seventhe: (Laguna: why is he so hot)
unfortunate hobo ([personal profile] seventhe) wrote2012-01-02 08:18 pm

CELEBRATING [personal profile] renay... WITH WORDS

So we realized a while back that, holy shit, not only is Nay's birthday coming up, but NAY IS GRADUATING COLLEGE LIKE A BOSS. She has to get something super special! So we may or may not have decided to write a story! about some things! that we hope Nay will really like! Nay, please note: we started this in like, late October, because WE TOTALLY HAD FAITH. We knew you could do it! And you did! CONGRATS!

Unfortunately, a lot of life intervened for both of us, and we didn't manage to finish the whole thing. But! But. We do have a teaser ready. A six thousand word teaser. BECAUSE IT'S US. AND YOU.

So we hope you enjoy this teaser! We promise the rest of the story as soon as we can manage it -- we're so sorry for not having the whole thing yet, but we hope this can still make you happy! Lots of love, thank you for being awesome, and CONGRATS TIMES A THOUSAND! Please get very drunk for us.

_______

The device sits ready on the desk when he walks in. Light catches on the magic-shielded alloy of the case, and the lock hisses nicely when he thumbs it open; the machinery gleams inside and it makes him smile, just a little. He turns it on, listens to the pump for a few seconds, like a heartbeat. He turns it off, looks up. Leaves his fingers on the case. They're waiting for him to begin.

_______


She hears the squeak of the door opening and reaches out to grab Irvine’s ankle in the darkness; she doesn’t have to be able to see to tell they’re both holding their breath as the guard walks past the crate they’re stuffed into. Selphie finds herself counting footsteps, instinctively: fifteen to cross the car, less than the last one. Must be taller. She knows they’re cloaked, she knows they’re invisible even to Scan, but she also knows there’s only the shielded inner container and the wood-thin walls of the crate between them and utter disaster.

There’s the electric whine of the door closing, and Irvine lets his breath out slowly, silently; Selphie feels the motion more than she hears the sound. She waits a second or two longer, but there are no more sounds other than the clattering of the train: the car is, probably, empty. She exhales. Her breaths are tense, stretching palpably through her chest, her throat, her lips; they’ve been in here for over an hour.

“How much longer?” she whispers to Irvine. People think it’s ridiculous that SeeD has classes on how to whisper, but this is why: the proper technique is like breathing your words, almost no sound involved at all.

“How should I know?” Irvine breathes back at her. They’re propped against opposite sides of the crate, crouched down with knees up, boxed in close; her shoulder is tucked against Irvine’s knees and calves. “My guess? Ten, fifteen minutes.”

“I thought they’d be here by now,” Selphie whispers back. She’s a little louder now; even tucked up against Irvine like she is, it’s hard to hear his breath over the rumbling of the train’s wheels. “I hope Laguna did it.”

“We won’t know until the alarm.” Irvine shifts, and makes a small unhappy noise. He must be even more cramped than she is; this box is tiny, and his legs are way longer. And his head’s way higher too. At least she talked him into leaving his hat. Selphie stares into the darkness where she guesses Irvine’s transmitter watch would be as if her glare can speed up time. Green means Laguna managed to buy out the train and the staff and someone’s coming to get them. Red... red is for warning: red means the buyout failed, and the train’s staffed with innocent bystanders and the Sorceress’ lackeys, and she and Irvine are going to have to bash heads all the way to Seifer’s car. She’s hoping for green, because her leg muscles ache like ten Figaras and her bum has never been this sore. Even the wood of the crate would be better; the unyielding Esthar-made plastic of the shielding box is not a comfortable thing to sit on, or to be squished against. Neither is Irvine, really. He’s much too bony.

“I’m bored,” she breathes.

Irvine tries to stretch and really only succeeds in knocking his leg against her arm. “We could make out again.”

“We tried that,” she hisses. “Twice. This box is not made for sexy activities.”

“You have no imagination.”

