Where you'll be
OK, so Nida came up to me the other day and asked me to write another story about him, but this time he demanded to get the girl. I told him I'd see what I could do, but that I couldn't guarantee anything. So here goes..Squaresoft owns all the characters (except Janna who's really not even in this story - you might recognize her from the end of my first fic ever "What About Nida?," also on Ffnet - shameless plug), and this is in answer to Laura the Chocobo's unconventional pairing challenge on CBB.
----------------------------- "Janna..." Nida whined softly, sitting alone at a table in the cafeteria, his head lying on his arm, his free arm playing with his food.
"Just look at him. He's been a wreck ever since Janna broke up with him!" Xu commented to her friends. Nida had always been somewhat overlooked, but all that had seemed to change when he met a student named Janna Matheson. She had been exactly like him - no one ever remembered who she was, she wasn't very popular, and she wanted to take over Balamb Garden someday. It was a match made in Heaven. But something changed one day and Janna started getting noticed. By everyone. Pretty soon, she was one of the more popular SeeDs at the academy and decided she "just wanted to be friends" with Nida.
"Someone should go talk to him," Rinoa asserted looking around the table towards Xu, Squall, Irvine, Selphie, Quistis, and Zell.
Xu stood up and gathered her belongings, "Not me - I've got to meet with Cid in about 5 minutes."
Rinoa looked over to Squall. He shook his head, "Forget it."
Selphie and Quistis stood. "We have stuff to do..." Selphie said, but Irvine quickly walked over and with an arm on each of the girls' shoulders, he pushed them back down in their chairs.
"Not so fast. We'll decide this the old fashioned way..."
A few minutes later, Zell was on his way to Nida's table where Nida was carving Janna's name into his mashed potatoes. Zell grumbled, "Stupid paper-rock-scissors. Why do I always seem to-" Arriving at Nida's table, he flashed a smile, "Hey, Nida! How are you doing?"
Nida looked at him dolefully and moaning once more, returned his attention to his peas which he was now arranging in heart shapes around the potatoes. "Well, glad to hear it!" Zell turned around, ready to walk back to his table, but Quistis shook her head at him sternly while Selphie and Rinoa gestured towards him. Squall was leaning back, not really paying attention and Irvine was laughing at him.
Zell sat down beside the depressed young man, "You really miss her, don't you?"
"Come on! There're other fish in the sea!" Zell said.
"Yeah, right. Maybe for someone like Squall or Irvine, but me? Get serious..." Nida retorted.
Zell shifted in his seat, feeling a bit uncomfortable. He glanced over towards the table where Selphie and Irvine were making faces at him. Rinoa was laughing and joined in. Zell suddenly grinned wickedly. He had a great idea.
"What about those 3?" he pointed at Selphie, Rinoa, and Quistis.
"You've got to be kidding, right? I mean everyone knows that Selphie and Irvine are a thing..."
"But what they don't know," Zell insisted, "is that Selphie is real tired of the way Irvine flirts with everyone. She just wants someone who'll be devoted to her whole-heartedly."
Nida glanced over at Selphie. A cute SeeD cadet had just slipped Irvine a piece of paper, most likely with her phone number on it. He could see Selphie get upset. She grabbed the piece of paper and wadded it up. Irvine looked chagrinned. Nida couldn't tell if he was feeling bad for upsetting Selphie, or because he had lost the girl's number.
"And Rinoa?" Zell continued mischeviously, "Well, look at the way Squall ignores her."
She was telling Squall something, but he looked as if he wasn't even paying attention. He was swatting a fly or something out of his face.
"And besides that, he doesn't really give her all that much credit. She just wants someone who'll respect her and treat her like the intelligent young woman she is!" Zell smiled.
"But Quistis, then...she's just perfect and everyone likes her," Nida said, gazing at the lovely blond.
"Then why has she been dateless for so long?" Zell pointed out. Nida simply shrugged, so Zell continued, "Because she's been waiting for the right person. All three of them have! And it's you, my friend!"
"Really? Have they said something?" Nida perked up.
"But if all three of them like me, then that means I'll end up breaking two of their hearts," he said.
