Smiling

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((A/N: And what, you ask in disbelief, is this? You, poor, hapless reader, have stumbled upon another of my... cleverly-disguised-crack!fics. I suddenly came up with this in the middle of writing both the next chapter to my anti-Sue GS fic and an original story about demons in a clocktower. Er. Right. Ignore the last part. I just went GUHWHAT when the idea came to me... But now here it is. Llednar/Ritz. I like Ritz. Mmhmm.

As for why Llednar is alive in this case? USE YOUR IMAGINATION. ...Basically meaning, I don't know. Loopholes, time paradox, whatever floats your boat. He's just alive, mmkay?))

Disclaimer: Nope, don't own the Final Fantasy franchise. Sadly enough.

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Smiling

Beauty is power; a smile is its sword.

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Llednar had normally liked irony. It was a darker side to light-hearted humor and good-natured sarcasm, and it had generally supported his belief that people were oblivious and quite stupid about some things. He'd once heard some wizened old scholars muttering about how warlike the land across the great sea was when they were currently dealing with clans obsessed with domination and overthrowing the judges' powers, and he knew at that point that bothering to give people any merit whatsoever was pointless.

Llednar mused darkly now that it was ironic that he no longer liked irony, because it had just bit him in the rear.

Here he sat in a dingy cell, his title and reputation stripped none-too-mercifully from him, with even the lowest, mangiest criminals daring to laugh at him given the chance and snide joke. Every once in a while some remnants of Borzoi or the Redwings would be dragged in, and they would notice him sitting in his dark corner as they were led on by. He could hear their questions and derisive laughter from all the way down the hallway. They likely spoke so loudly to try and entice his anger, but that had long since dulled to a throbbing bitterness that would only be slightly piqued whenever Marche happened to visit.

The first time he entered the jail since Llednar's last defeat and imprisonment, he had attempted to speak with him, but it was obvious what the biskmatar thought about him by the way he rudely brushed him off. Llednar could feel the boy's puppy dog eyes on his back, but having built a defense mechanism against them for preparation of his servitude to Prince Mewt, he ignored him long enough that Marche admitted defeat and slunk away, discouraged.

Since then, Marche visited every once in a while, normally with a clan member to be checked in or to bail one out, and he never lifted his eyes to meet the other's. Llednar always kept his steely gaze on him whenever he happened to drop by, and he knew that the kid knew he was watching by the way he hurriedly walked by past his cell. A smirk would grace his face afterward as the irony settled upon him yet another time. The boy who had defeated him was still deathly afraid of him, though he had made no moves against him or his life since that fateful battle.

But as of late, instead of Marche, a vaguely familiar-looking girl would come in his place. Her name was Ritz, as he had picked up from the few that always called out to her from their cells with half-hearted pleas of bail they would eventually repay, and she was a trained swordswoman, judging by the obvious weapon at her side and the clipped way she walked. He had picked up on her link with Marche when she had walked in with a Bangaa from his clan that got into drunken bar fights on an almost weekly basis. There was a stark difference between the two of them, however.

Ritz would berate the unfortunate clan member as they were led inside to the cells, and when she came to pick them up, she would playfully snap back at those poor for-lifers as she walked along. And once in a while, as she passed his cell, she would look at him directly in the eyes, unlike Marche. She had green eyes that weren't exactly (as a romantic would call it) emerald - they seemed a bit lighter, more like an intensified turquoise. Llednar wasn't sure why he bothered to define the color of her eyes, and he blamed his sheer boredom (and lack of irony he could actually laugh at).

Llednar had to admit that he saw her as a woman, not a girl. Marche would probably forever remain boyish in appearance and actions, and with Prince Mewt you could have probably gotten away with referring to him as an overgrown baby... Whereas Ritz radiated independence, maturity, and a distinct lack of fear.

He found his suspicious side suddenly stirred when she actually defended him one time as she walked out the prison with a Moogle fluttering beside her.

It had become a habit of his to either glare or smirk or perhaps a mix of the two as she walked out, with or without a clan member in tow, but she hadn't been making eye contact with him recently. As she walked by, head up and back rigidly straight, he gazed after her, eyes narrowed, never flicking away to the Moogle that was giving him worried and curious glances over his shoulder now and then. A scruffy-looking thief who seemed to be eternally drunk noticed his stare and slurred out, "Sorry ta tell ya, Twemmy, but we're all the same level to her. If she ain't gonna look at me, then why the heck will she bother with ya?"

