|NaNo extract (FFVII, G, 2147 words, untitled, Marlene-centric, no-genre)
||[Nov. 9th, 2007|09:07 am]
Fanficcers Unite! NaNo 2007
|||||Cloud Omega Kawaii song||]|
The sound of the horn thundered through the air, a deep baritone bellow that thrummed every bone of the gathered spectators. Port Junon had never been so busy. There was not a foot of space left along the quayside railings as people from all over the eastern continent crowded the docks that were home to The Mercy. Vendors were peddling cheap souvenirs, handmade shell necklaces and little wooden boats, garish paint still tacky to the touch. Every other stall was selling fish – steamed, smoked, or grilled – and muscles, candied apples to follow and cheap cider to wash it all down. Weaving through and beneath the smell of greasy food was the tang of the ocean, seasalt thick on everyone's tongues. It was a full-blown festival in honour of The Mercy. Junon's salty blood was in her steel, and it was with bittersweet joy that those who built her, keel to flagpole, were celebrating her very first launch.
Marlene dragged her father by his good hand through the crowd of passengers blocking the steps up to the poopdeck, and leaned far over the rails to scan the sea of upturned faces below. She had to squint in the blinding sunlight, one hand raised to shield her eyes. "I can't see them!" she cried in dismay. Barret, standing behind her, pointed towards a streetlamp set further back along the main road, where an identifiable tuft of spiky blond hair stood out amongst the crowd. "Cloud!" Marlene called, waving her arm. "Tifa! Over here!"
"Hey, Spiky!" Barret's voice boomed over the cacophony around them, just before the engines grumbled to life. There was a slight shuffle as people turned to see who the domineering man had called. Marlene laughed and waved again, delighted, when Denzel's head suddenly appeared above everybody else's; she could just make out that he was balancing precariously with one foot braced against the streetlamp and one hand on Cloud's shoulder. The Mercy sounded her horn again, scattering the few gulls that had flown back to the huge chimney towering over the harbour. The whole ship rattled, engines shuddering into higher gear as – slowly but surely – she inched away from the shore.
"We're moving!" Marlene cried, delighted, clapping her hands. All around her people were waving fervent goodbye to those left on land. Excited chatter buzzed through the air as the vessel gained gradual speed, moving laboriously out of the port. Marlene cast one last look over the crowd at the harbour, but she couldn't see Denzel or Cloud anymore.
"C'mon, kid. Let's go further up," Barret said. She nodded, beaming at him. He passed through the mass of passengers with ease, and she followed in his wake. The bow was much less densely packed as everyone was at the stern watching Junon fade into the distance. There was a strong wind blowing from the north, warm and moist. Marlene braced her arms against the railing and turned her face into the breeze. The spray as the ship cuts through the waves glued to her lips and eyelashes, and she licked at the sticky salt. Barret wrapped an arm around her shoulders, and she leaned into his side with a happy sigh. "Alright?" he asked in a soft voice. She nodded.
"I can't wait until we get to Wutai," she said. Her father laughed.
"We've only just set off!" he said with a grin. Marlene smiled up at him. The sky was an arch overhead of purest blue, without even a hint of a cloud; the ocean was choppy beneath their keel. The deck was starting to clear as passengers vanished below to find their rooms and explore the rest of the ship open to them, but Marlene was content to stay here for now, just soaking up the sunlight in the comfort of her father's arms.
"What's Wutai like?" she asked. Barret made a considering noise deep in his chest that she could feel against her head.
"It's old. None of this new crap like in Edge or Junon. Wutai's got history and culture. And they're very proud people. You have to be real careful not to insult someone from Wutai or they'll pick a fight just to defend their honour." Marlene thought he sounded almost admiring.
"Did you ever have to fight them?" she said with a frown. Barret's arm squeezed her shoulders.
"We did once. But you can ask Yuffie all about that when we get there." He laughed, and Marlene couldn't help but grin at the sound. "Now c'mon. Let's go find our room before some asshole steals it from us."
It was exceedingly cramped below deck. The Mercy was actually a privately-owned cargo ship, with bare few rooms set aside for passengers. Marlene was struck by an almost paralysing bout of claustrophobia, but she took a deep breath of the metallic air and looked up at her father, whose shoulders brushed the walls as he strode ahead, and felt the corrider expand outwards again. She had to hurry to catch up with Barret, passing people and signs in a continual blur.
"Here we are!" he said, in front of a door no different to any of the others along the hallway. Marlene was slightly out of breath when she reached him, peering into the cabin. A small circular window let in minimal light, illuminating two narrow cots and a tiny bedside table between them. The room was clean, though, and all they would be doing was sleeping in it. But, as Marlene sat on one of the beds and found it more like a wooden bench with thin blankets, she thought that even that might not be much consolation.
"I know it's not much," Barret said upon catching sight of her expression, "but this is one of the best rooms on the ship. There's way worse than this two decks down." Marlene gave him an impish grin.
"You spoil me," she said with a laugh.
"Nothing's too good for my little girl. I just wish they had beds that a guy like me could sleep in. We're not all as tiny as Chocobo-head," Barret said, scowling. Marlene whipped a hand over her mouth to smother her giggles.
"Dad! You shouldn't say that about Cloud!" But her eyes were twinkling.