"Choose wisely, then. Don't rush your decision, ok? Leave your food alone and take some action!" Zell stood up. "Feeling better?" Nida nodded enthusiastically. "Good! Good! Now who's the man?"
Nida answered sheepishly, "I am."
"Aw, say it with confidence."
"I'm the man."
"Like you mean it!" Zell urged.
Nida jumped up and pounded his chest, crying out, "I'm the man!" Suddenly a hush had descended over the cafeteria. Everyone looked at Nida with a puzzled expression. Embarrassed, he quickly sat down. "Don't tell them I know, OK?"
"Don't worry," Zell assured him.
He walked back to the table where Selphie asked, "Well, how'd it go?"
"Just fine," Zell said. "He knows how you guys feel about him now?"
"What are you talking about," Quistis looked at him suspiciously.
"Well, I just told him that the three of you are basically in love with him."
"WHAT????" all three said in unison.
"He's the man!" Zell grinned.
Irvine started laughing at them.
"Hey, maybe next time you won't make me do something I don't want to do. Well, it's not my problem anymore! See you guys later," Zell winked at them and took off before they could clobber him.
The girls stared at each other dumbfoundedly until they heard someone say, "Hey girls." They each looked up and saw Nida looking down at them. His voice seemed much lower than usual. "I was just going to the library. Would-" he coughed, unable to keep his voice that deep for a long period of time. In his normal tone of voice, he continued, "Would any of you like to join me?"
Rinoa's eyes widened and she looked at Selphie and Quistis. Irvine kept laughing to himself.
"Um, we have a project we're working on," Selphie explained. "It's for Cid. Sorry!"
"Oh," his expression changed to one of hurt. He knew this was all just another joke on him! His shoulders slumped. "Never mind," he said quietly and walked away.
"We've got to do something," Quistis stared after him, feeling awful.
"I've got an idea!" Rinoa grew excited. "Maybe we can make him think we really do like him and if others see him as maybe a little more likeable, maybe he'll get himself a new girlfriend!"
"What a great idea!" Selphie chirped.
"No, it's really not," Squall disagreed quietly.
Rinoa frowned at him, "We're just going to boost his confidence. That's what he needs."
"No, you're just going to be playing with his feelings and end up hurting him more than he is now. Leave it alone, girls. Zell played a joke. What's done is done," Squall answered matter-of-factly.
Rinoa sniffed. Quistis said, "If we're careful not to lead him on, we can still boost his confidence and self-image a bit."
Squall stood, "Do what you want, then. I still don't think it's a good idea, but I can't stop you. Irvine, want to go to the training center?"
"Sure thing," he answered and they left the three girls alone to discuss what they were going to do.
Nida plucked out a book on botany and slumped down into a chair in the back corner of the library. How foolish he felt. To actually think that the three most beautiful girls at Balamb would ever like him! "Well, ha ha, Zell. You're such a funny guy, kicking someone when he's down..." Nida muttered sarcastically. He flipped the pages of the book, becoming more and more unhappy. He had actually yelled out, "I'm the man" back there in the cafeteria. His cheeks burned at the memory of everyone staring at him and he slumped down further into his chair. Well, that was one way to get noticed.
"Nida?" a sweet, cheerful voice said. He looked up and his eyes widened as a petite brunette with emerald eyes sat down in front of him.
"Selphie? What're you doing here? I thought you had a project for Cid."
"Well, I convinced the other girls to meet at a different time," she smiled.
"Because I wanted to come talk with you, silly!" she laughed. "What're you reading?"
"Oh," Nida suddenly became embarassed. He showed her the book and muttered, "It's just something I've always kind of been into."
"OH! That's beautiful!" Selphie exclaimed, pointing at a picture of a glorious sunflower on one of the pages.
Nida smiled at her, his confidence growing, "Yeah, it is. You know, if you were a flower, that's what you'd be," he said quietly.
Selphie stared at him. He seemed so sincere. If Irvine had said those exact words, it would have simply sounded like a line. But with Nida...
