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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
    Oh, but these two updates were as wonderful as the rest of the story has been. Once again, I am awed by the way you can keep so many characters and story threads woven together - it's easy to follow, and fun to follow at that - no small feat as an author. =D=

    I especially liked Locke's moments in this chapter, from the funny -

    (Seriously:

    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!”

    really had me giggling. :p)

    - to the serious when he was talking about his lost love, and his second chance. [face_love]

    I liked Yuna's taking down the monster, too - especially the last line of the chapter. A very unsettling moment, I can only imagine. [face_thinking]
     
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  2. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Nyota's Heart Thank you! I tried to put a little different spin on Tidus's explanation of love.:)

    Mira_Jade Thanks, I'm glad to hear are still enjoying the story! I can't take much credit for Locke - he goes through the "I'm not a thief, I'm a treasure hunter!" routine with virtually everyone he meets in the game. :p I'm very happy to hear the story lines are easy to follow, I have a lot more characters here than I usually do. Please let me know if ever lose you.



    Chapter 18
    Locke closed and locked the heavy wooden door behind the late night visitor. The visitor had claimed to be a miner, and said he came across a strange glowing gem deep in the mine. Magicite, maybe.

    Locke turned toward Celes. “What do you think?”

    Celes pursed her lips. “It could be a trap.”

    She was right, it might have been a trap. In fact, there was a good chance that it was. But there was also a chance, however small, that there really was magicite out there. Magicite, the magical remains of Espers, was incredibly powerful. They couldn’t let it fall into the wrong hands—it could tip off another Esper War, or worse. “I don’t think we have a choice. We’ll set out first thing in the morning.”

    “And our guests?” Celes nodded toward the sleeping teenagers.

    “The one seems to mostly recovered. Maybe it’s time for them to move along.”

    “Where are they going to go? They won’t last three days on their own.”

    “Not our problem.”

    Celes sighed. “Locke...”

    “Fine. We’ll bring them along.”

    Celes hesitated. “I don’t know…”

    “What else are we going to do with them? If you want to stay here and babysit them, Terra and I can go without you.”

    “No, I’m not staying behind, but what if we get in trouble? We got a couple of unarmed kids to defend?”

    “Have you seen them? They aren’t exactly tiny. I think they can each swing a sword.”

    Celes still seemed unsure. Locke didn’t much care for the situation either, but they didn’t have a lot of options. He’d only been half-serious about turning the teenagers loose to fend for themselves. But it wasn’t because he was worried about their well-being. He still didn’t trust them. If they were working for the enemy, trying to infiltrate the Resistance or get to Terra, he didn’t want them out of sight, where they could plan a sneak attack. As the old saying went, better to keep the untrustworthy where they could be contained.

    They may not have any choice about bringing the boys along, but that didn’t mean Locke would let his guard down. Not for a second. Not when it came to Terra.

    *

    Rinoa stood on the outskirts of Timber and gazed into the thick forest. She’d thought about this moment a lot. Ever since joining the Forest Owls, she’d imagined what it would be like to finally liberate Timber. She’d imagined herself celebrating, parading through the streets with Zone and Watts. More recently, she’d imagined Squall at her side, sharing in the accomplishment.

    Timber was liberated, but Squall wasn’t there to share the moment with. She tugged at the black ribbon tied around her left arm. She’d often imagined letting Squall untie it. She considered leaving it until Squall was with her, but decided it would be silly to wear a protest statement when the time for protest was over.

    It hadn’t taken much. Really, tracking down Zone and Watts had been more difficult than freeing the town. Galbadia was in such disarray that the few soldiers who remained in Timber were confused and hesitant. They didn’t put up much fight when the SeeDs suggested they get out of town.

    Zell and Quistis seemed to have known the mission wouldn’t be too difficult. They’d been dressed in their formal SeeD uniforms the entire time. Although it was possible to fight in the formal outfits, she knew they were typically reserved for ceremonies, allowing SeeDs to fight in whatever they found most comfortable.

    The reason for the formal dress became clear shortly after they arrived in Timber. Balamb Garden had wanted it to be clear who was there on their behalf, and, even more importantly, who wasn’t. Seifer had strolled into town as though he was supposed to be there. He chased down retreating soldiers, harassed residents, and generally made a nuisance of himself. Upon first seeing him, Zell and Quistis had exchanged eye rolls and sighs, apparently having anticipated his appearance.

    To be honest, Rinoa had not been surprised or unhappy to see Seifer. After they had all returned from Spira, Seifer had disappeared before entering Garden. She didn’t know where he spent most of his time—probably in the town of Balamb—but he would occasionally appear in Garden when Rinoa was by herself. They would talk for a few minutes, but inevitably, Quistis, Zell, or another SeeD would appear to tell him he wasn’t allowed on Garden property. He would smile at Rinoa, scowl at the SeeD, and disappear again.

    She enjoyed their brief talks. She always felt empowered when she was with Seifer, like she could take on the world. It was a nice change from the hopelessness she felt most of the time.

    She finished untying the black ribbon from her arm and released it into the breeze. It was carried off into the forest.

    “I may not recognize you without the ribbon.” Rinoa turned to see Seifer approaching. “You’ve been wearing it since we first met.” He stopped beside her and gazed into the forest.

    She looked in the direction Seifer had come from. “Are Zell and Quistis still in town?”

    Seifer’s eyes narrowed at the mention of the SeeDs, but he nodded.

    Rinoa turned back toward the forest. She should probably be in town celebrating with everyone else, but it just didn’t seem right.

    “They don’t want you to be alone with me.” It took Rinoa a moment to realize Seifer was referring to Zell and Quistis. “They think if we spend time alone, you’ll fall in love with me and forget all about Squall.” He said it with an easy smile and Rinoa laughed.

    “They’re right, you know.” His smile was gone, his tone as serious as Rinoa had ever heard it. She was taken aback. She didn’t know what to say.

    “I never meant to let you go, Rinoa.” Seifer reached for her hand, held it in both of his. She let him. “I only left because I wanted to come back a full-fledged SeeD. I wanted to liberate Timber for you. I wanted to impress you.” His voice got quieter. “You deserved someone more impressive than a measly cadet.”

    He paused for breath. When he continued, his voice was back to full-volume, with an edge of anger. “But then, on the day of my humiliation, I find you dancing with him, of all people? What was I supposed to do, Rinoa? What could I do?”

    “You didn’t have to join the Sorceress! You didn’t have to fight us! You didn’t have to fight me, to let the Sorceress use me like that.”

    Seifer shook his head. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

    There was sadness in his voice, something she’d never heard before. She almost felt sorry for him. He continued.

    “I still care about you. I want you to be happy. And I’m worried that you’re setting yourself up for some real disappointment.”

    “What?” Rinoa pulled her hand away from his.

    Seifer placed his hands on her shoulders and looked deeply into her eyes. “I know you think you’re in love with Squall. But even if we find him, I’m afraid he won’t be everything you expect.

    “When you first met him, your life was in danger. He saved you. You needed him. The passion between you two, it’s based on life or death, it was born in battle. And since he’s been gone, you’ve done nothing but build him up. Every time you think about him, he probably gets better in your mind. More perfect.

    “I know Squall. I respect Squall. But nobody can live up to that.

    “You and me, though, what we had was real. Before all the Sorceress mess. Just a guy and girl who really liked each other for who we were.”

    Rinoa was mortified by his words. She held Squall’s pendant tightly and tears sprang to her eyes. “You’re wrong!” She backed away from Seifer. “I love Squall! I always will!”

    She couldn’t believe he was doing this. She finally started to trust him again, to begin to think of him as a friend, and now he was questioning her devotion to Squall?

    Seifer stood and reached for her arm. “Rinoa—”

    “Leave me alone,” she cried. Zell and Quistis appeared from the edge of town and ran to her side.

    “What did he do?” Zell asked.

    “Nothing,” Rinoa replied, turning to walk away. She’d calmed down now and didn’t want to get Seifer in trouble. He was just being Seifer, after all. She ought to know him by now. She continued to walk away. Zell and Quistis walked beside her.

    Rinoa had just been taken off-guard, that was all. She’d reacted so strongly because she didn’t know Seifer still thought of her that way. It wasn’t because there could possibly be any truth to his words about Squall.

    *

    Dejected, Seifer watched Rinoa walk away. He should have been more subtle. His concern for Rinoa had come off as an accusation. He should have worked more slowly, just started to chip away at her confidence in her love for Squall.

    He sighed. He’d never been any good at subtlety. Once he’d had her alone—finally!—he’d wanted to win her back, right then.

    He’d failed.

    He considered giving it another shot; he wasn’t ready to let Rinoa go, especially not to Squall. Especially not to the idea of Squall. But it had taken forever to get the chance he had just blown and he was tired of waiting around. It was time to move on with his plan.

    Maybe he hadn’t chosen his words carefully enough, but he still believed that at heart they were true. If Squall returned, she would see that he wasn’t as great as she thought he was. And in her heartbreak she would look for comfort. The others would probably never cease their hero-worship of Squall. So Rinoa would look for someone less impressed with Squall. Someone superior to Squall, because he’d been the one to find him.

    *

    It was a pale marble stone, with gold wings at the top and dark grey scrollwork down the sides. The name was engraved in the center, just below the wings: “Raine Loire.”

    Moments after seeing the stone for the first time, Laguna had been overcome with emotion and left in a hurry. Ellone had followed Laguna, asking Yuna to wait where she was.

    Yuna felt a bit strange, standing there alone. Though they didn’t bury people in Spira, so Yuna wasn’t certain of the cultural norms, it seemed rude to be at someone’s burial site without acknowledging them. Like summoning someone’s image in the Farplane and then ignoring them.

    “Hello, Raine.” Yuna sat down by the headstone. The bouquet of flowers she and Ellone had gathered were leaned against the side of the headstone. She picked up the bouquet and held the white flowers in her hands. What did one say, to the ghost of a stranger?

    Earlier, after the flowers were gathered, Laguna had taken the lead as they’d walked toward the hillside. Ellone had whispered to Yuna, apparently compelled to finish her story before they reached their destination.

    “Eighteen years ago, I was kidnapped and Uncle Laguna set off to save me. He never knew that Raine was pregnant. So…”

    Ellone trailed off. Yuna still wasn’t sure why everything seemed to be coming to a head now. It was clearly a tragic story, but with everything else going on, why the concern about the past now?

    “So, if we don’t find him, it will be my fault. My fault that Squall never knew his father.”

    Yuna pursed her lips. She supposed Raine would want to hear what any mother would.

    “You should be very proud of your son. I haven’t met him, but I’ve heard so much about him. He is very brave. And respected by many people. He’s taking care of Tidus for me right now, I’m sure of it.

    “And don’t worry, Tidus is taking care of him too.”

    Yuna found herself arranging the flowers around the gravestone. Once she started talking to Raine, she found it felt natural. The words flowed easily, even if what she was saying was silly.

    “I don’t know if you can talk to people on the otherside. But if you can, and you meet my mother, maybe you could tell her about Tidus. And if you see my father, you could tell him how much I miss him. And how proud I am of him. And I hope he’s proud of me too. I couldn’t have accomplished what I did without his help.”

    Yuna fell silent. She had finished arranging the flowers and she got to her feet.

    “Thank you,” Laguna spoke softly from behind Yuna, “For keeping her company.”

    Yuna turned to Laguna. He seemed to have regained his composure, though his sadness was still palpable. “Of course.” Yuna bowed her head and strode away, leaving Laguna with his wife. Ellone was waiting for her at the top of the hill.
     
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    The scene with Celles and Locke - valid weighing of options based on the situation. [face_thinking]

    Rinoa with Seifer - wow! Now who is going to prove themselves untrustworthy? [face_thinking] I have a feeling that when Squall returns, I hope, anyway - that Rinoa will find her feelings for him are just as true as ever.
     
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  4. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Whew! I too enjoyed the scene with Celles and Locke, but the scene with Rinoa and Seifer hit me in the gut. :(

    Just:

    “When you first met him, your life was in danger. He saved you. You needed him. The passion between you two, it’s based on life or death, it was born in battle. And since he’s been gone, you’ve done nothing but build him up. Every time you think about him, he probably gets better in your mind. More perfect.

    “I know Squall. I respect Squall. But nobody can live up to that.

