Author's Notes: Yes!! K-chan has a plot! Or so she thinks... Yay for dreams and inspiration. This is a really wacky idea, and I'm going to try and make it work as best as I can without dribbling into the clichés in which Hollywood indulge. Screw television; it's bad for you. And apologies to all pagans out there, no offence intended with the here depicted craft. However, it’s the Final Fantasy VIII world-version of craft, so I guess I can screw around with it so long as I make some canon mistakes in which case, please correct me.
DISCLAIMER: Characters of Final Fantasy VIII are the property of Square and I claim no rights to them. The song "Gramarye" belongs to Remy Zero and Geffen Records, Inc.
Life moves in a chalk line
Chains that define who I am
Here we are again
How could I have seen?
Always she's driving
How could I have known?
Right through the strangest calling
Straight through the sound,
Gramarye, I found,
See how she's driving me...
- "Gramarye" - Remy Zero
No fucking way.
"It's harmless," Rinoa assured, looking quite sincere.
Squall stopped mulling over the paperwork on his desk, turning to fix his girlfriend with a dark look.
Rinoa had expected as much. "Oh come on, Squally!"
His thin-lipped scowl twitched ever-so-slightly at the pet name. Rinoa made her way around his desk, glancing at the solar disc that was drooping precariously over the horizon. Stooping at his side, she placed her hands on the arm rest of his conference chair, patting his wrist affectionately.
"It'll only take a few minutes..." she began, but Squall cut her off, shaking his head as he removed his reading glasses.
"I'll say this once, and only once." He leaned closer, blue orbs boring into hers. "No, Rinoa. I won't be your guinea pig, and I am most certainly not dancing naked under the full moon."
The dark-haired Sorceress restrained a grin. "Who said anything about dancing naked? All I want," she paused, making sure she had his full attention, "Is for you to sit there. That's all you have to do. It's sort of like a passive ritual to celebrate life and..."
A raised hand halted her in mid-sentence. Rinoa pouted, only fueling Squall's irritation.
"Don't," he warned. Squall knew what was coming, and dreaded it more than SeeD First Years. Damn first years. He was once one of them. A shudder.
Her large, dark eyes started to shimmer.
Aw, hell no.
"Rin, I fucking swear," Squall grumbled as she gazed at him imploringly. "If you start crying..." The tone was grave, but Rinoa took no notice. Leaning forward, her tear-filled eyes locked with his, silently pleading.
"Squall," came the sad whimper.
He twisted away violently, sending papers askew. "Oh, fine. Just - get away from me. Get away," he muttered, waving her off. He mentally cursed as she hugged him tightly, thin arms encircling his neck in a vice.
"I love you, Squally," Rinoa squealed, tears gone. She released him, making for the door. Squall was silently thanking Hyne for oxygen when she whirled, smiling brightly.
"Ten o'clock in the Quad." It wasn't a question. And with another sparkling grin that Squall was sure could have shattered a Hall of Mirrors, she pranced out of his office.
As the large oak doors swung shut, Squall cursed his luck - or lack thereof. This was going to be bad, he could already feel it. He understood that Rinoa needed to refine her new abilities, hell, he encouraged it. The Fates must have been high when they decided to bestow such cataclysmic powers in the preordained Sorceress that was Rinoa Heartilly.
There was no God.
There must be better ways to harness one's powers. Like ways that don't include using you boyfriend as the test subject!
Gritting his teeth at the thought of impending doom, Squall buried his head in his hands, fingers tugging loosely at the dark bangs that fell over his eyes. The silence roared. Eight months ago, this silence was music. A great opus with only the hum of his own thoughts and the faraway sounds of the outside world as accompaniment.
