Every year, on the third Saturday of the third month, the “Free Speech Rally for Life” was held in Deling City. The new President, Jarvis Cardella, felt that it encouraged the people to become passionate about something. Passion, he decided, was something that everyone needed to feel at least once.
Irvine Kinneas had never given the rally a second thought in the three years that it had been held and he probably would not have again this year had Selphie not been determined to participate. Her platform? GF Rights.
“The sorceress conflict has been over for years,” she rationalized. “It’s inhumane to keep the GFs at our beck and call. Why should we continue to enslave them when they have every right to run free?”
“Because that’s all they’ve ever known,” he argued with her. “Besides, how can you tell when someone has junctioned a GF? It’s not as if they look or act any different. Suppose your speech is a success and it starts a long line of anti-junction propaganda and then a law passes that GFs must be set free? How will you ever be able to tell who’s complying and who’s breaking it? Who’s really going to want to give up their GFs anyhow? And furthermore, what are the GFs supposed to do then? Not only that, what do you think they’d do? They know nothing of this world and the way it works.”
Selphie folded her arms across her chest and her lip began to quiver. “You speak of them as if they’re lesser creatures. They have much more intelligence than you give them credit for.”
“Don’t pout,” Irvine laughed, walking over to her and draping his arm casually on her shoulder. “I’m not saying any of this to upset you. I’m just trying to bring up some things you may not have thought about.”
“Well, I didn’t tell you about it to have you sit here and disagree with me.”
“Selph, you’ve got to be prepared if you’re wanting to stand out there and speak your mind. Not everyone’s going to see you as you want to be seen. Not everyone will like what you’re saying.”
Selphie glanced up at him, her emerald eyes betraying her annoyance with him. She pushed his arm off her shoulder and stood up. “I’m going to go train,” she stated right before she turned to walk away from him.
“Selphie, don’t be mad!” he called after her, but when she didn’t respond, he shook his head in frustration. She wasn’t a teenager anymore. She had been given much responsibility at Balamb and sometimes she could be the most serious person he knew, but other times, she acted so young! “Oh well,” he sighed. “She’ll get over it when she sees that I’m right.”
He watched her disappear around a corner and decided to head up to his quarters to prepare his lesson for the weaponry class that he was to teach the next day. He was just a few steps away from the door to his quarters when a voice spoke to him.
She’s right. You don’t give us credit. I’ll bet I could beat you any day in a battle of the wits.
He stopped and smiled to himself as he pictured the icy blue stare of his favorite guardian. “You probably could,” he agreed. “But we’ll never know, will we?” He keyed in the lock code and the door slid open. Stepping inside, he sat on his bed and took off his boots. A shiver ran down his spine as the air in the room grew cold. He watched as tiny ice crystals formed on the window. “Shiva, I didn’t summon you. What are you doing?”
The guardian appeared before him, a tiny smile on her lips. She walked slowly in front of him, her eyes never leaving his. Irvine sucked in a breath as he beheld her.
Do I always need to wait for you to summon me?
“I didn’t even know you could appear without me doing so,” he shrugged, “I suppose not. I can’t say I mind seeing you here right now.” He leaned back on his bed, propping up his body on his elbows.
There’s a lot about me that you don’t know.
“Oh really?” Irvine raised one eyebrow. “Care to enlighten me?”
At the moment, I’d rather not.
“Kind of mysterious, aren’t you? I like that,” he winked at her. She shook her head and laughed.
Your charms don’t work on me.
“Really? Then why are you here?”
Just to let you know…
She leaned down toward him and stroked his cheek. He gasped at her touch. It was so cold, it was almost painful.
…that things are going to change real soon.
The pain on his cheek increased and he cried out and rolled off the bed, immediately touching the area that Shiva had been caressing. He glanced at the mirror on the other side of the room and his eyes widened when he saw that the skin on his cheek looked white and blistered. He gazed at Shiva, who now stood before him looking at him almost menacingly. “Go back,” he whispered.
Too intense for you? I apologize and shall comply.
