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Story [Final Fantasy VIII / X] Love Don't Die (Squall/Rinoa, Tidus/Yuna) - Complete!

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Tarsier, Jul 4, 2014.

  1. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Ack, I missed an update! I am so sorry for that. :oops:

    So, with a two for one deal here . . .

    In chapter eight, I absolutely love the anchor Riona proved to be - especially with her subtle line about Yuna having it easier with him. Tidus definitely deserved an overflow of emotion there, and the idea of him having that drilled into his head as a weakness from such a young age was just painful to read. :( Next, I liked their tenacity with the gatekeepers - and their determination to shield Yuna, in turn. I look forward to this turning out for the best, eventually - for everyone. :)

    As for chapter nine, I liked seeing them try to unwind in the light of their circumstances. Tidus' gentleness with Riona was sweet to read, as was her and Squall's reaction to that. :p And then, my heart just broke for Yuna here. I can completely understand her hesitance to help, but I am glad that she is willing to try if they come up with something. But the exchange of pendants really was the best part of this update. Just lovely. [face_love]

    As always, thank you so much for sharing! :) =D=
     
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  2. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Nyota's Heart

    Glad Rinoa has the pendant from Squall even if he makes light of it.
    I think Squall may care more than he lets on ;) As always, thanks so much for commenting!


    Mira_Jade

    No need to apologize! I love getting comments any time. :)

    …the idea of him having that drilled into his head as a weakness from such a young age was just painful to read

    Yeah, Tidus’s father is a real piece of work. Fortunately, I don’t think he’ll play too much more of a role in this story.

    Next, I liked their tenacity with the gatekeepers - and their determination to shield Yuna, in turn.

    I’m glad to hear that—I didn’t want Lulu and Wakka to come off too much as the bad guys.

    As for chapter nine, I liked seeing them try to unwind in the light of their circumstances. Tidus' gentleness with Riona was sweet to read, as was her and Squall's reaction to that.

    I’m delighted that you say that! I thought it was kind of a strange scene, but it came to me pretty close to fully-formed and I figured I shouldn’t argue with the muse.

    I can completely understand her hesitance to help, but I am glad that she is willing to try if they come up with something.

    Yuna really doesn’t know how to say no when people need her help. :)

    Once again, thanks so much for your comments!
     
  3. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Chapter 10

    Quistis was alone in the small tent that had been provided as a place for her and her friends to sleep. Lulu and Wakka had told them they could spend the day battling monsters—or fiends, as the locals called them—as payment. Quistis wasn’t convinced they were actually concerned about eliminating fiends, she was pretty sure Lulu and Wakka just wanted to talk to Yuna alone, so they could make sure Quistis and her friends had not convinced Yuna that Tidus may still be alive.

    Rikku had come along on the monster patrol, and she immediately hit it off with Zell. That was a good thing, they could certainly use all the goodwill among the citizens of Spira as they could muster, but as they’d shared a meal around a campfire at the end of the day Quistis had felt very much like a fifth wheel, so she’d cut out early. Now, alone with her thoughts, the gravity of their situation was beginning to sink in.

    This might’ve been a mistake. A huge mistake. They weren’t really any closer to finding Squall and Rinoa, and now they were on a strange world and they may not be able to get back to their own world.

    Quistis mentally chided herself. She should have slowed down, she should have thought things through before now. She’d been running on adrenaline since they’d faced the Sorceress and her decision-making had suffered. Even before that, if they’d had a better plan about where they would meet after the battle they may have avoided this. If they’d had been focused on Squall instead of themselves maybe they could have saved him from the Void. At the very least, if they’d all agreed to meet in the meadow, they could have stopped Rinoa from taking off after Squall. Well, there were no guarantees on that last point—Rinoa never listened to Quistis. She didn’t listen to much of anyone except Squall.

    Maybe they shouldn’t have summoned Diablos, at least not without thinking through their options first. Even now Quistis couldn’t think of many alternatives, but there had to have been something other than stranding themselves far from home.

    They shouldn’t have assumed that finding Yuna would be an instant solution to their problem. Squall had suggested that they find her, but maybe this wasn’t what he’d had in mind. Or maybe he was just throwing out names and didn’t know any better than they did what might happen. He was probably even more rushed and distressed than they were.

    Alright, so she’d pinpointed a lot of mistakes. She’d do her best to avoid those mistakes in the future, but right now she needed to solve a problem. They needed to get to Squall and Rinoa.

    The locals of Spira seemed unlikely to be much help—they’d given up on seeing their friend again. A dark thought entered Quistis’s mind, though she tried to push it away.

    Maybe that’s the only solution: To let Squall and Rinoa go, the way Tidus’s friends have let him go.

    Quistis fought the tears threatening to spill at the thought. She clenched her jaw and forced her mind to focus. No. She would not give up on them, not as long as there was breath in her body.


    *

    Tidus was sound asleep. It was always easy to tell when he was sleeping because he snored, and sometimes talked in his sleep. Squall’d had the feeling that Rinoa was waiting for him to go to sleep for some time.

    “Squall,” Rinoa said, sounding very serious. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

    He looked into her eyes. He really had no idea what it could be.

    Rinoa waved her hand in front of her. “It’s not bad. It’s just, I don’t want you to think I’m keeping something from you.” She removed the chain that held two rings from around her neck and gave it to Squall. “One ring is yours, of course. But look at the other.”

    Squall complied. He noticed the ring had an elongated cross engraved on it.

    Rinoa continued. “The cross. It looks kinda like…the symbols Seifer wears, right? I just want you to know, Seifer didn’t give me that ring. It was my mother’s. I found it at the bottom of her jewelry box, right after she died. I’ve worn if ever since.”

    “Okay.” Squall handed the chain back to Rinoa, not sure why she was telling him this. What business was it of his what jewelry she wore?

    “You’ve seen the movie, right?”

    “What movie?” Squall was a bit thrown off by the sudden change of topic.

    The Sorceress Knight. You know, Laguna’s movie.”

    Squall shook his head. “No, I haven’t seen it.”

    “Well, don’t. It’s terrible. Really, really terrible.”

    “I won’t.” Why was Rinoa talking about old movies of all things?

    “That’s…how we met.”

    Squall was going to ask who, but then it clicked. Seifer. That’s what all this is about. But why? Does she think I’m jealous?

    “I’d just started working for the Forest Owls. Zone and Watts and I saw that the movie was showing, so we went to see it. Watts called it gathering intelligence, but really we just wanted to unwind. And, like I said, the movie is terrible. The writing, the acting, the story, all of it. Zone and Watts were laughing at it, making fun of it. Until Seifer overheard them and got really mad. He stormed over and started yelling at them to be quiet. After that they were quiet—for the most part. I couldn’t concentrate on the terrible movie, instead I kept looking over at Seifer. He was so enthralled. The movie was so bad, and yet he was so defensive of it, it was sort of…sweet. Of course, if I’d known it was a sign of things to come… Anyway, when the movie ended I went over to him. We talked for a while and he told me I would like the movie, if I watched it again, with just him. And… Well, that’s all that really matters. That Seifer really, really likes that movie.

    “So in the movie, Laguna’s character—the sorceress knight—wears this outfit with these tall crosses on it. I’m sure that’s where Seifer got his crosses from. And my mom, well, you know, she used to know Laguna. I think either he gave her the ring, or she bought it because it reminded her of him.”

    “I’d forgotten,” Squall said, “That Laguna and your mom…knew each other.” More accurately, Laguna had harbored a huge crush on Julia, but never gotten up the courage to actually talk to her, except for one time. Inexplicably, it turned out Julia’d had a crush on Laguna too. They were separated after their one meeting and never saw each other again.

    Rinoa knew this, they’d pieced the story together based on flashbacks Squall, Zell, and Selphie had experienced through Ellone, Laguna, and Laguna’s friends.

    “The ring is too big for me. But it might fit you. Try it on.”

    Squall removed the ring from the chain and tried it on different fingers. It slid onto his little finger. He started to take it off, but Rinoa put her hands on his. “Keep it.”

    Squall shook his head. What is she doing? “I can’t keep your mother’s ring.”

    “Of course you can.” She put the chain still holding his ring back around her neck. “It’s only fair. I’ve got your ring and now you’ve got mine.”

    It wasn’t exactly fair, or at least not even—she had his ring and his pendant—but he wasn’t about to argue with her. He twisted the ring around his finger. Sometimes he just really didn’t understand Rinoa.


    *

    It had been a long time since Zell had slept, and it was the middle of the night, yet he wasn’t sleepy in the least. His mind was racing. So much had happened! They’d just barely caught their breath from defeating the Sorceress before the crisis with Squall. And then Rinoa. Running around, to the orphanage and then back to Garden. Then talking to the Guardian Forces. And now they were on a different world, a different planet—how was that even possible?

    Then they couldn’t see Yuna—then they could, but she didn’t know any more than they did—why did Squall tell them to contact her anyway?—then fighting monsters all day with Rikku, er, everyone plus Rikku. Well, not everyone obviously, Squall and Rinoa weren’t here. Man! Where were they? The Void, right, the GFs had called it the Void. That just didn’t sound good at all. Well, it probably shouldn’t sound good, the GFs had said people die of despair there.

    Yikes! Squall was an awesome fighter, if it was a matter of fighting Zell wouldn’t even be worried. But despair? Squall seemed halfway to despair most of the time, at least until recently. He was always gloomy. Or…morose? It might not take that much, to push him all the way over the edge. Then again, maybe it would take a lot. Maybe he’d built up an immunity, spent so many days locked up in his own head that Squall wouldn’t even notice the despairingness. Despairity? Impossible to tell. Who knew what went on in Squall’s head?

    Rinoa was with him though. That was probably good. She’d keep him from losing it. Right? Maybe. For a while. But they couldn’t survive there forever. We gotta do something. We’ve come all this way and now what? We just sit around while Squall and Rinoa are still in trouble?

    Zell had been nervously thumbing at the deck of cards in his pocket while he thought. On a whim, he pulled out the deck and ran his finger over the top card. It was too dark to see anything, but he knew which card it was from the crease in one corner. It was his best card—Angelo. He’d won it from one of Rinoa’s old friends, who had explained that Angelo’s card was considered to be a Guardian Force card. Zell had pointed out that Angelo was a dog, not a GF; Rinoa’s friend had simply shrugged and said the rules are different for cards.

    The rules are different… Rikku had made a comment similar to that earlier today, when they’d been comparing notes on magic and summoning. Where Zell came from, if someone junctioned a GF, then they could summon and use magic. But only Sorceresses could use magic without a junction. Here on Rikku’s world, only Summoners could call aeons, their version of GFs, but almost anyone could learn magic and there was no junctioning.

    Zell took a deep breath and tried to slow his thoughts. There was an idea tickling the edges of his mind, but he couldn’t quite grasp it. It’s there, I just have to think it through. Another deep breath.

    We’re looking for Rinoa, a Sorceress, someone especially gifted with magic.

    Squall told us to find Yuna, a Summoner, someone who can call aeons.

