I planted my feet, my eyes wide as I focused on Commander Squall's serious expression. "What GF summon? You said summoning is a last resort, so I didn't..." Commander Squall's expression didn't change. I focused on Zell. He looked just as serious. "Did I?" I asked, voice a bit on the teary side as I saw all my dreams of a long-term SeeD career go out the window.
Commander Squall and Zell both regarded me before one turned to the other. "She said the same thing, didn't she?" Zell asked. "Isn't that what he reported? She didn't know about it until after it happened?"
Commander Squall nodded. "Almost word for word. The sighting description is almost exact, too."
Zell crossed his arms. "So what're we gonna do? Both times not one of our people got hurt. So I doubt they're on the other side. But what if they're on their own side? But with what went down here - and also when Gilgamesh came that time?" Zell shook his head. "We can't think we've got a chance against her."
My face screwed up in confusion. "Can someone please tell me what's going on? What GF? I don't remember junctioning a GF. I don't remember even summoning a GF." And my voice sounded even more tearful.
Both Zell and Commander Squall rested a hand on each of my shoulders as they continued talking. "Let's not think that we need to stand against her. Like you said, so far she hasn't battled against any of our SeeDs. I'll head back to Garden with this team and talk to Cid and Dr. Kadowaki to see if they know of any other GFs like this one. Or maybe how to summon it so we can talk. I'd rather know what its agenda is before making any assumptions either way. Especially not now with everything getting ready to go underway."
Zell nodded. "Okay. See if you can get anything else out of Marshal. Maybe something he didn't remember to put in his report. Sure as hell could happen at least once. Maybe that survivor knows something? Wasn't there at least one in the brig? Ahndra'll have a helluva good time interrogating him again, I bet," he added with a smirk.
Commander Squall's lip twitched. "Alright. I'll see you back at Garden."
Then he gave my shoulder a squeeze and turned to climb on board one of the hovercraft/helicopter/armor things - I could never remember what they were called - and was transported off back toward Balamb courtesy of the Deling Air Corps. Zell watched him go and then turned back to me. He smiled and gave my chin a brief pinch.
"Come on, kitten," he soothed. "Don't look like that. You're not in trouble. You did what you were supposed to."
"But no one will tell me what's going on," I protested. I pointed at the bodies that groaned as they were gathered into the armored transports. "What happened? What GF? What other report of an uncontrolled summon? What are you talking about and why won't you tell me?"
Zell wrapped an arm around my shoulders and led me back toward the train. "Sorry, kitten. That's on a need-to-know basis."
"What?" I blinked up at him as my feet naturally followed his lead. "You tell me that I summoned a GF that I didn't even know I had and then tell me it's on a 'need-to-know basis'?" My mouth worked as shock and disbelief battled against confusion and... irritation.
I hated not knowing what was going on.
"I know," Zell soothed. "It sucks, and I hate doing it to you, but Squall said he'd tell everyone once he knows what's going on. Until then, it's off-limits."
Irritation spluttered and died, muffled and drowned by confusion and resignation. "Oh," I mumbled, moving my gaze to the ground at my feet.
Zell chuckled and gave me a squeeze and a gentle jostle. "How about I make Squall let you sit in on the next meeting about it? After all, you're involved now... sorta."
I reluctantly smiled up at him and nodded. "Okay."
He gave me another jostle. "Now let's go get those dresse--"
An almost angry sounding beeping from the inside of my lightweight jacket drew our attention. "OH!" I scrambled for the handheld/phone within my pocket with trembling hands, nearly dropping it in the process. Sub-Lt. Commander Seifer's annoyed expression greeted me when I accepted the connection. "I'm sorry, sir. I forgot." Any minute now I'm going to start bawling my head off.
My happiest day had to have turned in to the day from hell.
"Report," Seifer demanded.
