Authors Notes: The first half takes place just after Ch 10, the second half about a week later.

Pleasantly Depressed

Chapter 11 - Of Fishtanks and Dust

By Skandranon

For some reason, the dripping sound of the IV reminded him of a fishtank. Like the ones at dentist offices, with the exotic fish and the little plastic fake-looking castle. Maybe it was the liquid sound that made the connection. Maybe the clinical surroundings. Maybe the fact that, like the fishtank at the dentist, he found himself staring at it for hours without actually seeing it.

It wasn't like there was much else to look at.

A soft tap behind him, and Kadowaki was peering through the doorway. "Kinneas? I'm closing down the day office. You need anything, you can page me through the intercom."

He made what he hoped was a visible nod. His throat hurt too much to talk anymore. Cussing nonstop for ninety minutes can do that to you.

"I wish you would go on to your room. You're not doing any good here. I put him on a strong sedative; he won't be waking up until morning."

His left leg had gone numb some time ago, but he didn't feel like shifting his position. The pinpricks gave him something to concentrate on.


"-Fine," he managed to grunt.

She sighed and ducked back out. A few moments later, the lights outside his room flickered off, and the sound of a door closing shuddered through the walls and floor.

The tiny lights of the machinery shone brighter in the darkness. Like... stars wasn't the right analogy. Eyes in the darkness... no, he didn't feel watched, quite the opposite. Like... no, they weren't like a candle. Too cold, too sterile. Like...

There wasn't an analogy, was there? They were the little round lights that told you when machines were on. Like on a computer or an alarm clock. They were little round machine lights. Empty of feeling, not really a source of warmth, not meant to be comforting, but somehow they were.

It could have something to do with the fact that they were hooked up to Squall.

He could kill for a smoke.

You jump, I jump, right? What am I supposed to do, slit my wrists too? He even did it the right way, along the vein instead of across it. Still, that he slit his wrists at all...

Squall Leonhart was a trained fighter. He'd had a weapon put in his hand before he hit puberty. He'd had a deity shoved in his head before his first kiss. He'd killed his first human being before... fighters didn't slit their wrists. There were so many easier ways to die.

In the middle of the woods. Sawed off shotgun, in the mouth, aimed up towards the brain, pulse ammo. That's how I'd do it. Horrible mess, but I wouldn't even feel myself pull the trigger. Local wildlife cleans up after me, gives the predators a free meal.

Something was off. Squall carried around a giant sword on a daily basis, and here he was trying to die from a kitchen knife.

He would live, but he probably wouldn't be too happy about it. He'd sink back into himself and brood, let Irvine drag him around for awhile, then as soon as he's left alone...

You swore. You fucking...I'm too tired to cuss. I'm too tired to be angry. What am I going to do with you, Squall?

For the first time in... ever... Squall had broken a promise. The idea that it was even possible made him uncomfortable. Two times six had been proven to be thirteen. That kind of uncomfortable.

You always do best when you're on missions. You can ignore your own thoughts and concentrate on what you're doing. It helps, doesn't it? If I could get you on a mission... it might give you time to heal...

The dust got into his eyes again, and he muttered a curse as he wiped it out. They stung something awful, and they had to be red. But he could still see, and that was what mattered.

According to the map, they should've been there by now. He made a mental note to inform the Estharian cartographers about their mistake when he got back.

"You got us lost, didn't you?" he hollered over the wind.

Irvine had his hat rim pulled low, and a scarf around his face. He didn't look to be having the dust problem Squall was. He hollered something back, but it was lost in muffled translation.

The jeep was one breath away from a junkheap. The engine made a disturbing coughing sound as it started up. There were cracks in the windshield that had nothing to do with loose gravel. But it ran, and when it did, it ran like a pro. Had Irvine taken the road this fast in any other car, he might have been worried.

There, off to the right.

Squall turned, and spotted what Shiva had pointed out. A shadowed area where there shouldn't be one, a bit too symmetrical to be natural. "The storage compound is at two o'clock!"

Irvine shouted something that could've been "I see it!" The jeep turned off the road, and for a jarring moment it bounced along until it adapted to the new terrain. The wheel axles groaned in protest, but they didn't snap in two. That was a good thing.

A squealing of breaks and a stomach-turning lurch, and the vehicle came to a stop on a ledge overlooking the compound. Irvine put the stick in park and set the emergency break, then lowered his scarf and shook himself off. "Some ride, huh?" His eyes weren't the least bit red, Squall noticed.

He snorted and shook the sand off his notepad. It pooled in his lap and slid down the pleather seat. "If the base is still stocked with anything, it should be in B or C hangar. Odds are it'll be canned foods, paper records, and surplus odds and ends, but keep an eye out for any medical supplies or weaponry, especially explosives. Chances are something or other could've gotten into the compound and set up a nest, so keep your spells ready."

Irvine's face cracked into a wide grin, and he saluted smartly. "Yes Sir!"

"Very funny. Once we're in, you take B hangar, I'll take C. We keep our radios on us, and sound off every five minutes. If you run into something, call for backup. Don't fight it on your own if you can help it."

In the days before Adel and the whole Sorceress mess, Esthar had built and stocked compounds all over the wilderness of the continent. For use as a military base, storage, or civilian protection, it was unclear, but now that the Lunar Cry was mostly taken care of, they were rediscovering and documenting the old underground constructions.

Why Cid had seen fit to rope him into doing mundane field work, he hadn't the slightest.

At least it gives you something to do, love.

AND I get to babysit a gung-ho Irvine. What fun.

He is rather eager, isn't he? Guess you're not the only one glad to be in the field again.

It might also have something to do with THAT.

THAT was a Ribbed Exeter Stripped, Irvine's new pride and joy. Squall couldn't tell the difference from his old gun, but the cowboy was smitten. He almost made polishing it an erotic display.

Boys and their phallic symbols. Hop to it, darling. Go forth and wave your big shiny knife around.

Oh ha ha.

You know I love watching you work.

...Okay, that crossed over multiple levels of "Yergh!"

Irvine was unloading the truck, checking each item against his lengthy list. Flashlights, extra gasoline, camera for whatever reason... what on earth were they going to do with an astrology handbook?... first aid kit, ammo, pulse ammo, fire ammo, more ammo...

He sure likes to pack heavy, doesn't he?

I'm sure it ties into the boys-and-phallic-symbols theory. "You coming?"

The cowboy glanced up, pausing in the middle of lifting a box of grenades out of the jeep. "Oh. Yeah. Just making sure the truck doesn't blow up while we're gone. I'm pretty sure I left a can of nitro glycerin in the glove compartment."

He slapped his forehead, unconsciously inching away from the vehicle. "You didn't."

"Joke, Squall."

"...Oh." He rubbed at his ear, then realized that it wasn't them that was ringing. "Do you hear a whistling sound?"

Irvine's head tilted to listen. "Yeah, I do... sounds like a...ohshitMOVE!"

He shoved Squall out of the way just as the ground erupted.




Author's Notes Seriously, IVs remind me of aquariums.

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