What If...? Ellone Never Had Any Powers?

By Malice Shaw

The thorns on the rose pricked my skin for the fourth executive time. Hissing, I lifted my finger to my lips and sucked on the blood drop that formed. The tart taste of copper filled my mouth and I could just imagine it staining my teeth pink. Running my tongue to try and lesson the rose tinge, I sighed deeply, taking in the smooth crisp Winhill air into my lungs, and letting it stay there.

My name is Ellone Loire, I'm twenty-one, and I live in Winhill with my adopted mother Raine, her husband Laguna Loire and their son Squall. I took Uncle Laguna's name when they married, and even though I could never call him father, or daddy, he'll always be my uncle. My real parents passed on during a car accident, on the way home from bringing my late baby body from home, and since then, I had been bounced from foster home to foster home up until I was three, and fell in love with the quiet town of Winhill. Raine and Uncle Laguna fell in love with me, so I asked my social worker, with them at my side to make me a permanent part of their home. I was almost scared she would refuse, given the fact that Raine owned a bar and lived with me above it, and sometimes, on those Saturday nights when outsiders came, it became a bit rowdy. On Sundays after our prayers to Hyne were said, we'd have to break out the brooms and mops to clean up the messes that scaled the floors. It was scary, at times, when I'd have to push a pillow over my head and pray for the 'bad men' to just leave. The whole mess of Saturday nights softened a bit when Uncle Laguna came, and he usually played bouncer to the bar, escorting the drunk patrons outwards, and with Mister Kiros and Sir Ward, sometimes out to the town limits to let the bite bugs and geezards take care of them.

Mister Kiros is a free lance mercenary now, but most of the time he works out of town for a mining corporation, where they hunt and excavate for the lost treasures of our world and the past sorceresses. Digging around in the dirt, so to speak, he hopes to someday buy a house so he and his girlfriend Minerva can live peacefully. I've hear him speak of Winhill as the place to be, but I get the feeling that somehow he would much rather prefer the big league towns like Deling, or heaven forbid Dollet. Dollet's had those problems with monsters in the communication tower, and that big spider like robot I heard they were creating, X-AM or something. I'm not sure, but I do know that a lot of taxpayer's money is going into it, and Mister Kiros was also helping in the design. I'm pretty sure he mentioned something about it, but that it was top secret and it was designed to help out with the monsters, and that was all. Of course, I had this nagging feeling that something was wrong, but I wouldn't tell. After the deed of the 'Black Widow' was done, Sir Kiros became a vagabond, a skilled mercenary during those times, before he started in with the mining corporation. If he feels the need for extra cash, he works for a few months in Esthar, where his dear sweet Minerva lives with their now two year old son Saigon, with Sir Ward.

Sir Ward had become president of Esthar. During the sorceress war with that evil demon Adel, he had come up with his own silent plan for her capture and to send her into space. He had asked Uncle Laguna for help in this matter, and they worked together for long late nights creating a plan to embalm the witch, tempt her with a child who's intelligence surpassed any young girl's known on Hyne's green earth. They had conducted a plan to use me as bait, and even though Raine never agreed with it, I had whole heartedly and anxiously adored any adventure with my uncle Laguna so much, that they need not had to ask for my agreement. I do believe I was halfway to Esthar the minute the words escaped their lips, flying high with adrenaline my five-year-old body could muster. When we had arrived, Uncle Laguna had told me precisely what to do, and how to stand clear of the razor sharp talons of the evil wench that she was sure to wield, as Sir Ward described the plan to use my holographic body to bring her into her own demise. When she had been captured, everyone held a vote as to decide on who should become the new fresh President of Esthar, the leader of that miraculous city. Even though I had made a note that Uncle Laguna won by a landside, he secretly switched the votes to Sir Ward, tapping my nose in our secret little 'handshake' telling me that this was the right thing to do. Sir Ward had won, and he still reins that beautiful city with a silent throat and a strong fist, and comes to visit up once a weekend every month. Sometimes, he brings a package and gives it to Raine, which I found out was money to keep Winhill alive. It pays sometimes to be a snoop.

