It was a confusing moment. Selphie ended up in her dorm, crying in frustration, while Squall ended up nursing a very red cheek. Hurt and becoming steadily more stressed with the situation, Selphie hugged her knees to her chest, why was everything going wrong? Life wasn't as simple as a battlefield. Her hours of labour had been spilt on the floor. Selphie gave into her anger for a moment, feeling her hatred lash out at Rinoa. If she had just left Squall alone! If she didn’t whine so much! She could have at least watched where she was going!
A sigh escaped Selphie’s lips, and she rubbed her forehead. Anger got you nothing in life. She uncurled herself and wiped away her tears, she threw on her music, but couldn’t feel up to the effort of singing along.
For three hours she had her disc-chip on repeat, sitting on her bed with her head resting against the wall, her eyes shut. It had been such a tiring day. She decided to miss her next class and just relax. Her friends would expect her to come out smiling bright and happy, and Selphie wouldn’t disappoint them.
When she came out of her dorm and walked down to the cafeteria she found Irvine and stole his hat, throwing it on her head and shielding her eyes from view. Striking a pose, she sat down beside him, and smiled brilliantly at the cowboy and her friends sitting there. Irvine's easy indigo eyes warmed at the sight of her, and Selphie breathed a quiet sigh of relief.
Zell and Squall were conversing over weapons, while Quistis and Irvine chatted about their latest mission. Rinoa was looking sulky, her eyes downcast and glaring into a coffee cup, but she was the only one being silent so Selphie tried to broach a conversation with her.
“So, Rinoa, are you busy this afternoon?” Selphie asked hopefully.
“…No.” Rinoa pouted more.
“Could you help me organize some papers then? You, sort of…well, knocked them over to begin with,” Selphie bit her lip and fidgeted.
“Oh? So it’s my fault now?” Rinoa shrieked, standing up abruptly and upsetting her coffee, which spilt across the table and on to Quistis.
Quistis jumped out of her seat with a squeal of dismay and pain, while Irvine lunged for the cup and up-righted it. Zell and Squall stopped talking immediately as Rinoa stormed off. Selphie struck a new pose, her fingers aimed like a gun at Rinoa’s back and pretended to shoot her. Quistis muttered darkly as she tried to get the coffee off her skirt with Irvine trying to help her. Finally she let out a swift curse and stalked off, looking anything but impressed. Selphie sighed and dropped her arms before sitting back down and burying her face in her folded arms. Irvine rubbed her back sympathetically.
“So she bowled you over, eh?”
“Yep,” Selphie nodded, looking at him, “I’m going to go, should I pick the papers up in your office, Squall?”
Squall’s frosty eyes watched her silently for a moment before he gave a sharp jerk of his head, “No. I’ll take care of them.”
There was a long silence.
“You can’t possibly have the time to sort all―”
“Are you happy?” Came a new scream.
Zell swore, loudly, and then pushed his chair away, walking back up to his dorm in frustration. Selphie and Irvine stared with wide eyes as a disheveled Rinoa, holding a suitcase tightly in hand and Angelo at her side, glared balefully at Squall.
“I’m leaving! Leaving you and this stupid Garden! If I’m such a screw up―” Here she turned her dark eyes to Selphie, “―then I should LEAVE!”
Selphie paled, and Squall noticed it. He stood up, his bangs falling over his face, and shook his head at Rinoa,
“Balamb is for the strong, Rinoa. You don’t belong here.” And with that he turned away and followed the path Quistis and Zell had originally set.
Rinoa burst into angry tears and ran away, startled students standing in her wake.
“All a bad dream.” Selphie murmured, her eyes opening and her hand rubbing the sleep from them.
She sat up and threw off her covers, getting up and having a shower like normal. As the hot water splashed over her skin Selphie began to ponder her dream. Rinoa leaving, Squall’s icy eyes…
“That wasn’t a dream.” Selphie decided aloud.
She slammed the hot water off and stepped outside, feeling the cold air shock her skin into goose bumps. Grabbing a towel and drying herself off as quickly as she could she dressed in her usual yellow jumpsuit and darted outside of her room. She had to talk to Squall, and she had to find Rinoa, apologize to Rinoa, talk to Squall, there were three meetings today, but if she skipped one…
“Think, Selphie,” She muttered as she ran.
“Urk!” Selphie bounced backwards after connecting with a hard surface.
She fell to the ground, dazed, and then rubbed her head. One green eye cracked open and saw a hand thrust down at her, an offering to help her up. She followed the hand to its connecting arm and then smile brightly.
“Hey kiddo, sorry about that, what’s a girl like you runnin’ down the hallway so fast?” Irvine asked in his steady drawl, pulling the girl up and embracing her.
“I need to go talk to Squally and find Rinoa,” Selphie said breathlessly.
