Disclaimer: Gundam Seed belongs to Sunrise
Footsteps seemed to echo against the walls as a white pair of high-heeled shoes clacked against the polished marble floor, the overhead lights laminating the reflection in its lime green surface.
Rounding another corner in this labyrinth like corridor, the girl pressed forward, unsure of where she was going. Making her way through the hall, she shuddered. Partly from the cold air on her scantily clad skin, but also from the memory of what had just transpired: The total humiliation of those eyes upon her, so full of lust and licentious intent.
Arms were still wrapped tightly around her chest, simultaneously holding and concealing her otherwise unsupported, milk-white bust.
How could Miriallia have done that to her? Was it on purpose, or just an unfortunate accident? Their dancing couldn’t be described as anything less than bold. Perhaps that was how the brunette did everything. Maybe to her, exposing her partner like that was just a way to liven up the routine.
Lacus sighed, her aimless trek coming to a halt. What was she even doing here? The pinkette had no business being in a place like this, in this horrible club with those people, and that terrible DJ.
Working in a place like this was so unlike her, so unlike anything she’d ever done in her life. If anyone saw her here, what would they think? What would they think of her? And what of the people in her past, her friends from school. What had happened to them?
Had the past two years been any kinder to them than it had to Lacus? That was the resounding truth in everything. That was the reason she was here. Not because she wanted to be, certainly not. Had she a choice, this abominable club would be the last place she’d ever be found. The horrible, honest truth was: She hadn’t a choice in the matter. This was her last resort.
Lacus was fast approaching the end of her line. She wouldn’t be able to continue living without money, and right now, this was the only way she could get it.
Looking about her, Lacus was about to Continue on her way when she suddenly felt a hand grab her tightly by the shoulder and force her roughly against the wall, causing her to yelp loudly from surprise and from the pain of the assault.
Slowly tilting her head upward, the cornered girl managed a glimpse of her attacker. His eyes were like all the others. Glazed and full of lust, as though he were dreaming, fantasising, or picturing her naked, not that he had to try very hard, given her current attire.
Her shy, supple breasts were barely hidden, tucked away under the arms Lacus held crossed over her chest. Arms that the man held tightly in his fists, the unexpectedly soft skin of his hands causing her pain.
He roughly forced her arms up above her head, freeing the voluptuous mounds on her chest while simultaneously pinning her to the wall. The models featured in pornographic magazines had more modesty.
The man’s proximity, he was so close. They were almost touching… they were touching. Lacus could smell the extravagant cologne he wore. It wafted up her nostrils, starving her and depriving her of the precious oxygen her quickened, wild breathing now required.
The smell overwhelmed her. It asphyxiated and nauseated her. It made her feel sick.
The man’s lip curled upward into a sneer, revealing pearl white teeth on the left side of his jaw. Tight olive skin shone exuberantly from the overhead lighting, and his purple, wavy hair was pulled back into a short, loose ponytail.
Lacus was completely helpless before this man, and could do no more than whimper as his lustful gaze penetrated her and roamed hungrily over her uncovered, young body.
“So, thinking of leaving?” he finally asked, his voice surprisingly high in pitch.
“Let me go,” the girl squeaked.
“You’re a little premature, don’t you think? You should be on stage, not out here. You still have five minutes. Time is money, and you’re stealing it from this club. Do you really think you’re going to get away with it? Banks don’t just let robbers walk out with their money now, do they? If you borrow something, you pay it back, with interest.”
For the umpteenth time that evening, Lacus shuddered, and this time, it wasn’t due to adrenaline or anticipation.
“I think I know how you can repay your debt,” the man uttered. “You’re an entertainer, right? You should be on stage, but maybe you can entertain me, instead.” Lacus had been dreading that. “You know, you’re pretty cute.” That line didn’t make the pink haired girl feel better in the least.
“Let me go,” she said again, stronger this time. The man simply laughed.
“You know I can’t do that, but how about we go to one of the private rooms?”
Lacus’ eyes widened, breath catching. No, this wasn’t happening. He had her alone, bound. She was helpless. His lust-filled stare revealed his malicious purpose, and in her current position, considering her present attire, she didn’t stand a chance of resisting him. Not physically, anyway.
The girl’s eyes clenched shut, shielding the miraculous, blue orbs. Eyelids shut excruciatingly tight, moist, streaked with fresh tears. Her breathing became chaotic.
