A/N: Another unplanned oneshot. I'm just writing this as I go along. Squall and Lightning might seem OOC here but I'm trying to write how I think their personalities would be at the end of their respective games (when they've both mellowed down).
He landed behind the woman, twirling his gunblade once expertly before resting it on his shoulder, senses on high alert as adrenaline surged throughout his body as he panted from the exertion. Black feathers descended from the sky as a loud thump signified the witch had fallen.
He turned, cool steel blue eyes staring down the defeated woman, battered and bleeding on the ground. His eyes narrowed as the woman attempted to push herself up, only to crumple as well her energy had been expended. She weakly turned her head towards him, glaring hatefully at the approaching victorious brunet.
"Come to deal…the finishing…blow?" She spat at him, her yellow eyes not betraying the fury she held inside. "Do you think… that I've lost? To the likes… of… you? ! Again? !" she pushed against the ground whilst she fought to survive. Her arm shook and she once more hit the dust, hopelessness filling her entire being as fear started to seep in. Gathering her will, she fought the darkness at bay. "I can still…fight!" the silver-haired woman ground out painfully.
"No." Squall steadied his breath, raising his blade. "You can't. And for everything you've done- all the crimes you've committed, you shall perish here."
Ultimecia hardened her gaze at the gunblade wielder. She didn't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he had broken her spirit. The old prophecy came back to haunt her and she realized that all her attempts to escape fate had been futile; there was no going around it.
She wanted to cry- she really did. Throughout all her life she had fought to survive and find a way to escape her fate, mastering her abilities as a sorceress and even training beyond that to attain the ability to manipulate time. All of that work- all those years spent hiding and learning- had culminated with this; taking her execution lying down like a broken doll. She should have known that defying fate was useless. But she'd never give him the satisfaction of seeing her tears.
In a last ditch effort, she attempted to summon Griever despite knowing she didn't have the strength.
Squall sensed the build-up of magic. His eyes narrowed. "It's time for you to die!"
Panic struck the witch as she realized that she was too late. The time witch instinctively closed her eyes.
She felt the cool steel of the blade stop just above her head.
Ultimecia's yellow eyes opened hesitantly. There in front of her was the very warrior she thought she had disposed of before, clinging on to the leather-clad brunet as she held his sword arm steadily.
"That's enough…" the much shorter warrior muttered. "Please just… stop it." She pleaded.
The gunblade user was clearly torn up. He had thought that she died and yet here she was, clearly disheveled and injured but still alive and protecting his nemesis.
His eyes hardened into a glare. "Let go." He commanded.
"Only if you promise not to kill her." She locked her blue eyes with his. There was a fire in her eyes and Squall knew not to cross her. Still, he didn't want to let this chance slip away. As if sensing his thoughts, she tightened her grip on the taller Warrior of Cosmos, locking his limbs in place. "Just this once!" She shouted at him. "Let her go, just this once!"
"This is not the time to be arguing like this!" Squall growled. "If she gets away, she will be more prepared to kill us next time!" Squall's voice lowered. "And next time, she might actually succeed."
Ultimecia slowly tried to push herself up, trying to make as little noticeable movement as possible while she took advantage of Squall's distraction. Squall, however, noticed this and immediately stomped on her purple taloned hand. The time witch grunted in pain.
The pressure on her arm suddenly lessened. The time witch looked up and saw that the girl had thrown Squall to the side so that her small tanned frame was caught in between the man and his prey.
Spreading her arms outward, the girl glared hard. "I said stop!"
Squall shouted. "Why are you protecting her?" He couldn't understand; the time witch had just attempted to kill her so why save?
"Because I know what it's like to be like her!" She shouted back. "It sucks. It's scary. It's lonely." She started babbling, grasping at straws to convince the leather-clad man of her plight. In the end she gave up and stared him down. "Just… let her go."
Squall stood there for a few seconds. Ultimecia held her breath. She wanted to escape- she tried to escape- but she was too drained, too tired to cast a spell and all the adrenaline had left her beaten body, making all her aches pummel her into submission. Fear finally appeared in her eyes when the gunblade wielder started the short walk towards her, stoically brushing past the outstretched arms of the tanned girl.