“Selph, Rinoa’s gone, we already tried to find her. Squall…he won’t talk to anyone.” Irvine looked apologetic.
“He has to,” Selphie argued stubbornly.
“Sorry Selph, you can try, but everyone else already has. Rin's bein' silly, she'll come to her senses all by herself.”
Selphie frowned and then bid Irvine good-bye. As she walked down the circular hallway of the dorms she wondered just what she had planned on saying anyhow. She walked into the elevator and smiled when she saw Nida there. The young man’s almond-brown eyes watched her with affection. Nida was always calm and friendly, his presence was a breath of fresh air after all the unnecessary drama.
“Good morning Selphie.”
“Morning Nida! Are you ready for our test in mechanics later today?” Selphie chirped.
“Hope so!” Nida grinned at her.
They chatted happily before Selphie got off. True to Irvine’s words, Squall had locked the doors to his office. Selphie knocked. And waited. And waited. And knocked again. And waited. And waited. Then kicked the door. Waiting…
“Squall!” Selphie called, rapping the door again.
Selphie turned around and waved at Quistis who was looking stoic and serious as usual. The blonde came and added her own knocks to the door’s wooden surface. Nothing happened.
Quistis sighed and dropped her reports on the floor for when Squall opened the door later. She then waved at Selphie and trailed away shaking her head and muttering. Selphie frowned more and then her frown faded, replaced by a wicked grin. A small metal device fell into her palm, taken from her utility belt. She spun it like a revolver (Irvine had taught her that trick) and then she flicked out the lock pick.
“Squall versus multi-tool. Round one.” Selphie announced.
And as she suspected, Selphie won the first round. The first door was open and she was waltzing through with a bright grin, holding Quistis’ reports tightly.
Round two fell to Selphie as well and she traced over the carpet, stopping at Squall’s desk. That was where her grin faded.
Squall’s forehead was against his desk, his hair falling around him, unbrushed and lank. Two empty cups of coffee were left on his desk, as well as three pop bottles and dozens of papers. Selphie's eyes rested on them and realized they were her reports. He had sorted them all. Blanching, she looked around the ruins of the office. A broken picture frame with a shredded photo of him and Rinoa. His ring. A broken pot with an equally broken plant scattered on the floor. Squall was passed out, and a half-full bottle of vodka with another forgotten behind him was her answer as to why.
“Oh, Squall,” Selphie breathed.
She rubbed his shoulder and gently shook him, trying to wake him up but the commander was completely unconscious. She wondered how long he had been like that, and how much of his state had been her fault. Swallowing hard she began to clean up his desk and move the piles of paper to one side. He had been marking them and checking them over when he had passed out.
It was after an hour and a half that she heard a sharp murmur and from the corner of her eye she saw Squall look up blearily. Selphie was kneeling on the carpet, scrubbing the dirt out of the fine material and from her vantage point she witnessed the hazy eyes of Squall harden to chips of stone.
“What are you doing here?” He demanded coldly,
“Um…cleaning your office,” Selphie looked down at her hands, they were shaking, “I’m really sorry Squall, I didn’t mean to make Rinoa go away I didn’t know how upset she was and I didn’t know you guys had been fighting so much…”
“Get out of here Selphie, how did you get through the doors?”
“I broke in,” Selphie whispered, “I’ll leave but…don’t drink, Squall. We need our commander to be sober. Oh yeah, here’s Quistis’ report. I…I’m just going to finish this up, okay? I promise I’ll be quiet, you shouldn’t leave dirt in the carpet for too long otherwise it will stain.”
Selphie refused to look into Squall’s eyes. He frightened her with his unpredictable moods. Her knuckles were soon red-raw from the effort and she could hear Squall shuffling around the papers, trying to get a grip on reality as it spun around the room in an alcoholic blur.
“I never changed,” He whispered after awhile.
“What?” Selphie looked up, startled by the break in the silence.
“I never changed,” Squall repeated, “I thought I had found love and that it had changed me, that it was some glorious wonderful thing and I was full of light but it isn’t and I’m not. It was a waste, a temporary relief from who I really am,”
“You were happy Squall, and it’s not like you’ll never be that again,” Selphie forced herself to smile, “don’t expect to fall in love with the first girl you meet. Silly boy, it’s not like that. I’m pretty much done, let’s go grab a drink of something…uh…probably water for you.”
Squall sat up straighter and abruptly winced, “No, I don’t want to leave,”
“Squall, get a grip, you haven’t eaten anything either, let’s just get out of your office, it smells like vodka, we need to open some windows,” Selphie stood up and danced over behind Squall, pushing open the two panes of glass.
He sighed, feeling too tired, too sick, to argue with the brunette. Standing up he felt his stomach clench, the room spun…
“Let’s not make this a tradition,” Selphie suggested dryly, a smile on her face, as usual.