    “You and me, though, what we had was real. Before all the Sorceress mess. Just a guy and girl who really liked each other for who we were.”

    I really hope that that doesn't prove to be true. :( As much as Seifer claims to care for her, this really is a crummy time to bring this up - just the same as his actions were when he first learned that her affections laid elsewhere. Rinoa is vulnerable right now, but I hope that Squall's return finds them just as close as ever. (Hope, anyway. :p)

    The scene with Yuna was beautiful too, and I am, as always, eager for more. =D=
     
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  5. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Nyota's Heart Mira_Jade As always, thanks so much for commenting! Every comment really means a lot to me. :)

    It’s always so interesting to see how readers respond to each section, especially in contrast to how it was writing them. The Locke-Celes section was a bit tedious to write, really I just wanted to get them started on an adventure (getting that section done is what was holding up posting the chapter). The Seifer-Rinoa conversation came together pretty quickly a long time ago and I’ve just been waiting to be able to post it. And the Yuna section is the one I really worked on trying to get just right, I really wanted to include it even though it’s pretty non-essential to the rest of the story and I’m afraid it could be rather confusing.



    Chapter 19
    “And I thought Spira was behind the times.” Tidus slashed the air with the sword he’d been given. “Are these swords seriously made of iron?”

    Squall was pretty sure the swords were untempered steel, not iron. But Tidus’s point was well taken—whatever the material, it was a far cry from adamantine, that was for sure. His borrowed sword hung heavy at his waist, making him miss his gunblade with each step.

    “Hey, are you mad at me?” Tidus stopped and tugged on Squall’s sleeve, forcing Squall to turn and face him and allowing Locke, Terra, and Celes to get even farther in front of them.

    Squall tried not to roll his eyes as he regarded Tidus. “Why would I be mad at you?”

    “I don’t know. You just haven’t talked to me much lately.”

    Does anyone talk much compared to you? Squall suppressed a sigh as he searched the darkness ahead for the forms of the others. Locke had told Squall and Tidus to hang back, but now they’d fallen so far behind he was afraid they might not be able catch up if there was trouble.

    “What happened to your wrist?” Squall had noticed Tidus was missing a glove and had several long scratches starting from the middle of his left wrist and stretching down the back of his hand. It really wasn’t any of his business what had happened, but Squall took the opportunity to change the subject.

    Tidus looked at the back of his hand. “Oh, ha, you really weren’t kidding about Rinoa’s nails.”

    That was definitely not the answer Squall was expecting. “Rinoa scratched you?” When had that happened? And why? They’d seemed to get along really well. How had he missed this?

    “It was just a little…disagreement. No biggie.”

    Squall was still puzzled, but a loud curse from up ahead interrupted his thoughts. He immediately ran toward the voice, sword drawn. Tidus followed close behind him.

    *

    Back at Garden, Rinoa was eager to see Yuna. She found her in the dorm room they’d been assigned to share.

    “Did you learn anything?”

    Yuna had been staring out the window and turned back in surprise.

    “Was Ellone able to connect with Squall again?”

    Yuna shook her head. “I’m sorry.”

    “It’s okay.” Rinoa tried to keep the disappointment out of her voice. “I didn’t learn anything either.”

    Yuna nodded and looked back out the window.

    It had now been several days with zero progress made toward finding Squall, and Rinoa couldn’t stand it. Moments ago, she’d been hopeful that Yuna would have new information. Now she felt close to tears—as much out of frustration as sadness—and she really didn’t want to cry in front of Yuna. She bit her lip until she felt she could hold her voice steady enough to say, “I’m going to take a shower. Then I’ll meet you in the cafeteria for dinner?”

    “Okay.”

    Although Rinoa was supposed to be sharing the double room with Yuna, in fact she had been spending most of her time in Squall’s room. The lock on his door was easy to jimmy and it made her feel a little closer to him, to be in the space where he used to study and sleep. She wasn’t sure how he would feel about her being there, but she would gladly take the fight, just as soon as he was home.

    Once Rinoa got the door open, Angelo trotted into the room and plopped down in the center of Squall’s bed. Rinoa almost told Angelo to get off the bed and lay on the floor, but she stopped herself. Everything in Squall’s room was neat and orderly and she’d done her best to keep it that way. But seriously, what teenager made his bed with perfectly tucked corners every day? A few mussed sheets and a little dog hair never hurt anyone. A small smiled tugged at her lips as she slipped into the tiny bathroom. She imagined Squall standing there, looking at the dog nesting in his bed. He wouldn’t have said anything, of course, and his face would be its usual neutral mask. But he would have the slightest crinkle in the skin around his eyes and she would know he was just a little annoyed.

    “What’s wrong, Squall? Didn’t you miss Angelo?” she would ask him.

    “Did I…miss...Angelo? Why would I…? I mean, uh, sure…?” He wouldn’t know what to say. He’d be honest, but he’d also want to please her.

    She wouldn’t make him stumbled for words for very long. “Did you miss me?” she’d ask instead.

    He’d get that slightly panicked look. The look he never, ever got in battle. The look he only got in awkward social situations. She wouldn’t make him answer, not verbally anyway. Instead, she’d step toward him. He’d put his arms around her, hold her tightly. And she’d feel safe.

    Warm water ran down Rinoa’s face, mixing with tears. She could imagine what Squall would say—or not say—if he was here. But what she really wanted was to hear his voice. Or to feel his silence, his presence so strong and gentle that she would know everything would be okay, even if he didn’t say a word.

    *

    Locke, Celes, and Terra were stopped. They were at the bottom of a cliff, perhaps fifteen feet high. Tidus paused, glancing around to make sure there was no danger. The area was relatively well lit, though he couldn’t pinpoint a light source. It must have been magic, from Celes or Terra.

    “How are we going to get up?” Terra asked.

    Squall had wandered up to the wall and set a hand against it. Locke ran up to Squall and hooked his foot in one of the belts that hung loose around Squall’s hips, then pushed off his shoulder to jump to the top of the wall. Before Squall could properly react, Terra followed Locke, climbing up Squall’s side to reach the top of the wall.

    Looking startled and dismayed, Squall moved quickly away from the wall, eyeing Celes suspiciously as he did. Celes raised her hands nonthreateningly, though she couldn’t stop herself from laughing. “I’m not going to climb you,” she assured him. “But I wouldn’t mind a little help.”

    Squall seemed willing to help—now that he had been given some warning—so Tidus cupped his hands under Celes’s foot and boosted her onto Squall’s shoulders. From there Locke and Terra pulled her up to the top of the wall.

    “I think we’re almost there,” Locke called down to Tidus and Squall. “Hold tight. We’ll be right back.”

    “Wait, we’re coming,” Tidus replied, but the three disappeared from view. He turned to Squall. “Now what?”

    Squall shrugged. “I guess we can wait here.” Tidus pursed his lips and eyed the top of the wall. “Or I could probably lift you,” Squall added.

    “Okay.” Squall knelt so Tidus could stand on his shoulders. Slowly Squall straightened to his full height. Tidus could tell Squall was struggling a bit, so he added. “You’ll be happy to know my dad thinks I’m too small, so I’ve been trying to bulk up lately.”

    “Well,” Squall replied, “You can tell your dad I think you’re plenty big enough.”

    Once Squall was standing, Tidus was able to reach the top of the wall and pull himself up. He looked down at Squall. “Um…I got an idea! Put your sword in the ground, then you can jump off the handle.”

    Squall looked skeptical.

    “Just try it. If I can do it, I’m sure Commander SeeD can do it.”

    Squall complied, stabbing his borrowed sword into the ground. It took him a few attempts to figure out how to balance and jump from the top. Eventually Squall got a decent jump and Tidus reached down to help pull him up. Unfortunately, Tidus could not find anything to brace himself against and as he pulled Squall up, he was pulled forward toward the edge of the cliff. Fortunately, Squall reached the top of the wall and pulled himself up before Tidus slid over the edge.

    Once they were both back on their feet, Tidus and Squall peered into the darkness ahead. The cave split into three separate tunnels, and Tidus wasn’t sure which way the others had gone.

    “Are they seriously trying to ditch us?” Tidus wondered out loud.

    “Of course. They don’t trust us with their treasure, whatever it is.” Squall chose a tunnel and started walking.

    “Oh.” Tidus hadn’t really considered that. What had they done to make the others not trust them?

    “Just wait. Soon they’ll return and declare that they didn’t find the treasure, but they’re ready to head back without it.”

    *

    A few minutes after Rinoa left, Yuna was feeling antsy. She wanted to talk to someone, but she’d didn’t know whom, or even about what. She supposed she wanted someone to tell her that it would be okay, that Tidus would be found, and they would return to Spira and live happily together.

    She knew no one could tell her that, but she thought maybe a little walk would make her feel better. As she exited the dorm room, she noticed a long grey trench coat disappearing around the corner.

    Curious, she moved down the hall and peered around the corner. There, standing in front of the Squall’s dorm room where Rinoa had been staying, was Seifer.

    He glanced up and down the hallway and Yuna ducked back around the corner before he could spot her. She heard the quiet creak of a door being slowly opened followed by footsteps that were surely entering the room.

    Yuna debated charging down the hallway to confront Seifer, or running to find Quistis or Zell.

    Still unsure what to do, Yuna peered back around the corner, and saw Seifer exiting the room, seconds after entering. He once again looked up and down the hallway, and as Yuna slipped behind the corner she noticed a flash of silver in Seifer’s hand. She could hear his footsteps walking away down the hall and again Yuna considered running for help. But if she left now she may not be able to find Seifer again, and may never know what he was up to. So Yuna followed Seifer as he slipped out the dormitory’s emergency exit.

    *

    Tidus and Squall had been walking quietly through the cave tunnel for a few minutes. Tidus was debating whether or not to try to start a conversation when they heard shuffling up ahead and soon Locke, Terra, and Celes appeared.

    Locke scowled as he approached. “Hey! I though we told you two to wait back there.”

    “We were bored,” Tidus explained. “But look, you can trust us. We don’t want your treasure, we don’t even know what it is.”

    Locke stepped up to Tidus, seeming to try to stare him down. “Who said anything about treasure?”

    Tidus took a step back. “Uh, that’s what you said we were doing. You know, treasure hunting. And I just wanted you to know you can trust us. We just want to help.”

    Locke continued to glare at Tidus with a look that was anything but trusting. Tidus glanced to Squall, hoping for some support, but the other just sighed, arms crossed in a look of detached exasperation.

    “Come on, guys, let’s just get out of here and head home.” Celes took Locke by the arm and pulled him along. He maintained his glare at Tidus as long as he could.

    Man, that guy needs to lighten up.

    Squall was now in the lead as they retraced their steps to exit the cave. Tidus jogged to catch up to him.

    *

    In his attempt to close the door to Rinoa’s room silently, Seifer had not pulled it all the way shut and the latch did not engage. After Seifer left the room, Angelo could hear more footsteps in the hallway. She recognized them as belonging to Yuna, whom Angelo was quite fond of. Perhaps because she’d known the door would be closed, Rinoa had not told Angelo to stay. Angelo pushed her nose against the door, testing it. It yielded to her pressure, so Angelo trotted after her friend.

    *

    There wasn’t much warning. Just Squall, as he stood at the top of the cliff where Locke had tried to leave them, with a puzzled look on his face. “The sword…” Squall began, but Tidus didn’t hear the rest—it was lost beneath the screaming and the clash of weapons.
     
  6. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Ooh, intrigue thickens. Seifer is one sneaky, literally, dude! Touched by Rinoa's wistful longing for Squall. Looking forward to Sefer's unmasking. "Try to talk your way out of this one." :p =D=
     
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  7. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Just what is Seifer up to? You have me intrigued, and I hope Yuna finds him out. [face_thinking] But the last section! Things did not stay quiet for long, that's for sure.

    Rinoa's missing, and crashing in Squall's old room really was the sweetest, though. I really, really enjoyed that section. Especially with her letting the dog on the bed. :p

    Another excellent update! I am looking forward to more, as always. =D=
     
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  8. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Seifer is definitely up to something! I'm glad the scene with Rinoa worked. :) She may be taking a back seat for a little while. Thank you!

    Yuna may be in for more than she bargained for, following Seifer! Things never do stay quiet for long, do they?
    As an animal lover, I can't imagine not letting a dog on the bed. Squall will just have to deal with it. :p Thank you!



