A Time of No Rain - a Final Fantasy VIII fanfic
by Erika Riggio [Filia]
Disclaimer: All of the characters of FFVIII belong to Squaresoft/SquareEnix.
"IRVINE!! What are you DOING up there?!"
Selphie Kinneas, Headmistress of Trabia Garden, stood with her hands on her hips, looking up at the largest pine tree in the vicinity of the Garden complex. She had a very decided frown on her slightly freckled face; even her usually bouncy short hair seemed to drip with anger. "You're setting a bad example for the children, Irvine!" she insisted, biting her lip out of nervousness. Why did he always insist on doing things like this?
Poor misunderstood Irvine Kinneas. He had simply climbed up into the tree to get a better view of the students of Trabia Garden playing basketball in the newly repaved court. He was sitting very quietly and comfortably on a large branch several limbs up, and didn't see what Selphie was making a big deal out of. That was a wife for you.
"Don't be so uptight, Selphie dearest," he said with his trademark crooked smile and a slight tip of his cowboy hat. "It's not like I'm hurting anyone. The girls won't even see me up here; Yukiko's in class, and Selene's napping." He smiled fondly as he spoke of his daughters.
Selphie's face softened visibly, but her hands remained firmly on her hips. "That's no excuse, Irvine!" she insisted, although she didn't look nearly as angry as she had when she had first spotted him in the tree. "You're the head of SeeD. You should have more dignity!"
A loud guffaw erupted from the tree. "That's funny to hear from you, Miss Tilmitt!" Irvine said with a wink. He always called her by her maiden name when he was teasing her. "I seem to remember Zell telling me some stories about how clumsy you were when you first transferred to Balamb!"
Selphie scowled. "That was ten years ago, dear. And honestly, Zell doesn't know what he's talking about half the time. You know how he exaggerates."
"I heard it from Squall, too," Irvine said quickly, grabbing a higher branch and swinging up out of Selphie's reach -- he definitely didn't want to be in range for the girlish swat he knew she was planning in retaliation for his remarks.
Seeing her plan for abuse thwarted, Selphie resorted to childishly sticking out her tongue. "You'll never grow up, Irvine. You have responsibility for students at all the Gardens around the world, and yet you still won't grow up." She sat down in the grass, suddenly feeling rather lonely. Trabia was lovely, but it was rather desolate as well. She sighed wistfully, thoughts of Zell and Squall and, by extension, Rinoa and Quistis filling her with memories. She couldn't help but wonder how they were all doing; she was still rather close with Rinoa, and they normally wrote each other frequently, but she hadn't heard from her in several weeks. As for Zell and Quistis, she hadn't heard anything in a few months, at least.Selphie looked up at Irvine, biting her lip. "Do you think everyone is okay, Irvine?" she said nervously, cocking her head. "I haven't heard from anyone in so long.."
There was a pause while Irvine thought things through. "I'm sure they're all fine, Selphie dearest," he replied finally, sliding down out of the tree to sit on the grass beside his wife. "Quistis is probably busy at Balamb; it's exam season, so the infirmary will be busier than usual. Zell's always wrapped up in his academy, not to mention being wrapped up with Iris." He winked at Selphie and grinned.
"And Squall and Rinoa?" Selphie asked eagerly, leaning against Irvine's shoulder.
Irvine thought, then shrugged, displacing Selphie's head as he did so. "Dunno. Probably just avoiding life for a while. You know how they are."
Selphie sighed. She was hoping for something more reassuring than this. "I guess so," she said quietly, looking at her knees. She bit her lip again, then looked up as she heard a voice.
"Mama! Mama!" Selphie and Irvine's younger daughter, Selene, who was nearly five and had red hair like her father's, came running out of the front gate of Trabia Garden and into her mother's arms. She was sobbing.
Selphie lovingly patted her daughter's flaming hair. "What is it, my sweet?" she asked soothingly.
Selene pulled away to stare into her mother's eyes, her face the picture of indignance. "Yuki came home from class and she got the mail and there was a letter for you. I TOLD her not to open it, but she did anyway, and then she ripped the corner! And she made me promise not to tell you, but I told her I would, and she got mad at me!" The girl's lip quivered in anger and distress.
At the mention of a letter, Selphie's face instantly brightened. "A letter?!" she exclaimed, not really caring how childish she seemed to her daughter. "It came today? Did you see who it was from?"
Irvine laughed. "You know Lene can't read, dearest," he said with a wink, taking his daughter up in his arms. "I bet you want to know who it's from, too, don't you?" he said to Selene, poking her nose with his. The little girl nodded enthusiastically.
