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Star Fragment

Title: Star Fragment
Part: Prologue
Fandom: Final Fantasy VIII/Kingdom Hearts/Etc.
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Squall, Cast
Rating: AA
Summary: The new batch arrives...
Notes: For Sprink.

Squall shuffled through the pile of transfer papers he had spread out in front of him, looking mainly at only the most superficial of details about the group of nearly a dozen students he'd accepted from other Gardens. Six months remained until the next round of SeeD testing and he knew quite well that the new students at least had to be comfortable with one another before even thinking of sending them out into a live battlefield.

Each folder had glowing recommendation letters attached to it, tedious ramblings that Squall had very little interest in reading. Part of him wanted to just hand the pile over to Xu and Quistis and as them to just give him the brief versions later in the afternoon.

But he was supposed to meet the transfers before then and he wanted to at least have a clue who they were. At least the folders included pictures. That made it a little easier to go through the ridiculousness of needing to have a semi-private lunch with them that would be stupidly awkward and generally miserable for everyone involved.

He wondered, for a moment, if Rinoa was still out on a mission or not. He honestly couldn't remember if he'd heard that her group had made it back or not. But she would. He trusted her to that. No matter how badly their relationship had ended, she was growing into a respectable person with more skill than he could deny needing.

She would make the greeting luncheon a little more bearable, if only because her prattle would fill any empty voids in conversation. Rinoa just knew how to get people talking.

Pausing on one folder, Squall almost got up to call Xu and see if she could pull Fuujin's personnel file. One of the transfers looked almost as though he could be her younger brother but for the life of him, Squall couldn't remember if he'd ever known where Fuujin was originally from.

Either way, Squall stayed in his seat and actually bothered to read the contents of the folder. By the time he'd finished, the young man in question actually seemed quite promising, though a little too domineering. After a lifetime of Seifer, Squall wasn't quick to want to surround himself with people who thought they could hide their flaws beneath threats and bully tactics.

And since he'd taken the time to read one and the phone on his desk hadn't even managed a distracting little warble, Squall decided that he might as well read the rest and see exactly what he was in for.

Squall shuffled into his room, ready to scream. The train every last single one of his transfer students had been routed onto had been hijacked. When the phone had first rung, he'd debated not sending a team at all. After all - there were eleven SeeD candidates on board the damned train. They'd be fine. But they were also still candidates.

He sent Selphie's team of three. But only because there were civilians on the train and they were much more important to keep safe.

Lunch had quite obviously been cancelled, leaving him without meetings and any sort of schedule for the entire rest of the afternoon.

Waiting for the phone, he was slowly lapsing into being totally stir-crazy. With a glance across the suite he still shared with Zell, he was sure that the closed door meant that Zell was still asleep. He did the night shift most weeks, running a skeleton crew to prove that indeed, Garden never fully slept.

He closed the door to his own room, stripping off the uniform he'd slid into earlier in the day and pausing to glance at his body in the full-length mirror still proped awkwardly in a corner. He'd always meant to actually mount it on the wall, but he also had changed rooms so many times that he tried never to settle in.

Of course, he had been offered a room befitting being the Commander, but instead he decided to take a shared space, more comfortable with student-era housing than anything relating to circumstance. That and Zell had a habit of actually cleaning, something Squall admittedly forgot to do unless specifically asked. Not that his bed wasn't perfectly made with hospital corners, just that there were likely dustbunnies beneath.

Knowing the bandages around his midsection weren't visible beneath his clothing, he still went for a dark, loose shirt to compliment his usual leather pants. The wound hadn't been that bad, but Kadowaki had insisted on wrapping him up like a mummy.

There was a knock at his door just as he was buckling his belts.

"Zell?" he called, hoping he hadn't woken the blond up from his day-slumber.

"Close," a female voice replied. "It's Xu."

"Come in," Squall replied. Even if he'd been naked, he would have invited her in. Nudity didn't bother him - they lived together and fought together. Squall honestly doubted Xu would bother with an improper thought if she'd already come the distance to get him in his quarters.

"We received a call," Xu said, stepping into the room with her eyes averted for a split-second.