Eight months ago the silence was his lone, welcome companion. The world acknowledged this and life went on its merry way. Grand and coherent, life was a pleasurable ritual. And then the great work of art that was life met a rogue artist by the name of Rinoa Heartilly; the masterpiece was shattered and became a mosaic. Silence was quelled and peace forgotten in the time that forged the Third Sorceress War. Various villains, acts of God - Sorceress, actually - heroes and a damsel-in-distress later, Squall woke up to a new world. He was promoted from his treasured role as the not-so-tall, dark and mysterious character to the play's protagonist. The classic hero who wins the girl, vanquishes evil and saves the day, riding off into the sunset, living happily ever after.
Wrong fairy tale.
The silence had been forgotten. When it returned for the first time in months, Squall couldn't grasp it. Infinite weeks of Rinoa's tittering had turned the silence into a stranger. It was now as deafening as Deling in peak hour traffic, and far too unnerving to be left unbroken for long. In his confusion, Squall found himself reaching out for the nearest thing to chase away the soundless vacuum that had now become so alien to him. He found the very source that had rendered him to this state, and clung to it as desperately as one would a life line; Rinoa returned the embrace ten-fold.
Squall wondered if he had chosen the lesser evil.
Selphie pursed her lips. "Zell, just shove it in."
"And then what... drag?"
"Why not? I’ll push if I have to."
A few moments later, the brunette SeeD groaned in exasperation. "Deeper, silly. You won't get anything skimming the surface like that."
Zell scowled, promptly slamming his heel down on the staff's blade. The tool promptly sank further into the soil, earning a satisfied nod from Selphie.
"Okay, let's draw the circle first..."
Zell glanced behind him as he dragged the spear through the earth, Selphie's small hands keeping it steady along the pattern they'd traced in spray paint beforehand.
Their current setting had been chosen from numerous others in the Quad, for it was vast, the surrounding foliage instrumental in shielding their activities from prying eyes. The full moon shone high above the stationary Garden, filling the Quad with ethereal
light.Irvine lay back on the shadowed grass, smiling contently as the stars winked back at him.
Quistis held a small lamp over various papers in her lap, several of which bore strange symbols and words of power. Shaking her head, Quistis turned to the cowboy at her side. "Did Rinoa say which one she was using?"
Irvine looked to her, sitting up he skimmed over the papers Quistis offered. He frowned when none of the titles appeared
familiar."No," he said softly. "But I personally think that an Optismism Spell is a weird gift for an anniversary," he looked up as Selphie sighed happily, she and Zell having completed the circle. "Sefie, make sure you get the directions of the star right."
Selphie released the spear, letting Zell plant the spear at the first point in the dark soil. She looked over their current handiwork before fixing the cowboy with a quizzical look. "Does it matter?"
Irvine indicated one of the papers in hand. "According to this, the top point should be facing north."
Zell sighed. "Define top." He wiped the sweat from his brow with his sleeve. "What I don't understand is why Rinoa needs all this stuff. She's a Sorceress, right? Then why does she have to tap into the power of the ages and be one with the stars...?"
Quistis waved him off, shaking her head. "Rinoa's an amateur Sorceress and she needs a stronger force to keep her in check while she conducts the ritual to ensure that she doesn't go haywire and accidentally unleash a supernova."
"What's to say that when she taps into this power, she won't unleash something because of it?" He inquired.
Quistis chuckled. "She's not some waterwork, Zell. I'd rather have some binding force to keep her from going berserk; it's a safety precaution."
“We could always chain her to a tree, y’know. It’s easier,” Selphie put in.
Quistis winked. “Hard labour builds muscle.”
Zell motioned to the scattered papers she and Irvine were skimming over. "Call me orthodox, but shouldn't they be coming out of tomes or something?"
Irvine shrugged in reply.
"Where did you get those?" Zell pressed.
Quistis gave the younger blond a dark look. "Rinoa got them from the internet. Not I."
Zell and Selphie groaned simultaneously.
"That's it; we're doomed," Selphie concluded, looking up the sky as if it would give some consolation.
