Valley State University. It wasn't exactly a very large college
campus, but it wouldn't be called a tiny one, either. Tucked into a
desolate corner of rural West Michigan, the college easily made up
the brunt of the farmland town of Allendale. Even though it was
famous for their fantastic football team and elaborate campus housing
units, it was still overlooked by the other more popular universities
such as Michigan State or Western.
Perhaps most college appliers
weren't too keen on having cornfields as a substitute for a college
Outside of schoolwork and classes and the occasional bus
trip every Saturday down to the only shopping mall that was thirty
miles away, GVSU's students were pretty damn bored.
unbeknownst to a pair particular college freshmen, their seemingly
normal campus life would be turned upside down in ways that they
never, ever thought possible... except in their overactive
Regina Stewart and Sharon Gladden walked into the
"Quiet Room", trays in hand. Sitting down at their usual
positions in a cozy booth, Sharon took in the area. It wasn't
officially dubbed the Quiet Room. In fact, she wasn't sure if the
place had a real name at all. It was all a part of Kleiner, one of
the main eateries available at GVSU, and the closest one to all of
the freshman housing. Either way, they both started staking out this
room when they first arrived at Grand Valley State University, for
the more peaceful environment and escape from the flies that often
found their way into the building. It was always either hornets,
wasps or flies. However, the warm days that invited the insects to
sneak in through the doors had gone away, as the Fall semester was
winding down to cold, wintery and bleary days filled with lots of
snow and pressure for the quickly approaching finals.
Regina took her time and slowly removed her hat and coat, relieved to find that it was actually room temperature inside today. It was either too cold or too hot - both inside and outside. As she sat down, she took little notice of the fact that Sharon was already busy munching on her French fries.
I swear, that girl is going to choke one day. Does she even taste the food? But of course, it didn't really surprise Regina. All through their days in high school, she should know her best friend by now.
Sharon waited until Regina was seated to look up and say, "So, how was your day?"
It was so funny how formal the conversations always started out between the two. Just by that one statement, people might think that the girls just barely knew each other. But if they stuck around long enough, they would see that it was hardly the case. The two had been friends since the beginning of high school in the bustling motor city of Detroit, bonding over an anime called Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon. Since then, of course, they've had their fair share of problems - but truth be told, they were now way closer than they had ever been. Going to the same high school, college, and even church for a short while had brought them closer than many had thought possible, despite being as different as night and day.
Sharon, at first glance, may not even look like the kind of person to pack away approximately twice her body weight in food. No matter how much she ate, she never seemed to bypass 118 lbs. She also thought of herself as fairly tall for being a girl, even if she knew it was now becoming more of the norm to see girls reach heights of over 5'7”. Sharon had caramel-colored skin and brown eyes that were always rimmed by small silver frames, and her dark brown hair was always in some sort of weird or interesting style. However, Sharon never really thought much on the aspects of her looks the way most girls her age would; she just liked attracting attention in other ways, like showing off her wardrobe that she supposed no human being should attempt to pull off. One of her trademarks that she was already sort of known for was her Lisa Frank blue jean jackets, since the back of every one that she owned had a different, neon colored mural made entirely of a large beach towel. The Lisa Frank franchise had long since stopped making them, which made Sharon very sad, but at the same time happy that no one else would have the same outerwear as she. Her choice in clothing and music often got her confused for being a "raver kid", even though she never personally assigned herself that title.
Oh yeah, and she probably needed to be sedated every now and then.
Regina, on the other hand, was definitely the sanity to Sharon's insanity. She wasn't outspoken, and outside of her best friend and a select few others, she kept to herself and settled for observing people and her surroundings. She never wanted to attract any kind of attention to herself for fear that her timid nature would cause her to blush furiously and pass out in shock. Believe it or not, Regina was better than she was in comparison to her high school years, but without Sharon literally shoving confidence down her throat she probably wouldn't have gotten as far as she did. Despite that, people seemed to be more drawn to Regina’s reserved nature. She wasn't as slim or as tall as her best friend, and settled for more normal types of clothing, such as oversized hoodies and comfortable jeans. Her black hair was long, and never failed to be pulled back in a simple ponytail at the nape of her neck, revealing her angelic, baby-like face. Regina's music of choice was anything rock related, as her favorite group at the moment happened to be Linkin Park. Lots of people were surprised to know that she listened to Alternative music, since the stereotypical African-American only listened to Rap and R&B. Maybe that's why Regina and Sharon were two of a kind; both of them broke the "norms" and were pretty damn content with doing it, too.
But no matter what the differences were, they always found something to talk about animatedly.
Maybe that was why they always went out to eat and didn't come back for five hours.
It's not like their conversations held any sort of importance or significance to anyone who walked in or happened to listen in on parts of it. It was like they spoke another language; many a time they got weird looks for their sudden outbursts of laughter that seemed uninitiated, or from a simple line that made entirely no sense. It would probably take a lifetime to figure out the inside jokes that they took because in order to understand them, one more than likely have had to live the life they lived. From the interests that they did have in common, to the many obstacles they had overcome, it was the cause of an unbreakable friendship between the two girls.
