Of Magic and Mayhem Chapter 8

Friends...For Now

By CuteLucca and Ghost

“A torn jacket is soon mended; but hard words bruise the heart of a child.”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882)

Jacious Sram stirred after hours of rest to recover his battered body.  He slowly opened tired eyes to find himself laying on something soft and furry. Too sore to move, he looked straight ahead.  “An unfamiliar ceiling.  Wait, this is a hut...I'm still in Ioka, but when did I get here? How did I get here?”

He sat up dizzily, taking in his surroundings.  Lucca was nowhere to be seen, but there was a full cup of cool water next to where he lay.  “Looks like someone really likes me.  I’m actually alive after that.”  He looked upwards, through the ceiling, at something beyond. “Thanks. Really appreciate it.”  With a small grin, he grabbed the cup of water and gulped it down greedily, a bit sliding down his cheeks from the side of his lips.

Lucca stepped in quietly, and unable to restrain herself, she started to laugh at the mess Jacious was making.  “There's plenty more where that came from.” Her stride was short as she walked over and crouched down next to him.  “How are you feeling?”  She asked, sincerely.

Jacious put the cup down, looking Lucca over as if she just told him Magus got a makeover.  “So...you were worried about me after all, eh?  There's something new.”  He raised an eyebrow in suspicion. “Have you been drinking poi again?”

Lucca faked a sniff and rubbed an imaginary tear from her eye, “Well. See if I'm nice to you again.  Just saying... I remember my first 'magical hangover.' It was kinda weird.  Hmm…Lemme check your pupils.”  Before he could complain, she grabbed him under the chin and yanked his head up, prying up his eyelids one at a time.  She peered intently into them.

He didn’t fight it, figuring he would let nature take its course.  “Lucca, you could have just asked you know.  His lips turned upward, “Fair warning, I'm not weak now....a bit fatigued, but that's all.”

Lucca let go of him, having seen what she wanted to see.  “Well, ya look fine.”   Her eyes took on a faraway look as she began reminiscing.  “Hehe, I remember that first day we got magic from Spekkio.  Crono, he goes all out and burns up all his energy, ends up passing out on the floor of Spekkio's chamber.  We're all freaked out 'cause he doesn't wake up for, oh, twelve hours, but Spekkio assures us he's fine.”

Jacious, couldn’t help but picture the scenario and gave a chuckle.  “In the game you can use all the magic you like and just restore your mana using Ethers of various types. I remember when I started to use my magic.  I had to do it when I was completely alone, and even then I was in the desert. I couldn't afford to pass out so I was always careful.”

Still telling her story, shook her head, getting slightly more serious with her story, still lost in memories of Crono.  “When the idiot finally woke up, he couldn't walk straight for a few hours and his pupils were uneven. Classic shock symptoms!”  She made sure she was looking him square in the eyes.  It was as if she was warning him.  “You came pretty close this time, but hey, it's good for expanding your limits and gauging your tolerance.  Next time you'll be able to squeeze out a little bit more.”

“Yep. Soon I'll be able to whoop you.”  He gave her a thumbs up, “That'll be a day to remember.”

“Ahahahah!”  She fell onto her back from where she crouched, laughing, “Yeah right! You, beat me! It'll be a cold day in hell, buddy!”

Shaking his head, “Well Crono is a much better fighter than you are so I'd be a bit more humble if I were you, Lucca.”  He stood up slowly, testing his own leg strength.  “So, I guess Ayla knows about your conquest, eh?”  She took the glory. I'm sure of it.

Lucca calmed herself once again, “She knows we killed whatever was in there. But she wants to go back and look through it to make sure there's nothing left.”  A wry smile formed on her face. “Heh... and you're not Crono.  Besides. I could whip Crono any day of the week.”  She tapped her helmet. “I got brains, and that wins over brawn any day.”

Jacious nodded his head in agreement, his voice took an authoritive tone.  “While it is true you have magic that might rival Crono's, don't assume Crono is an idiot.  He's got the experience to see a lot coming; that's experience I don't have.  I'm afraid your technical know-how would not help you.”

