The Final Distance

BY : Resting-Madness
Category: Final Fantasy Anime > AU - Alternate Universe
Dragon prints: 135
Disclaimer: Disclaimers: I do not own a single character, location or bit of input that creates the Final Fantasy VIII and VI worlds. I simply do this for fun, so there's absolutely no money in it for me.

Author's notes: I'm currently finishing another story of mine, this is just to... I don't know, get it off my chest until I feel I can concentrate on it as a whole. But, I wanna finish what I start, so please enjoy this until that stops- which is one or maybe three more chapters away from completion. And when I can proceed from here it'll be updated in a timely manner. I wanna do it well, and I don't wanna rush. Thank you.

X X X

Irvine Kinneas has been lying in wait atop the hotel Peridot since 9 am that morning. It's now 13:00 hour. By now any one, if there was anyone, who had seen an anonymous man walking around on the roof has written him off as an apparition or perhaps even a maintenance man working if they were looking over from the tall building across from Peridot.

It's an awfully long wait for ten tonight, but that's the job. That's his job as an assassin. A gun for hire. A hitman, who doesn't ask why this person, but one who simply obeys the desires of the mighty gil. Today's boss is a high roller of 12,000 of those shining bits of gold. Whatever this man has done to warrant such a bounty on his life must be extreme.

Maybe he's a mobster? Maybe he's a serial killer who was never put to justice and now the only living person from his cruelty seeks revenge? Hell, the man could be a homewrecker for all the hitman knows. But the client wants him gone enough to pay for his early departure from life, and its his job to see that it gets done.

He's got the usual essentials with him: protein bars, vitamin water, a portable bathroom- gross, yes, but practical. He's also got spells as backup. He won't miss his mark, he never could. The spells are for just incase there's some unforeseen trouble afterwards. Dino Carradan just might be a mobster with bodyguards on standby.

The waiting could be seen as the worst part of the job, Irvine doesn't see it that way. It's relaxing. The calm before the storm: going zen, going dark, then going home. Every job the same but with a different name. He absolutely hated it when the name had been Edea Kramer, who, at the time, was a woman possessed by an actual threat of a tyrant sorceress. Had she not suspected an ambush, his dear Matron would have sported a painful quarter-sized hole in her chest before Hyne brought her to the other side.

Mission accomplished to all but one.

He'd never have forgiven himself if he killed Edea Kramer. The sharpshooter will have hung up his gun and left Galbadia Garden.

Everything worked out in the end. Irvine's never had to raise his gun to another loved one, or even a colleague since. And he's a better man for it. Being a hired gun isn't always easy, but when it isn't a friend or family it helps.

He checked his watch for the time. The digital glow read 20:26 pm. Almost time. He can definitely get behind a punctual target and this Dino Carradan is one of them. Same place to eat, same theater or gambling building, same luxury hotel to subject a mistress to his bedroom habits.

He'll exit the building alone from this money wasting tryst, a bodyguard behind him and another too far in front. That's when the bullet will meet Carradan right between the eyes. The lead bodyguard will open the door of his boss's town car, check for anything amiss by ducking his head inside.

'Bang!' Irvine mouthed as he thought the word and shot at the sky with a mock gun made by his fingers.

A glint of light reflects off the glass doors of the restaurant/casino as they part from a patrons' departure. On a kneel, the hiding sharpshooter peers over the roof's edge down onto the street, unseen.

A man and his boyfriend, by the intimate way they're holding hands, exited the building chatting and laughing. Behind them... is Carradan.

'C'mon, guys, get out of there.' He mentally tried to coax the couple to another location, preferably through the speed of teleportation- granted such was possible.

One of the men stopped their pace for home to tie the laces on his boot. He took his time with it, too, the madness was killing the hidden gunman but finally the pair went on their way.

The nose of the gun is positioned over the roof's edge, behind it and zooming in with the scope is the poised executioner. It was a quick almost quiet departure as the long bullet left the barrel. But the noise it created when tiny golden-Reaper hit its mark screamed!

First the target grunted, the only sound such an unexpected situation allows before death grips one into the afterlife, next came the guards chattering quickly into a radio frequency, third are the bystanders who at first look confused then shocked, next are the shrieks and panic before the area is a maelstrom of fleeing people presuming that they are next. Irvine rarely sees the third part of the situation as he is quick to flee like one of them himself after phase one, since phase two starts the trouble.

