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ADD: AE – Marshal and Sally

Marshal stared down at his cell phone, his expression blank as the screen dimmed and then blackened. He touched the screen and the white marred his face. His silver eyes didn’t loosen their focus of the number entered and ready to connect. Again the screen dimmed; the number still waiting.

The two-story house across the way drew his gaze, the flicker of the television seen through the window in the darkened living room. He could see her on the couch, huddled under a fleece blanket with a pink bunny and a Tonberry doll in her lap, her arms clutching them to her and her face hidden in their plush softness.

Releasing a slow breath, Marshal tucked his cell phone into the pocket of his black slacks and turned for home. After two steps, however, his feet refused to venture further. He fisted his hands in his pockets, his stoic expression darkening to a frown. He kicked at a tuft of brownish-green grass that peeked from the joining section of the sidewalk and the curb. Flakes of grass and soil speckled his black shoes, inviting one last kick before he about-faced. Zack Regal’s house loomed in front of him, mocking his purpose-driven stride. He rubbed at the hair on the back of his head and knocked.

The sound from the television dimmed – it sounded like a game – and then two sets of dead-bolts slid back. The door opened. Sally blinked up at him, her blue eyes wide and glossy with tears, with the imprint of a stuffed animal nose on the left side of her forehead. Her hair, in two braids, tousled. She wore pale pink sweats, a white sweatshirt with the black letters of ‘Timber Wolves’ across the front, and pink bunny slippers. To his chagrin, she held the Tonberry doll by the hand.

Marshal swallowed hard before he could trust his voice. “Hey.”

Sally’s gaze fell to the Tonberry, which she surreptitiously hid behind her back. “Hi.”

She peeked up at him with those gemlike eyes that never failed to remind him he did have a heart. Though vengeance would have been easier if he could forget that one fact…. Sally stepped back and gestured to the couch, her cheeks a sexy shade of rose. “It’s cold out there, Marshal,” she observed, and the quiet of her tone as she said his name felt like velvet to his ears. “You should come in.”

Every muscle in his body ached to do just that, yet that same ache kept him rooted to the spot. “I only wanted to….” He only needed to see her. “I know it’s late….” He hadn’t seen her for six months and couldn’t get the vision of her bolting out of Security from his head.

“Come in, Marshal.” Her hand reached for his arm, and the desire to allow her to draw him inside overwhelmed his sanity for a moment. He prevented that first, doomed forward step.

The smile he offered her was calm itself, though his insides rumbled in chaos. “I didn’t plan on staying long enough to come inside, Sally.” The words soured on his tongue, but he forced them out. “You–”

“Marshal. Don’t go.” Her smile waned as she stared up at him, a glimmer in her eyes hinting at tears.

Somehow Marshal smeared the smile on his lips with epoxy; it stayed. Words, however, were impossible.

Sally set the Tonberry just inside and pulled the door closed. When she turned toward him, the late-night breeze wafted a soft scent of vanilla from her hair. Marshal’s hands hurt with the bruising tightness of his fists in his pockets– Sally stepped forward and pulled his rigid form into a tight embrace, her cheek resting against him in such a way that he could feel the wet warmth of her tears through his shirt. His eyes burned as he lowered his gaze to the crown of her head, the moonlight glinting sparks of red from the rich brown of her hair.

“….I miss you so much…” she whispered, her voice choked behind the tears that wet his shirt.

His throat collapsed around any words he might have spoken. Instead, he drew his aching hands from his pockets and held her closer. The radiating warmth and the lush softness of her skin…. Damn, she feels good. He told her brother that the decision would be hers. Yet holding her close rose up old temptations to… persuade her choice.

Step back, Beita, he ordered. For he knew that much longer in her arms would erase any oath or promise he made to himself, Katie, and even Sally. Marshal shifted his hold to the trembling of her upper arms and drew them from around him, even against her resistance and a whimpered protest. She wouldn’t lift her gaze to meet his. “Sally, don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

Even Marshal didn’t know how to answer.