    Aeons are GFs. GFs are powerful magical beings

    “That’s it!” Zell leapt to his feet and raced out of the tent, stumbling over Irvine as he did so.

    Zell heard the others stirring behind him but he didn’t slow down as he sprinted in the darkness toward Yuna’s tent.

    He tripped as he ran—geez, would it kill them to put out a nightlight?—and fell sprawling onto the cobblestone walkway. By the time he’d stood up and brushed himself off, Quistis, Selphie, Irvine, Yuna, and Rikku had gathered around him. Yuna was carrying a lantern, which provided just enough illumination for Zell to see that the others were regarding him with concern, and perhaps a little fear.

    “What are you doing, Zell? What’s going on?” Quistis asked.

    Zell jumped into the air, unable to contain his excitement. “I think I figured it out! I think I have the answer!”
     
  4. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Quistis' regrets and second thoughts are understandable. Rinoa and Squall - entertaining indeed, but Zell's announcement. :) Forward progress! [face_relieved]
     
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  5. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Quistis' regrets were really well worded and understandable, I am glad that she could pull herself out of them in the end, though! As always, your back and forth between Squall and Rinoa is just so much fun to read, but I am really, really glad for Zell's announcement! You are doing a great job explaining the intricacies of this world, as well, as Zell reached his conclusion my brain had a 'I see where we are going' moment to match, and it was fun to read!

    Now we are getting somewhere! I can't wait to see what comes next. [face_dancing] =D=
     
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  6. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Nyota's Heart Yes, I promise there will be actual plot progress in this update! (Though not too much, we're only like halfway through the story.) :) Thanks for reading!

    Mira_Jade as Zell reached his conclusion my brain had a 'I see where we are going' moment to match That is really great to hear! :D I'm afraid I often have trouble finding the middle ground between hitting the reader over the head and completely hiding the ball when it comes to stuff like that. Thanks for reading!



    Chapter 11

    Yuna sat alone—well, not entirely alone—in the silence of the Chamber of the Fayth inside Besaid Temple. It had been a while since she had entered a temple and prayed to the fayth to obtain a new aeon. She hadn’t thought she would ever do so again, not after the aeons had been slain and the fayth freed to rest.

    The Summoner looked over at her companion—Angelo, the dog that had arrived with the visitors. Angelo looked back at her, seeming to be expecting some direction. “I don’t know,” Yuna said out loud to the dog. “I don’t see how this is going to work.”

    The dog whined and tilted her head to the side.

    “Yes, of course, I’m going to try, I told them I would try.” They had given her a feather, they said it came from Rinoa; Yuna tied it with a ribbon to the end of her staff as she considered what she would do.

    Zell had been equal parts confident and insistent when he woke everyone in the middle of the night to declare that Yuna should try to summon Rinoa.

    “I summon aeons, not people,” Yuna had patiently explained.

    “But Rinoa’s a Sorceress! She has powerful magic; she’s different from most people,” Zell replied.

    “You know how to summon, why don’t you summon her yourself?”

    “I can’t summon without junctioning, and I can’t junction Rinoa. Anyway, you’re more of a professional Summoner.”

    “I have to pray to the fayth before I can summon an aeon.”

    “We have Angelo! She’s better than a fayth! She’s alive, and connected to Rinoa.”

    At that point, Yuna decided Zell would not be dissuaded and she’d agreed to try. She knew, however—even if Zell could not be convinced—that a sorceress was not an aeon and a dog was not a fayth.

    Yuna had come into the temple not because she thought being in the temple would help, but rather to get some space away from everyone. She knew Rinoa’s friends’ hearts were in the right place, but they were intense and excitable, and she found it difficult to concentrate around them.

    Before she’d enter the temple, Yuna had told Rinoa’s friends that she needed to know the essence of the aeon before she could summon it—that was what she learned from the fayth. They had offered all kinds of information about Rinoa. She loved shooting stars; she possessed angel wings when she activated her powers; she was passionate and strong; she often butted heads with her father, a General; they’d met her when she’d been part of a resistance movement in a small occupied town; she used a wrist-mounted projectile weapon called a blaster edge; she’d taught Angelo to fight beside her.

    Shooting stars and angel wings, a weapon on her wrist and a fluffy warrior dog at her side: these were things that described Rinoa, but they were not her essence. Was it even possible to know the essence of another person? Especially one you hadn’t met?

    “You tell me, Angelo, what’s Rinoa’s essence?” The dog moved closer and nudged her nose into Yuna’s chest. Yuna pushed the dog away. “That’s not polite,” she gently chastised.

    Angelo whined and bumped her nose into Yuna’s chest again, this time with a little more force. Yuna fell back a bit, but laughed despite herself. “That kind of hurts, you know. You’re hitting me right at the heart.”

    Yuna paused, considering her own words. A strange thought flitted through her mind. She had thought a lot lately about how Tidus was in her heart, and would remain there forever. Then there was Rinoa—she’d gone into the Void to be with Squall. Yuna would have done the same, she would do anything, go anywhere to see Tidus again. Maybe that was it. Maybe Rinoa’s essence was the same as Yuna’s: Young love. Devotion to another so deep it defied logic.

    The movements came to her quickly after that. She knew exactly what she would do if she saw Tidus again. She would whistle to get his attention, then run to him; he would lift her off her feet, swing her around.

    Suddenly she had it, she knew how to summon Rinoa. Yuna didn’t really expect it would work, but at least it would be an attempt. All she could do was try.

    She rose to her feet and looked down at Angelo. “I am ready.”


    *

    “Do you hear that?” Rinoa asked. Squall and Tidus shook their heads. The three of them had been taking a walk—they had long ago discovered it was impossible to get anywhere, but sometimes it felt good to move around. Now someone was calling Rinoa, she was certain of it, though it wasn’t heard so much as felt. She felt someone beckoning to her. Confused, she grabbed onto Squall’s arm. In a bolt of sudden pain, her wings burst out of her back. “Hold onto me!” Rinoa pulled Squall closer with one arm and threw the other around Tidus’s waist. She didn’t know what was happening, but she knew she wanted them close.

    For the first time in a very long while Rinoa felt a breeze against her skin. The air was hot and then cold, windy and then still. She flinched from a sudden bright light, then was immersed in darkness. She closed her eyes and leaned her head against Squall, vaguely aware that there was no longer ground beneath her feet. She wasn’t sure if she was falling, or flying, or standing still while the whole universe shifted around her.

    A sudden jolt struck her. She opened her eyes and was horrified to see Squall falling away from her. As he fell he was briefly able to hold onto Tidus ankle, but then he slipped away completely. Tidus had been knocked away from her too, but she still had a strong grip on his wrist. She held onto him as tightly as she could, but somehow he too slipped from her grasp. In an instant it was over.

    She was falling, definitely falling now, and she saw grass below her. She landed in a crouch, hitting the ground more softly than seemed possible.


    *

    Yuna finished summoning with a flourish of her staff. Angelo, who had been at her side the entire time, now looked up into the sky and barked. Yuna followed the dog’s line of sight and saw, suspended many feet above the ground, a girl dressed in blue with white angel wings extending from her back.

    The girl fell to the ground softly and immediately sprang to her feet. The wings were gone in an instant. “Squall!” she screamed. She spun in a circle, her gaze passing over the faces of those gathered, but none of them was whom she sought. “Squall!” She looked skyward, brought her fingers to her lips and whistled. “Tidus! Squall! Where are you?” She stared at the sky in silence for several seconds. She breathed hard and her lower lip began to tremble.

    Angelo pushed her nose into the girl’s palm. The girl sank to the ground and buried her face in the dog’s fur. Yuna could hear her sobbing as she walked over and knelt beside her.

    The girl—Rinoa, it had to be Rinoa—looked up at Yuna. “I had them. They were with me.” Yuna could sense that Rinoa knew exactly who she was, even though she’d never seen her before. Rinoa collapsed against Yuna. “I’m sorry,” she cried into Yuna’s shoulder. “They were with me.”

    Rinoa had been clutching something in her hand, and it fell into Yuna’s lap as she sobbed. Yuna, one arm around Rinoa, used her free had to lift and examine the item. It was a black leather glove. Made of extremely supple leather, it looked quite a lot like the gloves Tidus wore. Then again, one black glove looked pretty much like the next, right? Still, it immediately brought to mind memories of Tidus setting a hand on her shoulder, brushing her cheek with his thumb. For the first time since his hands had passed through hers, Yuna allowed herself to believe, for a moment, that he might not be gone forever. “This glove, does it…does it belong to Tidus?”

    Rinoa looked up at Yuna but didn’t get a chance to respond. “Watch out!” Quistis yelled. Yuna felt herself being lifted by her arms and dragged backwards. She glanced back to see it was Irvine who had picked her up. Zell had similarly pulled Rinoa away. There was a sound like a fan blade slicing through the air, and then Yuna saw a sword falling from the sky, tumbling end over end toward the earth. It landed with the tip of its blade embedded several inches into the ground they had just vacated.

    “Keep moving!” Selphie threw herself against Yuna and Irvine, who in turn bumped into Zell and Rinoa. As they all struggled to stay on their feet, another sword appeared in the same manner as the first. It too ended its journey with blade embedded in the ground.

    “Oh, man.” Zell walked up to the first sword. It had a handle that resembled a gun and a cerulean blade that seemed to glow from within. “Is this…Lionheart?” With some effort he removed the weapon from the ground and swung it around. “This can’t be good…”

    Yuna’s gaze fell on the other sword, an aqua blue blade that seemed constantly to move and bubble like water. As far as she knew, there was only one sword in existence that looked like that: Brotherhood, the sword Wakka had given Tidus at the beginning of their journey.
     
  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Rinoa has been rescued and various items, but wow, Tidus and the rest seem to be left behind? [face_nail_biting]
     
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  8. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Whew! That was quite the update. While I am glad that Yuna could touch the void and bring Rinoa back, I am still worried about the others now . . . Maybe they can put their heads together now, and come up with something - especially since Yuna has proof indefinable that Tidus is alive and well, if not just beyond her reach. [face_thinking]

    And, I just loved this passage:

    A strange thought flitted through her mind. She had thought a lot lately about how Tidus was in her heart, and would remain there forever. Then there was Rinoa—she’d gone into the Void to be with Squall. Yuna would have done the same, she would do anything, go anywhere to see Tidus again. Maybe that was it. Maybe Rinoa’s essence was the same as Yuna’s: Young love. Devotion to another so deep it defied logic.

    Really just well written, all around - especially the Summoning part. So much of the FF games is visual, and you created a wonderful 'picture' with that scene. It was beautiful to envision. =D=
     
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  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wowsers, after Mira's comment above, I remembered this wasn't based on a novel/book series. It's so flushed out and developed it feels like it had to be. Like SabyneAmberle in "Before" you've really made RPG zing and pop off the screen. =D=
     
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  10. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Nyota's Heart Final Fantasy is known for having some of the best RPG characters and stories. I’m glad I can share a little bit of that with a new audience. Thank you for the compliments, you are very kind!