Selphie laughs despite herself, although it’s just a breath, one pleased huff of air before she catches the sound in her throat. “You have no reality,” she whispers. God, this is uncomfortable. She really, really hopes it’s green. They’re already going to have to subdue a team of the Sorceress's best monsters before they can put Seifer under and call in the others. She isn’t sure her lovely little body can take much more strain.

"You don't think she'll be there," Irvine breathes into the darkness, "do you?"

"Who, Rinoa?" Selphie whispers back before she catches herself, because they've been trying not to use her name. She thinks it's a dumb rule -- it isn't as if they don't know who the Sorceress is -- but Squall thought it would make their plan easier to execute if they thought of an enemy rather than a friend. Selphie's not convinced "they" are the ones with the issue there. Friends can mess up, friends can... go wrong. Behind the dry fear, she's convinced that somewhere inside, they're still Rinoa and Seifer, still friends -- isn't that why they're doing this? But maybe it's easier for Squall; he's pretty new at "friends". Maybe it hurts less that way. Or more.

She shakes her head, half to clear it of any attempts to make sense of Squall, half in response to Irvine before she remembers that he can't see it. "No," she breathes back. "She's not here. They would have told us." And her gaze goes back to the darkness where she imagines Irvine's transmitter watch is.

"But she'll come when we, you know. You think she'll come then?" Irvine's voice is so low, it's like Selphie is feeling his words. And maybe she is; she and Irvine are both tense with the same worry. She knows they're both thinking it. She's almost glad Irvine said it out loud.

"Yeah," she admits, one breath into the darkness, and there's a little fumbling as she reaches out to find Irvine's hand and squeeze it because the thought terrifies her. "She'll come."

Irvine's fingers wrap around hers and maybe he isn't the most comfortable guy in the world to be shoved into a box with, but he's solid and he's sincere and he's honest and Selphie wouldn't rather be stuck in this stupid crate with anyone else. She doesn't want to fight Rinoa -- The Sorceress -- any more than he does.

"We're just going to have to be more fabulously badass than usual," Irvine whispers, and Selphie laughs again, another brief huff of air, fleeting in the dark.

"Easy for you," she breathes, "but I'm not sure how much more fabulously badass I can be when—" and her eyes are pierced by the light of Irvine's transmitter, blinking in the darkness. Her eyes are so adjusted to the dark that it takes a few moments for her to realize: blinking green.

There's nothing but silence, not even breath, and then their eyes meet in the intermittent light of his watch.

"Green," Selphie whispers, around something in her throat, even though green is the good signal.

Irvine nods. "That means someone should be here in a minute to let us out." They stare at each other, tense and hopeful and trapped, and it feels like centuries until they hear the whine of the door opening, and then closing. The low murmur of voices feeds through the wall of the crate and then a familiar voice barks: "All clear. Get them out, and quiet."

It's Sir Kiros. Selphie melts in relief, and it's then that she realizes there was a small part of her expecting this infiltration mission to fail. It isn't like her -- but this entire situation isn't right, either. Things haven't been right since Rinoa walked out of Time Compression carrying one more voice in her head than normal.

She and Irvine curl in on each other, instinctively, as whoever is outside breaks down the thin wooden outer walls of the crate, and then punches in the code to release the latch on the inner box. The light is blinding as the lid opens, and her eyes tear up. "Go on," Irvine murmurs, and she tries to stand; her legs are burning with stiffness. Someone grabs her elbow, solid and familiar, and she smiles at Sir Kiros as she steps out of the crate and reaches in to help Irvy up.

"Thank God," she says, fervently, when she has finally found her voice.

Kiros' face is its usual mix of grim amusement. "The transaction took longer than we thought, and we almost missed the timeline. But Laguna did it. Everyone on this train is Esthar – except for the president's car, of course. But everyone else can be trusted."

Selphie flicks a quick glance to the two soldiers standing behind Kiros, assessment and thanks in one. "Where's Sir Laguna?"

