The New Flesh

Chapter Five

By Scarlet Fever

"Hey, there's the coastline!" Rinoa cheered, standing behind Nida's chair. After the storm, or whatever it was, Rinoa hadn't really wanted to be alone, and even Squall didn't seem to mind her hanging around. Rinoa knew Squall, and knew that this anomaly had freaked him out, big time. She also noticed that Nida's hands gently shook around the steering of the Ragnarok. She was glad that she wasn't the only one who was freaked out about what happened. She looked at Squall and Nida, both who were staring straight ahead. "Uh... Are we just never going to mention what happened again?"

"What's to mention?" Squall asked sharply. "We don't even know that it even happened."

"How can you think it didn't happen?" Rinoa asked, gasping like Squall had lost his mind. "We all know what we saw!"

"But, what did we see, Rinoa?" Nida asked, his voice subdued. "I tried to mentally ask Iudicium, but she doesn't want to give me the answers."

"We couldn't have all imagined it!" Rinoa protested. "Someone wanted us to crash in it."

"Who?" Squall asked, snarling slightly. "Huh? Who would want to kill us?"

"I don't know..." Rinoa admitted defensively. "But, you don't have any brilliant ideas either, Squall."

Squall bit back a nasty comment, watching as Deling City got closer and closer to them. The city, which had been large to begin with, seemed to expand every time Squall saw it. After the Deling regime had disappeared, Deling had really opened up, and was Esthar's closest competitor for largest city in the world. "Look, Rinoa, let's just drop it, alright!"

She pursed her lips, giving Squall a hard glare. "You don't have to be an asshole about it." She turned to Nida, patting his shoulders with her hands. "This is going to be great! I love Esthar and all, but I like to be surrounded by the 'Old World' feeling that Deling has. Lots of cars and noise. And, I'll get to see Angelo again..."

"Who's been watching Angelo?" Nida asked, completely forgetting about Rinoa's loved dog.

"Oh, a neighbour. I found out after waking up, that she'd taken Angelo in." Rinoa sighed wistfully. "God, Deling seems so much bigger... It hasn't even been that long."

Squall looked over at Rinoa, who was draped over the back of Nida's chair, her hands on his shoulders, smiling at the sight of Deling all below them. Squall watched as her fingers absently played with the fabric of Nida's coat, and it caused something hot and toxic to move in his body. The only thing that seemed to save Rinoa from Squall lunging towards her, desiring her fingers broken, was Nida saying "Okay, you should sit down now for the landing."

Nida furrowed his brow as he landed in Deling City's new Aircentre, to help the city deal with the major influx of flights from Esthar, and around the world. Esthar's Airstation was all technology and future, but Deling's was concrete and metal. He noticed a very interesting ship, of a design that he didn't recognized, also docked at the runway.

"What is it?" Squall asked as Nida touched the Ragnarok down.

"That ship.... I wonder where it came from. I don't recognize the design at all..."

"Maybe it's new?" Rinoa offered beginning to collect her stuff.

"No..." Nida muttered. "I would have known about it."

Rinoa pointed as she hoisted her shoulder bag over one arm. "Well, there are people standing around it... Maybe you could ask them, eh?"

Squall lightly slapped Rinoa's hand away so he could stand up. "Come on... I'm getting hungry."

"Now, I insist that you stay with me at the mansion!" Rinoa piped up, making a small jump in one place to emphasize her point. "I'll be very lonely without you, and it's much nicer and bigger than the hotels... Please!"

"We already agreed!" Squall snapped. He turned to Nida, his countenance mellowing almost instantly. "What are we planning for tonight?"

"I don't know..." Nida mumbled, his words being jumbled together as he checked the gauges on the console. "Rinoa mentioned this club that we might like..."

"It's supposed to have the best music in the city, a nice mix to dance to. But, not crappy House music." She smiled, noticing Squall frowning. "Don't worry, Squall. Even if I went with you to the club, I do have friends in the city, and wouldn't be bugging you. It's a big place. I just don't know if it's still there. I'll have to ask Shaami when we get into the city."

"Who?" Squall asked.

"Dog watcher," Rinoa answered quickly, tapping her foot as she waited for Squall and Nida to get on the lift with her. "She's the one that lives next door to me."

"Yeah, yeah..." Squall muttered. "Let's just go."

Rinoa opened her mouth to retort to Squall's rudeness, but the lift stopped, and he quickly walked ahead of them. She just sighed, and smiled gently when Nida looked over at her.

"What is it?" He asked.

"... Nothing..." She muttered, adjusting her bags. She didn't want to start an argument with Nida about Squall's rude behaviour. "Let's go. I want to see my house again."

Nida patted her shoulder, and took one of Rinoa's bags, to be polite. They'd called a car to come pick them up, and would have to wait for it to arrive.

When Rinoa and Nida joined Squall on the walkway, they saw that he was watching a group of people that were standing near that ship that Nida couldn't identify.

"You think that they're the ones who own that ship?" Rinoa asked.

"It's really quite something..." Nida trailed off, wandering down the walkway, looking up a the ship, very shiny and silver in the sun. "It's got a really futuristic look to it, but the lines of the hull are really very old in design. How interesting."

"She's one of a kind."

Squall, Nida and Rinoa turned when they heard a small, female voice pipe up out of nowhere. The found themselves looking down at a small woman, or rather, girl. She had auburn hair that was bound in pigtails by some bobble elastics, as well as some rhinestone encrusted clips holding the hair off her face. She had a cute little nose, and a splashing of freckles on her rosy cheeks. Her pale blue eyes lit up as she looked at the ship. "She's so beautiful. I'd never switch to a newer model for anything."

"You pilot this?" Rinoa asked, taken aback by the girl's youth. However, her childish face was marred by two scars. One ran from her lower lip, down her chin, and stopped under the studded collar she wore.

The girl fingered the chain that was below the collar. The charm on it looked like a real eye, hazel. "You sound surprised."

Nida gawked back up at the ship. "I've never seen anything like it. Has this model just come out, or what?"

"No..." The girl answered. "I've had it for a long time." She gave an ambiguous smile, and winked the eye that had the second scar on her face around it. It was a long, deep scar moving down the side of her face, but it didn't seem that her eye was harmed at all. "You're Sorcerer Nida Nomura, aren't you?"

"How'd you know that?" Squall asked, his voice snapping out of his lips.

She gave Squall an annoyed look. "Because he's quite famous. Powerful Sorcerers and Sorceresses are, General Leonhart." She held up a finger, which was poking out of the cut fingers of her leather gloves. "And, before you ask how I know you, too, it's because you're also famous, but I also know you through..." She paused, her eyes briefly searching around. "My aunt."

"Who's your aunt?" Rinoa asked, still surprised that such a small girl, who couldn't have been more than 16, and who was probably closer to 15, flew such an advanced looking airship.

The girl crossed her arms over her white T-shirt, which was full of rips and safety pins. She cocked her head behind her. "She's over there."

Squall sucked in his breath as he looked over. "Oh, really?" He smirked coldly. "The General is your aunt?" He gave the girl a hard look.

"Yep!" She smiled brightly. "I'm Val Tsepeth." She waved when Tevedes Tsepeth looked over at them. Nida frowned at the rings that poked through the girl's arms. The steel of the rings caught the light from the polished metal of the ship, and almost blinded Nida. They looked like silver bangles, but they seemed to pierce through Val's arms. Nida didn't say anything about them, figuring she was into extreme body modification, something that was odd for someone her age.