I swallowed hard, fighting back the tears of being overwhelmed and in a tough situation followed directly by not being told what had happened... "Radical faction subdued and taken into custody," I said quietly, swallowing again. "Commander Squall enroute to Balamb to make report and begin additional research into specific occurance. No casualties. Continuing on to Deling City."
"'Occurance'?" he repeated sharply. "What 'occurance'?"
I shook my head. "I don't know, sir." I quickly wiped away a tear of frustration. "They won't tell me," I allowed myself to complain.
Seifer lifted an eyebrow and then moved his focus to Zell standing beside me. "Dincht? What the hell is going on?"
"Sorry, Seif. You'll have to wait for the big boss to get there and let you know. Reference Marshal and Ahndra's report in the mean time. The secondary one."
My eyes focused on Zell's somewhat amused expression. Secondary report? What secondary report?
Seifer's eyebrow twitched. "You're shitting me. Again?"
"You got it."
"Dammit." Seifer leaned back in his chair, a hand scrubbing at his scalp a moment before he immediately leaned forward. "I need you back here on the double to make a report, separately."
Zell frowned. "Se-- Oh what the hell. Fine." He turned off the phone and urged me forward toward the train again. "Should've known he'd find a way of screwing everything to hell."
But my misery had hit bottom a while ago. What was another day to wait for the dresses?
"Hey, Sal gal."
I looked up as Janine sat across from me at the table in the Security Office reserved for interviews and interrogations. I was waiting for my turn to be debriefed. "Hi, Janine," I greeted, tone morose at best. My fingers returned to the duty of picking at the corner of the metal table.
"So what's got ole HOS in a hellfire mood?" she asked, crossing her arms over her chest. Her usual off-the-clock uniform of black jeans and a black or white tank-tee had been replaced by her SeeD uniform; I noticed the skirt didn't keep her from kicking her feet up onto the table and tipping the chair back onto its back legs. "You lose a report or take a day off you weren't supposed to?"
I shook my head, giving a deep sigh before crossing my arms on the table and resting my forehead on them. "No." It wasn't fair. I was supposed to be in Deling City with Zell picking out pretty dresses and daydreaming about the wedding I'd waited my entire life for.
"You finally tell him to go to hell?"
I shook my head again. "No," I mumbled. It wasn't Sub-Lt. Commander Seifer's fault that radicals attacked the train. I knew that. It was just one of those things that happened when a person chose the SeeD path. ...but it still isn't fair.
"Damn, Sally," Janine protested, her feet making a clicking sound as she pulled them down from the table. She gave my head a knock, but I didn't lift it. "What the hell's the matter with you? I hear you got to fight with Squall and Zell, the best rush on the planet, and you're acting as if you're getting court-martialled."
I sighed and lifted my head enough to meet her dark gaze. "It's not fair, Janine," I complained. "Today was supposed to be wonderful. I was supposed to pick up my wedding dress and pick out my bridesmaid dresses while having fun with my sweetie. But instead? Instead I have to fight radicals and watch Sweetie and Commander Squall get hurt. I had to disobey a direct order and leave my friend alone, even though I knew she was scared. And now I have to sit here and wait for..." I bit my lip and lowered my gaze to the table top. "Wait for them to ask me all these questions that I don't know the answer for because a GF came that I didn't know I could summon. That I didn't even know existed."
"A GF, huh?" Janine leaned forward, arms resting on the table as she watched me. "And you don't remember summoning it?" I shook my head. "What exactly do you remember?"
I sighed again. "Well, I remember being able to get behind the radical group and doing 'Hell Strike' to take out almost three right off. Then I told Zell that Seifer had ordered me to come, basically, and just kept fighting them off until the reinforcements could come." I shrugged. "Then it was over and Zell said we won and they were asking me about the summon." I looked up to meet her thoughtful expression. "That's all. I don't remember seeing any GF or doing a summon."
"You remember anything out of the ordinary?"