She knew what this man wanted, it was painfully obvious. But she couldn’t let him have it. She couldn’t let him do it.
She had no choice in the matter. He would go ahead. He would take her and use her body. By force, if he had to.
She didn’t want this.
She couldn’t. Not this. Anything… anything but this!
“No!” the girl cried out, her head shaking erratically.
“Hey, calm down,” the purple haired man stated, that lustful smirk never once leaving his face. “You can scream all you want when we get to one of the soundproofed bedrooms, but not out here.”
“No! Please, you can’t do this!” Lacus begged, looking at the man’s cool visage through passionate, fear filled eyes, tears flowing freely down her otherwise immaculate pale, white cheeks.
“Keep it down. Someone might hear you. There’s no need to cry. Not yet anyway. I can be quite gentle when I need to.”
“Somebody… Someone, help!” the girl cried, causing the main to tighten his grip, painfully so.
“Come on now, don’t do that. You’ll spoil it.”
“Mister Seiran?” enquired a voice. Lacus looked past her attacker and stared with pleading eyes to that same person from before: The young man with the clipboard who had sent her on stage.
“What is it?” the purple haired man snapped. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“Just what do you think you’re doing?”
“What does it look like?”
“Whatever the case, you two shouldn’t be here in the hallways. We have private rooms specifically for these kinds of exploits.”
“Don’t worry. We’re on our way over there right now.” Lacus stared at the second man in disbelief. He wasn’t going to put a stop to this? He wasn’t even going to help her?
“I’m afraid not,” the second man replied. Lacus sighed in relief, but the reprieve was to be short lived. “This lady here is with me for the evening.” The girl’s eyes widened. He couldn’t be serious, could he? This place was unbelievable. It was like all the most lecherous, perverted men in the world had gathered in one place at one time, perhaps for the sole purpose of taking advantage of her. Though in hindsight, Lacus supposed that she would prefer to trust this down to earth young man, rather than the purple haired person holding her propped up against the wall.
“With you? You’re kidding right?” the purple haired man retorted.
“I’m afraid not,” the bluenet answered “She goes with me. Boss’ orders.”
“Screw that!” the man emotionally protested. “I saw her first. I’ll tell you what: Go down to the bar, have a drink or two. If you really want her so much, you can have her when I’m done.”
“While I’m certain you would have finished by the time it took me to have a single drink,” the purple haired man’s eyes narrowed at the insinuation, “I’d rather this girl not be subjected to one as crude as you. How about you go to the bar? They need another person to serve drinks.”
“No they don’t.”
“Maybe you should go check.”
“Trust me, they’ve got all the men they need down there.”
“Then find someone else who needs your services. I don’t care where you go, so long as you’re not bothering the dancers.”
“God dammit Zala, can’t you tell when you’re not wanted?” the aggravated man bellowed, turning his head, releasing his grip on Lacus’ left arm so he could get a shot at Zala, catching him painfully in the abdomen with his elbow.
He’d released her. Only partially, but she had one arm free. This was her chance to get away, her only chance. She took it.
The man wailed, hand rising to the painful scratch marks the girl’s long fingernails had managed to inflict upon his face. He glared at her, eyes narrow, teeth bared, his entire face contorted in malice.
“You bitch!” he cried, uncontained emotion seething in his high-pitched voice. His watering eyes held for the girl a passionate hatred. Lifting his hand from his injured cheek, the pinkette he still had bound with a single arm was able to see the superficial damage she’d inflicted.
Lacus’ long, sharp nails had broken his skin. There were three parallel scrape-like cuts running horizontally along the side of his face. Dead skin was compiled like the disturbed earth on either side of a ditch or trench from which blood seeped in thin, scarlet trails down the right side of the man’s face.
Seiran’s hand dangled uselessly in the air. Slowly, the fingers began curling inward, enclosing. The hand clenched into a fist and the man’s entire body visibly tensed.
“Touch my face?” he asked, “damage my perfect face?” The anger within him boiled over and he thrust his fist forward in a powerful jab directed at the pinkette’s face.
Lacus flinched, waiting for the inevitable pain to strike her, but it never came. Slowly, nervously, she opened her eyes and saw the fist hovering barely an inch away from her face, firmly grasped in the blue haired man’s palm.
“That’s enough,” Zala said, the seething anger present in his voice almost breaking through his calm facade. “Why don’t you calm down? Have a drink on my tab.”