"Well, well... Sorcerer Nida. How are you?" Tevedes asked, her voice cold and calm as she regarded Nida coolly, her gaze hard from under the shadow of the brim of her hat. Tevedes was joined by an entourage of three women. One had her head bowed, hiding in the shadows of her black hair, which was brushed over the right side of her face. She was also wearing a very antique looking black dress, and eyed Nida, Squall and Rinoa shyly, using her hands to play with her bell sleeved dress from the inside of the sleeves, which covered her hands. The second reminded Squall, Nida and Rinoa of Quistis, because of her tortoiseshell eyeglasses, polished appearance, and dark, tailored suit. She also had the same intelligent looking eyes. Her copper hair was pinned neatly on her head, and she looked at a pocket watch, hanging from a chain around her throat. The third smiled at the three, like she knew something they didn't, and looked past them to the Ragnarok. "Truly a masterpiece..." She mused quietly, fanning herself in the afternoon warmth. It was far warmer in Galbadia than in Esthar. While it was winter in Esthar, is was nearing autumn in Galbadia. The woman's slanted, Asian eyes looked at Nida from over the rim of her fan. She wore a traditional Chinese dress, the colour of ripe plums, and had amethyst chains binding her ebony hair up in two buns on top of her head.

"Oh, you're General Tsepeth?" Rinoa asked. "I've heard much about you."

"General Caraway's daughter. I heard you were in a coma..." Tevedes trailed off, boring her colourless glare into Rinoa's face.

"I just woke up..." Rinoa trailed off, wishing the car would come. In the span that it took for Tevedes to look at Rinoa, the temperature seemed to go down considerably, and Rinoa felt uncomfortable, almost like she was in danger.

"How... nice for you," Tevedes mused.

"General, the time..." The woman with the glasses and the suit said. Her voice seemed to fill the sky with a commanding, rich note that seemed to big for her petite body.

"Oh, of course, Kronos." Tevedes gave Squall, Nida and Rinoa a smile that looked reptilian, because the General's lips were lost against her pale face. "If you'll excuse me General Leonhart, Sorcerer Nomura... I have dinner plans with Archbishop Magdalene." She only gave them a look, then began walking away. "Val, come."

The woman with the fans gave one last look to the Ragnarok, like she was checking it out, then gave her enigmatic smile to the trio before following the colourless General. The woman that Tevedes had called Kronos didn't even acknowledge them. The shy woman in black hovered behind Val, fidgeting with her dress and looking down at the ground, like her shadow was more important than anything in the world.

"Well, see ya!" Val said cheerfully. "Oh, and the Ragnarok is a great ship." She made a shooting motion with her gloved hands, and hurried after her aunt, the woman in black gliding after her in her flowing black dress.

Rinoa shook her head. "That was General Tsepeth, huh...?" She bit her lip. "She's kind of...."

"Yeah..." Nida answered. "I know."

"Hmmm..." Rinoa mused, feeling some pressure building behind her eyes. She touched her forehead, between her eyebrows, frowning. "Ow."

"Are you okay?" Nida asked, noticing a car pulling up. "That's probably our car," Nida said to Squall.

"I think I'm okay..." Rinoa massaged her forehead. "Maybe just the heat?" Her gaze followed where Tevedes and her female companions had disappeared. She thought of Tevedes's irisless eyes, the expansive milky sea of her eyes, and the headache intensified. She grimaced, shaking her head.

Squall noticed Rinoa's gaze following where Tevedes had been, and he frowned deeply as the driver of their car got out to help put their bags in the trunk. He watched her closely as she smiled at Nida when he asked her if she was okay again. What are you hiding, Rinoa? Squall wondered to himself, having a feeling that there was more to Rinoa than met the eye. He suddenly felt like it was a good idea that he and Nida would be at the Caraway Mansion, because it meant that Squall could watch Rinoa more closely.

"Where are you?" Nida asked, touching Squall's shoulder as they got in the back of the luxury car. Nida leaned in, and kissed Squall gently on his pierced earlobe. "Huh?"

"Oh... Nowhere..." Squall mused, pressing his face into Nida's silken hair, which smelled like lilies. As he and Nida cuddled, Squall looked over the top of his lover's head to Rinoa, who was smiling, and humming a song from Fermata's CD, which Squall recognized as "Storm Shadow". She was looking at the scenery of Deling pass them as they began to drive into the city. Squall smiled as Nida's hands curled with his own, but his hawk-like gaze never faltered from Rinoa once.

"Viator says that there was no report in Esthar from the Ragnarok," Pallas's voice stated on the other end of Kronos's cellular phone.

"Yeah, because there's nothing wrong with the ship..." Kronos stated, her voice richly filling the limousine, even though she was almost whispering. Val seems taken by them, though. Especially Nomura."

Val made a snorting noise, taking one of the fans from the Oriental woman beside her. "Shut up!"

"Hey!" The woman with the buns frowned at Val. "Give that back."

Val stuck her tongue out. "Come on, Tempest... You have two. It's hot out."

"Shhhh," Kronos instructed. "So, how's the girl?"

"Good. Doc thinks she'll be better in a week or so." Pallas paused. "That is, unless you know who tears her apart."

"That won't happen," Kronos said, confident. "We have to meet with Magdalene, so I'll call you later."

"Just keep an eye on Nomura. If he slips up at all, it will really help Tevedes's cause."

Kronos just nodded, and hung up. "The girl should be fine in a week."

The woman in black tugged on her pearl necklaces, sighing deeply. "I don't like it here. It's too noisy." She played with the ties of the corseted torso of her dress. "And, it smells like smog."

"You complain too much!" Val exclaimed. "You have to admit, for what he is... Nida sure is cute."

"No, he's not," Tevedes snapped. "We aren't here to ogle cute boys, or what you think is cute, and I think is treacherous and evil."

"Listen to your aunt," Tempest crooned, blowing up into her thick, bluntly cut bangs. She snickered to herself, fanning her beautiful face, her amethyst chains clinking together.

Val touched the rings in her arms, looking over at the identical set in Tempest's arms. "I'd like to take a shot with the Ragnarok. It's quite the amazing ship."

Tevedes smirked, taking off her hat, and smoothing over her white blonde hair. "I'm sure you'll be able to."

"I want to hear Fermata sing," the black clad woman, a child-like quality in her voice. "I really think that "Liquid Black" is a beautiful song."

"You would..." Kronos said, her voice void of humour. She followed the woman's gaze out the window, where her dark eyes were watching someone standing at a bus stop. Suddenly, he yelped, looking around him, but the only thing around was his shadow. Kronos looked over the rim of her glasses, across the car. "Don't act like such a child, Gietzen. We won't be here forever."

Gietzen smiled from behind her hair as she slouched in her seat, making her body small. She continued to look at the man until he was out of sight. "Maybe this city isn't so bad."


"Hey!!" Rinoa waved eagerly, jogging up to the woman standing on the sidewalk outside the Caraway Mansion. Angelo ran towards Rinoa, and leapt at her legs, panting and barking happily. "Shaami, thank you sooo much for looking after Angelo for me." Rinoa hugged Shaami tightly.

The brunette hugged back, then patted her fabric covered bun. "I'm just glad that you're awake and okay!" She looked over Rinoa's shoulder at Squall and Nida. "Well, hello, hello... Who are these lovely gentlemen?"

"You remember Squall, right?"

Shaami snorted. "Obviously not. I'm sorry.... Hello again, Squall."

"Oh, that's okay... I wouldn't remember me, either." Squall shook her hand. "How's the reporter... thing?"

Shaami laughed. "You mean my job?" She laughed again. "It's fine."

"Oh!" Rinoa laughed into her hands. "I'm rude. This is Nida, Squall's boyfriend."

"Oh...." She smiled. "Nice to meet you.... Wait... Nida Nomura? The Sorcerer?"

Nida sighed, nodding. "Yeah. I guess my reputation precedes me." He shook Shaami's hand. "So, what do you report, exactly?"

"For the Deling Goer. It's the daily paper here. I'm the style reporter."

"Oh, then you'll know something about the Fermata concert!" Rinoa exclaimed. "She's got a beautiful voice!"

"I agree. I'll be going."

"So will we."

"That's great!" Shaami smoothed her hands over her peach coloured dress. "Anyway, I have to go. Oh, and Rinoa, I told that guy... Dean or whatever, that you were in the coma. He seemed relieved. I guess he thought you were just a bitch."

Rinoa rolled her dark eyes. "Fantastic. Thanks for looking after Angelo. I hope she was good."

"She was an angel." Shaami winked. "Well, Belgemine is probably wondering where I am." She waved and walked towards the house next door.