"Like what? I was only thinking about what I needed to do: offer back-up as ordered." I frowned and rested my chin on my arm. "Those stupid radicals. Putting all those people in danger when they didn't even do anything to them! If they would just talk to Commander Squall or President Laguna they wouldn't need to do all this stupid fighting, hurting innocent people." I growled. "Makes me so mad!"
"Were you thinking about that while you were fighting?" Janine asked, tone amused.
I shrugged again. "I guess. Everything was going so fast."
Janine reached out and gave my head another knock, gentler this time. I looked up. "Don't sweat it, kid. Why don't you go ahead and grab that hunk of love of yours and take off. I'll take the heat for it."
I sat up, eyes wide. "You sure? I don't want you to get into trouble."
"Hell. I've been in trouble plenty. I can handle it." She jerked her head toward the door. "Go on. Git."
I smiled and stood, grabbing my purse and voicing a rushed, "Thanks, Janie. I owe you one," before she could change her mind or I could get caught.
Janine watched her go, the smile growing to a smirk as she shook her head. Seifer appeared in the doorway a few moments later. Janine motioned to the seat across from her. "Have a seat."
Seifer turned the chair, his lips tilted in a similar smirk as he straddled the chair and draped his arms across the back of it. "So?"
Again, Janine kicked her legs up onto the table, crossing her arms across her chest. "Just as you figured. Intense emotional situation where all she could think about were the people in danger. Her consciousness fades out; the GF comes in." Janine motioned again toward the door with her head. "She didn't complain of a headache like 'Miss Thang' did. Sally just doesn't remember the summon or the GF showing up. That's it. Now I don't know if that has to do with compatability or more intensity of emotion or what. Like I said, one minute she's thinking about 'love muffin' and the people on the train, then 'bam'. Asura's kicking everyone else's ass but Sally's team and the reinforcements she knows are coming."
Seifer pursed his lips to one side, seriousness replacing smirk as he stared out the door in the direction Sally had taken. Janine watched him, her own smirk returning as she adjusted her crossed arms. Damn you're hot.
He briefly frowned before focusing again on Janine, his lips twitching upward. "Good job. Remind me to give you a raise."
Janine chuckled and slowly stood. "I'll file my request for that this evening. If you've got time," she added.
"I'll see what I can do."
Janine turned and left the office, very conscious of his appreciative gaze as her movement gave him something to appreciate.
"I still can't believe Janine took the fall for you. Seifer's going to shit bricks," Zell said for what must have been the third time in 10 minutes.
I giggled and gave his arm a shove as we waited in the 'lobby' area of the boutique for Rinoa to model the first of the two bridesmaid dresses. "I told you. I think Seifer likes Janine."
Zell scoffed. "But what girl is going to like him?"
I shoved him again. "Oh stop it."
He grinned and drew my back tight against him as he began his usual duty of nuzzling my neck. I squealed and struggled while enjoying every minute of it. Sure it was late. Sure the boutique was going to close in 10 minutes, but I didn't care. I was picking up my wedding dress!
Selphie crashed down beside my giggling self onto the couch in Zell's room. Zell and Janine were 'fighting' over music choices.
"Here's my initial thought for the flowers and their set-up. I've sketched them out... here. What do you think? Is the ribbon too much? I can do a garland of fern instead."
I took the sketch, wonder and amazement making my eyes grow larger. Using the front area of the Training Center, there would be about 50 chairs set up in two colums, one on each side of the aisle. The aisle would be bordered by the mentioned ribbon or garland with a bouquet of flowers on every three to five rows of chairs.
My eyes teared up. "Wow. Selphie, this is awesome!"
"Hey. Lemme see," Zell said, dropping down at my other side. "Rock on. Who knew the T.C. could look like that?!"
Selphie smiled brightly over at him while I giggled. Janine watched us with her usual smirk and crossed arms as she leaned back in Zell's desk chair.
