By: Saadia Mirage
e-mail: [email protected]
The Standard Warning: This story overall is rated
The naughty stuff doesn't come until later, so this chapter is really only rated PG, for some kissing.
This entire story, and all characters herein were created by, belong to, and are copyright to me. Do not redistribute this story or use its characters without permission. If you would like to post this story on your web site, please e-mail me.
A note about story symbols: I use series of symbols to signal changes in scenes and to mark the beginning and end of flashback sequences. Here's the key:
***** change in scene
~~~~ start flashback
~~~~ end flashback
Also, thoughts are put in apostrophes. For example: I bet you readers are wondering 'Just when is this story gonna start, all ready?'
The flashbacks don't start happening until chapter three, I believe though, so just don't worry about them for now.
Thanks! I hope you enjoy the story! Please review!
~ Saadia ~
* * * * *
"Check out the girl who just walked in."
"I was not aware that you and I were in the habit of 'picking up chickens' together."
"...That's picking up chicks. And I didn't mean it like that. I meant check out her clothes. And look at that jewelry! I bet she's loaded!"
"And I should be interested in this because...?
"Because, I bet I can get some dough outta her."
"What? How? You're not thinking of stealing, are you?"
"Don't be stupid. You know I'm not a thief. I'll just... Charm it outta her."
"...You can't be serious."
"I am. By the end of the day, I'll have all the money we need to get outta town, and a few bucks fer extras. And don't look at me like that. You just sit and watch. Sit and watch the master..."
* * * * *
A pretty, well-dressed young woman stepped through the open door way of the inn and out of the dusty streets of Gostompa Town. She coughed delicately, into her rose-colored handkerchief, and lightly dabbed away the perspiration that was beginning to form on her forehead. She dropped her large, brown leather suitcase with gold-plated latches beside her and took in her surroundings. Turning her head, her two pairs of hoop earrings jangled against each other.
The inn was small but it was not tiny, but it was not the best kept either. The dust from outside was tracked in over the carpet mat in front of the door, and three trails were visible on the wood floors. One leading to the barroom, where a few groups of men were gathered, drinking or playing cards and such. Another leading to a small alcove directly ahead that gave way to a thick wooden staircase, going up to the rooms above she supposed. And then another trail of dusty foot prints lead her up to a tall set of desks, where a large thick-covered check in book laid open in front of an equally thick man, seated precariously behind the middle desk on a stool.
She sighed. The Western Province was so... Primitive. This place was definitely not what she was used to. Her nice pink dress outfit, one of her favorites, the one with the shiny gold buttons on the breast and lacy cravat, would have to be thoroughly washed and laundered when she returned home.
If she returned home.
She would eventually. But for now, this seedy little inn would make a perfect hiding place from both her father and her fiancé.
Brushing strawberry blond curls out of her hazy, gray-blue eyes, she approached the inn keeper's desk and pulled out her little purse from her waist coat pocket. She wasn't at all aware that nearly every male in the barroom was watching her.
She didn't even notice when one of them, leaving his seat and a rather dumb-founded companion at the bar, walked across the room in her direction, then leaned his back up against the desk beside her, over her suitcase.
At least, she didn't notice him until she had signed in and paid for a room and turned to find him blocking her luggage.
He was just standing there casually, his face turned away from her, nonchalantly examining a crude carving someone had scrawled into the wall. She stared at him, rather irritated for a moment before saying something.
"Pardon me, sir, but I need my--" She stopped mid-sentence, and gaped at him.
He had turned around at her first word, pulling back a curtain of glossy black hair behind his ear, and revealing a handsome young face. No, handsome didn't fit him. Gorgeous was a better description. Gorgeous, tilted green eyes. Gorgeous olivey skin. Gorgeous sloped nose, elegantly long face, and peculiarly sexy wide smile to match his wide shoulders.
"Yes?" He asked, in a playfully clueless fashion.
She gulped. "I... I uh..." She stuttered. "I uh... I need my..." She seemed to have forgotten why she had been irritated with him a moment ago. Thankfully it popped back into her head in a moment of sanity. "...My bag! I need my bag."
"Oh!" He said, as if surprised, and stood up straight to his full height, which was equally impressive as his face. He was a good foot taller than she was, and she found herself staring up at him in awe. "I'm so sorry, I didn't realize I was in your way." He continued, still smiling. He leaned down and with one hand, picked up her large suitcase with ease.
