A Criminal Enterprise

BY : Ajora
Category: Final Fantasy Games > Final Fantasy II - V
Dragon prints: 194
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy V. No money is being made off this fic.

Lenna Charlotte Tycoon has always been aware of her place in the world, of the expectations placed on her. She knows all the rules that royalty has to abide by and knows her responsibilities to her people. She knows that she is expected to produce an heir to continue the line of succession, by appointment if not by birth, and that her feelings about it have no place within the life laid out for her. She knows her place and she has never questioned it.

But, sometimes, her gaze falls on Faris when the other isn't aware of it and her breath catches in her throat, and suddenly she desperately wants something that doesn't fit in the life laid out before her. She tries not to think about the physical attraction, telling herself that of course Faris is handsome, that Butz probably wants to kiss her too and that's a perfectly natural response to beauty, that surely it will pass once we become more familiar with each other. Maybe she's just confused. After all, she'd never thought about anyone like that before. That confusion ruined any chance they might have for something resembling a normal relationship.

The deep green eyes, slim figure, and firm lips are easy enough to love, and Lenna doesn't mind that Butz likes them, too. Harder to love is Faris' brusqueness, which often borders on rudeness if it doesn't plunge into it outright, but Lenna knows now that it is both a shield to protect the heart Faris would insist she doesn't have and a weapon against those who would seek to chip their way in. Harder to love is the way Faris seems to drink more the further along their quest goes, and Lenna is sure she's the cause. Harder to love is that old pirate's avarice that never quite went away and the habits that come of it: the way Faris has to stop herself sometimes from slipping the party's coins and jewels into her pockets, the way she'll simply take something in a shop without paying for it, the way she's always quietly assessing something by its resale value rather than its strengths, the way her eyes light up when they catch on some bit of hidden treasure. Rather than put Lenna off, these habits open up a wellspring of melancholy—they're the marks of a life spent in want, and Lenna has never wanted for anything. She loves these things not in spite of them, but because they are simply facets of what makes Faris Faris.

Lenna isn't sure if anyone else noticed, but there are the beginnings of fine little lines at the corners of Faris' mouth and eyes. Little lines of laughter that will deepen as she grows older. The lines that appear between Faris' eyebrows are intermittent, but in time they will become more visible. Lenna has the overwhelming urge to kiss them away when they appear, which is really quite unbecoming for a princess. Faris' hands are long and thin and much too fine-boned to be as callused as they are, but Lenna appreciated their strength when Faris hauled herself up a cliff for her. In another life, they might have been as soft as her own. In another life, she likely would never even have such feelings.

And yet…

There's an undefined something that exists between them. It flares to life when they're alone, when the others are gone and it's just them in their room at the inn. It would be easy enough to ignore if Faris wasn't so gentle to her. If only they clashed more, or if they were worse people, or if she didn't find Faris' stubborn insistence on keeping her safe to be endearing. If only they hadn't spent all those nights letting their shifts run too long just to talk to each other, if only Faris had kept her at arm's length the way she did with everyone else. She wants more than anything for the little touches to linger longer than appropriate and turn into caresses, for the intimate little talks to turn into sweet nothings. If only Faris had simply been a pirate captain. If only they had grown up together, so that she would never feel this way.

Lenna tries to rationalize why she doesn't feel half as ashamed as she should. Why does she not feel guilt or shame when her skin tingles where Faris touches her? Why does she mourn for that time when Faris flirted with her, before they knew better? Why has she never felt this way about anyone else? Why can't she just stop and redirect her attraction to someone more appropriate? It has become so hopelessly entangled in her feelings that she doesn't know where sisterly love ends and where romantic love begins. Yet, a glance at Faris laughing with Galuf over a tankard makes her concerns feel so petty and small. But for a cruel twist of fate, there's technically nothing to feel guilty about.

They cannot have children together. She is aware that Faris and the queen of Karnak once had a fling, so she guesses that the flirting when they met was an expression of genuine interest and not simply Faris putting on an act. They met as adults and did not grow up together, so any hold Faris may have over her as the elder sister is nonexistent. Faris has never been anything but a gentleman to her. They are mostly equals in the eyes of the law; Tycoon had abandoned primogeniture long ago in favor of appointing the most qualified of the royal line as ruler and Faris has no interest or education in such things. She would not be the first queen to eschew marriage to a king or prince for the company of women, nor would she be the last.

