Bookworms and... Booya! Chapter 1
Author's Note: The library girl has had a secret crush for nearly three years. Now an unforeseen accident brings this secret to the forefront of her life, opening her heart and her mind to a possible future...
I raised my eyes from the book I wasnt reading to smile softly at the pair of students entering the Training Center of Balamb Garden. "Hi."
Then they moved on, busy with their own lives of boys and adventure and the occasional stop at the library to study. I sighed and lowered my eyes back to the book - I dont remember what - in time to watch the 5' 5" man with the spiked blonde hair and unique facial tattoo demonstrate his Booya to the many students of his class.
I rested my chin on my hand with another sigh and an absent smile as I adjusted the book in my hands. Hes so cute. He looked like a lot of fun, too. Not that Id ever gotten up the nerve to actually have a lengthy conversation with him. He almost never came into the library, either, not with him and the Commander being such close friends. Him having his own classes at the Garden kept him busy, too. It seemed he barely had any free time at all, although I had seen him once or twice in the cafeteria when hed just missed out on the hot dogs for that day.
I stuffed a giggle behind my hand as I lowered my book and eyes. "Poor Zell," I said quietly.
Id saved Zell a whole tray-full one time. Unfortunately, the thought of actually going up to him - Zell Dincht! - had made me run to the bathroom. Its not fair. If he came into the library and asked me for help with something - like he and Squall and Rinoa did when the Garden had been in chaos - I wouldnt be such a noodle head-- Well, at least not as much - but it was Zell, and I was only a librarian. I wrinkled my nose as I raised my eyes from the book-- class was dismissed and Zell approached!
My eyes widened. I quickly stood from the stone within the grassy patch to gather my books and jacket. Why didnt you notice his duffel by the tree-- My bag slipped from my shoulder, causing books and notebooks to tumble. Oh man! Not now. I knelt, hurriedly stuffing and shoving - all the while hearing his shoes scrunching the rock and dirt and grass--
"You missed one."
A shadow fell over me as I gathered those sadistic books. "I see it," I whispered as I reached out. "Thank you."
"No prob." Zell moved to the tree and picked up his duffel, slinging it over his shoulder as easy as anything. "See ya."
Then I watched him saunter off, one hand in his pocket and one on the strap of his duffel as he whistled a merry tune. I sighed, the books and notebooks forgotten. "Zell Dincht, will you go out with me?" I whispered.
If I lived in a perfect world, hed say 'yes' when I actually asked him that. But I dont, so he wont. Especially since I wont ask. I shook my head, redistributing the books and notebooks in a less haphazard manner. Then, I heaved it onto my shoulder and left the Training Center.
It wasnt that I thought Zell was stuck up, or that he only went for girls with bodacious bods or a fighting style like his. No. That wasnt it at all. Id seen all the girls he hung out with - Rinoa, Selphie, Quistis, and even Fujin on a rare occasion - and they were all so different. Of course, he wasnt really well, Zell didnt strike me -- no pun intended -- as the kind that even noticed when and if a girl liked him 'that' way. He was Zell. Pleasant. Outgoing. Open. Maybe a little clueless, but thats what I like about him. Hes real. Not afraid to be himself.
I, on the other hand... Well, I didnt like tough situations. Non-confrontational I guess is what youd call me. Rinoa had said Squall was the same way, but I didnt believe her. The Commander seemed to care about everyone and everything. He did so good in tough squeezes. Sort of like Zell.
I shook my head as I turned into the corridor leading to the library. I only left my post when Zell had class in the Training Center. I did my best to watch all of them, taking breaks and lunches at the right times to see the middle or end. I guess Im a stalker. The thought was almost funny. Shy little Sally a stalker of Zell Dincht. SeeD. Sorceress Slayer. Hero.
The worst thing being I knew he didnt have a clue.
I placed my bag on the counter of the check-out desk. "Im back, Val. Thanks for covering."
A tall blonde dressed in the Instructor/SeeD uniform of blue, burgundy, and gold came from behind the book stacks. "Val had to go to the infirmary. Bad migraine. I covered."