    Mira_Jade Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m delighted that I could paint a picture in that scene.


    Chapter 12

    Tidus hit the ground hard. He’d intended to land in a roll, but his feet slipped out from under him and the roll ended up as more of slide that sent him crashing into Squall. Squall was crouched on the ground and groaned as Tidus collided with him.

    “Sorry,” Tidus muttered, attempting to gather his feet beneath him. The ground was smooth, wet rock and standing was more difficult than Tidus expected. He shouldn’t have bothered. Squall grabbed his shirt and yanked him back to the ground just as he got his feet under him. A large object passed over Tidus’s head as he hit the ground.

    Tidus turned to see what had nearly clobbered him and was confronted with the largest fiend he’d even seen, save Sin. It had the appearance of a dragon, but one made out of rock. Its right forepaw was extended, that was what had passed over Tidus. Tidus reached for his sword, but it wasn’t at his side. He looked around the area—it was nowhere to be seen.

    “Do you have your gunblade?” He looked at Squall, who barely shook his head. “What do we do?” Squall’s eyes looked glazed and he didn’t speak. From what he’d said, Tidus assumed that Squall was the more experienced fighter, and he’d intended to follow Squall’s lead if things got rough. But Squall wasn’t looking like a leader right now. Was it battle nerves? That seemed unlikely. Was he freaking out about being separated from Rinoa? The reason didn’t really matter—it looked like it was Tidus’s turn to take the lead.

    Tidus and Squall were currently in a small alcove, and it appeared the dragon was gearing up to charge them. As soon as the dragon began its charge, Tidus made a break for it, tugging on Squall’s jacket to make sure he followed. Tidus’s feet slipped on the smooth rock as he ran. Fortunately, the dragon seemed to have its own problems with traction and was not able to turn or stop before it slammed into the rock wall of the alcove Tidus and Squall had just left. Tidus saw a break in the rock face and pushed Squall inside as he turned to assess the situation.

    They seemed to be in a large cave. There were narrow shafts of light coming from cracks in the rock ceiling, which provided enough light to see, though it was not bright. Stalagmites and loose stones littered the ground, along with a few small puddles. The dragon was still turning itself around, so Tidus ducked into the crevice behind Squall.

    Almost immediately, he ran into—and nearly over—Squall, who was huddled on the ground. Very little light made it into the area and it was impossible to see how deep the crevice was. Still, Tidus was pretty sure Squall was not up against a wall, so he puzzled over why he had stopped. He tried to climb over Squall. He faintly heard the word “cliff,” uttered weakly by Squall, just as he was lowering his foot on the far side of Squall and realized there was no ground there.

    His heart in his throat, Tidus caught himself and turned back to peer into the main cavern. The dragon had righted itself and was headed towards them. Not good.

    Something had caught Tidus’s eye as he turned around in the crevice. He turned back, not quite able to place what it was. He scanned the area—there! The ceiling. It had a faint glow to it. Not bright enough to be a light source, it must have been a reflection. There was a slight movement to it, and Tidus knew of only one thing that could mean—it was a reflection off of water.

    He glanced back around to see the dragon closing fast. There was nothing else to do, the dragon could reach in and grab them from where they sat at the lip of the cliff. He didn’t have time to explain to Squall, so Tidus braced his feet on either side of the crack in the cave wall and pushed back as hard as he could. He knocked Squall off the edge of the cliff and then fell down after him. He saw the huge claws of the dragon’s front paw pass through the space he’d been occupying moments before.

    He heard Squall splash down a split-second before he hit the water himself. It belatedly occurred to him that he had no idea how deep the water would be, and he should probably have spread himself out, increased his surface area to break his fall quickly in case the water was shallow. As it was, he entered feet first, then curled into a ball as he became fully submerged. He never hit the bottom. Once his momentum was depleted he slowly stretched out, enjoying the feel of the water around him. It had been too long since he’d been able to swim.

    He was floating easily several feet beneath the surface when he began to look for Squall. He saw his silhouette above him, though it was too dark to see much detail. Still, the way Squall was floating didn’t seem right.

    Squall does know how to swim, doesn’t he?

    Tidus had assumed he must—he seemed to be a well-rounded solider, and even small children could swim. But it was an assumption, and now that Tidus thought about it, he didn’t remember Squall ever mentioning actually being in water.

    Tidus swam to Squall as quickly as he could. As he reached him he noticed the taste of copper in his mouth—there was blood in the water. With renewed urgency he wrapped one arm around Squall’s waist and swam to the surface. He found the edge of the pool and hauled Squall out of the water. To Tidus’s relief, Squall immediately began coughing. He coughed up a lot of water and Tidus kicked himself for not reacting sooner.

    As Squall seemed close to having cleared his lungs, and Tidus’s eyes were nearly adjusted to the light, Tidus reached to pat Squall on the back. He recoiled before making contact—Squall had three massive gashes across his back. They were deep and bleeding profusely. The dragon had gotten him—that must have been what knocked him away from Rinoa, and why he’d been barely able to stand since they landed in the cave. Squall gave a final cough, then collapsed onto his chest.

    Trying not to panic, Tidus dug a potion out of his pocket and poured it directly into Squall’s wounds. Then he removed Squall’s jacket and shirt, folded them up and tightened them against the wounds with a belt. He hoped it would be enough. He didn’t have much in the way of healing skills beyond drowning resuscitation.

    Squall was unconscious, but seemed to be breathing regularly. Tidus considered using a phoenix down to revive Squall, but decided it would probably be better to let Squall remain unconscious. He was going to be in a lot of pain when he woke up.

    *

    “I’ll go back.” Rinoa turned to Yuna. “And then you call me again. I won’t let them go this time.”

    Rinoa, her breath uneven and her eyes frantic, lowered her head in concentration.

    “Wait!” Quistis put her hands on Rinoa’s shoulders. “Talk to us, Rinoa. Tell us what’s going on.”

    Rinoa looked up at Quistis, seeming to notice her for the first time. “I don’t know what happened! I just know we got separated and I need to get back to Squall.” She looked to Yuna, seemingly for support.

    “Please, before you go, tell us where you were,” the Summoner requested.

    “I think Squall will survive a few minutes without your charming presence,” Irvine added.

    Rinoa took a deep breath and pulled away from Quistis. “I guess I should explain.” She bent her knees so she was crouching on the ground. Angelo sat beside her and she petted the dog as she spoke.

    “The place was awful. It was so…empty.” Those gathered sat on the ground around Rinoa as she told her story. Soon Lulu and Wakka appeared and stood a little ways back.

    “…And then I landed here,” Rinoa finished.

    “It…it was really Tidus? You’re sure? And he was real? I mean, you know, solid?” Yuna asked.

    Rinoa nodded. “As real as you or me.”

    “I don’t know,” Wakka said as he and Lulu moved closer, stopping directly behind Yuna. “It still may not have been our Tidus, ya? We all saw him fade; he’s in the Farplane now.” Then he knelt beside Yuna and whispered, “She could be confused. In shock, ya?”

    “Or telling stories,” Lulu added.

    Rinoa looked up at Lulu, her eyes narrowed. She stood and advanced on the taller woman. “Fine. Why don’t you tell me who it was?

    “Let’s see…messy blond hair and the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. Wears a yellow shirt with a hood that looks about three sizes too small for him, but I guess that’s the style in Zanarkand. Never stops talking about Yuna and blitzball. What else?”

    Yuna had gotten to her feet right after Rinoa and her face lit up more with each fact Rinoa rattled off.

    “Strong, and lightning-fast with a sword. Squall called him wild, but that’s just Squall.

    “He doesn’t get along with his dad. But who does? I sure don’t get along with mine. Oh, right, Yuna does. Her father was a great Summoner. And I guess the three of us are about the only ones who even know our fathers—what did you call it Wakka? It’s a ‘luxury’ to hate your father?”

    Wakka looked to Lulu. “I didn’t even know Tidus heard me say that…”

    “Oh! And I almost forgot about this.” Rinoa dug into her hip pocket and removed a silver, triangular pendant on a long chain. “He told me to give you this, Yuna. I didn’t want to take it, because I told him we were going to stick together.”

    Yuna accepted the pendant and for several seconds just stared at it. Rikku, Lulu, and Wakka gathered closely around her. Rikku reached out and touched the pendant. “It’s his, it has to be!” Rikku snatched the chain and put it over Yuna’s head.

    Yuna clutched the pendant in both hands as tears filled her eyes.
     
  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oooh, now that they've comfirmed that was really Tidus - they have to get him and Squall back out of there-ever they are ;) Especially if medical attention is needed.
     
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  12. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    First off, great job with the action scene! You did a great job with describing both the dragon and the water - I was glad that Tidus could take charge like that. Poor Squall. :( (And, if you are interested, we have a workshop about writing such scenes going on in the Writer's Support Group if you wanted to stop by and leave your thoughts - you always have clean, interesting action scenes, and we'd love to hear from you. :))

    But then Yuna! I am happy that now knows that it is really Tidus, and they can start thinking up a way to solve this all. Her moment of realization was beautifully put. [face_love]
     
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  13. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Nyota's Heart Especially if medical attention is needed. Not a lot of modern medicine in Final Fantasy, but Squall may need some help... Thanks for reading! :)

    Mira_Jade I'm glad the first scene came across okay. (And thanks for the suggestion! I did stop by the workshop thread and found some great tips, but I’m not sure I have anything to add. I definitely don’t consider action my strong suit.) Thanks for your comments! :)




    Chapter 13

    It had been a rough day. At Quistis’s absolute insistence, Rinoa had refrained from activating her sorceress powers and trying to return to Squall until the morning after she arrived in Spira. Quistis didn’t want to make any more hasty decisions. She wanted to give everyone time to think, and Rinoa and Yuna time to rest.

    First thing in the morning, Rinoa had walked out into the plaza and tried to activate her powers. It hadn’t worked. After her first unsuccessful efforts, Rinoa had become frantic. She kept trying, seemingly harder and harder, but it was clear to anyone that it just wasn’t working.

    When she finally gave up, she’d needed an outlet for her emotion. Quistis had become her target. She blamed Quistis for making her wait, insisting that her powers would have worked fine the day before. Quistis knew Rinoa was just upset, or rather, heartbroken, devastated, afraid, helpless, and hopeless—Quistis knew, because she was feeling the same emotions—but still Rinoa’s anger had hurt, more than it should have. It didn’t make sense that Rinoa’s powers would have worked yesterday but not today. It wasn’t Quistis’s fault, and even Rinoa must have known that in her heart, but still Quistis felt bruised by the accusations.

    Seeing the disappointment in Yuna’s eyes, even though the small, friendly smile had never left her lips, made Quistis feel even worse. She’d actively avoided Lulu and Wakka all day, knowing she couldn’t take a conversation with them after she’d allowed Yuna so much hope that led to disappointment.

    Knowing that she was the last person who could possibly comfort Rinoa, Quistis had gone for a walk alone. It had been a long day and it wasn’t even midday yet. But perhaps some fresh air would allow a new perspective on things and the problems would seem smaller by evening.

