Gods and Gardens
Author's Notes: Hello and welcome to the sequel to Fire and Ice. If you haven't read it, I suggest you take a look around, as many of the characters (dead and alive) and situations will make little sense otherwise.
I wanted to thank you all for your wonderful comments and suggestions on Fire and Ice, they've all been wonderful and much appreciated. Just to warn you all, I'm currently working on three other novels (whose ideas DON'T belong to Squaresoft, and therefore, have a chance of being published,) so this story will be updated when I have time.
This story began when I was lounging around, idly watching a friend play FFVII. I remember cocking my head, taking a closer look at Cloud and going 'hm'. That stupid plot bunny morphed into a plot dragon, and voila! This story.
Don't you ever wonder what the beach was supposed to mean in the beginning of FFVIII? I did. By the way, the letters from Rinoa in future chapters have a progressive point in the story. Don't think of them as written 'in the present'- they're from all over- think of them as a collection of letters scattered in a dusty trunk. They have a point, trust me. You'll see.
Addition: Rinoa's letters, to begin with, are not written in the present. Think of them as letters piled in a battered shoebox, dusty and laced with an old silk ribbon. They'll be chronologically relevant later, but they aren't really now. They'll help to develop things later on. Writing this story has forced me to use Rinoa's character rather than dismiss her (as is my first instinct.) I still don't like Rinoa, sorry, but I'm trying to understand her.
Warning: This is a sequel to Fire and Ice, a sequel I didn't plan to do and probably wouldn't have done, were it not for the surprising amount of people who asked and the endless pacing of the characters in my head, lurking in the corners of my skull. It is a twisted version of a FFVII crossover. If you don't like crossovers, don't read it. I'll probably bastardize both worlds- you'll just have to forgive as you read.
Disclaimer: Didn't own them last time, and I don't own them now.
Every year, they go to the ocean.
It is almost as if they can't help it…it is a force of ether and eternity that pulls them to the shores. They put their feet in the cold lips of the water, and watch the waves roll in, their flesh numb to all but the pull of the tide.
They stare at the water, and they try to forget.
They try to remember…
Gods and Gardens.
Love and destiny. Betrayal and fate. Every legend has a beginning. Every story must have an end.
It is always the same…just her and the shapeless dark.
She is always tired, restless, but it doesn't matter which way she moves. There is dark in every direction- aimless, bottomless dark. She does not know how she knows this…but it is a certainty as simple as breathing and blue skies. She seems to know the darkness as well as it knows her- she recognizes the hopelessness from the beginning and it recognizes itself in her. She wears it like a second skin…she greets it like an old friend.
But it is no friend.
She always starts out calm, but quickly grows restless. She wants to get out. She wants to move, to see light, to see a filament of movement, a shred of sound, but there is only black, and the sucking gasp of someone trying to catch their breath. Is it hers? Nothing seems to belong to her here.
Somewhere, beyond the dark veil, she knows that people are moving, laughing, bathing in light, and she hates them for it. How could they have forgotten her? How could they not hear her? How could they not come for her?
Sometimes she screams for help, but her screams are useless, a high echo that that eventually trails off into nothing. There is no one else there, just her and the dark, and the dark does not answer. Her thoughts scramble around in her head, roll and knock from side to side, but they are aimless thoughts, stupid, desperate, and they never focus on anything useful, no shred of memory, no happy thing. There is only the hunger- the hunger for light, for sight, for sound. Her mind is chaos- she can not settle it to extract anything useful.
She can not remember air, or light, or the soft touch of another breathing thing...but she knows these things are there. She knows they exist. She cannot remember laughter- the laughter in her mind sounds cold…frantic…manic. There is only the hollowness of her own touch, her hand on her skin, and the circle of her flesh on her flesh is cold and incomplete.
Sometimes she moves around, disoriented. Lunging from side to side, running- it doesn't matter. She never goes anywhere- never feels the satisfaction of an incline or the hopeful surface of a wall. The darkness has no shape, or direction, no floors or ceilings. The darkness has no end.
Next comes the pain.
