsteps ascend the stairs to the landing where all their rooms were located.

All Vaan could manage in response was an ineloquent groan.

~#~#~#~

For possibly the first time ever, Vaan had nothing to say at dinner. Penelo kept glancing at him nervously, probably afraid that he had somehow come down with a serious illness in just the course of one afternoon. Vaan wanted to say something to assure her that he wasn’t sick, just exhausted from playing dress-up doll at the tailor’s shop all afternoon; however, he found the table top to be pleasantly cool and worn just so, creating a dent that cradled his head nicely and thus decided that it really wasn’t worth the effort of stirring himself to words. He knew he was fine and that was all that mattered in the end, really.

Dinner progressed uneventfully for the group. Balthier left the table first, muttering something about getting some quiet time after having to endure all of Vaan’s complaints for an entire afternoon, to which Penelo took great amusement. Vaan felt a retort forming on his tongue, but again decided it was too much of an effort to speak and so let the sky pirate have the last word.

The dinner continued quietly, the accompanying sounds of flatware clinking mixed with the occasional raucous bout of laughter from the few other patrons dining there that evening. Vaan’s thoughts had long since turned from his dinner to what came after, and that was, preferably, a long hot soak in whatever type of tub this inn had at its disposal, followed by a night’s worth of uninterrupted sleep. But first… there had to be something more delicious to finish off his evening meal than whatever lumpy mystery mash the inn had cooked up.

“Hey…” The first word out of Vaan’s mouth all evening stuck partially in his throat, making it come out uneven and gravelly. Penelo actually squeaked slightly in surprise when she heard it, to which Vaan simply glared briefly in reply before clearing his throat and proceeding. “Where are the apples?”

“What apples?” Penelo asked, still looking at him as if she was certain he had a cold but was just being too damn stubborn to admit it to anyone.

“The ones Balthier and I just bought today. I remember carrying them back here…” And oh, how he remembered! Just the thought of carrying that sack over his shoulder was enough to send unpleasant spasms racing across Vaan’s back and arms.

If he’d been more aware of his surroundings and less lost in thoughts of apples, aching muscles, and sadistic tailors, Vaan might have noticed the glance Basch and Fran shared at his comment. He also may have noticed just how abruptly Basch hustled Her Royal Highness, the Lady Ashe away from the table and out the front door of the inn, despite Ashe’s expressed confusion and irritation. Vaan definitely would have noticed Fran offering to help Penelo with the clean up of the dishes, as Penelo expressly invited him to help her with the duty, but amazingly enough he missed that too. In fact, he was so totally and completely unaware of his surroundings that he didn’t notice any of these things. As such, Vaan proceeded up the stairs of the inn, his tired mind singly focused on acquiring a few of those gods forsaken apples he’d carried earlier that day. If he was going to suffer for his meal, he was damn well going to get to eat it!

“Balthier!” he shouted when he arrived at the sky pirate’s room. “Balthier, what’dya do with the apples?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Now go away.” It was possible that, had he not heard the sound of something that was clearly an apple being munched upon at that very moment from inside that room, Vaan would have simply accepted Balthier’s grouchy need for privacy and moved on with his search. But the fact of the matter was that Vaan had heard Balthier clearly eating what could only be an apple both before and after his antisocial pronouncement.

“I just want one. C’mon, Balthier, just one!” Vaan whined, too tired to try sounding more adult. He sagged against the door, allowing his head to bang slightly painfully against it.

“What do you not understand about the phrase ‘go away’?” Vaan could almost hear Balthier’s eyes rolling.

“I had to carry those apples all the way back to the inn after your tailor torture – why do you get to hog them?” When Balthier failed to throw a sarcastic retort straight back in his face, a spark of hope that perhaps the sky pirate was reconsidering began to glow in Vaan.