"Th-that's quite all right." She said softly.
"My name's O'Riley. Grant O'Riley. I haven't seen you around these parts, Miss...?" He trailed off, politely waiting for her to supply her name.
"Lynne. Farrah Lynne." She stated, vaguely aware in the back of her mind that she shouldn't have given out her real name so readily. What if he was an outlaw?
...But how could an outlaw have such a lovely face? And he had earrings. Black silver. And a necklace, too. A thin cord of some sort with another silvery ring hanging into the hollow of his collar. Outlaws didn't wear nice decorations like that did they? His clothes were plain enough, but they fit him well. A long tan-colored coat, hung square over his shoulders and loose down the arms and open in front, tail reaching to his mid thigh. Underneath he wore a tight-fitting green shirt and a pair of brown jeans, snug around his waist with the aid of a simple black belt, and loose at the ends over his heavy looking steel-toed boots. Somehow his ensemble made him seem rough and smooth at the same time. She had just noticed the gun holster on his hip when he reached down and took her hand.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Miss Lynne." He said, and very gentleman-like, kissed her knuckles.
Sanity seemed to retreat from her mind again.
"I would be honored if you would allow me to help you with your luggage." He offered, still in that wonderfully alluring voice.
She suppressed a girlish giggle. "H-how terribly nice of you, Mr. O'Riley." She managed. She regretted agreeing to the offer in the back of her mind. Letting a man carry your bags was probably common courtship out in these parts. For all she knew, it could be an outright invitation into her bed... She almost hoped. She mentally slapped herself. She was engaged to be married for Light's sake...! Oh, but this guy was soooo much cuter than Alexander!
"Oh, please Miss Lynne, I'm not so used to formalities. You may call me Grant." He said releasing her hand, but not before giving it a little squeeze.
Her face must have been positively pink by now. Alexander was always too formal. This guy was a breath of extremely good-looking fresh air. "Okay... Grant." She said, trying to keep her voice level. She was so tired of formalities. "You may call me Farrah."
"All right, Farrah." Grant said, "If you would allow me to take your bags to your room... Perhaps a little later you could come down and share a drink and chat with me a while...?"
She should have turned him down. But instead she said, "Th-that would be quite wonderful."
So she allowed him to escort her up the stairs and down a little hallway to where her room was. Like a perfect gentleman, he opened the door for her and set her suitcase inside without stepping inside himself. With a playful wink and smooth "I'll be waiting," he disappeared back down the stairs.
In a flurry, she took off her jacket, brushed her hair, reapplied a little rouge, pulled on a cream-colored vest over her shirt, dusted off her skirt, and shined up her boots. She stopped for a second in front of the old mirror hanging above the dresser to catch her breath and look at herself. For a moment she felt guilty. Here she was, two weeks away from her wedding day, and she was off hiding from her soon-to-be groom and flirting with a gorgeous could-be outlaw. She felt guilty. But just for a moment. She slipped off her engagement ring and hid it away in the inside pocket of her vest.
What was wrong with a little fling before she was tied up forever to a man she didn't even really love? Nothing, she reasoned. It was just a little fun. Wasn't everyone entitled to a little fun in their lives? She felt it was high time she had some.
She practically skipped down the stairs about fifteen minutes later (she made him wait a little, it was no good to make it look like she was too eager - her mother had taught her that) to find him waiting just outside the alcove of the stairway speaking to a rather strange-looking boy.
They seemed to have been arguing about something, but when Grant heard the click of her heels on the wood paneled floor, he turned and a big smile jumped onto his face. "Ah, here she is. And looking quite lovely might I add." He said.
She smiled back. "Why, thank you Grant." She said softly. She was determined not to start acting like a silly schoolgirl this time.
"Farrah, I'd like you to meet someone." He said turning to the boy who was still standing at his side. "This is Volkshien Shra'da, my partner."
A strange name to match a strange visage. He wasn't very tall, just an inch or two taller than she was (and she had always considered herself rather 'vertically challenged'), the top of his head reaching about the level of Grant's mouth. He was dressed oddly, in large black armor shoulder guards and the rest of him covered almost completely in dark layers of robes. His body was hidden in the thick folds and she couldn't discern his figure. His arms and legs were in there somewhere, she was sure, but she couldn't quite make them out. Even his face was half covered by a sort of scarf, wrapped up around his neck and up under his nose, concealing his mouth. The thing that struck her the most disturbing about him was his eyes.