"Alrighty. Now that's approved..." She handed me another sketch. "Here's what I think we should do for the Quad for the Reception. The Cafeteria will mainly be a... home-base, I guess, for the catering. Then the cafeteria ladies and some others will ferry the food out to these tables here."
Selphie reached across to point at the tables sketched in near the entry of the Quad. "The Cafe will be closed and their normal tables cleared to make room for these with the food. Dancing and the band will be over here where it usually is for the balls," she continued, pointing down toward the main portion of the Quad. "Seifer said that the majority of Garden will be locked off to roaming, with the exception of the Quad, the Cafeteria, and the Training Center. Security will be disguised as guests, so there shouldn't be any raised eyebrows."
Zell pointed. "Check it out! There's plenty of room for the band, the dancing, and the band's equipment without having to do anything funky."
Selphie laughed. "But I'm still going to see about getting a new stage built for the band."
"Sweet!" Zell agreed.
I giggled and gave each a nudge with my shoulders, one after the other. "You guys are so cool. You're making this whole married thing easier than I thought possible."
Zell grinned. Selphie smiled. Janine chuckled and shook her head. "Yeah, well, I've still got the shaft. I've got to try and look damn sexy in a floor-length gown that doesn't show a bit of skin. What're you trying to do to me, girl?"
Selphie, Zell, and I laughed. "If you want to do something, Janine, then you can coordinate all the other Receptions. Zell wants to have one at each Garden, but I'm not up to making it work."
Janine made a face as she focused on Zell. "You crazy, man? The last thing you'll want to be doing after saying 'I do' is shaking hands for 6 hours!"
Selphie howled with laughter as Zell's face reddened and he pushed himself to his feet from the couch. "Shut up, Janine."
I sent him a sympathetic look, but I couldn't have said it better myself. Hadn't I already leaned toward the 'elopment' idea more than once?
Janine shrugged. "Okay. You want a Reception at each Garden, I'll coordinate them. But I'm telling you it's a bad idea. If you don't spend as much time at one as you did at the other, they'll get all bent out of shape and piss in your punch or something."
I grimaced. "Eww. Janine, that's gross."
She smirked and stood. "Yeah, well so is the picture I have in my head of the two of you trying to have your honeymoon between Receptions."
Selphie howled again, and this time so did Zell. I flushed crimson and tried to keep from thinking about it.
Janine turned at the door and gave a single wave. "I'm off, kids. See you tomorrow." She closed the door behind her.
I cleared my throat and looked again to the sketches. "These are great, Selphie." I handed them back and she accepted them. "Just let me know if I can do anything to help. I hate to think you're doing all the work."
"Don't be ridiculous. I love it!" She put the sketches into her folder and then stood. "I better go. I have to talk to the florist about the order and cancel the ribbon order. I think ferns will look better. Bye." And she exited with a wave and her usual bright smile.
Zell sat down beside me and draped his arm around my shoulder. "Cool. Now we've just got to pick up the invites at the print shop tomorrow, start printing out the labels for them, and get the rings from the jeweler, huh?"
I nodded and snuggled against him, drawing my legs up beneath me as I closed my eyes and released a deep breath. "How are the plans coming for the honeymoon?"
"You don't sweat about the honeymoon. That's all me. You just have to be there."
I giggled. "No problem."
He kissed the top of my head and drew me a little closer as we both snuggled into the couch. "We should probably look into getting furniture for the apartment while we're in town tomorrow."
Our first apartment. We were going to be buying furniture for our first apartment. Together. I smiled and released a happy sigh. Zell chuckled but didn't say anything. What could he have said? I had a wedding dress hanging in my closet. He had a white tuxedo hanging in his. There were three bridesmaid dresses hanging in closets around the world (Rinoa, Janine, and Selphie). There were flowers on order. Garlands being made. Bands being auditioned... I was getting married to Zell Dincht and I was shy Sally Regal.
'Where did you get that GF summon?'