"Two armageddons in one year. Must be some kind of a record," a voice drawled from the shadows of the surrounding trees.
Irvine rolled his eyes heavenward, throwing off his hat and collapsing back against the soft Earth.
Digging the toe of his sneaker into the dirt, Zell gave the shadows a withering look. "No thanks to you, idiot. What are you doing here?"
There was a soft rustle of leaves before a tall frame emerged from the shadows. The moonlight danced over golden locks, casting highlights that would put the sun to shame. Blue-green eyes sparkled back at the blond martial artist as gloved hands folded themselves over a black vest. Pale skin glowed against the garnet cross sword on his upper left arm.
"Seify, you shouldn't be here. Squall's gonna go spastic if he catches you, he doesn't know you're back at Garden!" Selphie hissed, glancing around for any sign of the SeeD Commander.
Seifer waved a hand dismissively. "Well, you can't hide me in your room forever, Selphie. I didn't leave Balamb so I could keep walking in on the two of you," he nodded at Irvine who seemed blissfully ignorant to the man's words. "'Sides, none o'you are supposed to be out here any more than I am, it's after hours."
Quistis muttered something under her breath, throwing a few balled papers over her shoulder.
"And loitering!" Seifer grinned, regarding the reinstated Instructor.
The blonde sighed, letting her hands fall to her lap. "It's 'littering', smartass."
Seifer motioned in a wide arc. "Don't you guys have work to do? Lives to save? Villains to vanquish...?"
The Instructor cut him off. "Today is Squall and Rinoa's anniversary. Wondergirl is going to give Squall a special present in the form of a spell."
"Yeah yeah, I heard." Seifer walked up to Zell who had resumed carving the ground with the spear. Groaning with frustration, Zell threw down the spear.
"Stupid ancients. Why couldn't they make a symbol of power that was easier to draw? Like a triangle?" Zell flopped down on the ground, head falling back.
"Because, Chicken, there are five core elements, eight in whole; not three," Seifer retorted, nudging Zell with his boot. "Just how did you pass the SeeD exam when you don't even know that?"
"Why the hell do we count ice when we have water anyway?" Zell slapped away the offending boot.
Selphie cocked her head to one side. "I'm sure Shiva would be flattered."
Zell blinked, thinking of the blue-skinned Guardian Force. "Well... Damn."
Seifer shook his head. "Earth, air, fire, water, ice, poison, thunder and holy."
Selphie nodded. "And thunder's a sound. Shouldn't it be lightning?" She motioned for Zell to remove himself from her path.
"They both come with a storm, so I s'pose the scientists thought that was good enough. S'what happens when you put people like Odine in charge." Seifer grabbed Zell's wrists and dragged him over to where Quistis and Irvine resided.
Zell glared at the man as he was dumped unceremoniously. "If I was a scientist, I would firstly - not go around looking like a circus reject..."
Selphie stifled a giggle as Seifer nodded at the tribal tattoo that branded the side of Zell's face.
The martial artist rolled looked pointedly at Seifer's own tattoo on his upper arm. "Well at least I'm not stupid enough to go and tattoo the pattern of my coat to my arm. And don't even try the 'I-was-drunk' excuse."
"Actually, it was gonna go on my back, but Leonhart convinced me not to," Seifer replied curtly. "'Sides, as if you can talk!" He nodded at the tribal tattoo that branded Zell's temple.
But Zell didn't counter with an insult. "Leonhart? Why did Squall care?"
Seifer grinned smugly. "Because he has the exact same tattoo on his shoulder blade."
Selphie perked up considerably, forgetting about her current task. "Really? Since when?"
Seifer nodded, eyes scanning her current handiwork. "One of our old challenges. Long, very dully story which resulted in us going down to Balamb where we got 'em. Originally our positions were going to be reversed, but Squall didn't fancy anyone seeing my family crest on his arm. And it is my family crest, I declare it as so." He said at their looks.
