Disclaimer: Square-Enix owns the characters. Square-Enix owns the setting. Square-Enix owns a lot of things, but doesn't care, I'm betting. Esse is a non-profit co-op. Let Square try an' figure out which one of her personalities they should sue for random acts of fanfic.
Notes: Story is based off a rather vivid dream. Heck, it's more than based on the dream — it's a pretty damn near accurate account of it. So, certain aspects may seem incoherent or muddled, improperly explained or downright confusing. I did not attempt to fix these areas because my sole purpose for writing this was to bring some perspective to the dream. It disturbed me; it still disturbs me. A bit of the imagery was toned down, since I'm not comfortable writing certain things, but all in all the fic is a true representation of the dream. The reason I'm posting it is because I'm curious as to what my psyche was trying to tell me (besides I'm a nut who thinks of ff viii far too often). I'm not skilled at dream interpretation, and the sites I've visited haven't helped much on this one. So, if you have any idea, any theories at all, please do share. Besides some fairly blatant and clichéd (not to mention Freudian) interpretations, this one has me puzzled.
Secondary Notes: I used blond and brunet. I shall never do so again. It makes my skin crawl. Henceforth I will be ever-so incorrect, and ever-so comfortable about it. Inaccurate pronouns couldn't be avoided.
Warnings: Yuri, yaoi, het: I don't know how to classify this. It's even more confusing when Shiva was not only the ff summons we're all familiar with — but also the Shiva of the Hindu Trinity, male and female both. Urgh. No iffy language I'm aware of. Subject matter — debatable. What can I say? This is Esse's own private mind-fuck. Oopsie. There went the language.
It wasn't seasickness. He'd spent a season following a run of blueback when he'd been younger; mended nets while his father and their crew had gone about the business of commercial fishing, filling the hold then chugging back to the harbor as quickly as the old diesel engine could manage. The cannery, its lights blazing no matter the hour, always smelled of fish and oil; the foreman would come, inspect the hold then make his offer while extending the marked yellow slip, lips curled in smug disdain. There was never any question of not accepting the bid; it was either take it, or leave it with their hold full to overflowing with fish that wouldn't last another day, let alone make the journey to Dollet — where they'd certainly fetch a better price, if only they could get their catch there fresh. Then, crew unhappy over denied shore leave but resigned, they'd return to trawling, waves constantly slapping hollowly against the sides of the boat and gulls screaming in their wake.
A year's wages to be earned on a single run, his father had told him as they ate egg salad sandwiches rushed aboard before they'd departed. Not for them his father had assured, while the sun rose crimson and hurtful on the horizon; they had other investments, other opportunities, and no fear of turning their hands to other needful tasks. But for the crew — hard men that pumped seawater through their hearts instead of blood — the run was their only livelihood. The only work they'd ever understand. And so his father kept the boat running, and kept no profit in the struggle to keep old families afloat.
When his father had died his mother had sold the boat, wanting no son of hers to be shackled by the whims of the sea. But he remembered that long ago season, the wind and the salt tang bitter on his lips and light reflected back at the sky till there was no safe place to look. And he knew it wasn't seasickness he was feeling, slouched down in the corner of one of the naval transport's rooms.
The field exam had been nothing like he'd imagined during the long hours he'd spent studying, practicing, fighting for his chance to make SeeD. They'd disobeyed direct orders in leaving the town square — and he didn't know which would have impacted his score more: Following his squad leader's command, or abandoning his squad to maintain his post. He'd hesitantly broached the subject with Instructor Trepe, only to be frowned at and told it wasn't his worry. Not his worry, whether his actions had earned him his place amongst SeeD… or doomed him.
Seifer's decision had forced the messenger from Squad A to chase after them, putting herself into a more dangerous situation than the field exam warranted. Not that she seemed to mind… but he couldn't help but feel guilty. He'd been the one to revive the short girl when the X-ATM092 had flung her away, bruised and limp with blood pooling underneath her. A spell of Life had pulled her back to her feet, magic acquired not by drawing from enemies, but from modifying the cards his mother won during challenges and tournaments to better his chances in the Garden; that, and the refinement ability of his newest Guardian Force which turned useless items into needful spells had saved Selphie. Truly, no credit to himself; the GF had done the important tasks, rendering him no more than an intermediary — a conduit, through which healing passed.
Thinking of the Guardian made his abdominal muscles clench, the room hazing into shades of indistinct gray. He'd drawn her from the monstrosity that had interrupted their battle with the two Galbadian soldiers. Squall, ever pragmatic, had suggested in a way far more dire than an order that he release Ifrit before Junctioning the newfound GF. And he had, for he'd taken the same classes; Guardian Forces were possessive of their wielders, and prone to jealousy, and the last thing he'd wanted was full-scale war staged within the fragile recesses of his mind.
