I looked up from a report and gave a slight twitch of my eyebrow. Marshal entered accompanied by a clearing of the throat and a rub of the back of his neck. He had come to Balamb Garden to attend a Security Team meeting regarding a proposed Garden in Winhill as well as an update of the current top-secret operation regarding Deling Garden. I had expected him to leave directly following.
I set down the report as he closed the door to my office and came to stand across from my desk, his silver eyes only occasionally meeting mine. "MARSHAL," I greeted simply.
"You gotta sec?"
I leaned slightly back in my chair as I motioned to one across from my desk.
"Thanks." He sat on the edge of the chair, rubbing his hands together as he cleared his throat again.
Marshal looked up. "Yeah?"
Something about the whole scene struck my twisted nature as funny, so I surrendered to a slight smirk. "WHAT."
Marshal grimaced. "Fujin, did I piss you off?"
My eyebrow arched this time. "EXPLAIN."
My smirk vanished, as did the thought that any of this was funny. I looked away and crossed my arms.
"Whatever I did, Fujin... Fujin, I'm an ass most of the time, Dincht would say all the time, but I'm still sorry. Swear."
Sorry... That was only the second time I'd ever heard the word aimed at me. 'I'm sorry, daddy--' ... 'please, stop! I'm sorry!' ... 'don't hit me, daddy. I'm sorry. I'm sorry--'
I twitched and met his gaze. He was sorry. I could read it in his eyes. I clenched my jaw and looked away again. "FINE."
But Marshal didn't leave.
I balled my hands into fists. "WHAT?"
"What'd I do? Was it the door thing? Was it something I said in the office? What?"
Irritation sparked, fed by something I recognized all-too-well. 'Quit cowering like a damn dog, goddammit! Look me in the eye when I'm talkin' to you--!'
I met Marshal's gaze, and he leaned back a bit with an expression of surprise. "NOTHING."
Marshal watched my face, still holding my gaze. "You've got to be kidding," he said. "You nearly take my head off, you put a hole in my wall, and you say I didn't do anything?" Then, to my surprise, Marshal leaned forward again. "Fujin, if Seifer told you to back off, screw him," he said intensely, and then he gestured to himself. "I want to know what I did."
My glare didn't move him back in his seat. "WHY?"
"Why? Because I pissed you off! Why d'ya think?"
Frustration red-lined. I sharply stood and stalked to the door, Marshal turning in his seat to watch. I jerked open the door and then focused a hard stare on him. "DISMISSED."
Marshal pressed his lips together before he stood. Then he strode forward, smiled tight-lipped out at the security personnel that had paused outside, and then jerked the door from my hand and closed it. He looked back over at me with an intense expression that actually surprised me.
It reminded me of Seifer.
"You don't rank me, Fujin." Marshal pointed roughly toward the outer office. "And I'm not leavin' 'til this is dealt with. We've got a job to do, and I can't do that if I'm freakin' about something I might've said or done to piss--"
I turned and strode back to my desk, sitting heavily and picking up the report I'd looked over before. Rage and frustration and a lot of other all-too-familiar emotions wreaked havoc within, and my eye throbbed miserably.
Marshal released a quick breath and then strode back over to my desk. "How in the hell can it be finished when I don't even know what I did?"
"OVER." It wasn't a big deal. He'd touched me. A lot of people did. I'd just make sure I didn't stand so close next time. It wasn't a--
"Fujin, dammit, will you just--"
My hard glare shut him up, and he actually took a step back. "...over," I hissed.
click-clunk as the door opened and then closed.
"What the hell is going on in here?" Seifer asked, calmly.
Marshal didn't speak; he didn't even look away from my gaze. I remained just as quiet, and I didn't lower my eyes either. I couldn't. Looking away would've meant I backed down. I couldn't do that. Ever.
"Marshal?" Seifer asked as he stepped up to Marshal's left side. Silence. Seifer looked to me. "Fujin?" he pressed.
The silence in my office reminded me of a calm before the storm of my father. My eye throbbed. Memories pounded. But I wasn't going to look away.