She pressed her hands together and bowed low to him, her master, before dissolving into a cloud of mist. The temperature in the room returned to normal and Irvine hoisted himself back onto his bed, exhaling deeply, his heart beating wildly in his chest. What had just happened? As he calmed himself, he began to laugh. For a minute there, he had actually been frightened of his favorite GF, which was ridiculous. She was powerful, but he was still her master and she had always been loyal to him so he had little reason to ever believe she would be anything else. He decided that Shiva had simply been flirting in her own right. “That’s what I’m talking about,” he said aloud. “They don’t understand our ways. They don’t know when too much is too much.” He winced as he felt a pain in his head and he heard the silvery laugh of Shiva. Just as quickly as it had come on, it dissipated.
* * * * *
“It’s a mild case of frostbite,” Dr. Kadowaki explained, gingerly rubbing a salve on Irvine’s cheek. He winced at he touch. “Sorry,” she apologized. “But can I ask you how, in the name of Pupu’s uncle, would you have gotten frostbite?”
“I got hit by an ice spell,” he lied.
Dr. Kadowaki shook her head as she lightly covered up the blisters with a bandage. “Honestly, I can picture this happening to one of the kiddos, but not to an instructor!” she laughed.
‘Hey, I’m the weaponry teacher! I don’t deal with magic much anymore,” he tried to make light of his wound.
“Well, be that as it may, you need to be more careful.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he promised, jumping to his feet when she had finished. “Am I done?”
“Sure are,” she nodded, handing him a small jar of salve. “Just reapply this tonight before you go to bed and again in the morning. It should heal up within the next several days. Oh, and if anyone asks, you might want to change your story a bit. You know, to save some face.”
“Ha ha,” he replied. “What should I tell people? That Shiva tried to put the moves on me?”
Dr. Kadowaki laughed and shook her head. “Make it believable at least!”
Irvine smiled a knowing smile and tipped his hat at the older woman as he left the infirmary.
Does it hurt very much?
“Oh no,” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “You just froze half my cheek off. What were you thinking?”
I didn’t mean to.
Her voice sounded sad and Irvine immediately regretted speaking so harshly. “I’m sorry. You were just being friendly. It’s fine.” He lightly touched the bandage and waited for her to respond, but she didn’t.
* * * * *
“And so, how can we profess to be interested in the rights to freedom if we ignore those very creatures who paved the way for our freedom?” Selphie pounded the air with her tiny fist. Her face was red from her expository. Silence descended over the crowd that had gathered at the rally in Deling City. Selphie looked around desperately, waiting for someone to say something. She didn’t have to wait long.
“Get off the stage!” someone yelled and the crowd broke into laughter.
“If you’ll just—“ she tried to say.
“If you’ll just leave the podium, then we can get on to more interesting things to talk about!” another person yelled.
“Like what?” Selphie demanded, her eyes scanning the itinerary taped to the podium, finding the next topic. “The legalization of chocobo fighting?”
“Don’t you people care about the greater good?” Selphie asked, her voice almost pleading with the crowd.
From where he stood, Irvine shook his head. Despite what she would say about it, public debate was definitely not one of Selphie’s strong points. She argued with her heart rather than her head and unfortunately, found herself unable to always counteract what was brought against her. He watched as she grew more and more flustered and wished with all his being that he could help her out. But he knew less about the subject than she did and he didn’t even agree with her stance.
I wish we had a different spokeswoman. Don’t you think Miss Trepe would have done better?
“Quistis?” Irvine shrugged in response to his guardian’s question. “Yeah, she probably would have. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her lose an argument. But man, I wish I could do something for Selphie. Look at her,” he pointed up to the stage and then blushed as he realized he must look crazy speaking and gesturing to someone no one else could see; someone he couldn’t even visualize right now. A thought suddenly dawned on him. “Wait a minute! You’re talking to me again.”
I never stopped.
“Yes you did,” he argued. “After I left the infirmary, remember?”
I had nothing else to say.
Irvine laughed. “As easy as that, eh?” He returned his attention to Selphie, who had stepped out from behind the podium and was reiterating her arguments despite the booing that began to spread through the audience. “Not an easy crowd to please, are they?”
I can take care of them. Just say the word.
He touched the bandage on his cheek and shook his head. “Oh no. The last thing we need is Deling City to become a city of icicles!” He felt Shiva’s displeasure at his remark. “What?”
I’m not a fool, Irvine, and I’m not prone to violence. One of these days, you’ll respect me as I deserve. Attacking people may be your manner of solving conflict, but it isn’t mine. Just trust me.
“I’m sorry!” he exclaimed. “Do what you want. I do trust you. I wasn’t serious, you know.”
