The silence awoke her.
Quistis didn't think anything of it at first; it felt as though she were in the middle of a dream, and she didn't quite want to let go yet.
She then realized she was laying on her stomach (something she never did – it reminded her of too many un-s: "uncomfortable", "ungainly", "unprofessional"). Also, it was chilly (she liked cool air, but there was definitely more to it than was absolutely necessary). Then there was the hard surface below her (which, for some reason, only reminded her of defeat).
But mostly, it was the silence.
She cracked an eye, expecting it to give her more resistance than it actually did. Her head reeled a bit from the overload of sensory input, so she closed them again until the sense of vertigo dissipated a few seconds later.
At least her surroundings were familiar.
Below her, as she put her primary hand to the ground to reference her position, were the blue tiles. Beside her, as she reached to steady herself while standing up, was the sturdy desk. Behind her, as she sat up, although turned off, was the holographic board used to display tactics to the students. Above her, as she took bearing to ensure nothing was tricking her, the gleaming white boring plaster ceilings used throughout the Garden.
Nothing was out of place. This was her favorite classroom – what had eventually become her classroom; a safe haven she'd thrived in as a young teen, brimming with potential as not only a SEED but as a veritable prodigy, to a private office within a few short years after classes ended each day.
The fogginess in her head didn't go away completely and she sighed – the only noise in the room. Something had happened, she knew; something that involved a Sorceress, a fight for not only their lives but the entire time-space continuum. She remembered Shiva's protection, the GF taking a blow too strong for either of them combined. Then, nothing.
Quistis wasn't really an optimist of the first degree, despite her go-getting attitude. She had a feeling something was terribly wrong. The chill and the silence were only a part of it.
Quelling the dread, she paced herself to the door to exit the room, heeled boots clacking lightly. She tapped the mechanism to open it, and found the world blurred into motion.
There was a bombardment of color and the familiar hallway morphed right before her. Suddenly, she found herself in a completely different room. She recognized this one immediately as well – the headmaster's room.
It was still quiet, the air was still chill. But at least Headmaster Cid sat there at his desk, filling out some paperwork. Reason told her this was nothing to celebrate, but Quistis felt relief wash over her nonetheless.
"Miss Trepe. Please, have a seat." Cid still seemed absorbed in whatever paperwork it was he'd been poring over.
Quistis had the grace to not look as stunned as she felt. She flicked a gaze all around the office as she sat down, but everything was in place, yet again. The only thing off was that his pen made no sound as it scrawled along.
"I understand your request." Cid finally finished with a flourish and peered over his glasses at her, pen still in hand. "I just want to let you know that before we go any further."
Her mind reeled through a million unimaginable requests in the span of a second, but there was no doubt she'd forgotten what this was about. Had the GFs done something to her again? Inexplicably guilty, Quistis felt her chin duck slightly, and broke eye contact to stare at the desk instead, but still refused to drop her cool, professional mask.
"You've worked harder than anyone. I know how important this is to you." Cid tapped at the paper with the other end of the pen so as not to mar it in ink.
"With all due respect, Headmaster," Quistis heard herself say, and this was certainly becoming strangely more and more like an out-of-body experience, because she didn't know why she was saying anything at all, or how she knew what to say, "please don't sugarcoat anything on my behalf."
Cid took a deep breath and looked to her directly. "Miss Trepe... Quistis. I don't believe you're ready for the position of a teacher here at the Garden, despite your exemplary grades."
The impact caused her to shake her head several quick times. "Sir, I-"
"It has come to our attention that you may become a bit too distracted.
"Distracted?" Quistis almost barked out a laugh. "By what?"
The headmaster now also shook his head, and gave a smile that spoke strongly of implied irony. But as he opened his mouth to speak again, the world shifted.
This time, she sat on a bed, her own dorm room from when she was a student. The bed was naturally made, and she gripped the edge of it unconsciously as she came out of the void. Nothing here was right, yet all of it was.
A chime sounded through the otherwise silent room. Quistis never thought she'd be so unnerved by the absence of white noise. She crossed the room and tried to steel herself for what happened from the last time she'd opened a door recently.
Of course, to throw it in her teeth, no such thing happened, and Xu walked in, pushing her back into the room with some apparent one-tracked mindedness.
Quistis trusted Xu as much as she did any of the others, and right now she was a little too disoriented to put up a fight. "Xu, what happened?"
Xu looked into her eyes and then frowned. "You know what happened."
"Actually, no I don't. This-"
"This isn't the time for amnesia, Quisty. This has gotten too serious."
"Obviously." Quistis was becoming irritated. "Nothing is going on here as it should."
Xu seemed genuinely delighted. "I'm glad you finally realized it." She took Quistis into a hug that the other woman returned halfheartedly. "He isn't right for you."
Before she could piece together anything of that statement, the world shifted.
She no longer was hugging Xu. The scent of leather and light cologne she would have recognized from anywhere told her exactly who it was. She felt a small pang in her heart, and felt her arms grip his form tighter. "Squall."
"Hm?" He still held her close. His face no longer held its featured scar. Squall's expression was actually downright gentle.
The training center was normally always full of some background noise, but here there was no rush of water, no calls of creatures, and no hushed talk between other couples. The air was still chill, and it had never been cold in here to Quistis' recollection; always humid and moist like any respectable jungle.
Was this Squall her own? Or just another figment of her dream? Quistis didn't want to accept this. She wanted to believe that her Squall wasn't here. She didn't want him to save her.
She didn't want to be saved by him.
"I... can't stay here. We shouldn't be here."
Squall's eyes flashed with a bit of hurt, and then looked to the ground. When he peered at her again, it was full of true acceptance. "I guess it's time I woke up to that."
Smiling sadly, Quistis finally nodded. She hugged him once again, taking in the feel of his jacket, his scent and his comfort.
It was then that the world began regaining its sound. Quistis did not let go of Squall, and he did not let go of her, but it was with a trickle of water, then a few deep roars in the distance, and finally a woman giggling complimented by the rumble of a man's laugh that reintroduced them to the normalcy of their environment. The only warmth now no longer came just from Squall, but the humidity of the air.
Allowing herself to absorb her surroundings in such a secondary way, she almost didn't notice when the world shifted again.
Looking back on it, the silence is what awoke her.