The Ice That Abandons Me
Final Fantasy VIII and its characters are copyright Squaresoft.
Squall Leonhart wasn't much of a believer in luck. He wasn't the kind of person that just put everything to chance. But now, with logic loosing the battle in the corner of his mind, he decided that if he were a believer, he would have to chalk the events of this day up as a horrendous strand of completely, rotten, luck.
It all began that morning as he and his comrades were assisting Trabia Garden with relief and rebuilding efforts after the Galbadian missile attack. After a survey of the damage it was decided that more provisions were needed. He and Rinoa had volunteered to take the Ragnarok back to Balamb to get them while the rest stayed behind to help with what they had. It was just a short trip in high-speed craft. Point A to point B and back again. Simple enough. Only four hours ago, everything had been fine.
They were near the cost of Trabia when the first engine went out. No explanation, no warning from the computer system. It just stopped. The other engine quickly followed, as did his ability to control the airborne vessel, which shot down from the sky like a kestrel diving after its prey. Rinoa had gone to the cargo bay at his request to go over the supply inventory. Frantically he had slammed the button to the intercom and yelled for her to get back to the cockpit, where at least she might have the aid of a seat belt. But already it was too late. The ground was rising too fast to meet them. He desperately tried to pull up on the controls; he pulled all the emergency levers; and in a last ditch effort he used the only method of applied science he knew. He raised a booted foot and kicked the son of a bitch with all his might.
One of the engines re-fired. He tried the controls again, pulling up on them just in time to keep the Ragnarok from slamming its nose into the ground. The nose rose a bit and then hit the ground with tremendous force. It slid across the snow-covered ground with a thunderous roar as it plowed through the white powder. A wing clipped the side of a jagged cliff and snapped off sending the craft into a violent spin. Squall was knocked from his seat hitting the floor hard landing on his right side. Vaguely he was aware of the loud crack of his bones as he collided. Then darkness.
Some time afterwards his senses reactivated and he became aware of the sound of dripping water and the frigid breeze cascading across the plains of Trabia and through the broken window. He began to roll over onto his back when he almost lost his breath as intense pain shot through his side and his arm. "Cure," he murmured as he placed a hand over his ribs. The iridescent blue light enveloped him and the pain lessened a bit. He would have to set the broken bone in his arm before he could cure it. He cursed himself for not being more prepared.
He had left his guardians with his friends in Trabia, feeling that they might actually need them. His magic was sorely limited. "I'm a damn SeeD for Hyne's sake! I'm supposed to be prepared!" And he wasn't prepared today. Why today of all days? Perhaps he thought it possible to get through one day without incident, without confrontation, it was peacetime after all. "Peacetime doesn't rule out accidents you dolt," he told himself. He couldn't fend off accidents with his gunblade. Maybe there was something in the cargo hold they could use.
…The cargo hold;
"Rinoa!" he screamed.
In a flash he was on his feet scrambling through the wreckage ignoring the blinding pain hammering through his arm. He slid the door open with his good arm and ran down the hallway, nearly leaping down the length of the stairway. Shouting her name the entire way. Praying for a response. He kicked at the dented door and stepped into the bay interior. Boxes and equipment were strewn the length of the area, there was no sign of the young woman.
"Rinoa!" he called again.
With a free hand he tossed aside rubble and plowed through the twisted metal, desperately searching. Tears began to sting his eyes at the thought of her buried underneath the wreckage.
She could be anywhere.
"Rinoa!" he cried out in anguish.
This had to be a nightmare.
"Answer me!" he demanded.
He buried his face in his hand.
It had to be a long and painful, horrific nightmare.
Angrily, he kicked at one of the crates on the floor.
"Did anyone ever tell you what a lousy driver you were?"
The familiar voice from behind him made him spin around in alarm. Rinoa was lying in the corner of the room in the shadows, her back propped up against the wall. She smiled at him weakly.
He jostled through the boxes and made his way towards her. He fell to his knees when he reached her and immediately wrapped his good arm around her, lifting her up and holding her tightly.
"Hi," she whispered.
"Hi," was all he could say, loosing his normally cool composure in the joy and relief that came in finding her.
Rinoa wrapped her arms around his neck, relief flooding her senses as well. The last thing she remembered was the jarring feeling of the floor beneath her feet and being flung into the wall, hitting her head against the thick steel frame. Certainly didn't build them like they used too. She had the most unbelievable headache.