Sir Kiros smiles, his expression tipping more towards amusement for a moment. "Off running damage control, bless him. He's somewhere on TV being a colossal idiot about Rin— about the Sorceress. He said something about how if she really wants to blow up Tears Point and the Memorial, she's going to have to go through him, and then he flexed his muscles a lot like he's challenging her to an arm wrestle."

"That sounds dangerous and stupid," Irvine comments, casually, as he pieces together the parts of his rifle that were hidden in the crate's floor. She recognizes Exeter's sniper attachment, and the cold steel of it makes her shiver, even though she knows what they're here to do.

"Of course." Kiros' teeth flash as he grins. "And he'll cause such a big ruckus that no one will have time to wonder why he bought out the entire intercontinental Timber-Esthar Rail Line until it's too late."

"Remind me to propose to that man." Selphie laughs, and takes Strange Vision as Irvine passes it to her; she runs her fingers down its familiar shining length, inventorying by touch all of its dents and chips, although she's sure it hasn't changed since they put it in the box hours ago. "So how bad is it?"

"Rough, but doable," says Sir Kiros. "Only ten. You guys were right; Almasy doesn't seem worried."

"He's always been overconfident," Irvine agrees. "But I'd rather not do the same." His eyes flicker to Selphie's, and she gives him her best fabulous badass smile; Irvy's confidence always wavers before the first shot and so she's going to have to give him hers, pour it into him and fill him up. His mouth quirks upward; he knows exactly what she's doing, but he lets her do it anyway, and this is why they make such a good team.

"Right," she says, and snaps the Strange Vision over her shoulder with a flourish. "Ten for me, and one for you. Just the way I like it," and she gives Irvine a saucy wink; Kiros snorts down something that might have been a laugh.

"You can handle ten, sunshine?" That's how she knows just how nervous Irvine is, because he's using her nickname, and his eyes are dead serious pools in his face.

"Just give me a second," Selphie says, "to put on my ass-kicking boots." She checks to make sure both magic-sealed doors are closed and then brings her nunchucks together in front of her and starts her preparation. Haste first, and then Triple, and then Aura-Shell-Protect all in what feels like a blurry rush until she's bouncing with energy, almost spinning on her toes. She sees in Irvine's eyes that her smile has gone feral and she revels in it, a little, because Irvine won't be able to do his thing unless he knows she's absolutely and perfectly safe.

"Now I'm ready, sugar," and it comes out like a purr. Selphie doesn't mind; she likes to be playful when she fights, up to and including the point where she gets to blow everything to smithereens. She feels her Limit Break already whirling behind her eyes, that detached portion of her mind wondering how many of Seifer's guards she can take out with one lucky slot. Three? Does she dare risk waiting for four?

Irvine gives her one long look and then his own mouth curls up in a smile, and Selphie wants to cheer in triumph, because his eyes have gone all cold and focused and this is the sniper she's been waiting to see. "Let's go huntin', darling," he says, and he gestures at the door as if he's doffed his hat to her. It makes her giggle.

"Second car up?" she asks Sir Kiros, just to confirm. Kiros is wearing that funny grim half-smile again and she wants to tell him to cheer up, but Sir Kiros is their backup in case they fail, and she knows he doesn't like this plan at all. He nods at her, and Selphie takes Irvine's hand.

They slip through the door into the next car. The passengers glance at them, but then glance away, barely curious, and Selphie grins even more when she realizes that Laguna really did buy out the entire train. She and Irvine cross that car in a matter of seconds and press up against the door.

"This is it," Selphie breathes. On the other side of this door, across the tiny slim connecting passageway, Seifer Almasy and ten Lunar Cry monsters are waiting, armed and ready, to meet their Sorceress in Esthar. Her fingers are twitching with magic. She looks up at Irvine and his eyes are bright with focus. "You ready?"

Irvine slips the safety off the gun and lifts it to his shoulder. "One shot," he whispers, probably to himself.

