Title: An Instant of Tension
Author: Traxits
Fandom: Final Fantasy VIII
Pairing: None.
Rating: T (teen for implied abuse of a minor, graphic violence).
Content Notes: Implied abuse of a minor, graphic violence, angst.
Word Count: 1665 words.
Summary: He was fourteen when he was first contracted out to the military. Punishment for once more refusing to officially enter the SeeD cadet pool. He could remember that, even if he couldn't remember the first time he picked up a gun.
Author's Note(s): In a most unusual (for me) move, I have placed my notes at the end of the piece. There are quite a few of them.

[[ … One-Shot … ]]

He couldn't remember the first time he'd held a gun. That was weird, given how good his memory was, but then again, it had been after he'd arrived at Garden. But from the first, the gun had always felt natural, an extension of his own arm. He hated sitting through the shooting classes, with their dry lectures on trajectory and wind speed and flag watching. He didn't need any of it. It was all second nature to him, instinctive.

He was the gun.

He never told anyone. Never admitted it aloud. At night, when his nightmares came, he would wait them out, then take the pistol to the firing range. Training area was open all night, even for cadets. ... Even for him.

He fired the gun until the tears dried, sometimes from a safe distance and appropriate cover. Sometimes not. That was reserved for the worst nights, the ones that seemed to go on and on, weight pressing down on him, cutting off his air.

Really, it was no wonder that he slept through his classes, feet propped up on the computer terminal, gun at his side. Then he'd discovered larger guns, and even though his teachers expressed concern over someone his age firing them, the paperwork was pushed through. Of course it was. It was the only perk that had come with his adoption.

The teachers expressed their concern over a lot that was none of their business. His hair was too long- didn't it get in the way? He had dark circles under his eyes- was he sleeping enough? He was sent to the infirmary too often to count, and eventually, he stopped going when sent. The nurse asked too many questions, probed a little too close to the truth. Instead, he cut the rest of the day and spent it in the firing range.

He was never going to be a SeeD at this rate.

The weight of the rifle- soon as he was strong enough to lift it- was comforting. It was a weight against him that he controlled. There was nothing about the gun that he didn't own, that he didn't manually adjust. No one touched his weapons, even when he passed the allowed limit for firearms. The paperwork was just quietly pushed through, and he was disciplined privately.

Didn't want to make a spectacle of their finest sniper, even if he wasn't a SeeD.

He was fourteen when he was first contracted out to the military. Punishment for once more refusing to officially enter the SeeD cadet pool. He could remember that, even if he couldn't remember the first time he picked up a gun. Perhaps he didn't want to remember that, although he couldn't imagine that it had hurt any worse than some of what he did remember.

It had been a man. Irvine had been allowed to choose his location, his weapon. The two SeeDs- bodyguards? A sign of mistrust between the military and Garden?- in the field yielded to his requirements. It was a heady moment, rich and frothy with a child's delight of bossing those trained mercenaries around. Finally, he agreed on the park. Of the target's daily ritual, it had the best angle for the shot, even if it was in public. The SeeDs didn't like that, but then, it wasn't their call. They didn't have to.

They waited until the target arrived early in the morning, his coffee still steaming in its paper cup. It was the perfect moment,

He lowered the gun for a moment, looking through the binoculars at the older gentleman sitting on the park bench, reading the paper. Briefly, Irvine wondered if he'd been a kind man, or- He lined up the barrel of the gun, adjusting for elevation and wind without thought.

The sound was quiet, all things given, but it was a specialty rifle, ordered specifically for use by the Galbadian military for this sort of thing. He didn't even have to move from his nest; no one was looking in his direction. The man crumpled, falling over and off of the bench. The paper cup bounced, splattering dark brown with every hit, before it finally rolled to a slow stop, still spilling. Pride bubbled up, and Irvine turned to look at the SeeD with him.

She offered him a little smile- a funny smile, one that didn't seem to sit right on her face- and leaned forward, pressing the softest of kisses against his forehead. Good boy.

Then the screaming started, and he spun around, his eyes widening at the sound. Some woman was shaking the target, screaming for help, tears glistening in the sun-

He couldn't see that. Not from the distance. Quickly, he shook his head, clearing his vision. The screaming kept on, and then the SeeD's hand was digging in his arm, dragging him away from the window. The gun was left, wiped clean in a heartbeat, as instructed. The fingers squeezed more tightly as she hauled him down the stairs, and he let her, his eyes wide as he realized just what he'd done.

It hadn't been a target. It hadn't been a cut out, or even a monster.

The blood had been human. An older gentleman who had been sipping his coffee- splattered all over the ground, damning as the blood itself- and reading the morning paper- crumpled under the heavy weight of the body.

The body.

His body.

Irvine jerked himself out of her grip, shaking. His stomach rolled, and she hissed in his ear, "Up! Don't throw up now!" And then she was dragging him again. Something was wrong, but he couldn't focus, just kept hearing the screaming and watching that paper cup bounce, splattering brown blood-

He couldn't help it as his stomach rebelled. Toast, heavy butter and grape jam, and apple juice and bile. Breakfast and shame, and he was wiping his mouth, trembling as the SeeD shook him again.