They were the color of blood.
Well, the one she could see was. His right eye was covered by his hair, unruly, short white-blonde hair, which seemed to be brushed to the side just for this purpose. And he didn't seem to be at all pleased to meet her. In fact, he looked quite angry.
"Volks, this is Miss Farrah Lynne." Grant continued to introduce when there was a silence between them. "Be polite." The last part was a little strained, his smile wavering and eyes darting down to his partner.
The boy was silent.
Grant nudged him in the ribs with his elbow, rather forcefully.
"...Honour to your family, Miss Lynne." The strange boy said coolly, bowing to her slightly. He had an accent that she couldn't quite place. Some where from the Southern Province maybe. When he straightened she could see tell by the way his brows were set that he was still frowning.
"Uh... Same to you." She said, a little unnerved by his manner. That eye. It seemed to burn into her. If looks could kill...
"...Well, then, why don't you go... Uh, check on the horses or something, eh Volkshien?" Grant said, breaking the edge of the meeting with his lightness. Volks sneered. "Fine." He grunted, then stalked away.
"... Well, he was awfully pleasant." Farrah said, a tinge sarcastically when he was out the door and out of earshot.
"I'm sorry about him." Grant sighed, "...Don't take it personally. He's just grumpy. We've been out of our luck lately."
"Oh?" She asked, suddenly concerned.
"... You don't want to hear about our troubles..."
"What sort of trouble?" She asked, undeterred.
"It's nothing really." He insisted turning away a bit, but the saddened look on his face made her curious.
"Tell me, please." She asked. "Perhaps there is something I can do to help...?"
He turned back to her, smiling a little. "We-ell... Now that you mention it..."
* * * * *
Angry and frustrated, Volkshien stalked out of the inn. Tearing off his scarf he took a deep breath of the dusty air, and coughing immediately tucked it back into place. This day was starting to rot royally.
He hated it here in the wasteland. It was hot and dusty and the people were mean.
But Grant was from the west. Grant loved it. The sun and dust and everything. And he wasn't mean...
Stubborn, reckless, and slightly vain, but not mean.
Not on purpose anyway.
Grant wasn't purposely trying to make him jealous... Was he?
Sighing, Volks pulled his cloak back around him despite the heat and walked around the back of the inn to the stables. There was nothing better to do in this run-down old dried-up excuse for a town, so he might as well go do as Grant had suggested.
When he entered, the stables were empty except for the horses and the pale, dull scent of hay and sweaty animals. The stable boy was nowhere to be seen. Probably off with the barmaid again, Volks thought sourly. At least the kid had taken the time to shovel the aisle a bit before going to fool around.
There were only five horses in the whole structure, two of them belonging to Grant and himself. He walked down the short hall to where they were gated up in the last two stalls facing each other. Their heads nodded upward eagerly when they saw him approach.
His own horse, Dapple, looked up at him with lazy brown eyes and he patted her gently on the nose. She wasn't the most energetic of horses, or the prettiest for that matter, but she was loyal. She was short, with stout little strong legs and a bit of a paunch at the belly, and covered in soft gray-colored hairs dappled with pale white spots. She had dark, sable skin underneath her fur, showing on her leathery nose. She was a bit old, but trustworthy. Much more so than Grant's horse.
Volks turned around to check on the black stallion and was rewarded with a snap of teeth at his sleeve. He jerked back, and frowned. Angel was a beauty, with long, sleek jet-black limbs and gracefully arched neck, but he was as mean as they came. He had a silky black mane and tail that swished elegantly, and a long thin face with a perfect little white diamond marking set on the bridge of his nose. Too perfect. The tall horse looked down at him with disdain in its coal-colored eyes.
"...The thanks I get for worrying over you." Volks grumbled, "I don't even know why I bother."
Dapple whickered softly.
Volks patted her on the nose again soothingly. "Don't let that beast scare you," He said, "Here, I'll get you some dinner."
Angel snorted, and tossed his head.
Volks scooped a bucketful of dry-looking oats and grain from the feed bin and poured it into the horses' troughs. After a bit of difficulty with Angel, both horses were munching away contentedly.
Volks took off his over-cloak and armor and tossed them on the gate. Rolling up his sleeves, he began to give them both a thorough brushing.