The only thing wrong with her desires is that Faris, Sarisa, is her sister. Lenna barely remembers Sarisa-the-child and had only her parents' accounts to flesh out the hole that appeared in their lives when her sister was lost at sea. Her memories of Faris the pirate captain are richer, fuller than any young child's memory of an absent sibling. When she imagines Faris in ways she certainly shouldn't, especially at night, that one unfortunate detail never dissuades her.

Butz is recounting one of his traveler's stories to a werewolf of Quelb, with Galuf explaining some detail of her world that the werewolf doesn't understand, and her gaze catches Faris' across the table. Faris' grin softens in response and Lenna falls a little more in love.

This thing between them is alive, existing in the shadows in which she hides it, and she would protect that treasure the best she could. No one would ever have to know.

*

Galuf suspects.

Lenna isn't sure when he started seriously watching the way she is around Faris, but she knows that the ribbing about her and Butz ceased not long after Faris joined their party. He's… quieter now than he used to be around them, and moreso once his memory returns. When she realizes that they're not alone anymore, her eyes sometimes fix on his and his expression shutters before he excuses himself. A shot of ice spikes through her veins and settles into the cold weight of dread in her stomach every time. As much as she tries to justify her attraction to Faris, she knows it won't be well received should she ever do anything about it. And as long as she doesn't do anything about all of this, fantasizing is perfectly harmless.

But where Galuf suspects, Faris knows. How could she not? There has never been a word spoken about their mutual attraction, but Lenna knows it exists. Faris' touch might linger a second longer than appropriate, her gaze sometimes sears, she lets her watch last a little longer than necessary just to stay up and talk to Lenna, she always speaks to Lenna with a gentle kindness that is absent with the others, and her devotion is the stuff of ballads. And that's the thing, isn't it? Faris wouldn't hesitate to save Butz or Galuf either, but there's an extra flair when she leaps to Lenna's rescue. Of course Lenna's heart races then; Faris' flamboyance has all the charm of romantic heroes. The machismo and all the edges that would make it unpleasant are rounded out by the little fact that Faris understands what makes such men obnoxious and never goes that far.

They're taking a break in Surgate when Galuf finally approaches her. Butz and Faris are off trying to barter with the shopkeepers, and perhaps Lenna might not have been as quick to hide any outward signs of longing. The fear returns, which is honestly silly because she has nothing to fear from Galuf. Still, he has a way of making her feel like a child with her hand caught in the cookie jar.

"Have a moment, princess?" Galuf's voice is not unkind, though there might be a hint of pity coloring it. He is more fatherly than he had been before his memory returned, yet the fear sits like an uncomfortable pile of rocks in her stomach nonetheless.

Lenna says nothing as she follows him into some hidden room off a corridor that smells of dust and cobwebs and things that make their homes in dark corners. They missed Zezae's fleet by a couple of days, but the sky dragon will catch up with it soon enough. Surgate's guards allowed them free run of the castle in the interim, and Galuf seems to know this place like the back of his hand.

She sits at the single gaming table with her fingers laced so tightly together that they ache with the pressure she's putting on them. Galuf sits across from her and the dusty old chair creaks from the sudden weight. His face is contemplative, as if he didn't know how to proceed once he got her alone like this.

Perhaps it is kindness that urges her to speak first in order to break the painfully awkward silence. "What would you like to discuss?"

"Funny thing is, I don't know where to start," Galuf begins as he scratches at his chin. The stubble there will grow back into a beard soon enough, before he tires of it and shaves it down to a moustache again. Lenna has never understood the appeal of beards, but she supposes that's just another factor in the realization that she does not appreciate men the way most of the ladies at court do. "I reckon you know you're transparent."

The weight in her stomach grows heavier; she had hoped it wasn't quite that bad. Still, she is a princess and grace in the face of having the rug yanked out from under her is an acquired skill. "Thank you. I'll endeavor to be less obvious."

Galuf regards her for another long moment and she doesn't quite know how to read him. This is unfamiliar territory to the both of them. Finally, he folds his arms and leans into the chair's back. It creaks alarmingly but never gives way. His expression is not quite neutral and not quite kind. "Damned mess is what all this is. I tend to go with my gut, and my gut says incest is disgusting. That's just the way the world is. Even monsters don't breed with kin. Then I think about you two and the way you acted before you went and spooked Faris with all the sister talk and—" Galuf grimaces. Lenna wonders if there's a geomancy spell to open the ground below her and save her from this entire discussion. She never should have brought up her suspicions about Faris' past at all, and she regrets that now. "And I remember that it's not my place. You're too suited for each other, and whether that's because you're sisters or because of some other thing I don't want to think about, I don't know."