She tears at herself, mimicking the ravages of her troubled mind, tearing at her skin and pinching at her flesh. The pain is something. It is not the dark or the desperate echo of her voice. It is real, a hint of life, and her only regret is that there is no one else down there to feel it with her. She wants someone else there- someone else to tear, she wants to listen to their screams and drink their pain and to share the despair of her imprisonment, she wants them all to feel it, everyone that ungratefully walks outside in the sun and smiles and breathes air, she wants to hurt them, taste the air on their skin and the light in their eyes and break them apart like a ripe fruit, and drink up all the sweet syrup inside of them- the life that she is denied-but there is no one down here and no one is coming and she is alone and it is so dark and so silent and so still and everything in her is squirming and screaming and struggling-she wants to tear a hole in herself and crawl through it, crawl out of it-
Opening her mouth, she breaths in the dark and the dark breaths in her and she screams, and screams, and screams-
GET ME OUT!!!!!!!! GET ME OUT!!!!
"Get me out!"
Quistis Trepe shot up in her bed, gasping for breath, her sheets balled in her fists as her body twisted into an arch off the mattress. It always took her a moment to orient herself in the dark, to feel the bed beneath her and the dogs' warmth on her feet, to differentiate the dark of her waking room and the dark of her dream. Her hair was plastered to her feet with sweat, and she felt the familiar sting on her skin where she had scratched herself. There would be marks in the morning. Reaching over, she shakily snapped on the bedroom lamp, letting the sting of the bulb's light fill her vision like an old, welcome friend. She held out her hand, staring down at the angry crescents that her nails had carved into her palms. She drew a breath as she rolled onto her back, and stared at the lamp until the light stung her eyes.
Light, light, light….light and breath and sound and warmth…
The sound of the ocean was a whisper outside her window, and the familiar creakings of the old house were soothing like old lullabies. She dragged her bare feet across the mattress, feeling the difference in temperature where she had lain. Downstairs, she could hear the screen door banging in the wind. Yet another thing about the house that needed to be fixed.
Quistis spread her palm to the empty side of the bed, closing her eyes against the coolness of the sheets. On occasion, there was another form that slumbered there…but he was away. When he got back, his side of the bed would be filled with warmth and skin and the soft rumble of his breath as he slept.
She sighed, both wishing he was there now and relieved that he was gone. Had he been there, she thought, he would have wrapped his arm around her.
Had he been there, he would have asked about the dream…and she had no ready answers.
It was a dream and not a dream- a terror that seemed to radiate from the core of her bones outward.
It was a soft sound, almost a question.
Cerberus, a mix between a Doberman and a Clydesdale, looked up from the end of the bed, his tail thumping against the mattress. The sound of the tail thwaking the mattress in turn woke Styx, an almost equally large mutt and the unplanned offspring of both Cerberus and Rinoa's dog, Angelo. Although Styx had inherited Angelo's pretty coloring, he had definitely inherited his father's size, and she barely fit on the bed with both of them on it. They had taken advantage of her missing bedmate, as they always did in his absence, sneaking onto the mattress with surprising stealth for 150lb creatures. Still, their presence was comforting- living, breathing things with their soft, dark eyes shining at her from the edge of the bed, a contrast from the piercing solitude of the dream.
Wiping her hair back from her forehead, she tried to unstick the nightgown from her skin before giving up and pulling the soaked garment over her head, leaving her in nothing but a pair of black bikini briefs. She fell back against the mattress, spreading her arms across the mattress. The air from the open window chilled her skin instantly, and she was glad for the sensation, so different was it from the numbness of her dream. Her palms stung, and she raised her hands, admiring the half-moon indentations she'd left by balling her fists in the dream. The skin on her right hand had been broken, and thin pools of blood filled the crescents. She pressed her bloody hand to her heart, trying to calm its fluttering.
Just a nightmare.
And yet, normally her nightmares were filled with screams and sorceresses, bloody soldiers and solid tanks.
Still orienting herself, she moved to the middle of the large mattress and patted the empty spots next to her. Cerberus willingly obliged, crawling up and settling his heavy weight along her side. Styx followed, curling against her back, his puppy fur soft against her skin. After a moment, the large mongrels resumed their snores, untroubled by nightmares. Still breathing hard, and a little shaky, she settled her cheek on top of Cerberus' massive shoulder, winding her arm around him and listening to the solid rushing of his heart, steady and swishing like an ocean current. Eventually, the sound and the warmth of the dogs lulled her to sleep.
She left the light on.
The rain was pouring in sheets off the Galbadian rooftops, thundering onto the pavement below in thick, drenching sheets. Steam rose from the sidewalks, coating the concrete in a hanging mist that seemed to absorb all other sounds.
Most of local residents had taken shelter in their homes, leaving the streets devoid of motion and voices. However, one hooded figure slouched against an alley wall under a metal sheet overhang, peering into the empty, rain-splattered streets and tapping his foot against the ground impatiently. A cigarette burned from beneath the hood, the smoke wisps dampered by the rain.