Irvine took apart the rifle with an expert, practiced speed stuffing it into a duffle bag. just as he stands to leave he feels the point of a gun against his lower back. So much for getting away smoothly and cleanly. Carradan must have expected this sort of outcome from whatever wrong he's been doing in life to have been prepared for an encounter.

Too bad for Carradan that the protection came later in life.

"Hands where I can see them," says a male voice, muffled by a protective visor. "And no funny business."

Irvine wondered exactly what would qualify as 'funny business'? Talking sass? flipping the bird with his raised hands? a sneeze? Raising his hands up, he asks. Don't I get any last words?" When feeling the nose of the gun stab him in the back before its pressed firmly there leaving an imprint in his flesh despite his heavy coat and shirt.

The invisible guard snickered- proud that he's invoked a fear of knowledge to the sharpshooter that he will die this early night. His late boss's demise won't be in vain.

"Well? Go ahead, spit it out."

Irvine mumbled something under his breath, it caused the invisible guard to lean over in wonder of what was said. He's never known a man to want a last comment in life, he was curious but to have his victim mumble was upsetting.

Fed up with the mystery he goads him. "Say what?"

"I said," Irvine repeats the summoning spell for Aero.

A small blast of pressurized air kicked up around the guard it thrashed and slashed at him up and out until his body popped off the ground like a cork from a bottle and was flung a good distance away from the sharpshooter. Irvine scooped up the dropped assault rifle and a handgun that fell from the man like some macabre piñata prize. He stuck them into the duffle with his arsenal then bolted for the roof exit before the unarmed guard could recover.

By now, if the others down below have figured out the location of the shooter, they must be on their way over with backup. Equipped with a standard .45 caliber Glock in one hand and an array of spells in his body, Irvine fled the scene with a hope of not coming across too much resistance, despite being ready for it.

Luck was not on his side.

He listens to the pounding footsteps echoing through the stairwell. He can surmise they aren't coming from behind him as he hit floor 51 of 52. The roof is the only thing behind him right now, and the only person back there is out cold. The blood in Irvine's veins burned as his pulse quickened from the adrenaline rush. These situations can escalate from the slightest screw up.

"Shit." He muttered when shots began flying up his way from below.

Keeping his back pressed to the cold wall to stay our of range, he pondered the most effective way to turn the situation in his favor. Snapping his fingers as an idea struck, he hooked his right arm through the banister against his lower back then with his left hand the cast Tornado. It worked so well for him on the roof, may as well make it a classic. The only disadvantage is that this magic is double-edged, you can hit your enemy and yourself at the same time.

Once all the shouting and wind died down Irvine continued on his way. He stumbled down three stairs having to stagger out of the way of a stray bullet. There's no way anyone could have made it through that cyclone.

'Damn, they must have held the banister like I'd done,' thinks the sharpshooter. 'Guess they're not as dumb as I pegged them for.' It doesn't matter, he can handle a handful compared to a swarm.

Spotting the culprits he used the handgun to return fire on them. One man was shot in the chest and staggered down the stairs until he hit the floor no longer with this world. Another took the shot rather well, having worn a bulletproof vest to shield himself but the hit did knock him backwards a stumbled step or two.

"Uh-uh," Irvine cast Thunder on the woman aiming at him just a level below his own.

His shield of Protect flashed twice a teal glow as the man just below him shot fire his way with an automatic. If one more bullet hits its mark his shield is shattered. Irvine had to aim quickly but he hit his mark just as his own line of defense broke away like shattering glass that cleaned itself up as it vanished. The lack of defense left him with a hole in his shoulder that healed with the grace of Cura.

"Don't forget about me," the woman who'd been electrocuted had recovered and us currently casting her own spell.

Irvine dodged a chunk of ice accumulating overhead, and shot randomly in the guard's general direction. She was struck twice in the head and fell into the far wall, sliding down the white brick wall leaving a slow moving waterfall in her path; its a gruesome sight but the gunman has seen death, he knows it, he's delivered it. So a few lives lost in value of his own are nothing to lose sleep over- besides, he saw the familiar glow of life swirling around the man on an upper level, the fallen guards will soon be fine, and to his chagrin back on his hide. So he picked up the pace to split.