He took a moment to mull over whether turning his wet-your-pants glare on him was worth it, then decided it wasn't a good thing to waste his eyesight so foolishly.

"This coming from the man who was found with an arrow in his crotch for harassing a Vieran sniper."

"I didn't know you kept track of our deadly sins, Miss Ritz," he called back, grinning lasciviously as she stalked back in.

"I wouldn't bother keeping track of a record like yours; it'd take years of study to get through just the first half of it. When was the last time you were out of here, hm?"

"Uh..."

"Exactly. That sniper? She's my best friend." Ritz gave him a warped smile that would make the average clan member reach for their weapon. "See you around, Llednar," she said airily in farewell, pivoting gracefully and walking back out, leaving the thief to stare blankly at Llednar, who was smirking back at him.

"Same level, are we?" He asked, raising one eyebrow.

"Shut up." The thief spat back. Llednar had no more trouble with him for the rest of the week.

For a time, things simply went like that. The drunken thief rarely caused trouble anymore for either of them, though he occasionally taunted Ritz as she walked by, but nothing more. Instead of sitting and brooding in a corner as per usual, Llednar rose and paced more often, sometimes walking without thought, other times turning something over seriously in his mind - like the possibilities of escape. Then, upon seeing another hapless convict being dragged in by the two Bangaa guards, he decided the risk and the potential loss of his pride were not worth it.

"You look like a caged animal in there," a lofty voice said from the hallway as he did his normal rise-obscenely-early-and-pace-endlessly routine. He stopped abruptly, turning slightly to see Ritz leaning on her shoulder against the bars of his cell.

"And you're observing me like a spectator," he responded tartly before returning to his pacing. Ritz made a soft, amused snort.

"I know what it's like. I was in here for a week some time ago, and for a couple days just recently. Even after this entire fiasco with the corrupt judge system, they think they should still ban little things like using techs and color magic. Ridiculous, if you ask me."

It occurred to Llednar then that he had seen her drop by once some days ago, but as he was concentrating on something - he couldn't remember exactly what, now - he hadn't realized she hadn't left. She hadn't come with anyone, either. Odd, that he was so absent-minded. Perhaps he should lighten the thinking. He had all the time in the world to think, after all...

"You know, Marche thought about asking you to join the clan." She stopped, seeing the shake of his head. "Hopeless, I know. I told him that, but he insisted I might as well mention it. He's a little too optimistic for his own good..."

"Only the hopeful are hurt in the end, after all."

He could feel her gaze on his back, but he refused to look up at her. "I bet you're just full of those little unhappy wisdoms, aren't you?"

Llednar said nothing to that.

Ritz drew away from the bars, turning to face his pacing figure head-on. "Would it hurt to smile every once in a while?"

"People normally run when I smile." The biskmatar said in his infamous dark tone, but that only made Ritz laugh softly.

"Some people say that about me, too. We're not that different, are we." He noticed she said as a statement, not as another of her questions. He met her eyes for the first time, his pacing coming slowly to a halt.

"Are we." He repeated, his amber eyes boring into her aqua.

Ritz gave him a one-shouldered shrug, half-smiling. "We all have a little bit of human in us, somewhere." She leaned in, brushing back Viera-white strands of hair from her eyes. "You know, I'd like to see you smile sometime. It can't be that scary."

"Good luck with that," Llednar retorted, swiveling around and pacing once more.

"I'll probably need it, with a guy like you. But I'll get one out of you, sooner or later. Just you wait - Ritz Malheur does not concede a loss without a fight!" She gave the bars a sharp rap with her metal-covered knuckles, then turned and waltzed off without looking back.

So her last name was Malheur... It sounded very...fancy. Royal, even. It suited her.

Llednar rubbed his forehead, sighing softly to himself. He needed to stop thinking so often.

He'd almost caught himself smiling.

ende

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((Okay, if you weren't scarred by that, you have very strong eyes. Even though this is much better than the stuff I spew out on a day-to-day basis... Probably because I know others will be reading it, and that makes me try harder. :P I hope you liked (even though I suck), lovelies. We need more strange but somewhat plausible pairings in here! Bwar!

Off to happy Azu lala-land now…))