Where Every Day is a Rock Hunt
Title: Where Every Day is a Rock Hunt
Fandom: Final Fantasy VIII
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Squall, Zell
Summary: A little Shumi what-if with Squall and Zell... talking.
Zell flopped down on the lush grass and stared up towards where the sky normally would be. But instead of endless blue, there were metal supports covered with vines as they wound upwards to the roof.
The last few weeks had been so hectic for the entire group and it was beginning to wear on them all. Their strange stopover in Shumi Village was like a gift vacation, even if it had involved running around like morons while fetching rocks for their hosts.
Still, it was bringing them a bit closer to the solution to the Laguna puzzle. No one really spoke about the trances they fell into at odd times, but it wore at their minds too. Everything did, yet none of them really spoke about it. They were just doing their jobs, after all.
"Whatcha doing? We're supposed to be helping Squall." It was Selphie, standing with her hands on her hips, peering down at Zell.
"I'm sure you and Quisty and Irvine are more than enough help," Zell said lazily. He'd been bouncing around for days, fighting and not-fighting. He wanted to stay flopped where he was.
"I want to get out of this place. It's lame," Selphie replied. "Help me!"
Someone walked up beside Selphie, but whoever it was wasn't in Zell's line of vision.
"We're staying the night here. Go relax."
Zell sat up at the voice. Sure enough, Squall had walked up beside Selphie. He had a bit of dirt smeared down his shirt and pants as well as a bit on his face. The Shumi must have really put him to work.
"This place is boring!" Selphie retorted, but winced quickly once she realized she'd just spoke out against an order.
Squall didn't say anything as he glanced between Selphie and Zell. After a moment's thought, he sat down beside Zell to watch as Selphie stalked away.
"Didn't think you'd want to stay here longer than necessary." Zell said after a moment.
"Any idea how cold it is up top at night? We'd freeze before making it back to Garden," Squall said before leaning back on the grass and closing his eyes.
With a slight smile, Zell flopped back onto the ground as well, wondering how he'd missed how late it had gotten. Still, leave it to Squall to keep them all safe.
Neither one spoke until dusk settled over the village and a slight chill crept into the still air. That's not to say they'd been left totally alone. Several pairs of footsteps had passed by, one set sounding like Irvine and a few others at odd gaits - most likely Shumi. All had paused to look at the near-dozing men, but none had said anything.
Both scrambled to their feet the second a whip cracked between them. Neither had quite shaken the mindset that Quistis was no longer a superior officer.
"It wasn't like we were sleeping in class," Zell said once he had regained bearings. Squall was silent, but there was a bit more coldness in his eyes than usual.
"We've been offered dinner by a pair of Shumi," Quistis replied. "And then we should get some sleep. Right, Squall?"
Squall just nodded and followed Quistis as she turned to walk in the direction of their hosts.
Between the six of them, they were sharing two hotel rooms, one for the girls and one for the guys. But already, as Zell walked in from the bathroom, he noticed Irvine had disappeared. Squall was turned on his side, facing away, but obviously not asleep yet since he was counting something on his fingers.
"You awake, Squall?" Zell asked, sitting down on his bed.
"If I wasn't, I am now," Squall replied flatly as he turned to face Zell.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"I can't stop you."
Zell winced. Leave it to Squall to shut him down completely. Still, he decided to risk it.
"Ever get, y'know, lonely?"
"Not with you pestering me," Squall replied coldly.
"Night then," Zell said quickly before rolling over to face the wall. So much for that. He wasn't entirely sure what he wanted from Squall, but it involved some sort of... intimacy.
A minute of silence passed before Squall sighed. "What is it, Zell?"
"I'm asleep," Zell replied.
"No you aren't."
Zell heard Squall slide from his bed and walk across the small room.
"Now, what's going on?"
Rolling over to stare up at Squall, Zell was momentarily caught speechless. In the light coming in through the windows, Squall looked absolutely ethereal. That, given the situation, wasn't exactly the best thing.
"I told you," Zell said quickly. "I just feel... lonely or empty or something."
"Another GF will take care of that," Squall replied as he turned to go.
"Wait..." Zell regretted it the instant he said it.
"What now?" Squall looked back, his hair falling into his face as he did so. He thoughtlessly puffed some air up at it, but it didn't help.
"Dammit," Squall replied, patting the bed before sitting so he didn't end up on Zell's legs. "If you want to have some sort of heart to heart, talk to Quistis. I'm not a counselor and I'm just not good with this sort of thing."
Zell wanted the ground to swallow him up. And then he wanted to punch the ground for doing so. And then... he realized he was off in his own mind and somehow managing to ignore the somewhat annoyed look Squall was giving him.
"We're stuck doing all of this stuff, yes. And if you're going to freak out, let me know. I want to know the risks," Squall said, looking away, down at his hands.
"You think about it much?"
"I try not to."
A minute of silence passed between them, each one lost in their thoughts.
"Would you stay here?" Squall asked suddenly. "If you could stay here, with the Shumi."
Zell thought a moment. He was still caught on the seriousness of their mission.
"I'd get bored," Zell replied. He was starting to feel comfortable having Squall so close by. There was a warmth to it. He knew Squall reasonably well and knew that if Squall didn't want to do something, Squall usually didn't. So that had to mean that Squall wanted to be exactly where he was.
"Well, not every day is a rock hunt."
In the light drifting in through the window, Zell couldn't be sure if Squall managed to crack a smile or not. It wasn't often that Squall smiled, but when he did, it was worth the battle that usually came first.
"Soul searching..." Squall whispered, seemingly talking to himself.
"This would be a good place to do some soul searching," Squall replied, looking over to Zell again.
"And what do you have to think about?"
That was when Squall did something unexpected, yet expected at the same time. In the span of a few seconds he was on his feet, leaning over Zell, his face just an inch from Zell's own. Zell's breath stuck in his throat as some of Squall's hair fell to touch his forehead.
"Everything," Squall said, his tone not revealing anything.
Zell was still holding his breath as Squall crossed the room and crawled back into his bed.
"Get some sleep," Squall offered in such a way that it was very, very final.
Lying there, Zell wasn't sure just what had happened. He'd been so close, yet nowhere near getting... Well, he wasn't even sure what he wanted. Maybe, maybe Squall was in the same predicament. Whatever it was, Squall's patience had been tried and now it was time for rest.
Days later, the memories were fading fast. Zell had that second junction and true, he didn't feel as lonely. Yet not being able to remember that late night conversation with Squall, he felt a bit empty anyway.
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