I flushed, clearing my throat as I self-consciously began to unpack my bag. "Oh... Thanks, Instructor Trepe. I appreciate it."
"It wasnt hard. I remember working here when I was a candidate. Brought back memories."
I logged in to the Gardens computer. "Well, thanks again." I started checking in the returned books, very aware she was still there. It made me nervous.
Quistis leaned her arms against the counter. "So, how long have you been watching Zells class?"
I know I blushed beet red, but Id gotten good at acting nonchalant in spite of it. I shrugged. "Never counted. The Training Centers the closest place to the library that has fresh air. Its good to get away."
"Uh-huh. Right." She pointed at me. "You go there every day, Sally. You watch his class as much as you can, and then you high-tail it."
I checked the librarys bulletin board, bringing my face closer to the computer screen as I tried to decipher some typonese in a posting. "I do get a break and a lunch every day I work." I softly smiled. The posting was a request from Zell for some specific books on combat. I ordered them from Trabia and Galbadia Gardens via the network and put a rush on it.
"Sure you do, but do you work every day?"
"Of course not," I said, still calm and quiet. I went to the next posting. "Im not a bookworm." Although I have been accused once or twice.
"But youre in the Training Center every day."
I released a deep breath, sending another book-order request before meeting Quistis blue gaze. "Im a SeeD candidate, Instructor Trepe. Why wouldnt I be in the Training Center every day?"
"Hm," Quistis said as she pushed back from the counter. She crossed her arms, tapping her fingers against one arm as she suspiciously regarded me. "Fine. I guess thats true enough." Quistis headed toward the exit. "Let me know if you need help." She paused at the door to send me a meaningful look. "With anything."
"Thanks. I appreciate it." But Im fine.
She gave me a 'yeah, right' expression before disappearing into the corridor. I turned back to the computer just as it chirped with an instant message window from one of the instructor terminals. I blinked. The ID# and log on was Zells.
BOOYABOY: books com yet?
I blinked again before lifting shaking fingers to the keyboard.
BALAMB_LIBRARIAN: I placed a rush on the order, but I only just received the request. Ill be sure to notify you when they come in.
BOOYABOY: oh. duh. thnx.
BALAMB_LIBRARIAN: Youre welcome.
He logged off.
I giggled under my breath with a shake of my head as I pulled my textbooks closer. The previous day I hadnt been so cheery. Id actually been pouting. Pouting didnt accomplish much I knew, but Id done it just the same. Val had been out with a full-fledged migraine the whole day, so I hadnt been able to leave the desk. As Zells first afternoon class began, Id been stranded in the library with my tuna-fish sandwich as my only company.
Id moaned about how it wasnt fair, but Id also known it wasnt anyones fault but mine for being so anal. So, Id just tucked my sandwich back into its box and started logging in the books received or returned from other Gardens or students. Like usual, barely anyone was in the library - maybe one person using a study booth in the back - and Id been left to the task of amusing myself while keeping busy. Id already dusted, organized, straightened, and refilled all the books used that morning. All Id had left were five books returned by a student on their way to Zells class.
All of two minutes work.
I knew thered been no reason for my boredom, especially not with exams coming up, so Id retreated to the book stacks and started studying the Fire Cavern. I even believed I had a shot at passing this time. Instructor Tilmett did, too. All I had to remember was not to waste time on the cave inhabitants. The fight with Ifrit was the important part. Id been close a couple times, but I knew that didnt count.
The book on the Fire Cavern Id practically memorized already, but Id figured reading it again would be better than brooding. Zell never brooded. He always seemed so careless and fancy free. Happy. A laugh and a riot. Then Id smiled and giggled as Id remembered how unhappy he got when missing out on hot dogs.
That thought had been the only thing I'd needed to launch me into an escapade of nonsensical dreams and 'what if's that I knew I would never dream of actually following-through with.
I sighed now, wishing with all my heart that I had a spine, and gathered my things as Theresa came in to take over. Its fate, I tell you. Shes out to get me.
"Bye, Theresa," I called over my shoulder.