They started off their seemingly normal dinner conversation by discussing many video games and the most recent anime they were both hooked on, doing the usual thing of drawing occasional weird looks from random people that happened to sit near them or walk by. Sharon paused to sip on her lemonade and take a casual glance around the room. Not many people in here today, she thought. That's good. She didn't like crowds much anyway, which is why they always chose this room. No crowds meant less people to eavesdrop and think they were completely and utterly insane.
Then he walked in.
At first, Sharon was going to blow it off as just another guy walking in the door, but... this person was different. She didn't know why at the moment, but she couldn't stop staring. Her eyes peered over the small frames of her glasses at the newcomer, temporarily fazing out of the conversation.
Regina was going to continue the conversation when she noticed that Sharon's attention was quite blatantly directed somewhere else. "Sharii?" Regina tilted her head to the side and blinked. "Whatcha staring at?"
Sharon glanced at Regina and then back at mystery man that now seated himself on the couch in front of the fireplace. "Hey, Gina... what do you think of him? He seems familiar to me in a way, but... I dunno, at the same time, I just think I'm crazy."
Gina followed Sharon's gaze to the guy sitting on the couch. His eyes stared at the flames licking the logs in the fireplace. He was in his own world, his eyes unblinking. Gina squinted a little bit and studied him a little bit more. His chestnut hair framed his face in a somewhat careless manner, parts of it stopping right at his nose while others reached his chin.
"His hair is cute," Gina nibbled on a curly fry. "Even if it does look like he just got up out of bed."
"HA! That's true, it does!" Sharon finally diverted her gaze elsewhere, trying to shove off the strange twinge that she still felt. "His ass needs a comb. Dare you to go over there and tell him that he needs one."
"WHAT? No! I think it's fine that way. It reminds me of Squall's hair," She giggled and continued munching.
Sharon froze, her eyes locking onto her best friend's face as Gina carried on without a hitch. Squall's hair? She whipped her head back around to the couch, where the guy still sat, still entranced by the flames in front of him. She wasn't even sure if he blinked. But upon examining him further...
"Gina, now that you mention it... he really looks like him."
"Really looks like who?" Gina stared at her quizzically.
"HE REALLY LOOKS LIKE SQUALL, DAMNIT!" Sharon caught herself and lowered her voice. "For real, man, look at him."
Sharon sort of needed some confirmation when it came to any Final Fantasy except X. FFVIII was Gina forte; she knew that game like the back of her hand, just like Sharon to FFX.
Which is why when Gina gasped in surprise, Sharon almost keeled over.
"Oh, my god. No, no, no..." Gina started shaking her head as if to clear her mind. "You know, I think I just really want to play FFVIII so bad that I'm making myself see things."
"No, you aren't!" Sharon countered. "I'm the crazy one here, not you. Ok, so we have a guy that resembles Squall. Nice. But there's only one way we can prove if it really is him..."
"... the scar," Gina finished. The legendary scar that was permanently etched across Squall's face during an unpleasant training encounter with his much-hated rival, Seifer. And right now, if either of them saw much of stray hair that LOOKED like the slanted scar, they would probably faint.
"... ok, let's sit back and realize the insanity of what we are proposing here. We are trying to say that people out of a video game exist in our world. Yeah, ok, we fantasize and think about it, and even write a few fanfics about it from time to time, but that sort of thing could not happen in real life. Right? Right?? Hello?" Sharon watched the remnants of a curly fry dropped out of Gina's hand back onto her plate. Perplexed, Sharon turned around to see what was distracting her friend so much.
A man with a cowboy hat and a tan trench coat had accompanied the mystery person on the couch.
Gina stuttered. "... it's Irvine. Oh my god, it's him. Oh, my god... oh, my god... oh, my g--"
"STOP HYPE... stop hyperventilating. This is reality."
"But that doesn't explain why they're still here!"
For what seemed like an hour, they both stared at the two men on the couch. The guy in the cowboy hat was talking to the other, but he didn't seem very responsive. A nod here and there made up one whole half of the conversation.
"Humph. They're cosplayers."
Gina blinked as if to clear her eyes of the view in front of her, and looked at Sharon. "... what?"
Sharon leaned back in the booth casually and sipped her lemonade, trying to cover up any doubts with nonchalance. "It's simple. They're really, really good cosplayers. Don't know why they're here, but I think that it's cool that they came in costume and all."
"Sharii... are you sure?"
"It's more reasonable than the theory that they came out of a video game. Cosplay is something that can happen in reality."
"Oh, yeah... I guess you're right. We... we were just being really stupid." Laughing shakily, she continued talking. "This is what we get for having overactive imaginations."
Sharon laughed. "Yeah. However," She glanced back at the pair. "I would like to get a closer look at their costumes."
Gina stopped breathing. "You going to go over there?"