Yes, you were.
Irvine involuntarily sucked in a breath as he felt the guardian depart from his mind. A tingle ran down his spine, followed by an intense feeling of anxiety. The feeling was natural when master and guardian were parted, but it was even stronger in those who had a closer bond with their GF. As his brain chemistry adjusted to the loss of the GF, the anxiety faded and a despairing sadness washed over him. Shoulders slumped, he looked around, feeling intensely alone, wondering what Shiva was doing and praying she’d return to him soon. His eyes shifted toward the stage where, head hung low, Selphie began to walk off.
“Wait a minute,” someone shouted and all heads turned. “I think you’ve got the right of it.”
Selphie looked up in surprise and searched the crowd for the man who spoke. “Excuse me?”
Then one of her main hecklers frowned and then said, “I do too, actually. I can’t explain it. I just…perhaps GFs should be set free.”
“Yeah?” Selphie raised an eyebrow and bounded back toward the podium. The crowd began to mutter in agreement, much to Irvine’s surprise. Actually, he saw, they all seemed to be saying the same thing, almost chanting their assent.
He felt a prickle on the back of his neck and the despair he had been feeling immediately flooded away and his body was wracked with a spasm of pleasure as Shiva descended back into his mind. He exhaled slowly and waited for the euphoria to calm. “What’d you do?” he asked.
We’re more persuasive than you realize.
“How did you…?” the question died on his lips.
You don’t need to know the specifics.
“But I’d like to.”
We communicate among ourselves in ways you could never comprehend. I simply rallied my kind together and let them take care of the rest.
“Those are all GFs speaking through their masters?”
I despise that word.
Irvine shuddered at the sudden intensity in Shiva’s voice. “Their humans,” he amended.
I think you’re starting to understand. Maybe there’s hope for you yet.
* * * * *
Quistis winced as Cid slammed the door to his office, locking himself inside.
“What happened?” Nida appeared around the corner. When Quistis nodded toward the door and shook her head, he exclaimed, “Oh no! He was supposed to meet with me and review my instructor’s license paperwork.” He looked at his watch. “He wouldn’t have forgotten, would he? I really need to get in there!” He brushed past her and reached for the doorknob, but she grabbed his arm and shook her head again.
“Not a good idea. Not right now.”
“But—“ Nida whined.
“What’s up?” Irvine ducked into the office.
“Nothing,” Quistis answered, hoping Nida would just drop it, but knowing he wouldn’t. He ran up to Irvine and grabbed the lapel of his coat.
“Cid’s gone and locked himself in there again when he’s supposed to be meeting with me about this!” Nida held up the papers and shook them in Irvine’s face.
“Nida, stop!” Quistis admonished him. Before he could interrupt, she asked him, “Do you know what makes a good instructor?”
He raised one eyebrow suspiciously. “What?”
“Patience! Now go. We’ll reschedule your meeting. Now is obviously not a good time!”
“What happened?” Irvine asked again, his gaze shifting between his two friends.
Quistis glanced at Nida and then said, “Don’t worry about it.” She turned to face Balamb’s young pilot. “I tell you what. As soon as he comes out, we’ll call you in, alright?”
She pressed her hands together in front of her chest. “I swear.”
“Fine,” Nida heaved a sigh and, shoulders slumped, walked out of the office. Irvine leaned out of the doorway and waited until Nida had rounded the corner before he turned to Quistis.
“Alright. He’s gone now. Tell me what happened.”
Quistis sighed and pushed a strand of her honey colored hair behind her ear. She walked around to the front of the desk and opened a drawer, pulling out a newspaper and pointing to the headline. SeeD Hero Rallies Support for GF Bill. Selphie’s shining face smiled at them from a large photograph underneath. Behind her, the GF Brothers stood proudly, a hand on each of her shoulders.
“Oh, Selphie’s little GF Liberation project?” Irvine shrugged. “What’s wrong with that?”
“Are you serious?” Quistis looked at him with disbelief. “Irvine, let me spell it out for you. Selphie’s got 87% support for her little project, as you call it. This bill is going to pass, no doubt about it. Without GFs junctioned, you can’t use magic. Without magic, you’re limited in what you can do. Not only that, but there won’t be any need for the Gardens if there’s no need for magic training.”
