S h a t t e r g l a s s

-katmillia, irishais, seventhe, drakonlily-

One.

It was raining in Esthar when Rinoa stumbled off the train, holding on tightly to the conductor's hand as she descended the short set of steps.

"Are you alright, miss?"

Rinoa nodded. "I need a taxi," she said all in one breath, as if something would escape if she tried to say too much. The conductor nodded, and pointed her in the direction of the terminal.

"Straight out there," he said kindly. "Be careful, miss, it's raining pretty hard."

Her reply was distant, faint-- "I know."

It was by luck that she found her way out into the miserable grey that currently served as early morning; Rinoa slipped into one of the waiting taxis and gave the driver an address up on the more expensive end of town. Somewhere in the depths of her purse, her mobile phone rang, the specific ringtone that she had assigned to Squall loud and insistent.

She ignored it. A few seconds later, the phone went silent. For everyone's sake, the cab driver didn't say anything, just glanced into the rear view mirror at her.

Her phone went off again.

xx

Ellone Loire's building sat on the corner of one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Esthar, and Rinoa handed over a fistful of gil to the driver. She didn't wait for her change, and nearly slipped on a puddle on the neat clear-glass roads as she exited the cab.

The desk clerk looked her over critically as Rinoa entered the lobby. "Are you a guest?" she asked, stiffly polite.

"Ellone Loire is--"

"Rinoa." Ellone stepped off the elevator before Rinoa could finish her sentence. "Over here."

To say Rinoa looked haggard would have been an understatement- there were dark circles under the young woman's eyes and her hair was partially askew. Ellone wasn't even sure why she was surprised by the sudden appearance in the lobby of her flat building, but she'd felt something in her chest, like a tightness, a ripple through her magic that had heralded the Sorceress' arrival.

She felt like Matron had, once, and it was both comforting and frightening.

"Thank god," Rinoa said, letting out a sigh of relief, moving across the brightly patterned carpet to reach Ellone's side. "I thought- I don't know what I thought."

"I'm glad to see you," Ellone said, and it wasn't a lie. She saw so little of the children lately, and even though Rinoa hadn't been at the orphanage with them, she was still connected to them all, through tiny ribbons of energy and magic. She tasted like the others when Ellone reached out to feel her with her senses- like the others and of darkness, as well, something coiling and writhing. Ellone dropped her reach at once, gesturing to the elevator.

"You should come upstairs," she said, dismissing her original plan of walking to the nearby cafe and getting a warm cup of steaming tea. Rinoa looked like she needed alone time rather than the bustling corner gathering place. "I can make you something, if you'd like."

"Yes," Rinoa said, then nodded. "Thank you."

She followed Ellone into the elevator, and didn't say anything as Ellone gently pressed down on the third floor button, which lit up in response.

xx

Ellone gently set a cup of tea in front of Rinoa. The younger woman wrapped her hands around the fragile teacup, drawing the warmth from the drink into her palms.

"Thank you," she said again. "I'm sorry for just...barging in like this, but..."

"It's alright." Ellone sipped her drink, and studied Rinoa carefully. Did Squall know that she was here, looking like she had simply rolled out of bed and taken the first train that she could find?

"I've blocked him out of my head," Rinoa blurted. "I--there's something in there, something that wants to just...hurt." She clenched her fingers around the teacup. "I don't want him to find me. Not right now."

Ellone nodded, and both women jumped a bit as the phone on the wall rang with a sharp trill. She stood, and answered it before it had a chance to ring again. "Ellone Loire." She paused, then sighed. There was only one person who would call her at this hour. "Hi, Squall. Yes. Yes, she's alright...I don't know if that's a good idea right now...No, I understand, but--"

Rinoa's knuckles whitened against the delicate floral pattern of the cup, and the base of the phone exploded. Ellone flinched, stumbling back, the handset with its severed cord still in her hand.

"Rinoa..."

"I'm sorry," Rinoa moaned, hanging her head. "I can't control-- I don't know what's happening to me."

The china cracked under a final burst of pressure from her fingertips, and Rinoa simply sat there, staring at the flood of tea that now spilled across Ellone's kitchen table. Steam wafted up from the puddle in the saucer, and Ellone snatched up a napkin, pressing it into Rinoa's hands to dab up some of the still-hot drink.

