Forever Only Lasts So Long Chapter 3
By Shadow Fortuna
The greatest things are done with the help of small ones.
* * *
3:07. No, now it was 3:08.
Shit, I dont HAVE all day!
Stellina stood in a dark corner of Cids office, watching the SeeDs mingle and converse. Strangely, none of them even seemed to notice her presence. Quistis eyes flickered over to her once, but she knew Stellina was there anyway, and no one even followed her gaze. Huh. For an elite military unit, theyre not very observant, are they?
From the shadows, she could see Cid start talking. She watched the group exchange confused glances at the mention of her finances. When the SeeDs began debating, every one of them nodded, until finally, the Commander turned back and falteringly agreed.
Um, yeah. I agree. Well accept.
Wonderful! Headmaster Cid exclaimed, clapping his hands.
Stellina shifted. She hoped Cid would let her know when she could come out. She felt stiff.
Cid fumbled with some papers on his desk, finally coming up with the crisp, white sheet Stellina had given him. That was it. She could come out as soon as he finished talking
Well, this is your contract, he said, waving it around. Zell made a grab for it, but Quistis slapped his hand away. Never fear, friends, Cid laughed. Your employer will tell you all you need to know, now.
* * * * *
Employer? What employer? Squall said, looking around. Squinting his eyes, he saw the figure emerge from the corner behind Cids desk. As it brushed specks of dust from its immaculate jacket, Squall sized it up.
First of all, it wasnt an it. It was a she. A very young one. She cant be any older that me, Squall thought, taking in her slight frame and lack of verticality. In other words, a short, slim teenage girl had just offered thousands upon thousands of Gil to hire only six SeeDs.
As she looked up, a few brown curls escaping from her perfect bun, he faltered. Damn, shes gorgeous, he observed. Her skin was bronzed and free of imperfections. And her eyes large and fringed with long lashes, and glittering a beautiful shade of purple? Freaky.
She walked over and stood next to Cid. Remembering his duties as Garden Commander, Squall straightened and saluted. He heard a rustle behind him and knew his comrades were doing the same.
The newcomer blushed red, watching the salute with respect and confusion. Seeing this, Squall reached for her hand and shook it. Squall Leonheart, SeeD and Garden Commander.
She nodded, looking pleased. Stellina DiGiovanna, um, pleased to meet you. Stellina looked at Cid.
Ah, good, Cid said. Stellina is your new employer. She has spared no expense to ensure she receives the best help affordable. And that would be you. He smiled widely. Now, why dont you all introduce yourselves?
Zell stepped up. Grabbing her hand, he shook it vigorously. Zell Dincht, SeeD extraordinaire.
Nice to meet she began, before Selphie knocked him out of the way.
Im Selphie! Selphie Tilmitt. Im a SeeD, too!
Charmed, Im sure, Stellina said.
Rinoa walked over. Im Rinoa Heartilly. I want to be a SeeD, but I havent gotten my test back
Im sure you made it, Stellina interrupted warmly.
Irvine strolled over to them. Looking down at Stellina, he reached for her hand. Irvine Kinneas, SeeD and pro sniper, at your service. Tipping his black cowboy hat, he smiled slyly.
Squall winced. Great. Irvines going to be trouble this time not that he was any help last time.
Stellina let go of his hand rather quickly though. Looking away from Irvine, she smiled at everyone else. Maybe we should start talking now.
Squall stretched. Maybe we should. Waiting for her to sit down, he continued. We all want to know what was so important you needed to empty your bank account.
Stellina relaxed in her seat. Thats hardly the extent of my savings. But thats not the point, is it?
No, I suppose not, Squall said slowly. Let me rephrase that what is the mission?
She began toying with a thin silver ring on her finger. Well, she began hesitantly. I can only tell you so much. Im afraid Im not at liberty to discuss too much n.
What do you mean? Zell interrupted.
That means you cant tell us a lot, huh, Stellina? Selphie leaned in and rested her head on her hand. Just when I thought wed find out.
Can you still explain some things? Squall asked, eying her. She seems I dunno mysterious.
Squall thought for a minute. Lets go with the first question. Whats this mission all about?
Well, Stellina began slowly, that depends. Do you mean, what do you have to do?
Yeah, he said finally. Thats always a good place to start.
She tilted her head and wrapped her finger around a loose curl. Okay. Her ankles crossed and she tugged at her jacket. Its like this. My home is, er, changing. Rapidly. Very fast. And I need someone to protect it from the changes. Stellina smiled sheepishly. Thats you.
Changes? Squall asked, his eyebrow quirking.
Wait, wait, Quistis said, shaking her head. You cant stop changes. Everything changes.
No, not everything, Stellina replied. My home isnt supposed to change like this. Like, the way its changing. Its just not right. She shuddered suddenly.
