Convergence [3]: Brainstorm

BY : currie
Category: Final Fantasy VIII > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 551
Disclaimer: I don't own the world of Final Fantasy VIII or its characters, and I don't make any money from them.

~~~~~~~~A/N~~~~~~~

After a five-year hiatus, I'm actually going to finish this damned trilogy. If I can return to the thing and read it all again after this long and still love it, I've either stopped growing as a writer, or it's just plain good enough to deserve my attention. I'm going with the latter because the former is depressing.

While I tried to add a summary of relevant points to the following chapter, if you haven't read Broken and Bloodroses, but still might be interested in some Seifer/Squall/Zell, I recommend it. They're still listed under this username (which used to be rhapsodisiac).

On with the fic then, I guess. The characters have been prostrate so long they're a little stiff. I'm hoping they'll open up more easily soon.

(I don't own the world of Final Fantasy VIII or its characters, and I don't make any money from them.)


====== .1. =======

She would be going tomorrow.

No, wait, not tomorrow. It was past midnight.

In nineteen hours, Rinoa would enter the lion's den, blindfolded by Squall's incompetence.

He blamed himself, of course - he was embarassed at posessing no solid post-infiltration plan, having opted instead to be swept off his feet by Hyne's subconscious influence, to be worn down by the steady pressure of two ardent blonds.

Knights went by their gut - magical intuition permitted it. Garden faculty did not, opting instead for stiff protocols. It was Squall's fault he neglected to compromise between them.

Squall would not sleep until he had an itenerary for Rinoa. A play-by-play, point-by-point plan worked out by means of an overarching theory of just what it was Ebony Rapture wanted, what they planned, what they were capable of, and who they allied themselves with.

Three hours into his obsession session, with papers strewn comically across the top-floor conference table, Squall still had no idea. Caffeine and determination had spun him an insubstantial web which became little more than a useless throb pingponging between his temples.

The six SeeDs dispatched to watch over Galbadia's excavation of their latest find - an ancient but apparently functional Centra shelter - had been greeted in Centra by a town-sized hole in the ground. The current theory (espoused by himself and Nida) was that someone had managed to climb inside the thing, accessed the steering systems, powered it on, and instructed it to "go up."

The news had come two hours ago. Clutching the note from Nida, which proclaimed that Galbadia had turned down the giant sum Garden had offered for the shelter, Squall recognized he was was in a rut. The whole Garden was in a rut.

He paced across the room once or twice, rehashing everything he knew, again and again, waiting for further intelligence to crawl the undersea cables and into his office.

Either someone with a mountain of assets had purchased the Centra shelter, or Galbadia wanted to keep it for themselves. Squall had tried to get in contact with Galbadia's president, with no luck. Shockingly, no one had been answering the phone earlier. Still, Squall doubted the president would share much information if he did get a hold of her - the outcome already made it clear that Galbadia was no longer on great terms with Garden.

What Squall didn't know was exactly how much ground had crumbled from beneath him.

Resistance groups had little to do, anymore. Since the latest war and the death of President Deling, Galbadia's totalitarianism had loosened up. They'd even formed a tentative democracy. Timber wasn't exactly free, but it wasn't a prisoner any longer, either. It was Galbadia's, and Galbadia treated the city well. In the wake of all of it, with no authority left worth resisting, Timber's resistance groups turned on one another.

Except, perhaps, for Ebony Rapture. Squall didn't know what side they were on or whether they even fought other Timber gangs, but they surely had plans for greater things than a mid-sized shoreline town.

They had the assets to rent part of D-District Prison from the Galbadian government, even, and used it to keep Squall hostage for a fortnight, which had compelled Garden (namely, SeeDs Dincht and Almasy) to attack several Galbadian prison guards.

Galbadia had been caught in the middle of Garden's dispute with Ebony Rapture - to understate, the rescue had not been the most diplomatic operation imaginable. Had Squall been in charge at the time, rather than incapacitated, he would at the very least have tried to reach out to Galbadian officials in search of a peaceful resolution. It was always better to join a war after the lines were drawn. Seifer and Zell should have known that. If you helped draw them yourself, you were a responsible party. You were a floating vehicular country with its own aims, no longer free to make purely revenue-based judgements. You're a prostitute in love.

Garden was lucky Galbadia hadn't just turned its back on them after Garden killed a group of their men - incredibly lucky. Now that he thought of it, Squall was surprised Ebony Rapture hadn't managed to cleave a wide, distinct rift between Garden and Galbadia.

But then, maybe that was what they were trying to do.

Maybe that was exactly what Ebony Rapture had intended when they kidnapped him in the first place. And Garden, both without, and then with, Squall's leadership, had played right into their hands.