A good half hour later, Volks tiredly slung his things back over his arm and started back for the inn. Hopefully the rich girl Grant had been flirting with would have caught wind of his act by now and given him a good slap for his trouble.
* * * * *
"--And then the inn keeper locked up our horses and refused to allow us to leave unless we paid our bill." Grant said, looking rather broken up.
"But you couldn't pay since those bandits robbed you!" Farrah said, feeling sudden dislike towards the owner of the little hotel. 'How dare he!' She thought.
"I know!" Grant said sadly, "And there is not much work to be found way out here, so we don't have a way to make money to pay our debt."
"How horrible for you!"
He sighed, distraught. "Yes, but I'm sure somehow we'll manage..."
She thought a moment. "Well, perhaps I can help."
Grant sat up a little straighter. "Oh...?" He asked, trying to keep the excitement out of his voice.
"Well, sure. I have plenty of money, I would be glad to loan you some." She said.
"Oh, no!" He said, "I couldn't possibly take money from you!"
"Here," She said digging out her purse and pulling out a few notes and coins, "Look, I'm sure I can spare you enough to get out of this Goddess- forsaken place."
"I couldn't, Farrah dear, it would be imposing!"
She smiled a little. 'He called me dear,' She thought happily. "Don't be silly, Grant!" She insisted, pressing the money into his palm. "I want you to have it!"
"Well," He said, eyeing the handful with delight, "If you insist..."
"I do." She said, nodding happily.
"Thank you Farrah, you are the greatest!" He said, pocketing the wad gratefully and hugging her. "The absolute greatest!"
She blushed. "Well, it's the least I could do."
He let her go and she almost fell to the floor. 'He has such strong arms...' She thought dreamily.
"Well, it's getting a bit late, perhaps you should be getting off to bed. I mean, a lady such as yourself needs her rest." He said, rather suddenly.
She frowned a little. "I can stay for a while longer." She said. 'I don't want to go to bed!' She thought to herself, 'At least, not alone. I could stay up and talk to him forever...'
Grant sighed. "Okay, then. Care for another drink?"
"No thank you." She said, smiling again.
There was a short, silence between them.
"Soo..." She said, trying to continue conversation, "What do you do anyway?"
"What?" He asked, surprised.
"I mean, what do you do for work?" She asked, "What sort of job do you have to bring you all the way out West?"
"Well... I uh... I do lots of things."
"Like what? And why is that boy your partner? He seems so young. Whatever kind of work do you do where you could you be in a partnership together?" She continued.
Grant was beginning to look a little nervous. "Well, he helps me out with things. We travel a lot, doing different jobs..."
"Like what?" She asked again. 'Why is he being so elusive?' She thought, beginning to get a little suspicious.
"Uh... Well, what are you, such a beautiful girl, doing out here too?" He asked, swaying the subject.
She blinked. "Well, I uh... I just felt like travelling." She stumbled. She couldn't tell him she was a runaway... She frowned a little as she realized that he had just skillfully avoided her question. Her face softened again.
But he called her beautiful, too...
"Well, I'm glad you decided to travel here, or I would have never met you." He said, smiling that handsome smile. He leaned towards her.
"...Yes, I'm glad too..." She mumbled, feeling flushed.
"I want to thank you again, for helping me..." He said softly, almost whispering in her ear, and putting an arm around her. He was still leaning closer.
She felt faint. What was she suspicious about earlier? She didn't care anymore. She didn't care what kind of business he was in, or why he was partners with a boy with red eyes, or why he carried a gun.
All she cared about was that he was there, now, and beautiful. And she was so lonely...
She closed her eyes, and let him kiss her.
After a sweet, brief embrace, he pulled away and smiled down at her. She smiled back with half-closed eyes, reeling a bit.
Suddenly, his eyes broke away from hers and looked up at something behind her. An expression of panic crossed his smooth features for an instant, and then it was gone, and so was he.
She turned, just in time to see him dash up the stairwell after someone.
"Grant!" She yelled.
She heard him stumble, then come galloping back down the stairs. "Farrah," He said sticking his head out of the alcove and forcing a smile onto his face, "Thank you again. I've gotta take care of something right now. I'll see you tomorrow."
Then he disappeared again.
* * * * *
Volkshien had stood there staring through the doorway in disbelief for a moment at the scene before him.
