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Back to Balamb
Chapter 1 - Discovery
"Aww, aren't you just the cutest thing!" I squealed, cuddling my new white chocobo to my chest. I was walking back to my apartment after cruising around the farmer's market. What should I name her?
It had been three years since we had fought Ultimecia; two since I had retired from SeeD. I had been living in Fisherman's Horizon since then leaving the Garden, in a small apartment. I was living off my pension and the various odd jobs I picked up around town. Basically, I was the person people called when they needed something from out of town. Since the Lunar Cry not too many people were willing to travel. For example, my last job was to go to Centra to get a plant the mayor needed for an "experiment." Yeah, I knew it was just a drug he wanted to add to his little 'garden,' but gil was gil.
As I was walking up the stairs of my building, I heard the phone ringing. "Hold on!" I unlocked the door, rushed in the living room, and punched a button. A blonde woman's picture came up on the screen. "Quistis, hi! I just got back from the market. Look what I got!" I held up my new pet toward the camera.
"A white chocobo? What did you name it?"
"Haven't yet. How's everything goin' back at Garden? How's Squall and Zell?"
"Zell's fine. It's Squall I'm worried about." Quisty pulled off her glasses, and propped her head up with one hand.
I wrinkled my forehead. "Worried? Why?"
Quistis sighed. "He's gotten more and more depressed. He's completely shut himself off from everyone."
"What else is new?" I rolled my eyes. "How is that different from usual? I love the guy, Quisty, but Squall isn't exactly Mr. Sociable."
"You remember that he was going out with Rian?"
I nodded. "Yeah, that hunky guy from Galbadia Garden. Did they break up? Squall was so into him."
"They broke up," Quistis sighed again.
"Bummer. How long were they together? Eight months?" She nodded. Poor Squall. Everyone is allowed their insecurities, but Squall with his fragile trust…. Every broken relationship caused him to become nearly suicidal.
The blonde knew what was going through my mind. "Could you please come for a visit soon? We need your energy."
Despite my sadness about Squall, I giggled. I know that I am extremely hyper-active. I also know how much that gets on people's nerves. "Yeah, I can come up in about a week."
"Thanks, Selph." Quisty gave me a relieved grin. "I'll call you in a few days."
"Okay. Say… how's Nida doing?" I asked slyly. She and Nida had been a couple for the past few weeks. Quistis blushed a little bit. I love teasing her about Nida. She's like my big sister, y'know. I love her to death, but she can be such a prude.
"Fine. Has Pol recovered from your-"
"Touché!" I giggled, cutting her off. With my help Quisty's getting better. "Talk to ya in a few days!" I waved and signed off. Carefully, I set the choco down on my armchair. I moseyed over to the kitchenette to put the greens in the fridge and get a scone. I took a bite, casually glancing out the window.
"Phhbbtt!" Crumbs flew onto the glass. Ohmygosh! That guy over there… that's Seifer! I dropped my snack and ran out of my apartment and across the street.
He was wearing torn jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. He had grown out his hair and added light streaks. He leaned against a shop, smoking. "Ohmygosh! What are you doing here?!" I ambushed him, throwing my arms around his chest and squeezing.
Seifer exhaled sharply, dropping his cigarette. "Selphie?!"
"Come on, come on! Let's go up to my place!" I grabbed his hand and started dragging him across the street. I think he was too shocked to put up a fight. I got him into my living room and shut the door. I turned and giggled at his expression. Yep, he's shocked all right.
"It's so good to see you! We've all been wondering if you'd survived the time compression thingy and where you were!" I hugged him again, feeling myself start to tear up.
I patted Selphie gingerly on her back. "Well, I'm alive." I watched as she stood back and sniffled, running the back of her hand across her eyes. "I figured it'd be best if I kept low for awhile."
"But for three whole years?! Man, we've missed you so much! Me, Quistis, even Zell and Squall."
"Yeah, I've missed you guys too. I thought you all hated me, though."
She shook her head vigorously. "I never did. Neither did Quisty, or Zell. Well, Zell had never liked you since you picked on him so much, but he never hated you. We all wanted you home."