Her hands were shaking, but other than the shock-- and distress, Ellone could only imagine-- she didn't seem to be hurt. There was a slight burn on the back of Elle's right hand, where the sparks from the phone had made sharp contact with her skin, but it was of little consequence to the larger problem, which was still sitting across from her, trembling.

"Don't worry about it," Ellone said, and then, a second later, she wasn't sure if she was referring to the phone or the tea that was dripping steadily to the floor. "It's not important."

"It is," Rinoa mumbled, head in her hands, and Ellone could barely understand the words from between her fingers.

"No, it's not," Ellone said again, firmer this time. She dabbed at what she could of the tea without getting down onto the hardwood below the chairs, and gave up when the napkin seemed to have reached its absorbency limit. "What's important is that you're here, and we can try and do something about this. But you'll have to tell me everything."

"Where do I start?" Rinoa asked, looking through her fingers. "I don't even know when it began."

"Well," Ellone said, and then paused, searching for words, "just-- just tell me what you can, then. What makes it go off, and what sort of thing happens when it does, that sort of thing. Maybe there's something I can do."

Rinoa finally uncovered her face, sitting back against the chair, and Elle could almost read the look flickering across the young womans' face- she looked like Ellone had felt many times; despondent, alone, and utterly incapable of handling the hand life had shoved at her. It was the same thing Ellone had felt on the long, never-ending days on the White SeeD ship as she stared across the white-crested waves of the sea. It was despair, and beyond, and she was not happy to see it on Rinoa's delicate features.

"I blew up a laundry basket," she said finally, her voice faint with the absurdity of the situation. "I was...dreaming. " She stopped, unsure of where to go.

"Dreaming of what?"

"There was a castle. Ultimecia's castle--only it wasn't hers, it was mine, and she kept telling me all these things, how she wanted the world remade in her image, and how I could do it...And I--I wanted it." The last words came as a half-choked sob. "I wanted it. When Squall woke me up..." Rinoa kneaded the fabric in her soft pants, twisting it into tight spirals. "The room was shaking. I was making it shake. I was so...so angry at him for waking me up." She looked up at Ellone, her eyes wide. "I can't control it anymore. I've tried so hard, and I can't control it!"

"Rinoa, it's alright...maybe we should get Squall here. Maybe there's something he can do. Maybe he could...stabilize it somehow."

"No." Her voice was desperate, panicky. A neatly arrange stack of cookbooks flung themselves off of their shelf.

Ellone froze. She was, for the first time that evening, genuinely frightened of what the girl could potentially do. Lack of control was something she knew well- how many times had she accidentally entered one of her comrade's dreams while she herself was sleeping? She stayed very still, hoping not to excite any further reactions from the other woman, and went through her own thoughts furiously, trying to find something, anything, that might help.

"I-" she started, and then shook her head, clearing her thoughts. "I could maybe try and send you back-- back to your own past? Or to Edea's, maybe you could grasp a hold of her control there and work it into--"

"Yes," Rinoa said, and the word was a command. "Anything."

But Ellone shook her head, dark strands flying around her face and catching in the corners of her mouth.

"I don't know if it will work," she said, half-pleading. She was unsure why she was stalling, for it had been her own idea, and she was still shaking in fear of objects continuing to fly across her kitchen of their own accord. "I don't know what it can do, I don't--"

"Please," Rinoa interrupted, and her voice was hoarse and choked with emotion. "Please, just do it."

Ellone stood, pushing her sleeves back behind her elbows. It wasn't necessary, but it helped, and she thought wildly she might need all the control she could get. It had been awhile since she'd consciously used her abilities, truly stretched out with them, and for a moment they hovered just beyond her reach, as if she had disused them for simply too long. She closed her eyes, visualizing the place she held so easily in her memory-- Edea's flower garden. It was important to both women, and it would be an anchor.

"Just- just stay still," Ellone said. Her tone sounded strained. Had she ever had to ask anyone to refrain from moving before? Her hands were shaking as she placed her fingertips lightly on the tabletop. "I-- here we go."

The world exploded around her in a shriek of colors and lights. They blurred past her vision as they always did-- bits and pieces of times she was not able to connect to, or older memories she could not properly latch onto. They whirled and roiled and screamed, but she pushed through them, until she saw a burst of light in front of her closed eyes. For a split-second she could smell the sweet scent of the honeysuckles growing wild in the field outside the orphanage's stone walls, and then--

--then it all fell away.