A few really pretty girls were laughing nearby, but Nida's gaze never strayed from Selphie's face. He continued. "I mean look at it," he pointed at the picture, "It's you! It seems to reflect the sun and that's exactly what you do."
"Of course," he said. "I've always thought so. You've always been the one person who lights up a room when you walk into it. You're always cheerful and you want others to be as well. I bet you'd do anything for your friends."
Selphie looked at Nida. He really wasn't bad looking. Just kind of dorky. But this was probably the most she had ever talked to him and now she was feeling strange. Maybe she had underestimated him all this time. "Nida?"
"You wanna go sit somewhere and just talk?"
He gaped at her, "I-I..uh...I'd love to!"
Later that day, after Nida and Selphie had split (after a wonderful talk), Nida was walking down the hall, holding a few sheets of paper in his hand. Rinoa was peering round a corner and she watched him approach. When he was a few feet away from her, she dashed out and ran into him, knocking the papers out of his hand. "Oh, Nida! I'm so sorry!" she gushed. They both leaned down at the same time and narrowly missed bonking heads. They both laughed.
"Don't worry about it," Nida said.
"What are those anyway?" Rinoa asked, referring to the papers.
"Oh! Yeah! Let me tell you. These are schematics for a new ship that I'm trying to design, but you know, there's something about it that I don't quite like, but I can't put my finger on it. Maybe you could check it over and tell me what you think? You know, what I should change and all."
Rinoa stared at him. He was asking her opinion on something? Squall rarely did that. He sometimes treated her as if she didn't really know much of anything. "Sure!" she said, taking the papers from him. They sat down on a nearby bench as she looked over the drawings. "Well, first of all, you've got all the cargo storage on this one side. Fill up a few of the rooms and you're fine, but any more than 3 and the ship will be so out of balance, it'll have a hard time flying. You ought to move these 3 rooms to this side and move the door over here..." Suddenly, she kind of sat back and laughed embarassedly.
"Rinoa, you are BRILLIANT! Simply brilliant! That's exactly what's wrong with it! Wow, brains and beauty!" he whistled.
Rinoa blushed. "It was just an old hobby of mine, that's all."
"No, take credit where credit is due!" Nida insisted. "You're really an intelligent girl. I hope you're never made to feel otherwise."
Rinoa simply shrugged, thinking of Squall. She stared at Nida. He seemed so much different than she had ever thought. And he WAS kind of cute. Maybe there was something there...
"Oh, and I've been meaning to tell you this for a while." Nida became shy. His gaze dropped to the floor. "I'm really glad you're ok after everything that happened..."
Rinoa's heart melted. What a sweet, sincere person he had turned out to be. At that moment, she made a decision. "Hey, Nida. You maybe want to go for a walk or something?"
"I-I'd love to!"
Later that day, Nida entered the cafeteria when he noticed Quistis sitting there, surrounded by Trepies. She was obviously trying to get some stuff done and she looked annoyed as anything! He walked up and asked, "Quistis, are these guys bothering you?"
Before she could answer, one of them sneered, "And who are YOU supposed to be?"
"Aw, come on. You KNOW who I am," Nida replied.
"I'm a SeeD!"
"I've only been piloting Balamb Garden around the last several months!"
"Oh come on! I'm Nida!"
"Never heard of you," the Trepie shrugged, "Now, not to be rude, but could you step along, Nicki? We're trying to talk here..."
"It's Nida!" Nida growled. "And you aren't being very respectful, you know that? To Quistis, I mean!"
"We respect Quistis a lot!" the young man insisted, getting a bit annoyed with Nida.
"If you did, then you'd see she's trying to get stuff done. Probably something very important. I mean, come on - you'd be able to read her body language if you truly cared about her! Are you so shallow that all you think of is the fact that she's the most beautiful girl in Balamb Garden and nothing else?" Nida was feeling brave in light of his recent visits with Selphie and Rinoa.
Quistis looked at him admiringly. She had never seen him with such initiative! And he seemed so passionate over what he was saying. Did he really think she was that beautiful? Nida continued, "She is so much more than that! She's brilliant, she's a tremendous fighter, heck, she even helped save the world, pretty much! So if you truly respected her, you'd be able to tell what she wanted without her even having to say a word!"