Then Grant had looked up from kissing her, from staring in to her eyes, from smiling at her and saw him standing there, watching.
And then, not knowing what else to do, Volks had fled.
He scrambled up the stairs and down the hall and into their room. Feeling suddenly crushed and confused, he threw his things carelessly on the floor and sat slumped on the edge of the bed, his back to the door.
'How could he?' He thought dejectedly.
He heard the door creak open behind him and someone's heavy footfalls step inside the room, but he didn't turn around. He knew who it was. And he didn't want to even look at him.
"Volks..." Grant said softly.
The young blonde just sat there, fighting back tears.
"Volks..." He repeated, "Look at me."
Volkshien turned and gave him his iciest glare.
Grant looked down at him, crumpled, and fell down to his knees on the other side of the small bed. "I'm sorry." He said, bowing his head so his face was half buried in the covers and his hands clasped before him.
Volks' throat felt tight. "... How could you?"
"I'm sorry!" He repeated.
Volks turned around to face him fully. "You KISSED her!"
"It didn't mean anything!" Grant said, sitting up.
"But you kissed her!" Volks yelled, voice cracking.
"Volks, it didn't mean anything! She was just--"
"No! I don't care! You kissed her!" He returned, tears brimming. "I thought, I thought I meant something..."
"You do! You mean everything!"
They stared at each other for a moment, silent and unsettled.
"Just... Just leave me alone." Volks whimpered, and flopped down onto the mattress and turned on his side, facing away from him.
There was another short silence, then Grant climbed up on the bed beside him. "Turn around and let me explain." He said, half pleading and half demanding.
"No." Volks said, defiantly.
Grant grabbed his shoulder and pulled him around, so he was flat on his back, then pinned the smaller boy underneath him with his knees. "Listen to me!" He insisted.
"No!" Volks demanded, trying to push him away, "Get off me!"
Grant grabbed his wrists and forced them down. "Cut it out! Please, just hear me out, will ya?"
"You're heavy." Was Volks feeble response, a tear escaping his left eye and trickling down his cheek.
"Look, I just kissed her to shut her up! She was asking too many questions!" Grant explained.
Volks snorted incredulously.
"She was asking about my job, and why we were out west, and about you... I couldn't think of anything else to do!" He defended.
Volks was still frowning doubtfully.
"But she gave me the money! A whole hundred! Can you believe it?" He asked.
"You're changing the subject."
Grant sighed. "See? You know me. When I get in a fix I just change the subject. But you know I wouldn't lie about something like this, too. She means nothing to me, Volks. Nothing. Tomorrow we'll leave this desert and her behind forever, and it'll just be you and me on the road again. We could go South. You'd like that wouldn't you? Somewhere nice and cool. Wouldn't that be wonderful?"
Volks sighed, staring up at him uncertainly.
Grant leaned down and gently kissed him on the corner of the mouth. "You know how much I love you."
Volks softened a little, and Grant loosened his grip on him, looking down at him hopefully. Volks gazed back up him. "... Do you really mean that?" He asked, quietly.
"Of course I do." Grant answered, smiling.
"And you really only were flirting with that girl to get money?"
Grant cleared his throat. "...Well, yes. You make me sound like some sort of swindler."
"You are rather conniving." Volks teased, smiling too.
Grant's smile widened. "Conniving? I can't help it if the ladies love me."
"That poor girl. You shouldn't have led her on like that. You must have taken all her vacation money." Volks scolded.
"Naw." Grant corrected, "She still has plenty. I saw when she opened her purse. She still has at least half a dozen cool silvers, and a gold mark or two. She'll be fine."
"You're still a swindler." Volks laughed.
Grant laughed too, then leaned down and kissed him again, this time squarely on the lips. Volks returned it after a second, warmly. Grant released his grip on his wrists entirely and shifted his weight.
"Don't ever doubt my feelings for you Volks. You're my kitten, my love, my life..." Grant said happily, snuggling down into the other boy's neck. "Forever."
Volks chuckled softly, at such sap. "Cut the melodrama. You don't have to act with me."
"I'm not acting. I mean it..."
Volks sighed, and thought a minute. "I love you too, Grant." He said finally.
"Forever?" The other asked.
Volks laced his arms around him, under his coat. "Forever." He whispered.
* * * * *
To be continued...
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