How did the man manage to afford magic users? He can't tell what Garden she belonged to as she wears no uniform of Balamb, Galbadia, Trabia, or even the newly formed medical Garden White SeeD. She could just be trained in magicks and not military at all. It isn't impossible, even Squall admitted to junctioning. Shiva at a young age when he'd found the Guardian Force hiding inside, what was it, a can?

Going down another three floors, he tugged at each exit door hoping for one to open and got lucky on floor 49. Or not...

Three doors open revealing men in bulletproof vests, each holding an assault rifle aiming the barrel at him. The fleeing sniper rolled out of the entryway as shots riddled the airspace he's no longer occupying. Wood and concrete splinter and dust the air with debris as the lead rounds came in contact.

Kneeling, he places his hand, unseen, on the carpeted floor casting Fira. The attack flitted through the emptied hallway lighting up the carpet runner with a clap of flames that withered into a billow of smoke which did its job of setting off the fire sprinklers and alarms.

The hall is getting drenched to put out a magical fire that's no longer even burning, the flames dissipated once the spell ran its course, but the fire wasn't the weapon... It's the water that's needed.

"Get him!" Ordered the head of a very thorough security team.

As the guards rushed towards the open stairwell door Irvine appeared long enough to cast Thundaga on the soaked gunmen. Their screams caused more screams from patrons in their rooms who're made aware something foul was going on just beyond their doors.

As the men collapsed to the floor, singed to a fine crisp, Irvine made his move for the elevator. He firmly pressed the button for the lobby to make it to ground-level without wiping himself out by having to go down 55 flights of stairs.

He has to wrap this up, the last thing the sniper wants is to be followed home. Gardens are mercenary, not true military. They have no business getting involved in violent messy business. What happened with the sorceress wars was accidental and continued a skipping down path from there and it had all started due to one bullet.

The life of a gun for hire...

Irvine hurried from the elevator and through the lobby. The secretary looked spooked having no recollection of checking the man into the hotel. The sniper smiled a 'hello' as he sped by and out of the electronic sliding door.

Irvine restored his Protect shield and for safe measure his only Shell spell glowed to life around him after that. He'd only needed it as a just incase as he sincerely didn't think the man would have bodyguards who use magic. Hopefully it will only need to ward off one magic attack cast upon him rather than many.

He thought himself home free until three men across the street opened fire on him. Irvine staggered backwards though not by choice, the spray of bullets was forcing him back. He cast Quake just as his shield failed him allowing several rounds to end his life. He dropped heavily to the street, blood pooled all around him, the sticky warmth dampened and sullied all that it touches. The men who're effected by the technique jiggled and shook as the ground moved shakily beneath their feet. However sincerely gone Irvine has fallen into the afterlife, he doesn't have a chance to get cold because with a soft glow of pink light and a shower of lily-white feathers fluttering gently down over the sniper, the sudden death reversed itself restoring the lost life back into its body.

The born again sniper wiped the back if his hand through the smear of blood left on his forehead from the landed headshot. A mumbled swear and a Triple casted Thundaga spell, got the sniper was back in the move for his get away.

While the guards shook with electric torture, Irvine ran for a man parked at the light. He's on a dark blue motorcycle, the low hum revved after a thirty second count of the light having gone from go to stop.

Climbing into the back of the bike, he shouts into the driver's ear through the helmet hoping to be heard. "300 gil if you can get me to the city limits, hurry, now."

The driver gave a curt nod then sped off as the light changed to green. A couple stray bullets whizzed past but none landed as the sniper managed his escape, they went past an ambulance that's carting Carradan away as they left the city.

Irvine kept his promise once hitting the city limits turn exit. He swiped his Creds card through the driver's reader wallet, waving to the man as he continued on to wherever it is the biker had been going. It's roughly 4 miles to a train stop, with Haste he won't miss the next train to Balamb.

It's around 1am. All is quiet in Balamb Garden. The few stragglers in the hall are cadets returning from their own missions'. Quiet mice sneaking about and seeking food from the kitchen pantry- if they still occupy a smaller dorm. The larger ones have kitchenettes.

One could never get away with that sort of thing in Galbadia. Much too strict are those gray walls.

Irvine walked into his dorm room exhausted and collapsing onto his warm bed. He smiled hazily from the strong arm wrapping comfortably around his torso. His pleased smirk evolved into a grin when the owner of the aforementioned arm began peppering kisses against his cheek and lips.

"You sure you wouldn't rather go back to bed?"

"I'm up," Squall's arm lowered and receded a fraction so that his hand could align with the sharpshooter's crotch. "I only need you to join me,"

And Irvine can feel exactly how 'up' and alert his boyfriend is as it's pressing into the side of his thigh. He hummed his pleasure over the jerking hand in his boxers tugging his length up and down. The, pleasantly surprised, gunman raised his hips up to meet the strokes. Turning his head, he returned fire on the kisses, earning some tongue along with a second-degree level of hardened meat between his thighs.

The snap of a cap opening on a bottle loudly resonates the otherwise softly noisy bedroom; and Squall detatched his hand from around his heated boyfriend to lubricate himself. When Irvine rolls over on top of him, Squall holds him at the hips to enjoy the sight and feeling of being ridden by his cowboy.

The activity came to a switch just after Irvine came, then, after a changing of positions with Irvine on his hands and knees and Squall behind him. The latenight visitor slid inside the firm, hot place to ride Irvine into the blue sunrise of dawn.

0 0 0

"Where am I…?" Wondered a disembodied, male, voice. It sounds young, not so young as a child but youthful in its pitch.

"WE. Where are WE," corrects another, also male, and also young, voice.

When the voices quiet down there's nothing but the low roosh and gentle thunderous grumble of wind slamming into itself.

"I can't see anything, can you?" Asks the first voice.

"Nothing yet…" replied the second.

Everywhere is white. As for every thing… there may be nothing in the vacant white space or there could be something. But if the latter is so, then it can't be seen by either speaker.

"Wait a minute, I see something…!" Says the second voice.

A swirl of mist accumulated tightly enough to form a gray cloud and when it dispersed it revealed a young man. He's tallish maybe around 5'10, pale skin, with distinctive white hair atop his head. Bright brown and olive hazel eyes survey the blank-slate all around him.

"Kai', can you hear me?" He called out.

"Yeah, duh, we were just talking to each other." Replied Kait; even his tone sounded like it rolled just as the young man's unseen eyes had. "Where are you? You said you see something?"

"Just… I don't know, think of your reflection. It worked for me when I tried to look at my han-..." He jumped from start when Kait appeared beside him. His form was all put together of shortish brown wavy hair, tannish skin, and dark blue eyes that took in the nothing just as his companion's had. "What is this place? I thought we were supposed to have gone back in time to some period before the war? What happened?"

"Search me…" Holding his hand out towards Kait, he asked. "Gimme your hand,"

"This is not the time to get all touchy-feely, Hyland. We have a mission to do,"

Intrigued by the wording, Hyland wondered out loud. "And if this wasn't a mission? Are you saying you'd let me get all 'touchy-feely', as you put it?"

Kait shook his head quickly then decided to ignore Hyland in exchange of trying to figure out what's going on. They'd gone through Dr. Odine's time machine and that was that. He doesn't recall having stopped through any period of time and dropping off the warning about the Sorceress and the virus turning people into monsters. If they had done so, he'd like to think they'd have some memory of it.

"Shit. I really didn't think this through," he grabbed the sides of his head, shaking it in dismay. How could he be so reckless? This is why they chose Ellone Loire. She knows about this sort of stuff. She is prepared. They had no prep-time. Maybe his dad was right, maybe he is too compulsive?

"I think I know what went wrong," Hyland pat his rival lightly on the back to get the shrinking teen's attention. "Maybe because I'm with you, the time rift can't send you because it doesn't know what to do with me."

"Oh great! My arch nemesis strikes again at botching me up,"

"Get paved, Kinhart, we shouldn't be fighting when we're in such a fucked position,"

Crossing his arms he states under his breath. "Because of you,"

"What happened to Mr. Optimistic?" Throwing his hands into the air, he looked as though he was hoping for said person to come falling out of the sky, he could too, with his his hands as they are he'd catch the more agreeable companion. "This is a really ugly side of you, tree-trash."

That was certainly a new one. Hyland Strand, always striving to find new nicknames to insult him with. None of them have been a bother, but 'tree-trash' actually kind of stung. He can't help it that his mother put him up there to keep him safe from monsters eating his little baby-self. But, he is behaving kind of disagreeably. Taking in a deep breath he slowly released it to calm his frazzled nerves.

"I'm sorry, you're right. We're all we've got. Let's not be idiots."

"Thank you." Looking around the white haired teen's gaze then stilled on his cell buddy who's looking back with question, as he's open for any suggestion to help them out in the unusual situation. "You'd know better than me, we have to find a place closest to when this all began so we can stop it."

"But where are the entry ways?" Kait looks left then right, then walks forward.

An image seemed to greet him through the fog, as the white mist cleared into a large oval of flourishing colors. Upon close inspection he can make out the time going on within the orb. It's his birthday, the thirteenth birthday. He had a legends theme going. All heroes from wartimes. It was a lot of fun, like they were playing super hero with the past. When he was six it had been local heroes of firemen and policemen, garbage men and nature conservationist- what, they're heroes. But this era in time wasn't helpful. So where was the more current time, the one programmed into the machine? Did something damage it on the outside or was it really Hyland's doing since he wasn't supposed to be here? But, if this is a time machine, how does that make sense?

"Hyl', I'm confused. What does your being with me have to do with the time machine not working?"

Hyland, though he knows the answer, gave a disgruntled sighed as if he doesn't want to answer the question. Kait knows better than to believe that farce, the creep loved having one over on him in any way possible; he'd always give him this smug over-the-shoulder look whenever he answered questions in class as if they were engaged in an unspoken battle to one-up each other.

"The first thing you have to know is that there is no such thing as a time machine, not really anyway. We're in a time zone, it's more accurate a description."

"Okay. So we're in a time zone, why can't we just think of where we wanna be and warp there?" Stepping away from the image, he stands beside his companion.

"With me here, there are a ton of warps to go through, even with your paths alone there's a lot of mess to weed through."

"Huh?" He looks about at all the drifting colorful orbs glowing against the drifting, hissing white and gray surrounding. If it weren't for a sense of feel, he'd swear that they're floating that's how blank the slate is around them.

"We can't really go into any given time in life, that's impossible, the world would be destroyed no matter how little damage is done there. Where we can truly go is limited to our history pattern."

Not as slow as his friend would like to think, the Kinhart verbally mused. "So, what you're saying is, if I wasn't there it can't have happened for us to visit?"

"Exactly!"

Allowing that to sink in, he looks around. "Do you mean that, if I think about my having gone with my aunts to Viyanagara that day, and change it so that I don't… I won't have gotten infected, which means that I won't have killed Sorin!" The happy revelation summoned the memory to him like a magnet force and it opened itself to him, begging he walk through. He can see himself at the girls' apartment.

"Hold it!" Snagging him by the hood on the back of his RUDE jacket, he pulled Kait away from the portal. "We're doing this for the greater good, not goofy-ass Sorin's survival."

"You'd better watch what you say," warned the embittered Kinhart. "or I'll shove you into the nearest memory and not look back."

"Think about it from a point of all those affected by this war… We need to go back a bit further than your heading out with the instructors. We need to nip-it-in-the-bud at its grabbing point so that everything else will follow suit." Seeing the grouchy expression fail to change to that of understanding, Hyland's tongue performed gymnastics against his cheeks to bite back crude comment from spilling out. "Think. Anytime much further before this, same year, preferably you alone. We can't have others mixed up in this."

Kait, after a sigh through his nose cooled his head and thought.

A portal of an empty apartment presented itself to them. His family no longer lives in the apartment, he figured it's a pretty good place to start if they want privacy to make alterations of the past for the future.

"After you," Hyland insisted, not entirely trusting that Kait wouldn't send him into a tailspin while he ducks away to the time and location which he'd rather be in.

Realizing instantly why he was shoved into the wolves' den; he rolled his eyes then walked through, followed by his tag-along.

The sun is shining brightly in the blindingly blue sky above the world, the warm beams of light reflect and comfortably heat every surface with its familiar glow. The birds are expressing their level of alertness with a full glee club of chip, cheep, chirp, and even a few coos and kaw-kaws.

Selphie bobbed her head, and hummed the tune she's listening to on her Mport music player while munching on a bowl of O's oaty cereal in the Balamb cafeteria.

Zell watched her, as if transfixed about something in her demeanor. "Sel', what are you listening to?"

"The soundtrack to that new musical, The-..."

Zell jumped over her words with the volume of his own voice to finish her reply. "Boxcar Murders! I thought that sounded familiar. Man, I loved that!"

"Me too!" She reached across the table; much to Rinoa's horror, and she had to grab and elevate her bowl of flake-cereal over her head to prevent Selphie's wild reach from knocking into it, taking Zell's hand to give it a cheering shake with her own. "We should go and see it together."

"Yeah! Oh, but, not today,"

Deflated, she detached herself from the excitement docking station and asked. "Why not? You've got a mission?"

"I wish, Matron signed me up as a tour guide for the new cadets. If I knew applying for instructor would keep me from training and hanging out, I would have held off another year."

"Yeah, but then we all wouldn't get it together." Selphie shrugged her shoulders.

Smiling at her, he says. "You're so understanding,"

Chuckling, she stuck out her tongue knowing his sarcasm is a mock.

"That's not entirely fair to say, me and Seifer aren't applying,"

"That's because you haven't made SeeD yet." Replied Zell, being a well of teasing barbs this morning. "When do you guys take the exam?"

"Tomorrow. I'm ready, hopefully he is, too. I was kind of hoping we could lean on each other out there."

Zell snorts to that. "It's a dark world when anyone chooses Seifer Almasy to lean on- ow!"

Having smacked the speaker upside the back of his head, said SeeD applicant took a seat at the table. "I heard that, Dinky."

"It's Dincht, prick."

"You say 'pwick'," He grinned heartily after firing off a variation of the 'you say tomato' quotation, by teasing Zell's speech impediment from when he was a child.

Selphie rolled her eyes, and to Rinoa says. "Hard to believe they're dating, isn't it?"

"And just two nights ago ruined my beauty sleep." Replied the confidant.

"Zip it, princess, you enjoyed it."

Rinoa didn't bother with a comeback, Seifer seemed to be in good-insults-hurling mode this morning, and she was not in the mood- however lighthearted it actually was. Grabbing her empty bowl for the returns bin, she silently asked Selphie about taking her's for her by grabbing onto the edge of the empty bowl, receiving a nod she took the bowl and herself away from the front-lines.

"Mornin' everybody," Irvine greeted cheerfully.

"There he is," Seifer beamed with joy.

Finding that strange, Irvine figured he'd go along with it. If Seifer's in a good mood, why spoil it by asking why? "Aaaw, I missed you, too," Leaning over he plants a peck on the gunblader's cheek.

"You friggin'," swatting away the advance- though too late- he then removes his wallet. "I meant my fun-money bank-teller,"

"Huh? Since when did I give you money?" Taking a seat, he digs into his bowl of hot granola topped oatmeal with gusto, starting next into the bowl of fruit on the side.

"Since I saved your bony butt yesterday evening, remember?"

Chewing, Irvine shook his head in reply.

"300 gil, if I got you to the city limits."

Swallowing, he asks. "That was you?"

"Didn't you even notice?"

"No."

"Tch. I could have been the enemy taking you off to parts unknown." Stuffing his currency increased wallet back into his pocket, he added. "You'd better learn to look alive."

"Yeah, yeah."

"Can you hurry up and eat, Seifer?" Squall said, despite that he just began his feasting, he noticed that Seifer was barely touching his. "I wanna get to Winhill and clear all that crap out of that building before we're deducted for being late."

"Seifer, hurry up," mocked the presumed hold-up. Although, he does comply and starts in on his scrambled eggs and bacon, disrupted only for a second when Zell kissed him goodbye before he exits the table to clear his tray.

"I'm glad I don't have to do a lot of junk like that," Irvine was saying.

"It's petty work, but it's work." Squall professed rather drearily. He finds it very unstimulating as well. "This is what it comes to in times of peace."

'Tell that to the guy sporting a bullet in his forehead,' Thinks Irvine.

No matter how peaceful the world becomes in the portion of their military lives which deals in magicks, people will always be people when it comes to dealing with each other. One up and one out.

"What are you doing today?" Squall asks Irvine; reaching his fork into his boyfriend's bowl of fruit he stabs a plump strawberry that's bright white with little red freckled seeds for himself. It's albino strawberry season, and they're delicious. They taste just like a pineapple. "You up for helping us out?"

Irvine shook his head. "Not if I'm not on the payroll," Shaking the bottle of orange-kiwi juice, he cracked it open saying "besides, I have to go into Deling for a gun part." before taking a long drink.

"Selphie?" Squall wasn't trying to pass-the-buck, but that type of work goes a lot faster when there are more hands on deck.

"I would, but I can't, sorry."

Squall rolled his shoulders, as if getting them ready for the task ahead of time. "Bye." He says to the remainders at the table before removing his empty dishes and himself away.

"Guess I'd better go, too."

Selphie and Irvine toss out an absent departing word to both as they leave.

"What are you gonna be doing today?" Irvine asks.

"Hmm... Not sure, but anything is better than lugging around boxes,"

Irvine laughed, giving her an "amen" of a high-five for that being the truth.

0 0 0

The first thing he noticed when coming round was the reek of damp, rather like that of a moistened diaper type smell. Ugh. It made the contents of his stomach lurch up to the back of his throat.

'And it would be wet here,' thinks the man with disgust. 'wherever here is.' His eyelids seemed glued shut because when he tried to open them they remain stuck, as if glued. 'Goddess,' Rubbing his eyes with the back of his rather scarred hand, he was able to remove whatever was obstructing his visual prowess. His pale brown eyes scan the area around him. 'At least wherever I am is clean, overall. Am I in an underground facility?'

Lifting himself from the surprisingly- the shock factors in because of the smell- clean waters, he then heads left in search of an exit. No matter where the location, if there is a way in then there's a way out. But, where are the others? He surely didn't come here alone?

'I should get out, and then look for help,' he thinks. 'Or, perhaps I should look for them myself?' He reached for a large coin he usually keeps in his pocket, ready to allow it be his deciding vote then he remembered that it's no longer there, lost forever in the bowels of dying world during an escape of very dark months time. 'Ah,'

Spotting a ladder just ahead of him he walks along the stone path that's lined against a wall to moat up a rushing underground river. He looked up the length of the exit line seeing sunlight creeping down as if for a peek, only just a peek, into the underground dwelling. Grabbing a rung, he lifts himself steadily out from the sewers. A grunt escaped him as he needed the force of not just his hand, but his upper back to remove the lid from the hole. When it slid away just enough to get his hand through to the opening, he pushed the remainder of the steel obstruction away then climbed to freedom. Or perhaps not…

He leaped back out of the way of some metal contraption on wheels speeding by him. Before he could wonder what in the Three Goddesses that was, another came by then another in the opposite direction. It was a swarm? Are they some form of new monster? Brute strength wasn't enough, they have to be covered in Magitek armor as well? The confused man seemed to almost be dancing as he swayed and leapt back and forth from the oncoming traffic until making it across the street to safety.

'I'll say one thing in their favor, they have tunnel vision worthy of praise.' Catching his breath, he watches them in mute fascination. 'I suppose that works out for me. Good thing I don't know where I am; I'd hate to have to cross through again.'

He was stuck once again deciding left or right, only this time there as no deciding factor of a third option to go up. Or is there? Tilting his head back, he sees a massive clock just off to his right. Noon, it shows by hand. A town clock? Now he's seen it all. Looking down at the mess of his clothing, he grabbed a handful and squeezed the water out of his trousers. Good thing it's sunny.

The confused traveller wandered for a moment; staring bystanders and fellow walkers were casting glances and whispers his way.

"Excuse me," he says upon approaching a woman and her baby, riding in a stroller. "can you tell me where I am?"

"Drunkard old fool, get away from me," replied the concerned mother as she took all of him in.

Not only does the man look strange in appearance: pale skin, a ghostly white, white hair to match, light hazel eyes. And just look at those weird clothes! Tight black slacks, a sort of tieable lavender cumberbun is around his waist keeping them up, the white shirt wouldn't so odd if it wasn't… well, puffy. It's all lace and ruffles, clinging to his torso because he's soaked through, but at least the long black coat keeps his modesty. But the style is much too old-fashioned because of the gold-trimming.. Top it off with the sincere accent and you've got yourself one dodgy situation approaching. He looks like he stepped out of a renaissance play! Speeding away, she does not look back to see if he's following.

"What a strange reaction," He mutters to himself. Looking around him, he noticed that quite a few onlookers were suddenly studying the grass or concrete below them to avoid making eye contact. 'They're all dressed so strangely…'

"Aaaw, whatsa matter, oldtimer," A pink and red haired youth bopped over to the traveller with two of his friends. "did you wet yourself?"

The lost man scrutinized the trio just as the woman had done to him, and he decided he doesn't want to get mixed up with them. "No. I've just spent the night with your mother; I'm an absolute mess awash with her essence, so, if you'll excuse me, I'll go freshen up." He brushed brusquely past them.

"Ohh ho ho! Rio, he just dissed you mom, Old Man Edition!" A guy with silver hair, although it's dyed, cackled away at the burn.

"Hey, were you insulting my mother?" Because honestly the thug wasn't so sure. The man sounded too polite to have insulted him, but then he doesn't speak elderly.

Rolling his eyes, the traveller ceased his departure to turn and say. "Good bad-boy. And there I had thought you were slow." He all but patted the young man on the head.

The multicolor-haired youth sneered as his friends howled with mirth. Whose side were they on? "I'm gonna make you eat those words,"

Smiling, the messy stranger opens his coat on one side removing a small box. As Rio approached he thought he noticed that they're playing cards? Well, that's fine, he's not against beating someone up just because they're out of their mind. He's competent enough to crack jokes about his mother, so he can't be all that bat-shit. He picked up speed; seeing the man's just standing their shuffling the 52 within his hands, pulling his fist back ready to strike he's struck still. Frozen in wonder of what just happened. He felt something sharp brush against his face. A bee? A wasp? Severe skin-splitting dehydration due to global warming? What was that?

"Hunh?" Touching his face, he looks at the wetness on his fingertips. Blood.

"I've got fifty-one more, if I leave out the instructions and the blank," the traveller spoke to him, calmly and sanely. "Care to become twins?" He grinned noticing the young man's attention then fell over the scars all over his face and hands, and likely other parts unseen by the decency of clothing.

Baffled, Rio hesitated to continue in his charge; but hearing the muttering of concern from his friends, who were telling him to stop bothering with the weird old fool, he went for plan B. removing a gun from the waist of his jeans, he took aim. "No. But I can add another hole to your head! Keep fucking with me old man, I dare you!"

The 'old man' wasn't concerned with the appearance of the once concealed item, he doesn't even know what it is! "Why is everyone calling me old, I'm twenty eight,"

"I don't care if you're ninety, you're dead!"

He was about to fire when a new player entered the game of 'Wits-and-Whack-jobs'.

"Hi," greets a familiar face.

Lowering his volatile stance to a relaxed one, the fired-up youth smooths a hand through his two-colored hair. "Oh, hey Irvine,"

"Kinda early to be this worked up; why not go get a burger or something?" Irvine nods his head in the man's direction. "The guy's clearly off his nut, so just leave him alone. He could be confused and need help," Leaning over, he whispers. "You want blood on your hands from a dumb misunderstanding?" He helped his acquaintance with his decision by shoving the gun downwards.

Sighing through his nose, Rio nodded. "You're right."

"Right?" Paling him out of the bad mood, he clapped him on the shoulder, then says. "Here, it's on me," He shoved a wad of gil into his, now, weaponless hands.

"Ha. Thanks, pardner," He said in the Dollet accent that alot of Galbadians like to use.

Irvine shrugged, it wasn't a big deal.

"Meeh, loser!" Rio flipped-off the, lucky-he's-in-a-better-humor, stranger then rounded up his friends to head off and buy smokes with his free money.

"I'll be broke by the end of the day at this rate," Turning to face the man, who's surprisingly still standing at the scene of the volatile moment, he held out his hand. "Sorry about the crack of your sanity," Although, taking in the gentlman's appearance it was questionable. "Irvine Kinneas,"

The lost traveller looked over the hand with suspicion of the appearance of kindness in this odd place, but he wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Reaching out, he takes the offered hand and shakes it. "Setzer Gabianni, nice to meet you."

"Likewise. You need help?"

"For all sorts of reasons; is there anywhere I can go around here to dry off?"

"Sure. Come with me," Irvine then muttered to himself. "I only just got paid, why not blow another hunk of money on a hotel room, and change of clothes,"

"Hotel?" Ignoring the tone of the mutter, as it seemed the kind stranger was considering himself a burden for being nice rather than the person who was the cause to be so as the problem.

"Y'know, room for rent? Sleep, eat, for some people playtime," he winked at Setzer then chuckled as the snow white man smiled understanding that much.

"Aah, an Inn." He clarified for himself.

"Inn? How drunk are you?" responds the Galbadian, leading the way to the Hotel and Bar 'Sphere'.

"Not in the slightest, but I'd like to be,"

Irvine laughed at that, clapping the man on the back good-naturedly.

 



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