"Who's Belgemine?" Nida asked as a servant came out of the house, hugged Rinoa, and helped them with their bags.

"Shaami's lover."

"Ahh...." Squall trailed off. "Isn't anyone straight anymore?"

Rinoa cleared her throat. "Excuse me. What am I, chopped liver?"

Squall just rolled his eyes, dropping his bags in the foyer.

Nida laughed. "Wow, this place hasn't really changed."

"I'm glad..." Rinoa mused, looking around, smiling. But, the smile faded from her heart-shaped mouth when she saw a picture hanging on the wall. She walked towards it, and took it down from the wall. It was a black and white photograph of General Caraway, Julia Heartilly, and a seven year old Rinoa. She traced her mother's small, yet happy smile. Her father's eyes were lit up with warm joy, and Rinoa was beaming, her hair tied in two small braids. Rinoa smiled at the memory, but her lips quivered, knowing that her mother was long gone, and now, she'd never get to see her father any more. Her father wouldn't come out of the study anymore, questioning her about where she'd been, what she'd been doing, stern, trying to hide his worry. Before, Rinoa had just thought he was being mean and nosy. But, now that she was older, and that he was gone, she had a different perspective on his past actions. She clutched the picture to her chest, trying to hold back a sob.

Squall watched Rinoa's back, which was tense with sorrow. He stood there, not sure what to say. He heard Nida come back in the foyer, and stop beside him. "Squall...." Nida whispered. "What's wrong?"

"She saw a picture of her father..." He trailed off.

Nida watched Rinoa's shoulders shake with silent sobs. "And, you're just standing here?" He gave Squall a sad look, and went to Rinoa. "It's okay, you know?"

She looked at the picture again. "I know... I mean... I remember how hard it was to get over my Mom's death. It still hurt, but I was more happy with my memories. But, now... I have to go through all this all over again." She smiled at Nida, trying to show she was okay, but the smile crumbled, and a couple tears fell out of her eyes. She flung herself into Nida's arms, almost bowling Nida over.

Nida stroked Rinoa's hair, and looked over the top of her head at Squall, sending his lover a somewhat helpless glance. Nida had never been good at comforting people. Squall silently sighed, and stepped beside Nida. He patted Rinoa's back, trying to find that place in him that had comforted Rinoa all the times during their relationship, but he couldn't really seem to find it. He remembered the feeling of loss when Rinoa had left for the Sorceress Memorial, but he just couldn't capture it again. It was because he didn't have those same feelings for Rinoa anymore, because he had those feelings for Nida only now, that he himself wasn't the same person.

She laughed bitterly, pulling away from Nida, putting the picture back up on the wall. "I'm sorry. I guess I should get used to seeing memories all around me." She wiped her damp cheeks. "Squall, you guys can take that guest room that you like, the one with the balcony and the burgundy wallpaper."

Squall just nodded, picking up one of the bags. "Nida, come on... I'll show you where it is."

"I bet..." Rinoa trailed off, already walking to the Library. She heard Squall and Nida drag some of their stuff up the stairs, and looked around at the surroundings that were so decidedly her father. The big desk, the antique chaise, the well loved books, the statue that hid the secret entrance to the sewers. She sighed, and looked out the window. She could see the tops of the buildings in the distance, but there were so many more than she remembered. She could also see the gardens, which were still being well manicured, the ferns, emerald lawns, the dappled roses and lilies, chrysanthemums and dahlias.

"General Tsepeth..." Rinoa trailed off. "Who are you?" She touched her forehead. The pain was gone now, but she could still remember it. She just didn't know why it'd come up. Rinoa wanted to say it was because of the heat, the bright sun, but knew it was different than that. She looked at her own reflection in the window, and saw something ghostly standing behind her. "Just my imagination..." She sighed, touching the second person's reflection. Then, a third one appeared, two men standing behind her. "I wish you were really here. I need advice."

The same sort of feeling that had surrounded Rinoa when she'd felt that apparition, or whatever it'd been, in the Esthar Library. It was all around her like wispy, gossamer existence. "Tell me what to do..." She whispered sadly. "Is my father okay?"

He's fine.

"Tell him I miss him."

We will.

Rinoa knew that the voices weren't real, that they were only in her head, but yet... They were comforting. "Tevedes..."

"Who are you talking to?" Squall asked, his arms crossed over his chest as he leaned on the chaise. He was giving Rinoa a hard look.

"Myself..." Rinoa whispered, feeling embarrassed. She turned away so Squall wouldn't see her blush. "Since when do you go around spying on people?"

"I wasn't spying on you. I came to ask you if we could have some food, and you were talking to yourself... Saying 'Tevedes'. What's that about?"

She shrugged. "Just thinking about Tevedes. It's nice to put a face with the... reputation." She hid her sorrow, and turned around, facing Squall, her face bright. "Well, we could go out for lunch, wander around the city... Or, do you not want me around?" She put a finger to her cheek. "Afraid I'll get in the way of your alone time with Nida?"

"I didn't say that..." Squall trailed off. He just frowned at her. But, he was thinking that exact thing internally.

"Well, I'm sure that we can make something..." Rinoa sighed happily when Angelo bound into the room, licking Rinoa's hand. "Besides, I'm sure you don't want to hear this, but I'll probably be going to that club with you, too. Shaami invited me."

"Oh, wonderful."

Rinoa frowned. "Shut up, Squall." She muttered under her breath something that Squall couldn't make out, but could only assume had something to do with him fucking himself. "I'll see what food we have." She just rolled her eyes, and pushed past Squall. He followed Rinoa to the kitchen, glaring at the spot on her back between her shoulder blades, as if he had to memorize the folds of her black quilted vest. As if she could sense Squall's laser glare, she looked over her shoulder a couple times, shooting her former boyfriend dirty looks.

When they both got in the kitchen, Nida was already looking through the cupboards. "Oh, Rinoa... I hope you don't mind. Is it okay if I cook something?"

Rinoa waved her hand, sitting at one of the stools around the island. "Be my guest."

"At least you know how to cook," Squall muttered under his breath. He took a carrot stick from a bag in the fridge, and bit into, saying "And, you don't just put anything in."

"What was that?" Rinoa asked, raising an eyebrow.

Squall just shrugged, nibbling on the carrot, wrapping his arm around Nida's waist, still glaring at Rinoa.

"Will you two knock it off?!" Nida exclaimed angrily, immediately quelling that anger, not wanting Iudicium to make an unplanned appearance. He gave both of them hard looks. "Please?"

"Yes, sir..." Both Squall and Rinoa answered, slight shame in their voices. Rinoa fiddled with her vest's zipper, while Squall chewed silently on his carrot.

"So..." Rinoa mused. "Wasn't it odd that a girl so young was a pilot for a General?"

Squall thought of Rinoa saying Tevedes's name, but kept his mouth shut.

"Yeah... Maybe she was just older than she looked," Nida said, investigating a few tomatoes. "But, I got the impression she was only 15. I mean, I was flying when I was younger than that, but not for a high profile General." Nida took out a sharp knife. He held it over the tomato, and frowned. "Her piercings were odd. I've never seen anything like them before. I guess I'm not that learned in Body Modification..."

"They looked like they would have hurt..." Squall mused. "Right through the radius and ulna bones. I doubt that would ever heal, like with a piercing that's only through skin. That's right through a good chunk of muscle."

"The other one had it, too... The one with the buns and fans," Rinoa pointed out. "Must be a tribal sort of thing."

"What tribe would that be?" Nida asked, frowning. "If Val was Tevedes's niece, I figure she'd be as Aryan as Tevedes looks."

"An ancestral thing?" Rinoa pondered, taking a slice of tomato, careful to avoid the knife Nida was wielding. "Some old tribes, like way back in the Dollet and Centra Empire days, did a lot of crazy stuff." She smirked. "Maybe it was Trabian."

Nida nodded, thoughtful, while Squall stiffened. Even the mention of old Trabian tribes made him think of Ultimecia, of Xerampelinae and Adel Viator, and brought up a lot of bad memories. It also made Squall think of Rinoa saying Tevedes's name in the library. Talking to yourself, my ass, Rinoa. You always were a shitty liar.