“Mmm, but I know how he works. He's a predictable kid.”  She shook her head with slight annoyance of the situation.  “Anyway. this is pointless.”  She stood up, “You want any more water or some food or anything?  This is the only time you're guaranteed my polite treatment.”  She ended that note with a grin.  “Ayla and I are going back to the cave this afternoon. You're welcome to come, if you're up for it.”

Jacious rubbed his hands greedily.  “First the food.  Lots of food, and water to wash it down, please.  Then, of course I’ll come with you, Lucca.  I'm as much part of this as you are.”

Lucca rolled her eyes, her voice was calm, but serious, and she said with a straight face, “Maybe I'll poison your food to keep you here.”  After a moment of intense and creepy staring, she winked and quickly left the tent with no other words to confirm or deny her comment.

Jacious crossed his arms where he sat, commenting as if he just found it out, “That...is a scary egotistical woman...mainly egotistical, but scary nonetheless.”  He lay on the rug, giving himself a chance to sort out the thoughts running through his mind. “That fight....I never felt magic before... it was my own type, shadow, like Giga Gaia's.”  He rubbed his arms with each hand, the pain a vivid memory in his mind. “It hurt so much... I never thought it would hurt like that.  It was like my skin was burning from the inside or something. Is that what shadow does?  Is that what I do when I hit someone with my magic?”

Lucca returned a few minutes later with a large wooden bowl filled with a thick meat stew. There was no spoon, instead hard chunks of flat bread served as edible utensils.  Lucca set the bowl in front of Jacious and sat cross-legged by it, taking a chunk of bread for herself.  “I haven't had lunch yet. Hope ya don't mind if I eat with you.”

Jacious looked mesmerized by the food, shaking his head as a large, hungry smile formed on his face.  His eyes reflected the hunger.  “Not at all... hey Lucca.”  He had thought about the question the entire time she was gone, but somehow managed to make it sound as if it just popped up in his head, “How do you guys deal with magical attacks?”

She gave him a puzzled look, and said through a mouthful, “What do you mean?”

Jacious took a piece of the hard bread and scooped up some of the stew. He bit into it, taking care not to spill any. He chewed and swallowed, finally answering her question. “I mean how do you bear the attack?  Withstand it?  Deal with the pain?”

“Oh...” She was quiet for a moment, taking time to think about it.  “I don't really think it's any different from taking a punch to the face.  Roll with it, instead of against it... focus on something else besides the pain.  Me and Marle and Crono and Frog and I'm sure Magus, too, have a sort of aura about us now that dispels a lot of the magic we come in contact with. That comes with experience.”  She shrugged her shoulders, “To be honest, I don't really remember much about how it felt the first time I was hit with magic... Just... burning, like I'd been dumped in boiling water.”  She took another bite from her bread, “But I remember the feeling went away pretty quickly. Now Lavos... he was a bastard.”

Jacious nodded as he listened, taking another piece of bread and scooped it through the stew, taking a larger portion than before.  Amazingly, he swallowed it all without losing a drop.  Lucca continued, “He had these spells that'd make you feel like your liver was gonna get sucked through your skin.”

Jacious nodded, “I can imagine. Grand Stone must have hurt like hell.”

Jacious saw her shudder, and she released a breath that had been caught in her throat.  It appeared that her fight with Lavos still bothered her as far as magic went. “The thing about that one...”

Lucca had gone silent again.  Jacious cleared his throat, bringing her to her senses.  “Yeah?  About Grand Stone?”

Lucca gathered herself. “It was an illusion. You saw the rock, and you saw it fall, and you believed it entirely, but it wasn't actually there.  ”She gesticulated with the bread. “Your own body caused the crushing feeling. Like those dreams where you're shot and you're sore where the bullet hit... only a million times worse.  Fascinating spell. Frog can do one similar, Frog Squash, he calls it.”

Jacious let out a small laugh, remembering the hilarious scene of Frog Squash from the game. “Frog Flare must be an interesting combo then, you know, flare up an illusion?”