Marshal clenched his jaw. "I just want to know what I did, Seifer." He finally looked over at him. "What the hell nearly got my head handed to me?"
"Marshal, I thought I told--"
"Screw what you told me, Almasy," Marshal barked. "Our Gardens can't work together if we can't even communicate person-to-person! Either one of you tells me what's causing the damn problem, or I walk."
Seifer examined Marshal's angry expression before looking to me. Dammit... Push number one.
"Fujin, tell the man the issue so he can correct himself."
I clenched my jaw and balled my hands into fists, fighting tooth and nail against the push as I glared hard at Marshal and hated Seifer for what he made me do-- "TOUCH." An admittance of weakness. Dammit.
Marshal's frown didn't lessen as he glared at me glaring at him hating Seifer and swearing at him within. "What the hell are you--"
Seifer sent a warning.
Marshal sucked in a quick breath and clenched his jaw several times. "Could you please give me a few more details?"
Seifer focused again on me. "Fujin, details are a little lacking. Embellish."
Marshal sent Seifer a hard look. "Dammit, Almasy, will you let her alone. I can handle it."
Seifer raised an eyebrow, his smirk laughing in his eyes as he crossed his arms.
I continued to glare at Marshal and secretly plot and plan revenge...
Marshal focused again on me. "Nothing major, Fujin. Hell, just a simple--"
"DON'T," I said in a barely heard whisper as cold as death, "TOUCH."
Marshal blinked and straightened. "What?"
"I'd say that was pretty clear, Marshal," Seifer told him coldly.
Marshal's ears tinged pink as he glared at Seifer. "Screw off." He cleared his throat when he looked back to me. "I'm sorry, Fujin. I didn't know. No one tells me anything. I just run security... Heh... heh heh.. ahem." Marshal rubbed the back of his neck and started backing toward the door. "I'll... uh... I'm sorry."
He turned and exited my office with a softly spoken "Dammit, Marshal..." before closing the door behind him.
I glared sharply at Seifer, who smirked at the closed door. "ASS."
Seifer focused on me, still smirking. "I told you I was gonna push, Ahndra, so don't give me that. Suck it up." He walked nonchalant to the door and opened it.
"ASS," I said again, loud enough I knew the entire office heard.
Seifer chuckled and closed the door behind him.
I glared at that door even after Seifer closed it. Then I scoffed loudly and picked up the report again. 'I'm sorry, Fujin--' I pushed it away and turned the page. 'Dammit, Almasy. Will you let her alo--' I tossed the pages aside with another loud scoff and crossed my arms to glare at the door. He'd been sorry. I slammed him against a wall. I nearly bashed in his windpipe... He was sorry.
'I'm sorry, Fujin.'
'"Please, daddy! I'm sorry!" "I don't give a damn if you're sorry--"'
I stood sharply and strode toward my office door, slamming it open and ignoring the stares as I stalked from my office and toward the elevator. It had just returned. I entered and pushed the button for the main floor. It shot upwards, and I clenched my jaw and balled my hands into fists.
'"Sorry don't clean the mess, you little bitch, now get in there!"'
I twitched with the memory and shoved it away as the elevator stopped and the doors opened. I strode forward and down the stairs to the main exit corridor, rapidly closing the distance to the solitary figure.
Marshal stopped and turned, his silver eyes registering surprise as his hand lowered from the back of his neck. I slowed and stood across from him a safe distance, holding his gaze as I took a sledgehammer to the memories--
Marshal blinked. "Accepted? What's accep-- Oh. Apology. Right." He cleared his throat and sent me a lop-sided smile. "Thanks, Fujin. I swear I won't tell anyone."
I arched my eyebrow but only crossed my arms, not thinking anything as the memories drifted and faded. Unspoken apologies. Pleadings for forgiveness. Acceptance never given...
Marshal's smile faded slightly as he extended a hand. I looked down at it, my fingers lightly tapping my arms in an absent descending rhythm.
"From one Garden hot-head to another," he said, "count me in."
I gauged him and his hand... and then took it in a firm clasp. "GOOD."
Marshal smiled. "We'll kick some traitor ass."