    Chapter 20

    “The sword I left in the ground—it’s gone.” Squall heard the commotion before he finished the sentence. By the time he turned around Tidus was already gone. Squall reached for the gunblade that wasn’t at his side.

    “Fall back!” The crisp command cut through Squall’s uncertainty. His body moved before his mind could catch up, and he found himself leaping off the cliff, rolling, then coming to a rest flat on his back, still with no idea what was going on.

    He was beginning to rise to his feet when Celes landed softly in a crouch leaning over him. She pressed him back to the ground with a hand on his chest. She was muttering under her breath. She spoke so quickly, Squall could make out only her final word—vanish.

    Once Celes’s lips stopped moving, the air around them seemed to take on a shimmer. He could still see his surroundings, but it was as though he was looking through thick glass.

    Celes stared down at him, one hand still pinning him to the ground, the other holding her index finger to her lips.

    There was yelling, and the clang of metal. Then it was momentarily silent, and then quiet voices and muffled footsteps could be heard. Squall lay quietly, though his mind was churning.

    Finally, after the voices faded and there were several minutes of silence, Celes stood up, releasing Squall.

    “I’m going to kill Sabin. He said it was just a rumor. There couldn’t really be more slave crowns. We’d destroyed them all.

    “Well, Sabin, your rumor is currently sitting on the heads of Terra and Locke!”

    Celes paced as she ranted, then turned suddenly to Squall.

    “Your idiot friend is there too, you know. Charged right passed me when I told him to fall back.”

    “Tidus?”

    “You got another idiot friend I don’t know about?”

    Squall blinked. He wasn’t quite sure what he’d done to get her anger directed at him.

    Celes stopped pacing, and her shoulders slumped. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m yelling at you.

    “But this is bad. This is really bad. I saw at least three slave crowns. It’s the work of Kefka, no doubt. He’s always after Terra. He thinks she belongs to him, thinks he owns her. Well, he doesn’t.”

    Celes paused for breath and Squall asked, “What’s a slave crown?”

    “Exactly what it sounds like. A relic that sits on your head and makes you do whatever is commanded.”

    “So this Kefka, he has control of them? Locke, Terra, and Tidus?”

    Celes nodded. “This is really, really bad.”

    “Shouldn’t we be following them?”

    “I know where they’re going. We should return to the base first and reequip.”

    A flush of embarrassment washed over Squall. Here he was, for the second time, totally unarmed in the face of battle. His mind flashed back to when he was a young cadet, before he’d chosen a weapon to specialize in. He’d taken a few courses in hand-to-hand combat, but he should have taken a lot more. Then he wouldn’t be so helpless now.

    “Kefka’s castle is a long way away. We can cut them off at the mountain pass.” Celes began retracing their footsteps toward the entrance of the cave. She glanced over her shoulder as Squall followed. “I hope you know how to ride a chocobo.”

    *
    The journey back to base seemed excruciatingly long to Celes. In truth, they made good time—Squall was not a dawdler—but every minute seemed like a lifetime. Every minute Locke and Terra wore the slave crowns, more of their life was erased. They would forget who they were, where they came from, what they stood for. She needed to get those cursed relics off their heads now.

    What good was being part of underground organization if you aren’t tipped off to this kind of thing? It would be smart, prudent, to gather the troops before going after Terra and Locke, but that would take days. If Squall was the fighter he claimed to be, they might be okay moving now. Celes knew the mountains, and the hidden passageways, far better than any of Kefka’s foot soldiers.

    She looked over at Squall. He appeared the same as he always did—stoic and focused. What he was focused on was anyone’s guess. Is his calm demeanor overconfidence or indifference? Or could it be—levelheadedness? That was not something she has much experience with identifying in others.

    Squall glanced sideways at her, as though he’d felt her looking at him.

    “Hurry up,” she grumbled under her breath, lengthening her stride. He wordlessly matched her quicker pace.

    She shifted her attention from Squall and refocused on the current predicament. She’d been blaming everyone else— Locke and Sabin and Tidus—but it was her fault. For just a moment, she’d forgotten. Forgotten to be on edge, to be ever vigilant. Forgotten that just because the bait was real, that didn’t mean it wasn’t a trap. That was the one positive in all this—at least she had the magicite. She wasn’t sure what had compelled her to insist on taking the magicite from Locke, but she was very glad she had.

    The rough stone pressed into her skin, tucked neatly beneath her bodice. This was a bad situation, but it could be a lot worse. Locke and Terra had been taken, but they could be rescued. And in all likelihood they would regain their memories and be back to their old selves within a few days of the crowns being removed. The magicite was safe, that was what was most important.

    *

    Yuna followed Seifer. He’d left Garden and was making his way across the open grassland. There wasn’t much cover, just an occasional tree or line of shrubs, so Yuna had to keep her distance to avoid being spotted.

    Before long, perhaps just beyond earshot of Garden, Seifer stopped. He lowered his head and held his right hand in front of him. Wrapped around his hand was a silver chain. As she moved closer, Yuna saw that the chain held the lion’s head pendant that Rinoa had been wearing since she first met her.

    As Seifer swept his hand outward and lifted his head, Yuna looked to see a creature appear before him. It appeared to be a black lion, larger than many fiends, but small for an aeon. It had a long, thick mane, each hair mostly black, but fading to red at the tip. Wings were folded down against its back, in the opposite color pattern from its mane—red feathers were tipped in black.

    “You’re Griever?” Seifer asked. “When’d you get so puny?”

    The lion turned his head toward Seifer. “I am Griever. The last time I was summoned I was junctioned to the corrupted Sorceress. This is my true form.” Though she could clearly hear the lion’s words, she never saw his mouth move.

    “Whatever. You know Squall, right? You were created from him. I need you to take me to him.”

    “I was created by Ultimecia.”

    “But you were drawn from Squall’s mind. See this pendant? Does it look familiar?”

    Griever approached and pushed his snout against the pendant still wrapped around Seifer’s hand. “It is familiar.”

    “Find its owner. Take me to him.”

    The lion was silent, seeming to consider the order. “Very well.”

    “Wait,” Yuna ran up to Seifer. “What about the others?”

    Seifer turned to Yuna with a scowl. “Go away. This is none of your concern.”

    Yuna, afraid it was too late to alert the others, looked at Griever. “Please, if you’re going to Squall, take me too.”

    Angelo appeared beside Yuna and gave a quiet woof.

    Griever closed his eyes and shook his mane. In the blink of an eye, Yuna no longer had grass beneath her shoes, but instead found herself standing on hard grey bricks.

    *

    “A retreat order takes precedence. Do they not teach you that?”

    Squall blinked. He was here. She should be asking that question to Tidus and Locke. But she must have known that. Celes was just frustrated. Squall was too. They’d be looking at a much easier mission if there were four of them trying to rescue one person, rather than two of them trying to rescue three people.

    Celes sighed and looked back at the hand-drawn map spread out on the table. Squall took that as a sign that he wasn’t really expected to answer the question. A scratch at the door drew his attention. Celes looked up at him, seemingly puzzled by the sound.

    “Stray dog?” Squall guessed.

    Celes shook her head. “I don’t know of any dogs in town…”

    Squall crossed the room and opened the door. In the doorway was an extremely fluffy brown and white dog. The dog reminded Squall very much of Angelo. He knelt down to see if the dog was wearing a collar.

    “Angelo!” As though reading his thoughts, a voice from up the road called the dog’s name. Squall looked up to see a girl running toward him. Her clothes had shades of pink and purple that struck Squall as being too modern for this place. Once she reached the doorway, she paused and Squall took in her appearance. She had gentle features, with a soft smile that reminded him of Rinoa. But she definitely was not Rinoa. Where Rinoa had rich brown eyes, the girl before him had brightly mismatched eyes—one blue, one green. He’d never met her before, but Squall recognized her immediately.

    “Yuna?” He was surprised but pleased to see her. He didn’t bother to wonder how she’d gotten here; he’d given up on trying to make sense of things. But maybe she would be able to get them out of here and back home—once they found Tidus. Squall cringed a little at that thought. She obviously hadn’t come here for him. He’d have to tell her that he’d lost Tidus.

    Yuna nodded as she looked back at him, her eyes tracing his features, lingering on the scar between his eyes. She not only seemed unsurprised that he knew her name, she seemed to recognize him. “Squall?”

    Yuna knows who I am, it almost seems like she was expecting to see me. Does that mean…

    His heartbeat quickened as he stood up, looking in the direction Yuna had come from. “Is Rinoa with you?”

    “No. I’m sorry. He wouldn’t wait.” Yuna peered past Squall into the room behind him. “Is Tidus here?”

    Who wouldn’t wait? Wait for what? How is Yuna here? Shouldn’t Rinoa be with her? Where is Rinoa?!

    Squall’s thoughts raced, but they stalled momentarily when he noticed Yuna’s eager hopefulness as she continued to try to look around him.

    “I’m sorry, Tidus isn’t here. He was—”

    “I’ll be damned. The wonder boy lives.” The familiar voice interrupted Squall and he turned to see Seifer approaching.

    Seifer?! How in the worlds…? What he is doing with Yuna?!

    Once again, Squall’s racing thoughts were brought up short, this time because he noticed Seifer had Lionheart hanging from his hip. He was so relieved to see his gunblade all other thoughts momentarily ceased.

    “What’s going on?” Celes walked up behind Squall. “Do you know these people?”

    Not in any position to explain things, Squall simply responded, “This is Yuna. And Seifer.”

    “Yuna? You mean Tidus’s girl?”

    Squall nodded.

    Celes’s brow furrowed, as though she wasn’t quite sure what to make of this new development. After a moment she asked, “Are they here to help?”

    Then, as she ran a critical eye over each of them, she added, “And more to the point, can they fight?”

    Yuna nodded. “Yes, of course. Anything to get to Tidus.”

    Seifer gazed coolly at Celes. “New girl already?” He lifted an eyebrow as he turned to Squall. “You move fast.”

    Squall ignored Seifer’s comment. “Yeah, they can fight.”

    “Good,” Celes replied. “Then maybe we’ll be able to pull this off after all.” She ushered everyone into the room and stood at the table, pointing to a spot on the map. “We’ll use chocobos to cut them off here.”

    Squall knew Celes’s abruptness probably seemed odd to Yuna and Seifer. But they didn’t have time for lengthy introductions or explanations, not if what Celes said about the slave crowns was true. For every second they wasted, the ones who were captured would lose more of their memories.

    “Knowing Kefka, the soldiers themselves will not engage us—they’ll sic Terra, Locke, and Tidus on us.

    “I can take Locke. Once I get the slave crown off of him, he might be able to get the crowns off the others. I’ll just need you three to distract them while I take care of Locke.”

    “Seifer can handle Tidus. I’ll take Terra,” Squall asserted.

    “You won’t just ‘take’ Terra,” Celes responded. “Or she’ll roast you before you know what’s hit you. You’ll need a better plan than that.”

    Before Squall could reply, Yuna spoke up. “She’s a magic user?”

    “Yes,” Celes replied. “But if you’re thinking of using Reflect, forget it. Terra may be brainwashed, but she isn’t stupid. She’ll just cast Reflect on herself. And if she doesn’t, I don’t want you sending her magic back at her—it could kill her.”

    Yuna absorbed Celes’s words, but did not seem deterred. “Do you know what this is?” She presented a large, multi-colored ring with a stylized image of a bird on it.

    Celes narrowed her eyes and shook her head. “I assume it’s some sort of relic, but I can’t tell you what it does just by looking at it.”

    Yuna nodded. “Then I assume Terra won’t know either. It’s a Shell Ring. It will protect me from any magic. I can draw Terra’s attention to me, while Squall tries to remove the crown.”

    Celes pursed her lips, clearly not thrilled with the plan. “Fine,” she finally relented, “You two distract Terra while I deal with Locke.”

    *

    While Celes and Yuna tested the Shell Ring, Squall pulled Seifer aside. Squall needed to make sure Seifer was onboard with the mission, and actually going to do his part.

    Seifer got the first word in. “I noticed you eyeing my gunblade.”

    “It’s not your gunblade.” Squall could feel his temper flaring. Just being near Seifer always brought out the worst in him. “It’s mine. Give it back.”

