Title: No Longer Children
Author: Traxits
Fandom: Final Fantasy VIII.
Rating: K+
Content Notes: None.
Word Count: 1570 words.
Request: Quistis Trepe. Going back to teaching after having been removed as an instructor once - is she confident? Uncertain? Does she worry about how her students will turn out? Does she take field assignments to get away from it all, or just to keep her hand in? I'd really like something that shows off how awesome she is capable of being. Some encouraging girl-talk would be a bonus, with either Xu or Selphie, and I am happy with that being anything from friendship to romance. Other prompts: the Trepies, girls' night, 'not again.'
Summary: Quistis reflects on her life after Time Compression. Selphie offers her some encouragement.
Author's Note(s): Written for the Final Fantasy Exchange community on Livejournal/Dreamwidth.

[[ ... One-Shot ... ]]

None of them were children any longer, to be led along some destiny too grand to behold. To grasp. They were adults now. Fumbling about and suddenly reeling as they realized everything that had been crafted to propel them through their childhoods was gone. It was all over with, and suddenly, they were spent and empty.

Oh sure, they had little things to keep themselves busy. Selphie had been the luckiest in that aspect; she had Trabia to rebuild. Rinoa still technically held the contracts on Selphie, Squall, and Zell, but she'd let Selphie out of hers the moment Selphie had asked. Squall and Zell were with Rinoa in timber once again. Quistis hadn't heard anything else yet. Hadn't heard that Timber was free.

It was only a matter of time though, if simply because Zell wanted to come back to Balamb.

Irvine was gone back to Galbadia, doing ... well, she didn't know. She wasn't sure that she could make herself spare the energy to care beyond simply curiosity. She'd thrown herself back into her own life, had buried herself in SeeD work so that she wouldn't have time to remember.

She had never been so grateful for the GFs, no matter that they were doing their best to leave those memories intact. She sighed, and it was a hollow sound, brought on by a mixture of melancholy and exhaustion. It had been far more work than she'd originally imagined to get her instructor's license back. She'd expected some sense of accomplishment when she was handed her new ID card, bright and shiny and still warm from the machine. Her eyes had flicked up to the Instructor Number. 14. They hadn't given her a new one.

It was as though she'd accomplished nothing.

But she would be better this time, she'd vowed. She would focus and work and keep an appropriate distance from her students. She could do no less.

Something was still missing though. Had been missing since she'd returned from Time Compression, from their mission so far in the future. She hadn't been able to figure out what it was, only that it seemed to lessen when she sat in the afternoon sun, closed her eyes, and let herself simply be.

She could hear Garden around her, creaking and moaning under the energy rocketing through her. She could hear the laughter and exclamations and exuberance that was life around so many young people. She smiled at the thought. She was hardly old.

"What are you thinking?"

Quistis lifted her head, blinking slowly at the voice. Her eyes narrowed as she met Selphie's green ones, and she smiled slightly. "Nothing. Just breathing," she said, and she lifted her face back to toward the sunlight streaming in through the Quad. "I thought you were in Trabia."

"I'm back for a few days," Selphie replied, and she perched on the edge of the bench beside Quistis. "Working out some issues between the headmasters, you know?" There was a lingering undertone there, a question that Selphie wanted Quistis to guess, to preemptively answer. Quistis wasn't rising to the bait though. Instead, she nodded and continued her visual exploration of the wall in the Quad.

"I'm sure you're doing admirably," Quistis replied softly, and there was a giggle from the girl— the woman, some part of her corrected— beside her.

"You haven't changed at all, have you?"

And somehow, that question stung. It was sharp and barbed in ways that Quistis had no doubt that Selphie had not intended. Nothing had changed. Everything had changed. She …

She smiled as she looked over at Selphie again. "I suppose not." She was teaching again, had somehow stepped back into her place as Balamb Garden's prodigy without even seeming to blink. The mantle of responsibility, of deftly handling expectations was comforting around her shoulders again. Even the Trepies made her smile, made her offer them slight waves as she passed by them in the halls. The number of them had already jumped from twenty-three to thirty-five.