"From ten," Selphie says. Nine, eight. She crouches down and squeezes Irvine's ankle in her silent count. Seven. Six. Her slots whirl and she grabs at that one, Firagas, holding it in the palm of her hand: Five. Four. Three.

"Two," Selphie breathes, "one, go."

She punches the door open from her crouch and lunges across the passageway to open the door to the other car; it hisses and she's already casting, three sharp Firagas at the nearest creatures: Triple leaps up in her next and it's Stop, Stop, Stop, on the next three, as she whirls like a tornado into the car. Haste carries her through to the next set, and she spits it from her fingers – Stop, Stop, Stop, and hears the faint puff of Exeter's sniper extension, once only. It's all Irvine needs when he's there. Selphie spins again and claps off three Blizzagas at the nearest three moving targets, and she hears the clack as Irvine changes ammunition; two fall, six are Stopped, and she and Irvy converge on the remaining two with nunchucks and normal ammo until the car is as silent as a train can be.

She meets Irvine's eyes across the train, and breathes, one long shuddering breath at the glorious smile rising on his face, at the fact that they're both there and unwounded and that the first step of their mission has gone off without a problem.

Between them lies Seifer Almasy, curled on the floor, Hyperion in his lax grip. She can see the glyph on his forehead where Irvine's Sleep Ammo hit him, right between the eyes.

They dispatch the rest of the monsters easily, efficiently, and Selphie lets the battle-magic in her blood die down and dispel; they're still in danger, she doesn't know whether Seifer got anything off to his Sorceress before they put him down, but staying hopped up on Haste and Aura is only going to wear her out.

Irvine lifts his transmitter watch to his mouth. "Ragnarok," he says, "we're in. Subject is down."

There's a hiss of static, and then Squall's voice says, "Dream Team, incoming in five," and Selphie scrambles to get up on the table and unlock the ceiling hatch, because their part's done and now the real mission can begin.

_______


This is a PASIV. Each team -- that's not the official name, but I'd shoot myself before I call it a dream team -- each team will have one device. These things are expensive, so if you break it, I break you. It was even worse, at first. Had to have an actual person doing this, and there's only one of those. They didn't make the first machines until after-- after they tried the first extraction. 


There was one advantage to the original method: it left no physical trace. The device leaves a imprint, any target who's been briefed would know what to look for. If they realize there's anything to look for, of course. That was the problem with the first way.


There's a lot of other traces you can leave behind.

_______


The hatch opens, a sudden sharp hiss, and Ellone backs away from it instinctively; below she can see the ground whirring by, so fast it's barely anything but a blur of lines she thinks are trees: and the train. The train is below them, clattering from side to side, but the Ragnarok must have matched its speed well because otherwise it doesn't seem to be moving. Ellone knows that just means they're all going the same speed, and that thought sinks into her stomach like a cold heavy stone. 

"Don't look," Squall orders from beside her, as he checks the straps of his harness for the fourth time. "Don't look down, Elle."

"Easier said than done," she says, and her voice sounds as wobbly as she feels. Her hands haven't stopped shaking since Irvine's signal came through and they all strapped into these ridiculous harnesses as if they are actually going to jump from a moving spacecraft onto a moving train. They are. Her knees are going weak.

"Elle," Squall says, and his hands are adjusting the straps of her harness again. "Sis. Look at me."

The concern in his voice is enough and she looks up, knowing the panic is written all over her face. Squall's brow is set, stone-cold mission mode, but his eyes are full of concern and worry.

"Just look at me," Squall says, "until we're on the train."

She does. There's a shout behind him, and she hears Quistis count down from five, her voice sharp and bright against the noise of the engines and the train. Ellone keeps her gaze fixed on Squall's, though, and he just looks back at her, holding her eyes -- nodding at her, approval and encouragement. She continues to look at Squall as she hears a terrible clattering below them, and then hears Zell shout up the all-clear, muffled by distance and the engines. Squall nods at her, holding her gaze, as she hears shuffling and adjusting, and then Quistis's whipcrack voice counting from five again. And then nothing. Ellone has started shaking, now, but she's still looking at Squall as she realizes they're now alone in the cargo bay. Don't think about it. Just... wait for the train.