    “I might be willing to trade, if only you had something I wanted…” Seifer’s lips curled in a devious smile. “I guess you’ll just have to owe me.” He tossed Lionheart to Squall, and Squall easily snatched it out of the air. He would have liked to examine the weapon, to swing it through the air and revel in the feel of its weight in his hand, but instead he simply put it in its place at his hip. Seifer was being strangely cooperative and it had Squall slightly on edge.

    “You understand the mission, right? You need to disarm Tidus and get the crown off his head, but do not injure him.”

    “If the fool’s going to attack me, I’ll do what I need to do.”

    “He won’t be in control. He’s at the mercy of the crown.”

    “You know, we could just go home right now. I’ve got the power.”

    “No way. Not without Yuna and Tidus.”

    “Made yourself some new little friends, huh? Couldn’t find enough adoring fans on one planet, so you had to go combing through a few more worlds to find some more admirers?”

    “That’s not what happened and you know it. Now are you gonna stick to the plan or not?”

    Seifer rolled his eyes. “Fine, I’ll try to go easy on your new little pal.”

    “Good.” Squall was relieved—that was actually a better response than he’d expected to get from Seifer. “I need you to take this seriously, Seifer. You’re better than him, but he’s faster than you. If you get overconfident and let him get the upper-hand… Well, as much as I’d like to see him kick your butt, I’d rather this went smoothly.”

    “Whatever. I’ll take him out, no problem. And I’ll even try not to scar his pretty face.” Seifer threw Squall a final smirk as he sauntered off.
     
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Interesting convergence of groups and situations especially with the slave crowns. =D=
     
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  10. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

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

    Chapter 21

    Yuna gripped the pistol tightly, trying to quiet the shaking of her hands

    Although she’d been certain and sincere when she’d volunteered, on some level she hadn’t really expected to be here. She’d thought the others would tell her she wasn’t trained enough, wasn’t strong enough, that they couldn’t rely on her to play a key role in the mission. Or maybe that they wouldn’t risk her getting hurt. But here she was, trying not to tremble as she waited for Terra to appear.

    Squall was nearby, just out of sight. That brought her some comfort. She trusted him, even though she’d only met him a short time ago. She felt like she’d known him for years, having met his friends and family and spent hours hearing Rinoa talk about him. Even beyond that, his simple, focused determination had helped to ease her growing nerves. He was there to do what needed to be done and he didn’t have time for nonsense like being scared. After she’d asserted that she would don the Shell Ring and draw Terra’s magic to herself, he’d nodded once and continued planning, as though it had not occurred to him to question her ability or fitness for the task.

    Yuna tried to relax her deathgrip on the pistol, knowing overtight muscles would not help her. She didn’t plan on firing the weapon; she didn’t want to hurt Terra. She held it so she could hold something, so maybe she wouldn’t feel quite so vulnerable. She wished instead she was holding onto Tidus’s hand.

    He was so close, it was almost painful. As much as she wanted to see him, she was glad that she didn’t have to fight him. She wouldn’t have fought him, she couldn’t. And if he had attacked her under the influence of the slave crown—she couldn’t even fathom that. She just had to be a little patient. If she could get through this battle with Terra, she would be able to see him and everything would be right again.

    There was a crackle to Yuna’s right, and when she turned toward it, she saw a petite girl in a red dress, with green hair pulled back in a ponytail and a metal band across her forehead. Terra.

    Yuna lowered her pistol and wondered if maybe, just maybe, she would be able to get through to Terra, to end this without violence. Yuna had taken a single step toward Terra when she started to twirl. She spun fast enough to create a breeze, and when she stopped, she no longer had the red dress or the green hair. She did, however, still have the metal band across her forehead.

    The flames began before Yuna had a chance to say a word. She dropped the pistol and crossed her arms protectively in front of her as she braced against the onslaught.

    Terra started with a stream of flame that washed over Yuna. Then she formed a ball of fire in each hand and lobbed them toward Yuna, one at a time. She alternated hands, first the fire formed in her right palm, then her left palm. Next, she tossed the fireball from her right hand at Yuna, followed by the left. And then she formed new fire with her right hand and the process repeated.

    The Shell Ring performed admirably, protecting Yuna from every lick of flame. However, the ring could do nothing to cool the heat of the flames, nor could it bring fresh air to Yuna’s burning lungs. Yuna was blurry eyed as she took a final look at Terra. Despite the intensity of the attack, her eyes were utterly empty. As darkness overcame her, Yuna felt nothing but pity for the half-Esper.

    *

    Terra was a little scarier in this form, but not much. White and furry, with the hints of fangs showing at the corners of her mouth, the scariest part of her was the emptiness in her eyes. Well, that and the inferno broiling around her.

    Hidden in the shadows, Squall watched Terra’s relentless attack on Yuna. The Shell Ring would protect her, but for how long? He hadn’t expected such a long sustained attack. He’d assumed Terra would have to rest and repower at some point, and he’d planned to move in then. He couldn’t see Yuna in the flames, he could only hope that she was okay.

    He couldn’t stand to wait any longer. He drew his gunblade and ran into the blaze.

    He didn’t get far. When he was still several feet away, Terra turned toward him. She kept one hand pointed at Yuna, spilling flames over the young Summoner. The other hand reached toward him, releasing a huge fireball that knocked him backward and off his feet.

    For a moment he sat there, resting on his backside and propped up by his elbows, his brain too startled to properly process the searing pain of charred flesh.

    Squall was struggling to his feet—he’d made it one knee—when he heard a noise a bit like the sound of the engines of the Ragnarok starting up. He then saw a blur of brown and white crash into Terra from behind.

    Terra went sprawling forward, but a wave of dizziness prevented Squall from seeing more. He lowered his head for a moment and when he looked up, he saw Angelo trotting toward him. She held her head up proudly and in her mouth was a metal circlet.

    “Good girl,” Squall huffed as Angelo dropped the slave crown and began to lick his face. The dog’s wet tongue against his burned skin was simultaneously soothing and painful.

    He stood up and picked up the slave crown. It was a simple bit of metal, looking utterly innocuous. He tossed it into the air and struck it with Lionheart, slicing it neatly in two. He collected the broken pieces and tucked them in his belt. Then he turned towards Terra, who was once again human and sat on the ground with her legs splayed beneath her.

    Squall approached her cautiously. She looked at him, her eyes bigger and even more bewildered than usual.

    He knelt down on one knee a few feet from her. “Are you okay?”

    She scrambled away from him.

    “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said as gently as he could, but she jumped to her feet and ran from him. Squall watched her go. Chasing her down would surely not put her mind any more at ease, and the way she was running indicated she was uninjured.

    He turned his attention to Yuna. Angelo was already there, licking Yuna’s face. Yuna lie on her side on the ground, unconscious. As Squall moved toward her, he reached in his jacket pocket for phoenix down, only to remember he wasn’t wearing his jacket. He checked his pants pockets, but he always carried his phoenix down in his jacket.

    He checked Yuna’s pulse and breathing. She appeared to be fine, just knocked out. He noticed one of her pistols nearby and collected it. Then he scooped her off the ground and carried her as he headed toward the rendezvous point. Someone else was going to have to revive her.

    A few minutes later, Squall heard yelling and broke into a jog, still carrying Yuna in his arms. As he turned the corner around a rocky bluff, he saw Seifer, Locke, and Tidus.

    Seifer was kneeling with his left knee in Locke’s back, pinning him to the ground. He also had Tidus in a headlock under his right arm. Both were struggling and spilling expletives.

    Squall lowered Yuna to the ground before approaching Seifer. Angelo sat down beside her. “What are you doing? Let them go.”

    “I’m just following orders. The chick in the cape told me to keep them here. But if you want me to let them go, I’d be more than happy to.” Seifer stood, releasing Locke and Tidus, and drew his gunblade.

    Tidus and Locke backed away from Seifer, their eyes wild and fists clenched. Seeing their panic and confusion, Squall had to admit that maybe telling Seifer to release them hadn’t been such a great idea. He figured they probably would have run, if they weren’t afraid to turn their backs on Seifer.

    “Hey, Tidus, it’s okay.” Squall approached the former blitzball player slowly and as unthreateningly as possible. “I know you’re really confused right now, but we know each other. I’m trying to help you.”

    Tidus shook his head. “I don’t know you.”

    “Yes, you do. It’s just the slave crown you were wearing. Your memories should come back, but until then I don’t want you doing anything crazy.” Tidus seemed to have calmed a little, although he still regarded Squall with distrust. “Look, Yuna’s here. You can’t have forgotten her.”

    Squall gestured to the unconscious Summoner. Tidus looked at her with interest, but not recognition.

    “What about blitzball? You remember being a blitzball player, right? You’ve told me all about it.” You haven’t stopped talking about it since I met you.

    Tidus looked at Squall blankly.

    I guess he really doesn’t have any memories. How can I convince him we know each other? There has to be something. Something so basic, so elemental, it can’t change even if he doesn’t remember anything. Hmm… Elemental…

    “Water. You love to be in the water. I bet you wish you were swimming right now. Right?”

    Tidus’s eyes narrowed, then he nodded slowly. “I think I do like water… Maybe we do know each other…”

    “Where do you think you’re going?” Seifer slammed his gunblade into the ground beside Locke, who had been inching away while Squall talked to Tidus.

    Locke held his fists up, ready for a fight. “Just because you can coax him into staying, doesn’t mean I’m going to. I don’t know you people, and I definitely don’t trust you.”

    Squall clenched his jaw. It had been hard enough to get through to Tidus, who Squall had tended to fault for being too trusting. Getting through to Locke, who didn’t trust him even under normal conditions, would be next to impossible. Unless…

    What if he could use that distrust to his advantage?

    “Of course you don’t trust us. That’s exactly why you’re coming with us.” Squall took a step toward Yuna. “An unconscious girl with three strange guys? You better come along, to keep an eye on her.”

    Locke scowled, but Squall could tell he’d relented.

    Seifer put away his gunblade and set a heavy hand on Squall’s shoulder. “When’d you get such a silver tongue? Last I checked, you couldn’t even talk to people.”

    Squall shrugged Seifer’s hand off his shoulder, keeping a close watch on Tidus and Locke.

    Tidus and Locke both looked warily at Seifer, but stayed put. Good. Now we just have to revive Yuna and find Terra and Celes and we can go home.

    Squall held his hand out toward Seifer. “Give me a phoenix down.”

    “Don’t have any.”

    “What? How can you not have phoenix down?” Squall stared incredulously at Seifer, not sure whether he was stupid enough to be that unprepared, or obnoxious enough to lie about it.

    “I work alone, not as part of a swarm like a monster. Why would I need phoenix down?”

    Squall sighed. “Then use Life on her.”

    Seifer scoffed.

    “You don’t stock Life?”

    “Don’t be ridiculous.”

    Squall clenched his jaw and turned toward Tidus and Locke. They’d surely had all their items taken away when they were captured. “Where are Terra and Celes?”

    Seifer shrugged. “How should I know?”

    “Seifer…”

    Seifer rolled his eyes. “Psycho girl with green hair sprinted past us and cape chick ran after her, telling me to keep these two here. Then I was a too little busy rastling these two into submission to track where they went after that.”

    “I saw something,” Tidus offered. “A white and kinda violet being flew overhead. Someone with long blonde hair and a white cape was chasing her on the ground. She had a bunch of giant birds with her, she was riding one.”

    Terra can fly as an Esper? Squall hadn’t realized that before, but it didn’t really surprise him. And Celes had taken all the chocobos when she went after her. Probably, she’d only intended to take one, but the others had followed. At any rate, it looked like the rest of them would be walking.

    Presumably, Celes and Terra would return to base as soon as they could. Squall and his party should head that direction as well. Although they did finally have Yuna, Tidus, and a way home, Squall couldn’t just leave Locke here in his current state.

    Squall knelt beside Yuna, giving Angelo a pat on the head before sliding his arms under the unconscious Summoner. It looked like he’d be carrying her until she woke up on her own.
     
