Author's Note: Gahn! We meet Selphie! Yay! And a little hint at what's bugging Squall…Well, a huge hint, actually, but still…it wouldn't do to give it all away, would it?

High 'n Low Beginnings

Chapter Three - The New Girl

By WolfPilot06

"I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!"

Oh, this was grand. The first day at her new school, and she was late for her second block class. Why did this school have to be so damn big?

"Aw, geez. Room 318…come on, where are you? Let's see…Room 27? Oh, no…" she groaned. She impatiently brushed her brown bangs out of her face and tried to shift her bookbag onto her hip to pull the school map out. "'You'll like the new school' they said. 'It's a beautiful school' they said. But they didn't say that this school was so darn confusing!"

Not watching where she was going, she turned a corner and suddenly collided with a very rigid thing that smelled like leather and aloe vera shampoo. The girl fell to the ground with an 'oof!'. She peered up through her bangs at whatever she had walked into. Or, to be more accurate, whoever. The dark-haired boy hesitated for a moment before offering a black-gloved hand to help her up. She smiled in embarrassment and took it.

"Sorry." She apologized, "See, I'm new to this school, and I'm late for my second block class. I wasn't paying attention to where I was going, so it's totally my fault. Oh! By the way, my name's Selphie Tilmett, and you?"

The boy blinked in surprise, obviously bowled over by her enthusiasm and fast speaking. He shifted his weight slightly and put one hand on his hip.

"Squall. Squall Leonhart." His voice was so quiet that Selphie had to strain to hear him.

"Ah! Pleasure to meet you, Squall. Hey, would you know where room 318 is?" she bubbled happily. Squall blinked again. Selphie realized that he had beautiful eyes, stormy gray with a touch of blue. They seemed to shift colors, too. "Heey, you have cool eyes! They change color!"

Squall frowned slightly in confusion. Selphie smacked her forehead with her palm.

"I'm sorry, I have a bad habit of jumping from subject to subject. Oh! My gosh! I didn't think of it; you must be on your way to your own class. I didn't mean to bother you-"

"It's ok." Squall said, raising an eyebrow, "I've got a pass. Room 318? I'll show you; that's where I'm going."

"Oh! That's great! Thanks so much!"

She fell into step next to him as he began to walk back the way she had come. Figures. She would walk in the opposite direction of her class. Murphy's Law or something like that.

"So, you're in Ceramics, too? I think that Ceramics is pretty awesome, but personally, I like working with wire and metal." Squall looked at her curiously. She laughed. "Yeah, a lot of people think it's kind of strange. I know metal smells bad after a while and stuff, but it's shiny and soo much fun to work with."

Squall's lips quirked slightly into a smile. Selphie beamed. She had the feeling that Squall didn't smile much. They turned another corner into a shorter hallway lined with lockers.

"My favorite thing to make is probably jewelry. I like working with cold connections-" at Squall's blank look, she hastened to explain. "Cold connections is like, joining metal without heat. You know, cold. No welding or melting or whatever. Just rivets and stuff. It's really fun, even though it's a pain in the butt when you work painstakingly on perfecting this one piece of metal only to screw it up when you go to rivet it. I hate it when that happens!"

Squall smirked.

"But I think Ceramics is cool, too. There's just something about burying your hands in a cool, slightly slimy moldable substance that's delightful. What do you like best about Ceramics? I like making pottery."

"Sculptures." Squall said, his eyes softening slightly.

"I haven't sculpted before. Will you show me how?" Selphie squealed with delight when Squall nodded his head. A nearby classroom door slammed shut and an angry teacher glared furiously at them through the window. "Oops." She covered her mouth with both hands and tried to look guilty when Squall looked at her. He shook his head slightly.

"We're almost there." He said. All traces of his smile disappeared when they walked into the classroom. He looked like a statue, all rigid and cold. Selphie pouted slightly. Squall seemed like a nice guy. Why did he shut himself off so suddenly?

The room was full of chatter and laughter. Students sat at desks and pottery stations that seemed to be in no particular organization. Clay covered many of their hands already, and not a few had smudges on their faces. The earthy smell of clay filled Selphie's senses, the heat from the kiln in the adjoining room causing a sort of drowsy comfort to fall over her.

A burly, dark-skinned man came out of the kiln room, his clay- spattered apron hanging haphazardly from his neck. He smiled genially at her and put the clay pot he was carrying on a nearby table before striding over to her.

"Welcome to Ceramics. I'm Raijin, the teacher, ya know?" he introduced himself, "You must be Selphie Tilmett. Get lost?"

She grinned sheepishly, eyeing the teacher in amazement. Somehow, she couldn't imagine this huge man teaching ceramics. His brown eyes twinkled.

"I know, I don't seem the type to be into ceramics. I studied to be a gym teacher at first, ya know. Then one of my friends got me to help him with a ceramics project he was working on, and I've been hooked ever since, ya know." Raijin noticed Squall standing nearby, his arms crossed across his chest as he waited patiently for them to finish speaking. "Ah, Squall. You helped her get here?"