If he hadn’t been quite so sore and exhausted, Vaan probably would have pulled himself up into a completely upright position at the sound of feet shuffling over the floor of Balthier’s room. As it was, he remained leaned against the door, the worn wood supporting his weight without too much protestation. That is, until Balthier unlatched the door.

What happened next was something that Vaan would have undoubtedly found hysterical had he not been directly involved in the incident. For when Balthier unlatched the door, it was not with the knowledge that the near dead-weight of a Dalmascan adolescent was resting against it. As a result, the door was opened far further than Balthier had planned, and at a far greater speed on top of that. The pirate himself was knocked to the ground by a sharp rap on the forehead and bridge of his nose from the door, while Vaan simply fell as the door opened into the room. In a matter of seconds, the boy found himself in a pile of limbs on the floor instead of his previous (almost) upright position in the hall.

The bigger surprise, however, was undoubtedly finding a very naked Balthier sprawled a few feet from him, rubbing his nose in obvious irritation. On the table against the back wall sat a bowl full of the very apples Vaan had been intent on retrieving.

For the second time that evening, Vaan found himself speechless, though near a thousand questions seemed to race through his brain each one dying to be asked first. The boy’s mouth opened and closed a couple of times in a remarkable impression of a fish on land before he managed to form a coherent question.

“So… if the clothes make the man, and you’re not wearing any clothes, what does that make you?”

A few moments later, he was back out in the hall, closed door behind him, a lump forming on the back of his head, and a very bruised apple in hand. Vaan never did get an answer to that question.

He did get his apple though. And that was good enough for him… for the moment.

Title: Quirks - Part IV
Characters: Penelo & Vaan
Rating: PG-13, but definitely not higher than that
Length: 1270 words


IV. Penelo

“Vaan, have you seen those pomegranates Fran gave me yesterday?” Penelo called one morning as she was packing up her belongings at the inn in which their party had just spent the night. It had been exceedingly nice to sleep on a proper mattress instead of in a tent with her hips digging into the unforgiving ground every time she shifted positions throughout the night. Sleeping on a mattress now felt almost unreal, and it had taken her hours just to fall asleep: such was the strength of the strangeness. In fact, she’d half thought of sleeping on the floor next to the bed, but the wooden boards were surprisingly cold and drafty and Penelo knew she’d regret it if she didn’t take advantage of the luxurious softness for one evening. As such, she’d lost a fair bit of sleep, though she’d woken up warmer and cozier than ever in recent memory. But such comforts were fleeting: they were moving on in only a few hours and Penelo was making a last minute check of the supplies she carried. And that included an unexpected, though incredibly appreciated, gift of five pomegranates from Fran. Ever since that one time on the Strahl when Penelo had asked to try the fruit and found it to her liking, Fran had always saved an extra fruit or two for her. But now it seemed that two of the precious fruits were missing, though Penelo could not for the life of her remember eating them. “I thought I put them in my satchel, but – ”

Vaan, who had been putzing around her room for the last half hour and in general being of no help whatsoever (in fact, he was acting much more like a hindrance, so much so that Penelo had half the mind to throw the boy out of her room), straightened just then. A slightly panicked expression crossed his face. “No!” he exclaimed, far too vehemently for Penelo not to want to figure out what she was certain he was hiding from her. “No, I haven’t seen your pomegranates and Penelo why don’t we go to the market today it seems like we’re out of apples!” With that, Vaan grabbed Penelo’s arm and marched her purposefully down the hallway of the inn. Penelo barely had time to sort her feet out so they didn’t trip over one another in Vaan’s haste.

“Sure, Vaan, but why are you acting so strange?” Penelo asked in that slow way one talks to small children and the mentally unstable. She also wondered why Vaan was leading them down the obscure back staircase that incidentally avoided each of the rooms of their travel companions instead of the front one, but she didn’t bother voicing that question aloud.

“I’m not acting strange let’s just go now okay?” insisted Vaan, pulling Penelo firmly down the rickety old staircase and out the back door into a rather ripe-smelling alleyway.

Penelo coughed and covered her nose until they’d passed the heaps of trash rotting in the midday heat. “Okay…” she agreed, feeling her small gil purse clink comfortably against her leg as she was dragged by Vaan towards the marketplace.

As they made their way through the merchants’ stalls and stores, Vaan seemed to find each and every excuse to prolong their excursion. He dragged Penelo into long conversations with people on the streets that soon started to get on her nerves, came up with the strangest excuses to visit each and every shop on the block including the store that only sold specialty false teeth, and haggled with merchants over inconsequential differences in gil until she was ready to wring his neck just to get him to shut up and move on. But the one thing Vaan didn’t seem to buy was fruit of any kind. In fact, when Penelo had attempted to purchase a bag of apples since he’d claimed earlier they were out, Vaan had not so accidentally knocked over the stand, sending the shiny red fruits scattering across the dusty, dirty floor boards. When the shopkeeper’s broom had failed to connect, Penelo had cuffed him on the back of the head for his incompetence and stormed halfway down the street before he’d caught back up and dragged her into the nearest store.

“Why are you acting so strange?” she finally asked exasperatedly when Vaan insisted on checking the prices of fresh newt eyes. Penelo looked away quickly from the tall jars of the shiny black things; they made her stomach turn unpleasantly, as her imagination insisted on conjuring up the worst possible images of those jars toppling off the shelves and sending their contents flying all over her boots and legs.

Vaan opened one of the jars to sniff the contents and promptly turned green in the face from the odor. “I’m not acting strange,” he managed between coughs as his lungs forced up the contaminated air. Though she was standing a few paces away from him, Penelo had no trouble catching a whiff of the strong scent of newt eye preservatives and decided to drag Vaan out of the store before he made the both of them sick to their stomachs.

“Yes you are, now explain!” demanded Penelo once they were out in the sun-warmed, dusty air of the marketplace again. “Why shouldn’t we just go back to the inn and ask Balthier or Basch or someone if they’ve seen my pomegranates?”

“Because… because Balthier’s naked!” Vaan said in a rush. “He does this thing, where he steals people’s fruit and eats it, but he’s naked. It’s really… weird. And he’s a guy, and you’re a girl, and… and…” he trailed off then, his words petering out to silence in the face of his friend’s incredulous stare and raised eyebrow.

“That’s all? The way you were acting, I expected bounty hunters or an army of Judges to be waiting at the inn!” Penelo scoffed, and watched as Vaan’s jaw went noticeably slack. Between the absurdity of the situation and her friend’s expression, it took all of Penelo’s composure not to fall to the floor from side-splitting, hysterical laughter then and there. She couldn’t, however, stop the entirely undignified snort that erupted from her nose and caused more than a few heads to turn and stare at the two teens.

That’s all?!” exclaimed Vaan when he was once more able to master the fine art of speech and Penelo’s snorts of laughter had died down to a few sporadic coughs. “Nelo, he walks around naked! I was just trying to protect your…”

“Protect my what? Not my sanity, that’s for sure!”

“Your virtue. I was trying to protect your virtue.”

“You know, it’s not like I’ve never seen a naked man before, Vaan.” She held back another giggle as her friend gaped at her as if she’d just grown a third arm in the middle of her chest. “What?”

“Who’ve you seen naked?!”

Penelo smiled broadly. “I’m not telling. And as far as Balthier’s habit is concerned,” she continued before Vaan could badger her any, “what he does in his own company is his own business. I don’t know why you’re getting so worked up… you do some equally weird stuff when you don’t think anyone is watching, you know.”

“Penelo!” Vaan had by this point turned a bright shade of flaming red that had absolutely nothing to do with being out in the sun all morning. “That was one time,” he whined as Penelo finally burst out in a fit of giggles. “How was I supposed to know it would hurt trying to squirt milk out of my eyes?”

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