She turned her attention to Selphie though, to the way she was sitting beside Quistis, so cheerful and confident. She'd changed the most out of their little group, had grown up so suddenly upon her return. Quistis supposed that the constant sight of Trabia in the shape it was in served to foster that change, but all the same, it suited her.

"You've changed," Quistis finally said, and she returned her gaze to the Quad, to a girl skating so easily around one of the benches. "You look well, Selphie."

Selphie offered her a grin, one of those grins that she'd managed to wear so naturally when no one else could. "Thank you."

The silence that followed probably should have been a good deal more uncomfortable than it actually was. Selphie was leaning over, her head propped up on Quistis's shoulder, and after just a minute, Quistis let her own head lean over to the side just a bit, just enough to touch her cheek to the top of Selphie's head. Had Rinoa been sitting on the other side of Selphie, it would have felt exactly like so many moments that the three of them had shared before. So many times that they'd simply given up and watched Zell come far too close to punching Irvine for whatever reason, watched as the scenery flew by them on too many train rides. Quistis smiled.

"You're still taking field missions."

Quistis lifted her head and glanced down at Selphie. "What?"

"I ... I was looking for some SeeDs to assist in the reconstruction, and your name was on the list." Selphie didn't move. "I heard you were teaching again though."

Generally, the instructors pulled their names from the field duty roster. Quistis was well aware of this, because the first thirteen instructors had taken great pains to make sure she realized they did, that she realized no one would expect her to continue her work in the field. She hadn't removed her name from the roster the first time she'd gotten her liscence though, and she had no plans to do it again. Cid knew that she taught, knew that if he wanted her on a field mission, she could come up with a self-instructed lesson for her students to work through. She had an entire stack of them already made in her room, just waiting to be pulled out and left on her desk for her teaching aid to hand out.

"I am. I am not normally pulled for much more than an overnight mission." She stretched a little, pointing and flexing her toes before she touched her feet back to the ground. "Why are you looking for SeeDs for reconstruction?"

Selphie waved a hand with a little smile. "Just... we've had some difficulties with the local wildlife. A spill-over from the Lunar Cry, from what I understand. Some of the Estharian scientists say that radiation in the area should return to normal soon, but... Well, you know how they are. Say, Quistis," Selphie leaned over to her again and had she been anyone but Selphie, Quistis would have been immensely uncomfortable with it, "Xu is here for a few days."

Quistis's eyes widened marginally. "She's back from Galbadia? She didn't-" She stopped herself, cutting off what she'd been about to say. Xu hadn't mentioned coming home the last time Quistis had spoken to her. Hadn't brought up that she was even considering it. "Is she here already?"

Selphie nodded, smiling as she looked up toward the light filtering in through the skylights above the Quad. "Mmhm. We're going to pack a lunch and head to the beach tomorrow. Why don't you come too? We can all catch up. Besides, I bet you know all the best spots on the beaches here, don't you?"

Balamb beaches were not Quistis's specialty. In fact, she'd only been a handful of times, and always with Xu, normally because Xu's volleyball team needed one more to make the numbers even. But she smiled all the same and glanced down toward the floor, to the glistening sunlight reflecting off of it. "I might not know the best spots, but Xu does." She didn't have to add that she wasn't teaching tomorrow; it was Saturday, and only labs were open on Saturday.

"Great! Tomorrow then." Selphie stood up, smoothing down the front of her yellow skirt in the motion. "We're meeting at the front gate at one. " She clapsed her hands behind her back and smiled at Quistis. Quistis pushed herself to her feet then, and without warning, she wrapped her arms around Selphie. Selphie didn't seem shocked or surprised in the slightest, just wriggled around until she could hug Quistis back.

Quistis didn't need to see her face to know that Selphie was smiling when she said, "I've missed you." She could hear in Selphie's voice.

Quistis's eyes closed. "I've missed you too," she murmured, and then she let Selphie go. There was another brief moment, where neither of them wanted to move first, and then Selphie was giggling, was waving and practically skipping out of the Quad.

"Tomorrow!" she shouted, just as she reached the door, and Quistis laughed as she nodded and waved.

Today, she had papers to grade. Tomorrow, she would see Xu for the first time in months and would spend the day with both Xu and Selphie basking in the Balamb sun.