A sudden crackle of static from the phone on his waist broke the silence. Taking a long drag from the cigarette, he exhaled and glanced down as the phone light flickered to life.
He reached down, flipping open his phone and holding it up to his ear. "Yeah, what is it."
"The pizza you ordered is ready."
"Then deliver it."
The tone of the voice changed. "Base to Deep Blue. Affirm secure line."
"Line is secured. Go ahead."
"Id confirmed, Dirk Strife. Report."
From the shadows of the hood, a pair of light brown eyes flickered up to the building in front of him. A small smile. "Wasting secure airtime to talk to me? People will say we're in love."
He could practically feel the young woman's scowl on the other end of the line, a mixture of frustration and tangible dislike knitting her brows together. "Mission status," she replied flatly.
He sighed. So much for love. "Nine other pizzas have been delivered."
"Nine pizzas confirmed. You're needed back immediately. Complete mission, report, and return to the restaurant…and try to be a little more professional, would you? I'm running a pizza parlor, not a daycare."
"Roger that…honey." The line cut out, and he chuckled, thinking of Headmaster Chang fuming at the other end of the line.
One could only scrub so many sub-levels, after all…although there were also the toilets to think of.
Still smiling, the young man hit another button on the small commsphere. "Brice. How are the pizzas?"
The crackle of static, and then a clear line. "All pizzas have been delivered. We're waiting at the restaurant, sir."
"Notify Sirri and the others and get back to the car by eleven hundred hours. And Brice?" Strife glanced back into the alley.
"Quit calling me sir. It's fucking weird as hell."
"Yes, sir. I mean, uh…yes, erm..." The conversation terminated, and the man slipped the comlink back into a pocket of his coat, shaking his head and settling back to listen to the rain. He took another drag off his cigarette, enjoying the crackle of tobacco and the sweet tang of nicotine rushing in his skull before exhaling underneath the rain slicker. It was a pleasant diversion from the scenery.
Movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention, and he turned his head to watch a similarly hooded figure hobble up to him, reaching into the deep pockets of its cloak. Something about the stranger disturbed him, and he found his hand reaching for his sword only to remember that it was back on the ship, along with everything else that made him more conspicuous than usual.
But the man, as it turned out, only reached out with a piece of paper, his beady eyes peeking out at him beneath the hood. Handing him the paper, the stranger shuffled back down the alley. Strife narrowed his eyes at him, and glanced down at the leaflet.
The front read simply:
"PLANET." It looked like some religious pile of bullshit intended to make him join some cult, clean up litter, or confess all his sins. Ha. As if anyone had that much time on their hands. He leafed through it…something about generators and the spirit of the something-or-other. Blah-blah-save-your-soul-bullshit.
Crumpling the paper, he tossed it down the alley at a particularly annoying alley cat. The cat hissed at him and retreated behind a series of garbage cans, no doubt plotting revenge.
The man that slouched against the wall was, in fact, not Dirk Strife. Dirk Strife had been killed in the first sorceress war, a drifter with no family whose death had been swept under a rug of lost numbers and names and who now, most likely, was a worm tunnel in an unmarked grave.
Fortunately, what remained of the deceased soldier was a valid id. number and a name, both intact and still active due to a mix-up in paperwork. Apparently, it was all the same to the powers that were if Dirk Strife was alive or dead, and, as it turned out, the man was much more useful alive.
Dirk Strife was now an employee of Balamb Garden, whose official title was listed as SeeD Class A: Operations Management Specialist. Dirk Strife also owned a small seaside cottage, and had a Class A vehicle license. Not bad for a dead man.
The man that wore his name was no more Dirk Strife than the unwary patrons that passed him on the street. When someone said his name, there was a fraction of delay before he could recognize the name as his, and turn to respond. There were only a few people that still bothered to call him by his real name, and when they did, it was sharp…odd…and never in public. His other name was as lost as the young man whose name he stole.
After all, according to a Galbadian accident report, Seifer Almasy no longer existed, either.
The man that once went by the name had a small memorial in Trabia amongst the scattered parts of the old Galbadian Garden wreckage, and a tombstone on an island near an orphanage, neither of which contained a corpse.
Seifer Almasy was legally dead, a memory laced with valor and betrayal, depending on which war one wanted to remember.
