"It is in the thirties that we want friends.
In the forties we know they won't save us any more than love did."
-Fitzgerald, Francis Scott Key
She gave him a long hard stare that didn't wasn't relaxed until after he had already disappeared from view.
Sergeant Jay had walked by along a perpendicular corridor, and in her hurry back in from the quad, she had almost run into him. Still frazzled from her altercation with Squall from the elevator earlier than afternoon and feeling defeated from not being able to satisfactorily and diplomatically conclude it before he rode off into the sunset left her in a state where she could only glare at Jay but not find any mordant criticism to launch at him.
On the bright side, the thought that he would continue to advance in the ranks of Garden administration without her there to oppose him was sufficient to make her rethink filling out the two-weeks' notice and the resignation letter to Cid. Unable to allow that to happen, she decided she would have to stay in her tortured status as a Garden employee.
"How many more times is this going to happen?" Quistis huffed, relapsing into a slouch and leaned against the wall to share the weight of gravity. She extended her lower lip in an affected pout.
More than wanting to finish getting her point across to Squall, who didn't seem the least bit receptive, was her desire to get a good look at the girl riding on the back of his glossy A09-model Galbadian military motorbike. It would be one vehicle she'd probably never have the privilege of riding on herself.
The cord of jealousy within her snapped in three.
Quistis sighed again. The burden of responsibility, playing out gender-roles, and keeping up appearances were weighing down her more than ever these days. Additionally, Seifer's emergence would not make her life any easier.
"Yoohoo!" a seductive and all too familiar call rang out from behind her.
Quistis turned, her eyes meeting her closest companion GF as she phased into reality. Shiva was rubbing a fluffy towel against her long, flowing hair meticulously. Her status as a water elemental notwithstanding, Shiva seemed to enjoy perpetually drying her hair, whether or not she had just stepped out of the bath.
"So I hear you're the Headmistress of this Garden now," Shiva remarked with her big shiny eyes.
Yes, Quistis nodded absentmindedly.
"Does that mean we get a bigger tub?" the ice goddess inquired eagerly.
No, I'm still living in the same room, Quistis thought to complain, and no one is treating me with any more respect than they used to.
"Well at least you get your own shower," the sylphlike GF pointed out. "In the nether meta-plane, all the junctioned GFs have to bunk together on the same floor regardless of gender."
Headmistress Trepe closed her eyes and rubbed her temple in an effort to contemplate the complications presented by Seifer's intrusion. Was it one more thing to worry about or one less thing to worry about? Both her experience and gut instinct told her that nothing was as simple as it seemed, and nothing made anything else simpler.
"It's so unsanitary because Ifrit and Minotaur shed like complete mofoes and leave stray hairs everywhere!" she griped prissily. "It's totally wretched."
The ice goddess shuddered, throwing miniscule bits of snow dust from her body down to the ground where it vanished back into the foggy penumbra around her feet.
"How can you expect me to work in such unprofessional conditions?" she bemoaned melodramatically.
"I'm not even sure how I expect you to work at all," Quistis unsympathetically rejoined with a hint of criticism.
Shiva batted her lashes as a means of excusing herself from the charge of shirking on her work schedule.
"Hey, I have an idea," Shiva chirped not all too subtly changing the topic. "Why don't we go for a quick bite at 'Garden Ricebox'?"
"I don't have time," Quistis replied quietly and looked at her watch. "I have to class to teach in a fifteen minutes."
"But there's always time for food, cute waitresses and me!" the GF objected.
I'm serious, Quistis adamantly maintained.
You're always serious! You're no fun! Shiva pouted and tried to push her. She changed her mind halfway and decided it would be more effective to hug her and not let go until she agreed to go eat.
To consider the possibility, even though that meant taking Shiva seriously, made Quistis even more despondent.
Maybe I am no fun, she posited. And maybe Rinoa was. That's why he-
"A-hem," Shiva faked a cough to bring the conversation back out into the open.
"You're getting ice on my uniform," Trepe told her. Even if the other students can't see you, they'll be able to notice my outfit turn into a wetsuit.
Shiva made a convincing pout and let go grudgingly.
"Brrr," she mouthed after a while, shivering, "it's become chilly out here. When did the Garden maintenance crew turn up the A/C in the quad?"
Quistis thought that was a peculiar comment, given the GF's job description.
"I can smell the coldness," the elemental added, just to make sure her Mistress heard her.