"Come on!"

They were running toward the station, could see the train. Another gunshot. Her fingers dug into his arm, then fell away, and Irvine was the one screaming this time, shaking her, demanding that she get up.

Her head rolled back, and blood covered him, still pumping sluggishly from the hole in her chest. Another gunshot, this one too far right, and Irvine reached for the pistol at his hip. His ear twitched as he listened to the chaos around him- people screaming and running and the crowd stampeding and the ker-chak of the gun being reloaded. He twisted, saw the shotgun and fired.

Irvine Kinneas never missed.

Then the second SeeD was grabbing his shoulders, and he was still firing- all six shots hit the soldier before he hit the ground. The screaming and the noise was unbearable, but then they were on the train. The SeeD shoved him onto the couch, and disappeared, locking the door behind him.

Irvine didn't move, the revolver sliding from his grip onto the floor with a clatter muffled only by the carpet. The train was peaceful in its noise, the regular clacking of the track, the humming of the machinery. Slowly, his eyes closed.

Dark brown, splattering and splashing and the twisted white cup rolling-

He jerked himself, his eyes wide. Gasping for breath, he reached up to rub at his face, only to stop when he saw the blood. His blood? No, hers. He shivered and began wiping it on his jeans feverishly, scrabbling back and off of the couch- bumph on the floor- and over until his back was against the wall. He was covered, torso and legs and arms and hands, with her.

He could still feel that soft kiss against his forehead.

There was a soft swooshing noise as the door opened and the SeeD came back in, arms full of clothes, a large box, three bottles of water and a bowl. "You okay?" He frowned at Irvine, and then he managed a weak smile. "Course not. Here. Wash up and change."

Irvine stared dumbly at the bowl and the bottle of drinking water. Then the SeeD sighed and helped him peel off the ruined shirt. He took Irvine's left hand first and poured water over it before finding a spot on the back of the shirt that was dry. Gently, he rubbed it over the blood, and Irvine shivered as he watched it drip into the bowl.

"You'll be fine," he whispered, and Irvine blinked as he looked up at the SeeD. "Just have to learn to cope. Think of something happy."

A young girl, curly brown hair, laughing, floated through his head, and for one moment, the weight of the day lifted. Then he thought of the last smile he'd seen. Her smile. "She's dead. SeeDs aren't supposed to die." Irvine watched as his protector washed his other hand and arm. "S-she..."

"Not everyone makes it through a mission."

The shirt was abandoned, and Irvine trembled for another moment before he took the clothes. "I got it," he said quickly, looking away from the SeeD. "I can dress myself." He frowned though, as he peeled off his jeans.

"Sorry, kid. That's all they had."

Blue jean shorts (reached halfway down his thighs) and some sort of pants that went on over it. Chaps? Everything was a little big, and by the time he was buttoning the vest, he felt like he was playing dress up. He picked up his revolver and fell back to sit on the couch, pulling his knees up to his chest. Something plopped down on his head, and he glanced up.

A cowboy hat?

"It came with the pants," the SeeD offered, with a little shrug. "Don't have to wear it if you don't want to."

Irvine reached up and touched the brim, really felt the leather under his fingertips. His eyes closed. "'S fine," he muttered, tugging it down to rest low over his face. No one would see the shadows under his eyes, at least.

Author's Note(s): This piece really came out of no where. I'm working on my Megaflare fic (a 20k word fic set in the FF series, hosted on Dreamwidth [dot] com), and I was doing research on SeeDs; specifically, confirming whether or not Irvine Kinneas was a SeeD (he's not, just so you know. "I'm not a SeeD, but I share the same feeling with all of you." Quote taken from the basketball court scene in Trabia). Then, I run across this little gem:

"You've all heard this before. How life has infinite possibilities. I don't believe that one bit. There weren't many paths for me to choose. Sometimes, there would only be one. From the limited possibilities I faced, the choices I made have brought me this far. That's why I value the path I chose... I want to hold true to the path that HAD to be taken." Credit goes to Mark Wong, aka LightSoul, for their script of Final Fantasy VIII, up for viewing on IcyBrian [dot] com's fanfic resource page.

Obviously, there are dozens of different ways this could be interpreted. However, something I noticed was that in this scene, Irvine talks about his own past just enough to remind the others. And even then, he only talks about Selphie at first. He never once offers an explanation for why he ended up in Galbadia instead of in Balamb, never mentions being adopted, or anything of that nature.

So, I got to thinking, what if he was adopted by Martine? That would be why he received SeeD level training without actually being a SeeD, and it would explain why he was not sent to the D-District Prison. Who would send the "son" of the Garden Master/Headmaster? It also serves as a tidy reason for Caraway to trust Irvine to fetch Rinoa from the prison (she was a resistance leader in Timber, after all. Probably took time for him to push through the bribes to get her out).

In any case, I offer this fic with same humble thought that has sparked countless fanfiction: what if?