Uncle Laguna still says to me when I ask him why he chose not to run that beautiful Esthar city, that Winhill has always been too good for him to leave. In some ways, I find a double-edged sword in his words. Of course he would have loved to become president of Esthar, who wouldn't? But at the time, Raine had just had my little foster brother and Uncle Laguna. Having never had much of a relationship with his own father, Laguna refused to spend more then a day with out being in the company of that baby boy, his wife, or I. My heart tells me that even though he loves journalism (he still writes freelance articles for Timber Maniacs as well, and the Battle series that my little brother loves to read, along with Weapons Monthly: The machine guns no man can live with out) and ability to travel and see the world we have forged, he loves Raine and Winhill even more, and feels never to abandon it no matter what. The old folks who used to whisper about him have finally excepted him into the folds of this quiet town, even coming to our door at night for help with a leaky faucet, stopped toilet, pluming, etc.

Sometimes my little brother helps him out. He is eighteen now, and when he was little he used to follow Uncle Laguna to the ends of the earth around Winhill. I used to hold him and rock him into a deep slumber after Raine almost died. He had nightmares for many months after her near drowning, which we both witnessed. I loved how he needed me then, making me feel superior in a good way. I know for a fact that he still does need me, and that itself makes me happy to have him as my little brother. He has Raine's beautiful facial features, but Uncle Laguna's stunning blue eyes. He got the perfect looks from both sides of his parents. Someday, I know this, he will get married to the only lady I feel will ever be worthy of him. Of course, she'll have to be some sort of royalty. My little brother deserves no less! He needs me. And I need him. We are both a part of a circle that includes Raine and Uncle Laguna, and nothing can break the chain. Even if at times he can be an annoying little grog, but aren't all little brothers some time?

I pull my finger from my lips and stare down at the rose bed, their dark crimson color staring up at me with their entwined petals. The bleeding has stopped, and I notice that they still are no match for the beautiful white flowers my adopted mother seems to enchant with her skilled gardening fingers. She used to make wreaths for my hair during the Winhill festivals, and I have seen some embarrassing pictures of myself my little brother, even at the ripe age of eighteen, still likes to point out and laugh at where I'm dressed as some sort of angelic fairy, prancing around in a sea of petals in which people would throw at me. Raine made a scrapbook of my youth, and in that book she took the very first wreath that adorned my head and the first few petals that fell into my hair and pressed them into the stiff backing board.

A loud humming sound filled the air, and a brisk breeze soon ascended upon Winhill. The sky was darkening, as I pushed my hair back behind my ear and looked above me. I recognized the huge craft, flying high above my head almost instantly as the famed Balamb Garden. Every time I see it, it never fails to take the breath from my lungs. It's almost as beautiful as Esthar itself, with it's other world like looks and it's halo of light lifting it off the ground. One time, I was lying outside during one of our famed Winhill nights, just gazing up above, and I heard the low hum of the floating school, right above my head. It flew quite low then, so low I could hear the laughter and the voices from inside, as if a party was happening at the moment. Possibly the graduates of the school to become full fledges SeeDs. A pair of young men came by to Winhill, claiming to be the graduates, but of course it was a lie. Uncle Laguna found this out by heading straight to the Headmaster of the floating realm and asked him for references, and non-could be provided. Uncle Laguna gave them a chance anyhow, and allowed them to stay, much to the charging of the old lady who ran the flower shop, who's bed of dirt I was resting my knees in now.

"Now, now little Elle, I am not paying you to stare at the stars!" Her voice rang from behind me. I cringed slightly as she used the nickname only allowed to be past by the lips of Raine, Uncle Laguna, and my little brother. Also, she wasn't paying me to look at the stars, or to tend to her garden. As nice as she can try to be, she's a cheap old buzzard.