Explain not right, Squall asked. Please.
Its like last year.
Rinoa stiffened. The Sorceress War ?
It cant be like last year, Quistis said quickly. We took care of every threat!
Selphie saw the distraught look on Stellinas face. Didnt we? she squeaked timidly.
Stellina cradled her face in her hands. I dont know! I wasnt there! All I know is that somethings wrong and since you said you fixed it last time I thought that maybe you could try it this time! She looked up and blinked at Squall.
Where do you live, anyway? he asked gently.
Not close. Far away. Um, in a valley.
Any way you could be more specific?
Sorry. Stellina shook her head.
Alrighty, Zell patted her on the shoulder. I think we should help.
Me, too, Squall agreed absently. I want to know whats going on over there.
Me, three! Selphie volunteered, her hand waving through the air.
Rinoa nodded. And me. She looked distressed.
Im in, Irvine said nonchalantly. May as well be.
Either be sincere, Irvine, said Quistis severely. Or stay here. Turning her attention back to Stellina, she said, Ill help.
Any other questions? Stellina looked around.
Squall eyed his companions. For now, he said, looking at her solemnly. I think were okay.
Until then, Cid had been sitting at his desk, listening silently to their conversation. He stood up. Well, then, I suggest you sign the contract. He held it out for Squall.
Squall skimmed over it. We, the undersigned, agree, of our own free will, yadda yadda yadda, fight bravely, offer our full potential, blah blah blah, until desired goal is met. Initial, signature, and were done. He scrawled his name with a fountain pen and handed it to Zell, who handed it to Quistis, who handed it to Rinoa, etc., etc., until all six had signed. Stellina then fished a pen out of her pocketbook, and in a neat, even script, wrote Stellina Tricia DiGiovanna. Waving the contract to dry the ink, she began talking again.
You may not be back for a while. I suggest you pack. After folding the paper and sliding it into her jacket, Stellina glanced at her watch. Meet on the front lawn at, say, four-thirty?
That works for me. Squall glanced at his friends. Alright?
Selphie jumped out of her seat and bounced up and down. Yippee! Vacation!
What should I pack? Rinoa asked. I only have forty-five minutes.
Stellina shrugged impatiently. Warm clothes for cool weather, light clothes for warm weather, something waterproof. Climate varies. May as well pack your whole closet.
Dont tell her that, Zell commented. Or she will.
Rinoa playfully punched his arm. Shut up, chicken-wuss.
Dont call me that!
So, Headmaster Cid said loudly. Ill see you all off in exactly, he glanced at his pocket watch, forty-two minutes. He smiled widely as they began to file out.
Stellina looked out after them. Irvine turned back and winked. She stuck her tongue out at him. Flirt, she mumbled under her breath. Hurry! she called as an afterthought.
* * * * *
What am I going to bring? Oh, packing always equals stress! Rinoa flopped onto her bed, next to her empty suitcase.
Dont make such a big deal out of it, Quistis said, folding a pair of jeans. Just bring what Stellina said.
My whole closet?
No, silly! Selphie giggled. She flung Rinoas clothes out of the closet. Warm clothes, light clothes, and waterproof clothes. Hmm, we have an extra duster, bike shorts, tank tops, jeans
Okay! Rinoa exclaimed, jumping up and trying to grab her clothes as fast as Selphie threw them. Dyou think waterproof meant, like, bathing suits?
You mean your blue tankini? Quistis asked doubtfully. I really dont think thats what she had in mind.
Wetsuits! Selphie yelled joyfully, digging in a dusty chest of drawers. I know we had em here, somewhere
Eeew, Rinoa squealed. I havent worn that stretchy thing since the last time we went to the beach! I look like a seal in it, and its probably all tight and gross!
That was ages ago, Quistis agreed. Maybe bathing suits wouldnt be too bad. Just one-pieces this time.
Ill bring the blue one, anyway.
Selphie grabbed her yellow suit out of her cluttered drawer. 10% Lycra/nylon, 90% spandex. She looked up from reading the tag. Didnt spandex die, like, last decade?
Yeah, Rinoa said, glancing at her own swimsuit. Mine says 25% nylon, 75% spandex. She looked horrified. My skin wont be able to breathe!
Quistis rolled her eyes. Practically every suit has spandex in it, and believe me, Rinoa, your skinll be able to breathe just fine. She packed her pink one-piece into her suitcase.
After nearly forty minutes of debating, they finally finished packing. Alrighty, everyone, lets double check! Selphie announced before they left. Toothbrushes?
Check, said Quistis, holding three up. And Aquafresh Whitening with fluoride, too.
Rinoa held two bottles up. I brought strawberry scented and aloe moisturizing. Matching conditioner and gel.