"Are you okay?" he questioned.
"I think so," she replied reaching towards the back of her head with one of her hands. She yelped in pain.
"Maybe not," she winced.
Carefully he pulled her forward to examine her injury. Blood matted the back of her head. He parted her hair and found a medium sized gash. It looked to be only skin deep, however if the force of her head hitting the wall had caused it, it was almost certain that she had a concussion. "Cure," he spoke softly. The aura flowed from the palm of his hand, gently enveloping her in a sea of sparkling blue. The blood flow ceased as the wound closed. The light faded and she lifted her head to meet his eyes with her own.
"Thanks." She smiled at him. "You always did know how to treat a lady."
He smiled back at her.
"Ha!" he barked.
"Very funny," she said as she gave him a slap on the arm. He cringed and groaned.
"Oh!" Rinoa exclaimed, " I'm sorry! Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I think it's broken."
She took it gently in her hands, gliding up the sides of his forearm, feeling through the folds of his jacket. She stopped as she felt the raised bone about midway up on the outside of his arm.
"Ok, take a deep breath."
The broken ulna snapped back in to place as Rinoa maneuvered her hands along his arm with the precision of a bonesetter.
"Son of a…fucking hell!" Squall said as he rolled back onto the floor in pain.
"How about warning me when your gonna do something like that?" He managed to squeak out.
"Sorry, if I had warned you, you would have been too tense."
"Your too kind," he mumbled.
She took his arm again and closed her eyes in concentration. The blue light emerged from her and ran the distance of his arm. There was a bright flash and the light retreated. Her head snapped back with the force of returning magic.
"Owwww…," she replied.
"Not sure…can't seem to concentrate my powers," she said as she fell back against the wall. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry, you've taken a serious blow to the head, just take it easy."
"Besides," He said. "You did a great job of putting it back into place. Where'd you learn to do that?"
She laughed a bit. "You learn all kinds of things in a resistance group. Especially one that was as accident prone as the Forest Owls."
"You never cease to amaze me," Squall said as he stood. "Think you can stand?" He reached for her with his good arm.
She took his hand and came wobbly to her feet.
"Whoa…" She fell into him. He wrapped his arm around her waist for support.
"Can you make it?"
"Yeah, I'm ok, just really dizzy." She put a hand to her forehead.
"You need a doctor," he stated.
"I'll be fine."
"I'm out of cure spells," he said.
"Don't worry, when this headache goes away I'll heal you and me both."
He sighed. "It's a shame we took all the elixirs the first round."
"Quit being the pessimist Squall, everything will work out fine."
"Ok, ok, lets go see if we can radio for help."
The radio was of course, dead. The ship's computer system was fried. Everything was just great.
"This is just great," Squall muttered making his inner thoughts verbal.
He tied a makeshift sling made out of a thin blanket around his neck and looked out of the broken glass to the dark sky above. A storm was coming, and the air was far too cold to bring rain. There was no telling how long they might have to stay in the damaged Ragnarok, which without any heat, offered little more shelter from the elements than the trees themselves. Looking over the landscape he spotted a familiar rounded wooded area. It was a chocobo forest. The Garden should be just to the north of there. With a chocobo it wouldn't be that far. If they left now, maybe they could make it before nightfall. It was worth a shot.
He looked down at the seat where Rinoa was sitting, her hand covering her eyes. He had to get help for her. They were going to have to try to reach Trabia.
Rinoa sat at the bottom of the gangplank holding a couple of blankets and a few rations they had taken from the cargo bay. She pulled at the sleeves on her arms and watched with blurred vision, as Squall emerged from the chocobo forest. A small chicobo ran circles around his feet playfully while its mother followed close in tow. He stopped just short of her and blew on a small whistle, pointing downward with his hand. The chocobo obeyed, tucking its legs under and laying down in the snow. Squall offered the girl a hand as he approached.
"Your carriage awaits my lady," he said chivalrously.
She smirked. "Lady? Ha!" She took his hand as helped her on to the giant bird. He began handing their supplies to her when the chicobo pecked at his feet and began chirping frantically. He looked down at the small annoyance.
"What's your problem?"
The chicobo nudged him again and then poked his beak at one of the packets of food on the ground.
"I think he wants to help Squall," Rinoa chuckled.
Squall sighed. "Since when were chicobos interested in community service?" He picked up the food packet and placed it on the chicobo's back.