He'd offered her to Selphie only to be vetoed by Squall, and while Squall wasn't in charge of their squad, was only another cadet mucking his way through a fiasco of a mission, Squall's voice had held a trace of seriousness seldom evident. Squall reminded them both that Balamb Garden was the only campus that offered hands-on classes in Junctioning, never mind the endless courses on theory — and if anything should go wrong with the newly acquired GF, there was very little an untrained Trabian cadet could do to set things to rights.
Reluctantly he'd Junctioned; experience had taught him he had little compatibility with female Forces; no compatibility with Shiva at all, who'd stormed through his mind like a blizzard leaving frozen, painful shards along her path instead of footsteps. He'd expected this time to be no different, fury and outrage dwindling to childish sulking until he could pass the GF on. To Instructor Trepe, experienced with wild Guardians, or to Selphie, should the Force prove amicable. They'd be a match, it occurred to him as the sensation of ghostly wings brushed against the backs of his eyes; they both preferred yellow…
Siren… Without her ability, Selphie would have died along the rocky trail leading away from the communications tower. Frantically seeking the Guardian's knowledge he'd managed to refine the required spells from the life ring casually put on that morning underneath his gloves. He'd never thought to find a use for it, but it was comely with its iridescent stones and woven wire band, and lucky if the tales told by the old sailors that frequented the docks were anything to go by. He'd thought he could use all the luck he could get in passing the SeeD exam, the only reason he'd been wearing it. Incredible luck.
Selphie had flounced past him on her way to the meeting room, to check in and explain her absence from Squad A. She'd smiled, and patted him on the shoulder, and said, "Cheer up. You didn't do that badly." He'd grinned back stiffly, nausea rolling in his gut, and watched her skip up the stairwell, taking steps two and three at a time.
Selphie had no idea she'd quit breathing.
They'd ran through the town, other fleeing squads ahead of them and the tortured squeal of metal behind them. The X-ATM092 cared not what it crushed, destroying all in its path with a sickening ease. It was relentless — and if it had caught up to them, it would have been disaster. The transports were leaving, overwhelmed cadets ordered to retreat — and even if they'd survived the battle, they would have been left alone and wounded in an enemy occupied city.
They'd ran — and with the luck of his life ring drained away Instructor Trepe would likely view his arrival at the transport so far ahead of the remainder of his makeshift squad as cowardice. It hadn't been; if asked, he would have stood off the mechanical abomination… but Squall had said run, and Seifer had been nowhere about to give an official order, so he had. Ran too fast, and ran too far, and when he'd turned around after activating the transport's doors — that's when he'd discovered he'd left his squad behind.
Selphie had stopped beyond reach of the sheltering confines of the transport; had stopped to scream and urge Squall on. The scarred brunet had been even further away, running for all he was worth while snatching gasped breaths; he'd crept, when he should have flown. The penalty of amassing bulk and ignoring speed training, his devotion to the gunblade might have proven the death of him on the pale sand beach of Dollet had Instructor Trepe not seen his peril and taken action. A stream of high-velocity armor-piercing rounds accomplished what they, with their vaunted augmented abilities, had not: X-ATM092 crumpled as gears froze and ground against each other, and Squall had reached the transport, his eyes wide and disbelieving as the machine writhed in its attempt to continue its pursuit.
Mortified by his uselessness, he'd said nothing to Selphie's condescending pep talk; had let her leave while he'd sat, jacketed back against the bitterly cold metal wall, and made an accounting of his mistakes. He'd followed Seifer's orders, reluctantly; he still didn't know if it had been the right action to take. Selphie had died…
But we saved her, a sweet, pure voice whispered, words shivering like a glissando teased from a harp. He shivered in response, and hugged his knees closer to his chest to ward off the churning in his stomach.
Squall had almost died; had Instructor Trepe not been watching, protecting those cadets in over their heads on a mission that should have been simple but had turned out to be anything but, Galbadia's mecha would have overtaken the brunet, and hiding in the transport's alcove there would have been nothing he could do to assist. Life couldn't be cast at such a distance, no chance of revival for the young man who now seemed utterly blasé over the peril only minutes past as he removed cleaning supplies from his silver-embossed case.
Because he knows we would have allowed no harm to befall that one. It's been so long… He hunched over his knees, momentarily afraid he was going to be sick — more afraid that he wasn't sick at all.