"Umm... no," Sharon admitted. "I want to, but umm... seeing as though I have a tendency to make a fool of myself, I don't think I want to do it in front of them. Maybe as we're getting out of here, we can sneak a direct look at them without being that obvious. We'll have a perfect view from the trash banister."
Even though the plan was set, neither girl moved.
Sharon breathed. They were both being so stupid over all of this. Grabbing her tray, she initiated her intent to get to that trashcan and get it all over with. Gina quickly followed suit, putting on her coat and stuffing her hat in her pocket.
It was now or never.
Walking casually, or as casual as she could muster, to the trash banister, she pushed the in the flap and dumped her trash while casually glancing over at the couch. She felt bad for "Irvine", as he tried to get "Squall" in a conversation. Damn, they're really in character. She examined "Irvine" more closely, now that her view wasn't entirely blocked by his cowboy hat. Chestnut tendrils also framed his face, but not in the same way "Squall's" did. It was definitely longer, and wavy.
Gina stared straight at her destination: the trashcan. She was going to make it there. Yes, she was. She was not going to spaz out. She was calm. Cool. Collected. Yes. As Gina approached, Sharon pushed in the "Thank You" slot absently. She was still pretty much staring at the two guys.
Wasn't the plan to be inconspicuous? Gina glanced over to see if the two men noticed her boring holes in them, and was relieved to see that they didn't. Putting her scraps in the trash, she let out a breath she didn't know she was holding.
And she also was looking down at the floor at a mass of curly fries she didn't know she dropped.
Both Gina and Sharon froze. How in the hell did fries get on the floor? They were in the trash. How did they get out of the trash? Gina could've sworn she put the tray in the trash... or maybe she didn't. The small glance she took while trying to be nonchalant about dumping her garbage might've done it, but she only looked away for a split second! How...
Never mind. Both girls snapped out of temporary paralysis to tend to the matter at hand: Pick up the fries before they notice.
The girls stooped down at the same time to scoop up the fries on the floor. Hell, they might have picked up some fries that weren’t theirs. They picked them up in record time, and just as Sharon was throwing the last fry into the trash, both heard a distinctive voice.
“You ladies need any help?”
Gina was not moving. She was going to look straight down at the floor and not move an inch. Since her field of vision at the moment was directed at the floor, she examined three pairs of feet - Sharon’s worn Sketchers with the colorful ribbon shoelaces, her own newly bought white sparkly Sketchers... and brown cowboy boots. Oh, lord... I think I’m going to die.
Sharon only really paid attention to two people with a Southern drawl, and they were Matt and Jeff Hardy from the WWE, a program that both she and Gina watched religiously. Even then, she wouldn't even call the accent from the newcomer to be Southern... but it was the closest thing to whatever lilt she was hearing. Looking at the person standing in front of her, she saw the face of someone who seriously reminded her of a young Shawn Michaels while sporting a longer and definitely darker hair color. Not completely comprehending the situation at hand, she figured that all was lost, their cover was blown, and all that was left to do was take the direct approach.
She owned at being direct.
Tossing the last curly fry in the garbage, Sharon put on her best nonchalant, unconcerned look on her face and looked squarely at him. “No, we have everything under control, thank you.” Damn, did I mean to come out sounding that cold? Oh well, serves him right, coming over here like that...
The man in the cowboy hat smirked. “You didn’t have ‘everything under control’ a second ago, ma’am,” He replied, a devilish glint in his deep blue eyes.
Sharon’s eyes narrowed as her irritation rose. “So what? We do now.”
“You sure? You don’t seem to have your emotions under control.”
“That would be none of your business.”
“Unless I made it my business.”
“Until I shove my foot up your ass.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’d be happy to be obliged.”
Sharon’s eye twitched. At this point, she didn’t care who he was or where he supposedly came from - she wanted to kick his ass. She knew he was just doing this to get her agitated, and it was working. She stared at his boyish face with the most disarming grin, and all she could do was glare back. Then, Sharon remembered that Gina was still in that same spot, with her eyes directed at the ground. Damn. How long have I been standing here causing shit with this fool?
Putting his hands in his coat, the cowboy continued this stare down with ease. Heh. Getting her angry was easier than I thought. However, he couldn’t understand why he reacted the way he did. Being excessively snarky wasn’t part of his nature, especially to the opposite sex; he wanted to woo girls, not get beat up by them. But the situation had been too tempting to not respond any way than how he had.
At that point, Gina looked up. The whole time they had been standing there trading insults like regular high school children, she had been collecting her sanity and courage. Looking directly at the cowboy, she took a deep breath and said, “Umm, excuse me, but I was wondering if you could tell me your name.”
Sharon blinked and looked at Gina. If anyone looked at the situation at this moment, they would swear that Gina was trying to ask the guy out. Well, at least the whole point of this escapade was to find out exactly who the two men were, and was going to be solved.
Switching his view to Gina, he flashed another one of his trademark grins. “It’d be a pleasure.” Taking Gina’s hand and kissing it lightly, he looked just out from beneath his cowboy hat into her eyes. “Irvine Kinneas, at your service.”