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  11. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Chapter 20: Eck, those slave crowns really do not sound good at all. [face_worried] I am glad that they had a plan going by the chapter's end, even though my heart broke for Yuna to have come that far and Tidus be beyond her reach again. The same goes with Squall not seeing Riona. Sieffer did a good job at even pushing my buttons in that last part, though. o_O

    Chapter 21: That was a wonderful battle scene - very vivid and easy to follow, and I'm glad that they were able to get the slave crowns away! That's one hurdle down. Squall did an excellent job talking Tidus and Locke down - and now I'm really looking forward to Tidus' remembering, and Yuna waking up. That's been a scene I've been anticipating this entire story. :p [face_love]

    Another excellent few updates, again! =D=
     
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  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Great with Squall dealing with Seifer. Tidus - I cannot wait for his memories to return either. Yuna -- hopefully she's not suffered any lasting damage. Glad Angelo is along.
     
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  13. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Thank you very, very much Mira_Jade and Nyota's Heart !
    I've been looking forward to that scene too! And here it is! In fact, it comes together oddly quicker than I expected....

    Hope you enjoy!


    Chapter 22

    They’d been walking for a couple hours when Seifer sidled up to Squall. “So, don't I get any credit at all?”

    “For what?”

    “Not ghosting your new pal.”

    Squall suppressed a sigh. Most people would not expect accolades for not murdering an ally. But Seifer was not most people.

    “Did you see what he did to me?” Seifer held out his left arm, showing a long slice in his sleeve that bisected the cross at his elbow. The cut appeared currently only to affect the jacket, the skin below presumably having been healed with magic or potion.

    Squall pursed his lips to keep from snickering. “I told you he was faster than you.”

    “He is not faster than me. Obviously, I beat him. Chicken-wuss 2.0 might be a little taller than the original, but I think he's even stupider.” Seifer walked away, laughing to himself.

    Squall looked ahead to see that Tidus was walking blissfully along, apparently having not heard Seifer's insults, or not realized that they were directed at him. Squall pitied Tidus, knowing that it probably wouldn’t have taken much for the situations to be shifted. For Tidus to be carrying an unconscious Rinoa while he walked along without a clue.

    He pitied Tidus, but he felt even more sorry for Yuna. Poor Yuna, who would wake up to discover that the guy she’d been struggling to find had no idea who she was. At least Yuna hadn’t heard Locke’s story about how his first love forgot him forever.

    After a few minutes, Tidus turned around and walked backwards in front of Squall, looking down at Yuna. “She’s very pretty. Is she your girlfriend?”

    “No, Tidus, she’s not my girlfriend.”

    “You can’t blame him for asking,” Seifer quipped, “You two are looking pretty cozy.”

    Squall glared at Seifer. “You’re sick.”

    “Well, if you get tired,” Tidus continued, “I could carry her for a while.”

    Squall hoped Tidus’s offer stemmed from being subconsciously drawn to Yuna, and not because Squall looked as worn down as he felt. “Okay,” he replied and handed Yuna off to Tidus.

    Squall stretched his arms behind his back, momentarily relieved to be able to walk unburdened. But then he noticed Angelo. The dog had been limping slightly since their encounter with Terra. He imagined her paws were burned and sore. It wouldn’t do to return Rinoa’s dog injured, so he knelt down to one knee and lifted the shaggy warrior. She was a bit lighter than Yuna, but much more awkward to carry, mostly because she was constantly twisting around, trying to lick Squall’s face. Squall lifted his chin and looked ahead, trying to estimate how far they were from the base. Farther than he wanted to think about, so he tightened his embrace of the dog and focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

    *

    The sun was low in the sky, perched just above the distant mountains, when Tidus spoke up. “Squall, I think she’s waking up.”

    Squall placed Angelo on the ground and helped Tidus lower Yuna onto a patch of thick grass. Angelo danced around them, making Squall wonder if he really needed to have been carrying her for the last several miles.

    Once Yuna was settled, Squall looked at Tidus. “Could you give us some space?”

    “…Sure.” Tidus seemed reluctant, but walked off a few paces.

    Yuna opened her eyes slowly and looked up at Squall.

    “How are you feeling?”

    “Okay,” she replied, sitting up. “Where are we?”

    “On the way back to base. Sorry we couldn’t revive you sooner. Tidus is here and he’s fine, but he doesn’t remember much.” Squall took a breath. “He doesn’t remember you.”

    The disappointment in her eyes was unmistakable. Nevertheless, she smiled. “If everyone’s alright, that’s all that matters.”

    Really? It doesn’t matter to you that the love of your life doesn’t even know your name? Squall wasn’t sure if he admired Yuna for her positive outlook, or pitied her naïveté. “He does think you’re pretty,” Squall offered as Yuna got to her feet.

    “He said that?”

    Squall nodded and her smile brightened. “I suppose that’s something.”

    Tidus approached. “Hiya.”

    Yuna smiled at him. “Hello, Tidus.”

    “Are you idiots coming or not?” Seifer yelled from up ahead.

    “We should keep moving.” Squall picked up Angelo.

    “I’m Locke, or so they tell me.” The treasure hunter offered his hand to Yuna. “I have no idea if we’ve met before.”

    Yuna shook his proffered hand. “We have not. It’s nice to meet you, Locke.”

    “Have we met?” Tidus asked her.

    “Yes.”

    “Oh. Sorry I don’t remember.”

    “No need to apologize.” Yuna smiled at him and began to walk forward.

    Locke ran ahead toward Seifer and Tidus walked beside Yuna. Squall brought up the rear, carrying Angelo.

    *

    It had gotten dark before they made it all the way back to the base, so they’d made camp a little bit short of the town. There was enough starlight to make out basic shapes in the dark, but the night obscured all detail. Now everyone seemed to be asleep. Everyone but Yuna.

    She was so happy to see Tidus again. But she couldn’t deny that it hurt a little, that he didn’t recognize her. She wanted to hug him and kiss him and tell him how much she’d missed him. But if she did, it would probably just scare him, and make her feel even worse.

    She knew even if he never recovered his memory, things would be okay. They’d fallen in love once, they could do it again. All that really mattered was that he was alive and well.

    Still, she couldn’t sleep. She could just make out his silhouette resting peacefully nearby. But a vague shape in the darkness wasn’t enough to convince her he was here for good. What if he disappeared when the sun came up? What if her eyes were playing tricks, and it wasn’t him at all?

    Rinoa had recited every detail of her time in the Void to Yuna. Yuna remembered one detail in particular. Rinoa had said that when Squall fell asleep while communicating with Ellone, she would lie with her ear to his chest, so she could hear his heartbeat. That was what Yuna wanted right now, what she needed. To hear Tidus’s heartbeat, to know he was really alive. The rest would work out in time.

    She moved next to him as silently as possible. She rested against him as lightly as she could. For a moment, she could hear it.

    Thump. Thump. His heart did still beat. But then his body shifted, and she knew she had awakened him.

    “Rinoa,” he muttered softly, “I’m not Squall.”

    Yuna smiled in the dark as she sat up. He was beginning to remember more. “I know you’re not Squall,” she replied quietly. “I’m not Rinoa.”

    Tidus sat up. “Yuna? Where are we?”

    “Yes, yes, I’m Yuna.” She couldn’t stop from grinning, but she resisted the urge to throw her arms around Tidus. “We are…what’s the last thing you remember?”

    “Um, I remember…fighting Seymour. We beat him for good, right?”

    Yuna’s face fell, just a little. Seymour was definitely not their most recent battle.

    “Then I was trapped. In this empty world. With Rinoa. And Squall.” There was panic rising in his voice when he added, “Is that where we are? Did you end up there too?”

    “No,” Yuna assured him. “We’re not there. We’re safe. You’ve experienced some memory loss, but it will come back in time. Soon we’ll be home.”

    “Home?” Tidus’s voice was full of hope. “Zanarkand?”

    Yuna bit her lip. She couldn’t lie and say yes, but this hardly seemed the time to remind him that his beloved Zanarkand no longer existed.

    “Not Zanarkand,” Squall’s voice, quiet but clear, carried across the camp. “You’re already home—Yuna’s here. Remember?”

    "Yes." Yuna could just make out Tidus’s head nodding in the darkness. “Yes, I remember. My home is with you, Yuna.” He reached for her hand and held it tightly. “Wherever that is.”
     
  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb, Tarsier - yes, home is where the other is. Wherever that is. [face_dancing] [face_dancing] I love it when that realization arises for a pairing. [face_love]
     
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  15. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Ahh, this was just lovely and soft and sweet and heartbreaking all at once.[face_love] My heart completely went out to Yuna - having Tidus back, but not fully, and her positive outlook was just beautiful to glimpse. And this:

    Rinoa had recited every detail of her time in the Void to Yuna. Yuna remembered one detail in particular. Rinoa had said that when Squall fell asleep while communicating with Ellone, she would lie with her ear to his chest, so she could hear his heartbeat. That was what Yuna wanted right now, what she needed. To hear Tidus’s heartbeat, to know he was really alive. The rest would work out in time.

    Had me completely melting. [face_love] This entire update was just lovely - and more than worth the wait! ;)

    =D=
     
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  16. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Nyota's Heart Mira_Jade Thanks, as always, for the comments. They really mean a lot to me. :)@};-



    Chapter 23

    “Poor Squall.” Tidus stood beside Seifer as he leaned against the wall next to the entrance of the base. Tidus was attempting to make conversation while Squall and Yuna were talking to the others near the large table in the middle of the room. “Sounds like Terra hit him pretty good. He always seems to take the brunt of things, huh?”

    Seifer turned toward Tidus with a disgusted look. “That’s adorable that you’re so worried about him. But I don’t think he’s looking for a girlfriend.”

    “That’s not what I meant,” Tidus replied indignantly. “And I’m not a girl.”

    “Coulda fooled me with that haircut.”

    “What’s your problem with me?”

    “You remind of someone who irritates the crap outtta me.”

    Tidus knitted his brows as he looked up at Seifer. “You’re starting to remind me of someone too.”

    Seifer ignored the comment as he looked coolly across the room with arms crossed.

    After a moment, Tidus continued casually, “It is interesting that you bring up Squall’s girlfriend. Considering I’m not the one wearing his necklace.” Tidus wasn’t one-percent sure Seifer was wearing the pendant Squall had given Rinoa, but he’d caught a glimpse of the chain tucked beneath Seifer’s shirt and he thought he recognized it.

    Seifer scowled deeply at Tidus. “Mind your own business, Pretty Boy.”

    “Oh, I like that!” Tidus grinned at Seifer. “I don’t care for a lot of your nicknames, but you can call me ‘pretty boy,’ all you want.”

    Seifer’s only response was a glower as he stepped away from the wall.

    *

    “I’m sorry,” Terra sobbed into Yuna’s shoulder.

    “It’s okay. You didn't hurt me. Really. I was wearing the Shell Ring.”

    Terra clutched the folds of Yuna's top and continued to sob. Yuna looked around at the others, seeking guidance. The scene reminded her of the many times growing up when she’d been scared or worried and had buried her face in Lulu’s skirts for comfort. Only this time she was the one doing the comforting. It was strange, both because she was used to playing the role of the little sister in need of support, and because she didn't know Terra very well. Not to mention Terra was much more powerful than Yuna, and Yuna thought she was older as well.

    “I really didn't hurt you?” Terra looked up at Yuna. Terra may have been older than Yuna, but her big green eyes surrounded by wet lashes radiated the innocence of a small child.

    Yuna put on her most comforting smile. “Not even a little bit.”

    Terra nodded carefully, as though slowly absorbing this information. A moment later she spun around toward Squall. He tensed as soon as he saw her attention was on him.

    “I didn't mean to attack you.” She threw herself at Squall and his eyes widened, his stoic features suddenly filled with panic.

    “It’s...okay...” Squall looked desperately at Yuna. His arms were crossed tightly in front of him, even as Terra sobbed into his sleeve. Yuna could tell he wanted to push Terra away, but was doing his best to resist the urge. She could do nothing but offer a sympathetic smile.

    Locke had a deep frown as he approached. He set a hand on Terra’s arm. “Don’t worry about it. It’s not your fault. Everyone understands you weren’t in control. None of us were. I mean, Mermaid attacked the new guy, do you think he would normally have done that?”

    Terra turned to look across the room to where Tidus and Seifer were bickering. Locke followed her gaze.

    “Okay, bad example,” Locke continued, returning his gaze to Terra. “But even I fought Celes. I didn’t mean to, but I could have really hurt her. Right, Celes?”

    “Sure… You almost hurt me bad.” Celes started with a straight face, but she couldn’t hold it. She broke into a smirk as she continued, “You came really close to making me break a nail.”