I slung the bag over my shoulder and headed for the cafeteria. I had a note for the cafeteria lady. Her son and I were pen pals, and he would give me letters in email and envelopes to give to her. It was a great feeling to see her face get all wistful as she reminisced over his boyhood. And it was a great way of getting a secret stash of hot dogs. Now if I could only get up the nerve to ask Zell... But I wasnt going to hold my breath.
Of course, I had to give myself some credit. Didnt I speak to him when giving him that Mega Phoenix? Didnt I speak to him again just a little bit ago? I can do it if I really set my mind to it. Just like I could pass the Fire Cavern. It was all a matter of how badly I wanted it. So how bad do I want to go out with Zell? I absently picked up a piece of trash to put it in a nearby garbage can. Id had a crush on Zell as long as Id been studying at Balamb Garden. Whats so awful and terrifying about talking to him and asking him out? The worst he could do would be to say 'Are you kidding? Get lost!' I could see that happening the day Commander Squall fell in love with Instructor Trepe.
Zell would more than likely say 'Huh? Go out? Oh! Sure!' while immediately assuming I meant hang out as friends. Well whats so bad about that? Its better than nothing. Its better than being labeled a chicken-wuss and being hounded by Seifer and his 'posse'... Isnt it? I gave a shrug and entered the cafeteria.
I pulled the most recent note from my bags outer pocket. "Hi, Francine. Mark sent another letter."
Francines tired face brightened as she wiped her hands on a nearby towel, pausing her duty of washing the lunch trays. I vaguely noticed the usual long line of students and instructors waiting for their chance at the hot dogs.
"Thank you, young lady," she said as she eagerly retrieved the letter from my outstretched hand. "Ive been looking forward to this all week."
"Is he coming to visit?" I set my bag on the floor and then crossed my arms on the counter-top. "Its been months."
Francine sadly nodded as her dark eyes misted. "That it has, young 'un. But the letters and the memories are enough for me now that I know hes safe. I wouldnt want him to give up his excitement for little ole me."
I smiled, reassuring her with a hand covering hers. "He knows, and thats why he loves you so much." I vaguely heard the other cafeteria lady announce "No more. Sorry" and then the general commotion of everyone leaving. "Maybe one of these days you two can set up a meeting? You know? You leave Balamb Garden and take the train or ship somewhere to meet up with him? It wouldnt have to be far, and you know youd have fun."
Francines expression grew thoughtful. "Let me give that thought a whirl, girlie," she said as she gave my hand a squeeze. "In the meantime, why dont you sit yourself down over there. Ill bring you some dinner."
I smiled wider as I picked up my bag, slinging it over my shoulder with a slight "oomph" before saying "Okay. Thanks, Francine."
"No problem at all, girlie." She turned away.
I watched her a moment, hoped Id grow old as gracefully, and then turned-- and bumped into Zell. My bag dropped to the floor. Splut "Oh!" I flushed red and knelt to pick up the books and papers that refused to stay inside. "I-Im sorry," I stammered.
"No prob." Zell crouched, picking up a pencil that had retreated from the circle of my reach. He handed it to me. "Dont sweat it."
I took the pencil with shaking fingers, stuffing it into a random pocket. "Thanks." We stood at the same time and nearly hit heads. He swerved in a quick dodge and then grinned at me. Horror that Id nearly caused a concussion made me back off a step. "Th-Theyre out of hot dogs," I stammered. Theyre out of hot dogs, Sally? Is that all you could come up with!?
Zells grin faded as quick as anything Id seen. He snapped his fingers. "Aw man! Late again."
"B-But you can have some of m-mine," I offered quickly.
Zell took a startled step back, as Id seen him do so often, and blinked in shock. "Really?"
I nodded, not trusting my voice, and tightly gripped the strap of my bag.
"Wow. Thanks." He looked around. "Where are they?"
I swallowed hard. Am I really doing this? "F-Francine... Shes g-going to bring them out."
"Cool." Zell performed his up-beat lumber toward the nearest table.
I stared after him. Now what? Tell Francine to give them to him while I leave, waving good-bye on my way past? Saunter over there as if it were the most natural thing in the world for me to be sitting with Zell Dincht?