The man in the alley, then, for all intents and purposes, was a dead man carrying a dead man's name and, by all accounts, was neither.
He ground out his cigarette beneath his boot before pulling his hood further over his head, checking his watch, and rolling his eyes at the rooftops. His hair was a little longer now, and in need of cutting. For the purposes of a semi-public mission, his hair was also temporarily black, his eyes a non-descript shade of brown.
Ah, the wonders of Cloaking-mag, the much-appreciated gift of one now Senior Tech Advisor, Ceres Morlysius.
Yawning, he tipped his head back towards the sky, allowing the rain to splatter against his forehead, fringed by dark bangs and the elastic plaster that covered his tell-tale scar. Reawakened by the cold droplets pelting his forehead, he shook himself and focused again on his objective, which had yet to arrive.
After a few minutes of resisting, he settled back into the inevitable, and let his mind off the leash to wander through old memories and stray thoughts. He thought about the maintenance that still had to be done on his house- the screen door, the plumbing, the porch swing... He thought about all the reports that had to be filed when he got back, shuddering at the thought of paperwork. Most likely, he'd make Brice do it. Hell, that kid would have an underwater tea party commissioned if he ordered it. Brice practically hero-worshipped Dirk Strife.
He wondered what he would have thought of Seifer Almasy.
He hated waiting. There was too much time to think. Left to his own devices, he thought about about things he shouldn't. Things out of reach. Things like Fujin. He thought about her soldier's grave, and the fact that she would be almost twenty four by now. He thought about Rajin, back in Balamb, working on a fishing ship, living in a boatshed in his backyard, and trying to forget Fujin, too...or maybe just trying to live in a way that honored her. He thought about Cid Kramer, dead years now, and Edea, trying to keep order to a new houseful of messed-up kids.
Mostly, though, he thought about her. If he was honest with himself, he missed her, always did, when he was gone. He also missed sleeping in a bed with pillows that didn't resemble marshmallows, in a room that didn't have seven different kinds of foreign body fluids splattered on the walls.
A bed with her in it.
He thought about the way she smelled- warm, (raspberries, leather, and coffee) the way she tasted-her body, soft planes of skin and muscle that jumped and warmed and curled beneath his fingers. He thought about the soft edges of her interior, masked by the hard lines of the soldier…the scars that ran the length of her arms and the way her toes curled when he kissed her behind her right ear. He thought about her, and how impossible it was that they were together, and how fragile it all seemed when he stepped back to examine it.
Yeah. He missed her. Damn.
He stared at the sky again, exhaling loudly and staring up at the rain, forcing the thoughts out of his mind. All he needed was to have a 'problem' in the alleyway. Although public indecency was something he was sure was on Seifer Almasy's record, Dirk Strife had a record like a virgin's underwear drawer, and if he didn't want Xu to kill him, it had to stay that way.
What seemed like eons ago, he had been staring at the white ceiling of nameless hotel amidst roaches and discarded bottles of vodka, the ceiling rolling above him and thoughts of any future a thousand miles away.
The man that existed all those years seemed distant, gone but not forgotten. Never forgotten.
The man that stood in the alleyway now was the product of degradation, humiliation, and several incidences that should have killed him. He was also the leader of the White SeeD, owned a (rapidly improving) shack on the ocean, and had a woman waiting for him there that didn't get paid to wait there by the hour.
There were times that he had difficulty reconciling with reality.
He would much rather have been wedged in a mercenary's cot with the woman currently plaguing his mind instead of out in the pouring rain and doing surveillance on the new members of the Galbadian cabinet. However, Xu Chang, newly appointed Headmaster of Balamb Garden, wanted all local governments preened before being completely settled into office. The rest of his team was fanned out across Galbadia, each tracking a different member of the senate. After two solid weeks of watching politicians bumble around a city he didn't particularly like, conducting political agendas that bored him to death, he was looking forward to heading back to Garden- to a warm bed, warm meals, and a familiar warm body.
The process was entirely illegal, but then, that was exactly why Xu had appointed him to do it. He didn't go on many missions, but the ones he did go on were few, classified, and officially never happened. Furthermore, he often went alone. This was one of the first times he'd had a crew along- Xu had finally given Class A security clearance, SeeD status, and sufficiently sharpened the claws of three young soldiers to join up. These people would make up his 'team', should he need support. All in all, he found that he preferred to work alone, which did not surprise him, but his team was not incompetent.