“Didn't really flare up the illusion,” she pointed out, “we just cast our own spells concurrently.  'Course the imagined crush with the very real heat wasn't a very comfortable situation for our enemies.”  Lucca was growing to enjoy the conversation. “Now Antipode 3, THAT was a badass spell.”

“I know,” Jacious found himself just as excited about the subject. “It's one of the most powerful combos there is. It causes Ultimate damage.  Unfortunately, you take the brunt of the spell casting.  Black Hole and Dark Matter, though, those are also badass, if I do say so myself.  I can’t wait to learn those.”

Lucca nodded eagerly, “True, but ya know, with one of these stylish gold studs...”  She flipped her hair to the side, showing him the golden bead in her earlobe, “I don’t have to worry about feeling the consequences of casting the larger spells.  As for Magus’ spells,” She made a dismissive gesture with her hand, “I never cared much for Shadow magic... SURE it LOOKS cool...but Black hole missed half the time.  Magus would try and suck it up and fake that he intended it to miss.”  She laughed, “He had such an ego.  Dark matter was really cool looking too, but hell, I can still do the most damage with Flare. Only one who ever came close was Crono and his Luminaire spell. Still, though...”

At her confession on Magus’ ego, Jacious began laughing, almost spitting out his soup if he hadn’t swallowed first, “You're one to talk.   I mean, you're Lucca the Great.  Besides the way you talk, your personal title gives away just how inflated your ego is.”

Lucca poked him in the chest a bit too hard for his liking.  “'Course I'm Lucca the Great! But I don't have an ego.  I just know I'm good. I mean, it's not ego if it's truth.”

Jacious calmly took another portion of the stew.  Just the act of eating made him feel energized again, though that part was psychological.  “But that's what keeps you alone. Some guys get uncomfortable with that. They feel they can't compete and will never be good enough.”

Lucca scoffed.  “What, are you psychoanalyzing me now?”  She held herself back, frowning.  “Don't need guys anyway, especially one who'd be so weak as to be intimidated by me.”

“They're not intimidated by you, Lucca.”  He raised his index finger as he’d done before, as if he was a teacher in a class, getting his student’s attention.  “By far, they probably think you're cute, but you just scare them off because you can be a bit too flashy and loud.”

Lucca turned herself so her back was partly facing him.  She held her nose up in the air, “Hmph. And I'm not about to change myself for anyone.  If that means I'm to live my life out alone, I can deal with it. Don't have time for that stuff anyway.”

Jacious finally finished his stew, “Didn't ask you to change,”  he stood and stretched his waking muscles, “and I really don't believe you mean that. You had time for your fling with Crono, so something tells me, that you, like other people, need someone. You don't want to be alone.”  He closed his eyes, speaking from his own experience as well as his theory, “You want to find that completeness...that person that makes you feel whole.” He opened his eyes with a small smile, “But hey, your loss.”

Lucca had watched him silently as he performed his soliloquy.  When he finished, she smiled smugly, her voice dripping with poison. “Sounds like you're talking about yourself there. Stop projecting your own issues on other people.”

Thus, Jacious finally stopped holding back, and let his words loose like a flood. “That's what I'm talking about! You can be such a bitch!”  He stomped out of the tent, intending to let Ayla know he was ready to head out.  He grumbled, passing villagers who looked upon him warmly, though concerned with the look in his eyes.  To them, he looked hurt and angry.  It scared them somewhat.  “Blast her.  I try to open my heart and give her a few details about how guys think, and she just....damn her!  I swear, she's worse than the game!”

Lucca, meanwhile, was struck silent by Jacious' words.  “That... that... how dare he call me a bitch! If he wants to see a real bitch, I'll show him one!”  She ground her teeth, the muscles in her body tightened in anger and frustration.  Eyeing the empty bowl, she pretended it was Jacious’ head and booted it across the tent before storming out angrily.

Still angry, Jacious grumbled, his feet stomping into the dirt, continuing his exterior monologue as if trying to find some reason to just hate Lucca, “And furthermore...she's cold at heart...I swear she's like an ice queen in need of a good round of sex to warm her out… despite her fire magic.”

He was lost in thought, not paying attention to his surroundings by this point.  So when Lucca spotted him on the path, and made an angry beeline towards him, he didn’t notice, though he did feel a sudden chill down his spine.  He thought nothing of it.

