Authors Notes: On the last chapter, I began to feel a bit uneasy about the story, and couldn't get it to flow. It took me a while, but I finally figured out how I wanted this chapter to play out. My favorite part of this is paragraphs five through seven.
Chapter 6 - Of Clocktowers and Coco
"Squall? Irvine?" Quistis says. "Sorry to interrupt but Irvine here's got a mission," she says. Sure, having a critical potentially traumatic life moment here, and Cid has the gall to assign a mission. Of all the...grr.
The clock tower above the corner of Fifth and Willace wasn't very well protected against the wind. It had been maybe two hours and already his fingers were doing the tingly thing. He slapped one hand against his knee to warm it up a bit, startling his stoic companion from wherever it was Squall went when he got the "I'm far far away and really sad" look. Not to be confused with the "I'm sorta far away and the world's ending look Squall got that night on the Deck.
"Sorry. Hands cold." He muttered, not wanting Squall to think they were under attack or anything and start throwing firagas around. When Squall went into Broody Mode, surprising him was never a good thing. "Cid?" I said. "Squall's a bit...emotionally unstable right now and probably shouldn't be left alone," I said. "Well, take him with you," he says. Sure, send a suicidal SeeD on a sniping mission as my lackey. He'll probably arrange to get shot to save himself from boredom.
"Irvine?" he says. "The men just left the building," he says. Off all the... oh, right.
"Showtime," he murmured, and shimmied up to where his rifle was set up. Already aimed towards the doors below, barrel loaded, just needed some slight adjustments to the scope and to locate the men... ah, there they are. A small pack of them, about half a dozen, all in grayish business suits and ringed by a small squad of bodyguards. And there's my man. Ol "Billy" William Hardingill. Age 42, wife, 2 kids, a german shepard, three federal crimes on his head. At least his life insurance covers murder. Alright, time for the ritual. Clear the mind, clam the nerves. Clear the mind, calm the nerves. I am completely at peace. The gun is an extension of my arm. I breathe out as the tension leaves my body, inhale the good air, exhale the bad air. I will not screw up this shot. I will not screw up this shot...
There are a few moments in life where everything slows down and the world suddenly shrinks into a single pinprick. Love at first sight was rumored to be one of them, not that he knew from experience. Another was the Perfect Shot. The moment where you forget about your back aching from sitting in one position too long. You forget about your ponytail tie scratching the nape of your neck. Your nose isn't cold, your boots don't chafe, your hair's not in your eyes, and your finger feels so smooth against the trigger. You just know, without comprehending why, that it'll be a clean, precise, perfect shot. Bliss.
The world froze and shrank into a pinprick.
The wind was about 20 mph due northeast, slightly downward. Two clicks to the left, one up. Billy boy shifted around on his feet. A click to the right. He inched closer to another suit and chatted while he waited for his limo to arrive. Three... four clicks to the left. Perfect, perfect. Now smile, Billy boy, you're on candid camera...
Sweet Hyne in a tutu! Right in his ear no less! Of all the... bloody limbs, the gun's off target now. "I was just about to make the shot, moron!" he hissed through his teeth, which seemed to be chattering for some reason. "What the hell do you want?!"
At least Squall had the decency to look abashed. "Sorry, I... didn't know you... sorry." And he turned and leaned to one side, trying to hide in the wall and trying to look tough doing it. It's difficult to be mad at someone who looks that penitent. Agh, darnit, this is not a good time to mope, Squall. Choosing to ignore the tact-challenged gunblader, he shifted back to the view. Alright, from the top. Gun's ready, check, locate Billy boy...and we're missing one Billy boy. Bloody severed heads, I'm going to hurt someone graphically. It seemed that, while the sniper was distracted by an idiot, Billy boy decided to catch a ride with one of the other suits. Suits gone, car gone, Billy gone.
Irvine turned around slowly, slumped down against the harsh metal railing of the tower, and fished in his pockets for a cigarette. "Well," he said in a mangled calm voice, "that's that, then."