"Yes ma'am," I replied. "But I'm through here, so I'll head on home now. It's almost time for dinner."

She nodded sadly. Her husband died a few years back, and ever since then she has been a lonely old woman, vying for some company. I felt guilty about my evil thoughts earlier and gave her a smile.

"If you'd like, you may join us? I'm sure Uncle Laguna and Raine will be happy to have you over."

At the mention of my wonderful Uncle, her face clouded over and she stiffly shook her head. "I… No dear, but thank you for your wonderful offer."

I nod at her and bid her farewell, and walk back towards the bar, still looking upwards towards the flying Garden above my head. It was drifting towards the horizon now, disappearing across the clouds. I do like that Garden, and had once considered joining it. But Raine needed me to help her run the bar and I could never be away from Uncle Laguna or my little brother for so long. And I also heard they're mercenaries. I'm not the mercenary type, but maybe, if Saigon inherits his father's talent for fighting, he can join. I'll have to mention that to Mister Kiros the next time he comes to see us.

Stepping inside, I breathed in the scent of steaks on the griddle and potatoes baking in the oven. Uncle Laguna was handling the stove while Raine was cutting up vegetables on a board. My brother was reading the newest Weapons Monthly, and on his hand was the Lion ring Raine had given him. Ever since he got it, he never took it off, even when he showered. I asked him why it meant so much to him, and he just shrugged and said "...whatever." before I started to pester him like any older sister would before he told me that he liked it. I took the explanation in stride, as I sat down next to him and tapped him on his hand.

He looked up at me with his solemn face and serene blue eyes. "Yeah?"

"Squall..." I smiled, "Miss McCarly says you have to go see her more often."

Squall gave me one of his 'gimme-a-break' looks. "Oh why, so she can badmouth dad to me again?" he whispered low enough for Uncle Laguna not to hear. My ace must have showed pain because he groaned and leaned in close to me. "Sis, look, it's not like I don't feel for the old woman. I liked her husband. He was cool. He also accepted Dad as a part of Winhill, but she just couldn’t. And still can't. It pisses me off because she's always complaining about how much I look like him, even though I look like mom."

I have to admit. He does look like Raine. I reached out with my hand and gripped his fist gently, smiling at him. He opened his palm and let my fingers sift through his and squeezed my hand, taking comfort from me. Both of us looked up to Raine and Uncle Laguna and smiled, watching as they playfully hounded one another in the kitchen. Every once in a while Uncle Laguna would snake an arm around Raine's waist and tickle her side, and she would swat him away with a smile on her face, and a giggle in her throat. I often wondered about Julia, the singer he fell in love with before Raine. But he always described Julia as a fleeting wind in the night, and Raine as a down pour of wonderful everything that he needed and wanted in life. I had to agree. Raine is a wonderful woman. I remember the day when she started drowning, trying to save another child from being pulled into the waves. Uncle Laguna is a wonderful swimmer, and he saved her that day, with me holding my little brother tight, making sure he knew that everything would be all right as long as Uncle Laguna was around.

The table was set now, and I stood up to help with the food. Setting it down in the right order, we said our graces to the Hyne and began to eat in midst of conversation with each other. It wasn't until Squall tapped his glass for attention and stood up did we drive ourselves from our talking to look up at him and give him our eyes.

"Mom? Dad?" He said, a quiver in his voice. I wondered what could be going on into the privacy of his mind to make him so nervous. Raine and Uncle Laguna looked up at him and smiled, awaiting his news.

Shocking news, if I say so myself.

"Mom, Dad. I know this is going to be a little tough, but I need you to know that I'm an adult now. And I've made a few calls..." He burned red then, his voice trailing off. Uncle Laguna looked concerned and Raine only narrowed her eyes.