The queasiness echoed by belly and brain wasn't seasickness. The trembling of his limbs and the hammering of his heart — neither had anything to do with their hasty retreat across the uneasy slate-gray swells of the ocean. Yet he didn't think his symptoms had anything to do with guilt, either. Guilt, or worry, or delayed reaction to their horrific encounter with Galbadia's newest machine of war codenamed Black Widow. Those emotions more often than not left a sourness at the back of his throat that no amount of guzzled water could wash away. This was something different, and outside his experience.
He licked at lips sore from an unfortunate blow from some forgotten soldier that had blocked their route — and tasted honey.
He looked across the room at Squall, sitting on a padded bench carefully cleaning away the muck obscuring the gleaming metal of his gunblade — and felt lust spike through him. The outlines of the room wavered, steadied; gray, all gray except for the other man. It wasn't nausea, it was desire cramping his muscles — unrecognized till now for he'd never felt it so strongly. It threatened to consume him.
It wasn't his desire at all. He fought against it, pushing himself harder against the metal wall, gloved fingers digging into the screws securing the panel. And with sudden understanding he tried to unJunction only to be met with a burbling laugh and a voice like song, urging him to calmness, to acceptance.
Why fight? Siren asked, her slender arms wrapped around him and her fingers running through his hair. How you struggle against me. Against delight. Against yourself. Your body was made for pleasure… Our pleasure. So long I've searched for my love, and I will not let your silly notions stop me. You'll see. Listen to me, little love. Listen to me…
No! But she was in his mind, wrapped around his soul, and there was nowhere he could run where she wasn't already, beckoning him and embracing him in feathers like sunshine tipped in twilight. No… The air in the room was stifling. He panted — and smelled carnations. "Squall," he gasped, pressing the leather-clad palms of his hands hard against his eyes, trying to block out the sight of the golden woman smiling gently at him. He needed help. He needed… he needed…
Squall glanced his way, his fingers never stilling in their task, whetstone working out a nearly imperceptible nick. The older youth debated answering, eyes indecisive, before placing the whetstone back in its bag and picking up the oily rag. "…What, Zell?"
What… He staggered to his feet; swayed and leaned against the wall, unbuckling his gloves and flinging them to the floor; held out his hands and stared at his fingers, narrow and calloused. He needed to leave, to get away, as far away as possible while confined on the small transport. Needed a voice that would drown out hers, that would tell him what to do, because he no longer knew. Don't do this, he pleaded — but he couldn't stop her. Silenced by her Voice, and subdued to near nothingness by her will — he couldn't stop her.
The blond boy shrugged and stepped away from the wall, lips stretched wide in an overjoyed smile. "What indeed," he replied, voice husky with yearning, his arms reaching forward. "Shiva. Oh Shiva, my love, my dearest. It's been so long. My years have been empty without you."
Squall was uneasy, unsure of the joke and unwilling to dignify it with a response. Yet his lips curled upwards beyond his ability to control, and his arms reached out in return, grasping the blond's hands and pulling the boy closer. "Siren, it has been a long while."
"Centuries. An endless succession of days." The blond knelt, and kissed the hands engulfing his own; pressed them to his tattooed check and gazed adoringly up at the brunet. "Searching, and hope diminished with the passage of each moon — and once I'd found you, I nearly didn't recognize you, love. A boy?"
"Things have changed, Siren. The world — has changed." The brunet settled deeper into the cushioned bench, pushing the gleaming length of the gunblade aside. "He may look a child, but at heart he's a warrior. My Squall…" He gave a quiet, pained laugh. "We are a good match. Sometimes we argue, but our disagreements are short-lived." His hands were freed, and he watched curiously as the blond's nimble fingers worked their way up the inseam of his pants and settled over his groin. "Siren?"
"We've so much to catch up on." Deftly he unbuckled the belts and yanked down the zipper, slipping his hand around the heated flesh previously constrained by black leather. Chuckling, he lowered his head, only to be caught short by the fierce grip tangled about his spiked bangs, forcing his gaze upwards. "Love?" he asked, curious and not particularly enjoying the pain; his hand continued its teasing ministrations until it too was caught in a crushing grip. "Shiva?"
"I don't want this," the brunet said, jerking the strands of hair captured in his fist brutally when the younger boy tried twisting away. "What were you thinking?"
"Has no say in this." The brunet tilted the blond's head further back, the frown thinning his lips growing more pronounced.
"Ridiculous. Love, your host is out of line." He gasped as the pressure around his hand increased, then struggled with renewed vigor to break free. "Shiva!"