It's a marvel that Lenna's fingers don't break from the strength of her resistance to the urge to wring her hands and fret. The last thing she needs is his disappointment, or his approval. When she finally gets up the courage to speak, there might be a little frost in her voice. "Don't worry. I don't plan on doing anything about it."

"Heh." He grunts and his posture relaxes. There's something about the way his expression softens that's reassuring. "Even Butz noticed you two dancing around this…whatever it is. Do something. Talk, at least. This is my world, not yours. No one knows either of you here. Unless one of you is packing something extra, there probably won't be any two-headed kids in your future. You deserve whatever happiness you can get out of this mess of yours."

The clench of fear in her innards abates, a little, and her hands relax their death grip on each other. "Butz…?"

"Doesn't care." Galuf pauses to consider his words, and then snorts in amusement. "I'd say he thinks of you as the sister he never had, but…"

Despite the tension and the utter absurdity of her entire situation, she laughs. It's short and sweet, and Galuf grins in response. "Oh, goodness, I hope not!"

Galuf's sudden guffaw breaks apart the iceberg that settled in her innards and she can't help but join in. The tension is gone by the time she wipes the tears from the corners of her eyes. Heavens, but she needed this. He reaches across the table to pat her hands. It's such a grandfatherly gesture, for which she is grateful.

"Go get this out of your system, you ridiculous child. Just do all of us a favor and be careful about it. Makes it easier to protect you." Galuf's tone is fond, if a bit exasperated and a touch confused. He doesn't say that he hopes they'll move on to more appropriate partners once they've burned through this, but the subtext is there. It's not approval, but she doesn't need it to be. All she needs is what he will provide without question: support regardless of what happens. For that alone, she is grateful.

Lenna rises from her seat with a murmur excusing herself and leaves. They'll have the night in Surgate before they move on, and she intends to at least talk to Faris about this thing they've left unaddressed for much too long.

*

It's evening by the time Butz and Faris return from their shopping trip. They pile the equipment by each bed: a katana for Galuf, a new rod for when Butz decides to practice being a mage again, a batch of throwing knives for Faris, and Lenna gets a new spear to replace one that broke fending off an animated statue's attack. There are new clothes and sets of armor, too, to replace things that have been torn and broken during battle. It's exhausting just looking at them and recalling why everything needed repairs and replacement.

Galuf pulls Butz away, saying something about going for a drink, and she's left alone with Faris. Faris watches them go with a spark of suspicion in her eyes and Lenna wonders whether Butz had his own version of the talk with Galuf. Lenna's hand slips into hers, and their fingers lace together with the ease of long practice. The expression on Faris' face turns thoughtful as the comfortable silence settles over them.

"Galuf had a talk with you too, eh?" The words are spoken softly, though there's an undercurrent of roughness in Faris' voice from all the years she spent at sea belting out orders.

Being with Faris always makes things feel a little less dire. Lenna tries not to laugh as she mimics Galuf's expression, if not exactly his tone of voice, and summarizes the discussion that made her so uncomfortable. "Incest is disgusting and I'm silently judging you, but go get it over with so I don't have to think about it anymore."

Faris' response is a short laugh that seems to come from deep within, pitched in a way that makes her sound more like a young man than a woman. Sometimes Lenna wonders how much practice Faris had to do to sound like a man. Then, Faris' throat clears as she settles her features into a rough approximation of Butz's usual earnestness, and her voice does a much better job at imitating his. "Faris, I just want you to know that whatever happens, I'll treasure our friendship forever. Just one thing: can I watch?"

Lenna gasps and chortles before she can think to restrain herself. "He didn't!"

"Perhaps not in quite those words. Had to swear to procure a right filthy rag to get him to drop the matter." Green eyes darker than her own glint with good humor and Lenna's heart might flutter a little in response. Faris' fingers squeeze hers lightly. "But on the subject… care to go somewhere a mite more private?"

Anticipation and excitement and dread and countless other emotions start squirming inside her again, but she nods and lets Faris lead her out the keep and to the libraries and storage buildings hugging the curtain wall behind it. While the scholars pay them no attention, she can feel the eyes of a few of the guards following them. The guards never leave their posts, however, and she puts it out of her mind. This is not her world, after all, and they have no reason to think of her and Faris as anything other than strangers here on Galuf's invitation.