"Just look at me," Squall says, and he holds her gaze as he lifts his wristcomm to his mouth. "Status?"

Quistis's voice, tinny and metallic. "All clear. We're ready for you."

"Nida," Squall says, his eyes still locked on hers. A part of her is thrilled to see Squall in his element -- he's a rock, here, so sure and confident -- but the rest of her is concentrating on not becoming a bowl of terrified jelly. "Hold it steady."

"Of course, boss." This voice is less familiar, but still confident.

Squall reaches out, takes her hands, puts them on his shoulders. "Look at me," he says, and he drops his gaze to attach Ellone's harness to his own. "Just keep looking at me." He glances up at her, then back to whatever his hands are doing, and then back up; it's as if he barely even needs to watch his fingers. It seems instinctive, an ability years of training have distilled into pure reflex. He tightens and rechecks all of their connections and attachments, all of these tiny little straps that they're suddenly trusting. Her body has never felt so small, so human and flimsy, so delicate.

Squall leads her over to the gaping open hatch and reaches down to pick up a cord. "Keep looking at me," he orders, and it's so easy to obey that voice - that small, small part of her that isn't lost in quibbling terror is suddenly caught up in a flare of pride. Squall does something with the cord and then tightens whatever is strapping Ellone to his body. "We're ready to go," he says, and his voice is surprisingly soft. "Just keep looking at me."

"Squall," she squeaks suddenly, her muscles tensed up with terror, her hands shaking as they catch in the straps of Squall's harness, the fabric of his jacket -- "Squall, I can't, I don't think I can--"

"Yes, you can." There isn't a question of it in his voice. "You can do this, Elle. I've got you. Just keep looking at me until we're down."

She opens her mouth to say something, and Squall jumps.

The moment feels like forever -- free-fall, air catching at her body almost immediately; their momentum, like weight; the way the straps catch at her, the way Squall's arm is solid against her back; the way her fingers clutch at whatever they she's holding on to hard enough to bruise; she closes her eyes, and it's disconcertingly like Time Compression, the way there isn't really an up or a down and the force tugging her along doesn't feel like gravity. We're waiting for a train, she thinks, as her world spins and she tries to cling to Squall. She has enough time to open her eyes again and then there's impact, a solid thud that slams into her whole body; the shock is so much that's she's dizzy with it.

She comes back into herself in a sudden rush; she's tingling with something close to pain, and breathing hard. Her eyes are locked on Squall's.

He nods at her, just once, and it's a private moment.  "There you go," he says, soft and low.

Ellone realizes there are other hands on her, other people, moving to help take off the harnesses -- Zell; someone's hand is on her lower back, to help steady her. She actually does lose her balance as Squall lets her go, gently, and Quistis catches her, sturdy and stable as she pulls Ellone's weight into her own. "Good job," Quistis says, with the kind of nod she has that Ellone finds so oddly reassuring. "We've got you now."

Ellone lets Quistis lead her over to a bench seat, where she collapses with a relieved sigh. All of her bones feel like they've been turned into putty. She feels the adrenaline running along her veins and starts concentrating on her breathing: slow, steady. She needs to calm down if this is going to work. She can't be this tense. It's just a train; these are just her friends; they're just going to take a nap.

Squall has removed his harness, and he says into the wristcomm, "Dream Team has landed. Good work, Nida. You're out."

"Roger," says the tinny voice. Zell clambers up onto a chair and shuts the ceiling hatch, and it's suddenly just a train. Ellone looks around. Selphie and Irvine are checking all the windows, murmuring to each other in tandem, and Quistis is crouching down over something in the corner. Squall is standing in the middle of the room, and she sees him shake his head a little, like he's dizzy.