"Don't drop that!" he said sternly. He then returned to the chocobo and climbed up to sit in front of Rinoa. The chicobo chirped happily and strutted proudly over to stand beside his mother. He blew a few short commands on the whistle and the chocobo rose to standing. Rinoa wrapped her arms around his waist and placed her head against his back.
"You know, you're great with kids," she said with a smile.
"Yeah, yeah," Squall replied. "Whatever."
The caravan of four made their way across the icy plain. The wind grew in force as they made their way towards the mountains south of Trabia. A flash of lightning illuminated the darkening sky. The snow began falling. The chocobo snorted in reply. A massive storm was coming.
And that wasn't all.
A loud roar shook the tranquility of the frozen plain as a snow lion erupted from the ground in front of them. Tearing from its hiding place to devour its unsuspecting victims with enormous jaws. The chocobo was thrown off balance in her surprise, toppling the passengers off her back. Squall landed on his right arm for a second time that day, and he cried out in pain on the ground as black spots floated in his vision. The chicobo was the closest to the monster. He was stopped in his tracks, staring up at the looming goliath, frozen in raw and utter fear. The snow lion started towards him, ready for an easy meal. The chocobo interrupted the creature. She leapt in front of her offspring staring down the monster with the deep and relentless valor that is only seen in the eyes of a mother defending her child. She stamped her foot, sending an order to the young one to run. She warked sharply at the beast and then charged forward, raising her sharp talons and sinking them into the exposed under belly of the giant.
The snow lion howled in anger and lashed out at the chocobo with a massive blow from its claws. The blunt force broke the chocobo's neck, killing her instantly. She fell and skidded across the frozen snow. The chicobo screamed. The snow lion looked up from its kill, suddenly driven not only by hunger, but something else.
It barreled down upon the small chicobo. Its speed uncharacterized by its massive bulk. A form suddenly came between the two, bringing up a hand and shouting to the sky.
The creature stopped just inches away as a white light invaded its vision, stunning it and blinding it from its prey. It screamed in fury and unleashed its ice breath attack, shard of ice spewing from its frozen lips. Rinoa screamed as she met the full force of the attack. Ice shards as sharp as razors rained down upon her, slicing against the exposed skin of her face and hands. She fell to the ground before the monster, which tore at its eyes in an attempt to regain its vision. The blinding light began fading from its eyes, as it made ready to tear apart the rest of its assailants. A pain in its side made it decide differently, its head wielding around to face another attacker.
"C'mon you bastard!" Squall yelled as he shoved the gunblade in deeper with all the strength he had in his left arm. It was awkward trying to wield a weapon that proved most effective with two hands, and being right handed wasn't helping matters any. He grappled the trigger and pulled sending an explosion of fire into the reeling monster. Squall was knocked backwards onto the snow from the force of the blast. He looked over to Rinoa who was slowly rising to her feet. The snow lion thrashed around in a wild frenzy.
"Run!" he yelled.
She reacted quickly grabbing the chicobo behind her and sprinted up the hill as fast as she was able, heading towards the serrated mountain. A small aperture in the rock face caught her eye and she turned her attention to the battle behind her.
Squall stood in a ready stance as the monster roared and turned towards him. It knocked him down with a blow from one of its powerful claws. He immediately scrambled to his feet, raised the gunblade, and fired a second time, the flames causing the creature to stagger backwards in alarm.
"Squall, up here!" Rinoa yelled while pointing to the small cave opening.
He fired the gunblade again into the face of the snow lion then turned and fled up the hill. The snow lion shook its enormous head to clear its vision, and followed after its quarry with an unrelenting fury to capture these infuriating creatures. Its giant arms pulled its giant body up the hill with massive force and it quickly began to close in on the stumbling body in front of it. It opened its jaws eagerly in anticipation.
Squall reached the top of the hill gasping for air as he felt the hot and rancid breath of the monster against the back of his neck. He caught up with Rinoa and followed her through the narrow entrance. The extended arm of the snow lion followed quickly after. The monster roared in rage as his prey became out of reach. The small cave opened up a bit in the back. Rinoa gently put the shivering chicobo on the rocky floor.
"Are you okay?" She questioned as she turned and walked the short distance between her and a now limping Squall.
"I'll be fine," he wheezed. "How about you?"
"Fine," she replied, even as the adrenaline slowed its pumping through her veins and the pain returned with an intensity that nearly took her breath. Her vision blurred.
