Author's Note: A take on why Griever is named Griever. I know this fic is stilted. Whatever.
Spoilers for FF8. Set after the SeeD exam. Started in 2002, only tied up now. I played this game how long ago? I bet I have everything wrong.
Remains of You: Forms
The rain had been a blessing even though it had been cold. Matron had complained at the susceptibility of a young immune system to flus, and fussed when Squall kept running out into the storms. She did not realize that, when compared to the option of being surrounded by other people, even hail was preferable. No one followed Squall out into poor weather. No one bothered him in the rain.
His favorite spot with Sis had been hidden on the coastline. Fifteen minutes trot took them far enough away that they could still see the lighthouse without being easily found by others. Rock-birds nested in the cliff slopes below. When they rose, their wings would blanket the sky in a white epiphany of feathers. Sis would always point and try to count them all, every single time, despite how the flock blurred into infinity and was gone before she could ever finish.
Squall was proud that he could cut the trip down to ten if Seifer was around.
He had made the run in record time this day, bolting through the jagged pass without even twisting his ankle, shaving off seconds by jumping down from one of the ledges rather than the more careful route of descending step by sidelong step. Rain turned stone treacherous. Squall slipped twice on a boulder he'd ended up vaulting after he'd earned a gashed palm for his attempts. The cut had stung. Blood dissolved into water down the side of his wrist, so Squall ignored it until it stopped seeping.
The lookout was flooded. Downpour collected itself into rivulets, small pebbles glistening against each flash of lightning. Exertion forced Squall to breath through his mouth like a storm's pulse into a jungle, pants rhythmical as his gut twisted from the cramp. He had run hard, sobbing, and now animal-like he curled with his vulnerable back to the rocks and his knees against his chest. Dizziness trickled into his head and he knew it was from the shallowness in his lungs. With all the water drenching him, it was impossible to tell just how much had come from his own eyes, and how much from the sky.
This was the moment, Squall decided, that he would finally swear off crying ever again.
This time for sure.
And that was how he determined it would happen. Here. Now. Alone on the promontory, clouds threading themselves through one another like overeager amoebas that spawned arcs of electricity and thunder in their primitive matings. The world was a neverending storm, one that shielded him if he surrendered to its numbing chill, bolted deer-like into the madness of the tempest. Nature was chill and harsh and his nose was dripping with mucus. He felt like a swollen slug.
If life itself was cold and grey, then he would be too. The world could cry all it wanted. Squall would not.
He refused to grieve.
Never?the birds asked him as they jabbered back and forth in their nests far below, squabbling together in their quest to hide from foul weather, and Squall had blown air out his mouth. Tried to wipe his nostrils.
Will you give your thoughts to me?This time, it was the ocean itself daring to contradict the boy's resolve. Will you be an empty form with a lion's heart?
Yes. "Yes," Squall had repeated, this time aloud, child's face screwed against the unfairness of such obvious questions. Feelings weren't any good. They tripped you up and made your head fuzzy, made your mouth crumble no matter how hard you tried to steel it into the strength of a straight line. "I will not grieve. I won't cry anymore. I refuse."
Drops pelted against his face as he swore the primitive vow to the weather, mixing with the salt of his cheeks and of his wounded palm.
The clouds sighed.
When it finally stopped raining, Squall uncoiled himself and staggered back to the orphanage. Matron scolded the condition of his clothes upon arrival. The scraped hand was seized, clucked over. Squall had let his wrist be seized to receive its balm of antiseptic cream slathered over the skin, submitting to the treatment and scolding without reaction to either. Seifer had been able to mock him later for having to drink the foul-smelling tea that Matron always brewed to soothe her own worries more than the health of the child she was force-feeding it to, but Squall found that he didn't care.
That night, when the boy rolled over in his bed and pressed his face against the crook of his arm, hot breath whuffed in his ear. It prowled into Squall's mind, careful-pawed, and then the dreams that had bothered him since Sis's departure all went away, every last one. Their bones were snapped and licked clean by a rasping tongue that purred over the gutted corpses.
The lion fed.
Morning shone on a child who sat up from his bed blinking, feeling the hollow peacefulness of his mind. A full night's slumber must have done the trick. He had enough curiosity to wonder why the air smelled like animal musk, heavy in his nose, and then Matron called down to everyone for breakfast.
He forgot how it had happened, later. It no longer was important to remember.
* * * * *
Sleep in unfavorable conditions never really bothered Squall at seventeen, a fact that he was dimly proud of during Garden reviews. Discipline in all its aspects helped him to focus his thoughts on matters definable and secure; rest for six hours at least tonight and you will do well on your assignment tomorrow. Stay up restless, and you will fail. Learn conversational grace so you can use it when required, but otherwise, excess chatter was only a waste of energy that could be better used in observation and planning. His marks in interpersonal skills were constantly at a low, but that was because other people should be better trained to begin with.
Matters which had no practical application to improving his work skills meant very little to Squall.