Their destination, as it turns out, is a small treasury to the west of the main library. From the lack of dust compared to where she and Galuf had their talk, Lenna guesses that everything but one lonely spell scroll had been removed to fund the strike on ExDeath's castle. Faris grabs the scroll before she does, shoves it into one of her many hidden pockets, and busies herself by rummaging through empty chests and dusting them off just in case there might be a spare coin somewhere. It's not a comfortable subject and she knows that Faris is putting it off, so she allows a few minutes to pass before she decides to broach it. After all, how does one even start?

Nevertheless, she must start somewhere. She urges Faris back up with little more than a light touch on the shoulder. Now that they're alone together, the attraction between them revives all over again and she remembers the captain's hand around her waist and how distracting it was as she was introduced to Syldra. She wanted so much for Faris to kiss her then, and that feeling never went away. It seems almost a lifetime ago.

Lenna isn't sure what to do; they're embarking on new territory. Somehow, in all of her late-night musings, she never got around to thinking about what to do if she ever got to this point. Nevertheless, dealing with emotions with grace is more her strength than Faris', and she has to be the one to take the lead if she wants to prevent Faris from assuming any blame.

"I, um…" Lenna winces internally as her courage falters and her words stumble over it. She licks her lips and tucks a stray bit of hair behind her ear and tries again. "Faris, I love you more than I should. I… I know it's wrong, but—"

Faris' palms are clammy with nerves and she has to wipe them off before they settle on Lenna's shoulders, as if to hold her at bay. Her eyes dart to the door, the windows, before settling back on Lenna. There's a worry in them that Lenna wants to kiss away, and Faris' voice is low and concerned. "Lenna, think. Please. There's no going back if we cross this line. I've naught to lose but my pride, but you've got a kingdom."

She can hardly help it. Lenna's answering smile is soft; she reaches up to caress that thin white scar that stretches from Faris' right temple and into her scalp. It's the place where she hit her head when their father's ship was destroyed in a storm all those years ago. "I know. It's so dangerous. But I still love you. I still want to be with you. You hid yourself for fifteen years and flourished. I think I can do just as much, if you're with me."

"Please be sure." Her sister's voice grows ragged in pleading with her. "I don't want to hurt you."

"You won't." If nothing else, Lenna is certain about that. She draws close to caress her sister's smooth cheek; the way Faris closes her eyes and leans into the touch reassures Lenna that she wants this, too. "I trust you."

It takes a moment for Faris to gather herself. It takes another moment for her to hold Lenna's hand still and brush a light, delicate kiss on the palm. Lenna imagines her heart might melt. "If ever you need to break it off, tell me. I'll not make an issue of it." Faris pauses to kiss her fingers just as chastely as she had her palm. Her eyes open and watch Lenna with something unnameable smouldering in them that makes her weak in the knees. "Follow my lead. I've got experience in secrets." Then she takes Lenna's hand, curls it in hers, and kisses the knuckles in a gesture so chivalric that Lenna feels positively faint. "I love you, too. More than proper or right, but there it is. Tell me you're sure."

"I'm sure," Lenna manages to whisper at last.

Faris' other hand settles at the small of Lenna's back to draw her close. There's no real insistence behind the gesture; she knows Faris is giving her an out if she wishes to take it. But for all the immorality inherent in her pursuit of a romantic relationship with her own sister, she has no intention of teasing and refusing to follow through. She presses closer, instead, and settles her arms around Faris' shoulders. Their eyes meet again and the heat in Faris' echoes hers. Still, Faris' desire for her is banked in caution. She just needs an extra push that Lenna is more than happy to provide.

Lenna tries to stand a little more on her toes, but her boots only allow her so much. It's unfair, really, that Faris is tall enough to give her forehead a peck with ease, but Lenna has to work at similar displays of affection. Still, the tension cracks enough that Faris chuckles and leans in to brush her lips against Lenna's.

It's enough. Lenna presses back, wanting more than a chaste little kiss. The touch of their lips is electric, forbidden, and she can't get enough. She closes her eyes to focus on the feel of Faris' lean body against hers, on the press of her breasts against Faris' vest-flattened chest. The taste of whiskey on Faris' breath almost makes her want to laugh—the Fire Crystal's chosen warrior will face anything without liquid courage except Lenna—but the hesitant touch of Faris' tongue against hers promptly derails the thought and makes her gasp. Emboldened, Faris' hand cradles the back of Lenna's head as she deepens the kiss. Lenna clings as close as she can, allowing herself to be caught up in this current.

It doesn't last long enough. To her embarrassment, Lenna whines when Faris ends the kiss. She's so gentle about it that she presses another soft, apologetic kiss to Lenna's lips before easing away. Lenna imagines she can see stars.