"Who can't take pain from a tattoo?" Selphie looked sceptical, retrieving the discarded tool.
Zell gave her a look, skin seeming to glow against the dark tattoo. "Don't question it, woman."
"I don't! I've got the Balamb SeeD insignia on my hip, and it didn't hurt too badly," she piped.
Zell balked, looking to Irvine; the cowboy just grinned.
"Well try getting one on your face sometime!" the short blond said after a while.
Selphie leaned on the thick spear luxuriously. "And why would I want to do that?"
Before they could pursue the matter further, Irvine spoke up, having only listened thus far. "But why the Cross-Sword, Seifer?"
"Cos it fucking looks good!" Seifer's grin returned, he was looking quite pleased with himself. "Squall couldn't refuse, it was part of the dare."
Quistis scoffed, muttering 'men' under her breath. Then she paused, turning back to Seifer. "When was this exactly?"
"Night before the SeeD exam."
The Instructor pursed her lips. "Figures. You know, that's against Garden regulations."
"So are at least five other things you're doing right now," he retorted. "I owned the fuckin' DC, you wanna talk regulations ‘n I'll whoop yo' ass."
Quistis smiled, shaking her head. "Ooh, if you still went to Garden, I'd..."
Irvine shot up into a sitting position, clamping a hand over her mouth. The only sound was of Quistis' muffled protests, but soon even those died as a familiar voice met their ears.
"... I'm so glad you came, Squally."
Zell's eyes leaped wide, and he jumped to his feet. "Shit! Seifer, get out of here!"
"No," Seifer said simply. “I’d like to see if Leonhart comes out of this a ferret or a funguar.”
By then, Selphie had joined Zell and the two were pushing the taller man back into the safety of the shadows.
"C'mon, Seify," the small girl pleaded. "Please?" she jabbed his stomach for emphasis while Zell had much more success. Seifer frowned. Someone as small as Zell shouldn't be allowed to wield such strength. But finally after one prod too many, Seifer raised his hands in surrender.
"Oh, fine. But don' expect me to go nowhere. This I gotta see."
Selphie sighed in relief, hugging the taller man once again before dashing back into the clearing. Zell gave Seifer what was supposed to be a glare of intimidation.
"Stay," Zell commanded.
"Jump." Seifer grinned.
"I mean it," the boy rasped as the unmistakable form of Rinoa entered the clearing. A darker figure appeared only a moment later. Squall glowered at the abstract symbol that stood out with its dark etchings against the surrounding grass. Hell, it was bright
out."Make sure Rinoa's at the Eastern point when she begins the spell," Seifer told the martial artist.
Zell gave him a funny look before going back the way he'd come. Seifer reclined against a strong oak behind him, weaving his arms over the dark vest. This should be interesting...
Selphie chuckled, making one last stab at the Earth. "This is the fruit of my labour. Use it well."
Quistis held out the various sheets to the Sorceress. "Which spell were you planning to use?"
"Oh, that's what we're going to discuss."
Quistis blinked as the final word brought an onslaught of unpleasant memories. 'Discuss' spelled 'disaster' when Rinoa was
concerned.The blonde forced a bright smile. "Actually, we could try using this one.” She thrust the top sheet under Rinoa’s nose. “It was the closest I could find to what you wanted. It's about having more pleasant dreams and self-projection to boost self esteem. I think." Quistis stole one last glance at the spell before handing it to Rinoa.
"Good, then we'll use this one." Rinoa summoned a tiny, blue pyre to hover over her palm. Dark eyes scanned the spell before the girl nodded. "Yes, this should do fine."
Squall missed all of this. He was too busy staring at the large symbol Zell and Selphie had spent the latter half hour engraving. "How do you plan to cover that up once we're done?" he asked, looking to the others.
Rinoa's eyes sparkled as she motioned for him to stand in the middle of the pentagram. "Magic! Now, hold this," she handed him a small mirror.