Seifer Almasy, or rather, Dirk Strife, watched as Senator Kohlen finally left his home and climbed into the chauffeured car that awaited him. All that remained, now that the good senator was gone, was to place a trace on the man's phone and head back. Aside from having a couple of office mistresses and an unnatural obsession with fresh bakery, Senator Kohlen was a boring man. Finances and interest groups checked out, as did the man's non-political appetites. It seemed, for once, that the Galbadian Government had a chance of being more about politics than corruption.
For now, at least.
He shed his coat and dumped it into a waste bin. As much as he was looking forward to heading back, something about Xu's message seemed ominous. The White SeeD, much like their leader, was not a faction that officially existed. If Xu needed him for something, it was probably illegal, or ran too deep to cover with regular ops teams. Things had been rather peaceful lately, and, as a well-practiced pessimist, Seifer had been waiting for something to turn up. Things were already beginning to boil in Galbadia about an emerging corporation, one that utilized Draw Points as energy fields to create cleaner, cheaper energy. He'd had to dodge several protest rallies on the way there, which suited him fine. The more attention that was concentrated on the protestors, the less that was focused on him.
Quistis and the rest of the orphanage gang already had enough media attention to contend with. After the second sorceress wars, they had been celebrities- after all, they had saved the world, and they were orphaned, young, and looked good on the cover of magazines. After the third sorceress war, however, they had an almost cult following. All of them (with the exception of Rinoa) had turned down movie deals, book deals, and Zell had begrudgingly turned down an offer from a noted hot dog manufacturer on Xu's orders.
Having chased fame for most of his life, Seifer now understood why the rest of them balked at it: being a hero only looked glamorous in movies. It was a different thing entirely when you were crawling through sewers and dragging yourself half-conscious through the countryside, running on two hours of sleep and a few bottles of Hi-potion: battling monster after monster and wondering which one of your friends you might lose that day. The fanfare had died down a little after Squall had nearly killed a paparazzi member trying to grab a picture of Rinoa, but there were still pockets of media that hadn't given up getting the exclusive on the 'Heroes'.
As a dead man, Seifer was happily immune to the press, aside from the occasional 'shock' article or an appearance in a battle tactics book.
Checking his watch again, he walked calmly towards the Senator's house, trace in hand and a dark jacket that read "Joe's Plumbing" on the back.
The sooner this was done, the sooner he could go home.
He had only one more stop to make.
"Energy talks were cut short today as a large group of protestors, gathered outside the Galbadian Capitol building to object to EUgen, an emerging energy corporation that claims to convert Draw Point sources into usable energy. Though the company asserts they have found a sustainable energy source that may be the answer to the current energy crisis, members of this protest group call EUgen an irresponsible, heartless corporation terrorizing the planet…Riot responders had to be called in when one rioter, calling himself the voice of the planet, lit a Molotov cocktail with a fira spell, tossing it into..."
"Turn that shit off, would you?"
Quistis craned her head around to regard Xu with some amusement. It was hot in the Headmistress' office, and Quistis was resting her ankles up on Cid's old mahogany desk as she filled out yet another pile of paperwork, trying to enjoy the collection of fans that whirred around the room. Really, all they did was circulate a lot of hot air, but it was still better than the stagnant, heavy heat in Kadowaki's office. This particular stack of paperwork was an accident report, the result of two junior classmen, a T-Rexaur, and not enough support magic. She finished her sentence 'broken femur and severe puncture wounds to the gluteul region…' and switched off the television, raising an eyebrow at her friend.
"Not in the mood for news today?"
"Just wait. Pretty soon those freaks are going to be on our doorstep, bitching about how our junctioning represents an unlawful rape and pillage of the planet, or some other left-wing bullshit." Xu scowled, fanning herself with a SeeD manual. "I wish Ceres would get that Hyne-damned air conditioner up and running. I feel like I'm sitting in a billion-ton floating sauna."
Quistis smiled and shook her head, reading over her report. Was concussion spelled with two s's, or one? Hm. She stifled a yawn and erased the word completely. Her recent lack of sleep and the early morning drive to Garden was a tiring combination.
"A billion gil weapons system, and we're cooking in it." Xu brushed her hair off of her forehead, crossing her arms as she leaned on the edge of her desk. "By the way, I have a favor to ask of you."
Quistis rolled her eyes, shutting the manila folder and waiting. Xu's 'favors' were never 'favors' exactly, just less abruptly-worded orders. "What is it?"
"You know Kadowaki was supposed to go and negotiate the leasing rights for the Draw Points on the land that EuGen's picked up tomorrow?"