Squall Leonhart stared down at the beaten form of the time witch. "I can't let you go." He spoke evenly. The time witch tensed before she saw his features soften as he crouched right in front of her. "But it seems I can't kill you either." He placed his palm in front of the witch's face. Muttering lowly, he casted his spell. "Sleep."
The gunblade user ignored his aches and wounds as he carried the time witch, intent on reaching the Sanctuary with his captive. A wide grin spread through his companion's face as her blue eyes shimmered with joy.
"I knew you wouldn't kill her!" She shouted in his face when he turned. Squall's brow twitched at her volume.
"Don't push your luck." He shot back, annoyed. He could feel the tension in the air slowly disappearing. "This better not be a waste." He muttered darkly.
Prishe just grinned widely back. "Don't worry!" She cheered before her features uncharacteristically softened as she directed her gaze at the other woman. "She just deserves a break."
Squall's brow creased as he pondered the girl's words while steadying the unconscious witch in his arms. Shiva, who had long since returned to him after her skirmish against the monstrous Griever, reviewed their fight.
Squall Leonhart stared at the vast ocean in front of him. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, his normally stiff posture relaxing as the ocean breeze tousled his locks. He exhaled slowly, the creases marring his brow dissolving as he imagined his worries drifting with the coming and going waves.
Squall wasn't naïve. Far from it; Squall thought his options through and acted according to whatever compromise was achieved by both his logic and instinct. At times he could be brash and impulsive- especially when his competitive nature surfaced or when someone he cared about was in danger.
Or dead, as Ultimecia experienced firsthand.
"No, not dead." Squall whispered into the wind, reassuring himself. "She was just knocked out."
Nevertheless, Squall wasn't naïve enough to believe the world was black and white- that there was a clear distinction between good and evil. Squall classified his enemies as those that that drew arms against his views. He respected that everyone had different standpoints and perspectives and that was what separated them from their adversaries.
Really, he didn't even believe in this farce of a conflict. However, he knew that in this world, you had to fight to survive. At least, that's what he had believed at first. His first meeting with the Elvaan girl- she protested that this was a reunion- had opened his eyes to the possibilities of their situation.
The information he gathered from the purple-haired Prishe needed more meditation, but he concluded that not fighting wouldn't solve anything. Prishe herself could attest for that seeing as she'd been stuck in this world since the first cycle.
So where did that leave him?
He had apparently participated in this war before- his slowly returning memories provided evidence to back up the purple haired Elvaan's words. And seeing as he couldn't remember the previous cycles clearly, he could only assume that he had perished. Then again, his side could have won and yet he still had no way of knowing what happened afterwards.
What he was sure of was that there was an unknown element at play. After all, someone had to have wiped their memories and as much as he wanted to blame Cosmos, he felt firsthand how much she treasured her warriors.
Though he wouldn't show it and will never admit it, Cosmos' compassion had touched even him. That, and Cosmos was too faint at heart to devise a plot of this scale. A third party that was manipulating the warriors to fight amongst themselves had to be involved.
Not just the warriors… possibly Chaos and Cosmos, too. Shiva voiced the idea he tried to deny.
Squall leaned back, allowing gravity to pull his body down into the sand, hitting it with a dull thud. He opened his eyes, staring off into the clear blue sky.
What are you going to do now, Squall? Shiva pressed on, thinly veiled concern laced in her words. You are strong, yes, but not immortal, and this farce already seems to be a never-ending cycle.
Squall brought an arm upwards to shield his eyes. His earlier worries and uncertainties started creeping back. Instinctively, he knew what to do next; Lightning had taught him as much and affirmed his beliefs. Realistically though, he had no idea if he can and how he could pull it off. He needed more time- and he was worried he didn't have any left.
It's all Prishe's fault. He thought. He blamed the Elvaan girl for making things complicated. Though at the same time, he thanked her for opening his eyes to the truth of the situation. Still, this left him at a dilemma.