    Locke made a face at Celes. “But you see? It’s over. Everyone’s okay. A little fire just rolls right off of Dragon-Bait.” Locke slapped Squall on the shoulder. “Right?”

    Squall stared at Locke without comment.

    “Let’s just forget it ever happened.”

    Terra watched Squall closely, waiting for his reaction. Apparently realizing it was now up to him, he said, “Forget it. It never happened.”

    Terra nodded. “Okay.” Then, unable to resist, she threw her arms around Squall in a final brief hug, before retreating back to Locke’s side.

    Locke nodded his approval. “Good. Now we can move on.”

    “So we can get the heck out of here?” Seifer asked from across the room.

    Squall nodded and headed toward the entrance. Yuna felt like there should be more to mark the occasion, but Squall and Seifer appeared eager to get going, and Locke eager to see them gone. She’d already thanked the hosts for taking care of Tidus—in fact, that may have been what set Terra into tears—but she desperately wished there was more she could do. An idea struck her as she started toward the door, and she slipped off the Shell Ring and set it on the table. It wasn’t much, but hopefully it counted as a rare relic that would be worth something to the treasure hunters.

    The others were already out the door, but Tidus had waited for her by the doorway. He put his arm around her as they stepped outside.

    “Home at last,” he murmured into her ear.

    She smiled and interlaced her fingers with his. They may not be heading to Spira just yet, but she already felt she was home.

    *

    Zell raced along the road from the town of Balamb to Garden on his turbo-board.

    His jumbled thoughts spun in his head and he felt if he could just travel fast enough, maybe he could catch up and begin to sort out the swirl of confusion.

    Yuna was gone. How could they have let that happen? They still had no clue how to find Squall, and now they’d lost Yuna too. Who would be next? Would Quistis and Rinoa be gone when Zell arrived at Garden?

    No, Yuna’s disappearance may have been sudden and unexpected, but it was not random. As unsettling as it was, there was no reason to believe anyone else would disappear. There was a reason for her leaving, even if Zell was not certain what it was. Although he could not pin down a reason with certainty, there were several plausible theories.

    The initial panic had been that she might be injured or lost. However, she didn’t seem like the type to wander into danger without telling anyone, and several thorough sweeps of Garden and the surrounding wilderness—including many hours of Zell himself trudging through the Training Center—had mostly convinced Zell that she was not hurt, but well and truly gone. Not necessarily comforting, but it did narrow the possibilities.

    Perhaps the GFs were more serious than they had realized about forbidding the interaction of worlds, and had swept Yuna back to Spira. Or perhaps Yuna had gotten lonely or scared and found a way to get back there herself. Spira seemed a reasonably likely location for Yuna to have ended up, and it would have been prudent to check there. Except for the possibility that they went to Spira and she wasn’t there. If that happened, Zell was quite confident that the lady with the long black braids would kill them for losing her friend.

    Where else could Yuna be? There was one other disturbing fact that Zell didn’t even like to think about. No one had seen Seifer since Yuna disappeared. It seemed not unlikely that wherever they were, they were together. Had Seifer convinced Yuna he had a way to find Squall and Tidus? Why wouldn’t Yuna have told them? Surely she realized by now he was not to be trusted. Had he forced her along? Why? The possibilities were unpleasant.

    As Zell entered the front yard of Garden, something caught his eye. On the other side of the yard, a group of people was walking toward Garden. Normally a group of students returning from a morning training session would not be remarkable, but one of the students was wearing a long purple skirt, along with long pink and white sleeves. That was not something he’d ever seen a SeeD cadet wear.

    YUNA?!

    Zell made a hard turn and raced toward the group. He barely got the t-board stopped before leaping off it and running up to her. “Yuna?!”

    She turned with a kind smile on her face. It was her!!! He was tempted to hug her, but was so relieved and confused to he just stared at her.

    Then, as Yuna’s companions turned toward him, something familiar caught the corner of Zell’s eye. He focused on the companion that caught his attention. He was too stunned to react for a long moment.

    Finally, his brain clicked and his body unfroze. “Squall!” he cried. He stepped up to his friend and embraced him in a bear hug, knowing Squall would hate him for it. But he didn’t care. “Where have you been?! How...?!”

    A new thought struck him—Squall didn’t come all this way to see Zell—and he released Squall and turned back to his t-board. “I know you want to see her! I’ll go get her!”

    He zoomed into Garden, not caring in the least that it was against the rules to ride his t-board down the hallways. Rinoa couldn’t be far and he was determined to find her quickly.

    *

    “Nice to meet you too!” Tidus yelled after the spiky-haired guy tearing away on his hover board. Then he turned to Squall. “I take it that was Zell?”

    Squall nodded, still looking a bit dazed by the encounter.

    “Ugh,” Seifer groaned as he lowered Angelo to the ground. He’d been carrying the dog across his shoulders since they’d arrived on his homeworld a few minutes ago. Tidus didn’t know why—Yuna had healed the dog’s burnt paws earlier—but it had been an amusing sight, the fluffy dog chewing Seifer’s ear and Seifer trying to snap his head out of reach of the dog’s tongue without much success.

    “Think you idiots can make it the rest of the way without me holding your hands?” Seifer didn't wait for a response before trotting away.

    Tidus, Yuna, and Squall were just outside the gates of Garden when Tidus heard the zing! of the hover board returning. This time it was not Zell riding the board, but Rinoa. She leapt off the board without ever slowing down and launched herself at Squall. She hit him with such sudden force that he stumbled backward into Tidus. The three ended up in a heap on the ground, Tidus face down on the bottom, with Squall’s back against his and Rinoa straddling Squall. Angelo tried to wriggle between Rinoa and Squall as Rinoa rested her face against Squall’s chest.

    After several seconds, Squall asked, “Are you going to let me up?”

    “No. I’m never, ever letting you go.” Tidus could hear the smile in Rinoa’s voice.

    Tidus twisted, trying his best to see Rinoa despite being pinned to the ground. “Hi, Rinoa.”

    “Tidus!” She looked up. “And Yuna! I’ve never seen you two together!”

    Before Rinoa could continue, a young boy approached. “C-Commander…?”

    Tidus could just see Squall starting to flush out of the corner of his eye. This was probably not the entrance he’d intended to make as the returning Commander.

    “Move along! Nothing to see here.” Two people in uniforms appeared and placed themselves in front of the boy, using their bodies to shield the sight of the Commander in the middle of a dogpile. Once the boy had passed, the uniformed individuals pulled Rinoa off of Squall and then helped Squall and Tidus to their feet.

    The two in uniform saluted Squall. “Welcome back, Commander.”

    Squall returned the salute, Rinoa clinging to his arm.

    Zell returned, along with a slightly older girl who Tidus assumed must be Quistis.

    “Squall! Yuna!” Her relief was palpable as she embraced each in turn. Then she turned to Tidus. “And you must be Tidus. I’ve heard quite a lot about you.”

    “Suggestion, Commander,” the female in uniform addressed Squall. People were starting to gather, despite the admonishments of the two in uniform. “Perhaps we should move this reunion somewhere a little more private.”

    Squall nodded.

    “Suggestion, Commander!” Tidus mirrored. Squall turned toward him. “Maybe somewhere with food?”

    “We’ll clear out the cafeteria,” the male in uniform declared, as he and the female in uniform jogged away.

    *

    Tidus had a tray in front of him with more food than he’d seen in months. All thoughts of manners and etiquette went out the window as he dug in.

    “Please don’t choke,” Yuna giggled from beside him. He smiled at her and tried to slow down a little.

    Across the table, Squall also had a tray full of food, but he ate it sedately, his eyes looking glassy, like he might fall asleep at the table.

    “What are you wearing?” Rinoa tugged on the sleeve of the green tunic he had on.

    Squall looked down at his shirt and shrugged. “I had to borrow something.”

    “Where’s your jacket?”

    “I don’t know.”

    When Rinoa narrowed her eyes, silently demanding a better answer, Squall looked questioningly at Tidus.

    Tidus swallowed his current mouthful of food. “Oh, uh, well… I guess your jacket must be back in the cave. I kinda lost track… But I don’t think you’d want it anyway, it was pretty shredded and bloody.”

    Rinoa gasped a little. “Shredded and bloody?”

    “Er, I mean…” Tidus looked around the table. Everyone looked a little horrified at his description, and he wished he’d chosen his words more carefully. He’d forgotten how little they knew about recent events.

    “Maybe you should start at the beginning,” Quistis suggested.

    Tidus nodded. “Okay.” He looked to Squall, expecting he might prefer to tell the story to his friends. But he was now leaning against Rinoa, his head resting on her shoulder, sound asleep or close to it. Squall wasn’t much of a talker anyway.

    “Start from where I left you,” Rinoa suggested.

    Tidus took another bite of food before starting, “So we found ourselves in this cave, it was dark, and wet and slippery….”
     
  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh, wonderful! =D= Love everyone being together again! [face_relieved]
     
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  18. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Ahh, Riona and Squall's reunion was perfect! I loved the dog-pile image! [face_laugh][face_love]

    I'm thrilled that the group is all back together again, and sharing stories, but this little moment:

    The others were already out the door, but Tidus had waited for her by the doorway. He put his arm around her as they stepped outside.

    “Home at last,” he murmured into her ear.

    She smiled and interlaced her fingers with his. They may not be heading to Spira just yet, but she already felt she was home.

    - was probably my favourite of the chapter. Just beautiful. [face_love] =D=
     
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  19. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Nyota's Heart Thank you! We're into the home stretch now...

    Mira_Jade Thank you! I enjoyed the dog-pile too. :) I'm especially glad you like the "home" line, I was afraid it might seem redundant after the end of Chapter 22.


    Chapter 24

    Rinoa woke up to sunlight warming her face. For a moment, she felt sad. Another day without Squall. But then she remembered. She held her breath as she opened her eyes. And there he was, right beside her. He was so still, he almost looked dead. She carefully placed the back of her hand along his cheek—it was warm.

    He must be exhausted. He was usually a very light sleeper, but after Tidus described their adventures, she wanted him to get all the rest he could. When Ellone and Laguna had gotten word of Squall’s return and arrived in the cafeteria, Squall had already been sound asleep. So soundly asleep, in fact, that he hadn’t even awoken enough to object when Laguna carried him to his room, nor had he stirred when Rinoa snuggled up beside him.

    Rinoa got up carefully, not wanting to disturb Squall but too excited to stay in bed. Angelo had been sleeping alongside the bed, but stood when Rinoa got up and looked like she wanted to take Rinoa’s place beside Squall. Rinoa got a grip on Angelo’s collar before the dog could jump onto the bed.

    Still holding Angelo’s collar, Rinoa gazed down at Squall for a long time, then planted a kiss on his forehead and headed out the door as silently as possible. She hated to leave him, but she knew as soon as he awoke a million different people would be demanding his attention. She didn’t want to be in the way. And for once, she had an idea of something she could do to help him, something that he would appreciate, even if he’d never say so.

    A few minutes later, Rinoa tapped quietly on the door to the room Yuna was staying in.

    “Yuna.” Rinoa knew Tidus was a heavy sleeper, but she kept her voice down anyway.

    The door opened. Yuna smiled at Rinoa, looking tired but happy. Where Squall had passed out before finishing a proper meal, Tidus had seemed to become more wired as the evening wore on. He told them all about his and Squall’s adventures with the rock dragon, the treasure hunters, and the slave crowns. Well, he hadn’t remembered much about the slave crowns. Yuna had said she was too tired to pick up the story at that point and suggested they turn in for the night. Tidus had declared that he would teach everybody blitzball. After that, everything was a blur of Tidus jumping on tables and basketballs whizzing around the cafeteria.

    At first Rinoa thought it was all the attention Tidus was getting that was energizing him, then Quistis had noted that he’d consumed several high-sugar, heavily-caffeinated drinks. Shortly after he was cut off from those, he crashed harder than Squall, falling asleep face down on the cafeteria table while reciting a play-by-play of his last blitzball game.

    “Come on, Yuna. I need your help with something.”

    Yuna looked over his shoulder toward Tidus. “I don’t want him to be alone when he wakes up.”

    “He won’t be.” Rinoa pointed into the room and Angelo trotted in.

    “Stay,” she told the dog. “Come on,” she said to Yuna.