The Trepie stared at Nida, surprised. Not wanting to lose face, he said, "Whatever..." and hurried off.
"Nida!" Quistis exclaimed, standing up and hugging him. Nida staggered back with Quistis in his arms, surprised and blushing furiously. "Did you mean all that?" Quistis asked.
"Of course I did!" He suddenly got embarassed. "I mean, I-I...uh..."
"Nida, that's the nicest thing that anyone's ever done for me," she stepped back and looked into his eyes. Nida's face turned an even deeper shade of red. "You want to grab a bite to eat?" she asked.
"I'd LOVE to!"
Zell and Irvine were walking from the training center one day. They had spent two hours in there and were exhausted.
"Wonder what Selphie's up to..." Irvine mused, swinging his Exeter over his shoulder.
"Good question. You never see any of the girls. They're always with Nida nowadays," Zell frowned.
"Man, what happened??" Irvine asked.
"It's called my little joke backfired," Zell replied. "Well well well...look who's over there..." He pointed towards the atrium area of the Garden where none other than Nida was standing...by himself!
"We gotta tell him," said Irvine. "This is getting out of hand."
"I agree. If we don't, we'll never see Quistis, Selphie, or Rinoa again!"
The two young men walked resolutely up to Nida.
"Don't say anything, Nida. We gotta talk!" Irvine pushed Nida down onto a nearby bench.
Nida frowned. "What's going on?" he asked uncertainly. Zell spilt the whole story to him, starting from his little prank, and ending with the fact that the girls were only talking to Nida because they felt sorry for him.
"I'm sorry, man..."
"You are SO lying!" Nida exclaimed. "Come on! I know you're just jealous that they're always hanging out with me!"
Zell shrugged, "Suit yourself, but you can ask Squall. And you know he'd never lie. He has no reason to. Think about it. It's you that's getting hurt here..." Zell and Irvine left Nida alone with that thought.
After they had walked away, Nida thought, "No way! They really like me. They HAVE to!" But then he started to get doubtful. "All three of them? The three best girls in the Garden? Who am I kidding?" He immediately set out to find Squall.
"You've got to be straight with me..." he said, telling Squall everything he knew. Squall looked at him with a slightly bored expression on his face.
"You'll just have to talk to them about this. I refuse to get involved," he replied. And at that moment, Nida knew the joke was once more on him. He saw it in Squall's face, though he kept his expressions and emotions hidden most of the time, there was a hint of apology towards Nida. Nida was crushed! He didn't know if he was more angry with Quistis, Selphie, and Rinoa, or with himself for being so foolish. He was so tired of it all. Tired of never getting recognized for his own hard efforts, tired of being the butt of every joke, tired of feeling so worthless. He needed a change. He needed to talk to Cid. So at that moment, he marched up to Cid's office and knocked on the door.
************************************************************************ Quistis, Selphie, Rinoa, Zell, Squall, Irvine, and Xu were all sitting around a table in the cafeteria, eating when Rinoa commented that she hadn't seen Nida all day.
"Oh yeah!" Xu exclaimed, "I nearly forgot. He asked me to give you guys this letter. I don't know what it is." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper, hastily folded several times over.
Dear Quistis, Selphie, Rinoa,
I know the truth. I know that you haven't really been hanging out with me because you liked me or wanted to get to know me, but because either you pitied me, or because it was your idea of some horrible joke. I don't know which I want to believe. I guess I want to believe the best and not that you guys are as shallow as the rest of them. Selphie, you'll always be a sunflower to me, brightening up the day. Rinoa, you are a very intelligent, fun person, and I hope Squall will treat you as such. And Quistis, you are quite perfect and it's understandable as to why you have so many fans. I just hope they see every part of you like I do. Or did. Anyway, I am tired of being treated as someone who has no feelings. Whether you did this out of pity or out of meanness, you hurt me because I thought you 3 were genuine. I have talked to Cid and even as you read this, I am probably in Balamb awaiting a ship that will take me to Esthar where I'm going to begin a new assignment in Special Operations there. Maybe I will gain a little more respect there...