"That's because your nose is all stuffed up," Quistis replied dryly. Usually a good indicator.
She had used up more time than she had available to her and decided to head off before her constant companion could find a reply.
The adjoining hall way would lead her to her classroom, which was coincidentally just next to the infirmary where Seifer, Rajin, and Fuujin were being attended to. Maybe she could spare just a few more minutes to question him before her lecture.
Shiva wrinkled her nose and stared longingly down the opposite length of the corridor towards the 'Garden Ricebox' eatery on the other side of the lobby. Lowering her head in defeat, she fizzled back into a meta-realm where all junctioned GFs go when they aren't called upon. It was like a waiting room at the doctor's office for the patients, or alternately the second floor of a fire station where all the firefighters congregate before each next big moment.
Quistis was about three-quarters of the way to the lecture hall when she noticed a familiar of hers standing in front of the common billboard. It was Selphie in her skimpy yellow jupe. She seemed entranced by the advertisement posted in the center of the board. To Quistis, it didn't seem like much of an ad. She might have even gone so far as to say that it was rather dull.
The Headmistress rolled her eyes and tapped her junior on the shoulder but was unable to solicit a response.
"Selphie," Quistis reproached half-seriously, "if you stare at anything long enough, it is going to become interesting."
"Maybe that's why Irvine seems less and less rude," Selphie mumbled back absent-mindedly, probably still unaware who was talking to her.
"Didn't Squall tell you to get changed?" Quistis reminded her, ignoring the other's last line. "You'd better listen to him before you get penalized for inappropriate dress."
But her words were lost on the young SeeD who had already resumed her imperturbable worship of the inane poster.
Quistis wrinkled her brow sympathetically and decided to leave her be. Things between Selphie and Irvine had been weird lately, even by their standards. Ever since he and Zell had gotten back from their climatologic surveying expedition, he had been distant; flirtatious remarks had dwindled down on average to only one every seven hours as opposed to one every seven minutes. Surprisingly Irvine seemed happiest when he was with Zell. Let it not be said that SeeD assignments did not build camaraderie between grown men.
On the other hand, Squall had alienated himself more than he had been when he was still her pupil back in Balamb Garden. Late-night practice sessions in the training room had been replaced by hours of brooding in his solitary Commander's seat behind a dimly lit desk in his new personal office. Without any T-Rexsaurs to maim, Quistis wondered what kind of release valve to his new load of suffocating bureaucratic pressures he'd found to keep his sanity.
Her eyes narrowed and her hand tightened around the handle of her whip.
The new release valve had blue hair.
Someone called out her title and rank from behind her. Turning, she saw a blue-collared, vested boy trying to hail her down. His costume resembled that of a hotel bellboy, but the insignia on his shoulder patch and his telltale sloppy-style satchel belied that possibility.
He was clearly a Choco Express mail courier.
The chocobo was a large mammalian bird that man had learned to capture from the wild and tame over time. It's historical origins were obscure, and no experts could say for sure whether they had naturally evolved as the crossbreed between the two distinct creature classes, or whether they were artificially created to bridge the duality. At present, most breeds were hatched and raised in domesticity. These had no memory of the past heritage and culture, which in her opinion was a real shame. In their illustrious pre-history, whole chocobo villages had been highly hierarchical and a totemic practices of alpha-male-worship adopted. They were frugal societal participants and accrued a well-deserved reputation of honesty, which enabled them to conduct warehouse-like business and provide repository and safekeeping services for the humans. But their speed and mobility on land, air, and water proved more attractive and marketable than their growing intelligence, which the humans were quick to harness and exploit as a pure transportation resource. The ancient clans of the emerging chocobo nation were summarily enslaved and their camps demolished.
The few who escaped into the woods were driven into permanent hiding and fear of a repeat scenario. These survivors made a pact to self-segregate so as to never band together in numbers great enough to attract attention or to give the impression that their pack size would pose a threat to the humans. In essence, they were coerced into swearing off society, which they never dared to form again.
The defeated, pacifist refugee chocoboes thereafter lived peacefully in sparse numbers with little confrontation with the human, perpetuating through highly regimented reproduction - one chicobo per household - the rare strain of wild chocoboes that travelers sometimes wander across today. But the less conservative exiles were incensed. Jilted, they swore by the blood of their ancestors revenge, and to this day their descendants lie awake in the thickets during silent twilights, waiting for the right moment to reclaim their once grand empire and vindicate their tribal roots from the butchers that had taken them.