"...And, I've decided to join Garden as a late emitted. They have great Instructors there, and the ones they call Instructor Almasy and Instructor Trepe, I've heard they're great for teaching..." He stopped then, and sat down, not daring to face either of their eyes. Under the table, he sought after my hand and found it, gripping it tight. I could feel the circulation from my fingers cutting off so I squeaked out a little sound, and he loosened up.

"...Instructor Trepe and Almasy... they... they teach the late comers, like me. And I've always wanted to... Learn how to wield a gunblade. I've been practicing with dad's old one, and they know how interested I am... The money's good and all... "

"Well, son..." Uncle Laguna chided in, but was cut off by Raine.

"Absolutely not!" She almost shouted, standing up. "I will NOT have my son prancing around the globe with belts to his knees full of bullets killing things!"

"But mom!" Squall admonished, his hand once again clenching my own. I winced in pain again, but decided to let him go on. "I wanna see the world! I can't stay here in Winhill forever!" His last remark came out like a whine. Oh, Squall...

"No! Enough!" Raine shouted, throwing down her napkins and rolling up the sleeves on her pretty yellow sweater. "You will not, and I repeat WILL NOT GO TO GARDEN! Is that UNDERSTOOD young man?"

"No! I don't understand!" Squall shouted, standing up as well and letting my poor hand go. He was only a mere five foot eight, but he seemed taller then… and stronger. My, how he had grown up, in front of our own eyes even. "You won't let me grow up! Mom, I HAVE to do this! Please, just under-"

"If you leave Squall, don't EVER come back! You understand me?? Don't you EVER come back here again!" Raine shouted, balling her fists at her sides. She would have gone on until...

"RAINE ENOUGH!" Uncle Laguna shouted up at her from his sitting position. The sound of his shouts made all of us jump, and Squall paled; shocked at hearing his own father yell at Raine like that for the first time any of us had ever heard. He usually spoke in a goofy yet adorable manner, but now, his blue eyes (much like Squall's) raged with an anger that none of us, not even Raine, have ever seen. He lashed out with a hand and gripped her forearm gently, and whispered into her ear "You and me. Talk. Now."

He looked back at us stunned kids and smiled thin, saying "Excuse us." Before leaving the room with Raine.

My brother sat down in a huff, and started shaking. I reached over with my arms to attempt to comfort him like I used to do when we were children, yet he only shied away from me. Feeling rejected but understanding, I continued my dinner in silence, even though I wasn't hungry anymore.

We could only hear muffled voices through the walls, and we counted the minutes as they tapped down. A half hour later, they reentered, Raine's face full of tears that dried on her cheeks. Sitting down, they continued with their cold dinner, not speaking. Squall merely sat in silence, brooding. It seemed like an eternity before Raine spoke up. "Pack your bags."

"Huh?" Squall said, brought from his dream world.

"I said," She pulled in her breath. "Pack your bags. You can go."

Uncle Laguna nudged her gently and once again she pulled in another heavy sigh and looked at her near empty dinner plate. "But on one condition."

"Yes mom?"

"You HAVE to visit us at least one weekend a month! And your vacations are OURS all right? And you WILL tell us everything! How you're doing, everything! And you have to call and write at least once a week or I'm going to Balamb and drag you back by your ear. Is that understood young man?"

Squall's face lighted up with a joy that was so rare to his precious features that it made my heart ache. He jumped up yelping happily, running to the other side of the table to hold and hug Raine, lavishing her with thank you and you won't regret it, to I love you and thanking the Hyne for giving him such wonderful parents. He bounded up to his room, yipping with glee to apparently pack for his upcoming adventure while Raine held her face in her hands and silently sobbed into Uncle Laguna's chest. Uncle Laguna looked at me and mouthed out the words "Are you okay?" and was satisfied with my nod. I excused myself from the table and up to Squall's room, where I helped him pack and talked to him about his leaving Winhill.