"Squall," she says. She finds she can actually stand up; her legs are wobbly, but she manages to get herself in front of him. "What is it?"

Squall presses a hand to his face like he has a headache. "I can feel her, a little. I think it's him."

"How bad is it?"

He shakes his head again, too quickly, like he's clearing water from his ears. "Not bad. We thought this might happen. I just won't ...touch him." He presses the heel of his hand into his forehead, closing his eyes as he takes one sharp breath. It's an unsettling contrast with how steady he was just moments ago, helping her jump from a spaceship. She doesn't like it.

Ellone turns around. Quistis and Zell are crouched over the inert body of Seifer Almasy. Quistis's hand is hovering a few inches above Seifer's body, glowing with clinical white light; Quistis' eyes are pinched in concentration. Zell's busy pulling things out of a duffel bag: the relic they're hoping will keep Seifer asleep; the relic holding the set of Sleep spells they'd refined with Diablos, carefully, so that they all last the same amount of time; the Odine Bangle they've brought as a last resort. She heads back to her couch, trying to force herself to relax. Quistis and Zell are murmuring to each other, as are Selphie and Irvine, still; the sound of her friends together creates a low hum against the noise of the train and Ellone starts to breathe more evenly. We're all waiting for a train. Her friends are here. They'll help her. It'll be okay, Seifer. We're together now.

"He's out," Quistis confirms to the car at large. Ellone can't tell who sighs in relief, because it feels like the entire car does.

Quistis stands up, and comes to crouch down in front of Ellone. Quistis takes her hands. Ellone can feel the tension; Quistis has to be mission leader, not only because it's her and Zell that will be going into the dream but because Squall's so unpredictable, now, his connection with Rinoa all torn up. Squall can't touch this mission at all or he'll blow it from the start. He's only here because he refused to be left behind; his only job is getting Ellone on and off the train. "Is everything okay?"

Ellone nods, with a confidence she isn't sure she feels. "Yeah. I'm just shaken up by that jump, is all. Everything's still good."

"The original plan," Quistis says. "Do you think that's still our best shot?"

They've run through so many variations of this plan, just in case, because so many things could have happened on their way to this very point -- but their original plan is the strongest, has the best chance of succeeding. In the original plan, Ellone sends Quistis and Zell -- other than Squall, they're the ones with the most emotional and long-term ties to Seifer, and Squall can't go -- into a dream in Seifer's head. The dream will be a memory they all share, one they all know, but then it's Ellone's job to try and turn the dream-world into a memory of Seifer's: the memory of how Rinoa called him to be her Knight. They need to know what's going on, so that maybe they can figure out how to fix Rinoa, or at least how to give Squall some control over their connection again. So Ellone will try to make that world happen, and Zell and Quistis will try to ask the right questions, and there's a lot they're going to have to figure out as they go.

They've run some trials, she and Quistis and Zell -- she's sent Quistis and Zell into each other's dreams, as practice for all of them. Quistis says she woke up knowing why Zell wanted to be a SeeD, and Zell woke up spouting ridiculous details about the way Quistis organizes her sock drawer into a two-dimensional matrix by color and weight, so -- it's possible, Ellone thinks. Dreams and memories have enough overlap that she can use her powers to mix them together. She can build a dream-world based on all of their memories, and that should give Quistis and Zell enough of an opportunity to see into Seifer's subconscious and figure out what's going on.

Quistis is still waiting for her response. "Yeah," Ellone says. "I still think the original plan is the best."

This is hard for her: Ellone's never been in charge of anything, not even her own life, and knowing that she's calling the shots here is possibly the most difficult thing she has ever done. But Quistis and Zell have been working with her for a while now, a few weeks of intense training in this new dream-sharing procedure, and both of them have told her she needs to trust her instincts in this case. Ellone doesn't trust her instincts, which is what is hard, because she doesn't know what she's doing or how she's doing it -- but her instincts are the best chance they have of being successful.