    Yuna twisted her lip. Then, seeming to have made a decision, she opened the cabinet by the door and removed a piece of paper and a pen. She wrote:

    Be back soon. –Yuna

    Rinoa took the pen from Yuna and added:

    Make sure Squall is ready for tonight! –Rinoa

    Rinoa set the note on the counter, then took Yuna by the hand and dragged her out the door.

    *

    “Squall!” Not quite an hour after Yuna and Rinoa had left, Tidus ran down the dormitory hallway, yelling his friend’s name. He stopped at a random door and knocked on it, hoping maybe it would be Squall’s room. The door opened and a girl with a long brown pigtail looked back at him. She appeared slightly frightened to see him, and closed the door quickly.

    “Uh, sorry.” Tidus cringed a little as he turned from the door, but quickly regained his enthusiasm. “Squall!”

    By this time, a few doors had opened and curious heads peeked out, but none of them belonged to Squall. Where is Squall? And how am I supposed to find him?

    A bark from down the hall caught Tidus’s attention. Angelo! She must know where Squall is!

    Tidus followed the dog down the hall and around a corner. She stopped near the end of a hallway and scratched at a door. The door began to open just as Tidus arrived.

    “Rinoa?” Squall asked as he opened the door.

    “Squall! Finally!” Tidus threw his arm around Squall’s shoulders. “I knew I’d find you eventually!”

    Squall shrugged off Tidus’s arm. “Was that you making all that noise? It’s…” Squall looked at a clock on the wall. “Ten hundred hours? How long was I asleep?”

    Tidus noticed several plates of food on the table in Squall’s room, and approached them eagerly. “No idea, but I’m starving!”

    He already had a mouthful of eggs when Squall asked, “Where’s Rinoa?”

    Tidus handed Squall the note and speared some fruit with a fork.

    “Where did they go? What’s tonight?”

    Tidus shrugged and continued to eat.

    “Where did this food come from?”

    A knock at the door drew Squall’s attention before Tidus could shrug again.

    *

    Zell was walking quickly down the dormitory hallway when he nearly ran into Quistis. She had a stack of folded clothes in her arms and she was wearing her glasses, which she typically only wore when she was in full-on instructor mode.

    “Going to see Squall?” he asked her with a grin.

    She nodded. “You too?”

    “Yeah, I got something for him.” They arrived at Squall’s door and Zell knocked. Considering how tired he’d looked last night, Zell didn’t want to wake Squall. But Squall had to wake up sometime. And frankly, Zell couldn’t imagine Squall was still asleep at this late hour.

    Squall opened the door, still wearing the clothes he’d been wearing the night before. Zell still found it strange to see him wearing something other than his black jacket or his SeeD uniform. Squall gestured Zell and Quistis into his room.

    Quistis pushed past Zell before he could say anything. “I brought you some fresh clothes, Squall. And some for you too, Tidus. And I found a cadet uniform for you to wear tonight. Of course you’ll wear your SeeD uniform, Squall. I hope it still fits.

    “Laguna and Ellone took the Ragnarok to pick up Selphie and Irvine in Trabia. Xu and Nida will be by later to talk to you about what you need to say tonight. In the meantime, you should be getting ready. Sorry we can’t give you more time to prepare, but we’ve been fighting fang and claw to put off the celebration ball this long.”

    Quistis stopped for breath, and seemed to really see Squall for the first time. She smiled. “It’s good to have you back.” She patted Squall on the shoulder, then turned on her heel and left.

    Squall stared after Quistis after she left, as though trying to process her words. Zell felt for him—he’d been away from Garden long enough that he probably felt rather disconnected from all this. Yet he was still their Commander, and was expected to act as such.

    But Zell hadn’t come here to talk to Squall as his Commander. He’d come to talk to Squall as a friend.

    “Hey, Squall. Can I talk to you?”

    “Okay.”

    “I mean, it’s kinda personal.” Zell gestured toward Tidus, who was making still his way through the plates of food and suddenly seemed to be trying hard not to pay attention to them.

    “He’s cool, Zell. Just talk.”

    Zell furrowed his brow, but decided not to argue. He stepped as far away from Tidus as he could. “So, uh, I don’t know if you know, but when I asked to borrow your ring a while ago, it wasn’t really for me. It was for Rinoa. She wanted one just like it. Since we didn’t know where you got it, I told her I could make her one, I just needed to see the original up close.”

    Squall nodded.

    Zell glanced at Tidus again before continuing. “Well, um, so I did. Here it is.” Zell handed Squall a small ring.

    Squall held it in his palm and looked at it for a minute. He seemed unsure what to do with it, like he wanted to give it back to Zell.

    “I thought you should give it to her. Since it’s based on your ring.”

    Squall pushed the ring back toward Zell. “But you made it.”

    Zell rolled his eyes. Squall could be so slow sometimes. “But it will mean more coming from you. Plus—you haven’t even really looked at it. I mean, don’t you notice anything about it?”

    “Well, it really isn’t a very good replica of my ring. It’s more detailed. And colored.”

    “And?”

    “And what?”

    “And is it better? Don’t you like the detail?” Squall was making this really difficult. Zell had been quite proud of himself, but now he was starting to doubt if the time he’d spent was worth it.

    “The details are well done.”

    Zell looked to Tidus once again, this time half-hoping Tidus was listening. Sometimes talking to Squall was harder than fighting cactuars and he wanted assurance that it wasn’t just him.

    Tidus was half turned away but Zell thought maybe he could see a hint of a smile in his cheek.

    “For Hyne's sake… Do you like it, Squall, or not?”

    “It’s Rinoa’s ring, why are asking me?”

    “Because…!” Tidus turned so his back was completely to Zell and Zell was sure it was because he was trying not to laugh.

    “Look, she wanted a ring to match yours. I worked really hard and made another ring. I added some extra detail, because I thought it would look even better. Then I learned how to add enamel, because I thought Rinoa would appreciate some color. But then the new ring didn’t look exactly like the old ring, so I made another ring. One for you, to match the new one for Rinoa. It took forever and worked really hard on it, but I’m sure you hate it, so just forget it.” Zell shoved the second ring he’d made into Squall’s palm, along with a small velvet pouch, then turned to leave.

    “I like it,” Squall said.

    Zell paused. “You do?”

    “Yeah.”

    Zell turned back around.

    “I just…” Squall trailed off, then shook his head slightly. “It’s really well done. I’m sure Rinoa will love it. That was … that was really nice of you, Zell.

    “Thanks.”

    Zell smiled, then bounded back to Squall. “Getting the lion’s mane just right was tricky. But not as time-consuming as putting all the feathers in the wings. I thought the black and red were kinda like your colors. And the sky blue and white for Rinoa.”

    Squall carefully examined the rings and nodded slowly. Before he could respond further, his dorm room door burst open. All three in the room looked up as Seifer strode in. Seifer glanced around the room with a sneer.

    “What, are you thinking of starting up a chicken farm here, Leonhart?”

    “Why you—!!” Zell charged at Seifer, fists raised.

    Seifer ignored him, focusing on Squall. “I need to talk to you.”

    Squall closed his fingers around the rings and put them in his pocket. He nodded an acknowledgement to Seifer and looked meaningfully at Zell.

    Is he seriously telling me to leave? He won’t talk to me in private, but he will Seifer?!

    Zell gritted his teeth. It was galling, but he knew making an issue of it would only make it worse.

    Zell tugged on Tidus’s sleeve as me made his way to the door. “Come on, they start serving hot dogs in the cafeteria in a few minutes. Angelo, come.”

    Both Tidus and Angelo obediently followed, though Zell thought he caught Tidus throwing a glare at Seifer as they left.

    For several seconds there was silence as Zell led the way to the cafeteria. Then Tidus commented, “I have to admit, I really don’t get that relationship. Sometimes Squall seems to realize how awful Seifer is, other times it’s like they are best buds.

    “I could swear they were brothers.”

    Brothers? Zell had never thought of them that way before, but he supposed Squall and Seifer sort of were like brothers. That could explain a lot.

    *

    “I went to that absurd sauna planet to retrieve your loser friends. I went to that medieval underworld to rescue your sorry backside. I willingly gave you Lionheart after you lost it. I didn’t even hurt your new chicken friend after he came after me.

    “You owe me.”

    Arms crossed, Squall regarded Seifer. Finally, the other shoe had dropped. The reason for Seifer’s recent oddly cooperative attitude was about to be revealed.

    Seifer paused, probably waiting for Squall to acknowledge the debt but Squall gave no response. He was curious to see what Seifer wanted, but not about to agree to anything.

    Seifer huffed. Then he crossed his arms to match Squall. “I want to be a SeeD.”

    He jutted his chin in petulance. “But I’m not taking that stupid exam again.”

    When Squall didn’t immediately respond, Seifer dropped his arms and took a step closer. “I know you have the power. No one can stop you.”

    Squall stared hard at Seifer, but remained silent.

    “You know I’m qualified. I can beat any fool in this Garden with one hand tied behind my back.”

    Squall uncrossed his arms and brushed past Seifer. “I’ll take it under consideration.”

    *
    It wasn’t right at all. Short sleeves, heavy fabric, high collar. About all the jacket had right was the color—black.

    Rinoa twisted her lip. Who would have thought a leather jacket with faux fur trim would be so difficult to find? Well, Balamb was a small town; she really shouldn’t have been surprised. It was just disappointing—she been excited to be able to give Squall with something he would really like, but it looked like it wouldn’t happen after all.

    She looked up from the jacket at Yuna. “Do you know how to sew?” If she could at least get the collar right, that would be something.

    “A little,” Yuna replied. There wasn’t much confidence in her tone as she regarded the jacket. “But Lulu can sew anything,” she added brightly.

    Rinoa lowered the jacket in defeat. For several moments, she stared at the ground. Soon the jacket was all but forgotten as she braced herself for another wave of disappointment. “You’re going to want to go back, aren’t you?”

    Yuna bit her bottom lip and nodded once.

    “I knew you would. And you should. Of course you want to go home.” Rinoa knew it was selfish, but still, a part of her wanted to demand Yuna stay.

    “Is that okay?” Yuna asked.

    Rinoa smiled. Leave it to Yuna to worry about Rinoa’s feelings when she was being nothing but selfish. “Of course. I always knew you wouldn’t be able to stay forever. It’s just that . . . sometimes when I’m here, with all the SeeDs, I feel like an outsider. Like we aren’t on the same wavelength at all.” Rinoa looked at the ground. “I don’t feel that way around you and Tidus.”

    Yuna returned the smile. “I like it here. I really do. So many nice people. And I’ve never been around so many people my own age.

    “But . . . Lulu and Wakka, Rikku and Kimhari, they’re my family. And I know they’re worried about me. I have to let them know I’m okay. And make sure they’re okay, too.”

    “I understand. Maybe it won’t be goodbye forever. Maybe we’ll be able to keep in touch, somehow.”

    “I’d like that.”

    *

    Freshly showered and dressed in his formal SeeD uniform, Squall was starting to feel slightly like a Commander. Not that it mattered. If things went as they were supposed to, he’d be free of his command within a few hours.

    There was a knock on his door and Squall strided over and opened it. Zell and Tidus were standing there, Zell with an intently expectant look on his face. Squall didn’t know what Zell wanted, and when he didn’t get a reaction Zell cocked his head slightly toward Tidus.

    Squall regarded Tidus. He was wearing the cadet uniform Quistis had provided. Or rather, he was wearing most of it. The jacket was unzipped, which was not unusual for a cadet, but perhaps somewhat questionable for a formal ball. But the real issue was that Tidus had nothing underneath the jacket, so his bare skin was showing. He’d also rolled the sleeves up to above his elbows and his pants to just below his knees. And he was wearing his bright yellow sneakers, instead of the boots that went with the uniform.

    Squall sighed and wondered faintly if anyone would make Tidus dress himself properly. Then it occurred to Squall that he was the one in charge, and no one was going to question Tidus’s dress other than him. Squall certainly didn’t care, so he simply gave Zell a fractional shrug as he stepped into the dormitory hallway and closed the door behind him.

    Zell threw a final sideways glance at Tidus’s outfit, then seemed to let the unspoken issue go. “You ready for tonight?”

    “Not quite,” Squall replied. “I need to stop by the classroom on the way.”

    “The classroom?”

    “Yeah. I need to access a computer. There are a few last things I need to take care of.”