"Man, that Fermata concert is going to be sweet..." Nida trailed off. "I think it's unusual how people who aren't even into classical or opera music are really in love with the CD."

Rinoa nodded, tucking her highlighted streaks of hair behind her ears. "I know! It's almost like she's a Siren, you know? Calling men to their deaths on rocky seas." She cocked her head. "The language is also very lyrical. I thought at first that it was old Galbadian, but I know a few words from that because I took it in High School."

"I think it's actually an old variation of the Dollet Empire tongue. I recognize a few of the words, just because of some signs and stuff in the older district of Dollet."

"Yeah, you're from there, right?" Rinoa asked.

"Uh huh. Squall and me are going to go there after Deling, and before Timber. To see my family."

"Oh, that should be fun," Rinoa muttered sarcastically. "Squall always makes a wonderful first impression, don't you?"

He gave her a look. "Hey, the General liked me very much."

"What about when you met my aunt? She thought you were rude."

Squall snorted. "Err, she was senile."

"She was thirty five!" Rinoa exclaimed angrily. "Nida, I hope you parents are prepared to meet a sullen little priss."

Squall opened his mouth to insult Rinoa, but Nida spoke first. "Well, my mom's a drunk, and my father is a no nonsense, very stern lawyer. I doubt a sullen priss is the least of my worries." He put the tomato chunks in a frying pan.

Rinoa smiled, smelling the tomatoes. "Mmm, smells good. What are you going to make?"

"Vegetarian Stir Fry. You don't have any meat."

"Yeah..." Rinoa trailed off. "After we eat, I'll go out with the cook and get some food, since we'll be here for a few days. You guys can make a list of things you like. I already know some of what Squall likes and dislikes..." She sighed. "Or, at least I used to. I used to think he liked pussy, but that was wrong."

Squall reddened slightly, and Rinoa laughed at him, a slight tinge of maliciousness in her tone. He mouthed 'bitch', and bit into another carrot stick. Rinoa stuck her tongue out at him, and turned her attentions back to Nida, which only made Squall redden further. It was very sweet of Nida to be so nice to Rinoa, but Squall only thought of it as a mistake, that Rinoa couldn't be trusted, not with where it came to Tevedes Tsepeth, and especially when it came to Nida.

Quistis flipped through that days edition of the Deling Goer, catching up on the news in Galbadia. She was sitting in an empty conference room, waiting for Xu to return with Laguna. They were supposed to be talking about Tevedes. It sort of worried Quistis that Rinoa, Squall and especially Nida were in Deling City the same time that Tevedes and her brood were. She stopped on an article about the General, and frowned deeply at the picture of Tevedes, which in real life, would have been as black and white as the grainy printout. The story was about the fact that Tevedes was having a meeting with Archbishop Magdalene. Beside the photograph of Tevedes, there was one of the newly appointed Archbishop. She was wearing the traditional white cloak of the Church, which was adorned with a pink triangle trim which Quistis found kind of ironic. The Church wasn't exactly best friends with the Gay and Lesbian organizations around the world, and yet the trim on their robes was the same symbol that was synonymous with Homosexuality. The Archbishop Magdalene was a pretty, Hispanic looking woman, who had originally been from Winhill. Her eyes seemed very warm, but Quistis felt like there was an underlying shrewdness to them.

"Found him!" Xu exclaimed. "He was googling over Almasy. I couldn't tear him away, so Raijin just brought her."

Quistis smiled as Raijin brought in his daughter, Laguna making silly baby noises all the way.

"Hey, Quistis, ya know?! I heard that Tevedes is meeting with Magdalene. That could be bad for the Sorcery campaign, ya know?!"

"The Church has never openly opposed Sorcery," Xu pointed out.

"That doesn't mean they agree with it," Laguna said. "Shoobie poobie doo. Zabba mlaa."

"Stop that!" Raijin exclaimed. "You're doing it right in my ear, ya know!?"

"I'm President Of Esthar!" Laguna exclaimed huffily, putting his hands on his hips. "I can yell baby talk in your ear if I damn well please!"

Raijin just rolled his eyes, but Almasy seemed happy about it. She got a small fistful of Laguna's long hair, and gave it a tug. Laguna yelped, which caused Raijin, Xu and Quistis to all laugh.

"You're expelled from my country!" Laguna cried, opening and closing his outstretched hands to Almasy, in a gesture that meant he wanted to hold her.

"Does that mean you went boom boom?" Raijin asked sarcastically.

"You shouldn't talk to your boss that way!" Laguna said, wagging his finger in Raijin's face, accidentally poking the much taller man in one eye he still possessed. "Oh, I'm sorry!" Laguna brought his hands to his mouth, going red with embarrassment.

"Oh, great... Try to poke out the eye that I still have, why don't you?" Raijin asked, handing Almasy to Laguna, since he had to close his eye, and it rendered him blind. Raijin briefly thought to when Seifer and Zell had been possessed, and how he'd lost his eye. He shook his head, opening his dark eye once more to glare at Laguna.

"I said I was sorry. Daddy should forgive me, shouldn't he?" Laguna asked of Almasy, who played with Laguna's dogtags.

"You put the 'goon' in Laguna, ya know?!"

Laguna just gasped, while Xu and Quistis laughed. "That's so mean! You big meanie!" Laguna huffed, which just caused the three of them to laugh harder. Xu actually fell off the armrest of the chair she'd been leaning on, and almost fell on her face. "Help me, Almasy... They're all a bunch of mean assholes."

Xu huffed, trying to catch her breath. "We should actually talk about business, you know?"

Raijin sat in the chair across from Quistis. "I read in some social paper that Tevedes is supposed to be going to that Fermata concert, ya know?! The same one as Squall and Nida."

Laguna sat down, and gently bounced Almasy on his knee. "Uncle Laguna thinks that Tevedes is really a man."

Quistis slightly turned to face him. "Laguna, we're trying to be serious here!" She waved her hand to emphasize her point, and hit Raijin in the forehead. "Oh, Jesus... Sorry, Raijin."

"Dammit... I didn't bring my fucking helmet, ya know?!"

"Daddy's got a potty mouth!" Laguna said, making faces at the baby on his knee. Laguna bobbed Almasy's nose a couple times, which caused her to giggle and kick her sleeper-clad feet. "Boo boo... Who's de cwewtest widdle girwl in the world? Bzzzzpthttthhhh, bah bah... Almasy is!"

Quistis rolled her cobalt eyes. "Jesus Christ. I'm just glad Squall's not around to hear this. He'd die of mortification."

Xu reached for the remote of the television in the conference room, turning it onto GDNC, which stood for Galbadian Daily News Channel. "He's always mortified about something."

Laguna waved his hand, snorting. "You're just jealous because none of you have any parental instinct."

Raijin cleared his throat. "She is my daughter, ya know?!"

"Hey, it's Tevedes..." Quistis trailed off. Laguna did have a point, though. Neither her nor Xu had much maternal instinct. "What are we going to do if she's elected?"

"Drop a piano on her?" Laguna offered.

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard, ya know?!" Raijin exclaimed. "And, after all your gibberish today, that's saying a lot, ya know?!"

"That must be her entourage..." Xu said, pointing at the women surrounding the General as they got into a limousine. They could actually see the Ragnarok in the distance. "What a stupid bitch she is..." Xu huffed. "I had the distinct impression that she was racist because I'm Chinese."

"One of her women is Chinese..." Raijin pointed out, his finger jabbing at Tempest and her fans. "That's your theory out the window, ya know?!"

"What if we dropped her in a pool of man eating tigers?" Laguna asked. "Or, painted a really convincing picture of a long train tunnel on a brick wall? Then she'd drive right into it." Laguna laughed at himself, which caused Almasy to laugh, too.