Get two of the world's giants to fight one another, and operate beneath their radar. It was a sound plan, even when the details of Ebony Rapture's intentions were left out. Squall wondered if Galbadia had any idea. Would the President even listen to his warnings?

He pounded some buttons on the desk intercom. No answer - of course. It was the middle of the night. Nida would be sleeping, not in his office. Squall keyed Nida's apartment directly, and to his surprise, Nida answered, alert, after only two rings.

"Put me in contact with Galbadia - the higher up the official, the better. I need phone numbers - every line you've got. Is your office unlocked?"

"Ah, Squall?"

"Come to think of it, this is important enough to talk to the President directly."

"Squall, I don't think-"

"I know she's probably sleeping. I don't care, I'll wake her up."

"She's not sleeping, Squall - she's dead."

"What the hell do you mean, she's-"

Nida released an exasperated sigh. "Go back to your apartment. Turn on the television."

With a button-press, Squall immediately turned on the flat screen hanging in the corner of the conference room.

President Tonli of Galbadia had been assasinated mere hours ago - a shot to the face through her bedroom window, from an undisclosed location. The culprit had already confessed. Nida had likely been up, watching the whole thing.

Mouth hanging open, Squall ended the intercom call with the tap of a barely-remembered fingertip.

The culprit, a young lady with a blond ponytail, wore a SeeD uniform in her mugshot.

He keyed Zell. He conferenced to Seifer. He briefly considered including Laguna's guest room, but decided against it - Laguna would would have to do too much catching up. And Rinoa could be left out for now - she needed her sleep.

The ringing stopped. Scratchy voices muttered sleepy sounds. Squall replied, "Get to the conference room. I need you."

============

"I've got an impressively-funded Timberian gang in posession of a substance capable of significantly prolonging the effects of cast status magic. Their alliances and aims are unknown, aside from their severe antagonism toward Garden.

"Recently, said gang created a likely deliberate conflict between Garden and Galbadia, via a kidnapping at the D District Prison.

"More recently, Galbadia has decided not to deal with Garden pertaining to their newly-obtained Centra shelter, despite Garden's diplomatic attempt to lend help in the excavation. The shelter has since disappeared from the excavation site, and by all implications, is not for sale.

"Now, the Galbadian president has been assasinated, and I've got a SeeD accepting blame for taking her out as a representative of Garden.

"Trabia is in jeopardy of never being fully repaired, an exceptionally rare and valuable example of the most advanced transportation technology the world has ever seen is now missing, Galbadia will likely declare war on Garden in the next twenty-four hours and may do so allied with a group very capable of taking us out, and this Knight is about to launch his Sorceress into the mess with little more ammunition than luck."

Squall's voice had raised significantly by the end of the last sentence. He lowered it. "So. What the hell am I supposed to do?"

Zell's sneaker-heels stopped squeaking, stilling where they rested on the table top. Seifer let out a low whistle from his seat at the far end of the table. The conference room was quiet for a long time.

"Are you sure your assassin's really a SeeD?" Seifer asked, fading into corner shadows in a black tank and sweats.

"We know her," Zell said, peering at the news program on the flat screen, "She drove us out of the desert, remember?"

"Contact Galbadia and deny involvement - she's either AWOL, or a fake."

Squall nodded. "I'll call at sunrise - both the press and Galbadia's capitol. We'll need to sneak in to Timber." Before Zell could react, he added, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier - please don't be upset. Seifer and I are going to accompany Rinoa. We'll infiltrate the organization beside her. I need you to stay here and help Quistis take care of Garden."

While visibly disappointed, Zell could recognize an emergency. "Nothing personal," Zell stated, as if in conclusion to Squall's explanation.

Squall felt his features soften, along with his voice. "Of course not. It's just... I can't let her go in alone. Not after all this, not with what we know now."

"It's unfortunate we won't be able to walk beside her," Seifer mused, quietly. "We'll have to hide. If something goes wrong and we protect her outright, we'll be recognized."

"If it comes to that, we may as well be. Rinoa's safety is more important than our cover."

"That's not what you would say if you weren't a Knight," Seifer observed.

Squall wondered if Seifer would ever stop saying the most difficult things to hear. "I know," Squall admitted, resting the heels of his hands on the table and staring down at them. "If you weren't one too, you'd try to change my mind." When he looked up, he found Seifer's eye contact, and continued, "Don't make yourself out to be better than me. It's a conflict of interest we both have to live with."

Seifer smiled, just a little bit. "It is."

"She can defend herself, guys," Zell added, his voice strong and hopeful, touched with pride, "I know she's got that covered. With all the training she's been doin', plus the daggers, she could kill any one of us, let alone some douchebag pansy gang members."