Then there was the fact that, despite the bad blood between him and Ultimecia, he realized one thing about their relationship; they had equally caused each other to grow into what they were now- a cold mercenary hell-bent on killing the tyrannical sorceress. Truly, their situation embodied the irony of fate.
Squall idly heard footsteps against the sandy beach approaching him before a shadow loomed over him. The mercenary peeked under his arms and saw Lightning kneel down beside him before adjusting to a sitting position, one leg stretched on the sandy ground while one leg was drawn back against her breast, held securely by one arm as the other held her gunblade ready at her side.
The pinkette spared him a glance before looking forward into the ocean. Squall noted that there was a different kind of stiffness in her posture. Her body wasn't tense in preparation for battle. No… this was something else, and he had a feeling he knew what. They had both been postponing this confrontation long enough.
"You've recovered." Lightning broke their tense silence, still watching the waves come and go.
Squall wanted to shoot back a sarcastic remark- their usual banter- but felt that this wasn't the time. Something important needed to be discussed. "Yeah." He pulled himself up to a sitting position, using both of his hands to support himself while both his legs sprawled over the sand. Squall half-turned to her watch her. "You knew, didn't you?"
Lightning nodded once. She knew that it was pointless to withhold information when the proverbial skeleton was out of the closet. "Kain and the fairy tale knew."
Squall's lips twitched at her nickname for the Warrior of Light. It seemed that she still hadn't forgiven him for naming her the traitor. Lightning continued on. "It was the reason Kain went through with his plan."
"And you didn't bother telling us? Telling me?" Squall felt his emotions starting to boil. After everything they've been through, did she still not trust him?
Lightning noticed the small rise in his tone. She finally met his gaze, her aqua eyes hard with a silent fury. "What would you- could you- have done?" Her eyes narrowed at him. "Despite all your suspicions, you were content to follow Cosmos like a spineless lackey. And let's face it; even now that you know the truth, you have no idea how to rectify our situation."
"I saved you, Lightning. I found a way for all of us to remain alive." Squall reigned in his emotions, delivering his statement as professionally as he could so that he wouldn't antagonize her further. It didn't help; they were too similar that she knew whatever he was feeling. She always could read his emotions as if he displayed them on his sleeves.
"Don't be such a hypocrite. You were perfectly willing to sacrifice yourself for our sake much like we were willing to sacrifice ourselves for yours." She accused before letting out a breath. She knew she was overreacting; that she wasn't tackling the underlying issue of their argument. "Look, just dro-"
"Did you think I'd get in your way?" He cut her off icily. There it is, the pinkette thought darkly. "Did you really think I was that useless?"
Squall stared at her hard. Haven't I earned your trust?
The pinkette folded her arms. You're one to talk.
The brunet sat up straighter. I trusted you, didn't I?
Lightning's eyes shifted before locking back with his. What do you want me to say?
Squall's features softened slightly. Tell me.
The pinkette huffed, shifting her position to face Squall fully. She gave him a hard stare. "I wanted to save you, Squall." She muttered lowly. She could tell he was confused- what was there to save? "It wasn't supposed to be this way." Lightning soldiered on. "You and the others were supposed to continue on to the next cycle. We had already accepted that we'd die securing your futures."
Squall's eyes narrowed. "You had no right to determine our futures. We're your comrades; we're here to help you."
Lightning shot him a wry smile. "You're being a hypocrite again."
"I trust my comrades to find their crystals; not play martyr on a whim."
Squall's head jerked to the side, having been caught by surprise by Lightning's fist. He turned back, about to lash out but paused, stunned by the fury swimming in the pinkette's sapphire eyes. "It wasn't on a whim, you jerk. Did you even think how hard our decision was? What other choice did we have?" She raged at him. "I put my trust in you and everyone, Squall. I trusted all of you to win this war. Now we're back to square one." Her anger quelled slightly, she folded her arms and continued in a resigned tone. "Fighting without a purpose is just a slow way to die."