Grabbing the hand that Irvine had offered her, Selphie pulled herself up from the grass and practically ran into the Garden. Irvine raised a mock eyebrow at Selene, who giggled in response, before they followed the excitable Trabia Headmistress inside.
Yukiko Kinneas was sitting very innocently in her mother's chair when Selphie entered the office of the Headmistress. The letter was sitting face down on the desk, looking rather crumpled but otherwise in tact. The eight-year-old girl pushed a lock of long auburn hair behind her ear and stated matter-of-factly, "There's a letter for you, Mom."
Selphie looked rather disheveled as she grabbed the letter off of the desk -- nearly ripping it again in the process -- and leapt up onto the desk to sit and read it.
Irvine entered a few moments later, with Selene in tow. "Who's it from, dearest?" he asked curiously, trying to peek at the letter. Selphie turned away, however, and curled up on the desk, reading as rapidly as possible. Her eyes were glued to the page; Irvine reached a hand out, but she swatted it away. Puzzled, Irvine shifted Selene on his hip and waited rather impatiently. What could be in the letter that was so important?
A few minutes passed, and finally Selphie lowered the letter slowly. Her eyes were slightly glazed, as if in disbelief. "I.. I.." she stammered. Finally she just held the letter out to Irvine, hand shaking slightly.
Irvine frowned and set Selene down on the floor before taking the letter from his wife's trembling hand. His eyes opened wide as he recognized an unruly form of Rinoa Leonhart's handwriting.
I apologize for not returning your letter in a timely manner. I'm glad to hear that Yuki and Lene are doing well, and that the final stages of Trabia's refurbishment are coming along.
Unfortunately, this letter cannot be written with any sense of cheer. Several weeks ago, Squall became sick. Nothing I did for him seemed to make him any better -- bed rest, medicine, it all seemed useless. Finally, we took him to see Quistis at Balamb to see if she could discover what was wrong.
It's.. it's awful, Selphie. I can't bring myself to write it; I'll have to tell you in person. Suffice it to say that it was nothing I ever expected. Please, if you could come out here to Winhill as soon as possible, I would be so grateful; you haven't any idea what I'm going through.
Please bring Irvine and the children along as well, if you wish. I would love to see them, and it might brighten Squall's spirits, as well.
Yours, Rinoa Leonhart
Irvine blinked several times. Finally he looked helplessly at Selphie. "What do you think it might be, my dearest?" he asked in hushed tones, moving closer to his wife.
Selphie had not moved since she had handed the letter to her husband. Even her hand was still slightly outstretched. It took her a moment to react to Irvine's words; even then, all she did was turn her head toward him slightly and stare for a moment. It was hard for her to imagine that her old friends were having any kind of difficulty; in Selphie's world, for the most part, everything was sunshine and rainbows and lollipops. This was like a firm smack in the face. "I.. I don't know.." she murmured, curling up even more on the desk, hugging her knees. "We.. we have go.. to Balamb.." she finally managed to stammer.
Reaching out and putting a hand on her shoulder, Irvine nodded. "I'll call for an airship, dearest," he said, reaching down and picking up the bewildered Selene, then motioning to Yukiko, who was still sitting quietly in her mother's office chair. "Come on, Yuki," he said quietly. "Let's leave Mama alone."
Yukiko scowled indignantly, looking very much like Rinoa for a moment to Selphie's eyes, then reluctantly got up and began to follow her father and sister out of the room. At the last second, however, she turned around in the doorway and looked at her mother.
"I'm sure Uncle Squall is fine, Mom," she said confidently. "Nothing could ever happen to him." She put on the naive smile of a child, then turned and left the room.
At her daughter's words, Selphie couldn't help but cringe. Yuki WAS right.. after all, nothing horrible had ever happened to Squall before. He was like some kind of super man; no matter what situation he got himself into, he always managed to get himself out. She thought back fondly on her days as a SeeD with Squall and the others, and the way Squall always seemed to have a plan -- well, after he realized that being a colossal jerk half the time probably wasn't the best way to be. But even before, he was still brilliant, in his own kind of way.
But if Squall could get himself out of anything, then why was Rinoa so worried? Had they finally come across the Great Problem that Squall Leonhart couldn't solve? And what was it? Selphie didn't even want to let herself speculate, but her hyperactive mind came up with all sorts of horrific ideas.
She finally couldn't take it anymore. "If I stay in this office any longer, I am going to crack," she said aloud to herself. She got up and made her way up to her bedroom to pack, closing the door behind her.