Meanwhile, it was only natural for the mogli to pick up the lucrative trade that the chocoboes had been forced to abandon and take it to the next level of capitalism - vending goods at retail prices through a network of itinerant salesmen, each with his own distinct route and schedule. Because the moogle was by nature and training a fiercer warrior than the chocobo, the humans were unable to suppress their civilization as easily or inexpensively, and so they were allowed to co-exist in a mutually beneficial capitalist synergy with little incidence of bloodshed. The mogli were so adroit in defending themselves and their parcels that the option to commercialize the guaranteed delivery of highly sensitive material became viable. The Mooglenet - 'Mognet' for short - was successfully implemented as a courier system, whose main economic competitor was the human-operated Chocobo Express. It was not uncommon to see a moogle courier riding a chocobo, though, which is still the safest and most cost-effective means of travel around Terra, or a moogle working for the Chocobo Express company. But in this case, the chocobo rider standing before Quistis was a human, a status that graced him with the affectionately condescending label 'chocoboy', even though the nomenclature was usually reserved to designate the caretakers of homegrown chocobo stables.
"Head-mist-ress-Trepe?" the courier between rapid inhalations. The raised intonation at the end to signal that he was asking a question was especially hard to pick up for that reason.
"I am she," Quistis answered, wondering how he had identified her. Selphie probably pointed me out to him.
"The girl down the next hall told me that I'd be able to find Quisty-er-Headmistress Trepe," he explained, guessing what she was wondering. His accidental use of her diminutive sobriquet confirmed that Selphie Tilmitt had in fact pointed her out to him.
Oh, I guess she did notice me, Quistis thought to herself. At least someone recognizes that I exist.
The Choco Express rider fumbled around in his mailbag before producing a postcard. He eagerly presented it to her without so much as brushing off the stray Gysahl Greens fibers from its face first. His pouch was probably loaded with bundles of the chocobo feed, more than enough for the bird. Quistis assumed the rest was for his personal use, but thought best not to comment how he was not allowed to light up on Nova Trabia Garden property. If he wanted to take a little time off for himself, he'd have to smoke it across the street in the vaudeville 'Torama Tavern'.
Quistis took the postcard and looked over the sendee's address.
Irvine Kinneas, Sn. Ins.
Nova Trabia Garden
Block 435, Dorm A7
Trabia, TR 11088
"It's not for me," the Headmistress remarked, handing it back to him. She had almost forgotten that Irvine's room in Nova Trabia Garden had been assigned before he and Zell had been dispatched on their atmospheric inspection assignment.
"The front desk couldn't locate the intended addressee and suggested that I forward it to you," the chocoboy informed her. "I have a very busy schedule today, and following up on forwards isn't required in my job description, so if you could make sure that he receives it, that would be a big help."
Shiftless worker, that's a filthy lie! was Quistis' immediate thought. You're probably just itching to take a two-hour downer.
"I'll make sure he gets it," she said with a saccharine smile instead, opting to uphold the propriety of her office. But it will have to wait until I'm done with my lecture.
The Chocobo Express employee smiled and left.
Quite accidentally Quistis cast a cursory eye over it as she headed for her classroom. Immediately getting the gist of the message, she stopped dead in her tracks.
This can't wait, she decided, and directed a runner from the custodial lounge around the corner to take the message to Senior Instructor Kinneas who was probably at the basketball courts. In afterthought she added that he make sure that Officer Tilmitt did not see it or intercept its delivery. Nodding to show that he had understood all her instructions, the runner rushed down the hall and across the lobby.
More than a little worried about the unforeseeable consequences that the course of events that just expired would lead to, the Headmistress tarried for a second longer to stare blankly at the empty corridor exit. In her unproductivity, she was beginning to feel a bit like Selphie of whom she had just been critical for the same crime.
Shaking herself out of the daze, Quistis remembered that she had somewhere to be. She shifted her legs into first gear and felt the rest of her body move with them.
Presently she found herself in front of the door to the infirmary but slightly hesitant to left her ID card over the sensor to open it. For the true grasp of what lied behind it and why she could not fathom but she could fret.
"What am I going to do with him?" she wondered warily and lifted her keycard. The automatic door slid open with a pressurized hiss like that which escapes the inner bowels of a serpent out through its gaping mouth and across its tongue the nanosecond before it strikes.
Jeremy Chapter's Fanfiction