"I'm here," the voice of the brunet was cooler, physically cooler and smelled of snow. "I respect my master's wishes. This is neither the time, nor place, nor incarnation to renew our relationship. Surely your own master counseled against this course of action."
"Master? The boy?" Despite increasing pain the blond laughed incredulously. "The child was overly distraught; completely unprepared for my presence. What they're teaching initiates nowadays—"
Squall struck the shorter youth's cheek flat-handed — hard enough to send him to the floor if not for the hold bruising his wrist — and hissed one accusatory word. "Rapist."
"You hit me! Worthless man, you'll pay dearly for your insolence. Shiva won't stand—"
The brunet raised the hand clenched within his own to the blond's face; forced calloused fingers straight before laying them against the unreddened cheek. When he spoke, it was with the frozen intonations of the Destroyer. "Rapist," he repeated as he released the blond. "I told you, Siren, the world has changed — and you've taken what wasn't offered."
"I haven't! You only had to say…" The wetness on his fingertips disturbed the blond's denial. He lifted them before his eyes and stared; lowered them to his cracked lips and tasted. "Tears?" he murmured wonderingly, brushing his fingertips over his face and wincing when he pressed too hard against a forming bruise. "I don't understand."
She intended to, though. Little love? she asked, searching their shared mind; she hadn't meant to push him so far back. Shiva has the most absurd idea… She found him curled into a tight ball, wracked with silent sobs: Silenced sobs, her own handiwork. She hadn't planned on hushing him so thoroughly, had only wanted quiet, and time with her lost love without the continuous prudery of the child. Feeling vaguely shamed, she raised her Voice to rescind the spell. Ssh, it's okay. There's no need to weep. Whatever's wrong, I'll take care of it. I'll take care of you, little love. I promise.
Don't do this, Zell pleaded, recoiling from the Guardian's touch by pulling further into himself. I don't want this, not this. If he retreated much further, there was a chance he'd disappear entirely, personality fraying against an intruder it had no means to drive off.
This… Siren was drawn to comfort him. Could not, without risking his destruction — and finally she realized the scope of her actions. Rapist Shiva and her host had named her; rapist she was in truth of both the body and mind of the poor child who flinched with every rustle of her golden plumage. The boy was no initiate wishing for the blessing of her favor, no temple servant longing for his Goddess's benediction. How the world had changed — and she had treated him no better than the lust-crazed sailors who'd happily dove to their watery deaths at the slightest humming of her Song. Worse, for the sailors at least perceived they were gaining what they so desperately craved. I've wronged you.
Sorrowfully she drew back, releasing control until she was no more than an observer. Her rightful place, she knew now.
And Zell trembled, his body once more his own. He scrambled away from the scarred brunet to huddle in the small corner formed by the metal wall and the stairwell, his bruised cheek pressed harshly to his knee as he watched the older boy fearfully.
"It wasn't me, Squall," he moaned, squeezing himself deeper into the corner as the brunet stood. "It wasn't me!"
Squall didn't particularly care, zipping his fly and rebuckling the disarrayed belts; he knew the blond hadn't been in control — after a brief, disappointing conversation with Shiva. He thought he should say something, offer sympathy or understanding, but his calm, "Whatever," only engendered a fresh bout of weeping, not the response he'd hoped to provoke.
What do I do? he asked the Guardian moving about restlessly in his consciousness, monitoring his surface thoughts. We're almost back at Balamb. We can't leave him like this.
There is a debt owed, she agreed. "Siren," the brunet called, Destroyer no longer but now Restorer. "The damage you have done — is your own burden to carry. Take your master's memory of your violation so that it will trouble him no further." The transport lurched then slowed as it entered the harbor. "As I shall also do. We'll speak no further this incarnation."
The stairs rattled and Selphie bounded down, nearly tripping over the blond partially blocking the base of the stairwell. "What are you doing?" she fussed good-naturedly as she leaned over him, her yellow bow flopping damply from its inexpert cleansing. "There're benches, you know. For sitting?"
He blinked up at her, the last lingering tendrils of nausea fading. "I — was feeling a bit seasick," he answered her, surprised by his own response. He'd worked on his father's boat one season, years ago, when the bluebacks' yearly run still brought them to the current that swept along the island, before Galbadia's rampant over-harvesting had driven the prized fish into extinction. He'd not gotten sick then, not once, though storms had tossed the small vessel about; had come close to capsizing her on one memorable evening. But the trawler had little in common with the sleek SeeD transport, and perhaps their motion differed enough to trigger discomfort. It was plausible.
It was just seasickness.