Now, as I sit outside, I listen to the earth. Raine's crying has ceased, and she and Laguna have gone for a long walk on the path to where he proposed to her. I can see them from here, where I sit in this flower field and I smile, knowing that Raine's accepted the fact that her little baby boy is all grown up. Their conversation resides amongst a few things, about Raine getting gray hair and gaining weight, but Uncle Laguna's deep voice is heard now, faint, telling her that he never noticed. That she is still the most beautiful and spunky woman in the world. Spunky? I like that. It describes Raine perfectly. They're out of earshot now, still crunching the field beneath their feet.

The cool Winhill night, even this late is still beautiful, and I enjoy the sight of the stars glistening the skies like diamonds on velvet. The air is crisp and clean, and I smile, enjoying my nice quiet moment. It's been over a week since Squall's announcement, Footsteps behind me awaken my senses and I look behind me to see him standing there, hiding something behind his back. Smiling, I stand up to my young brother, who is over three inches taller then I am. My eyes narrow playfully, and I attempt to reach behind his back to snatch at whatever he's hiding from me.

"Squall!" I whine playfully, trying to jump behind him. He leaves tomorrow. Time is going so fast.

"What Sis? Too slow? Come on keep trying!" he laughs at me now, turning and twisting away to keep me from the hidden object behind him.

"Squall, come on! Please?" I beg, standing upright and placing my fists on my hips. "That is so unfair."

He smiles now, my brother, and pulls out an object that was obviously of his handiwork. I'm surprised at the sight. One of Raine's white flower wreaths? The object glows a pale cyan in the moonlight, as he twists it in his hands, even though the flowers Raine grows are usually as white as snow. I gaze at it, my eyes wide, drinking in the sight of his handiwork. It looks somewhat shabby, but I immediately fall in love with it. The leaves are a little uneven, and the petals slightly tinged with brown, but he's done his best. I've seen some of the prettiest flower wreaths by Raine, but since this one is by Squall, it's one of the most beautiful wreaths I have ever seen. Not pretty, but beautiful.

In silence, he stepped toward me, shadowed by the serene moonlight, making him seem like an ethereal white knight. I half pondered to myself, would he make a wondrous knight to an undeserving sorceress? Pushing the thoughts from my mind, I laced my fingers together and smiled at him, placing them in front of my lap. "Squall," I asked him, a smile tracing my lips. "What's that for?"

He fingered it lightly, still smiling. Taking careful steps towards me, his boots crunched the tall grass and he frowned, attempting to perfectly place it on my head like a crown. Pulling back, I lifted my hands to feel along its circular shape, and smiled. "What's this?"

Squall pushed his hands into his pockets and grinned sheepishly, looking like Uncle Laguna more and more. "Remember the festivals? You used to wear the wreaths Mom made."

I nodded, smiling. "And you laughed at me, little brother."

"Heh, yeah, I did. But hey, I just wanted you to know, that you actually looked really pretty like that, Sis. I just laughed…cause, well..."

"You're my brother." I finished for him, slugging him lightly in the arm. He mocked pain.

"Well, yeah. And all little brothers are supposed to be the pits sometimes." He scratched the back of his head, another trait he received from Uncle Laguna and smiled. "Hey, close your eyes and hold out your hand. I got something else for you."

I felt something smooth and round in my palm, and knew what it was before I opened my eyes to see it. He had removed his Lion ring and gave it to me.

"Squall?" I croaked out, my voice not showing my belief. "You're...giving it to me?"

He shook his head then, and smirked. "Nah. Not giving it. Letting you borrow it…sort of. I want you to keep it for me until I come home. Can you do that for me Sis?"

I nod, not trusting my brain to say any words. A happy, yet sad feeling came over me, as I stared down at the silver ring. A tear falls, into my hand and dead center inside the ring. Another falls past it, and before I know it, I'm crying.

Feeling his arms wrap around me, I know now what I have been denying myself for so long.

Squall Leonhart Loire is all grown up.

Squall Leonhart Loire is my brother.

My family.

Squall Leonhart Loire…doesn't need his big Sis anymore.


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