She stumbled into him. He caught her with an arm.
"Your not fine," he said and helped her ease herself against the cold wall. He took off a dampened glove and used it to wipe the blood from her face. He looked into her eyes with concern.
"God…were you even thinking?" He asked, his voice still soft but firm.
"It was a life Squall," she replied. "It couldn't defend itself. That's all I could think of."
"It nearly cost you your own."
"I couldn't just stand there, I had to do something."
He sighed. "I know, just don't scare me like that again alright?"
"I'm sorry." She gave him her best puppy dog eyes.
"You're forgiven I suppose," he replied with a small smile. "But that's twice today, if you do it again, I'm afraid there will be serious repercussions."
She raised an eyebrow at him. "Really? What sort of repercussions?"
He thought for a minute.
"I'm not sure, I'll have to get back to you on that one, but rest assured they will be severe," he leaned over and kissed her on the forehead before standing.
"I'm petrified already," she said with a sly grin.
"Good," he replied. "I'm going to go see if there's anything in here we can use."
"I will. You don't move."
"I don't think I could if I tried. If I get any more head trauma today everyone will be saying, "Hey look! There goes Squall and his brain damaged girlfriend."
"Oh, don't worry Rinoa," he said as he made his way towards the back of the small cave, "they say that already."
"You are so gonna get it when you get back!" Her voice echoed against the walls.
"I'll be sure and take my time," he chuckled.
Time would prove to be short as the extension of the cave barely went out of view from where they were. There was the constant sound of dripping water from the roof of the cave formed a shallow pool on the floor. Something shimmered behind it and he walked closer to get a better look. It was a draw point. "Hot damn!" Perhaps fortune had finally decided to smile on him for the day.
He opened the palm of his hand towards it. The blue aura rushed from the sparkling fountain and he was greeted with the magic of…
"Shit," he murmured.
This was not a good day, not a good day at all.
He turned and walked back to where he had left Rinoa. The soft hum of a song filled his ears as he approached. She was sitting on the floor, her eyes closed. The chicobo was lying on the floor with his head on her lap, his eyes shimmering through the enclosing darkness. Gently she caressed the feathers on top of his head. Squall almost became entranced himself as a warm feeling spread through him. He felt calm, momentarily forgetting the situation they were in. She seemed to have that effect on everyone.
The snow lion roared, its teeth gnashing against the wall of the cave opening.
Well, at least on him and the bird.
He walked over and sat down beside the two, laying the gunblade to the side. She cracked open an eye.
"None. There is some water back there though. Do you want some?"
"No thanks," she replied. "I ate enough snow out there to do me for a while."
"Yeah, me too."
The snow blew into the entrance as the storm intensified. The temperature dropped dramatically as the sun plunged behind the mountains.
"How long do you think it'll take for them to find us?" Rinoa questioned.
There wouldn't be any searches tonight. If the storm didn't let up it would take days. Days they certainly didn't have with the temperatures as they were. All of the items they had taken from the Ragnarok were now scattered outside. Currently being buried in the snow. No food. There was nothing to in here to burn. A fire was out of the question anyway as it would only smoke them out of the cave and in to the waiting jaws of the snow lion outside. From his classes at garden he had learned how persistent the creatures were, and from their jaunt across the snow plains two months ago, he was well aware of how powerful they were. He only had one bullet left in the gunblade, a bullet that they might have to use to...no, he wasn't going to think about that now.
"They'll be here soon," he said. "I'm sure of it."
Reaching into his pocket suddenly remembering his purchase from Chocoboy, he pulled out some gysahl greens. The chicobo immediately popped his head up. Squall broke off a couple of pieces and passed it to Rinoa.
"Here, this will keep your metabolism burning for a bit."
She put the leaves into her mouth and frowned at the bitter taste as she began chewing.
"Mmmm…tasty," she droned.
"Aren't they though?" Squall grimaced
The chicobo chirped and looked at Squall hungrily.
"There's some here for you too," he said as he handed the rest to the little bird.
The chicobo took the greens eagerly in his beak.
"You have weird tastes, you know that?" Squall said as he watched him swallow the greens in one gulp.
The chicobo warked and then nuzzled against Rinoa's leg again, grateful for the humans that had protected him. Saved him from the same fate of his mother. The thought of her brought back the engulfing sadness. He suddenly felt sick. He huddled tighter against his only comfort.