She sniffed, wiping tears from her cheeks as she raised her gaze. “I haven’t seen you in six months. You never write. You never call. Or visit. I…. I….” She hiccuped through another wave of tears, and her nose began to match the soft rose of her cheeks. Sally made a helpless gesture with her hands, as if seeking the words to say in the tense air between them. Then her gaze lowered. “I’m trying to start over, but that… but that doesn’t mean I want to be alone,” she said, her tone hushed.

His hold didn’t release the bulkiness of her sweatshirt as he stared down at her, watching her lashes brush against her flushed cheeks as a tear escaped a swipe to drip from the end of her pert nose– “Don’t cry, Sally,” he pleaded, his voice rough with every accusation and shard of guilt he kept to himself. He loved this girl, but for him that wasn’t enough anymore. He needed her to love him; to want him; to need him and not Zell Dincht and his damn Tonberry.

The choice would be hers; just like he promised.

“Mars, I…”

Marshal swallowed hard, grappling with his control once she lifted her tear-stained face with those blue stars for eyes….

She gave a single shake of her head. “I don’t want you to go.”

The breeze tickled her cheek with a stray lock of hair. He loosed his hold of her arm and brushed it behind her ear. The velvet of her skin tingled the tips of his fingers with sparks of flame. He was never far from her. Never but a door away each day. A torturous separation of but a few feet because she didn’t know. And because he wouldn’t tell her….

Marshal leaned in and caressed her forehead with his lips. Still unable to fully trust his voice to any number of confessions and admittances. The time wasn’t right. She hadn’t made her choice. She hadn’t found herself. He had only come to prove to himself that she was close. That she was fine. Healing. Seeking her new self. One that might not even want anything to do with him. It was a risk he was prepared to take as long as she had happiness.

I love you, Sally. But he wouldn’t let himself say it aloud. Not again. Not yet.

He straightened, opening his eyes to find her watching him. Her blue eyes so wide that the moonlight danced in their darkened depths. He offered her a small, comforting smile and felt a hypocrite for doing it.

Beita, walk away.

The order nearly elicited a cringe. Walk away from Sally a second time? Now? When she asked him to stay? When her eyes begged him to stay? Walk away?

“I need to go,” he said in a low, rough tone. “I’m on duty in the morning.”

Again, she shook her head. The action very slight. “Don’t go,” she whispered. “Please….”

A thousand and one phrases and arguments jumbled themselves in his head as his gaze fell into hers. The one that stayed his feet from trekking away from her was the one that should have motivated him in the first place–

“I think I love you,” she whispered.

Shock froze him to the core the same time his insides burned at the words.

“All my dreams and coma memories…. They were you,” she continued, still in the hushed tone of revelation. “I… I was falling in love with you, Marshal. That’s why I went into the T.C. before the attack. I was confused and a little scared. I was ready to be in love with Zell. Maybe because I knew there wasn’t really a chance he would notice me. But you… You and I were already friends. You already liked me. I knew that. So… So I was scared of ruining it all… but I could feel it. I was… I was falling in love with you.”

Her rambling faded into the breeze as he gazed down at her, his expression blank. “Sally…”

She shook her head against the argument, whatever it might have been, and stepped in, so close the merest hint of a breeze overwhelmed his senses with the sweet fragrance of vanilla. Then the soft sweetness of her warm lips touched his and his thoughts fled. He pulled her close, his arms moving of their own accord to enfold her into his protecting embrace as he returned her kiss.

She snuggled closer, burying her face into the front of his shirt. “…I love you, Marshal. I love you so much…” Then tears robbed her voice.

Marshal gathered her closer, caressing the silky smoothness of her hair in an attempt to console her. His mind and heart reveled in the feel of her heartbeat and the warm wetness of her tears through his shirt. They were the tears of happiness. “…I love you, Sally.”

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ADD – Chapter 16, Scene 1

Eryn Dwyre spoke first. “You do realize that you had been accepted as a Senior? In fact, I planned on scheduling your Exam Qualifier."