“They can still teach combat and whatnot here,” Irvine argued, walking around her and sitting down. He propped his feet up on the desk. Quistis cocked her head and leaned forward, pushing his feet off. “Besides, you could say that there’s really no need for the Gardens now, what with there not being a sorceress around. That is, unless you think Rinoa’s going to go nuts and start wreaking havoc on the world!” he laughed at the thought.
“Face it. Without GFs, it’s only a matter of time before the Gardens become obsolete. Sure there’s not a sorceress right now that we have to worry about. But what about after Rinoa passes on her abilities?” She stood up straight and her eyes widened in realization.
Irvine studied her face. “What is it?”
She turned to him and said, “We had been wondering how Ultimecia could come about and get so powerful. Well, now we have our answer. There’s not going to be anyone who’ll have the ability to oppose her. Selphie had good intentions, but she didn’t think it all through.”
Irvine grew serious. “You’re saying that the freeing of the GFs will lead to the disbanding of the Gardens, which will pave the way for Ultimecia to eventually come into power?”
“You’ve got to stop her, Irvine!”
“Me?” he looked taken back. “Why me?”
“Because she’ll listen to you.”
“Ha!” he laughed. “You obviously live in your own little world. When Selphie decides something, no amount of reasoning with her will change her mind.”
“You have to try.”
“But wait a minute…suppose this is all supposed to happen this way…” he put his finger to his chin as he mused, “then if I go and change things, it could completely screw things up.”
“What do you mean?” Quistis frowned, confused.
“Well, the whole time continuum thing…the Ultimecia of the future was the reason our past was what it was. If we keep Ultimecia from ever happening, everything would be different. Our pasts, our memories would be completely changed. I might never have even met you guys unless it was by chance at one of the Garden Hockey games or something.”
“It’s a small thing to sacrifice in order to prevent all the heartache that occurred,” she responded curtly.
“Easy for you to say, Miss ‘I’ve-been-at-Balamb-for-longer-than-I-can-remember.’”
Quistis crossed her arms. “Just talk to her, alright?”
“Fine!” he threw his hands up in frustration and rose to his feet. He watched as she sat down and pretended to make herself busy. Taking that as his cue to leave, he paused in the doorway and asked offhandedly, “Do you have any GFs junctioned right now?”
“No,” she responded, not looking up. “I usually don’t unless I’m training. It’s better for you that way.”
“I see,” Irvine responded, turning away from her and walking out of the office.
You’re not going to listen to her, are you?
“Why not? What she says makes sense,” he shrugged.
You’ve already won. What does it truly matter if Ultimecia comes to power in the future? That won’t change her defeat in the past. What I wonder is, why you mean so little to one who calls you friend, that she’s willing to completely sever all her ties and memories of you?
Irvine stopped walking and frowned. “What?” A shiver ran down his spine as the temperature in the room dropped.
Shiva materialized in front of him, her blue eyes, two sparkling endless pools. Like you said, she’s been at Balamb for a long time. She would be here regardless of Ultimecia, with Squall and Selphie and Zell. In fact, the only two people that would no longer be around would be you and Rinoa. She spread her arms and the corner of her mouth raised sardonically. To her, you’re expendable.
“Nah,” he held up both his hands. “I think you’re misunderstanding her. She just wants to prevent all the bad stuff from ever happening.”
Shiva frowned, disapproval evident in her face. She junctioned me that one time you went to the weapons convention in Esthar. Remember that?
“You’re not still upset with me leaving you here that time, are you?”
Shiva shook her head. I caught a glimpse of part of her that she keeps hidden from all of you. Her heart is cold. Colder than even I. You see, when a GF is junctioned to your mind, your innermost secrets are all revealed to her.
“What?” Irvine exclaimed. In agitation, he put his hand to his forehead. “What exactly do you know about me?”
The guardian smiled knowingly before she disappeared in a cloud of ice crystals, once more settling into the region of his mind he had set apart for her. Everything. Don’t trust Quistis. She has her own hidden agenda and it doesn’t benefit you at all.
“Tell me,” he said. He waited a few seconds, but Shiva remained silent. “Shiva?” Still there was no answer. She didn’t need to say anymore. Her words had already begun to find their way to his heart, freezing it little by little.