Zell spun a chair around to straddle it, gesturing at me with an inviting smile that - to him - was as innocent as could be. To me, it turned my legs to jelly and dragged me over as if hed had a hand on my arm. God, please dont let me throw-up. Anything but that. I slowly lowered myself into the chair, giving him a very timid smile in response to his easy-going grin. I clutched my bag to me as a shield.
"So howd you work a stash of hot dogs?"
A million and one things crashed together on my tongue, making it impossible to say anything. Zell, of course, didnt mind and just jumped to the most logical conclusion.
"You buds with the cafeteria ladies, huh? Ive tried that since Ive studied here. Never worked. Whats your secret?"
Smooth stories and cool answers vanished as I opened my mouth to try and regain some dignity. His grin kept distracting my mind from sending complete sentences to my waiting and half-open mouth. I must have looked like a grat.
"Pen pal," I faltered.
"Pen pal?" he queried with a confused expression in those gorgeous eyes-- "For what?"
Look away, Sally. Look away. I lowered my eyes to my hands as they clutched the strap of my bag. I took in a slow breath. "Im a p-pen pal with Francines son. S-sometimes I b-bring her letters and emails from h-him."
"Pen pal, huh? Hm. Good plan."
I momentarily looked up, but I looked down again when conscious thought began to fade. "I-It wasnt a plan," I whispered. "It j-just... It just h-happened. I never a-ask her to do it."
Francine rescued me from having to say more when she set a tray of six hot dogs on the table between us.
"Here ya go, girlie. I brought you some extras." She cuffed Zell on the back of the head. He protested, but she ignored it. "I know how this hooligan eats. Nearly choked to death one time."
"Well if you saved me hot dogs once in a while, I wouldnt need to scarf!"
Francine laughed and moved away.
Zell grinned - a normal expression for him - and handed me a plate. "Shes a riot."
I motioned to the plate. "I-I only want one. You c-can have the others."
"You sure?" he asked, but the twinkle in his eyes shouted eagerness and anticipation.
Zell scooped up the hot dogs, added them to his pile, and then started talking about classes and battles and Seifer as he ate. I listened, watching him with a slight smile as I occasionally pinched myself or stepped on my toe to make sure I was awake.
I was, and I have the bruises to prove it.
"So were running through Balamb - Irvine, Squall, and me - trying to track down the 'captain' so we can get in to the 'commander' and find out what the hell was going on," Zell continued while waving his half-eaten hot dog in the air for effect. "We finally track him to my house - my house, can you believe it? - where he stinks up mas kitchen with a rotten fish!"
"Oh no. Your poor mother."
"Damn straight!" Zell took a full bite of the hot dog, attempting to wash it down with his soda. He coughed a little before continuing. "Squall remembered about the dog at the harbor, so we high-tailed it and let the dog take it from there."
"Where was he? The 'captain', I mean." By this time I was so enthralled in the story and how he told it that I hadnt noticed the brightness of the lights compared to the dark outside, or the fact Francine had long since waved good night.
"Hiding on the train, or something."
I absently handed him my untouched hot dog as I leaned slightly forward. "What happened?"
Zell laughed as he took it, waving it again as he graphically portrayed the action. "The dog chased him out like a buel out of the Fire Cavern. Funniest damn thing ever. Raijin with a dog on his ass. Looked like the biggest dork I ever seen!"
"And then you got to the commander?"
Zell nodded as he polished off the last of the hot dog. "Had to beat both of 'em, though, before theyd get out of Balamb."
I rested my chin in my hand as my other fiddled with the now empty tray. My mind was somehow blissfully ignorant that this was real anymore. "Wow," I whispered.
Zell nodded again. "Thanks for the hot dogs." He stood, making a gesture over his shoulder. "Im gonna jet. See ya."
I blinked and straightened. "Oh. Youre welcome. Have a good night," I called to his escaping figure.
Zell waved without looking back. I slumped back into the chair with a silly smile, giggling as I hugged my bag to my chest.
Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic