Chapter 1 – Abnormal

Disclaimer: I do not own FF8 and its cast, all of it belongs to Squaresoft Inc. I don't even own myself (wholly, I mean).

Enjoy if you can. *Eerie laughter*


     "Zell, are you alright?" An anxious but loving pair of warm brown eyes looked at me, touching me softly on the shoulder. "You look so pale!"

    We were in the queue for some hotdogs.

     "Yuri…" I turned towards her and forced a smile with some difficulty, not wanting her to worry. "Just peachy! Lack of sleep, I guess."

    She didn't look very convinced.

    "And hotdogs, of course!" I added with a huge grin, which must have looked remarkably less forced, for immediately she burst into a fit of giggles.

     "Zell! You simply kill me with your jokes, do you know that?" She gasped, almost all bent over from all that giggling.

     "You can say that again, Babe. Yer lookin' at the funniest man alive!" I grinned even wider, but it felt kinda half-hearted to me. Don't ask me why. It's just that, something's definitely missing. That familiar "here, and yet so not here" silent laugh was gone now. Forever.

    I fingered the teardrop sapphire left in my possession by A as some sort of a parting gift. A, in case you didn't already know, was my Angel. She had protected me silently for years. From the time I was a whiny little kid at the orphanage up till a few months ago. She took her job seriously, did much more than her duty called for. Even if it meant breaking the rules. Even if she could only stay in the background while I remained blissfully unaware of it (well, to a certain extent). And most importantly, even if it meant sacrificing her life in exchange for mine.

    I still miss her.

    I can't believe how much I do. It has been half a year already, and yet I keep searching, sometimes subconsciously, for a sign of her faint presence.

    I would have tried to ask Sis Ellone to send me back in time, inside her mind using Time Compression. But upon reflection, she was neither human, nor had Ellone ever met her before. This makes it impossible a task to achieve. And yeah, I know that I can't change the past, even if I were to go back, but there's no harm in trying, is there?

    Damn. I've been talking, and thinking in such serious tones ever since she's gone. I yearn for my old sunny, energetic and optimistic self. No, scratch that. I yearn more for her to be back……

     "Yoo hoo! Zell, are you still there? If you don't want your hotdog, I'm gonna snatch it away!" Selphie's shrill voice shattered my thoughts and brought me back to reality. Or rather, the cafeteria at Balamb Garden. It was lunch time, and the gang were gathered at the same table, as usual. It was at times like this that I felt like orbiting the space just so I could have the privacy to mull over my thoughts without some hyperactive teenaged girl threatening to snatch my food away.

     "Spaced out again? I thought that you have left the days of being 'Daydreaming Zell' behind you, but apparently not!" Quistis teased with a huge grin. So unbecoming of her. It even resembles a smirk, clearly a sign of influence from someone we all know possessed THAT irritating expression as a trademark.

     "Make that 'Daydreaming Chicken-wuss' Ha!" Speaking of the devil, his irksome voice chipped in to add more embarrassment and discomfort on my plate, no pun intended. Yep, that's the ex-arch enemy of mine alright, doing the usual.

    Seifer had been readmitted to Garden three months ago, on the grounds that he had been manipulated by Ultimecia and thus could not be held responsible for his deeds. This, of course, was furnished by a statement from Matron, who had insisted on his readmission.

    Seifer became a SeeD in record time. A month, to be exact. There had been a huge commotion surrounding the Seed exam he had taken, as Seifer had done something heroic. I wasn't too sure of the exact details.

   Granted, this perpetual insult shooter has mellowed a lot. We could even communicate pleasantly at times without him picking up a fight with me, like the time he asked me POLITELY to train with him. But he still is, and I suspect will always be, a pain in the neck!

     "SAY THAT AGAIN?" I growled and assumed an aggressive stance towards him.

     "With pleasure. Daydreaming Chicken-wuss!!"

    His mouth must have been straining really hard from all that smirking. Maybe he had thought I was joking with him.

    I just lost it, completely. Something in me snapped, and I was taken over by a flash of white, hot rage. My boiling emotions got the better of me.

    Before he could even blink, I had jumped onto the smirking bastard and pummelled on him as if my life depended on it. As if he was a punching bag.

    As if he was the one who took my Angel away.

    He had absolutely no connection to it. I guess he was just a convenient target to vent my frustrations on.

     "Zell, stop it!" Some female shouted. I didn't know who it was.

    Squall and Irvine were holding me back, while Seifer lay on the ground, blood trickling from his nose with a dazed look on his face. Quistis knelt beside him, trying to wipe the blood off with a napkin.

    Seeing that I had stopped, the guys released their hold on me.

    All of them stared at me as if I were a stranger, or one of those light-turquoise Pupu aliens.

    Only then did I realise just what I had done.

     "S…sorry…." I had managed to squeeze this out, and ran out of the cafeteria as if my Bermudas were on fire. (Hmmm… now where have I heard that before?)

     "Zell, wait up!" Yuri called from behind me. She had apparently followed me when I left the gang.

    But I did not heed her frantic cries for me to slow down. I was completely lost in my own little world.

    The hell I'm doin'? Venting my frustrations on someone totally unconnected to the incident? All he did was make a little joke at my expense! For cryin' out loud! I gave him permission to do it, so what's the problem now? Why did I flare up in such a way on him, supposedly a friend?

    I kept running through these thoughts, unaware of the annoyed glares of the people I had rudely bumped into on the way.

    I finally stopped in front of the entrance of the Training Centre.

    Yuri caught up with me, out of breath and brow drenched with sweat.

      "…Pant…pant… Zell, what's wrong with you? You're walking as though a demon's after you!" She tried to juggle between catching her breath and talking, with little success.

     "I'm fine. I just need to cool off a bit. Maybe I need some training." Without waiting for her response, I dashed into the Training Centre, calling back at her not to follow me.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Author's Notes: All these… written by hand, then transferred on computer. My hand is dead.