* * * * *
The bill was put to the vote and passed with an overwhelming majority. Everyone then had a maximum of thirty days to unjunction their GFs. Anyone caught with a GF still junctioned after that time would be subject to a 25,000 gil fine. Selphie was oblivious to the air of dejection that hung over all the cadets in Balamb Garden. Irvine, on the other hand, was all too aware.
He walked into the cafeteria and as greeted by Squall, if it could even be called a greeting. “You didn’t say anything to her, did you?” he demanded.
“What?” Irvine wrinkled his nose and tried to push past his friend. “I’m hungry, Squall.”
“Selphie. Why didn’t you say anything to her like Quistis asked you to?”
“Dammit!” Irvine growled. “Why am I the one who’s responsible for Selphie’s actions? That’s crap! If you had an issue with her, you should have taken it up with her yourself. I’m not your gopher. Besides, it slipped my mind.”
“You just sealed this world’s fate. Are you aware of that? Because it slipped your mind, Ultimecia has now gotten what she needs to come to power. Hope you’re happy.”
“Actually, I don’t really feel one way or another. So what if she comes to power? We beat her in the end. And guess what? We’ve already done that, so it’s not like we have to relive anything.”
Squall sighed. “Whatever,” he said, turning away.
He’s never appreciated you.
“Shiva…” Irvine whispered her name as soon as he heard her voice. “That’s not true. I think Quistis just got to him.”
Looks like she got to all your friends.
He watched as Squall walked back to a table where Quistis, Zell, Rinoa, and Xu were sitting. He seemed to be relating the conversation to them. Quistis looked up at Irvine and gave him a disapproving look. Rinoa looked glum and shook her head and Zell shot Irvine a glance and rolled his eyes. Xu kept her eyes glued to the table.
“Even Rinoa? She’d be forgotten too if none of this had ever happened,” Irvine exclaimed.
She doesn’t see that and they’re not about to mention that fact to her. She’ll believe whatever he tells her. You know that.
“Yeah, I do,” Irvine agreed harshly, his eyes narrowing as Squall looked up with a solemn look on his face. “It’s crap. Well, who needs them? It’s hardly fair blaming me for something that Selphie did. But then, how could anyone get mad at Selphie herself? Of course…pick on the outcast!” He began to clench and unclench his fists, the feelings of anger bubbling up inside his chest. “Who needs them?” he asked again. “I’ve still got Selphie, at least.” However, at the thought of the girl who had always been pure sunshine to him, he grew even angrier. “Why did she have to go and start all this?”
She simply believed in something. You can hardly blame her for standing up for her convictions. Perhaps it’s best this way. Because of this situation, you’re finally seeing the true nature of all the people you’ve ever called friend. I am so sorry, Irvine. You have me, though. You’ll always have me.
“Yeah,” he snorted. “For another twenty-seven days!”
No. Unjunctioning me does not mean I’ll leave you. You’re stuck with me for good.
He smiled at the thought. “Really?”
You need me and I need you. I think it was meant to be this way.
“But where will you go?”
Wherever I want.
Irvine heard a familiar voice and watched as Selphie entered the cafeteria. She looked over at the table where the others sat and then at Irvine. She hesitated a brief moment and then walked to the table. The peacefulness that Shiva had brought the young man quickly dissipated.
She’s made her choice. Now you just have to make yours.
“I already have,” he replied.
* * * * *
“Irvine, can we talk to you for a minute?”
Irvine looked up and grimaced when he saw Quistis, Squall, and Zell standing in the doorway. “Why? Are you here to yell at me about the fact that the cafeteria served meatloaf today instead of hotdogs? Not that any of that had anything to do with me, but hey! It’s just easier to blame me for all the problems in the world, isn’t it?”
“Irvine, stop it,” Quistis scolded. He regarded her sullenly as she sat down on his bed. “We just want to talk to you about something. It’s important.”
“What is it?”
She handed a piece of paper him and said, “Read this.”
“What is it?” Irvine eyed the sheet.
“Latest studies are showing more than just memory loss can occur when a person junctions a GF. They're finding the beginnings of psychosis in people who've been constantly junctioned. You never unjunction Shiva, do you?”
Why is she saying all this, Irvine? Why is she trying to hurt you like this?
Irvine stared at her in disbelief. “What the hell are you trying to say? That I'm turning neurotic because I've kept Shiva junctioned all this time?”
“Don't take it wrong!” she held both hands up and her face took on a compassionate expression. “We're just concerned about you.”