"The train?" Squall asked. He gestured to the lonely wooden chair shoved against another wall as he sat down on his bed. He didn't spend much time in the room doing anything other than sleeping. He liked it sparse.

"Selphie's team made it just in time," Xu replied. "She's actually the one who called. The students were in the midst of fighting out who would get to be the leader."

"That's why I want them to get to know each other," Squall said, wishing he was close enough to bang his head on something. "Then they'll accept whomever is chosen as leader or perhaps even make a good decision on their own."

"The train will arrive in time for dinner," Xu continued, glancing over at her own reflection for a moment and reaching to fix a flyaway strand of hair.

"I'm not changing again," Squall said, as though anyone would challenge him on the matter. He was fairly sure that in all honesty, Xu didn't even care.

"You're better off in something that'll let that hole in your side heal, anyway," Xu said as she stood and headed for the door. "Sorry, Commander, but Quistis cares about you and asked that I would watch you when she wasn't around."

Squall flopped back on the bed, staring at the ceiling. Mothers! He had a mother. Her name was Edea. He didn't need any more, no matter what Quistis, Kadowaki and Xu thought.

He heard the suite door click close but he stayed on his bed. It was still early. He could do... something.

Something apparently involved a long, drawn out card game with a few of his students who didn't have classes in the afternoon and were hanging out in the courtyard outside of Garden. Not that he was complaining about it. If they hadn't been playing a fairly strange set of rules, he knew he would have lost at least a couple of cards. But instead he'd just had to temporarily hand over one of his belts and a boot. At one point he'd been playing with three rings dangling from his pinky finger, curious about just how much clothing one would lose during a more intense, private game.

He'd have Nida check into it.

But at the end, when he handed the jewelery back to the proper owners and had his boot back (he'd won the belt back on his own), he knew why the students seemed to be more into accessorizing than they ever had in the past.

There was a flurry of activity against the sunset as a taxi-bus pulled up and bodies streamed off of it, yelling loudly and grabbing for bags as they were unloaded.

Squall had thought they might actually be tired. But he knew he wouldn't have been.

Selphie popped off the bus a moment later, pushing through and running up to Squall, smiling and twirling around like she always had after a victory.

"That was so easy, Squall," she said, grinning. "So easy that it was almost boring."

"Xu told me you called," Squall replied. "Were the students really so disorganized?"

"Probably not as bad as you'd think," Selphie said. "But still bad. We never had that much trouble. I mean, we trusted one another."

"Give them six months until the actual testing," Squall commented. "They'll have it all worked out."

He watched as Selphie's two squadmates appeared from the bus, each looking a little more exhausted than Selphie did. They were a couple years younger than she was, but just as skilled.

"Excuse me?"

Squall looked over to see a brown-haired girl who looked about ready to topple over under the weight of her bags.

"Yes?" Squall asked.

"Well, I'm transferring here and I guess I'm not sure where I'm supposed to be going..."

Squall groaned. Someone was supposed to be out here.

"Oh, I'll take 'em to the dorms," Selphie piped up, motioning for the girl to follow her a little farther to a slightly larger space where she could gather everyone.

"Xu and Quistis should be out to help," Squall said, realizing that the two instructors likely were just hearing that the transfers had arrived.

"Would everyone new please get your bags and come over here!" Selphie bellowed as she jumped up on a bench, putting out sound several times her size. Everyone paused and stared before shuffling over in her direction. Squall chose to assume that they hadn't seen her fight, else they probably would have expected her to be at least that rambunctious when not swinging her nunchaku.

Several of the students looked quite familiar, their pictures still fresh in his head. He was looking for the silver-haired one, though, the one who looked so much like Fuujin.

Finally he caught sight of the boy and couldn't help wanting to kick himself for not expecting the youth to be the last one off the bus, pausing to stretch and stand aside, not wanting to crash into the madness of other students grabbing their luggage.

He had a sheathed sword in one hand, something that had to be a thin, light blade. Squall could imagine the boy would be fast - and deadly.

The last name escaped him, but he had already embedded the boy's first in his mind: Riku.


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