"Is there anything else we need to do?" Quistis asks.

Ellone bows her head, letting those instincts take over, and she finally admits what has been bothering her. "Squall should... maybe not be here."

Quistis frowns, and glances over her shoulder at Selphie and Irvine, who are looking out the windows. Ellone knows that Selphie and Irvine are their protection, if Rinoa finds out what they're doing  and comes to get her Knight back; she and Quistis and Zell will all be asleep, and Squall will be worthless face-to-face. "Where would you put him?" she asks, carefully, and Ellone knows she's thinking about Squall's safety.

"How about with Kiros?" She doesn't like the way Squall keeps rubbing at his forehead, right over his scar, the same place Seifer's now wearing the sleeping glyph from Irvine's bullets. "It's far enough away, and Kiros will take care of him if something happens."

Quistis bites her lip in thought. "Good idea," she says finally. "If R-- If the Sorceress does hear him and come after us, she may go for Squall first. It could give us a chance to kick out of the dream and come fight. Or it could confuse her into making a mistake. Either way, I think you're right." She stands up, decisively, and Ellone envies her composure.

Quistis walks over to Squall, who is staring out the window above Seifer's body and looking very distracted. "Squall, I think you should head to the last car with Kiros."

Squall looks up, sharply, but his voice is too confused when he says, "Kiros?"

Ellone sees the flinch on Quistis' face. If they needed any more confirmation that Squall can't be anywhere near this operation, this is it: they've all been briefed on this, and Squall never forgets anything. "Kiros is in the last car," Quistis says very calmly and evenly, "preparing the weapons in case the Sorceress attacks us. You need to go back there and assist him, and stay there until the mission is done."

Squall's eyes travel down to Seifer's body, slowly - then over to Ellone, and she sees his forehead crease in concern. "It's okay, Squall," she says, trying to project confidence. "You go help Uncle Kiros. He'll need you." Neither of them mention that Kiros is the back-up plan; he and the Esthar soldiers are calmly and carefully putting together the missile launcher and the EMG that they'll use to hold off Rinoa if everything else fails, if Selphie and Irvine fall, if the Sorceress decides to turn all of her power and wrath against this train. They'll either hold it off until the train gets to Esthar's defense systems, or they'll blow the whole thing up.

There's a long moment where Ellone wonders whether this is going to get ugly, but then Squall seems to remember who is the mission leader here. He nods, and says to Quistis simply, "Take care of her." Then he turns and he's gone before anyone can ask whether he means Ellone or Rinoa.

Zell shakes his head. "God, he was making me nervous."

"Really?" Selphie asks. "I thought he was just worried."

"Squall never looks at Almasy as if he actually likes him," Zell says emphatically. "You guys didn't notice that creepy look in his eye? Like he and Seifer are long-lost lovers and he's looking for the nearest supply closet?"

"Zell," Selphie says, sounding both fascinated and horrified, but then Quistis coughs and they all turn to face her. Ellone has been working with them all for a while now but she's still always surprised by the way they can transition like this, between teasing teenagers and focused SeeDs, in-and-out of their mercenary mindsets as easily as breathing. Maybe, she thinks, for the first time, maybe it's because the lines between the two are more blurred than she realizes.

"Let's get ready." Quistis' voice is grim, and when she turns to look at Ellone, it suddenly hits her that this is it. She is about to send Quistis and Zell into Seifer Almasy's dreams so that they can talk to his subconscious. This wild plan -- this thing they've been frantically working on for weeks, ever since Quistis said But we don't have any way to talk to Seifer and Squall's eyes had flicked to Laguna, and then Ellone, and he had looked back at Quistis and said, Do we? -- they're actually about to do it. They're no longer waiting for the train. It's time.

She stands up and is surprised that her legs aren't really shaking. A strange calm settles around her, and it's probably because she doesn't have any other choices: it's just time. 