Squall nodded, once again resting a hand on his hip. Selphie absently wondered if he did that a lot. Raijin's eyebrows raised.

"Well, then. Selphie, you're lucky you're on good terms with the Ice Man, ya know?" he grinned, clapped Squall on the shoulder heartily – nearly sending him face forward into a block of clay – and walked away to help a student. Squall sighed heavily and sent a half- hearted glare at the broad back before heading towards a more isolated corner of the room. Selphie hurriedly followed him.

"Hey, Mr. Raijin's pretty nice." She said, trying to make conversation. Squall shrugged.

"I guess. It's just Raijin."


"Not Mr. Raijin. Raijin."


Only one other student was working in the corner, a short, spiky- haired blond. He turned towards them as they approached, revealing a black, tribal tattoo that covered the left half of his face. He flashed a bright smile and rose to his feet, wiping his clay-covered hands off on a rag.

"Hey, you must be new." He raised his eyebrows, "My name's Zell Dincht."

"Selphie Tilmett. Pleasure to meet you!" she chirped, her green eyes locked on his face. They shook hands. Zell's expressive face became a tad bit confused when Selphie continued to stare at him.

"Uh, Selphie? Is there something on my face?" he took a clean rag and scrubbed his face with it.

"Oh! No, not at all. It's just…wow, that must've hurt."

"Huh-? Oh, my tattoo. Uh, well…" he scratched his head, "Yeah, it did at first. I've had it so long that I've completely forgotten about it. You like it?"

"Yeah! I think it looks mad cool!"

"Mad cool? I thought I was the only one who said `mad cool'!" Zell said excitedly, "Do you say `mad hot'?" Selphie nodded enthusiastically, "And `booyaka'?" Another nod, "ALRIGHT!"

Squall rolled his eyes heavenward as asking Hyne why he was stuck with two idiots. He sighed and sat down, reaching into a lower cabinet to pull out a cloth-covered object. Selphie and Zell were animatedly exchanging their language similarities nearby, having forgotten what they were in class for.

"Work while talking." Squall said, pulling Zell down onto his seat by grabbing on his shirt. Zell sputtered at the impassive-faced Squall, who began gathering various clay-working tools and was seemingly oblivious to the daggers Zell was glaring at him. Selphie stood nervously.

"Uh, guys…?" she began, "What should I do?"

"Hey, you can sit right here. Squall and I can share our tools with you. What do you want to start working on, pottery or sculpture?" Zell pulled out another seat for Selphie and dusted off the seat with his rag. Selphie set her books on the counter and sat, watching Squall carefully begin lifting the cloth off of his sculpture.

"Um, well, I know how to make pottery and I'd love to start working on this idea I have…but Squall's offered to teach me how to sculpt. What do you think?" Selphie looked beseechingly at Zell, who seemed astonished. The blond turned to his friend.

"You offered to teach someone something? Are you drunk? Did you take drugs or something?" Squall rolled his eyes. "Whoa, I think that Squall might actually be human! Someone call the press!"

"Whatever." Squall finally finished pulling the cloth away from the clay. Selphie goggled at the half-finished sculpture that Squall revealed.

"It's gorgeous." She breathed, leaning forward for a better look. A tinge of pink painted Squall's cheekbones.

"You really think so?" he asked shyly. Selphie nodded enthusiastically. She was being perfectly honest- the half-finished form rising out of a block of unshaped clay was already a testimony to how beautiful the finished product was going to be. It was a sculpture of an elegant, cold-looking woman, one arm rising majestically in the air as if she were calling upon spirits to come do her bidding. A long elegant sweep of hair fell from her regally upraised head, her finely-shaped lips turning down at the corners slightly.

"What do you call her-it?" Selphie asked. The woman looked almost lifelike. Squall fiddled with one of Zell's rags, looking uncharacteristically nervous.

"Shiva." He said quietly, "She's the ice goddess from ancient mythology." Storm-gray eyes rose and fixed themselves on Selphie solemnly. "The ancient people used to worship her with the highest reverence. The tale goes that her most faithful follower was one day dreadfully wounded by a child of Ifrit, the God of Fire. He called upon her for help and vengeance. It is said that she rose from the ground encased in ice. She shattered her encasement and killed the child of Ifrit immediately. This-" he touched the sculpture fondly, "-is supposed to be from that story, when she was about to punish the child of Ifrit. I based it off of a picture I found in the library."

"Wow. That's amazing. You know a lot about the ancient mythology, Squall." Selphie noted, impressed. Zell raised his eyebrows playfully.

"Yes, he does. He's obsessed with ancient and Greek mythology. That's about the only time he'll talk without having the words forced from him. But really…" Zell turned to his best friend, clapping a clay-covered hand to his equally clay-covered shirt in exaggerated shock. "I swear, that's the most I've ever heard you say at one go. Congratulations at having learned to speak."

He gravely held out a hand to Squall. A small smile touched the dark- haired boy's lips and he shook Zell's hand with equal solemnity. Zell gaped at him.

"Dude, that's the first time you've ever actually shaken my hand!" he exclaimed. Squall smirked. Zell looked at Selphie with reverence, "You must be a good-luck goddess or something. I could worship you!"