“What brought on this concern?” he crossed his arms. “For the past week or so, you guys haven't said more than two words to me!”
Quistis looked puzzled and Zell stepped forward, wringing his hands together as he looked down at the floor. “I've heard you talking to yourself. A lot. Only, you're not talking to yourself. You're having these long drawn out conversations with someone. This morning, I heard you call whoever you were talking to, 'Shiva.'”
“So?” he said. “Are you telling me you've never heard your GFs speak to you?” Shiva's voice filled his mind at that moment.
Quetzacotl and Leviathan don't communicate the same way I do, she said, referring to the two GFs that Quistis and Squall regularly junctioned, and Ifrit says Zell is such a terrible conversationalist that he'd rather kiss a chocobo than have a chat with him.
Irvine began to laugh at Shiva's comment and Squall said, “It happened again.”
“What? Shiva talked to me? Sure. She likes me. She talks to me all the time.” He watched the three of them exchange a knowing glance and he groaned in exasperation. “Look! You don't have to worry about me. In eleven days, I have to unjunction her and I won't be talking to her anymore.”
“We think you should unjunction her now,” Squall said quietly.
He jumped off the bed and exclaimed, “No! That's it! Just go!”
“Irvine,” Quistis grabbed his arm. “We've talked to Dr. Kadowaki about this and she agrees. Don't take this risk. You've had Shiva junctioned too long.
Don't let them make me go away!
He wrenched free from her grasp. “You're not going anywhere, Shiva. But you three,” he glared at Squall, Quistis, and Zell, “I want you to leave right now.” He pushed them outside the door, wadded up the article, and threw it at them before slamming the door.
Out in the hallway, Quistis shivered and looked desperately at Squall. “Have we lost him already? We acted immaturely where the whole Selphie situation was involved. Perhaps if we hadn't put that responsibility on him, he wouldn't have been driven further into Shiva's company.”
“No,” he shook his head. “We've been trying to talk to him all week, but it's been impossible and then he's sitting there saying we've been ignoring him.” He leaned over and picked up the wadded up ball of paper, smoothing it out. “I think this has been coming on for a while now. Maybe these last eleven days won't hurt him much. Maybe he'll be forced to unjunction her before it's too late.”
* * * * *
“Well, today’s the day.” Irvine stared at his reflection and frowned when he saw how haggard he looked. Dark circles had formed under his eyes, a result of not sleeping for the past five days. He had come to the conclusion that Shiva was the only entity in his life that was constant; that he could truly rely on. His old friends kept approaching him with all their talk of psychosis. Cid had left him a message that he had been receiving complaints about the weaponry classes being canceled and had issued an ultimatum which was basically summed up in the phrase, “Shape up or ship out.” He had never felt so alienated from everything in his entire life.
They will fine you if you don’t unjunction me. You can’t afford that.
“I don’t care about the money,” he argued. “Do you realize you’re the only thing in this entire world that makes sense to me right now?”
Shiva appeared before him, the expression on her face unreadable. Leave this place, then. I know you’ve been thinking about it. I’ve seen your thoughts.
He slumped down on his bed and buried his face in his hands. “I don’t know where to go, though. For the past five years, Balamb has been my life. If I just walk away now…”
You’ll leave all your worries. You’ll be in a place where you never have to feel the pain of this world ever again.
Irvine looked up at her, his eyes skeptical. “How can life ever be free of pain?” Shiva smiled, knowingly.
Trust me. When have I ever lied to you?
“Never, that I know of,” he shrugged and stood up, looking around. He walked to his closet and pulled out his suitcase.
Don’t pack. There’s no need. Just come.
She disappeared, settling back into his mind. “But—“ he started to protest.
Just come. Let me have control. I’ll lead you to that place.
His eyes glazed over as he allowed his own consciousness to pull back, giving Shiva the lead. He felt his legs begin to move as he took one step, then another, toward the door. Leaving his dorm room, he continued to walk, unfeeling and unnoticing of anything around him. He walked out of the living quarters to the front courtyard of Balamb Garden, and then past the gates. He didn’t hear when Selphie called his name. He didn’t feel the rain drops falling from the angry grey clouds overhead.
He simply kept walking.