Lucca began sending off sparks, turning a bright shade of red as she grew closer to her prey.  Jacious froze in his tracks, feeling the energy in the air, finally drawn from his thoughts.  “This doesn't feel safe....the bitch is back. I bet a feather on it.”  Lucca walked swiftly past him, but turned immediately.  Her lips were pulled tight and the fire in her eyes was offset by, though Jacious could hardly believe it, tears.  She raised her right arm, and with a sharp CRACK slapped him across the cheek.  She then turned on her heel and ran off into the maze of tents.

Jacious placed his right hand on his cheek where she slapped him.  “She...was crying?”  He blinked, placing his hand down, guilt rising up in him.  “Lucca...” he bit his lower lip, “I guess I have to talk to her about it now.”  Gathering his energy, he ran off in the direction she was headed. “Hey Lucca! Where'd you go?”  He looked around the camp, finding no trace of her.

He stopped searching momentarily to think things through. “Let's see, she's not with Ayla in her tent...Lucca mentioned going to Mystic Mountains so...that's where she must be headed!”  He looked in the direction of the canyon. “Well, only one way to find out.”  He began to jog along the trail he took earlier to Mystic Mountains, keeping a steady pace so he didn’t overexert himself.  “I might have taken it too far calling her a bitch...twice....”

Meanwhile, Lucca, being the emotional and short-tempered woman she was, was fuming angrily at Ayla, who was listening sympathetically but with mild frustration. They were walking along the path towards the mountain, about a quarter mile ahead of Jacious.  “He's such a dick! I swear!  He tries to analyze me and offer all these suggestions which I never asked for.  He... he called me a bitch!  I should've killed him! Nobody calls me a bitch!”

Ayla sighed, trying not to show her frustration, “Lucca, calm down. He not bad guy.”

Lucca couldn’t believe her ears.  “Not a bad guy? You should hear him talk to me!  Every other word he says to me is an insult.”

Ayla nodded in agreement, but countered, “And Lucca insult back.”

Lucca raised her voice, an image of Jacious with a cocky smile in her head, “Of COURSE I insult back! I can't let him get the last word!  If I do that, then... then he wins!”

Ayla sighed again, trying to explain. “It not competition, Lucca. Life not always race against other people.”

Feeling comfortable, Jacious continued jogging, around a seven-minute mile.  That left him about a minute behind the girls.  The fatigue went away shortly after he started.  His muscles were feeling much better.  Jacious saw the women along the path and slowed his pace down to double walking speed, allowing himself to catch up without being too loud.

Lucca threw her arms out, “But it IS a race against HIM. It's too late for anything else. Ever since we met we've been butting heads.  I try to be nice and he's mean.”

Ayla could only frown at the answer she expected from her next question, “And when Jacious nice, Lucca nice back?”

Too caught up in the fact she was always right, Lucca shook her head wildly to emphasize her point, “No! But he started it!”

“Lucca, you sound like you ten years old.”  She patted Lucca on the back. “Grow up and talk to Jacious if he anger you that bad.”

Jacious slowed to a walk, taking in a bit of the conversation.  Lucca couldn’t believe her ears and continued, “TALK to him? How can you talk to someone who hates you?  He called me a bitch!  If he cared, or liked me at all... you... you don’t call a girl that!”

“Ayla agree.  He should not say that. But you probably say something to provoke.”

Jacious bit his lower lip, not realizing he had hurt her that much.  She really thought I hate her...I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but...she did provoke me.

Lucca found herself caught but tried to cover her tracks, “Yes, I did. But I mean... I'm kidding half the time. I think. I don’t think he's kidding.  I don't want him to hate me, but he's so full of himself, I can't let him win. He'll use it as an opportunity to just... walk all over me.”

Jacious’s face grew grim.  Are you really kidding? You don't sound like it. Words hurt, Lucca, and you can never take them back.

“I won't let him take advantage of me,” Lucca declared.

The three walked in silence for a moment.  Then Ayla turned to Lucca with a smile, “Just Lucca wait.  Ayla see what Lucca and Jacious do not.”