Looking over, Squall's eyes drifted out of innerspace to focus on him, and his forehead did the little creased confusion thing. "You already took the shot?"
"No," Irvine explained carefully, "I have not yet taken the shot. And I'm not going to be taking the shot. And do you know why?" The cigarette was lit now, so he took a puff for dramatic pause. "Because there's no one to shoot, You Charred Imbecile!"
Squall did the What? Face.
"Billy b- Hardingill's gone. While I was... interrupted... he slipped off to some unknown unshootable region. Here's a tip for future reference, Leonhart. NEVER talk to a sniper at work."
As it sunk in just what had gone wrong, Squall's expression shifted. Aw, Hyne, not the 'I'm not that far away, but the door's locked, and I feel like killing myself' look. Okay, not going to strangle him, I'm going to strangle this rusty pipe here. Good, good, pipe's properly strangled; it will never take another breath. Now that I'm calm enough, I'm going try to... urk... cheer up the guy with the bad timing.
Irvine sighed, sighed again, breathed in the good air, breathed out the bad. "Look, it's not your fault...okay, it is your fault, and it was a stupid mistake, but it was still only a mistake. Everybody makes them. We'll just have to extend the mission another day, and boy will Selphie be pissed, promised her dinner out tomorrow night, and get the shot later. The business convention lasts another two days. So stop with the pouty face."
"I don't pout." Facial expression shifted to the 'Still not that far away, and really, I'm not pouting, but I'll have you know I'm miserable' look. Irvine wondered if Squall knew just how easy he was to read if you had the manual.
"Yes you are too pouting. Sulking. Moping. Brooding. Whatever the hell you angsty people call it in that world you pretend is your brain." See, I don't have to kill or mutilate him, can always do the shot again tomorrow, just need to... calm... down...dangit, I think I left the tap on in the hotel bathroom. "I'm not mad at you, much, so you can stop beating yourself mentally blue over it."
A long, pregnant, in labor, congratulations it's a boy, pause, then a small head nod.
Irvine smiled, though he didn't fully feel it. Shouldn't come down too hard on him. He's not a gunner, doesn't understand how nerve-racking it is to be completely submerged in the A-Sniping-We-Will-Go mindset and suddenly hear a voice inches from you head. If I'd been using my regular shotgun, he'd have a dinner plate hole in his stomach due solely to instincts. Doubt he'd appreciate how suicidal what he did was... oh yay, something new and different for him.
Come on, let's go get something hot to drink before my hands freeze over and I'm completely useless, kay?" And while we're out, let's get some therapy, I feel a complex coming on.
Have I mentioned how glad I am to have you back?
Only about ten times in the last minute, sweetie. Sip your coco, it's getting cold.
Yeah, but do you get how really glad I am to have you back?
I am with the getting, honey. Coco. Sip.
Squall sipped his coco.
But, seriously, do you REALLY-
-Okay, now you're just doing it to bug me.
Love you too, Squall. Irvine's waiting for you to say something, honey.
Squall blinked, quirked an eyebrow, and shrugged. Irvine deemed this an acceptable answer and continued.
He doesn't seem mad at me anymore, I think. You think?
Too bad this couldn't be permanent. I can't stand just having you on missions, Shiva. It's too lonely.
It is for me too, honey.
Okay, you're just doing the 'sweetie honey sugarpie' thing to bug me, aren't you?
...Love you too. Is Irvine saying anything important?
Only if you care about different types of ammo.
Don't. What's it like in a GF sphere?
Kind of the same as being in your computer. Cold, dark, boring, but you don't feel the passing of time. Why did you try to kill yourself?
Squall sipped his coco.
Oh, you are going to answer me. I leave you alone for one week and you're trying to jump from high places. Why?
Sip. Sip. Slurpity. Cough.
"You okay, Squall?"
Small gulps, Squall. Don't choke on the marshmallows. Was it because I was gone?
Because you were lonely?
Because you had no one to keep you from dragging yourself through the mud?
