Title: Heartbeats Author: Tarsier Fandom: Final Fantasy – crossover of Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy X Timeframe: Throughout Love Don't Die, sometimes slightly AU to the main story. Characters: mostly Squall/Rinoa, Tidus/Yuna Summary: Missing scenes from and one-shots related to Love Don't Die. Notes: While writing the main story, I ended up with quite a few scenes that just didn’t quite fit the pace or the focus of the story, or scenes that I thought would be interesting but I just couldn’t manage to get the right characters together at the right time. Some of those scenes are gathered here. Index Chocobo - Take 1: Scarred (below) Chapter 21 - Yuna, Squall Chocobo - Take 2: Memories (below) Chapter 21 - Yuna, Squall Chocobo - Take 3: Quiet Chapter 21 - Squall, Yuna Calico Chapter 16 - Seifer, Ellone Timber Princess Chapter 18 - Zell, Quistis, Rinoa The Spring FFX in-game rewrite - Yuna, Tidus Postscript: Best Man post-story - Tidus, Zell, Squall Postscript: The Kiss post-story - Squall, Zell, Tidus, Rikku Author Note: This first post fits in between Chapter 20 and Chapter 21. The two parts below are essentially the same scene, but taken in rather different directions. Chocobo - Take 1: Scarred Chapter 21Yuna, Squall Yuna stood on the ground feeling a bit lost as the other three mounted chocobos. There were only three chocobos available, and the smaller rider always mounted second, behind the bigger rider, so Yuna had hung back while the others chose their mounts. She now felt a flash of concern that they would take off without her. Or that she'd find herself riding with Seifer. Just then Squall rode up with his hand extended toward her. She took it gratefully and pulled herself up. She was still settling onto the back of the large bird when Squall turned toward her. "Whistle," he instructed. Yuna brought her fingers to her mouth and whistled. Squall cringed at the sound--apparently whistle hadn't meant whistle as loud as possible. Before she could apologize, Angelo appeared in front of her, having jumped easily from the ground to the bird's back, and nestled herself between Yuna and Squall. "Can you keep a hold of her?" Squall asked. Yuna nodded, finding the dog's collar beneath her fluffy fur and securing a good grip. Squall turned so he was facing forward and gathered the chocobo's reins. "Hold onto me." Feeling a little awkward, Yuna complied, wrapping her free arm around Squall's waist. The chocobo took off at a brisk pace, soon catching up to the others. The three chocobos fell into a triangle formation and then accelerated even faster. Finding it awkward to look up while holding onto Angelo and Squall, Yuna dropped her head, resting her cheek against Squall's back. She felt Squall tense and move slightly away from her touch. Sorry, she thought but did not vocalize. She almost pushed away from Squall to give him his space, but her back was already starting to ache from the awkward position and he seemed to relax a little after the initial contact. She checked her grip on Angelo--the dog seemed blissfully unconcerned, like she was actually enjoying the ride--and then released the tension she'd been holding in her muscles, resulting in her leaning a little more into Squall. Staring sideways at the landscape that raced by was starting to make Yuna a little dizzy, so she closed her eyes. Squall's shirt was rough beneath her cheek, the fabric thin enough that she could feel his tense muscles. For the first time it occurred to her that he was supposed to be wearing a leather jacket. All his friends had mentioned it, it seemed to be a part of his identity, almost as much as the scar on his face. When she'd thought about meeting him, she'd assumed that would be how she would know it was him--the short, well-worn black leather jacket with a white fur collar. When she had met him, as soon as she saw his face she'd known it was him and she hadn't even thought about the jacket. But now she wondered where it was. A leather jacket probably would have hidden from her the fact that his back was not smooth, but the thin shirt revealed a ragged texture to the surface Yuna found herself pressed against. She might have thought it was just taut muscles forming an uneven pattern, but something told her that was not it, at least not entirely. It was scar tissue, from vicious war wounds. She should not have been surprised that a solider such as Squall would be marked by battle, but somehow she felt that she stumbled into his private space, that she had discovered his vulnerability. That