Squall glared at her from where he was knelt over the sink. After emptying his stomach he was feeling marginally better, enough to glare at least. Selphie was rubbing his back and holding a cup of water out to him. He accepted and drank it down then felt his stomach lurch once more.
“Guess I won’t be congratulating you on your alcohol tolerance, I knew it was too good to be true,” Selphie laughed, and then snickered when he sent another glower in her direction.
After he was done he could at last stand up straight without the room colliding around him. Selphie led him back to his dorm, despite his protests, and once there she insisted on cooking chicken-noodle soup for him. Squall was given lunch in bed and he even was able to keep it all down. Selphie disappeared for a few minutes while she got the reports and then the two of them spent the entire afternoon going through them together.
Squall was surprised after the girl left; she had actually been quite helpful. As they had gone over things she hadn’t said much, she had been concentrating so hard on her own reports, a red marker held between her lips as she flipped through the sheets deftly. It was good that she hadn’t been too chattery, Squall reflected, his hangover had made even the smallest noise sound like a bomb detonating right beside his ear. In fact, in the hours they had spent together, Squall had accomplished an entire week’s worth of work. Maybe he would consider getting a permanent secretary or something… it had certainly distracted him from his breakup. Squall winced and resolutely pushed those thoughts out of his mind.
Selphie had missed all her meetings, again. Back in her dorm she had realized that not only was her mechanics class in ten short minutes, but that her answering machine was also blinking frantically at her with over forty new messages of complaints and questionings.
Racing down to the room for mechanics she found Nida and did a brief study session with him before being led into a room with a broken engine inside. Her eyes scanned it for all problems that could possibly be the reason for it not working. A toolbox rested on her knee, balanced there easily as Selphie began to prod at the metal components.
That afternoon with Squall had been fun. Selphie was surprised, it had been so quiet with no conversation, but she had felt completely at ease with the commander. He hadn’t even glared at her after that. She snapped off the outer casing on one side of the engine and peered inside, her tongue peeking out of the corner of her mouth. He wasn’t so bad, but since Rinoa…one day and he had fallen apart so easily. Was it really Rinoa? Or was he just upset because he felt he hadn’t changed? He wanted to change so badly…
“Yeek!” Selphie shrieked as a spark flew out and a trail of smoke rose from the engine.
Giggling she laughed at her mistake and quickly sought upon fixing it. After her hour had passed, her engine was purring thoughtfully at her. The instructor came in and smiled as Selphie struck a pose and twirled her multi-tool, sparkling with happiness.
“Good job Selphie, for a moment I thought you had lost it,” The instructor nodded.
“Nah, small set back, I’m too pro to lose that easily,” Selphie flashed her instructor a peace sign and danced out of the mech room, singing at the top of her lungs.
In the cafeteria she gulped down a hasty supper before sprinting to the Training Chambers. A new rule had been passed that all senior SeeDs home from missions had to do some sort of exercise daily, so she found an empty room and practiced some fighting tactics before entering the main Training Room.
Zell and Squall had both come in for late training as well. Shirtless and gleaming with sweat, Zell practiced his acrobatic flips and spins on a flat plain while Squall slashed through a plant-type enemy with vigour. Selphie held her nunchakus ready and waited as the creatures of the training room became alerted to her presence.
Soon she was wrapped up in her fighting with the two men. Spinning out, she struck her opponent roughly, letting out a soft shriek as its tentacled limb counter-attacked and struck her across her thigh. The blow stung fiercely but Selphie had learnt to ignore such things as minor pain. She finished her battle and then jumped in the air happily, landing lightly on the toes of her good leg.
Behind her Zell and Squall were sitting down, resting after their exertions. Selphie joined them and grinned happily as Zell tossed her a water bottle. Plopping down on the ground she drank the cool liquid in one long gulp and then set it back down.
“That felt good,” She informed them brightly, “Are you two going to the SeeD meeting tonight? Apparently it’s optional, but Cid would like us to go.”
“Maybe,” Zell replied lazily, “Irvine challenged me to an arcade-game tournament though.”
“I’m going,” Squall replied distantly, his mind elsewhere.
“Yay! I’m going to, well, I have to, I’ve missed way too many meetings lately.” Selphie grinned more, “I think it will be good, we can complain over how small our dorms are. Well. I can, you and Quisty have huge dorms.”
Squall only nodded and grabbed his gunblade. Zell stood up and stretched and the trio walked out of the training room just as Quistis and Irvine were heading inside.
“Look who’s decided to show his face,” Quistis arched an eyebrow at Squall.
Quistis smirked and breezed on by, giving Selphie a smile as she passed. Irvine winked at Selphie when he walked by her, ruffling her hair affectionately. Selphie smiled brightly, the cowboy was still trying to go for Quistis, subtly of course. If anything Irvine did could be called subtle.