"'Fraid it only gets better from there," Faris says with a bit of that impishness in her voice Lenna can't possibly resent. "Still sure about this?"

If Lenna had doubts before, they're gone now. Everything about that kiss felt right. She shakes her head and kisses her sister again. It's little more than a peck to punctuate her words. "Of course I am. I love you too much."

To her credit, Faris tries to be the responsible party—it's too bad that she can't quite shake the adoration on her face enough for her effort to be effective. "First rule of undertaking a criminal enterprise: create a role you can act convincingly," Faris begins; the way she caresses Lenna's cheek is more reassuring than anything. "That's gonna be the you the world sees. Second: act like you're doing nothing wrong, but always be alert. Third: trust as few people as possible. Butz and Galuf are enough as it is."

The words are more sobering than Galuf's admonition. It feels more real now; Tycoon, Walse, and Karnak may not have criminalized incest between consenting adults, but that's because the royal houses are all related. Faris' experiences are outside of those spheres. It's different in those unaligned townships on her own world, and possibly this one as well. She rests her cheek against Faris' collarbone, breathing in the subtle mix of Jacolean dragonsblood resin, sandalwood, and musks that mask the fact that she doesn't smell like a man. Faris' hands shift to hug her, stroke her hair. "We have each other, love. We'll make it work."

"I know." Lenna basks in her sister's warmth, marvels in the way their breath and heartbeats match up so quickly. She wants another kiss, among other things, but cuddling like this is enough for now. "We belong together."

"Aye." Faris doesn't speak again for a few long moments. Her breath catches on some bit of settling dust and she has to cough to clear it out of her throat. "Let's find somewhere more comfortable."

Lenna's eyes light up—Faris may know her criminal enterprises, but Lenna knows castle staff and how to get around them. They're trained to keep an eye out for suspicious activity, but ignore commonplace vices. She grins up at her handsome pirate captain. "How about a secret mission?"

*

For all that Butz found the girls attractive, the fact that they only had eyes for each other didn't actually bother him all that much. He'd wandered into towns that drove out their pariahs, and often for good reason. He'd seen the ruins left behind by war. There were real monsters in the world, human and non-human alike. ExDeath is out there, doing who knew what. In light of all the bad crap in the world, whatever Faris and Lenna have seems awfully harmless in comparison. If they want to be together, all the more power to them.

The tankard of ale Butz nurses is still half-full, and he isn't inclined to pick it back up again until Galuf returns from business with the Surgate guards. Debriefing? Whatever. The bartender busied himself with wiping the same glass for the past few minutes, as the bulk of Surgate's military is off being more productive and Butz is the only other person here. It's really too bad that the barkeeper doesn't feel like talking.

Then, suddenly, there's singing. Faris' ventures with the Fire Crystal shard that housed a bard's spirit tuned her voice to a nice, low contralto that might pass as a young man's tenor. Lenna's singing voice is a sweet soprano that could probably do with a little more time with the bard's spirit, but she matches her sister well. If Butz didn't know better, he could swear that they sound drunk.

They round the corner singing. Or, at least, doing something similar—it's more cheery conversation than song. Are they…? …Yeah, Lenna skips and Faris keeps up with her longer legs and broader stride, and they're holding hands all the while. It has the effect of making the lone guard and bartender look away.

We're off on a secret mission
A criminal enterprise
We're gonna go—
Yeah!
And then—
Exactly
Where are we?
I forgot
Oh! Oh! We're going to go sneak into—
Somewhere
Comfier than that—

They stop at Butz's stool, both grinning like the world rolled off their shoulders. Or like they're mad. Both are equally likely.

"Butz, my lad! Where's the old man?"

He turns to better talk to the sisters, who are both much too clear-eyed to be as drunk as they're acting. But, under the act, they do seem genuinely happy. There are matching gleams of mischief in their green eyes that assure Butz that whatever they're up to, he really ought not to ask.

"Telling the guards how to do their job, I think." His glance darts down to their hands, unsurprised that their fingers are laced together again. It was a practice they stopped when King Tycoon died; it's good to see it again. "I'll let him know that you've worked it all out."

"Thank you, Butz," Lenna says sweetly. She looks lighter than she has for a long time; for that alone, Butz is grateful.

The two excuse themselves and skip off, singing of secret missions and forcing the guards to ignore them. He returns to his ale for a sip or two, trying to repress the fond smile tugging at the corners of his lips all the while.

It's nice to see the girls getting along.


Note: This is part of a series. I've never posted to AFF before, so my apologies if I'm doing it wrong. Based on the Japanese text, not localizations.



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