    Or, maybe there would be even more problems before the day was over.

    “Instructor.” Quistis froze when she heard the voice. She no longer worked as an instructor, but her career was not so long gone that the term felt out of place. No, it was not the word but the voice that made her feel unsettled. It was a strange thing, how difficult it could be to place something familiar when experienced out of context. Recognition was not quite within her grasp as she turned around. Which is why she must have looked so surprised when she finally faced him.

    “What is it, Instructor? Have you forgotten me already?”

    “What are you doing here?” She didn’t know if she should be afraid or just annoyed. She didn’t want to fight him, certainly not alone, but she doubted he was here to challenge her. That said, she didn’t have a clue why he would be here. How he could be here.

    “I’m injured. You don’t think I’m concerned about the whereabouts of my good pal, Squall?” He laughed. “Actually, I’m here because I heard that there’s a gunblade in need of a wielder.” He drew his own gunblade and rested it against his shoulder. “Care to show me the way, or do I have to find it myself?”

    Anger washed over Quistis, cleansing away any lingering confusion or fear. “You’re here to steal Squall’s gunblade? That’s low, even for you, Seifer.”

    Seifer smiled. “Well, I’m not here just for the gunblade.” He turned to walk away, so his final words were muffled, though Quistis could still make them out. “I heard there’s also an angel here with broken wings.”

    *

    He’s going to die. Looking at Squall, unconscious and bleeding, Tidus was filled with dread. He’s going to die, and I’m going to have to tell Rinoa.

    No, explaining to Rinoa that he’d watched Squall bleed to death was not an option. Tidus was not a healer himself, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t do anything to help Squall. This place was much different from where they were. There were fiends here, and water. Maybe there were other people here too. Perhaps healers, or at least someone who would know what to do. If Tidus couldn’t heal Squall himself, he’d just have to find someone who could.

    Tidus emptied the most powerful potion he had onto Squall’s wounded back, then he set off to find help.

    *

    Quistis found the others gathered in the outdoor meeting area where they had first spoken with Yuna.

    “We have a problem,” she said breathlessly.

    Zell, Irvine, and Selphie exchanged confused looks. “Yeah…”

    “I mean we have a new problem.” Quistis glanced around the area. “Where’s Rinoa?”

    “I think she’s with Yuna. Just give her a little time, she’ll come around!” Selphie sounded as cheerful as ever.

    “She’s just upset about Squall. She didn’t mean what she said.” Irvine adjusted his hat on his head. “I think usually when she feels sad or worried Squall comforts her. Since he’s what she’s upset about—”

    “I get it, Irvine. I really do.” Quistis’s tone was sharper than she intended. “But that’s not the problem.” She pointed to the far end of the village, where a figure was just emerging from the trees. “That’s our problem.”

    “SEIFER?!” Zell leapt to his feet, hands balled into fists. “What’s he doing here?!”

    Quistis shook her head. “Apparently he wants Lionheart.”

    “WHAT?!”

    Irvine stood and drew his rifle. He pointed it at Seifer and sighted down the barrel as he spoke. “He came here for Squall’s gunblade? How’d he even get here?”

    He lowered the gun and looked to Quistis.

    “I don’t know.” As Quistis watched, Seifer approached Yuna’s tent. Lionheart, Brotherhood, and Yuna’s staff were gathered together, stuck in the ground outside the tent.

    Quistis and the others hurried down the cobblestone walkway to intercept Seifer.

    “DON’T YOU DARE!” Zell screeched as Seifer pulled Lionheart from the ground.

    “You think you’re gonna stop me, chicken-wuss?”

    “DON’T CALL ME THAT!” Zell rushed at Seifer. Seifer, a gunblade in each hand, opened his arms, welcoming the challenge.

    “Seifer?!” Rinoa emerged from the tent, Yuna right behind her. Seifer lowered his weapons and turned toward her. She took a step backwards, pressing into Yuna. “What’s going on?”

    “Hey, ‘Noa.” Seifer’s voice was soft, almost…friendly. It was not a tone Quistis had ever heard from him before. “Are you alright?” Quistis noticed Seifer’s eyes fell to the pendant—Squall’s pendant—that Rinoa wore around her neck, but then refocused on her face.

    “Are you serious?!” Zell stepped between Seifer and Rinoa, his fists raised. “After you tried to kill her, after you tried to kill all of us, you think you can talk to her like that?”

    Seifer ignored Zell and reached a hand toward Rinoa. “I never wanted to hurt you, ‘Noa.”

    Rinoa stepped further behind Zell, evading Seifer’s touch. “Why are you here, Seifer?”

    “I was worried about you. I heard what these guys dragged you into. Where Squall took you. I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

    “I thought you were here for Lionheart,” Quistis said.

    Seifer scowled and tossed Lionheart aside. “I’m here for you, Rinoa.”

    Rinoa, tucked between Zell and Yuna, clutched at the pendant around her neck. “Go away, Seifer.”

    “You heard her. Now get outta here!” Zell took a step toward Seifer.

    “Fine.” Seifer’s eyes flicked to where Selphie was retrieving Lionheart. He gave a small shrug and began to walk out of the village. “I’ll just go back home then.”

    He had taken a few steps when Selphie quietly asked, “Do you think he really has a way home?”

    Seifer spun back around. “Of course I know how to get home. Only an idiot would go to a strange world without a plan for getting back.” He looked around at the others in turn, his gaze coming to rest on Quistis last, a sickeningly smug grin on his face.

    “I’m shocked, Instructor. You came here without having a way to get back? That sounds reckless. Irresponsible. Maybe even troubled.”

    The adjectives, of course, were carefully chosen. They were the words she’d used very often to describe Seifer when she was his instructor at Balamb Garden. On the one hand, it wasn’t at all unexpected that he would take any and every opportunity to make his onetime allies and more recent enemies feel foolish. On the other hand, it had been a long time since Seifer was a SeeD cadet. Maybe it really wasn’t so long if you looked on the calendar, but with all that had happened recently, it seemed like a lifetime since Quistis had filled out a student evaluation. Even more than that, despite his poor evaluations and even after his fifth failed field exam, Seifer had never been forced out of Garden. He’d turned away from Garden to follow his dream of being a Sorceress Knight. Yet he was clearly full of resentment toward her. Perhaps his stint as Sorceress Knight was not as satisfying as he had hoped.

    “How are you going to get back?” Rinoa asked.

    Seifer walked up to Rinoa and took her hand in his. “The same way I came, of course. You can come with me, ‘Noa. I know you didn’t come here of your own accord.”

    “What about everyone else?”

    “Fine. Whatever. If they got themselves stranded, I guess I can rescue them.” Seifer turned toward Quistis, looking far too proud of himself. “ ‘Cause I’m just that nice a guy.”
     
  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Seifer comes across as sneaky and totally barking up the wrong tree when it comes to Rinoa. :p =D=
    Sensing the frustration over the "rescue" still [face_worried] hoping things come together in time.
     
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  15. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Ack, I am not liking this Seifer guy at all. [face_worried] But I think Rinoa can handle him. [face_mischief]

    Meanwhile, I hope that Tidus can find help for Squall while the others figure out how to reach them again. Once more, I am really enjoying this story, and can't wait to see where it goes. :) =D=
     
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  16. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Nyota's Heart and Mira_Jade As always, thanks so much for commenting! As for Seifer - I have to admit, I’ve been rather looking forward to his appearance. It’s not that I like him necessarily, but he’s really fun to write!



    Chapter 14

    Tidus broke the surface of the water and swam in place, taking in his surroundings. He was in the middle of a small lake with mountains behind him and an open, grassy plain in front of him. Tidus swam to the edge of the lake and pulled himself out of the water.

    He’d searched for an exit to the cave above the water first. There were a few tunnels leading off the cavern where he’d left Squall, but they all got very dark very quickly and Tidus feared he would get lost before finding a way out. Then he’d returned to the pool of water and discovered there was a series of underwater canals below the surface. The canals were dark, but there was luminescent coral and fish that guided his way. Eventually the canal he had chosen opened into the lake, which was lit by moonlight.

    Tidus shivered as he got to his feet, the air was crisp and cold against his wet skin. Once his eyes were adjusted to the moonlight, he noticed a cluster of lights in the distance. Too bright and too low to be stars, he thought they must indicate a settlement of some kind. Hopefully a settlement that included a healer. He set off at a quick jog toward the lights.

    *

    Yuna watched as Seifer paced the cobblestone walkway, his eyes flashing around the village. Yuna didn’t know what to think of Seifer. He spoke sweetly to Rinoa and crassly to everyone else. The others clearly didn’t like him, and seemed a bit afraid of him. But he claimed to be able to get back home, leaving the others at his mercy. After his dramatic arrival and declaration that he could get home, Seifer had disappeared for several hours. He’d reappeared a few minutes ago, looking agitated, but not offering any explanation as to where he’d been or when and how he intended to return home.

    “I need something,” he finally declared. “A sword.”

    “You’re not getting Lionheart!” Zell, who currently had Lionheart strapped to his back, raised his fists defensively.

    Seifer rolled his eyes. “Not Lionheart. A different sword. Mas…Masasamoon.”

    “Masamune?” Yuna asked. “That was Sir Auron’s weapon.”

    For the first time since he’d arrived, Seifer turned his attention to Yuna. She was a bit afraid of what he might say to her, but to her surprise, he smiled, and not unkindly. “Yeah. That’s it.”

    Rikku planted her hands on her hips. “Why do you want Sir Auron’s sword?”

    Seifer turned toward Rikku, his eyes narrowed. “It’s our ticket home.”

    “What are you going to do with it?” Yuna asked.

    Seifer’s lip curled in a way that was more snarl than smile. “Hand it over and you’ll see.” After his earlier smile, Yuna had thought maybe she had somehow been on Seifer’s good side, that maybe he would treat her as he did Rinoa. But it looked like she’d quickly fallen out of favor, if she’d ever been there at all.

    “He’s going to give it away,” Zell answered, then took a step toward Seifer. “Gilgamesh. You’re bribing Gilgamesh with the promise of rare swords?”

    Seifer ignored Zell, continuing to look at Yuna. The intensity in his blue-green eyes was disquieting. “So where’s the sword?”

    Rikku stepped up beside Yuna and crossed her arms. “Who said you could have it?”

    Seifer threw up his hands. “Fine. Keep it. I’m sure hoarding a dead man’s weapon is more important than finding your boy.” He stalked away.

    Rikku looked to Yuna. “We’re not gonna give away Auron’s sword are we?”

    Yuna looked to Quistis, Zell, Irvine, and Selphie in turn. “Will it really help save Tidus?”

    “I don’t know,” Quistis admitted.

    “If I’m right, that he’s got some deal with Gilgamesh, it probably will work, to get us back home. That’s probably how he got here,” Zell said. “But I don’t know that Gilgamesh can help us find Squall and Tidus.”

    “If we return to your world, Ellone could speak to Squall again, right? And he could tell her where he is?”