Selphie giggled when Zell fell onto his knees before her and began to kowtow.

"O, beauteous goddess! Grant to me your bountiful luck and happiness!" Zell intoned. Selphie smiled mischievously.

"Oh, alright. Only if you promise to be my slave, though."

"Anything, o divine one."

"Ok, slave. Get me my clay tools! And a bench! Pour me some ambrosia while you're at it! And don't forget the little cherry on top!"

The two collapsed into helpless laughter and giggles. Zell dusted the knees of his baggy shorts off and bowed grandiosely to Selphie.

"Of course, your Selphieness. Would you like one or two cherries?" he asked solemnly. Selphie pretended to think it over.

"Hmm…two! When you get back, give me a foot massage!"

"You're both crazy." Squall observed. "It better not be contagious."

Zell threw himself on his friend. Squall's eyes widened and he instantaneously pulled back his clay knife before he could cut off Shiva's nose. "Zell!"

"Oops, sorry." Zell grinned, not looking the least bit repentant. "Come here, Squall, so I can infect you with my insanity."

Squall attempted to pry his clinging friend off, cringing as Zell's hands left hand-shaped clay marks on his black bomber jacket. He glared at him warningly. Zell backed off, pretending to hide behind Selphie.

"Ahh, beware the Icy Glare-O-Doom!"

Squall stalked towards them, trying to get at Zell with a gobbet of clay in his hand. Zell used Selphie as a shield, turning them so that she was always between him and Squall. Selphie laughed helplessly, unwilling to let Squall hit Zell with the clay he held so vengefully, but unwilling to be at the receiving end of the clay herself.

"Squall, stop it!" she giggled. She pretended that she was a teacher, setting both hands on her hips and glaring at him. "Or I'll tell your parents!"

Squall's face immediately went blank. Selphie heard Zell's sharp intake of breath behind her and knew that she'd said something wrong. Her leather-clad friend stalked away, his back rigid. He sat before his sculpture and picked up one of his tools, but didn't start working on his sculpture. Selphie could see that his jaw was clenched, and his grip on the tool was so tight that his knuckles were white.

"Zell?" she whispered, "What did I say wrong?"

Zell sighed heavily and rubbed his head, looking at the ground. He scuffed his sneaker on the tiles.

"Uh, Selphie." He said uneasily, "It's not a good idea to mention his parents. Especially his mom."

"W-why not?"

"It's just that…well, I guess he wouldn't mind me telling you. Squall's mom-"

The bell rang then. Students scrambled around them, cleaning up their clay and supplies. In the midst of the confusion, Selphie was separated from Zell. The blond boy bobbed up and down on his heels, trying to see her. Selphie saw him gesture towards his and Squall's corner of the room before he turned and walked to Squall, touching the dark-haired boy's shoulder and bending down to say something in Squall's ear. Selphie managed to push her way through the students and finally reached the other two in time to see Squall shrug away Zell's hand and rise irritably, carefully pushing the covered Shiva sculpture into the safety of the cabinet.

"Squall, she didn't know." Zell was protesting. Selphie bit her lip. Did Squall hate her now?

The dark-haired boy's shoulders slumped.

"I know." Squall said quietly. His head bowed. "I'm…sorry."

Zell sighed and put his hand on Squall's shoulder, pulling his friend around to face him. Squall's eyes were downcast, his pouting lips turned down at the corners. The blond boy rested his head against Squall's.

"Squall, it happened four years ago. Can't you let it go?" he asked quietly. Squall remained silent. He slowly shook his head.

"I…I can't, Zell." He whispered. Selphie strained to hear him. "I can't."

He broke away and strode out of the classroom swiftly, his head bowed. Raijin appeared in the doorway of the kiln room, looking at his two students in surprise.

"You two are still here? Where'd Squall go?" Zell shook his head and pointed at the door, dejected.

"Left." All his energy seemed to have deserted him as he went about picking up their tools. He looked up suddenly. "Hey, Raijin, you think they'll have enough hot dogs today?"

Selphie blinked.

"Hot dogs?"

"Zell has this obsession with hot dogs, ya know." Raijin laughed, "I heard they ordered a new shipment just yesterday, ya know. But today's the Meat Surprise, so I'm not sure, ya know? Better hurry along, ya know. I'll write you passes for the hall monitors. Them ladies are evil, ya know."

Zell and Selphie laughed along with the big man. The blond boy seemed to have cheered up slightly at the prospect of hot dogs. Selphie wrinkled her nose; it was beyond her how anyone could like those weiner-shaped meat products. Only Hyne knew what went into them!

"Come on, Selphie. I'll show you the way to the cafeteria. You do have lunch now, right?"

"Uhh…yeah! Thanks, Zell!"

"No prob, babe."


"…poor choice of words?"

"I'm no babe. I'm cute."

"Alright, alright." Zell grinned and threw his hands up in defeat. "Come on, cutie."

"Cutie?" Selphie's voice rose several octaves as they walked out the door. Raijin shook his head, smiling.

"Kids these days, ya know?"

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