Lucca turned rather red. “What are you talking about? Not... not YOU TOO!  Why does everybody keep SAYING that?”

Jacious finally gathered the nerve to confront the issue and said softly as he neared the two, “I'm not taking advantage here Lucca. I don't hate you and I don't think you're kidding. Words hurt, and you can't take them back, and the truth is…every time I try to be nice, you seem to think that I'm just being weak and walk all over me...that's what hurts.”

The girls whirled with surprise, especially Ayla who never heard the man approach.  She mentally found herself chiding herself for not paying attention, and at the same time, was glad Jacious was there.  As soon as Lucca saw Jacious, her face turned an even deeper shade of red.  Through clenched teeth, she nearly hissed, “How much of that conversation did you hear?”

Jacious looked into her eyes, but he was not hateful.  He was just there, trying to at least look anything but weak.  “From the part about you hating me.  It didn't take too long to catch up.”

Lucca made sure her back was to him so he couldn’t see her face, “I never said I hated you, Jacious. I said I thought you hated me.”  Ayla quietly disappeared up the path, letting them settle this privately.

Jacious shrugged. “Why would I hate you? I just get upset with you.”

She turned around, her face red with embarrassment and anger.  She squealed, “You called me a bitch!”

He kept his tone calm, lest they kill each other or something worse, “Well you weren't acting all that nicely.  I try to be nice, and you take advantage of that. Look, Lucca, no matter how smart you are, you've got to be humble at least a little bit.  Oh, and don't tell me how you don't need anyone because that's bullshit, and you know it.”

Lucca pointed a finger at him, “And YOU need to stop analyzing me!  I'm not your damn human psychology test subject!”

He crossed his arms, “Then talk to me Lucca.  Quit making me figure you out on my own.”

She continued her tirade. “And I don't need anyone! I've made it this far without help!”  Backpedaling a bit, “Well, except when we fought Lavos, but that's not what I’m talking about.”

Jacious seemed to consider this, “So you don't need Robo?  He got you into the factory.  You did say, and I quote, ‘I've made it this far without help.’  That must mean you could have beaten Magus without the Masamune.”

Her breathing sharp and heavy, she clenched her fists so hard her nails left half-moons in her palms. “That's... not...what... I... meant.”

Jacious ran a hand through his hair.  “So what do you mean, Lucca? I'm asking you plain and simple, with no anger or malice.”

Lucca grit her teeth and yelled, “Why is everything a contest with you!  Neither one of us can just let anything die!  I feel like I have to win whenever we argue or fight because if I don't you'll just rub it in my face.  I want to be friends with you, since we're kind of stuck with each other right now. But I can't be friends with someone who I feel like wants to see me fail.  You're just... prying at every hole or weakness you see, and I’ve spent a lot of years covering that stuff up.”  She panted, having run out of breath.

Jacious thought her words over a moment and smiled, “I don't want to see you fail, Lucca.  I don't want to see you in pain or anguish.  I don't even see them as holes or weaknesses anyway.  I AM angry at you sometimes, yes, but I just want to know the REAL Lucca Ashtear, not the one who always shows herself strong and not needing anyone.  I just want to see… her... her heart.”  He held out his hands in a gesture of openness, “There, I'm vulnerable. I've shown a bit of myself. If you’d like to hit me, you can do it now.”

Lucca, deflated, shook her head.  In a tired voice, “I don't want to hit you, Jacious.  Even I don't know the real Lucca Ashtear or if the real Lucca Ashtear is the superhuman I've built myself up to be.”

“I thought so.”  He kept smiling, “I'm not afraid of gettin' hurt...just afraid of being left alone, and right now, I'm very lost in this world, and I really don't know anyone… except you.”

“So, this'd be easier if we don't keep trying to make each other miserable.”

Jacious nodded.  “I guess it would be...”  He held out his hand, “so....friends?  We can still argue a bit.  I rather enjoy getting into debates with you.”

Lucca took his hand and shook it slowly as if pondering the decision in her mind as she made it and followed it through.  “...friends …for now.”

Chapter 9

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