Rating: So far, it is PG. Ansem hasn't showed yet. e_e;

Reason: Alba's birthday present. No, this isn't it. This is a warmup. The first part. You know.

Latent Talent

Part 1

By Lena ban Obsidian


Squall Leonhart had never before understood what people meant when they said something gave them chills. He'd never experienced that kind of irrational terror, and he couldn't feel the cold very often or even very well. His own peculiar physiology and Shiva's presence in his mind from age ten to present day had pretty much kept him from ever experiencing such sensation.

He shivered again and had to press on, shutting his eyes, dropping his head in his hand and leaning more heavily than absolutely necessary against the wall. This place was not...familiar, in any way. It gave him chills all up and down his spine, and into his arms and his legs, from top to bottom and back again. It made him feel weak and it made him stumble-- or perhaps, on closer inspection, he was becoming delirious from hunger and sleep deprivation-- and he didn't like this place, where was he, he wasn't home he wasn't anywhere he wasn't--

Hyne, he wasn't at the end of time again, was he?


He followed the corridor blindly, one hand to the wall, the other still over his eyes, not looking or maybe not really able to take another unhelpful eyeful of the emptiness all around him. It wasn't as though he could be overly sure how long it had been since he'd known where he was, since he'd slept because there was a bed or a mat on the floor that offered itself, since he'd seen a familiar face, or place.

He couldn't hear Shiva in his head. He couldn't hear any of them. Bahamut, usually a sort of reassuring presence at the back of his mind at all times, had gone frighteningly dead after the thing--

Squall Leonhart stumbled drunkenly up the hallway, biting his lip hard enough to bleed, the hand over his eyes tangling in his hair, clenching into a fist. He couldn't breathe in here. He needed to see the sunlight again, he needed...open air again, this place was oppressive and empty and there was no one here why wasn't there anyone HERE?!

With a little noise that might have been short laugh or broken sob, he did his best to dismiss his thoughts-- all of them-- and keep going. His hand slid in disconcerting vertigo up and down the wall, zig-zag motion that traced his steps and how close he'd come to falling.

This hallway felt very, very long. Too long to keep following, and there was no light at the end of it, and he wasn't, maybe, in the desert at the end of time but there was still nobody here no one and it was making him push and push harder, trying to get himself out of here...

It felt like the walls were shrinking in as he went and it felt even more like he was going around in circles, tightening circles, like a shark following the scent of blood and missing its prey over and over and over except there was no prey and no trail and a shark wouldn't have been breathing this hard and he needed to get out of here.

Lionheart was a swing-forward, swing-back presence on his waist, welcome weight, something that he feared losing too much to set aside. Lionheart was comfort, the illusion of control, and he needed her badly right now because even with the gunblade in his hand he didn't feel safe at all.

The hallway kept going on, forever and forever and still no light, no nothing at all except the soft smooth man-made surface beneath the palm of his hand and the harsh sound of his no, I'm not crying breath as it echoed off of the walls of the place that had swallowed him up.

Eventually he fell to his knees in exhaustion, and tried to get back to his feet without success. The slippery wall didn't help much in the way of forcing himself up, and by the time he managed it he realized that being upright made him feel so dizzy and sick that it was probably best not to risk it.

He was bone weary and terrified. He wanted to sleep and he knew, in his heart, in the whimpering, childlike core of who he was, that he did not want to sleep here because there were things in those shadows all around him that were just waiting for him to give up. He could feel them. He would not sleep here and live to tell of it.

So instead of curling into a fetal ball as he wanted so badly to do, he crawled forward on hands and knees, continuing to follow the path of the wall he'd discovered and shuddering hard, feeling the cold sting of the icy tiled floor beneath him. This place felt evil, whatever it was. He wanted to get out of here so badly it made his eyes sting with tears.

He crawled through the shadows up the incline of the hall, slowing as the cold seeped up through the palms of his hands and along his arms, through the knees of his pants and along his legs, numbing him, weariness overtaking even the panic rush of adrenaline that had kept him going for so long.

Still he pushed on, until his watery-weak muscles finally abandoned his cause in defeat and dropped him to the floor panting, almost sobbing but not having the strength to do it successfully.

His body gave out and he landed splayed out on the floor, wincing at the pressure of his own weight on his stomach, at the sharp sting of pain as he cracked his chin on the floor. He tried to keep going, or at the very least to shift to a more comfortable position, but his body gave up responding to his commands, leaving him completely spent where he lay. There in the waterways that ran beneath Hollow Bastion, there where no one might ever have found him, Squall Leonhart wept for his home and his people, and knew that they were gone and never coming back.

There, as the shadows licked their lips in anticipation all around him, he lay defeated and broken.

And there was, of nowhere and nothing, light.

He winced, trying to lift his head, pathetically weak and falling back to the floor before getting his eyes high enough to see anything of import. He shied from the light in confused exhaustion, tears still fresh and wet on his face, still waiting in his eyes. Because he couldn't stop himself from thinking about the thing that had happened back home before this place had been the only place he could find and no, no, he didn't want to think about it and he couldn't stop and it made him feel like he was being kicked in the chest because he tried to keep this from happening he'd tried so hard and now everything was--


"Well, hello there," said a voice that had no significance for him at all.

Said a voice.

He wept. There was someone else here.

Unable to shift to see-- his savior? what else could this person be what ELSE?-- he sobbed, dissolving into broken tears, and did the only thing he could do, sacrificing all pride, everything, willing to part with anything, whatever it took, so long as the owner of the voice wouldn't leave.

He begged. "Don't go don't go don't...please, don't I...please I can't...s-so dark and...and nobody...and I saw...and Irvine was...a-and Quistis, I...don't go oh Hyne don't go please, please, please..."

Somewhere between when he start begging and when he had to breathe-- sobbing, tears running testament to his fear down his face, his lungs feeling so tight that it might kill him to feel this way-- somewhere between that point a and point b the voice and the light parted, the light settling on the floor of the hallway in the harmless form of a lantern, the voice becoming a man, a man who scooped him up from his pitiful position on the floor into a warm embrace.

He cried harder, his hands trying weakly to find purchase, to cling to this person-- whoever, whatever he was-- to keep from being left here alone. "Please I can't I...there's nobody...they're all...they...please don't leave me here alone, please, I just..." his voice rose higher, thinner, almost childlike, begging without any kind of shame, wanting to be saved from this place more than he'd ever wanted anything in his life. "H-help me..."

The arms around him tightened, holding him closer, and the voice answered him, soft and gentle as the man brushed away some of the tears on his face, stroking him almost lovingly. He was so starved for attention that he didn't care how much a violation of his personal space this was-- it made him want to cry just thinking about what would happen if he rejected it.

"Of course I'll help you. Don't worry, don't cry...I'll take you out of here, okay? I promise you aren't alone."

Mewling softly, he cried harder, burying his face in the man's chest without hesitation, holding on for dear life, so desperately wanting to thank the voice, the man, the whoever it was for not leaving him that he couldn't breathe past the tears of mixed grief and gratefulness.

The man let him cry, and let him cry, and when he finally was too weary to even do that anymore, the man stood with him in those strong arms, stumbling faintly, and carried him-- dazed and as good as asleep-- out of the nightmarish halls.

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