Rinoa petted him gently, rubbing her hand across the back of his small body.
"Poor guy," she sighed.
Squall noticed that the cave had become unusually silent. He stood and walked towards the entrance.
He turned to her and placed a finger to his lips. She nodded. He continued quietly, listening for any kind of movement on the outside. He was met with only the sound of the wind outside. He squinted to see out into the darkness. He stared for some time until a burning set of eyes returned his gaze. He reacted quickly leaping backwards as a clawed hand reached in through the wall. He sighed. Obviously the monster had not given up yet.
"Relentless son-of-a bitch," he muttered as he walked back to Rinoa, she didn't respond.
He looked down at the girl. She was still save for the constant shivering, and her eyes were closed. Her breath crystallized as it streamed from her partially open lips. He suddenly realized that sleeping wasn't a good thing to do in the situation. It was possible that they would never wake up.
He took her by the hand.
"C'mon," he said as he helped her up. "We need to move further back."
"Alright," she whispered as she stumbled to her feet, the pain in her head now pounding brutally. She was so tired.
The chicobo trotted after them.
Squall sat down against the wall in the back of the cave, and gently pulled her down to sit between his legs. She put her back against his chest and he wrapped an arm around her, trying his best to keep her as warm as possible. She rubbed his leather-encased forearm and then reached behind her to feel the carved features of his face, now lost in the darkness. He kissed her fingers as they reached his lips. She smiled.
"You take me to the nicest places Squall," she said softly.
He chuckled a bit. "You know," he said, trying to keep them both awake. "I've come up with your punishment now."
"Oh really? And what would that be?"
"Soup," he replied. "An enormous bowl of extremely hot soup."
"That sounds torturous," she replied with a giggle.
"Oh, oh, how about some of Ma Dincht's Fastitocalon Chili?"
"Oh yeah!" Squall replied. "That stuff is delicious on…"
"Hotdogs." they said in unison.
Squall laughed. "Okay, you won that one…what else?"
"A warm bubble bath," Rinoa said.
"Hot shower," Squall replied.
"A Bath…with you."
"Damn, your good at this."
She laughed. "I know."
"What else?" he asked.
"A warm night on the beach, down on the sand, the salty warm breeze rippling through my hair, sitting under a blanket of stars."
He paused for a moment.
"The Training Center."
"Hey, its hot in there!"
"You are a hopeless romantic Squall."
"Well, I have been reading Irvine's self help book."
"Oh, it shows!" she laughed.
"And what else?"
"Aspirin," she moaned putting a hand to her head.
He put his hand around her forehead, pulling her head back to lie against his shoulder. He brought his arm that was in the sling and wrapped it around her waist. And though it really hurt like hell to move it, he found himself not caring about it anymore.
Now he sat, watching the steady fog of breath emancipating from his lips as well as her own. The cold air bit harshly at his face, his fingers began to grow numb. His eyes became so heavy that he started to close them. Fear suddenly shot through his mind as the realization of death came to him. Before he had met her, he didn't really care. He had no one to live for, but himself. And now, he was afraid. He was afraid that he would not see his friends again, the friends that had come to mean so much to him. Afraid that this would be the last time that he would hold her, at least in this world, in this physical sense. He had so many things left to tell her. What she meant to him, how thankful he was to have known her. How she had saved him from the only monster he couldn't destroy. Himself. And the words, though he tried hard through chattering teeth, failed to come.
"Are you scared?"
He snapped back to reality at the sound of her voice.
"A little," he replied, "Are you?"
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't," she said.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm so sorry that I got you into this mess."
"Squall," she said, the tone of her voice gentle and sincere, "There isn't another place on this entire planet that I would want to be right now, if you weren't with me."
It sounded like a quote from a half-gil romance novel, and yet he knew that she meant it. He knew exactly what she meant by it. He felt the same way.
"Don't be scared," she whispered as she intertwined her fingers with his.
And he wasn't. Not anymore. The ice had abandoned him long ago.
Rinoa closed her eyes as the night began to overtake her. She could no longer think about anything anymore. Just escape from the cold. She found that lying against him even though their bodies had ceased to give off much heat. It was still enough. The slow beat of his heart against her backbone sang to her and soothed her like the most beautiful lullaby in the world. And she prayed and hoped for the best, for the miracle of one more day, before giving in to the darkness.