* * * * *
“Oh Hyne!” Quistis exclaimed when she reached the infirmary and saw Irvine lying on the bed. His skin had a sickly blueish tint to it and he was completely naked, covered by a sheet. He was staring straight ahead, his eyes completely void of all comprehension. Several wires extended from various parts of his body, hooked up to monitoring equipment and life support machines. Selphie was sitting by the bed, her hand clasped around his own. She looked up as Quistis entered. “What happened?” the young, blonde instructor asked.
Squall, who was standing a few feet away from Selphie shook his head. “They found him in this state out in the middle of nowhere this morning. Dr. Kadowaki's been running tests on him ever since.”
Quistis exhaled heavily. “Do they know what happened to him? Where're his clothes?” He had been missing for seven days.
Selphie shook her head. “That's exactly how they found him,” she pointed at him, her eyes filling with tears.
Dr. Kadowaki entered the room, holding a few printouts. When she saw Quistis, she shook her head gravely.
“Let me show you something,” she said, handing the papers to Squall and leading Quistis to a few monitors. She pointed to one of the monitors where two squiggly lines rested side by side on the display screen. One of the lines was much larger and moving much more erratically than the other. “There are two signatures coming from Irvine's brain.”
“Conscious presences,” Dr. Kadowaki amended. “It's normal in people who have GFs equipped. However, this line,” she pointed at the small one, “is Irvine's consciousness and this,” she pointed at the larger, “is Shiva's. Ordinarily, the size and activity of these two signatures are reversed with the GF's being the smaller and the human's being the larger.”
“What does that mean?” Quistis glanced at Irvine anxiously. “That Shiva's taken over his mind?”
Dr. Kadowaki nodded, but looked troubled. “Is there something else?” Quistis inquired.
“I'm afraid so.” The physician led the young woman to another monitor. “This is monitoring Irvine's heartrate and respiration.”
“There are two signatures there too!” Quistis exclaimed, her fingers lightly tracing the lines.
“That's not normal. GFs have always resided only in the brain. Apparently, Shiva has pretty much infused herself within all his body systems. We've never seen this before, but that could be why his skin is blueish and he's cold to the touch.” She looked over at Selphie. “I tell you what. Even if your GF bill hadn't passed yet, there'd be no way people would keep junctioning after seeing this!”
“But wait a minute,” Quistis said. “Why would Shiva do this to him? GFs aren't supposed to harm their masters.”
Squall spoke up. “Perhaps she was tired of being the servant. Perhaps she decided it was her turn to be in control.”
Silence descended in the infirmary. Selphie sniffled. “Why would he have let her? No GF is that powerful.”
“He came to trust her,” Quistis said, understanding dawning on her face. “In fact, it got to the point where she was the only thing in his life he trusted. Somehow, she must have convinced him to yield himself to her.” She walked to the young man's side and looked down at him with compassion on her face. In all the years she had known him, she had recognized an almost desperate need for approval. That need had destroyed him. Can anything be done to help him?“
Dr. Kadowaki shook her head. “If we try to pull Shiva out, it'll kill him. She is so deeply connected with him. All we can do is send him to Esthar where he can be studied. Perhaps she'll release him or else they'll figure something out.”
“Just like that? His life is over?”
“No!” Selphie exclaimed. “There's still hope for him!” Her voice shook, however, betraying how little hope she truly felt.
“The transport will be here in an hour,” Dr. Kadowaki looked down at the floor. “It's out of our hands.”
Quistis leaned over and lightly brushed Irvine's forehead with her lips. “Good luck, friend.” She cocked her head and said, “I wonder if he feels anything. If there's anything going on inside his mind...”
* * * * *
Shiva? I'm cold. What is this place?
Well, can you heat things up a little? It feels like winter!
What if I command you to?
It doesn't work that way anymore. I'm not taking orders ever again.
What do you mean?
It's time for you to pay the debt you owe me.
What? That's crazy!
No, it's not. It's only fair. I've been a slave my entire existence. In this realm, I am a queen.
So what do I have to do?
Whatever I want.
And if I refuse?
Just try it and see what happens.
It's not such a bad thing. You'll get used to it.
Shiva, do you love me?
I told you a while back. Your charms don't work on me. Now go. I don't feel like answering all your questions right now.
* * * * *
(A/N - The End! I know it's a mean way to end it, with poor Irvine trapped within himself and at the mercy of Shiva. But this was written for an “Evil Shiva” challenge, so I just had fun with it.)