"Sally." Quistis’ determined expression of sparkling blue couldn’t even make me lower my resolve. "Sally, you’re one of the highest rated candidates since taking those quizzes and exams that Marshal scheduled.”

I twitched without meaning to and balled my hands into fists. “Thank you,” I said, my tone controlled and steady. “I appreciate what that means, but I think it best I finalize my recovery with my parents in Timber.” It was as far away as I could get at the moment.

Squall raised a hand, and the action caused both Eryn and Quistis to clench their jaws as they wrestled with their own certainties. “How about a compromise?" he said. "I could approve a medical leave of absence with the doctors. You would keep your status as candidate, your placement, and your qualification for an Exam Qualifier as soon as you’re ready to return.”

Swallowing back the tightness in my throat, I shook my head. “Thank you, Commander, but no. I’m not in peak physical condition anymore. I wouldn’t pass the physical requirements, which are hard enough when not injured. Dr. Kadowaki says that even with intense physical therapy treatment, it will be at least six months before I’m even close to my previous performance level. I believe it best I terminate.”

And terminating something that had become my life shouldn’t have sounded like it didn’t matter.

“I strongly disagree, Sally," Eryn said. "It wouldn’t be best for anyone involved!"

"Eryn." Squall sent her a warning glance before focusing yet again on my stoic expression. "Sally, can we speak freely for a moment? Off the record?”

A part of me hesitated, but I forced a nod.

"What about a transfer?"

I blinked. "I don’t know what you mean."

Squall shifted his focus to Eryn. "It was your baby. You want to tell her now?"

"Please." Eryn shifted her focus on me, and a twinkle of mischief sparkled in her emerald gaze. "A little chocobo may have told me of your aspirations towards security. I could transfer you to Galbadia Garden. You can be close to your family while you finish your candidacy." She seemed to glance towards her door, towards the hallway, "I’ve seen your recent test scores, as well as those from before the accident. An eventual position in Galbadia security isn’t out of the question."

I didn’t respond. I just couldn’t let myself think about that.

"I would so hate to see your career derailed because of one incident here," Eryn continued. She cast Squall and Quistis a sidelong glance at my continued silence. "You have so much potential."

But Garden was Garden…. I shook my head. "Thank you, but…." I shook my head again. "I just need to be done," I whispered. What else could I do? I had to leave him behind.


"Sally," Squall interrupted, drawing my gaze, "if I could place you in the private sector in a position that works closely with Garden sometimes… would you take the position?"

My only response for a long moment was a solitary blink. Then my mind slowly began to digest. Could it really be that simple?

"We’ve had a lot of inquiries and requests for our security-trained personnel," Squall admitted. "From your test scores, you would qualify… with a little paperwork help from Eryn and Quistis. Just last week I received a request for someone with high-level computer skills able to do top security clearance investigative research."

A second chance at my dream…? "I… I hadn’t even considered the private sector." What did I really have to lose? It was like running away, without actually running. "All right. I… I can at least look at the position write-up."

“Excellent!" Eryn and Quistis touted as one.

Squall’s expression relaxed. “Just let me know when you plan on leaving and I’ll make certain you have the documents before then."

"I will." I turned to return to the infirmary, pausing long enough to offer a small smile and a, "Thank you."

It felt good to have something to look forward to; to have hope again.

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ADD – Chapter 15, Scene 2

“Put him in there.”

The tone of emergency jarred me awake. I bolted upright and scurried out of the small hospital bed to peek around the corner of the privacy curtain. When I saw Seifer lying motionless on a gurney, my heart broke and I only just prevented a cry. He was so thin and haggard. His trenchcoat torn and bloody, and his boots tattered….

Dr. Kadowaki gave a brusque nod and stepped away once he was safely moved to the bed in the small treatment room. Once she entered the other treatment room, closing the door behind her, I slipped from behind the curtain and into Seifer’s room. As the door purred shut behind me, I tip-toed to the bed and stared wide-eyed at the patient there. He was nothing at all the Sub-Lt Cmdr. Seifer Almasy, Head of Network Security, from my memories. And Seifer should have been the one constant. Why? I don’t know. That’s just the way it should have been. Seifer was… he was Seifer.