“Calm down?” the other man asked incredulously, breaking free of Zala’s hold. “You saw what she did to my beautiful face. You saw what this bitch did!”
“I said that’s enough!” Zala cried, lunging forward to stop yet another of the purple haired man’s physical attacks on the young dancer. He managed to twist the attacker’s arm around behind his back. The purple haired man emitted a pained, whimpering sound until the bluenet released him, using his own body as a pivot to swing the sapless man in an arc around him and away from Lacus, standing firmly between the purple haired attacker and his helpless, terrified victim.
In one fluid motion, Zala had succeeded in forcing Seiran away from Lacus, and with a single, powerful punch, knocked him back.
The left hook to his face had shocked Seiran as much as the scratches inflicted by the frightened girl. Clutching his damaged cheek, he glared daggers at the pair of them.
“You’ll pay for this,” he threatened. His voice sounded hollow. His words were white hot with fury. “Both of you. You dare to touch my face? You’re dead. Both of you!”
“Seiran!” Zala exclaimed, raising his voice impatiently. He spoke so quickly in his anger that the words practically merged together. “I swear, if you don’t get the fuck out of here in the next minute, the rest of your life isn’t going to be worth living!”
“I’m not going to forget this,” Seiran retorted. “You’d better just hope that this scarring isn’t permanent,” he threatened, indicating his damaged artwork of a face. Glaring at them for a moment longer, he turned and quickly scurried from the room and out of sight.
Lacus was certain she heard the sound of him stumble, and she distinctly heard his agitated voice swearing in the distance before the sound of his footsteps died down.
“I’ll bet he intends to make an insurance claim for the damage you did,” the bluenet uttered bitterly before turning back to Lacus. As he looked to her, his face took on a concerned light. “Are you alright?” he asked.
Wordlessly, Lacus nodded her head.
“Come on,” he said, placing an arm around her shoulder, feeling her body tense instantly against his touch. “I’ll take you to the dancer’s lounge,” he offered. “They’ll have some spare costumes in there so you can…” the young man trailed off awkwardly, pausing to find the best way to phrase what he had to say, “Cover up,” he finally concluded.
Lacus merely nodded, arms tightly hugging her chest, her guard not lowering for an instant, even now that the man known as Seiran was gone.
“What was your name again?” the man asked, his voice standing alone to press back the awkward silence that had enveloped them. “Lacus something, right?”
The girl nodded. “Clyne,” she answered softly.
“Athrun,” the man replied in exchange. “Athrun Zala.” Lacus nodded again. Her periwinkle eyes stared intently at the polished floor and Athrun noticed the glazed appearance they bore. Wherever her mind was, it was miles away from this place. That was understandable, considering what had just happened. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes. I’m… sorry.”
“Sorry? For what?”
“I shouldn’t have… I shouldn’t have run off like that. I mean–“
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I’m sure Miriallia will cover for you,” Athrun replied assuringly.
“I blew it,” Lacus lamented, shaking her head slowly, her long, smooth tresses brushing against her exposed back.
“What happened back there?”
“I don’t know. I just… froze. I couldn’t face it. All those people, staring. I couldn’t do it. I probably sound pathetic.”
“No!” Athrun guaranteed her. “This was your first time doing something like that, right?” Lacus nodded silently. “I’m sure everyone will understand. Anybody can get stage fright. Especially in a costume as tiny as that one,” the bluenet added in an undertone.
Lacus nodded without thinking.
The dancer’s lounge, as it turned out, served the shared purposes of both dressing room and lounge. Thick, red, shag carpeting covered the floor, the colour matching the walls except for the far end of the room which was an off-white and riddled with vanity cabinets and dressers. That was evidently the changing section of the room.
The red part of the room took up about two thirds and was abundant in comfortable looking sofas and armchairs. Against the wall atop a wooden cabinet sat an old, small television set with a fifteen inch screen.
Small tables were positioned away from the sofas, complete with chairs and playing cards laid out for various games, likely to fill in time between performances.
As they entered the room, Lacus felt an immediate rush of heat. It was such a stark contrast to the cold hallways outside. The pink haired girl felt so warm, even in her current semi-dressed state.