"I correct myself, ya know?!" Raijin said lowly. "That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

Xu and Raijin high-fived and laughed, while Laguna told them to shove it. Quistis laughed too, but distantly. She was watching the television, her gaze caught by one of the women with Tevedes. There was the Chinese woman with the fans, a young girl in an outfit that looked circa Sex Pistols era, a very fidgety woman in black, that seemed encased in shadows, and a woman with copper hair in a very nice, expensive looking tailored suit. It was probably Armani, Vera Wang or something equally pricey. Quistis couldn't help but be mesmerized, because it was like she was looking at herself, or someone who could be her mother. The woman was much shorter than Tevedes, and looked very petite, whereas Quistis was willowy, but she couldn't help but feel something familiar tug at her while looking at this woman. Quistis didn't know anything about her family, so couldn't say if she had relatives in the world. It would be awful if she was related to someone working for General Tsepeth.

"General Tsepeth will be meeting with Archbishop Magdalene today, at the request of the Archbishop herself, to discuss the General's stance on Sorcery," the woman said into the microphones surrounding her. Quistis's heart leapt in her chest as she listened to this woman's voice. It was the kind of voice that was meant for public speaking, so clear and commanding, an entity in itself. But, it wasn't only the commanding context of her words. It was the tone itself, like it rang something in Quistis's self conscious, like it was speaking to her directly.

"What did the Archbishop have to say about impending conflict with Esthar because of the General's views?" a reporter asked.

"We have no comment on that at this time. But, the General is always mindful of the potential strife between Deling and Esthar. Thank you," the woman said, pushing her glasses up the straight bridge of her nose. She got in the limo with Tevedes and the other three women, and it drove away.

"Damn her...." Laguna said, his voice dark and serious. "Trying to make us sound like the bad guys."

"That woman kinda looked like you, ya know?!" Raijin pointed out. "Except with red hair."

Quistis nodded distantly, resting her chin on her fists, concentrating on an invisible point on the TV screen, which was now a sports report about the Galbadia Garden hockey team. She couldn't forget the feeling that the woman's voice had left her with, even though she was long gone off the screen. Quistis's cobalt eyes narrowed thoughtfully. She suddenly had a very uneasy feeling....

Squall smiled distantly as Nida's hands nimbly went under Squall's shirt, tracing the lean lines of his abdominal muscles. Nida pushed Squall's shirt up his lover's torso, and bowed his head, and began kissing Squall's flat belly, dipping his tongue into the well of Squall's bellybutton. Squall murmured under his breath in pleasure. Rinoa had gone out with Mifurey, the cook for the mansion, to get some food, so they were alone. Squall was sure that there was a servant or two lurking around, but for all intensive purposes, they were alone. Squall frowned when he thought about Rinoa, and it caused him to tense up.

"What is it?" Nida asked, propping himself on an elbow. "You've been acting moody all day."

"It's nothing....." Squall sighed.

"I know it's something."

"It's Rinoa..." Squall sighed, turning his head to face Nida. "Have you noticed that she's been acting... queer lately?"

"You'd be the expert on that, wouldn't you?" Nida teased.

"Shut up..." Squall muttered. "I just have this... Feeling..."

"Are you sure that feeling isn't jealousy?"

"Why should I be jealous of Rinoa?" Squall asked, taking one of Nida's hands, and putting it back on his own exposed stomach. He shifted so that his side was pressed against Nida. Mentally, Squall knew that he was jealous of Rinoa, but just didn't want to admit it to himself, let alone out loud to Nida. Of course I'm jealous of Rinoa. I see the way she looks at you. She used to look at me that way. I can't lose you, and I'll be damned if I lose you to Rinoa.

Nida sighed. "You just haven't seemed that glad for her to be awake. What, do you think she'll try to go after you again?"

"No," Squall answered. He knew Rinoa would never want him again. That wasn't what Squall was worried about. "I know that Rinoa will never want me as her boyfriend again."

"Then, what's your problem? Come on, you two were fighting a long time ago. "Rinoa's gotten over it... You should too, you know?" Nida bent over, nuzzling his face into the hollow of Squall's throat. He smiled into Squall's skin, and his fingers began working at undoing the trio of belts that Squall wore practically every day. Suddenly, Nida frowned, and he sat up. "What, do you think that Rinoa will go after me?" Nida snorted, laughing.

Squall frowned, but didn't protest.

"Oh..." Nida breathed through his laugher. "Oh, Squall... Trust me. You have nothing to worry about. I..." Nida trailed off, stopping himself. 'I love you' almost came out of his mouth, but he prevented it. Things were going so good with Squall, that he didn't want to scare him away. "I'm not interested in Rinoa Heartilly that way, okay? I feel sorry for her. She's nice. She needs a friend right now."

Squall nodded, knowing what Nida was saying made a lot of sense, but he still couldn't keep his irrational jealousy out of his heart, or the suspicion that Rinoa knew a lot more about Tevedes Tsepeth than she let on.

"So, did you fuck Rinoa in this room?" Nida asked, laughing as he did.

Squall slowly opened his eyes, fixing Nida with a surprised gaze. "Huh?"

Nida finally got the belts undone, and moved his mouth to Squall's belly again, which was fluttering under his mouth. Squall sharply took his breath in through his nose when Nida's tongue moved further down his abdomen, leaving a warm, moist trail. Squall began to slowly work his hips in lazy circles as the pleasure built in his body, along with the pressure in his groin. Nida's fingers worked under the waistband of Squall's underwear, gently kneading his tender, supple flesh. Squall slightly sat up as Nida crawled up his body, and gripped his lover by the forearms, pulling Nida down, so that their chests were pressed flush. Squall inclined his neck, and ravaged Nida's mouth with his own, using his tongue and teeth to assault the highly bruisable flesh. Nida mewled slightly into Squall's mouth at the harsh pressure, but didn't ask Squall to stop.

Something in Squall felt hungrier for Nida, for just the contact that he was getting from this encounter, hungrier than he did usually. Maybe it was his jealousy, of having Rinoa in the picture. He didn't exactly know how she fit into said picture, but it made him boil deep within. There was also something else, something that he couldn't really define. Like, something had been awakened in him by being with Nida, knowing that they would have no preventions in spending a lot of time in each other's company, which meant a lot of time in bed, fucking, sucking each other's cocks, touching. It was the same sort of hungry passion that he should have been associating with himself. Squall had always sort of been compared to a lion, almost like it was his animal to call. His mane of fur on his favourite bomber coat, the Griever ring and pendant, the manifestation of the lion that Ultimecia had called forth against them during Time Kompression. But, Squall knew he wasn't really a lion, that he'd failed in his avatar, that he wasn't passionate, wasn't fiery and powerful. He was cold. Like ice.

Ever since Seifer and Zell had died, Squall had lost any passion that he'd gained, any passion he'd learned from Rinoa, learned from Seifer and Zell. He felt the same passion with Nida, a thousand times over, like he was feeling right now, but it didn't translate to any other part of his life. Just to Nida. And, even with Nida, something held Squall back from really opening up, throwing all his passion into his throes with Nida. And, he knew it was fear. Nida's mouth was soft and sweet against his own, something he shouldn't have been afraid of. He should have been ecstatic that he'd finally found everything he'd ever wanted. Everything except bravery. Even though Nida's hands touched him in the manner that only a true lover could, Squall was still deathly afraid that it would all end, that Nida would leave him.

"Where are you?" Nida asked, pinching Squall's sides gently.

Squall blinked a couple times, looking into Nida's dark eyes. "Oh, I'm sorry... Must have zoned out."

"Are you okay?" Nida asked. "I have a feeling this is more than just about Rinoa."

Squall waved his hand, waving the subject away with his motion. He wrapped a leg around Nida's waist. "I said I was fine." He kissed Nida again, filling the other man's mouth with his tongue.

Nida kissed Squall back with the same amount of hungry desire that his auburn-haired lover was showing him. He ran his fingernails up and down Squall's sides, pushing the black shirt Squall had been wearing higher and higher up his torso. Squall raised his arms over his head, and arched his back, and Nida pulled the shirt off, having to wrestle a little bit with it as it got tangled around Squall's neck. When his head was finally freed of the fabric, Squall smirked, blowing up into his hair, which was now messed up and falling in his eyes. Nida ran his hand through Squall's shaggy bangs, tugging on it enough for Squall to growl, an animalistic noise. Squall threw his head back, his back arching at a taut angle, and panted as Nida began tugging at his clothes, rough enough to rip them. When Squall was jostled out of his clothes, he lay panting, his limbs splayed on the mattress. Nida pulled off his own shirt, and began to slide his body down Squall's.