knowing his body was not impenetrable to an enemy assault, that knowing his skin had been permanently damaged, changed by his years of fighting, led her to the inevitable conclusion that his mind, his heart, and his soul must bear equal scars. "I'm sorry," she whispered. Her voice was too soft for him to hear, and he rode on just the same. Chocobo - Take 2: Memories Chapter 21Yuna, Squall"Hold onto me." Feeling awkward, Yuna complied, wrapping her free arm around Squall's waist. The chocobo took off at a brisk pace, soon catching up to the others. The three chocobos fell into a triangle formation and then accelerated even faster. It was funny, how very different the three worlds Yuna had visited were. Yet they all had aeons and chocobos. Aeons, with their powerful magic and battlefield intelligence, and chocobos, with their flightless stride and simple minds, were close to opposites. She laughed at the thought and Squall partially turned his head toward her. "Aeons and chocobos," she spoke quietly into his ear. "What all worlds have in common." He nodded slightly and continued to look ahead. Yuna clung tighter to Squall. She simultaneously loved and hated riding chocobos. Growing up, she had only rarely had the privilege. Renting chocobos was expensive, so doubling-up was the norm. The smaller rider was always relegated to the back, charged with keeping herself on the bird and leaving steering duties to the front rider. The only time Yuna had ridden in front had been on her ninth birthday, when a visiting Crusader had offered to let her ride down the beach. Rikku had ridden behind Yuna, squealing with delight. Yuna, entirely unsure how to steer a chocobo but absolutely determined to prove she could, had ended up with the bird running full tilt into the ocean. The bird had hopped and flapped as the waves crashed into it, unseating both Yuna and Rikku. They were then laughing too hard to demand a second chance as the Crusader led his mount away. More recently, during the pilgrimage, Yuna had found herself riding with Tidus. Tidus was a natural rider and preferred to ride young, half-trained chocobos that zig-zagged unpredictably as they ran and only occasionally responded to commands. They would charge forward with reckless abandon, and take any possible opportunity to leave the beaten path, leaping up hillsides and hopping back-and-forth across ravines. It was exhilarating, but also a bit terrifying. Often she would close her eyes and squeeze Tidus so tightly she wondered if he could breathe. But it seemed the tighter she clung to him, the faster and more wildly the chocobo ran. She trusted Tidus to keep her safe, but sometimes she thought she might have preferred an easy stroll to his daredevil acrobatics. When they reached the end of their first ride, Lulu had frowned at Tidus with disapproval. "As a Guardian, you should be trying to keep your Summoner safe, not ending her pilgrimage at the bottom of a cliff." Tidus had grinned at Lulu, not the least bit chastened by her tone. "We'll just have to ride together sometime, Lulu. Then you'll see." "Me first!" Rikku interjected. "I want to ride with you too!" Tidus nodded at Rikku. "Next time." Next time, as Tidus sat astride his chosen chocobo, a young thing that bounced from foot to foot, refusing to hold still, he had reached his hand to Yuna. Yuna glanced over, to see that Rikku had noticed but not objected. By that time it had been established--Yuna would always ride with Tidus. His wild rides belonged to her. It was only fair, since her heart belonged to him. The chocobo tripped, yanking Yuna from her reverie and causing her to press closer into Squall. She couldn't help but tell Squall's muscles were taut as she leaned against him. She feared he had tensed at her contact and tried to shift away from him. As she did, she noticed his arms were flexed, his hands gripping the reins tightly, yet he did not seem to be making any moves to steer. They were traveling in a straight line and the chocobo was simply following the others. It then occurred to her that perhaps Squall was tense because he was nervous--not from her presence behind him, but because he was riding the chocobo. She smiled at that thought, relieved that perhaps she was not the only one who found the birds unsettling. She laughed again--who would have thought she would have anything at all in common with Squall? This time when Squall tilted his head toward her, she did not provide an explanation. "Thank you," she said instead, and rested her head against his back.