We have our hats, umbrellas, rain boots Selphie scanned the list. Anything were forgetting?
A muffled whimper was heard from under the bed.
Oh, Angelo! Rinoa shrieked, falling onto her knees and reaching for her dog. We cant forget you, can we, baby?
Or your doggie treats, or favorite ball, or
Rinoa! Quistis waved a hand in front of her friends face. We have two minutes.
Rinoa stuffed her dogs essentials into her bag. Lets go!
Selphie held the door open. Yeah! Road trip!
* * * * *
Zell began shoving clothes into his duffel bag. Turtlenecks, sweatpants, and socks, oh my!
Squall rummaged through his sock drawer. Not funny. He looked up at Irvine. Whatre you so quiet about, Irvine?
Irvine stuck his head out of the closet. Huh? Did you say something?
Doy, Squall, it cant be more obvious, Zell remarked loudly. Its the hot new boss. Irvine was salivating. If she were an ice-cream cone He trailed off.
Doesnt he do that to everyone? Hell flirt with anything even resembling a human female.
That hurts, Squall. Irvine tossed some clothes onto his bed. Anyway, shes not just hot, shes burnin up.
Shes our manager, now, stupid. You know the rules.
Yeah, Irvy, you know the rules. Rule number one: no seducing the manager. Rule number two: dont brag if you do. Rule number &%$#, Squall, that hurt! Zell rubbed a newly forming bruise on his arm.
Serves you right, Squall said calmly, zipping up his bag.
Yeah, Zell. Dont make fun of poor me. Irvine said with mock unhappiness.
You, too, Irvine. Squall glared at him. I was serious. Dont try anything with the new kid. Best stay away until were sure what this is all about.
Zell looked up in surprise. You really dont trust her, do you?
No, Squall said frankly.
She seemed so honest. Ya know, real passionate for her cause.
Passionate for her cause? Squall shook his head. What is her cause? Stop things from changing. Thats not solid enough for me, yet.
Mmm, passionate, Irvine said. Wonder how passionate she really is
Zell laughed. You testosterone-soaked freak! Like she doesnt already see right through you! He imitated Stellinas prim, short handshake. I dont think she liked you at all.
Guys, Squall said with annoyance. We have like five minutes. Hurry up!
Zell finished wrestling with his duffel bags zipper just as Irvine snapped his suitcase shut.
Dont worry, Squall, Zell groaned, dragging his luggage through the door. Were ready.
* * * * *
Stellina stood by a waiting bus, tapping her foot and anxiously watching for the SeeDs. Theyre not very punctual, either.
Headmaster Cid put a hand on her arm. Theyll be here, soon, dont worry.
Uh-huh, she replied vaguely. Sure. She stooped and picked up a flower lying on the pavement.
Cid looked at her strangely. Are you okay?
Stellina looked up at him. Huh? Why? She twirled the flower between her fingers and smiled slightly.
No reason. Cid shaded his eyes against the sun and looked for his students. Theres Quistis!
Quistis came running as fast as she could, her suitcase in hand. Am I late?
Selphie and Rinoa followed. Wait for meeeeee! Selphie wailed.
And me! Rinoa tried to tow her belongings as quickly as possible, Angelo trotting at her side happily.
Selphie panted. Ooo, a bus! She scampered over. Big bus!
Thatll take you all to the train station, Cid said.
YEAH! Selphie yelled, jumping into the air. TRAIN TIME!!!
Well only take the train for a while, Stellina explained. Well have to walk the rest of the way.
Hey, Quistis said, looking around. Wherere the guys?
Zell appeared at the entrance. YO, GUYS! he shouted. WELL BE THERE IN A SECOND!
Within a minute Squall, Zell, and Irvine were at the bus. As Squall and Cid loaded the luggage into the compartment under the bus, Stellina repeated the traveling information. And well just walk the rest of the way. Her eyebrow quirked. You guys do walk, dont you?
You bet we walk. Opened the door to the bus. Whos drivin?
Squall volunteered. Ill do it. The SeeDs and Stellina loaded onto the bus and he started the engine.
Cid raised his hand. Good luck, friends, he said. Be safe and make Balamb Garden proud.
Quistis stuck her head out the window. Dont worry, Cid! she called as the bus sped off. We can do it!
* * * * *
Finally, 3rd chapter is up, and boy is it a whopper! But what will happen on the way to Stellinas mysterious home? Find out soon, when I post the fourth chapter!
DISCLAIMER: The characters of Final Fantasy 8 belong to Squaresoft and not me. HOWEVER, Stellina DiGiovanna is copyright me, Shadow Fortuna. Let me know if you want to use her in an original fanfic.
(And for those who were wondering, A. Maclaren, D.D., said the quote at the beginning.)
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