Squall heard a belt buckle coming undone as he felt a gentle nip at the soft flesh of his inner thigh. The love bites got harder, but the sting was soothed by Nida's tongue, hot and wet at the juncture of Squall's thigh and groin. Squall cried out when one of the bites sent a jolt of pain, which felt like hot pleasure to Squall, through his nerves and up his spine. The spot was soothed by Nida's tongue, then bit into again. Squall's cock jerked every time his flesh was punctured by Nida's teeth. Squall wasn't even sure if he was bleeding, but didn't really care. Leave it to Rinoa's maids to clean up if there was blood and semen everywhere. This thought, of Rinoa herself wrinkling her nose as she delicately picked up the sheets, holding it as far away from her body as possible, caused Squall to snort, and start giggling to himself.

Nida sat up between Squall's legs, a confused look on his fey face. "What are you laughing at, like some giggly faggot?"

"Just thinking about Rinoa..." Squall trailed off.

"Oh..." Nida rolled his eyes. "Thinking about your ex-flame is a no-no, Leonhart." Nida slapped Squall's haunch roughly, the sound of flesh meeting flesh echoing through the room.

"Ow!" Squall exclaimed, but in a tone that totally suggested he more than enjoyed the searing slap. "Maybe I should think of Rinoa more often..." He gave Nida a teasing look through his bangs, which had fallen into his stormy eyes once more. "Like, her blowjobs..." Squall trailed off as Nida slapped his outer thigh again, much harder than the first time. The already tender flesh stung with the heavy contact. "Or, how tight her pussy was..." Another slap, but to the other leg. "All her juices..." Squall gasped, his words being garbled as Nida roughly grabbed his hips, and slammed Squall's crotch against his own, draping Squall's legs over his shoulders. At this angle, Squall could see the welt on his thigh from Nida's repeated slaps, and the small bite mark on his inner thigh from Nida's mouth, teeth and tongue. It would be quite the hickey in a few hours.

Nida bent over, one of Squall's legs falling of his shoulders, and came back with a condom and tube of lubricant. As Nida used his teeth to tear open the package, he wondered in the back of his mind when he and Squall would stop using condoms. It had been a while, and Nida sure as hell knew he wasn't going to fuck anyone else, and was pretty positive that Squall wasn't either. Maybe it was that smallest sliver of doubt that kept the condoms in play. As Nida put the condom on his hard cock, he bent between Squall's spread thighs, and began licking the head of Squall's half erect penis, which was quickly becoming fully hard. Nida opened his mouth as he popped the cap of the lubricant, and made a swallowing motion as he deep-throated Squall in one motion.

Squall's mouth opened in a silent cry of pleasure, his hands reaching above him for something to grip onto. But the headboard was more of a wood slab, so he couldn't get a hold of it. Instead, his hands gripped large clumps of sheet and pillow, his breath coming out in ragged pants. He murmured something intangible as the heat of Nida's mouth contrasted with the cool feeling of Nida's lubrication covered fingers touching his rectum. Squall jerked his hips when Nida's finger poked into his lower intestines. It caused the Asian man to pull off Squall's cock, the sudden motion almost causing him to gag. The last thing Nida wanted was to barf all over Squall's crotch. That would be a mood-killer personified.

When Nida pulled his mouth off Squall's dick, the scarred SeeD whimpered. The saliva on his cock, exposed to the air, was cold, and Squall missed the velvet heat of the inside of his lover's mouth. Nida gave the fingers that he'd inserted into Squall a good wiggle, rubbing his lover's prostate thoroughly. Squall bucked against the touch with impatient desire. He forgot about the cooling saliva that drenched his cock, and only wanted a good, hard fuck. One that he would still feel when they went to that club, one that would cause him to have to walk a little stiffly for an hour or so, one that would prevent him from even thinking about getting up for a while. He wanted Nida to drill him right into the ground, to possess his body so thoroughly that nobody would ever be able to touch Squall that deeply again.

"Are you thinking about Rinoa now?" Nida asked, a smirk dancing on his lips as he pulled his fingers out of Squall's ass. He traced the stretched opening to Squall's body with a teasing fingernail, avoiding sliding his digit in whenever Squall moved his hips, obviously trying to be impaled by Nida's touch.

"Oh... Jesus Christ, Nida.... Just fuck me." Squall kept bucking his hips towards Nida, like a desperate whore, starved for penetration.

Squall wasn't usually vocal, so Nida just smirked, chuckling under his breath. He slathered some of the lubricant on his rubber covered erection, and hoisted Squall's lean legs onto his shoulders again. Nida positioned himself, and possessed Squall's body in one thrust, causing Squall to arch up, his fingers curling in the sheets, his legs flailing, like some cat in heat. All he could really do was make some sort of growling noise, low in his throat, as Nida's cock hit something deep within him that caused Squall's body to rise further off the mattress.

Nida smirked, biting into Squall's calf as he rammed himself in and out of his lover's body. Squall's back was arched so high that he was almost doubling over himself. He urged Nida on with small pants and groans, slamming his hips against Nida's, the sound of flesh slapping against flesh echoing in the room. Nida slid Squall's legs off his shoulders, and altered the angle of his penetration, which caused Squall to cry out, turning his head into the pillow, biting back a more revealing wail of pure ecstasy. Nida covered Squall's mouth with his own, and fucked the scarred SeeD in earnest. They both moaned and panted, their bodies being covered by sweat.

Squall also felt the thin blanket of power covering him, just like the sweat was. It was permeating from Nida's body, filling Squall's, just like Nida's physical body was filling Squall's. Nida's power had a very dark, intoxicating feel, that only seemed heightened in the throes of passions. It was like sex fuelled it, honed it, refined it. Squall raked his nails up Nida's back, paying particular attention to the lines of Nida's shoulder blades, trying to see if he could feel Nida's wings. But, all he could feel was the power itself, Iudicium's constant presence in Nida's body. Squall clung to Nida as the Sorcery, and the building pressure of impending orgasm, lost in a sea of debilitating emotions. Squall's short nails left long, thin red trails up Nida's supple back.

One more thrust from Nida, pushing deeply into Squall's rectum, seemed to breach through some sort of physical barrier than had been preventing Squall from coming. It was like with that one thrust, Nida had pushed a large chunk of Iudicium's power into Squall's core, and it shattered him, releasing all the built-up tension that Nida had inflicted on his body. He came with a cry, his body shivering, shuddering, like Squall was experiencing an epileptic seizure. It also opened some sort of feeling in him that he'd never really experienced before. Within the thick depths of his orgasm, Squall felt like something was alive in him. Was it Iudicium's powers? He didn't think so. Squall was used to Nida's magical releases. It was something else. More animalistic, like a great beast was curling within him. When Squall ejaculated all over his torso, as well as Nida's, the feeling disappeared.

Nida moaned as he released into the condom, feeling more than just ejaculate relieving him. He felt his powers tingling up and down his arms and legs. But, he also felt something else, something that wasn't himself or Iudicium. He briefly looked down at Squall, who had his eyes closed, and was panting. Nida could feel the other man's heartbeat against his chest, thumping a furious pace. That feeling couldn't have been Squall. Nida sighed, wondering if he just imagined it, and collapsed on top of his lover's body, pulling out so he could throw the condom away.

"How long until you think Rinoa will get back?" Nida asked after a while. They'd just laid in silence, sweat drying on their flesh, the semen already licked up.

"I don't know..." Squall whispered, staring up at the ceiling as his fingers played with strands of Nida's dark hair.

"And, you don't care, right?" Nida asked, yawning.

"Nope..." Squall trailed off. He felt kind of tired, and knew he needed a shower, but he didn't want to step out of Nida's warm, comfortable embrace. He also wanted to think about the odd feeling that had built within him. Like, something had awoken... But, what?