I pulled my hand free and turned away, fisting the hand to keep from rubbing the touch away. My father's sneering and furious face flashed like lightning in my mind. All the touches and gropes-- Go to hell, daddy.
"Fujin. Office. Now."
I set aside the report and stood, deliberately not responding to Seifer's order as I kept my gaze focused ahead. I passed him and turned to make my way to his office. As I approached, I noticed Sally inside. She must have just returned from her investigation of certain suspicious characters in Winhill. She and Zell had been gone for nearly five days. The investigation shouldn't have taken that long, I could have had it completed in two, but I hadn't yet read an incomplete or half-assed report from her. Reluctantly, I had to admit she was damn good at what she did.
Sally looked over her shoulder at the sound of my approach and stood. She faced me and saluted. "Fujin. Ma'am."
"REGAL." I moved to stand beside her, facing Seifer's desk and continuing to stand at attention. Sally did the same.
Seifer entered and closed the door behind him, moving to his desk after he'd lowered and closed the blinds. "At ease."
He motioned to the chairs. Sally sat. I didn't. I continued to stare above Seifer's head, hands clasped tightly behind my back. I was still pissed at push number one and had a feeling push number two was coming.
Seifer looked up at me and smirked. "Fujin, you might want to sit your ass in the chair for this."
I arched an eyebrow but declined.
Seifer presented me a typed and bound report. I took it and read the heading and byline. Investigative Findings of Winhill; Priscilla Regal, SSO-10. I flipped through the pages, skimming the information and filing it away. Then I looked up and met Seifer's gaze.
"Guess where you're being sent?" he asked, still smirking.
I pressed my lips together. I hated Winhill. Too laid back. The supposedly calm atmosphere made me suspicious and always put my back up.
"Marshal will be meeting you at the dock in Balamb. From there, you will take a small transport to Winhill and pick up where Regal left off."
Seifer leaned back in his chair, kicking his feet up onto the desk as he crossed his arms. My insides tensed. Push number two.
"Regal, tell Fujin why."
"Y-Yes, sir." Sally cleared her throat and faced me. I continued to glare at Seifer. He continued to smirk. "Anytime someone from one of the Gardens visits, suspicions rise and cooperation plummets. When Zell and I were in plain clothes and walking around the town as if we were visitors, people were more relaxed. They actually came outdoors and talked to us about things. Nothing worthy of report or suspicion, but they still talked to us. If--"
"That's enough, Regal." Seifer's lips twitched upward a little higher. "You and Marshal will be going undercover. Your backstory is with Marshal. Understood?"
My eye began to throb. I clenched and clenched my hands before giving a curt nod.
"Good. Regal, dismissed."
Sally stood and saluted. Then she stealthily left the office, closing the door after her.
He regarded me a moment before saying "Marshal volunteered," very carefully.
I cringed as fear rose up, making my throat go dry and my stomach lurch.
"He doesn't know you're being assigned," Seifer added.
That didn't make me feel any better. Marshal sca-- I pressed my lips together.
"One thing I'll tell you about Marshal, Fujin. His younger sister was gang-raped and killed during the conflict at Dollet. Galbadian soldiers. Marshal had to watch the whole thing hog-tied and beaten."
"Marshal - and this is between you and me - Marshal, enrolled at Galbadia Garden as a... terrorist, you could say. He planned to sabotage the facility from the inside out." Seifer smirked. "Administration changed before he did anything stupid, and he volunteered for Chief of Security. Best damned thing he could have done."
Seifer stood and leaned heavily on the desk, palms flat. "You push him, Ahndra, and he'll push back. Maybe not as hard as me, but hard enough to piss you off. Consider this a warning to tread light."
I narrowed my eye and clenched my jaw against the throb in my brain. "NO."
"Go ahead. Push his buttons. It'll be a damned good show, and I bet he'll put every blessed word in his report." Seifer smirked. "Have fun."
I glared and then scoffed, barking out "ASS" as I turned for the door. Seifer chuckled "Dismissed" as I closed the door behind me. Undercover. Plain-clothes. Marshal. I clenched my jaw and balled my hands into fists, fighting back the terror with rage. Dammit.
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