So when Zell and Selphie had pointed out that the walk back to Garden from Balamb would mean they would have to be on the road until dawn, Squall had told them flatly that they had better start now. It had finally required the realization that he could not bodily drag the two of them behind him to convince him that the logical decision would be to break the route into several blocks of travel.
While he was calmly announcing the change in transit schedule, Selphie had already started throwing random branches into a pile; when Squall tried to repeat himself a little louder, it went unheard over Zell's complaints as the brawler tried to extinguish his hand from the experiment of lighting a campfire gone awry.
Having then changed plans again to include his companions as being incompetent in camping out, Squall had taken them down to the beaches instead. Colder than the woods, true, for the lower insulative properties of sand compared to dirt, but secretly the teenager had been entertaining the fancy that his classmates would just wash out to sea while his back was turned.
The waves were white noise. They helped to quiet out Selphie's high-pitched queries about beach-insects, mythical parasites that would burrow into your hair and clothes to leave you itching for days. They didn't help with Zell's complaints of a crab in his ear.
Waves sounded like rain.
They'd found a section of the dunes that was mucked into a facsimile of solid ground by sparse grasses. Feather-roots had dug deep until the network formed could support the weight of three bodies, full sets of equipment, and an immeasurable amount of stupidity. Squall had set his coat down as an impromptu pillow and had not bothered to unpack further, but Zell and Selphie insisted on trying to get the starchy blankets--single-ration, pointless, useless, better to use them to bind wounds--spread out and then complained that sand got everywhere anyway.
In time, even they went to sleep.
The stars drifted overhead. Squall started to count them out of habit, mapping out navigation trails back to Garden. After he'd finished three reserve routes, the teen found that they had radically changed position. Funny. He traced them back, finger over finger, only to become lost in the tangle of deviant constellations. None of his usual origin points remained.
Lights shifted. Rolled, growing larger like drops of water congealing on a black-coated ceiling overhead. They bloated.
Then the stars all began to fall.
Squall woke up.
Strange. Dreams were uncommon. Squall had long ago decided that their presence meant the lion was full, that it could eat no more nightmares until the first had time to properly digest. The teen never understood why the weight of heavy paws in the back of his mind attributed itself to a large cat; it wasn't a matter any more important than why he also compared Zell to a rooster from the blonde's hair alone. The lion was simply a symbol, a marking of his personal strength and resolve. The man he was might falter, but the feline never would.
The lion's world was a realm of rain and sorrow. Emotions. Squall could smell them mixing with fur, sense the mist of the creature's exhalations in the cold air. The lion devoured such things. It was able to handle any grief without pause, which was fine with Squall because that meant he didn't have to.
Where the feline came from never concerned him. If it was anything other than his own internal projection of strength, Squall didn't care. That was a train of thought that always went precisely nowhere and so was deemed useless. Not practical. Not related to his grades, his gunblade, or his History scores, so Squall never concerned himself about the phenomenon but only considered it a fact of life. Discipline was all the mystery Squall needed. He was good at it, at sinking into a deep, restorative drowse on command, catching an hour here and a few minutes there while on his feet if necessary.
So why could he not get to sleep this time?
Changing position by rolling to each side did not help. Several times, Squall found himself snapping out of a restless trance with his fingers twitching in the sand, wrists jerking as his body tried to obey his unconscious orders to make ready for combat. For danger. For nightmares that made no sense and kept repeating in stranger and stranger variations, the moon opening fangs to devour him while the ocean sizzled with smoke.
And the stars kept falling.
The last time that the points of light melted together and began to drip, Squall jerked himself upright. Motion could break the spell upon him. Maybe walking would settle his nerves. Maybe anything other than just lying back down and finding himself trying to hold his hands up to the sky and catch those swelling pinpricks, jam them back into place by sheer will alone.
He breathed, and forced himself to breathe steady.
"Hey, man." The noise came from the blankets to his left. Zell levered himself up on an elbow, swallowing from the nervousness that uncertainty carried alongside it. "What's up?"
A shake of his head was Squall's reply. "Nothing."
"Uh." Zell continued to stare. "You... you got something." He jabbed the index finger of his hand towards Squall's face. "In your eye."
"I don't know what you're talking about." And then Squall had felt the drying of something wet beginning to itch his face. When he pulled off a glove to touch his skin gingerly, his fingers came back moist.
"Just sand getting in."
Zell's expression was still concerned; not so much for his teammate as the animal for itself when it sees its pack leader beginning to bray at thin air. "You sure? I mean," he gestured vaguely, unable to do more than navigate the foreign taste of the issue. "I know we just went through a lot on that test. If you gotta talk...?"
The offer was awkward. They both knew it. Squall rubbed at the corners of his lids until he was certain they would not dry caked shut and gritty, and then he rolled over onto his back. "Go back to sleep, Zell." He felt a yawn coming and exaggerated it in the hopes that it would quiet the blonde. "I don't even remember what was on my mind. Whatever it was couldn't have mattered."
Contentment came with that answer as Squall closed his eyes, and the lion lay down with him at last.