"Here," Irvine says, and Ellone notices that he has taken the cushions off of a few of the benches and set up a nice little place for her to sit. "So you don't get sore," he says, and winks at her in his usual fashion -- but his voice is so grave. Ellone tries to smile at him, because Irvine somehow has always understood her a little better than most. 

She settles down, crosslegged, and Selphie and Irvine gently roll Seifer over, settling him so that his head is in Ellone's lap.

She bends over him and touches her fingers to Seifer's temples. He's sleeping, all right, and he's sleeping the entire way down: a deep sleep, down all of the levels she can see and feel. "It's okay, Seifer," she whispers. "We're here. We're together now."

Quistis and Zell are already settling in beside her: Zell on her left, Quistis on her right. They stretch out flat on their backs. Zell cranes his head back to grin up at her as he reaches out; Ellone catches his hand and squeezes it. Quistis glances upwards at her only once, for a fraction of a second, but there's nothing but steady, reassuring trust in her eyes as she also extends a hand. Ellone has found that she can't do this without touching everyone: there's something in the connection, the physical connection of all of them, that's required to keep everyone together in the dream-sharing.

Ellone takes a deep breath and then settles back, against the cushions Irvine has propped against the wall, with Seifer Almasy's head in her lap, and Quistis and Zell's hands in her own. 

"Ready?" Irvine asks. The question hangs in the air for a moment, and Ellone can almost feel it in all three of them, between heartbeats: Ready? Ready?

Quistis's other hand jerks out, mechanically, taking Seifer's right; her face is distant and professional as she nods, her focus entirely internal.

Zell hesitates. He rolls over on his side, towards Seifer, resettles his hand in Ellone's, and she's caught for a moment watching his face as he looks at Seifer for a moment, then stares, then glares -- a complicated expression, less angry and more puzzled, or a challenge, or exasperation. But he reaches out, finally, and grabs Seifer's hand, their arms bending upwards until it's a clasp of competition or camaraderie. "Ready," he says, and Ellone breathes out.

Irvine nods, brings up the relic with their carefully-refined Sleep spells, and Ellone must have missed him casting Double, because he shoots two of them off easily. The spells hit Quistis and Zell at almost the same time -- Zell a fraction of a second earlier -- and Ellone can feel them slipping into sleep, too, as their fingers grow lax in hers. She grips at them harder, because she is now the grounding wire that connects them all.

She can feel their sleeping minds, so close to hers. Ellone looks up at Selphie, and then Irvine; they both look worried, and grim, and there's a strange kind of resigned determination underneath it all that she knows means they'll fight to the death to protect the sleepers if they have to. She tries to smile, again, but the dream-sharing is creeping up into the edges of her vision.

"Take care," Selphie says, and Irvine gives her an almost-playful wink and a much more serious nod.

"You too," Ellone breathes, with as much conviction as she can find.

Then she closes her eyes, and connects. Zell and Quistis are solid anchors beside her, and she allows herself to be drawn down into Seifer's mind: slowly, gently, teasing the edges of his dreams, feeling out the paths she can choose to lead Zell and Quistis on, down, inside. She bends her head and takes a breath, and then the darkness overtakes her.

_______



Love, congratulations, tl;dr, and cock jokes everywhere,

[personal profile] justira and [personal profile] seventhe
novel_machinist: (Default)

[personal profile] novel_machinist 2012-01-03 11:38 pm (UTC)(link)
ooooo This is a wonderful "teaser" I love how you guys get going and the pacing is wonderful. The emotions are well developed and I'm in love with Selphie.

Damn you guys can throw down.
lassarina: I'm not coming out until the stupid people have gone away.  ....I can wait all day. (Default)

[personal profile] lassarina 2012-01-04 02:16 am (UTC)(link)
lksjdflkjsdf oh hello crossover totally relevant to my interests yes.

I love how Squall can't be there, and how it's Ellone who anchors everything, Ellone who designs what needs to happen here. yes. yes yes yes yes.