    *

    Half an hour later, after arriving in the ballroom, Xu and Nida approached Squall before he could find Rinoa.

    They saluted him. “Commander.”

    He returned the salute.

    Xu handed Squall a piece of paper. “This is all you need to say to lift martial law and resign as Commander.”

    “Assuming you want to,” Nida added. When Squall looked questionably at him, he continued. “I mean, the war is over, so it wouldn’t really make sense not to lift martial law. And if you lift martial law but don’t give up power you’ll be the Headmaster, which I doubt you want to be…”

    Xu set her hand on Nida’s arm. “I think what Nida is trying to say is… It’s been a pleasure serving under you.” She gave another salute. “Just . . . don’t be a stranger, alright?”

    Squall nodded in response and skimmed the words on the page. It was simpler than he expected, somehow. As quickly as the command had been thrust on him, he’d been afraid he may never escape its weight. But now he held the magic words in his hands. Soon he’d be exactly what he’d always wanted to be—a SeeD. Nothing more, nothing less.
     
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Awww liked the scene with Yuna and Rinoa - Yuna really seems to make Rinoa not feel so isolated seems like. lOL on the scene with Zell, Squall, and the rings. ;) Yup, now Squall's moment of decision has come. Whichever he chooses, he'll doubtless be comfortable with it, because his friends aren't pushing him one way or the other. [face_thinking]
     
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  21. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Nyota's Heart Thanks so much for reading and commenting! :D Last chapters coming up!



    Chapter 25

    After giving his brief speech, Squall had caught Rinoa’s eye across the ballroom. She’d pointed to the sky, and he’d known just where to meet her.

    Now, Squall leaned on the balcony railing, enjoying the fresh air and the quiet.

    “Good to be home, isn’t it?” Rinoa stepped up beside him, and leaned onto the railing, her elbow not quite touching his. She looked up at the sky, eyes searching for shooting stars.

    “Very good.” Squall pushed away from the railing and reached for the velvet pouch in his pocket. “I have something for you.”

    Rinoa’s eyes sparkled. “What is it?”

    He fished the rings out of the pouch and presented the smaller one to Rinoa. She eagerly held out her left hand to him, and he slid the ring onto her finger.

    Squall knew Rinoa would not be shocked to see the ring. She was the one who asked Zell to make it, after all.

    “It’s beautiful.” Squall thought he could detect a trace of disappointment in her tone.

    He held back a smile. Perhaps she’d be a little bit surprised after all. “You’ll have to thank Zell.”

    Rinoa continued to study the ring. “I will…”

    “But…?” It wasn’t often that Squall had to encourage Rinoa to speak.

    “It’s just…”

    “…it doesn’t match mine?”

    Rinoa nodded.

    “Then I guess it’s good he made two.” Squall opened his palm, revealing the second perfectly-matched ring.

    “Oh!” Rinoa took the ring and examined it. “It’s perfect!” She slid the ring onto Squall’s finger.

    Squall smiled, pleased to see Rinoa so happy.

    “Hmm…” Rinoa glanced up at Squall with a look that he had learned long ago meant trouble. “Exchanging matching rings, huh? Are you proposing to me, Squall Leonhart?”

    “Um…” Squall had a flash of panic, but it quickly subsided. What was there to be afraid of, anyway? He’ spent the last few weeks thinking about how he wanted nothing more than to spend every possible moment with Rinoa.

    Still, it was rather sudden. Wasn’t there more he needed to do first? Ask her father for her hand? Her father would probably appreciate that, but Rinoa certainly wouldn’t.

    She continued to look at him, expectant but patient, waiting for him to think things through.

    “Yeah,” Squall replied. “I am.”

    “—Yes! Yes, I’ll marry you!” Rinoa barely let him say the words before reaching up and pulling him into a kiss.
    *

    Quistis, Zell, Selphie, Irvine, Laguna, and Angelo were all gathered in a corner of the ballroom, peering out the window that looked onto the balcony. Ellone strode up to them. “Are you eavesdropping on my brother?”

    Those gathered around the window backed away and looked casually around, feigning innocence.

    “No, of course not!” That was Zell, far too defensive.

    “We were just . . . watching the stars.” That was Quisty. Could have been a good story, if it wasn’t for the hesitation.

    “We just had to see if he was finally going to kiss her!” Selphie, of course, a little too honest.

    “Hey, where have you been, anyway?” And Irvine with the deflection. They should have let him speak first.

    Ellone shrugged. “Around.”

    Angelo woofed.

    “Around where?” Laguna’s tone had more concern than the situation warranted. He must not have realized until just now that he’d lost of track of her while he was focused on Squall.

    “Just around…maybe near the quad…” Ellone mumbled, realizing she was now in the spot the others had been moments ago.

    “The quad?” Irvine raised an eyebrow at her. “Isn’t that where Yuna and Tidus went?”

    Busted. “Um…”

    “And you accused us of eavesdropping?”

    No sense in denying it. “Well, she disappeared with a strange boy. What am I supposed to do?”

    “He’s not exactly a stranger to her,” Selphie reminded her.

    “But I don’t know him.” Ellone knew she was being too protective. She hadn’t even known Yuna that long. But Ellone had spent her entire life being protected by others. It was the least she could do, to try to protect her young friends from the dangers that couldn’t be stabbed or shot. And he was a perfect example of those dangers—the first word that came to mind when Ellone saw the boy’s tousled blonde locks and bright blue eyes was heartbreaker.

    “Does the fact that you’re here mean you determined his intentions were honorable?” Irvine asked with a sly grin.

    “For now.” Though the boy certainly had the potential to break hearts, he’d looked at Yuna with genuine caring. Not just caring. He’d looked utterly smitten. If she didn’t already know Yuna, she might’ve been worried about his heart being broken.

    Quistis gave a knowing smile. “You’re a good big sister, Ellone.”

    *

    Yuna had been quiet since they’d left the ballroom. At first Tidus hadn’t thought much of it, he figured maybe she was waiting until they were alone. As they entered the quad, though, he became concerned. She was staring at the ground, and—unless he was imagining things—she seemed to be close to tears. “Yuna, what’s wrong?’

    “I’m so sorry.”

    “Sorry?” Tidus stopped and turned toward Yuna. She stopped and turned toward him, but her eyes were cast downward. He traced a finger along her jawline, hoping she would look up at him. “Why are you sorry?”

    She cried then, and Tidus’s chest tightened. They were finally together, and safe—why would she be so sad?

    “I didn’t believe.” Yuna looked up at him, for just a moment. “I gave up on you.” She turned away from him, knelt on the ground, and sobbed.

    It hurt, deep in his chest, to see Yuna so upset. But he was a little bit relieved that it wasn’t something worse. He sat down behind Yuna and wrapped his arms around her. “It’s okay. I didn’t think I would survive either. I’m still not sure how I did.”

    “But you never gave up on me. You were determined to save me. No matter what. And you did.”

    “And then you saved me. You came to a strange planet with people you didn’t know. You followed Seifer to find me, to rescue me.”

    Yuna turned toward him and shook her head slowly. “I should have found you sooner. I should have…” Yuna leaned against his chest, her body trembling with sobs.

    “Shhhh…” Tidus stroked Yuna’s hair as he held her close. “Yuna, you have to stop crying. If you don’t, I’m gonna start.”

    Yuna took a deep breath and looked up at him. She brushed his cheek with her thumb—it came away wet. “You’ll start crying?” she asked with a smile.

    He smiled back. “If you think one tear counts as crying, you don’t know me as well as I thought.”

    “Can you forgive me?” Yuna asked.

    “There’s nothing to forgive. We’re together now. That’s all that matters.” He ran his hand through her hair. “I love you.”

    “I know.” Yuna looked down as her cheeks flushed. “Rinoa told me.”

    Tidus cringed. “She told you that?”

    “Of course. That’s not the kind of thing Rinoa could keep to herself.” She looked up at him and smiled. “Not any more than you could.”

    “Sorry, I didn’t mean—”

    “It’s okay. I don’t mind.”

    “Okay, then. No one has anything to be sorry about. I love you and…” Tidus let the sentence trail off. When he began, he’d intended to say more. But then he started second-guessing himself.

    “And I love you, Tidus.”

    Tidus felt a great relief at her words. It wasn’t that he thought she’d changed her mind in the time they were separated…

    “Why do you look so surprised? It’s not the first time I’ve said it.”

    “I know. I just…I know it was sudden, before. I know it was like your…your last words, I guess. So if you…exaggerated. You know, said more than you really felt, more than you otherwise would have, I’d understand.”

    “I love you, Tidus.” Yuna leaned in and kissed his cheek. “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

    “Okay, okay.

    “We have to stop this. We have to stop worrying about what happened in the past. We should just be thinking about right now. About this moment.”

    “You’re right.”

    Tidus lay back onto the grass. “What exactly are we supposed to see here?”

    Yuna lay beside him, with her head resting on his shoulder. “Shooting stars. Didn’t you have them in Zanarkand?”

    “Not that I know of.”

    “There. Did you see it?”

    “Yeah. Pretty.”

    Yuna snuggled closer to Tidus and reached for his hand, interlacing their fingers.

    He watched the stars streak across the sky and he listened to Yuna’s soft breathing. It was almost too good to be true. He wondered if it might all be just a dream. If it might all end in the blink of an eye. Maybe it would, but it hadn’t yet. And even if it all ended tomorrow, he would still have this moment.

    “I love you, Yuna. Forever. For always.”
     
  22. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Postscript: SeeD at Last

    Seated on his bed, Seifer tossed his brand new SeeD uniform into the trash bin. He’d never worn his cadet uniform and he didn’t see any reason to ever wear the even more ridiculous SeeD uniform.

    In fact, he was a bit surprised to be here. Back in Garden, in his own room. An official SeeD. He hadn’t really expected Squall to follow through.

    The uniform had been neatly folded on his bed, with his employment contract on top. Seifer was pretty sure there were some extra clauses in the contract, stuff that other SeeDs didn’t have to put up with. Specific demands that Seifer follow every order to a tee or risk immediate expulsion. There was also some stuff about him being on probation, and having to report directly to Squall until further notice. He didn’t think Squall was responsible for that part—he figured Squall would just as soon have nothing more to do with him. Probably the higher-ups had insisted. And Squall had gone along, the good little boy who always did what he was told. Seifer couldn’t help rolling his eyes as he read it. Sure, he’d follow Squall’s orders—as long as they weren’t stupid.

    Even so, Seifer was not oblivious to his rather precarious position. He couldn’t deny that he’d chosen the wrong dog in the fight. But who could have predicted little Squall and his band of misfits could have taken down a time-controlling Sorceress?

    Whatever his past mistakes, Seifer was ready to move on. The best way to do that would be to forget it all. And he could, he’d just need a whole bunch of Guardian Forces.

    He still had Griever. The puny lion ought to be worth two or three other GFs to Squall. He’d just have to figure when to arrange a trade.

    Seifer sat back and stared silently across the room. No longer a Knight, but a SeeD. The reality of that was just starting to sink in. His gaze fell on the rumpled uniform in the trash. Just thinking about putting it on made his skin crawl. He was his own person; he wasn’t going to allow himself to fade away into a sea of matching uniforms.

    Still, he stood up and walked over to the trash bin.

    He bent and retrieved the uniform. He dusted it off and hung it from the hook on the wall. He didn’t have any plans to ever wear it, but he supposed it wouldn’t hurt to keep it around for a while.



    Author Note: The End. Sort of. I have a couple more silly "optional" postscripts that I will post in the Heartbeats thread later. And I've got some ideas for a sequel that may or may not be written some time soon.

    Thanks very, very much to anyone who is reading this. And thanks especially to Nyota's Heart and Mira_Jade for sticking with this story from the beginning, I can't tell you how much I appreciate the support! @};-
     
  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh yum! For the Tidus/Yuna and Squall/Rinoa - long twisty journeys to where they wanted to be - together. :) :)

    I enjoyed this wild romp a lot! And I'll read any sequel you start. @};-
     
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  24. Mira_Jade

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

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    [face_love][face_love]That was a wonderful end to a wonderful story; I enjoyed every word of this and would love, love, love to see a sequel, or anything else that strikes your fancy in this verse, really. [face_batting]

    Thank-you for the fantastic tale! [:D]=D=
     
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