She felt the feathered body of the chicobo nuzzle close to the two of them. There was still something else they had to do.
"We have to name the baby."
"Baby? What baby?"
"Our adopted child here," she said as she smiled and patted the little one's head.
He thought for a moment. Images of his life up till now filled his mind. The chances he took. The millions of times he screwed up. The hope he had given up on…until he had met her, completely by chance. All of the close calls that followed that night in the ballroom. Then his mind traveled through the events of this day leading up to this moment now, on the brink of a frozen oblivion. And she was here…with him.
She could sense the smile as it spread across face, even in the pitch-blackness.
"Lucky," he whispered.
Then, through some chance unknown, the wind ceased its blustering force, the snow clouds lifted and crumbled apart in the night sky, leaving the moon and stars to reflect their light across the snowfields of Trabia.
The snow lion awoke irritably as the sun fell upon its eyes. It growled as it reemerged from the sparkling snow. It shook the icy precipitation from its fur and then looked intently into the cave opening. It licked its lips eagerly as it sniffed the air for the signs of its prey. For a moment it thought that they had slipped passed him during the night. He pawed at the ground in anger. Then it caught the scent, it felt the faint warmth of body heat, and it knew they were still in there. It then set itself to work in a fierce determination to catch the injured prey that had eluded its jaws for far too long. It began digging at the entrance, forcing its body weight against the rock wall, tearing at the rocks with its teeth.
It was so caught up in its intent that it failed to hear the cry of "Hell Fire!" a short distance behind it. Only when a shadow fell over it and an intense heat melted the snow around it, did it stop what it was doing and turned its head upwards. Above stood a creature even more of a giant than itself. The giant's body smoldered with fire as his blazing eyes stared at the pitiful creature before him. The snow lion watched as a grin spread across the creature's mouth as he raised his hands skyward producing a large sphere of roaring flame. In the first instant of its rather long existence, the savage snow lion, afraid of nothing, suddenly knew fear.
Ifrit sent the fireball spiraling down to the creature, watching it writhe in torment underneath the explosion of fire. He floated backwards a bit to survey his handy work and then faded and returned to the mind of his master.
"Damn I hate those things," Zell muttered as he continued towards the cave entrance with his two companions.
"It was obviously after something," Irvine said. The three of them had set off from Trabia at first light after the Garden received a transmission from the Shumi village where scouts discovered the wreckage of the Ragnarok, with no one inside. None of them had slept at all, and they hit the doors running as the sun raced to come up over the mountains. Taking a chance that Squall and Rinoa had tried to make it to Trabia, they decided to start looking around the treacherous mountains surrounding it.
"They have to be in there," Selphie said as her voice quivered a bit, "And they're fine, I just know it." Irvine grabbed Selphie's hand and squeezed it for reassurance.
They walked to the cave entrance where a smoldering snow lion lay fallen on the snowy ground. Zell entered first, followed by Selphie, and Irvine brought up the rear. Suddenly, the massive head of the snow lion shot up from the ground and Irvine wheeled around bringing his rifle up with incredible speed and put a bullet right between the eyes of the monster. It fell back to the ground with a thud.
"Dammit," he said rubbing his forehead, "I hate those things too."
Lucky awoke, hearing the loud sounds of footsteps inside the cave. He stood and walked forward to defend his saviors the best way he knew how. He puffed out his chest, bristled his feathers and then charged forward, running valiantly into the vicinity of his foes, kicking and thrashing violently.
"Whoa, guy!" Zell said as he stopped and picked up the small bird that continued to kick at him frantically. "Calm down."
He handed the chicobo to Selphie, who, having that sort of magic charm on animals, was able to ease the bird's fears quickly.
Zell slowed his pace as he saw the outline of two figures lying against the wall. He swallowed hard and steeled himself for what he might find. As he drew closer he made out the figures of Squall and Rinoa, their hands locked together as if they were built to serve as some tragic statue.
Selphie and Irvine caught up to him. Selphie nearly screamed before putting a hand over her mouth. Tears began to fall from her eyes.
"Oh God, Zell, are they…"
Tentatively Zell brought his fingers up to their necks, praying to find a pulse. After a moment he smiled and watched the faint rise and fall of their chests and the crystal ice of their breath as they released it into the cold. He turned to the others who stood in the narrow passageway.
"Nah, Selphie," he said as he wiped at the tears that threatened to fall from his eyes. "They're just sleeping."