My knees gave way, sending me into the nearest chair with a ‘splut’ as I continued to stare. How could I keep doing this day after day? Each moment haunted by the possibility of something else being other than how I remembered. When would I be free to live my life as I wanted to live it? Without the punch in the face each time my memory didn’t match.

I covered my face with my hands and cried.

Zell was different. Janine… Janine just wasn’t. Saerin was Eryn. Marshal was… something I didn’t even really know. Even I was different. Two worlds colliding; me stuck in the middle. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I just wanted it over. I wanted a new ‘day one’. I didn’t want to keep looking over my shoulder and wondering….

“Where the hell am I?”

Gasping, I swiped the tears from my face and lifted my head to meet Seifer’s dazed expression. He sat up in bed, a hand holding his head as he gazed at me.

“And who the hell are you?”

Out of habit, I bolted to my feet and saluted. “SSO—I mean….” Non-plussed, Istared at him as I realized I had no idea how to introduce myself. A candidate? I hadn’t been a candidate for eight years!

“SSO? What the hell is that?” Seifer barked. This time he tossed back the covers and made as if he were about to get out of bed.

“Oh no you don’t, sir.” I was at his side in one step, pushing him back with a firm hold. “You’re not cleared to get out of bed.”

He tried to shove me aside, but I resisted, dodging his next attempt in such a fashion that he stared at me in bald-faced shock. Then he smirked. “What are you supposed to be? My mamma? My own personal bodyguard? You’re a goddamn patient yourself.”

My cheeks flushed as I fought the urge to look at my sweats and t-shirt, common patient attire. “That doesn’t matter, sir. You’re wounded and I’m not.” Mostly. “So I get to make certain you stay in bed. Especially since Dr. Kadowaki wouldn’t be as nice as I am, sir.”

“I’m not your f___in’ ‘sir’."

“There’s no need for that kind of language. I can call you ‘sir’ if I want to.” I blinked. Did you just tell off Seifer Almasy? No, you couldn’t have…. “Sir.”

Seifer laughed, and my visions of a court-martial waned, especially when it dawned on me that he was as much a candidate as I was. After all, it was his Final Exam which had started this mess in the first place!

"Fine. Get off me and find Chicken-Wuss or Puberty-Boy."

My brows furrowed. Does he have any idea how stupid he sounds talking like that? Probably not. "I will, but if you don’t keep your voice down, Dr. Kadowaki is going to come in here and get us both in trouble. Do you want to be drugged? No? Then shhh."

I glanced over to the door when I heard a sound, and Seifer followed my gaze. When I looked back over at him, he sized me up with his ever-familiar hard gaze. "Just who the hell are you?" he asked, his volume considerably lower.

"Sally. Regal."

"Regal… Regal…." He shrugged. "Never heard of you." He pushed free of my hold to take up a scrutiny of the treatment room. "So, where am I?"

"Never heard of you."

Just like that everything changed… again.

"Never heard of you."

I had been Seifer’s assistant for what seemed ages, and yet now I was just a name. A name he didn’t even know. It was like having my entire purpose flushed down the toilet. I had meant something, and now I didn’t. It was like having amnesia, but worse: I remembered things that no one else did.

"Never heard of you."

Zell never heard of me.
Eryn never heard of me.

Who else had never heard of me? Me.

I turned on my heel, mumbling "Balamb Garden Infirmary," as I walked out of his treatment room and out of the infirmary. Where was I going? I barely knew. I only had one thought in my head: I was done. The only way I could finish was to be done. All the way. Forever. No going back. No Zell. No Marshal. No ‘That was then, this is now.’ No Garden.

I – was – done–

Rounding the corner into the main corridor, I stepped into a tall form. Looking up, I inwardly cringe at the most appropriate and yet painful of trios to run into at that particular moment: Squall, Eryn, and Quistis. Of all the people in Garden, these were the ones that had the power to do what I thought I wanted.

Their voicings of concern barely registered as I said, "I’m terminating enrollment."

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