"She mentioned it, yes." Xu's plan was to ask the company for rights to continue using the land, citing Kadowaki's medical research in Mag-infusion as the reason.
"Well, with all the new idiot recruits we've got going half-cocked into the Training Center, she's got her hands full. Besides," Xu continued, flipping open the folder, "I think it will be better to send…a fresh face in."
Quistis rolled her eyes. "In this case, you mean a fresh piece of meat."
Xu was trying to hide her smile. "Watch it, or I'll make you scrub the sublevels."
Quistis chuckled. "Isn't that Seifer's job?"
"I can always have him scrub the communal toilets…with his head," replied her friend, taking off her jacket and tossing it across the room.
"How did his mission go?" asked Quistis. "Will they be arriving on schedule?" As capable as she knew he was, nothing dislodged the knot of worry in her stomach until she was certain that he was safely back.
"Without a hitch. The moron continues to amaze me." Xu ran a hand through her short hair, trying to unstick it from her forehead.
"Hm," replied Quistis, shutting her report. There was certainly no love lost between her boyfriend and her best friend. She was getting used to it, however, and usually ignored their squabbles like one would ignore someone else's child throwing a tantrum at the next table in a restaurant…with pained indifference. "When do I leave for EuGen?"
"Tomorrow." Replied Xu, handing her the folder. "It should be relatively simple. I believe you're going to be talking to their new head scientist, actually. The previous head of the company is gone."
She had read about it in the paper- Valentine, or something, a promising scientist that had done extensive research on a genetically distinct bloodline known as the Ancients-blown up in his own lab. "Aren't they going to see right through our excuse? I mean, we're obviously not looking for a low-utility permit. We've been drawing off that point for years. What was it, a Cure-specific site?"
"EuGen's got money than they know what to do with, with all the new energy contracts. They're not going to begrudge us a couple uses a month, not when we could become a potential million gil client once their reactors become available for commercial use. Hell, they've been trying to sell us a non-mobile base generator for nearly a year now." Xu smiled. "Besides, that's why I'm sending you…to distract them from looking at the proposal. The wars may have been years ago, but Hero status still counts for something. All your medals and your rack should have the desired effect on a couple of brains that probably haven't discovered their own dicks yet."
Quistis leafed through the folder, raising an eyebrow. "I should be offended-"
"-but you don't have time. Get your bags packed, and I'll dispatch Selphie and the Ragnarok to drop you off tomorrow morning. Their new company's in the middle of nowhere, although they're developing the area like crazy. They've got to pick up the White SeeD on the coast, anyway. Selphie can drop them off, then swing back to get you. Shouldn't take you more than a day- you can stay as a guest of the company, and be home the next day for breakfast." Xu waved her away absently, before picking up another mission report and fanning herself with it irritably.
So I'll just miss him. Damn.
Quistis sighed. "All right. But you owe me. I get three vacation days next week, and a decent hotel room. Not the roach motel Zell and I had to stay in last time." She shuddered, remembering the fist-sized insects that had lurked…everywhere. Zell eventually took to throwing them like Frisbees…she had nearly killed him.
"Sold." Xu was now fanning herself with two Seed manuals.
"And Selphie and I can stop and visit Rinoa on the way back."
"Yes, yes, go ahead," muttered Xu, leaning her head back against the headrest of her chair and fanning harder. "Gamble, skinny dip, go nuts, just be back by the afternoon. I have another mission waiting on the Ragnarok then."
"I'll tell Selphie." Said Quistis, sitting up.
"I already paged her. Go down to the office and get yourself a meal and hotel stipend." Leaning over, her friend hit the com button. "Ceres, why in the bloody hell am I not in a Winter Wonderland up here yet?"
There was a scuffle on the other end before Ceres's voice crackled on. "There's a coolant leak in Sector 5. It'll be up and running soon, I promise!" Quistis thought that as appointed Head of Tri-Garden Tech Services, Ceres probably thought she had better things to do than maintenance work, but wisely kept that thought to herself.
"Good." Xu turned off the intercom and laid down on her desk, propping her feet up on Quistis and blowing her hair out of her face in a rare show of dishevelment as she flung an arm over her face. As Headmistress, she was allowed few moments of impropriety, and usually took advantage of those when in the company of her closest friend.
Quistis frowned as she scanned through the brief on EuGen. "Hn. Dr. Hojo, huh?"
Xu sighed under her arm. "Something like that."