"What? It's true!" Barret declared, gesticulating wildly. "If I was built like a little girl then we wouldn't have a problem here, would we?" To prove the point, he collapsed onto the bed, and nearly fell off as the combined weight of his leg and metal arm worked against him. Marlene couldn't help herself; she threw herself back on the unforgiving bed and laughed long and loud at her father's antics. Barret contented himself in watching her.
Eventually, with their little luggage stowed in what crannies could be found in the cabin and after a rousing game of cards, they made their way to the mess hall. It was already crowded with families and crewmen alike. Clutching her father's hand, Marlene forced herself not to think about the smallness of the room, and how they were stuffed in like sardines in a can. The lurch and roll of the ship didn't help.
"Mr Wallace, sir! Over here!" A man in a suit waved at them from a smaller table furthest from the lunchline. Barret made his way over, half-lifting Marlene as he steered around the tightly-packed tables. "We've saved you a seat here, Mr Wallace, right next to the captain. Everyone, I'd like to introduce Barret Wallace." Marlene hid behind her father's legs in a way she hadn't since she was very small when the seated guests turned to look at them.
"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr Wallace," the captain said as he stood and bowed. Marlene was ushered into a seat between her father and a woman with bushy red hair while her father was introduced to everyone. "And who is your glamorous companion?" the captain asked, once they were seated again.
"This is my daughter Marlene," Barret said proudly. Red flooded her cheeks as Marlene was eyed by the entire table. Thankfully, no one wanted to spend time talking to a little girl when there were more important things to debate, and it was with some bewilderment that Marlene listened to her father discuss oil, politics, and trade with great authority. She was used to the discussions AVALANCHE had had at Tifa's Seventh Heaven, when Barret was the leader and the fate of the world had rested on his shoulders. But it was something completely different to hear him talk about things that didn't involve bombs, and to have other people listen to him with respect and consideration. It didn't just feel like she was on a ship at sea; it felt like she was a world away from the bar back in Edge, where Tifa worried about the price of wholesale ale and Cloud occasionally grumbled about an awkward delivery to some far-flung reach of the planet, and all she and Denzel had to talk about was school and the poor selection of cartoons shown on Edge's one and only television network.
"Alrigh', Marlene?" Barret murmured during a lull in the conversation. She nodded bashfully, looked up at him through her eyelashes. It was humid and smelly in the room, and she felt the claustrophobia creeping in on her again. A dark hand patted her gently on the head. "Don' worry. We're gonna go up on deck after dinner, okay kid?"
"Okay," she said in a small voice.
Eventually, the meal ended. Marlene raced to the door and waited there, shifting from foot to foot, until her father had made his goodbyes and joined her. Then she all but dragged him upstairs, and burst out of the door into a blast of wind. It was still daylight, as they were sailing west, but there was a chill here on the open ocean that made goosebumps break out across her arms. Letting go of her father's hand, Marlene ran to the railings to catch the full force of the wind and seaspray.
"Marlene?" Barret asked quietly as he stepped up beside her.
"I'm fine," she assured him, smiling for his benefit. He turned and rested against the railings, facing away from the strong gale.
"Crowded down in that room, huh? Like being in a tin can or somethin'." He looked sideways down at her. "I'm sure glad we're up 'ere now." Marlene nodded once, still drawing calming breaths of the salty air. The sun was ahead of the ship now, swinging fat and low in the sky and tinging the frothy water with green and gold. She admired the view for a long moment, before finally turning to face her father. "Better now?" he asked.
"Yeah. I'll be okay," she answered.
"Good," he said, and clapped a hand to her shoulder. "Cos we've got a long way to go before we reach Wutai." Marlene sighed to herself. It was a wonderful treat to sail on The Mercy with her father, but she selfishly wished that there weren't so many passengers on board.
The thought followed her as she accompanied her father to their cabin, though several games of cards, as she brushed her teeth in the crowded, steamy bathroom shared by all the women on their deck, and finally to bed. Her father tucked her in tight beneath the thin blankets, and even gave her is own to ward off the chill. She was really too old for bedtime stories, but Tifa always gave her a kiss goodnight, and it was so rare for Barret to be there as she went to sleep that Marlene didn't mind being treated like a little kid at all.
"Now you jus' rest yerself, an' I'll see ya in the mornin'," Barret murmured, pressing a kiss to her forehead. Marlene, snuggled under pile of blankets, was almost asleep despite the uncomfortable bed by the time the door closed behind him.
Her dreams were always odd, as she supposed most dreams were. But that night she dreamt of abnormal things, fields of black flowers that advanced and retreated like waves on a beach. The dark sky glittered with gem-like stars, and weaving between them all were strands of brilliant green. Marlene walked through the flowers lapping at her feet, and heard them crunch like broken glass beneath her. The horizon was hazy and indistinct, like the blur of air over the old Mako reactors in Midgar, and she squinted to try to focus on a shadowy figure way in the distance. She wondered if this person knew where she was, why she was there, but as she ran, the bigger the person grew, the easier it was to see that the silhouette was only of herself.
Extract: "I can't see them!" she cried in dismay. Barret, standing behind her, pointed towards a streetlamp set further back along the main road, where an identifiable tuft of spiky blond hair stood out amongst the crowd. "Cloud!" Marlene called, waving her arm. "Tifa! Over here!"