"No." he declared. "We have Ultimecia. We've reclaimed Prishe and Shantotto. We now have sources that understand this war more than us." Squall stated, his eyes hardened with determination.
Lightning frowned, her arms still crossed. Squall picked up on her hesitation. "What is it now?"
"I don't trust any of them." Her eyes narrowed. You shouldn't, either.
"They came back for us."
"Doesn't change the fact they're deserters. Prishe can't be trusted. She protected Ultimecia."
Squall's lips tightened. This was very personal territory. Squall's track record for treading through personal territory wasn't exactly the best.
Unfortunately, Lightning was one of the few people that could read him.
"You're also siding with Prishe?" Lightning blew up. "Are you out of your damn mind? Cut the crap! This is Ultimecia we're talking about. She's a manipulative backstabber hell-bent on ruling the world. She'll knife you in your sleep. Hell, she'll knife you at the first opportunity!"
"Trust me." Those two words broke Lightning's rage.
"Trust me." Squall repeated louder.
Lightning glared hard at the brunet. Squall didn't flinch under her gaze, showing how determined he was. With a sudden cry, Lightning decked the brunet on the cheek as hard as she could.
Squall picked himself up from the sand, resisting the urge to rub his now sore and reddening jaw. He turned back to his companion, only to see that she had stood up and was now dusting her clothes.
"Tch." She clicked her tongue before staring down at him. "I trust you. I won't make any promises that I'll trust in those three though. Any sudden moves and it's lights out for them." She huffed once, giving him one last look, before she started back towards the Sanctuary. I've got your back.
Squall sat there for several minutes, watching as that red cape disappeared from view. Eventually, he too stood up and dusted his clothes.
She's a good person. Shiva decided to give her input, having been silent throughout the entire exchange.
She's… complex. Squall fished for an appropriate word. But trustworthy.
He felt Shiva smile at him. You've changed, Squall.
Squall didn't reply. He began making his own way back to the Sanctuary, throwing one last glance at the clear blue watery expanse before moving.
The walk back was rather uneventful.
"SQUAAAALL!" A loud voice called his name. He turned back just as the purple-haired blur skidded to a stop in front of him. She grinned up at him widely. "I've been looking everywhere for- woah what happened to you? !" She palmed her cheek before pointing at him with the same hand. "You have something over there."
"Prishe." He nodded, ignoring her question. He noticed something was off and quickly concluded that the Elvaan had somehow lost her hat along the way. He shot her a look, making her smile sheepishly as she took the hint.
"Yeah, yeah. See, the Doc was treating Ultimecia, right?" She started, walking alongside him and talking animatedly. "Guess what? She's finally awake!"
Squall abruptly stopped. "What?"
"Pay attention, little man!" Prishe folded her arms. "Ultimecia is awake and she wants to talk to you. So, I decided to come look for you while the Doc went around doing her own business."
The brunet looked at the purple-haired girl before focusing to a point behind the girl.
He recognized the silhouette of Lightning Farron, gunblade drawn as she settled into a battle stance in front of the time witch, Ultimecia herself looking ready to fight despite her injuries.
Squall palmed his face.
A/N: First off, I'd like to thank Grimmuald for constantly reviewing my fics, even the lowly-received Military Protocol, as well as everyone else who have bothered to review. Secondly, this oneshot may come off as strange but the most I can say is this is a sort-of teaser for my main fanfic, much like "one of those days" was, too. While the events in these teasers may not happen exactly in LTRA, as these are test fics to get my characterizations accurate, the gist of what happens will appear in LTRA. Thirdly, I've run into a small problem with LTRA; I want to continue it but I feel it's too slow-paced since the concepts and twists- the exciting bits I have planned and am more motivated to write- aren't until several chapters down. I might end up just skipping parts altogether even though the main point I wanted to convey with the early chapters- Squall and Lightning's journey to the Sanctuary- was to explain my interpretation of World B and the so-called "War of the Gods". Lastly, I think I'll heed The Great Grin's suggestion and name the Cloud of Darkness 'Famfrit', even though that name doesn't sound feminine enough.