Disclaimer: I don't own FFVIII or any of it's chars.

A/N and Summary: My first attempt at a FFVIII fanfic. It's going to be pretty long too, and involves lots of "flashbacks" and such. The idea sorta came to me when I was playing the game thinking about how all the kids were orphans and such. I wanted to know what their parents might have been like, so I decided to explore the idea in fanfic format. Irvine happened to be the first one who came to me. I know it sounds cheesy and cliché, but it sorta. . . came to me in a dream. Haha. Anyway, I have probably about 3/4 of the story written, and there are some weird twists, but since it's long it'll take me a while to upload 'em all. If you like the story and r&r, I may be persuaded to upload faster. . . Anyways, on with the story!

------------

"Until the End of Eternity, and Longer"

by: Banshee Puppet

Chapter One

There were some villages so small they weren't on any maps anywhere, and you only stumbled upon them by sheer accident, or by the will of the gods. That was how it was with Bella Maure. And in all honesty, the group couldn't be happier about their accidental discovery if they tried. It had been a long mission, and they'd ended up stranded. It was only Squall's survival training and Zell's endless optimism that had kept them going for so long. Even Selphie's cheerful smiles were starting to look strained. They'd been running almost entirely out of supplies, and with their water stock as low as it was, Irvine was getting really worried. The middle of a Centra desert was NOT the place you wanted to suddenly run out of water.

Centra was a wasteland, an endless terrain of monsters and brutal sunshine that didn't give. They were tired, sweaty, stranded, and then, in the middle of the desert heat, they spotted it, Bella Maure.

"A mirage," Irvine commented as he squinted in the distance at the tiny steepled roofs. "Even so, might as well go that way."

"We're going to die out here, aren't we?" Rinoa said hopelessly as she wiped some sweat from her brow.

Even Squall had rid himself of jacket and gloves hours ago, and had stuffed them into his utility duffel. Irvine, on the other hand, had decided to use his coat as a carry all, his purple vest, what remained of his potions, water and food, all tied up in the tiny package and slung absently over his shoulder.

"Maybe it's an oasis. Crazier things have happened," Zell said, really really hoping. "We should be able to contact someone to come get us if it's a real village, someone's GOT to have a phone, right?"

"It does LOOK real," Squall said. "Whatever. Let's just go that way."

--------------

It was another hour's hike before they arrived, but they found that as they got closer, the air seemed to get cooler. A genuine oasis. 'I don't believe it. Zell was right,' Squall thought. 'And that is another one for the list of things I will never ever admit out loud.'

"Yay!" Selphie cheered, jumping up with a sudden burst of energy. "We're not gonna die!"

"I would say that is definitely one for the yay vote," Irvine commented, smirking at his tiny girlfriend. 'The air is so much cooler here. Feels like my lungs are coming to after a long nap. And speaking of naps.I definitely want one.'

Bella Maure. It would have been beautiful in that quaint way even if it hadn't been stumbled upon by accident in desperation. Cobblestone streets and tiny wells beside a dozen and a half open doorways. Old women in rocking chairs knitting scarves and quilts that would likely never be used. Old men smoking pipes and telling stories to small children. Younger men and women working to keep the village alive. A fresh water lake in the center of town with a stone bridge that ran from the four points: north, south, east and west, to a grand statue in the center of a true cowboy, or cowgirl, as the case appeared to be.

--------------

After stopping at one of the wells where the five travelers each took their turns with a bit of water, Irvine noticed this and let out a low whistle. "Now that is some fine work," he commented, looking a bit of distance away at the large memorial. There she was, cowboy hat ,denim jeans and jacket with the sleeves cuffed to just below the elbow and a tee cut off to just above the flat, but muscular stomach. Hiker's boots and a wide grin, the woman depicted had a long, loose ponytail flowing down her back, blowing in the wind with a few strands falling around her face, or tucked behind her ear, and a pair of Excalibur pistols, one held in the air at ready, thumb pulling back the safety, the other aimed to fire. The holsters had been carved beneath the billowing wind that had caught her jacket, and a belt with different parcels for bullets rested on her hips. "Looks like one brave lady," he commented, wanting to take a closer look.

"She would've hated that thing," an old man smiled as he moved to an open doorway and looked at the group. He greeted them with a nod. "Welcome to Bella Maure," he said. "We haven't had a stranger wander in her for fifteen years. Make yourselves at home. If you need anything, just ask anyone. We're more than willing to help, and people who wander in here usually need the help."

"Who was she?" Rinoa asked as she stared at the distant statue.

"Her name was Jace, and she was." he shrugged. "A hero. The hero, really, but I guess you're all a bit too young to remember the first Sorceress War. Go on up and read the inscription. If you want the whole story afterwards, go on over to the Blue Moon Tavern and ask for Kennedy. He knew her better than anyone around here."

"Aurin!" a woman's voice called from inside. "Lunch time!"

"Ah, my cue," he smiled. "Come by later if you want, I'll introduce you to my lovely wife of fifty-seven years," he said proudly. "Or if you want to just play some cards. Triple triad. That's what we play here. If you don't know it, I can teach you."