I noticed she didn't mention Squall never hating me, but didn't say anything. I just dropped onto the sofa. "So how's everyone doing?"
"Quistis is in charge of Balamb Garden now. Um… Zell and Squall are still SeeDs at Balamb…" Selphie rolled her eyes up and bit her bottom lip while she thought. "Irvine's working as Laguna's bodyguard. Rinoa's married to this one Galbadian officer… what's his name…" she frowned.
I studied her cute face while she talked. Her hair was longer, lighter, and layered instead of flipped. Her forehead displayed a few thought wrinkles, and her nose freckles. She didn't have on any make-up. Most of all she looked happy. She continued listing people from Garden. Man, she must keep in touch with everyone to have this much info. Finally her spiel seemed to come to an end.
"So what are you doing here?" I asked.
"I retired from SeeD two years ago and moved here." I heard a soft noise and she picked up a white chocobo chick, stroking it gently. "Isn't she cute?!" Selphie squealed, shoving it two inches from my nose.
Um, yeah," I replied while I rolled my eyes. She giggled.
"Hold her for a second," she placed it in my hands and bounced to the kitchen behind me. I stroked the choco's neck with my thumb. She is kinda cute, I thought.
I looked around the apartment. Three rooms: living/kitchen, bathroom, and probably a bedroom behind the closed door. The place was actually neat. Except, probably, the bedroom. It looked well lived-in with comfortable second-hand furniture. The walls were decorated with a couple sets of nunchuku and framed photos I was too far away to examine.
"Here are some greens," the small brunette said as she came back into view. "I just got her today and haven't named her yet. Any ideas, Seifer?"
I shrugged. "I'm not good at naming things." I handed the bird back to her and she began feeding it the greens.
"Okay then," Selphie tilted her head, studying the chocobo. "Hmm…. How about Juil? You like that?" she asked it. Apparently the chick gave some kind of affirmative answer, 'cuz she nodded, satisfied. I didn't expect her, or anyone, to immediately be this comfortable around me. It was really refreshing after three years of being hated, or worse, completely ignored.
She looked back up at me. "So, Seifer, where have you been the past three years?"
"Traveling, mostly. I spent some time with Fujin and Raijin in Balamb, then kept moving from city to city. I was in Esthar last."
"How long are you planning on being in FH? You have to stay with me for a while, long enough for us to catch up. Oh, wait," she smacked her forehead, "I'm gonna be leaving in a week." Her disappointment didn't last long, "You can come with me! Ohmygosh, that is a great idea!" She jumped up and did her little happy dance.
I waved my hands. "Hold on, hold on! I didn't say I was staying or going with you. Where are you going?"
Selphie sobered quickly and sat back down. "I'm going to visit Balamb Garden. Quisty just phoned and said that Squall's latest squeeze just broke up with him, and he's getting all suicidal again." She sighed, "Every serious breakup is really hard on Squall, y'know? It's really hard for him to trust people, and when they end the relationship…" She looked really sad as she trailed off. "Every time it gets worse. He's already tried to kill himself four times since time comp." That doesn't surprise me. Squall was always emotionally vulnerable. No matter how much he'll deny it.
"Then maybe I shouldn't show up. It might just put him over the edge." Too bad, I kind of wanted to see Quistis, Zell, Squall, and the Garden again. I didn't want to indirectly kill Squall, though. He may be my rival, but I don't want him to end it like that. "I want to see Garden again, but I can put it off for another few months."
She still looked sad. "I guess so…. You probably want to see everyone really bad, huh? It has been three years."
I smiled, trying to cheer her up. "Yeah. Is it okay if I stay here awhile? Until you leave? I don't need a lot of room, I'll clean up after myself, and you can show me everything there is about Fisherman's Horizon." It's so nice to be with a friendly person. I hope she doesn't mind me begging a room from her. It would beat staying in a sleazy hotel or under a bush.
"Of course it's okay!" Selphie brightened up a bit. "I don't have much room, and you'll have to sleep on the sofa. Since I don't have much of value laying around, you could also stay here while I visit Balamb."
I gave her a mock glare, "Don't trust me alone with your valuables, huh?" She responded by leaping over and tickling me.
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