"Isn't this place great?!" Val cried over the loud thump of some music that sounded like a cross between goth, industrial and techno. "The music's really great!" She swayed her slight body with the music, her auburn pigtails swinging with her headbobs. Val felt pleased with herself that the bouncers hadn't even asked for ID.

"It's too loud..." Gietzen trailed off, playing with the sleeves of her black chiffon shirt, which was worn over a sleeveless black dress that whispered against the floor, like liquid shadows. "And, there are too many people. Shouldn't we be helping Tevedes?"

"Tevedes is talking to Pallas and Schuld. That's boring. You're boring."

"I'm not boring," Gietzen said in a very quiet voice that made her sound like a six-year old. "Why this place?"

"Look at all these people... All this raw energy." Val gave her dark-clad companion a sly grin. "Even you can't argue with that."

"If I wanted energy, I would have lit a lamp."

Val slapped Gietzen's shoulder, which caused the woman in black to bow her body, as if shrinking into a ball. Her chin length hair fell completely over her face. "You're not funny." Val scrunched her face up. "Besides... I have a feeling that things will get very interesting, you know?"

"What do you mean?" Gietzen raised an eyebrow, sensing an underlying meaning in the girl's words.

"You'll see..." Val rolled her eyes when she noticed Gietzen wasn't paying attention. Her dark gaze had been averted to the shadows, flickering on the wall. They were very elongated and pointy, looking like two dimensional, gyrating monsters with horns and long claws. The club, Diamond Dust, was lit with a type of lighting that resembled torches, rolling very odd shadows all over the two story building. Also, there were a lot of glowing orbs of icy blue light, which suited the name of Diamond Dust more than the torch lighting. "Anyway, I feel like mingling with the crowd. I'll come find you, where I'm sure you'll be tucked into a corner, sulking."

"I'll amuse myself..." Gietzen murmured, already wandering off, her gaze no longer on Val, but on the growing shadows on the wall.

"I bet you will..." Val trailed off, already dancing her way into a throng of male and female dancers, most of which looked like they were high, sweat all over their bodies, glitter from some dropping confetti sticking to their wet skin. Val smiled, moving her body to 'The Dark Inside Her' by Velvet Acid Christ. She could feel the energy of everyone in the club, hot and thick, and smelling of sweat, booze and sex. She began dancing, raising her upturned palms to the ceiling. They were quickly filled with falling glitter, some of which fell in her hair, and on her eyelashes like shimmering snow. It didn't take long for a couple guys to notice this pretty young girl dancing alone, totally into the music, her hips moving in a provocative manner. They sidled up beside Val, and began dancing with her, their sweat causing their shirts to stick to them, their hands to be damp as they touched Val's body, either not knowing, or caring how old she was. She just smiled and lost herself even further into the dark beat of the song.

When Val's dancing became almost feverous, the men around her joined suit, lost in the sheer loudness of the beat, and the drugs in their blood. Val opened her eyes, smiling brightly at the man in front of her. She winked her scarred eye, and tilted her face upwards. The glitter fell on her further, and she and her duo of boys danced with the fervour of the insane, which seemed to infect to the people around her on the crowded, crowded dance floor. Val let out a whoop of excitement, which caused the now madly dancing crowd around her, possessed by their drugs, and energy that was almost demonic, to yell out around her. They were all dancing so hard that the sweat was pouring off of them, and the jerks of the motion caused some of it to splatter onto Val's body, which caused some of the glitter to stick to her further. She shook her head back and forth between her upraised arms, her eyes looking to the walls, which looked like a fire of shadows, limbs and hands making licking flame shapes on the wall, all moving as if in fast forward. They crawled up the walls, as if having lives of their own, laughing at the insanity below them. As Val continued to dance, the patrons of Diamond Dust moved with energy that would have caused them to fall dead if it weren't for the stifling blanket of stamina that seemed to come from everywhere, and nowhere at the same time, the shadows moving with the same intensity as the rest of the club, all reaching for the glittering sky.

Rinoa smiled brightly when she, Shaami, Squall and Nida came into Diamond Dust. The crowd was dancing with a madness of insects, so fast and furious that it was hard to follow their motions.

"Wow, this is great!" Rinoa cheered, raising her hands. She saw the gentle drizzle of glitter moving over the gyrating crowd, making them look like they were in a shiny snowstorm. The shadows on the wall were long, and danced along with their masters. "So alive!"

Shaami smiled. "You deserve it, Rinoa." She was wearing a silver tank top that shined as brightly as the icy orbed lights that made things glow. Her flared pants were already flecked with the glitter. Shaami snapped her fingers with the beat of 'Ascension' by VNV Nation. Even the people who weren't on the dance floor were swaying with the music as they drank at the bar, or conversed with each other.

"Everyone looks high..." Squall muttered, the fervour of the crowd scaring and enticing him at the same time. It was like the people, the energy they were emitting, was a drug in itself.

"I have to dance!" Rinoa said, smiling. She waved at Squall and Nida. "Bye bye, everybody!" She laughed, and followed Shaami on the dance floor, where they already began to dance, as intensely as the rest of the crowd, which swallowed them up.

"We don't have to stay if you don't want to..." Nida trailed off, looking at everyone who was dancing with such passion, not caring who it was with, just proving Diamond Dust's loose reputation. Nida noticed a lot of people hitting drugs in various shadowy corners of the club.

"I want to..." Squall said simply. He wasn't normally into any place where you had to dance, but the air was just so full of something electric, that even Squall, who hated dancing, couldn't turn away. It was like energy was being breathed into him, and sucked away at the same time, a vampiristic feeling. Squall looked at the shadows on the wall, which didn't even resemble their owners anymore. The shadows looked too pointy and long to be even human. And, Squall was also interested in getting all sweaty next to Nida in this hot soup of energy that the dancers had created. Squall felt Nida grab the front of his white wifebeater, and drag him out among the people who were packed like sardines.

It didn't take long for Squall and Nida to lose themselves in the music, their bodies pressed together, already covered in sweat. They both totally lost track of time, and Squall could feel Nida's powers thrumming through the crowd, just adding to the melting pot. The songs flowed, one after another, all melting into one pulsing beat. People were dancing with anyone they bumped into, possessed by some unknown desire to just give away all they had in reserve, give it up for the greater cause of the energy that made the air moist with its power, with its sweat and glitter. Also, drugs were being handed around like candy. Squall was handed some poppers, and because his mind was gone, given up to the mad dance of the crowd, he snorted them, followed by Nida, who then passed them to Rinoa, and they disappeared into the crowd once more. The song changed to one that Squall recognized, 'A Fear Of The Lord' by Sanctuary. He blinked a couple times, leaning back into Nida's arms as he danced, Nida's hands sliding down Squall's sweaty arms. Quickly, everything became hazy from the Poppers, and he watched the insane shadows. It looked like they were reaching into the crowd, touching the unwitting dancers, stroking their faces, reaching into their bodies. As Squall moved his arms up, he caught a glimpse of the glowing face of his watch. He and Nida, as well as Rinoa and her friend, Shaami, had been dancing for five hours.

Normally, after even an hour of straight dancing, especially at their fast pace, Squall would have been ready for an oxygen mask. But, he felt as new as ever, and his muscles didn't even burn with the constant exertion. Rinoa laughed beside them. Squall wasn't sure how she'd wound up near them again, and didn't really care. She was dancing with some guy she didn't know, her grey halter top sticking to her torso with her sweat, her nipples visibly poking against the material. Her loose hair was stuck in clumps to the side of her face, as well as her wet shoulders and back, glitter glistening on all surfaces. Her arms were raised, her hands doing small motions along with the tempo of the song. She let out a cry of release, of freedom and slavery, giving herself up to the energy of the room. Squall wondered why nobody seemed to want to stop dancing. But, as the beat changed into yet another song, 'The Days Of Swine And Roses' by My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, the change indiscernable, he didn't really care.