Squall stared. "What's this for?"
"I want you to look at yourself in it and think nice, happy thoughts. I'll do the rest," Rinoa instructed, taking up position at one of the points. She looked up at the sky and frowned. Lips pressed into a thin line, her gaze darted around the circle then back up at the darkened heavens. Zell came to her rescue, seeming to know just what she was looking for.
"East is over there," he motioned to the point to her right.
"Oh, thanks, Zell. And I should move around and finish at North... right? Or was it South?"
Her response was a sea of blank faces, save Squall who was trying to catch moonbeams with the mirror. A soft chuckle was uttered, Squall turned to his friends who suddenly seemed very alarmed. The four abruptly leaped into action. Selphie picked up the spear and yelled at Zell for not casting it out of the way. Irvine asked Quistis how sure she was that this spell was correct, Quistis replied in a rather loud voice that she was positive. Turning away, Squall frowned at the sudden ruckus that ensued, missing the wary glance Quistis cast back at the shadows.
Rinoa looked closer at the spell. "Alrighty then! Let’s start." She started reading from the spell, "Sweep the circle... Well, we're outside and it's dirty anyway, so what good will that do?" she giggled, before returning her attention back for further instructions. After skipping a few that were either deemed unnecessary or plain stupid, Rinoa turned her attention back to her boyfriend.
"Okay, start thinking happy thoughts, Squally! Really concentrate, alright?"
Squall rolled his eyes, tuning out her voice as she started chanting disjointedly in some language he didn't recognise. So... Happy thoughts? Well, how about the fact that he'd rather be anywhere but here? Ah, he could be back in his office celebrating the invention of infinite paperwork, for it meant avoiding Rinoa... Fuck that. That just made him bitter.
Rinoa with a ‘mute’ button.
He grinned, a new idea replacing the former and proving far more satisfying.
Rinoa with an ‘off’ button. In fact, all things should have ‘off’ buttons, including Angelo.
Squall's blue eyes leaped wide as the pentagram began to glow a faint white. Casting a shocked look at his friends - who looked equally amazed that it was even working - Squall turned back to Rinoa. If she noticed the steadily growing illumination, she didn't show it. Her brow furrowed in concentration as her eyes flew over the words of the spell, her tongue committing them to the cool night
air.The tiny mirror in Squall's hand creaked slightly in his gloved grip, but Squall didn't notice. With a sudden flash, as if lightning had touched down at his feet, the light exploded to blinding intensity, ancient power thrummed in his ears like a sonic boom. Squall's rising anxiety did nothing for the mirror in his hand, and clenched in his strong fingers, the glass shattered.
In the next moment, he was blinded, and forced to look away. Oh no, this was wrong. Very, very wrong. What was going on? Throwing caution to the wind, he made his way forward into the clearing. Selphie had her face buried in Irvine's jacket, the latter of whom was turned way, eyes clenched shut. Zell had an arm raised as if to block out the sun, but watched on. Quistis squinted at the place where Squall had previously stood, now enveloped in light. Seifer looked to the glowing power, and almost at once saw something that the others did not.
The circle had not been closed.
Dark clouds of black now swirled before them, bleeding into the light.
He had to stop Rinoa.
Rinoa's words came back to him, Squall shook his head, desperately trying to grab onto any memory, or even a thought that could distract him from the ebbing terror. He should never have come here. Futile; he could think of nothing but of how much he would rather be anywhere but there at that very moment. Through the white haze of light, Squall could faintly discern Rinoa slowly making her way around the circle.
Use the mirror!
That was when he remembered that it was still clasped in his hand, Squall remembered Rinoa's instructions. Look in the mirror and think nice, happy thoughts. Okay, let's try this again...