    “Possibly.”

    “Then we should go.” Yuna spoke with more confidence than she really felt. She hated to give away her late Guardian’s weapon, but Sir Auron would understand. He would want her to, if it would help Tidus. Wouldn’t he?

    “Yunie…” Rikku clung to Yuna’s elbow. “Are you sure about this?”

    “Let’s think about this for a bit,” Quistis said. “We don’t want to rush into anything.”

    Yuna nodded appreciatively. “We’ll eat first. Then decide.”

    *

    The tiny town was set into the hillside perhaps a quarter mile from the lake. Tidus was winded but not exhausted as he slowed to a walk. As he entered the town, the rocky ground was replaced by dark grey bricks. The town was made up of one- and two-story wooden buildings with shingled roofs. Many buildings had lanterns hanging on the outer walls. Since it seemed to be the middle of the night, Tidus was hesitant to just start knocking on doors. Fortunately, he didn’t have to.

    “Who the heck are you?”

    Tidus turned to see a man emerging from the shadow of a building behind him. He was on the short side, with a wiry build. He wore a dark jacket and a bandana that covered most of his hair. He didn’t look too likely to be a healer, but he didn’t look particularly dangerous either.

    “Hey. My name’s Tidus. My friend was badly injured; I was hoping to find a healer.”

    “A healer, huh?” The other regarded Tidus critically. “Where exactly is this friend of yours?”

    “In a cave, on the other side of the lake.”

    “Other side of the lake? There’s no cave there.”

    “Yes, there is. The entrance is underwater.”

    “Underwater?”

    Tidus nodded. “Yeah. I just came from there. Look, my friend’s bleeding, I don’t think he has much time. Are there any healers around here?”

    “What happened?”

    Tidus hissed through his teeth. He really didn’t have time to explain, especially not if this guy wouldn’t be able to help anyway.

    “Locke, what’s going on?” A girl with green hair and a red dress approached from the opposite direction, her eyes flicking back and forth between Tidus and the other man.

    “I was just out for a late night walk and I happened across this guy wandering through town.” Locke hurried toward the girl, placing himself between her and Tidus.

    “I need to find a healer,” Tidus added.

    “Are you hurt?” The girl moved quickly toward Tidus, to Locke’s clear chagrin. “You’re all wet.”

    “No. It’s not me. My friend, he’s bleeding.”

    The girl’s eyes widened. “Where is he?”

    “Not far. Can you help him?”

    “I can try.”

    “Wait a minute,” Locke interrupted. “I’m not sure about this…”

    The girl turned to look at Locke. “We have to help.”

    Locke gave a resigned sigh. “Okay, but we should tell Celes. And…did you say it was underwater?”

    Tidus nodded. “It’s not too far, if you can swim. Maybe three minutes underwater.”

    Locke had started walking deeper into the town as Tidus spoke, but stopped and turned toward him. “Three minutes underwater? How did you get here?”

    “I swam.” Tidus continued walking in the same direction, hoping to hurry things along.

    “What kind of relics you got?” Locke looked Tidus up and down as he began walking again. The girl followed.

    “What? I don’t have any…relics.” Whatever those are.

    They arrived at the door to a building and went inside. They entered a large open room with an oversize table in the center. There was a single candle burning on the middle of the table, illuminating a young woman with long blonde hair. “Locke, Terra, where have you been?”

    “Someone’s in trouble, Celes. We have to help him.” The green-haired girl—Terra—replied.

    Locke knelt in front of a wooden chest set against the far wall. “Where are the underwater breathers?” he asked as he rummaged through the contents. “Ah, here they are.” He removed something from the chest.

    “Underwater breathers? Why—?” Celes looked strangely at Tidus.

    “We’ll explain on the way.” Locke had four long loops of leather, each with a flat metal plate attached. He handed one to Terra and one to Celes, keeping the other two. Tidus didn’t understand how leather and metal could help someone breathe underwater, but if it worked he was all for it. Sometimes he forgot that not everyone was a swimmer. “Alright, lead the way.”

    Tidus hurried out the door and immediately picked up a jog, hoping the others would be able to keep up.



    Author Note: Locke, Terra, and Celes are borrowed from Final Fantasy VI. The FFVI characters and story are somewhat AU here (more so than FFVIII and FFX).
     
  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Things are progressing: getting a healer (whew!) and deciding to take the risk with trying to get everyone in one place again. [face_thinking]
     
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  18. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Whew, I am glad that Tidus was able to find a healer willing to help - which was also a great way to use more characters from the game! It is really neat to see how you are overlapping these worlds. And Seifer! I can see what you mean about having fun writing him - he certainly is an interesting character, and he just may be able to help them home. I hope that he is trustworthy enough to give that sword to. [face_worried]

    An excellent update, once again. =D=
     
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  19. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Nyota's Heart Mira_Jade Thank you, thank you, thank you for your comments!




    Chapter 15

    It had been easy, almost too easy, to leave behind all that was familiar and venture to a whole new world. Seifer had taken Masamune and thrown it into the air so it spun back to the ground. The moment it hit the ground, Gilgamesh had appeared to claim it. The massive multi-armed aeon—or Guardian Force, or whatever sort of magical being he was—added Masamune to the collection of swords strapped to his back and the next thing she knew, Yuna was standing here, at the edge of a falling down orphanage, unfathomably far from home.

    Rinoa was sitting in the middle of the meadow. Yuna stepped away from the stone ruins and approached her. The meadow was warm and breezy, the green grass dotted by yellow and pink wildflowers stretching as far as the eye could see.

    “I didn’t really think he’d be here.” Rinoa looked at Yuna as she sat down beside her. “But I’d hoped.”

    Yuna nodded, but could think of nothing to say.

    After a while Rinoa continued. “It isn’t going to work. I told Quistis I’d wait until tomorrow to try to return to Squall and Tidus, but of course I tried right away.” Rinoa picked a flower from the ground and began to pluck the petals off, one at a time. “My powers are gone—I guess I’m no longer a Sorceress.”

    When the first flower ran out of petals, Rinoa picked another. “It’s funny. I hated being a Sorceress. I was so scared of the power, of what might happen. Of what people would think about me. Of what would happen if I lost control. I only got through it because of Squall.” The second flower barren, Rinoa tossed it away. “And now they’re the one thing that could save him and they’re gone.”

    Yuna set a hand on Rinoa’s shoulder. “We’ll find another way.”

    *

    Terra and Celes were huddled around Squall. Locke had said they needed space to work, so he and Tidus were seated several feet away. Tidus couldn’t tell how things were going. Terra had gasped a little when they’d removed the jacket to reveal the wounds. Celes had pursed her lips in a way Tidus hadn’t found very encouraging. They each held their hands above Squall’s back. The familiar green glow of curative magic brightened and faded as they worked.

    Several minutes after they’d arrived, Celes sat back and shook her head. “We need more power.”

    Terra dropped her hands to her sides and looked at Celes uncertainly.

    “I don’t think there’s anything more I can do. It’s up to you, Terra.”

    The green-haired girl looked to Celes with wide eyes. Then she looked to Locke.

    Locke smiled encouragingly. “Whatever you want to do, Terra. We’re here for you no matter what.”

    “I want to help him. I think I can. But…” Terra looked at Tidus. She seemed suddenly nervous, maybe even afraid. Tidus couldn’t imagine what he’d done to frighten her.

    Don’t look at her,” Locke put his hands on either side of Tidus’s head, forcing him to look away from Terra.

    Not sure what was going on, for a minute Tidus just stared at Locke. A gust of wind whirled through the cave and Tidus could sense motion behind him. He ducked his head away from Locke and turned to see what was happening.

    Celes had backed up so she was just to Tidus’s right. Terra was nowhere to be seen. Standing over Squall was a not-quite-human figure. The figure had skin that was frost white with a violet pearlescence and long, wild hair that swirled around her. She held her hands slightly apart in front of her and the space between them began to glow.

    Not sure if he should intervene—and even less sure of how he would intervene—Tidus stood frozen in place and imagined what he would tell Rinoa.

    First, Squall got really badly injured and I was totally oblivious. Then I almost drowned him. Then I found a bunch of strangers and one of them turned into a monster…

    When the glow between the figure’s hands intensified so much as to be nearly blinding, she pushed her hands towards Squall. Glowing energy flowed from her to Squall, so bright Tidus had to look away.

    After a few seconds the glow faded and the cave was immersed in total darkness. Tidus heard footsteps shuffling around and then a soft snap. A ball of light appeared, suspended above Celes’s opened palm as she crouched between Squall and Terra. Terra seemed to have collapsed with exhaustion and Locke held her in his arms.

    Tidus knelt beside Squall and was shocked to see he was no longer bleeding. His wounds were gone, healed, replaced by thick jagged scars.

    “What just happened?” Tidus asked. “Was that…Terra?”

    “What happened is your friend got healed.” Locke scowled and tightened his hold of Terra. “Around here we say ‘thank you’ to people who help us, we don’t interrogate them.”

    “Right…um… Thank you.” Tidus looked at Squall again, still finding it hard to believe his wounds could have disappeared so quickly and so completely.

    “Shall I revive him?” Celes asked.

    Tidus looked up at Celes, to see the question seemed to be directed at him. He glanced over to see Terra seemed to be recovering—she was sitting upright on her own, Locke with just one arm supporting her back. “Sure,” Tidus replied, looking back at Squall.

    Celes gestured with her hand and Squall was briefly enveloped in a green glow.

    Squall was on his feet almost immediately. That was not surprising—warriors revived in battle had to be prepared to act the second they regained consciousness. His eyes scanned the area, surely trying to evaluate the status of a battle that didn’t exist.

    “Whoa, there. Let’s take it easy, alright?” Squall’s eyes focused on Celes as she rose to her feet and approached him.

    “Who…?” Squall seemed breathless and began to tremble. Tidus walked over to him.

    “It’s okay. They’re here to help.” Squall’s eyes flashed at all those gathered around him.

    When Squall’s line of sight found Tidus, he relaxed, just barely. “Rinoa?” he whispered.

    “She’s fine. She’s not here, but she’s fine,” Tidus replied.

    With that the fire went out of Squall’s eyes and his shoulders slouched forward. His whole body began to shake. Tidus set a hand on Squall’s arm. His skin was cool to the touch. “He’s freezing.”

    “Yes, that’s often a side effect of that kind of magic. But there’s no sense in trying to warm him up here. We should get him back to town right away.”

    “Are you ready to go?” Locke asked Terra.

    Terra walked up to Squall and placed her palm in the center of his chest, covering a substantial scar. “He’s been healed with magic before.”

    “That’s great, but I think we’ve had all the fun we can stand in this cave. How about we head home?”

    Terra looked back at Locke and nodded. She placed the metal plate from the leather loop around her neck into her mouth and approached the pool.

    Locke and Celes did the same. Locke tossed the fourth underwater breather to Tidus and he put it over Squall’s head. Terra dove into the water. Tidus led Squall to the edge of the pool by one arm. “Bite,” Celes said as she placed the metal plate in Squall’s mouth. Then she gripped his other arm. Though he didn’t resist, Squall appeared fearful of the water and Tidus hesitated. Locke shoved both Squall and Tidus from behind as Celes jumped into the water.