Squall stood up. "What did I tell you?" he asked them harshly.
"Guys, it's our fault," Zell piped in meekly. "We told him what was going on. I'm sorry."
"Yeah, sorry..." Irvine mumbled, preparing to get yelled at by Selphie. The yelling never came, though.
"No you guys, Squall's right. We shouldn't have played with his feelings like that," Selphie shook her head. "The funny thing is, after that first time I talked to him, I really liked him. He's a great person!"
"Me too," agreed Rinoa. "Very sweet and respectful. He seemed genuine and I loved it!"
"He said some of the nicest things anyone's ever said to me," Quistis said, "And I found myself liking him too. He's really not bad looking either, you know...Rinn, Selph, we need to talk about all this." The girls agreed and they politely excused themselves from the table.
Nida walked alone through the streets of Balamb. He was actually taking a ship to Esthar, so he was blowing a little time before it was scheduled to leave. As he walked past the little shops and saw happy couples strolling across the cobblestone, he mentally berated himself. "Nida, you are SUCH an idiot, letting those girls play with you like that. Always wanting to believe the best...Always getting hurt because of it..."
Suddenly, a little boy, spotting his SeeD uniform, ran up to him and exclaimed, "Mr! You're a SeeD! I'm going to be one too someday! Just like you!"
"Kid, you don't want to be just like me. Believe me," Nida answered, but seeing the little boy's puzzled look, he added, "You're going to be the top SeeD at Balamb!" This seemed to satisfy him and he ran happily off.
"Nida?" a voice called out. Nida turned around and stared at the girl who said his name. "I was hoping I'd find you here. When we got your letter..."
Nida held up his hand, silencing her. "I don't even want to hear it."
"NO! I mean, come on! You three got together, plotted, and ended up just messing with me. Do you know how humiliating that is? And the fact that Zell, Irvine, and Squall even knew about it!"
"You're right. It was wrong of us. We didn't mean to hurt you, though. I swear! It may have started out that way, but Nida, I really grew to like you."
He stared at the girl for a few seconds and then said, "If you truly do, well...you know where I'll be..." He turned from her and walked away.
************************************************************************ That night, the gang was sitting in the cafeteria. They were all chattering as usual. Irvine had just dropped down to his knees in apology to Selphie, making her giggle. He swore he'd be more respectful of her feelings in the future. Rinoa was trying to get Squall to apologize too, but he wasn't taking the bait. She bat her eyelashes, leaned up and cozied against him, told jokes, tried to look seductive, she tried everything, but nothing worked. Finally she sat back in frustration. Squall eyed her nonchalantly and asked, "You want to go to the training center?"
Rinoa broke out into a grin, "Of course!" They rose from their seats and with Rinoa taking Squall's arm, they left the cafeteria.
Zell was scarfing down hotdogs as usual, and trying to tell Xu a story. She couldn't really understand what he was trying to say, though, since his mouth was always full. Only one person was quiet and contemplative tonight.
She glanced over to the table where Nida had always sat. He was really gone. After he had turned his back to her, she returned to Balamb Garden, throwing herself into her work to take her mind off of him. Why was she feeling this way? About Nida of all people! It was crazy. Yet a single thought plagued her mind and she knew she had to act on it. Rising from her seat, she told the others, "There's something I've got to do."
In Esthar, Nida walked out of a hotel with some of his new friends from the Special Operations department he was now working for. He was excited about his new job and the people there showed him the utmost respect. A few more weeks here, and he'd almost be able to forget about his time at Balamb Garden.
One of his friends whistled and commented, "Look at her. Wouldn't I like a piece of that!"
Nida turned his head to where his friend was pointing and saw a young woman, with golden hair pinned up and eyes like the sea, walking through the streets. She spotted him and stopped, the corner of her mouth turning upward in a smile.
"Quistis?" Nida could hardly believe his eyes. The object of his admiration of many years was standing before him now. He walked over to her, ignoring the jibes from his friends. "What are you doing here?" he took her hands in his.
"You told me where you'd be..."