My smile warped and faded as I opened my eyes and stared at Zell's sneakers, still laying haphazard where he had kicked them off near his desk on the left side of the room. GF summon? What GF summon? Where would I have gotten a GF? I only have Shiva and Ifrit, and I didn't bring them that day. And for two weeks that question asked by Commander Squall had given me nothing but stress and worry. If it hadn't been for the distraction of the wedding plans and my voice lessons with Rinoa practicing the song, I would have gone mad days ago.
It just didn't make sense, and I couldn't find the 'secondary report' that Zell had told Sub-Lt. Cmdr. Seifer to reference. I'd tried to find it. Tried everything, short of hacking the Security Grid I was supposed to protect. There was nothing there, and there was no way I was going to ask him when I didn't have the 'need to know'. If I did, Zell would have told me.
I sighed and sat up, not looking at Zell as I stood and slipped into my leather sandals. "It's getting late. I better go."
And I could feel him watching my face as he walked me to the door. "I'll meet you in the parking lot tomorrow after breakfast," I told him.
"You sure you don't want me to walk you over?" he asked, trying to feel out what the problem was.
I finally looked up and gave him a small smile. "That's alright. I'll grab coffee in the Cafeteria and bring it with me." I kissed him on the cheek. "Good night, sweetie."
He kissed me back. "Night, kitten."
And then I stepped out into the hall and slowly made my way to my own little dorm room, all the while trying to think back to that day two weeks ago when I had supposedly summoned a GF. My head began to throb, and I rubbed at my forehead with a trembling hand. There was no use. I couldn't remember. There was nothing to remember.
My shoulders slumped forward and I sighed. Maybe I'm trying too hard? Maybe I just need to walk through it, matter-of-fact, and see what comes up? Maybe if I write it down, I'll remember something else? Then I can turn that into Sub-Lt. Cmdr. Seifer. Wouldn't that help? I shrugged and slightly shook my head as I dug my key card out of my pocket and stepped up to my door. How would it help? There's nothing to remember.
And that made me feel... helpless.
I leaned back against the closed door, staring into my little dorm room with unseeing eyes for a long time before pushing away and moving to sit on my bed. Then I kicked off my shoes and laid back to stare at the pictures I'd accumulated over the past several months. Me and Zell. Me and Selphie and Zell. Zell and Janine and me. I yawned. Rinoa and me and Cmdr. Squall and Zell. Zack and Zell and me. Zack and Zell. Dad and Zell. My eyelids drooped. Mom and Dad and Zell...
'...You know why I came...'
I bolted upright, eyes wide as they stared at the wall in front of me. A shiver cascaded down my spine and I scrambled out of bed, something making me hurry for the door to jerk it open.
The hallway was empty.
I slowly closed it, staring down at my hand gripping the doorknob before forcing it to relax and release and stepping back from the door. I know I had heard--
I twitched and took a quick step back from the door when it was flung open to reveal a beautiful woman with a multitude of arms holding weapons... and then she was ugly... and old... and then beautiful... I stepped back as she came forward, moving into my room with assurance and determination as her hold adjusted on the different weapons in her hands.
I only stopped moving backward when my back came in contact with the wall. I gasped and pressed myself against it, cringing away when I could feel the woman's hot and yet cold breath against my face. I tightly shut my eyes.
'You know why I came, heart child. The evil hearts of these men has begun to infect the innocent. They thirst for power and lust for my throne. My throne! Until this avarice is curbed and the blood-lust is halted, I will come and bestow judgment. And their judgment is death without mercy. So decrees Asura, Queen of Summon. Queen of Gods. So it will be done.'
I screamed and sat upright, cringing to the left when a sudden movement of shadow beside me-- "Zell!" I threw myself into his arms and held him tight.
"It's okay, Sally," he soothed. His arms tightened around me. "It's okay. It was just a bad dream."
And I would have given anything to believe him.
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