    Squall seemed to panic as he splashed into the water, but Tidus and Celes pulled him firmly forward. Perhaps realizing that he could breathe despite being submersed, Squall became complacent and allowed himself to be led along.

    *

    As soon as they arrived at Balamb Garden, the SeeDs had given their reports and then been ordered by the Headmaster to take some time off. Selphie and Irvine had gone to visit Selphie’s previous home, Trabia Garden. Quistis was presumably in her dorm room and Zell had gone to his mother’s house in the town of Balamb.

    That left Rinoa, Yuna, and Ellone to wander Balamb Garden on their own.

    “Now what?” Rinoa paced a circle around Yuna and Ellone, who were seated on a bench in a corner of the quad. “We just sit here?”

    “The Headmaster did suggest we get some rest,” Ellone replied.

    Rinoa scowled. “He’s not my Headmaster. In fact, he’s not really in charge of anyone. He made Squall Commander of this Garden. Squall’s the only one who can tell anyone what to do. And technically, Squall still works for me.”

    Ellone raised her eyebrows. “Squall works for you?”

    “Yes. The Forest Owls hired SeeD to liberate Timber. Timber isn’t liberated, so he’s still under contract.”

    Yuna shifted on the bench. “Ok, so as the boss of the Commander, what do you think we should do?”

    “I don’t know. But something!”

    “Could you summon another Guardian Force?” Ellone asked.

    “It doesn’t sound like the Guardian Forces have been that cooperative. And they may not know where Squall and Tidus are now, even if they were willing to take us there. And if they see Yuna here, they might want to send her back to Spira.”

    “Hmm…” Ellone, Yuna, and Rinoa were quiet, each thinking hard.

    “So I guess we need to figure out where they are before we try to get there.” Ellone tapped her fingers on her knee. “I can send someone back. To the moment they were separated from you. Then maybe we could at least see the where they were.”

    “But you haven’t been able to connect with Squall.”

    “I wouldn’t have to connect to Squall at all. I would send someone into your past, Rinoa.”

    “Okay! We should try that. Can you send Yuna?”

    “I don’t know Yuna very well. It should probably be Zell or Quistis.”

    “Alright. I know where Zell lives. Let’s go!”
     
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Glad Squall is better, but everyone is still in different places. Sounds like they have a very strong strategy to try with Zell. :)
     
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  21. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Oooh, Terra's powers certainly were an interesting force to read about here - once again, great job with your descriptions, I could see everything perfectly. I am glad that Squall is better, and eager to see what they will try now. [face_thinking]=D=
     
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  22. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Nyota's Heart Thank you! :)

    Mira_Jade It always makes me happy to hear my readers are able to visualize a scene. Thank you! :)



    Author Note: A slight warning - chapters 16, 17, and 18 are a bit long and meandering. If you are eager to just get to the resolution, I’m afraid you will have to be a little bit patient, though you are probably okay just skimming the next three chapters.

    Also, we have officially caught up to the chapters I have pre-written, and real life has hit me pretty hard lately, so I’m afraid the updates will not be as consistent going forward.



    Chapter 16

    When Tidus awakened, he was so warm and comfortable for a moment he thought he was back in his own bed in Zanarkand. He realized he was not as soon as he opened his eyes and saw the large open room, sparsely furnished with solid wooden furniture.

    He heard movement behind him and rolled over to see what was going on. Squall was lying in the bed closest to the wall under a pile of blankets. Terra was perched on the edge of the bed leaning over him, examining the scar between his eyes. “No magic here.” She traced the scar with her little finger. “If I’d healed it, there wouldn’t be a scar.”

    Squall pushed away from Terra until his back was against the wall.

    “Terra!” Celes called from the far side of the room. “Why don’t you see if you can find some new clothes for our guest?”

    Terra hopped off the bed and scampered across the room.

    “What’s this sudden fascination with scars?” Locke muttered from beside Celes. “It’s not like he’s the only one that’s got ‘em.”

    Tidus sat up and faced toward Squall. “How are you feeling?”

    Squall blinked several times. “I feel fine.”

    “Do you remember what happened?”

    “Not really.” Squall sat up and looked around suddenly, looking slightly panicked. “Where’s Rinoa?”

    “She’s not here. But she’s safe.” Tidus wasn’t certain that Rinoa was safe, but he thought she probably was and there’s wasn’t anything they could do for her right now anyway. Better for Squall to be relaxed so he could rest and heal.

    Celes approached and regarded Squall. “You’re looking better.” Squall shifted under her gaze. Celes turned her attention to Tidus. “Are you two hungry?”

    “Yes, starving,” Tidus replied, standing up.

    Terra returned and presented Squall with a dark green tunic. “Here you go.”

    “Thank you.” Squall accepted the tunic. Terra continued to stare at him, Tidus wasn’t sure if she was studying the scar on his face or waiting for him to try on the tunic.

    “Let’s eat.” Celes shepherded Terra and Tidus toward the large table where Locke was setting out plates of food.

    Tidus sat at the table and eagerly dug into the food. He couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten and he had to force himself to slow down so he wouldn’t choke.

    Squall appeared at the table wearing the green tunic. He sat down beside Tidus and took a small bite of food. Then looked around at each of the strangers at the table. “Thank you for helping me.”

    Celes nodded. “I’m glad to see you back on your feet, I wasn’t sure I would. But you should really be thanking Terra, she’s the one who healed you.”

    Squall turned to the green-haired girl and bowed his head deeply.

    Tidus couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for Squall. He didn’t know these people at all, and he probably didn’t really understand exactly why he was in their debt.

    Locke adjusted the bandana on his head. “So are you guys ready to explain exactly what you were doing confronting monsters unarmed?”

    Tidus swallowed his last bite of food and considered what he would say. “I’m afraid you wouldn’t believe us if we told you.”

    “Try us.”

    Tidus shrugged and began his story. It wouldn’t be the first time someone thought he was crazy when he tried to explain where he came from.

    *

    Ma Dincht understood, in a way very few people could, why most SeeDs were orphans. When she’d adopted Zell, she’d had to agree to enroll him in Garden when he was old enough. He wasn’t required to pursue the SeeD track—becoming a SeeD was always voluntary, a choice made by the student. But Ma Dincht had always known it was what Zell would choose. And so Ma spent most of her days filled with equal parts pride and worry. Today though, the worry was, miraculously, at a minimum.

    Her baby—yes, even if he was seventeen and a professional mercenary, he would always be her baby—was home. Even better, he was currently asleep upstairs in his room and he’d said he didn’t have to report to Garden for a few days. She didn’t know exactly what he’d been up to the last few weeks, but she was sure he’d earned a rest.

    She caught her first whiff of melted chocolate and couldn’t help but smile. She hadn’t wanted to wake Zell, but he’d been asleep so long she was getting a little worried. She thought perhaps fresh-baked cookies would bring him downstairs without her having to shake him awake.

    She was checking the cookies in the oven when she heard a knock at the door. That was odd, she wasn’t expecting anyone. She opened the door to see three young ladies waiting. Two of them stood back a little ways. The one in front, with black hair, a blue outfit, and a large white disc strapped to her back, clearly seemed to be in charge. She smiled sweetly. “Hello. Is Zell here?”

    Ma smiled back, though she was not thrilled to see the visitors. If they were from Garden, here to tell Zell he had to return, she was not going to be happy. Still, Ma had always welcomed Zell’s classmates into her home and, in fact, the black-haired girl looked familiar, she may have stopped by before. The other two, Ma was fairly sure she hadn’t seen before. “Zell’s resting. You know he’s been given some time off, right? He shouldn’t be getting new orders from Garden now.”

    “Oh, it’s not like that. We’re not from Garden. Er, not officially, anyway. We just wanted to talk to him. But we can come back later.”

    “You sure you’re not from Garden? You’re not a SeeD?” She had the look of a SeeD about her, and Ma didn’t expect Zell had too many friends outside of Garden.

    “No, ma’am. We didn’t mean to bother you. We’ll catch up with Zell later.” The three turned to leave.

    Ma almost let them leave, but then though better of it. “Please, come in. I think Zell will be down in a few minutes.”

    *

    Tidus began his story at the blitzball game in Zanarkand. Squall wasn’t sure if it was because Tidus thought he needed to be that thorough, he loved the sound of his own voice, or he just wanted to make sure the others thought they were both completely crazy right from the start. Or maybe he just wanted an excuse to talk about blitzball.

    Squall had only taken a few small bites of the food, some sort of lightly-spiced porridge. Although he knew he should be hungry, he just didn’t feel like eating. He was too tired. Other than a faint stiffness in his right shoulder and back he physically felt fine. But his mind was full of fuzz.

    He didn’t know where he was, how he’d gotten there, or who the other people were. He knew he ought to try to figure these things out, but he just couldn’t summon the energy to care.

    Although Squall didn’t have an appetite, he’d noticed Tidus devoured his food and scraped the bowl clean. Squall pushed his bowl in front of Tidus—how was he still talking about that very first blitzball game?—then crossed his arms on the table and put his head down. Tidus hadn’t even left Zanarkand before Squall was fast asleep.

    *

    Zell, Ma, Rinoa, Ellone, and Yuna were seated around the kitchen table munching on cookies. Zell had found it a bit disconcerting to find the three girls chatting with his mom when he’d first come downstairs. Disconcerting, and then worrisome, as Zell had feared there might be bad news about Squall. Rinoa had invited herself and the others to his room to talk. Zell had agreed, even though he hated having other people in his room. He’d been relieved to hear there was no bad news about Squall, then slightly annoyed that they would come to his house when nothing had changed. His annoyance had evaporated, however, when Rinoa earnestly asked for his help, her desperate concern for Squall obvious.

    It hadn’t taken long for him to peer into Rinoa’s past with Ellone’s help. But just as he was waking up, his ma had called to them, insisting that they enjoy the cookies while they were still warm. Now, sitting in the kitchen, Zell was far more uncomfortable than he should be while eating fresh-baked cookies.

    “Thank you very much for the cookies. We should probably be going now.” Ellone looked meaningfully at Rinoa, who currently had a mouthful of chocolate chip cookie and didn’t look like she was planning on leaving anytime soon.

    “No, please, stay as long as you like. I’m enjoying getting to know you better.” Ma smiled brightly and patted Rinoa’s arm. Zell groaned inwardly. He wasn’t sure exactly how, but his ma seemed to have gotten the idea that Rinoa was more than just a friend. And Rinoa wasn’t doing anything to dissuade her of that notion.

    “Maybe you guys should head back to Garden. You know, in case there’s any updates.” Zell felt a little bad about pushing them out the door. But he tried very hard to keep the details of his work away from his ma and he didn’t trust Rinoa to be discreet about their recent missions.

    Rinoa looked slightly taken aback, but stood up. “Okay. Thanks, Ma. Your cookies were wonderful.”