Squall matched Seifer's miniature smile. "You've got a point there, Zell."

"'Course I do. What would you do without me? Get killer depression, that's what." Zell bared his canines, aware of the energy he was lending to the rest of the room.

Still, Squall wasn't quite feeling it. He fell into a wheeled, high-backed chair, closed his eyes, and let his head loll a little. He was impressed with the others' ability to keep the context professional, but getting tired of it just the same. He wanted to be the middle of a Squall sandwich on flaxSeeD bread. He wanted to pass out smelling citrus and cologne. "Is it enough?" he asked, barely audible, and unsure enough that he came off as totally unprofessional. "Does having Rinoa try to join them even count as a plan?"

"It's the best you can do," Zell replied from beside him.

"It's all we can do," Seifer added, on the other side of the table.

"What else do I need to do before we go?" Squall heard shuffling. "Something's missing. I can't--"

"Sleep." Seifer, much closer now. For a moment, Squall thought it might have been a spell. He opened an eye. Seifer was sitting on the giant table in front of him, legs dangling. Zell sat beside Seifer, miraculously resting his head on Seifer's shoulder, watching Squall intently. He appeared to agree.

"I can't sleep," Squall countered.

"You tired?" Zell asked. Squall nodded. "Then you can sleep."

"I won't be held back by your shitty performance," Seifer tried, using a soft tone for harsh words. "An exhausted Knight is a failure. I won't let you fail her."

Squall leaned forward, placed a hand on each of their knees. He couldn't quite make himself look at them when he asked, "Come to bed with me?"

Kissing them both at once was a lot more romantic than he expected.

There wasn't time for much more. Back in his apartment, Squall only shared a few affectionate caresses before he passed out wedged between them, legs tangled with theirs, Zell's breath on the back of his neck, Seifer's collarbone beneath his cheek.

Squall slept lightly enough for the sun to wake him just as it tinted the sky, and managed to squirm down the bed out of the grasp of his lovers without waking either of them. Just to test the situation, he nudged Seifer's hand over to Zell's waist. Still asleep, the blonds were in one another's arms by the time Squall finished his shower.

When Squall finally got the Galbadian VP on the video phone - a squat little man with a northern accent and a bursting red face - he was met with terse words. Galbadia would take Garden's claims of non-involvement "into consideration." It made Squall feel like a student having an expulsion exchanged for a suspension: better, but not good.

The captive SeeD - the alleged assassin - awaited the death penalty. The VP, while understandably furious with grief, assured Squall that the SeeD had, at the very least, a week to live. Squall wanted to ask more questions - how was she? Did she seem to be acting strangely? Could she answer simple intelligence questions? Did she seem dazed or lost?

Was there even the slightest possibility that she was under the influence of a prolonged or indellible casting of "confuse?"

Squall didn't get to ask that question. The VP ended the call with "more immediately important" matters to deal with. Squall would try again in an hour or two.

Half an hour later, a call came in from one of the SeeDs dispatched to Centra. The others were all lost - they had been taken. They had been swallowed, the SeeD said, by a giant, gleaming, silver monster. A floating silver monster the size of a city. The SeeD's face shifted, broke into snow, and merged again - his truck's vid-radio would lose its battery life any minute. Squall instructed the witness to get back to the boat and make his way to Esthar, to safety.

Squall had to call Laguna.

============

Zell didn't wake up until the body he snuggled tensed up in his arms. Squall didn't freeze like that, and he wasn't so big-boned. When Seifer released a pillow-muffled groan, eyes slitted, a line between his brows, Zell squeezed his hip. "You have to deal with your memories if you don't want to lose everything."

Seifer responded with a grunt.

"I wish I could make you stay here while I went there - I don't have to be a Knight to know that I'd be better at protecting her. You're disabled and it's your own fault."

Silently, Seifer threw Zell's arm off him and staggered toward the bathroom. Zell called after him, "Don't tell Squall what to do when you can barely do anything for yourself!" He scurried out of bed, nearly tripping on the covers, to help Seifer fetch some medicine.

At the bathroom sink, Seifer splashed cool water onto his face. His hands quivered minutely.

"I'm gonna check out the database, find out which GFs are missing, and give you the names." A bottle rattled in Zell's hands. "Then you can let 'em go. Like, this morning, before Timber."

"No," Seifer replied, behind a towel. "The system records suspicious activity, and I don't want questions. If I ever want your help, I'll ask for it."

"Like these pills?" Zell waved the two he had pinched in his fingers. "You want these?"

"Fuck you, chicken."

Zell dropped the painkillers into Seifer's open palm. "Idiot."

============


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