Because the aliens stole your moomba doll?
Just making sure you were listening.
So that's where Grrface went.
I'm still here, Squall. You still have someone, even if I'm not always with you.
How can you still be here if you're not here?
In spirit, Squall. Metaphoricality.
I wasn't being literal. Still...
I know. It's hard. But don't you dare add me to the List.
Oh Merciful Hyne, Squall, I've said this uncountable times in the past, and I get the feeling I'll be saying it uncountable times in the future. So I'll just get a jump start on it right now. Notyourfaultnotyourfaultnotyourfaultnotyourfaultnotyourfaultnotyourfaultnotyour-
Stop, please! You're giving me a headache.
Serves you right, taking all the blame like that. Greedy, that's what you are.
But it is all my-
Don't. You. Even. Say. It.
Hmph. Just for that, I won't tell you that Irvine's waiting for another answer.
Blink, eyebrow quirk, shrug. Irvine continued talking.
How did you ever manage without me.
...Well that explains a lot.
...Squall, I... oh, sip your coco.
Can't. Finished it.
Squall, you're going to have to find other people to care for. There are a lot of people out there, too many if you ask me but what can you do, and a few of them are actually trustworthy. You have to find someone else to lean on, or you're going to drive yourself mad.
Been there. Done that. Bought the pills.
I'm being serious here, Squall. Dead serious.
Think Quistis with-a-cattle-prod.
Paying attention now.
Good. Find somebody. Lean on them. I know your track record makes you hesitant, but you need this. You don't have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders all the time, you know.
It's not like that, It's more like a few continents, and only on weekdays, and it's more in the upper back region...
I can imagine your chiropractor bills.
I carry those around on the weekends.
Quistis-with-taser. Industrial strength.
I am paying attention. I'm just happy to have you back, is all.
And Squall happy is Squall loopy.
You know it. And I know you're right, it's just...
You've had so many bad experiences, how could a new one be any different?
And you think you're not worth caring about.
I know you do. And I love you, Squall. Always will. Although your head is so full of thoughts and emotional weights that it gets quite crowded up here sometimes, especially when you're in Brood Mode.
I don't brood.
Pout. Sulk. Mope. Whatever you angsty people call it.
Quoting cowboys is bad for your IQ.
He's not that bad. He just lets his hormones and need-for-support get in the way of his intellect sometimes.
And we all know Kinneas is the manslut... what do you mean, need-for-support?
Oh please, as if that "I'm the best, baby" persona he keeps plastered on his face is the real thing. It's a coping mechanism, I can tell. I should recognize it, considering how many you have.
No picking on your host, parasite.
He gets worried that people won't like him, same as you do. He just reacts to it differently. You curl in on yourself and lock everyone out; he acts as if he doesn't give a damn. Like Seifer does... actually, the entire lot of you are a bunch of headcases. Nod at Irvine.
Squall nodded at Irvine. Irvine launched into a detailed account of The Date With Mara Tillany, complete with hand gestures.
I seem to be the only one who doesn't take the Don't Give a Damn approach.
You're the only one who's been hurt this many times. But for your sake and health, Squall, you have to give it another chance.
And another, and another? How many pieces do you want my heart in? Are we talking grinding it cornmeal fine or flour fine?
We're talking not giving up. Eventually one will stay. And it'll be worth it.
It'll never happen and it's never worth it.
I'm not worth it?
...I didn't mean you.
Because it's different, with humans, right?
I don't mean to insult you, and you're my closest friend, Shiva... but...
...But... I know. I always know what you mean. You know that.
I know you always know.
And I know you know I know, see?
But do you know I know you know I know you know?
Now you're just trying to bug me.
Love you too. Roll your eyes.
Squall rolled his eyes. Irvine completely agreed.
**Authors Notes** By the way, if you read this and still don't understand the ending of Ch 5, it was Quistis in the doorway, bringing Irvine his mission stats. And if you don't understand why Squall suddenly has Shiva back, take a gander at Ch 3, first half.
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