    “Here, take some to go.”

    Rinoa glanced at Zell with a glimmer of mischief in her eyes. She better not… Zell sent her a warning glare. He’d already had to share the cookies with her, she better not be walking out with half of the few that remained. “No, that’s not necessary.”

    “Well, come back and visit again soon.”

    “We will. I can’t stay away from Zell for too long.” Rinoa winked at Zell. Apparently, in exchange for keeping the cookies he was going to have to have an even more awkward conversation with his ma after they were gone. “Especially since there’s nothing to do at Garden without him.”

    “Maybe you should pay a visit to Deling City,” Zell suggested.

    Rinoa scowled. “I only set foot in Deling City for assassination attempts.”

    Did she really have to put it that way in front of Ma? Zell glanced at his ma—she didn’t seem particularly disturbed by Rinoa’s phrasing. But she’d always been good at concealing her distress.

    “Okay, fine, then. I’ll see you back at Garden in a couple of days.” Zell ushered the girls toward the door.

    “Be safe. Make sure you stay on the road on the way back,” Ma called. Zell cringed. That was exactly the wrong thing to say to Rinoa.

    “We’ll be safe,” Rinoa replied. But it wouldn’t be on the road, Zell knew. Rinoa hated authority figures telling her what to do. If Ma hadn’t said anything, she probably would have stuck to the road on account of Yuna and Ellone. But now that she’d been told to do that, there no way she’d be anywhere near the road.

    Once they were out the door, and his ma was cleaning up the plates from the table, Zell finally had a bit more time to process what he’d seen in Rinoa’s past.

    Ellone had told him to try to ignore Squall and Tidus—he couldn’t control where Rinoa was looking in the flashback, but he could try to adjust his own focus as he saw through Rinoa’s eyes—and to pay attention only to the details of the location where they were lost. Easier said than done, for sure. He hadn’t learned much, there was only a few seconds to work with. It was dark and damp, probably a cave of some kind. But there was one detail he’d noticed that didn’t have anything to do with their location. He’d wanted to talk to Rinoa about it right away, but not in front of Yuna and Ellone. He couldn’t very well have sent Yuna and Ellone away and kept Rinoa in his room alone—what would Ma think of that?—so he hadn’t been able to say anything. But he couldn’t go two whole days without talking about it, so Zell headed out the door. “Be right back.” He did his best to ignore his ma’s knowing smile.

    He found them just outside of Balamb. As predicted, Yuna and Ellone were walking down the middle of the road and Rinoa was walking a few feet beside it.

    “Rinoa!” Zell waved to her, gesturing for her to meet him out in the open grassland, out of earshot of the others.

    “What is it?”

    Zell glanced back to see Yuna and Ellone were chatting, seemingly not paying much attention to them.

    Zell turned back to Rinoa. “They let go.” He looked at his hands as he spoke. The memory, those few brief seconds, was crystal-clear in his mind.

    “Squall, he'd fallen away from you, but grabbed onto Tidus. He seemed to be pulling Tidus away from you, so he let go. But Tidus, you had a firm grip on his wrist. He could easily have stayed with you, but he twisted away.”

    Rinoa nodded. “I think he didn't want Squall to be alone. I didn't know if I should tell Yuna.”

    “So this Tidus guy—he's got Squall's back?”

    Rinoa nodded.

    “Well…good. I guess I feel a little better, knowing that.”
    *

    Back at home, Zell was helping to clean up when Ma asked the inevitable. “Rinoa—she’s very special to you, isn’t she?”

    “No, Ma. It’s not like that. She’s just a friend.”

    “Are you sure there’s no room for something more?”

    Zell sighed. “Yes, I’m sure. Anyway, she’s involved with my superior.”

    “Oh. Well, I can’t help but notice she came to see you, not him.”

    Zell really didn’t want to say any more. It would just cause Ma stress. But if he didn’t say anything, she may never let this go. “That’s because he’s MIA. She came here to talk about him.”

    “Oh, Zell. I didn’t know. I’m sorry.” She walked over and hugged Zell. He wasn’t really sure why she chose that moment and he almost resisted her embrace. He was a professional SeeD after all; he didn’t need his mother to take care of him. Ultimately, though, Zell hugged his ma back. Mercenaries may not need their mothers, but if they happened to have them, they could still appreciate them. He felt a pang of sorrow for his friends back at Garden. None of them had a parent to hold onto.

    Zell didn’t really mean to keep talking as he leaned against his mother, but the words spilled out. “He’s not just my superior. He’s sorta my best friend.”

    Not that Squall would ever admit it. He’d just sigh and roll his eyes. Call me ridiculous and say something like, ‘Quit worrying about me and take care of yourself.’

    Well, Squall, I don’t care what you say. I miss you and I’m worried about you.
     
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  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Tarsier hoping the RL stuff is all interesting and fun, not icky! @};- Relieved that the recovery is coming along and enjoyed the scenes with Zell. The dynamics of friendships and on-the-brink romances lend a nice layer or two to the action/drama. =D=
     
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  24. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Nyota's Heart RL has definitely been more icky than fun lately, but things seem to be improving. :) As always, thanks so much for your support!

    I managed to finish the next chapter, which was already largely written. No idea when I'll get the rest of the story finished, but just know it hasn't been abandoned. In fact, the very last chapter is already done and virtually ready to post.



    Chapter 17
    Tidus awoke to sunlight spilling across his bed and soft voices murmuring from across the room.

    “The belts, Terra. I think he’s going to want them back.”

    “Oh! Sorry, Celes, I’d forgotten about them.”

    Tidus propped himself up on one elbow to see what they were talking about. Terra was removing two red leather belts, which had blended in with the assortment of sashes and decorative beads she wore, from around her waist. Tidus recognized the belts as belonging to Squall; Terra must have collected them back in the cave.

    Tidus climbed out of bed and moved toward the table where Celes and Locke were seated as Terra looped the belts around the post at the foot of Squall’s bed.

    Celes looked expectantly at Locke.

    “What?” Locke asked.

    “You know what.” Celes tapped the tabletop.

    With a sigh, Locke reached into his jacket and then set a deck of cards on the table. They looked like the cards Squall had provided for entertainment in the empty world. Locke must have found Squall’s deck during the confusion of his rescue.

    Celes continued to stare at Locke.

    With another sigh, Locke set another deck on the table. “Here you go. Happy?”

    “Hey.” Tidus felt in his pocket for the deck of cards he’d been using. It was nowhere to be found. “Did you…?” Tidus lifted the second deck off the table and inspected it. It was his deck. Locke must have taken it right out of his pocket without him even noticing.

    “Locke!” Celes frowned deeply and crossed her arms.

    “Alright, alright.” Locke placed a final item on the table, a small silver ring. “I don’t even know why he’d want it back. It’s a totally useless relic. It does nothing.”

    Tidus turned toward Locke, with what was a sudden but pretty obvious realization. “You’re a thief.”

    Locke leapt toward Tidus and grabbed him by the front of his shirt. “I am not a thief! I’m a treasure hunter!”

    It would have been a lot more intimidating if Locke wasn’t five inches shorter and many pounds lighter than Tidus. Still, Locke’s eyes burned with an intensity that concerned Tidus. “Whoa, man, take it easy.”

    “Get it right,” Locke demanded.

    “Okay, you’re a treasure hunter.”

    “That’s better.” Locke released Tidus and took a step back, though he continued to stare hard at him.

    Tidus hadn’t meant to insult Locke. His good friend Rikku was a thief and he’d long admired her quick hands. Certainly being able to lift items off of fiends didn’t make you a criminal. He opened his mouth to explain this to Locke, but Celes cut him off, inserting herself between Tidus and Locke.

    “Here.” Celes pressed the silver ring into Tidus’s palm. “Make sure your friend gets this back.”

    Tidus nodded and looked down at the ring. He hadn’t notice Squall wearing it, and the narrow band didn’t really seem like his style. But surely Locke wouldn’t be returning something he hadn’t taken in the first place. Tidus would have to ask Squall about it when he woke up.

    *

    “I’m glad you’re all here.” Quistis set her tray down and sat at the table where Zell, Rinoa, and Yuna were currently eating breakfast. “The Headmaster said there’s a contract he’d like to get closed out.” She dropped a piece of paper in the center of the table.

    Rinoa picked up the paper. “This is my contract.”

    Quistis nodded. “The contract specifies that there will be no substitution of SeeD members. But the Headmaster decided to make an exception. I’ll be subbing in for Squall and Selphie. Zell, since you’ve been on the mission longer, you’re now the squad leader.”

    “Oh, yeah! Squad leader, baby!” Zell jumped up from his seat and did a backflip.

    “No,” Rinoa said. “I don’t want to do this now. I want to wait for Squall.”

    “I’m afraid that’s not an option. We can’t have this contract open forever. We move now or you release us from the contract permanently.”

    “It won’t be forever. Just a little while longer.”

    Quistis sighed. “Is it really fair to make the people of Timber wait? What about the other members of your group?”

    Rinoa twisted her lip. “I guess not.”

    “Excellent.” That had actually gone a lot smoother than Quistis expected. There was just one more detail to take care of. She looked at Yuna. She didn’t want to drag the young Summoner halfway around the world. But she also didn’t particularly want to leave her behind in Garden where she didn’t know anyone. “Yuna, will you be okay here alone?”

    “Actually, Ellone has invited me to go to Winhill with her and Laguna. I thought I would go, if it’s not a problem.”

    “No, that’s not a problem. That’s perfect, actually.”

    How peculiar. For once things seemed to be falling into place. Quistis knew she better not get used to it.

    *

    Tidus still hadn’t figured out exactly what it was his hosts did for a living. Apparently they were “treasure hunters,” but Tidus didn’t know quite what that meant. Locke and Celes would periodically disappear for hours at a time, but usually not together. Terra almost always stayed at the base. Tidus wasn’t sure if that was for her safety or so she could keep an eye on himself and Squall.

    Squall had slept a lot the first few days, but now seemed close to normal. He didn’t speak much to Tidus, but he wasn’t sure if that was because he didn’t speak much in general or because he was mad at Tidus. Squall definitely wasn't pleased when Tidus had explained that he didn’t actually know what happened to Rinoa, and his earlier assurances that she was safe were really just guessing.

    At the moment, Tidus sat cross-legged on one of the beds and Terra, Locke, and Celes were at the table looking over some papers.

    Squall was sitting with his back to the wall, staring at the floor and twisting the silver ring around his little finger. When Tidus had returned the ring to Squall, he had simply nodded vaguely and slipped the ring onto his finger. He hadn’t seemed angry that it had been taken nor particularly relieved to get it back. Yet Tidus had noticed that twisting the ring had become a near constant habit of Squall’s—which was strange, because Tidus hadn’t even noticed that he wore a ring before his injury.

    Terra left the table and approached Tidus, interrupting his musings.

    “Hi,” Tidus said. Terra sat down on the bed in front of him.