Squall raised the mirror to his face, but the moment it reached eye level the surrounding light amplified, flashing directly in his vision. Cursing in pain, Squall recoiled, closing his eyes instinctively; the mirror falling from his grasp. Through his eyelids, Squall could still see the pure, blinding light of power, and then it started bleeding away. Slowly... And then before he could register it, the ground seemed to cave in beneath him. The light was gone in a moment, darkness dancing before him and for a long time his mind flashed between shadow and sun. An agonising sensation of electricity and blades gripped him, raking down his spine like talons. As the pain reached the final vertebrae, Squall was close to screaming. The ghostly talons swept inside him, wrenching his stomach and twisting. Squall had no doubt that he was being torn asunder, from the inside. This was the moment.
He was going to die. Thank you very much, Rinoa.
"What the...?" She never had the chance to finish.
The ominous black that now tainted the dancing light swirled, the colours intermingling as if spiraling down a drainpipe. The light and colours reached a crescendo, looking very much like a black-laced flame, the cage cocooned to seal the man within. A soundless cry sent them all to their knees, the siren persisting for a few agonising moments before abruptly collapsing in on itself. The cage of flame was extinguished, crashing back down to Earth and slamming with the force of a physical entity. The shockwave that followed knocked them all off their feet; the light vanished and silence roared.
Rinoa was the first to stand. Clambering to her feet, she swayed slightly before someone braced her. Looking back, her eyes grew wide. If she could have found her voice, it would have uttered the name of her first boyfriend, Sorceress Knight to Ultimecia. But the shockwave robbed her of speech, the tremors still running through her like electricity. She and the blond stared at each other for a moment until Seifer looked away. Rinoa followed his gaze, and gasped.
Squall lay inert at the edge of the charred, smoking symbol. His skin had taken on a deathly palour, but showed no visible wounds or even smoke scars from where his cheek pressed to the ashes, sprawled on the burned grass.
Seifer and Rinoa rushed to his side. Tears were streaming down Rinoa's cheeks as she brushed the hair from his face. She leaned close, listening for his breathing. It was shallow, but that was assurance enough and she sighed in relief, though the tears did not stop.
Outside the smoky haze, the others were climbing to their feet. Selphie squeezed her eyes shut when the world spun upon opening them. Pressing a hand to her forehead, she held Irvine's arm to keep steady. The sniper braced his girlfriend as they hesitantly made their way forward. Zell stumbled over to them, shaking his head as one would to wake themselves. His eyes focused on Irvine, then Quistis as she came into view, cradling her wrist gingerly. The Instructor stifled a cry as she ran forward, kneeling at the side of the fallen figure clad in black.
"Squall," she murmured urgently, hands fluttering uselessly around his head, afraid to disturb him. Worry creased her brow when he did not respond. A second person kneeled at her side, she glanced back to see Seifer staring at Squall with a rather astonished expression.
"Seifer, hurry. Have to get him to the Infirmary," Quistis rushed. Zell was already slipping his strong arms around Squall's slender frame to boost him into a sitting position. Irvine and Selphie kneeled beside Zell, the small brunette leaning forward, fingers searching for the pulse at Squall's neck. She exhaled shakily when she found it.
"Wait," Seifer held up a hand. The others gave him a strange look, but he ignored it. "Look."
They followed his gaze to where Rinoa sat hunched over another person, her sobs of grief reaching them as she rocked them in her arms. Quistis frowned, making her way over to Rinoa. She bent, brushing back the person's hair to gaze upon their face. A breath hitched in her throat as she took in the familiar pale face, dark lashes and unmistakable scar. Horror seized her as she regarded Squall in Rinoa's arms... and the Squall whom Zell still held, not five metres away.
Quistis dimly acknowledged Seifer beside her, she had eyes only for the twins before her. Her wide blue eyes darted between the two Squalls, both unconscious, both pale and bearing the identical battle scar on their brow. Eventually, her gaze met Seifer's and saw her own shock mirrored there.
It was Irvine who voiced the one question that echoed in their minds.
"What the hell just happened?"
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