After about eight hours of steady dancing, Rinoa suddenly had the urge to go to the bathroom. The music was piped into the restroom, just as loud as on the dance floor. Rinoa and Shaami boogeyed their way through the women crowded into the bathroom. Most of them were snorting cocaine, checking their makeup, or making out with each other. The desire to dance was a little less in the bathroom, but the music was still very infectious. Shaami began dabbing her pretty face with a wet paper towel, and trying to put her brown hair back in her bun while Rinoa relieved herself. When the Asian woman came out, she let the cold water run after washing her hands, and took her cupped palms, splashing the water on her hot, sweaty face.

"You were right, Shaami.... This place is great." Rinoa smiled at her reflection. She blinked a few times. The room seemed to melt for a moment. Rinoa laughed. "Whooooaaa.... I think those Poppers are kicking in."

"Yeah, they were pretty good..." Shaami dusted some glitter off her shoulders.

Rinoa blinked again, the room spinning all around her. But, it didn't feel like the drugs. It felt like the world was falling apart. She gripped the sides of the sink, trying to prevent herself from falling out of existence, prevent herself from falling apart. It was like there was another world entering her own. The faces of the other women in the bathroom melted away, until Rinoa felt like she was in a wind tunnel. Shaami calling her name sounded muffled and miles away.


Rinoa's eyes rolled in the back of her head as she slid to the floor.

Squall's head lolled on Nida's shoulder as their hips moved together, Squall's ass grinding into Nida's crotch as they pushed their bodies to the human limits, giving everything they had into the rhythm. He slowly opened his eyes, watching the crowd, watching the shadows reaching into the crowd, their long talons ripping over the people, who only danced harder. Most people's eyes were closed, nothing else mattering except for the beat of the song. Squall looked at a girl in a shiny pink dress, jumping up and down, her hair swinging around her, a guy drenched in sweat, his muscles looking well-developed and inviting. There was a guy in a three-piece, black suit with thin white pinstripes, and a fedora, dancing with a smaller man in a black sweatshirt with the hood up. In his drugged, foggy state, Squall narrowed his eyes. He also felt Nida's arms tighten around his biceps. He also felt a very tangible wave of Nida's power wash over him, which seemed to cause the crowd to dance even harder.

Squall looked at the two men. The one with the hooded sweatshirt had his back to Squall and Nida, but the one in the suit was facing them. He seemed to sense Squall and Nida looking at him, and raised his eyes, touching the brim of his hat, which cast a shadow over his eyes, in a greeting to them. The motion with his hat also sent a staggering wave of power their way. This power, which seemed like a test to Nida, made the crowd go to the level of an insane asylum. Nida sent a wave back, and they just stared at each other, Squall blinking, and opening and closing his mouth. The shadows were moving like ghosts over everything, not even clinging to the walls anymore. They looked like great, evil dragons, with many rows of awful teeth, eating the energy alive. Squall could only gape, his sweat suddenly feeling cold on his body as he traced the line of the scar that he'd inflicted, looked at it like it was a target. Even in the shadow of the brim of the fedora, which was the same black as his suit, Squall could see Seifer staring back at him, a small smirk on his lips as he sent a large wave of power their way.

Nida felt like there were ants crawling all over his body as he stared. The Poppers made everything very disorienting. The glitter and icy orb lights were blindingly bright, and the shadows were moving like Creeps over everyone's heads, and he was staring at Seifer. The man that 'Seifer' was dancing with slightly inclined his head, and Nida could see the lines of a black tattoo on his cheek. Nida began to lose himself in his own power. This wave of energy that 'Seifer' had shot his way was causing Iudicium to stir within him, to a level that Nida couldn't control. And, even through all this, he just couldn't stop moving, couldn't stop dancing with Squall pressed against his chest, both of them watching what looked like Seifer and Zell. But, it couldn't have been.

Nida shook his head, blinking a few times. When he looked again, the man in the suit, and his hooded dance partner were gone. Nida also felt Squall relax in his arms, but he himself couldn't. The raw power, so much power, was still in the air, and Iudicium was in Nida's body, filling him with her power, with their power. It was causing everyone to basically go insane around him, and his translucent wings to expand around he and Squall. What was happening to them? Why did Nida think that Seifer and Zell were at the club, dancing together, like they were still alive?

Val smiled, everything at such a pinnacle that she could taste the life in the air. She looked over her head, up at the shadows that floated, flew above everyone. She felt one of their long, skeletal hands reach into her chest, and she puffed it out, allowing the shadow to push into her chest. She laughed so loud that her throat hurt, and danced harder, her young body not feeling one bit of exhaustion. She felt more refreshed than she had in a long time, as long as she could remember. "Gietzen, you don't know what you're missing!" She cried. One of the shadows flew right threw her, causing Val to cry out in pleasure, the hands on her sweaty body not comparing in the least to that ghostly, dark feeling. She tilted her head, looking through the crowd, and the big smile that had never left her face all evening evaporated in an instant.

"No....." She panted, feeling the hot energy in the air. She'd known that Nida Nomura and his slut, Squall Leonhart, had shown up to Diamond Dust, but that wasn't what she was looking at. The energy that was so cold that it burned caused her heart to constrict. She saw the pair of eyes flicker over to her from under the shadow of the fedora brim, and Val felt herself go cold, felt the rings in her forearms sting with long forgotten pain. She backed up, her eyes as wide as saucers, her terror as tangible as the energy that she'd been basking in only seconds earlier. Her back slammed into the hard chest of a man, and his hands moved over Val's hips in his mad dance. She wrenched herself away from him, his slick hands sliding off her glittering, sweaty arms. Val kept banging into people as she tried to make her way to the back tables, where she knew Gietzen would be. "Let go!!" She screamed, panic causing her voice to crack. Val almost fell on her knees, and stumbled towards Gietzen.

The woman in black was looking up at the ceiling, a tumbler of scotch in one hand. With her free hand, she was flicking her fingers like a conductor of an invisible orchestra. The dark eye that wasn't covered by Gietzen's curtain of inky hair landed on Val. "Isn't it beautiful?"

"We have to get out of here!" Tevedes screamed, whipping around, looking into the crowd. "Can't you feel it?"

"Nida Nomura is here..." Gietzen trailed off, gasping as Val's fingers dug into her arm.

"Feel more carefully!" Tevedes screamed, dragging Gietzen to her feet.

The woman in black froze, and the shadows drenched everyone again, painting the walls in the form of gyrating humans once more. "No...." She looked at Val in terror. "We have to find Tevedes...."

"Come on!!!" Val was watching the crowd carefully, dragging Gietzen as she ran for the exit. She gasped when her eyes caught the black suit and fedora, and the hooded sweatshirt. "They know we're here."

"Jesus Christ!" Gietzen cried, pushing at Val's back as they climbed the stairs to the entrance. They tumbled out into the night, running with all they had.

Rinoa sighed, opening her eyes. Everything was so foggy. She wasn't even sure where she was. The last thing she remembered was her universe altering all around her.

"Rinoa, can you hear me?"

She murmured in pain, a discomfort shooting through her head. "Huh?"

"You passed out, Rinoa.... Please, wake up. We need you."

"You need me?"

"They got away, but they'll be back. Nida is not safe. Neither are you."

Rinoa laughed. "Come on, Shaami... What are you talking about?" She blinked her eyes a few times, looking upwards. She was in the women's washroom in Diamond Dust. She looked over as the shadow of a person cast over her vision. She expected to look in Shaami's dark eyes, but met an icy blue gaze.

"Rinoa, wake up. You need to wake up."

Rinoa gasped, sitting up fully, her head pounding.

"Rinoa, are you okay?" Shaami asked, kneeling beside her friend on the floor of the bathroom. "You passed out, and you were talking funny."

"Huh?" Rinoa blinked, looking around. The icy eyes were gone, and she was now only looking at Shaami, and a few women who were standing around, watching with concern. "Oh.. Shaami...."

"Those Poppers must not have agreed with you."


Shaami sighed, helping Rinoa to her feet. "Man, you really are out of it."

Rinoa shook her head, running her hands through her hair. "I'm okay now. I guess it was all the excitement after being in a coma for so long." She stared at her reflection sadly. It looked dim, dead. "I think we should find Nida and Squall. I suddenly want to get out of here."

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