    Terra was a bit odd. She didn’t have much understanding of personal space and she had informed him quite out of the blue shortly after they’d arrived that she was “half-Esper.” He didn’t know what that meant, other than that Espers seemed to be this world’s equivalent of aeons. He supposed it was meant as an explanation of how she’d been able to heal Squall back in the cave.

    “Have you ever been in love?” she asked.

    “Um.” That seemed like a strangely personal question, one Tidus wasn’t sure he wanted to answer in front of everyone.

    “Don’t worry,” Celes called from across the room. “She asks that question to everyone.”

    Almost everyone,” Locke corrected.

    Terra was looking at him expectantly, so Tidus figured he ought to give some sort of response. He considered brushing off the question, but ultimately decided to just go with a straight answer.

    “Yes, I have been in love. In fact, I am in love.”

    “With who?” Terra looked over at Squall.

    “Her name’s Yuna,” Tidus answered quickly.

    “What’s it like, to be in love?”

    “It’s…” It’s really hard to describe. “It’s nice, you know, to be that close to someone. To share in their joy. To be happy, just to be near them.” That was really lame. But how do you describe the feeling of love?

    “It sounds wonderful, to be in love. I’ve always wanted that feeling. But I don’t think I’ll ever find it. I’m half-Esper, how can I ever fall in love with a human?’

    “Don’t despair,” Locke said, “If the mermaid can find love among humans, I’m sure you can too.”

    Locke had called Tidus a mermaid ever since he hadn’t needed an underwater breather when they’d swam to the cave and back. Locke had asked Tidus how long he could hold his breath underwater. When Tidus had answered that his record during a blitzball game was seven and a half minutes, Locke had shook his head and declared that Tidus couldn’t be human. Tidus tried to explain that it was just a matter of training, anyone could do it, but Locke hadn’t believed him, insisting that he was either a mermaid or he was hiding relics.

    Tidus continued, trying to come up with a less-lame answer to the original question. “Sometimes it hurts. They don’t tell you that. How painful it can be when you’re in love. You share in the other person’s joy, but you share in their pain too. Sometimes it hurts you more than it hurts them when they’re injured. You worry about them. You want to take care of them, to protect them, but sometimes you can’t. And when you’re apart, it’s like you’re not whole. Without them, you’ll never be whole again.”

    Terra blinked, and tugged at the hem of her dress. “I didn’t know that. I thought love was always a good thing.”

    “It is! Er, not that pain is good, it’s just…I mean…” Tidus didn’t know what he meant. He just really missed Yuna.

    “He means it’s worth it. The pain is worth it.” Squall spoke quietly from his spot on the floor, not looking up.

    Terra seemed to consider that for a moment, then nodded. “I still want to know what it’s like. I still want to fall in love.” She moved toward Squall. “What about you? Have you ever been in love?”

    Squall stopped twisting his ring and looked up at Terra. “Have you ever asked Locke that question?”

    “No, I’ve never asked him. Edgar told me not to. He said it would make Locke sad.”

    “It’s okay.” Locke stood up from the table and approached Terra. “You can ask me.”

    “Okay,” she said. Locke sat down on an empty bed and motioned for Terra to sit beside him. “Have you ever been in love, Locke?”

    “Yes. When I was a teenager, I met a girl. She had long black hair and deep indigo eyes. We fell in love almost immediately. Her parents never liked me. But that was okay, we had each other and we didn’t need their approval.

    “One day, I decided I was going to make her an engagement ring. We went into the mines, to find the perfect stone. There was an accident. A loose rock fell, nearly killed me. But she saved me, she pushed me out of the way. It struck her instead. Hit her head. She was unconscious and I carried her home. Her parents were furious. She was comatose for a week and I never left her side. Finally, she woke up. I was so happy. She was healthy, almost back to normal. But she’d lost her memories. She didn’t know who I was. All she knew was that her parents didn’t like me and I was causing turmoil in her house. She asked me to leave and so I did. I returned every week, to see if she remembered me. She never did.

    “One time I had to be gone for a long time, several months, before I could see her. When I finally did return I found out she’d met someone else. She’d married him. She was happy. And so I was happy. Or at least, I tried to be. I said my final goodbye, and I left.”

    Locke told the story very matter-of-factly, though he’d taken off his bandana and wrung it in his hands as he spoke.

    “She never remembered you?” Terra asked.

    Locke shook his head. “But it’s okay. She found someone new to love. And someday maybe I will too.”

    Terra held onto a piece of the bandana Locke still gripped in both hands. “But what if you don’t?”

    Locke shrugged. “I guess then I’ll just have to find solace in my friends.”

    Terra moved closer to Locke. She lifted his arm, and tucked herself underneath it, snuggled against his side. He smiled in a way that Tidus knew Locke wasn’t still looking for someone new to love. He’d already found his second chance.

    *

    Winhill was a small, pastoral town, quite isolated from the rest of the world. It had taken a few hours to get there from Balamb Garden in Laguna’s airship. Yuna, Ellone, and Laguna were now in a timeworn house on the edge of town.

    “Please, Ellone. I would feel much better if you were armed.” Laguna held a gunbelt with two pistols in his hands. He’d been trying for the last few minutes to convince Ellone to accept the weapons. He was going to be hung up on a phone call starting soon and Ellone had insisted she would gather flowers while she waited for him. But the flower garden was across town and there were monsters in the town. Yuna had been silently standing by.

    Ellone shook her head and pushed the weapons away. “I’ve gotten around this town without guns for years. Besides, I’ll have Yuna with me. She’s a healer.”

    Yuna pursed her lips and continued to stare at the ground, very much wanting to avoid intruding on private matters. She felt especially bad that Ellone was using her as a defense, because if she were to weigh in on things, Yuna tended to side with Laguna. Since she was no longer a Summoner surrounded by Guardians, Yuna had begun to feel vulnerable. She admired the fighting skills of the SeeDs and of Rinoa. She hadn’t needed those skills as a Summoner and she had never given much thought to developing them. But now she desired to be better able to fend for herself. In fact, she’d wondered if she might have the opportunity to practice fighting skills while she was at Balamb Garden. She hadn’t so far, but she would jump at the chance if it came up.

    “I’d prefer you didn’t need to be healed.” Distress was clearly evident in Laguna’s voice. Ellone must have heard it too, because she reluctantly accepted the gunbelt and fastened it around her waist.

    “Let’s go.” Ellone turned and walked toward the doorway, grabbing Yuna by the hand as she passed. Yuna bowed her head to Laguna as best she could while being pulled along by Ellone.

    “Be careful.” Laguna scratched the back of his head as he watched them leave.

    Ellone and Yuna left the house, Ellone closing the door securely behind them. “Sorry about that. He’s always been protective, but with Squall missing he’s gone into overdrive.”

    Yuna nodded. She understood Laguna’s protective instincts, but she wasn’t quite sure what that had to do with Squall. “Was he especially close to Squall?”

    Ellone shook her head. “No. That’s the problem.” She hesitated.

    Yuna’s curiosity was piqued, but she didn’t want to pressure Ellone to tell more than she was comfortable with.

    “It’s my fault.” Ellone stopped and set her hand on Yuna’s sleeve. “I don’t want you to think badly of Uncle Laguna. He didn’t know.”

    “I don’t think badly of Sir Laguna. He seems like a very nice man.”

    “He is! He never would have left. Not if he’d known.” Ellone turned and began walking quickly away. “He left for me.”

    Confused, Yuna followed Ellone. They continued in silence across the town square, then over a small bridge, and down a gently sloping hill. At the bottom of the hill was a flower garden, dense with blooms. Ellone opened a gate in the fence surrounding the garden.

    “White flowers. Her favorite were white flowers.”

    Yuna nodded, though she wasn’t sure whom “her” referred to. She was tempted to ask, but she didn’t. Ellone would tell her, when she was ready.

    Ellone moved to a cluster of white flowers. She removed the gunbelt and set it on the ground, then knelt beside the flowers. Yuna sat on the ground nearby, being careful not to crush any flowers as she did so.

    Ellone didn’t speak as she carefully examined each flower and picked the ones that met her approval. Yuna closed her eyes, soaking in the sunlight, the silence, and the subtle aroma of the flowers.

    The silence didn’t last. It started as a faint buzzing, but the sound intensified quickly. Yuna opened her eyes and searched for the source of the sound. It didn’t take long to find it. Hovering in the air a few feet away was a large blue insect, roughly the size of her torso. It had an enormous elongated mouth and its teeth clacked together as it swayed in the air.

    Yuna glanced over at Ellone. She had spotted the monster and sat very still. Perhaps it would leave them alone if they remained motionless. Yuna didn’t move, but eyed the gunbelt resting on the ground between her and Ellone.

    The clacking stopped and the creature rose into the air. Yuna tensed her muscles. The creature dove towards her and Yuna sprang forward. She somersaulted over the gunbelt, then twisted to face the monster, one of the pistols in her hands. The monster was moving toward Ellone, who held up an arm to shield her face.

    Yuna fired a shot. It missed, but the creature turned away from Ellone and swopped toward Yuna. She fired three more shots. At least one of them must have hit the creature because it fell to the ground, lifeless.

    Yuna’s hands trembled as she turned toward Ellone. She’d never fired a gun before. She’d never needed to.

    “Are you okay?” she asked Ellone.

    “Yes. Are you?”

    Yuna nodded.

    “You didn’t tell me you knew how to use those guns.”

    “I didn’t know I did.” Yuna stared at the pistol she still held.

    “Elle! Elle! Are you okay?!” Laguna sprinted toward the flower garden, machine gun drawn and waving wildly in front of him. He leapt the fence and rushed to Ellone.

    “I’m fine,” Ellone said as Laguna wrapped his arms around her.

    “I heard shots!” Laguna panted.

    “It’s okay. There was a little monster but Yuna took care of it,” Ellone explained.

    Laguna regarded Yuna. “Thank you!”

    Yuna bowed her head to Laguna. Then she realized she was still holding the pistol, and moved to return it to its holster.

    Laguna walked over to the dead monster and nudged it with his boot. “Got it right in the center of the abdomen. That’s a tough shot to make. Bite Bugs are small and fast.” Laguna nodded to Yuna with approval. “I wouldn’t have been so worried if you’d told me what a good shot you were.”

    “Oh, I’m not,” Yuna replied, quickly holstering the pistol and handing the gunbelt to Ellone. “Just lucky.”

    “No way,” Ellone said, refusing to accept the gunbelt. “Those guns are yours.”

    “I couldn’t…” Yuna glanced shyly at Laguna, feeling guilty that she had taken custody of his gift to Ellone.

    “By all means, keep ‘em!” Laguna smiled broadly. “I’ll just have to find a better weapon for Ellone. In the meantime, she’ll have another travel companion that can take down monsters.”

    “Thank you.” Hesitantly, Yuna buckled the gunbelt around her waist. It was a strange feeling, to go from being protected to the protector.
     
  25. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Liked very much the scene with Tidus and the others. :) about Terra and Locke. (Tidus' answer about the experience of loving - sweet and eloquent.)
     
    Tarsier likes this.