“Over here,” Athrun stated, directing Lacus’ attention to the changing area where a few other girls were currently getting into costume. One of the girls watched them absently as they approached, but then returned to applying make-up in the mirror as if Athrun and Lacus being here were nothing out of the ordinary. Evidently, the bluenet’s presence here was rather common, or at least tolerated, if not completely accepted.
“Here you go,” Athrun said, handing a garment to the girl, still rummaging through the nearest dresser. “It’s not much,” he conceded, “but it’s better than those tattered rags,” he referred to Lacus’ current attire.
Nodding slowly, Lacus accepted the large, white jacket and placed it around her shoulders, fastening the waistcoat buttons to keep it from opening and exposing her chest. As she let Athrun herd her over to a nearby armchair, her eyes never once left the ground.
“You can wait for Miriallia in here,” the bluenet instructed. “It’s a pretty good lounge. Better than the staff common room, at least. You’ll notice that we treat the dancers a lot better than we do the hotshot security personnel, like the one you met earlier.” Athrun paused to gauge Lacus reaction, but when she gave none, he continued with his explanation. “You can have a drink while you wait, there’s a mini-fridge and everything.” As he spoke, the young man moved over to the fridge in question. “What do you want? We’ve got beer, wine, gin, whisky, rum… there’s even flavoured—“
“I don’t drink,” Lacus interjected.”
“I see…” Athrun’s voice almost sounded amused as he trailed off.
Lacus heard the unmistakable sound of a bottle opening, and Athrun’s footsteps increasing in volume as he approached. After a moment, she turned to face him and saw the bottle in his hand, held outstretched for her.
“I don’t-” Lacus began, but was unceremoniously cut off.
“You should take it anyway,” Athrun reasoned, “you’ll need it after tonight’s ordeal.”
Wordlessly, begrudgingly, Lacus accepted the bottle. Raising its neck to her face and sniffing once at its transparent liquid. Her face instantly blanched at the foul stench that permeated from the supposed drink contained within.
“Don’t be shy,” Athrun teased, a playful smirk erupting on his face, “drink up.”
Lacus placed the bottle to her lips and took a sip of the ghastly nectar within. The moment the alcohol touched her tongue, Lacus had to fight a serious urge to spit it out, deciding instead to swallow it. This course of action immediately backfired.
The flavour was bad enough, but even as she swallowed, Lacus could feel the pathogenic liquid score and burn her throat all the way down her oesophagus, as though she’d just swallowed a hearty mouthful of harsh chemical cleaner.
Unable to breathe, Lacus soon broke into a harsh coughing fit. How anybody could drink that and call it recreational was beyond her. That can’t have been what her father used to drink. That can’t have been what so many kids from school had done secretly at parties. Those couldn’t possibly be the bottles that kids hid from their parents. What did people see in it? Drinking that had to have been related to some kind of torture.
Lacus looked up as she spluttered and hacked. The pinkette was certain she’d heard a hastily stifled laugh come from the bluenet.
“Well now, you certainly weren’t kidding when you said you didn’t drink.” Lacus looked away, willing herself not to blush. “Trust me, it’ll grow on you.” His voice suddenly dropped as he leaned close. “Listen, are you going to be alright here by yourself?” Lacus nodded her head wordlessly, not quite ready to test the realms of what damage that small gulp had done to her vocal cords. “Good, because I shouldn’t really be here. My shift doesn’t end for at least another hour. Rusty will have taken over as stage manager by now, but I should probably be working down at the bar. They’re a little understaffed tonight; regardless of what Seiran says. Maybe I’ll see you later.”
Don’t count on it, the pinkette thought, but nodded him out all the same and looked back to the small, glass bottle she held loosely in her right hand.
Had he just said ‘shift?’
Yes, Lacus was sure of it. She was sure that’s what he’d said. It was strange. Everybody here seemed to speak and act as though this were any ordinary job. Perhaps they considered it to be. Maybe that was the only way they could get through it.
This kind of work was more than just degrading. It was borderline criminal, but some of the people Lacus had seen working here, they downplayed it. They seemed like ordinary people. They could have been working at the local pub, or even a diner. They could have been working at the local theatre and had the pinkette not known better, she’d have believed it. Maybe that was the only way for them to get by. Maybe they had to downplay the nature of their jobs. Maybe that was the only way they could live with themselves.
Not thinking, Lacus took a swig from her bottle… and instantly regretted it. Even after everything that had happened so far, the pinkette could tell. It was going to be a long night.