By Fyre Byrd

The strange yellow glow of a kerosene lantern appeared to penetrate Squall's flesh and make it seem translucent. He and Seifer sat side by side in a little green canvas tent near the ocean. The imperfect illumination cast shadows on both of their faces. The dark hollows and gentle golden glows of their skin may have foreshadowed the changes their young faces would undergo as they grew. The water was hushed this evening, allowing the boys to whisper to each other and the slight sounds the waves did make only echoed the bubbling anticipation they felt within them at being on an adventure of sorts, albeit one not too far from home.

Seifer rubbed a fist against his eye, a gesture that revealed his age again, belying the tricks of the capricious lamp light.

"I'm tired Squall, wanna go to sleep now?" Squall shrugged and unzipped his sleeping bag.

"If you want to go to bed, then we might as well." Seifer moved to run the wick down on the lamp, matron had warned them several times to do so before they fell asleep, but Squall stopped him, with a hand on Seifer's wrist.

"I have to turn the lamp off if we're going to sleep, stupid," Seifer said, giving his friend a funny look.

"Umm let's stay up a little longer," Squall suggested, still not letting go of Squall's wrist.

"Why, you scared of the dark?" Seifer asked in a mocking tone of voice. Seeing his friend flinch at these words, he frowned. "You really, are, huh?" Squall nodded uncomfortably and dropped his hand back to his side. "I used to be scared of the dark too, but Matron helped," Seifer said, leaving the lamp burning.

"How did she help you?"

"Well she told me that there's nothing in the dark that isn't there when it's light."

"So what?" Squall asked.

"So, are you scared of me?" Seifer asked him, smirking.

"No way am I scared of you, just because you're taller than me," Seifer laughed, ruffling Squall's shaggy brown hair. Squall punched him in the arm.

"Well, then are you scared of yourself?"

"Why would I be scared of myself?" Squall's brow wrinkled.

"Well, there's nothing else in the tent but you and me and Matron said that what scares you most in the dark is your own self." Seifer said profoundly. Squall thought about that for awhile.

"Why is that?" he asked finally.

Seifer shrugged, "she said that when you're scared you think too much. So just don't think. It should be easy for you, stupid," he said fondly.

"Shut up, loser," Squall replied.

"Well, can I turn out the lamp now?"

"Yeah, I think I'll be okay" Squall said and climbed into his sleeping bag. Seifer turned down the wick and darkness filled the little tent.

"Squall," Quistis called out. Her arms were crossed on her chest and she was leaning on Squall's desk with both hands and peering at the Commander strangely.


"I've been calling you for the last minute at least," the elegant blonde replied. "Where the do you go when you get like that, Squall?"

"Never mind that, you wanted something?" Squall asked, squaring off some papers on his desk.

"Yeah, there's something here I think you should see," Quistis handed Squall a sheet of newspaper across the desk and pointed at a headline. Squall scanned the paper quickly, then crumpled it convulsively in his hands and dropped it on his desk.

"There's nothing we can do," he said through gritted teeth.

"What?" Quistis exclaimed. "If anyone was willing to help him, I would have thought, well I mean, when they said they had executed him before you were angry."

"That was before I became the acting Commander of this Garden," Squall ground out patiently. "He is no longer a SeeD and as such we can hardly protect . . ."

"You've got to be kidding me!" Quistis shouted, pounding a fist on Squall's desk. "So you're just going to let them hunt Seifer down like a dog, whether he was a friend of yours or not, whether he was a former Garden student or not, whether or not you know that he was being controlled by Ultimecia." Squall remained calm and reasonable, but he avoided Quistis' eyes.

"We can't be sure of that."

"So that's what this is about, even now you're still unwilling to forgive him for what he did to Rinoa. It was clear that he was still under the Sorceress' control and anyway you two never even . . ."

"No we didn't ever end up dating or anything and it isn't about that. Anyway, why are you trying to protect him Quistis? You said you never liked him much."

"This isn't about like or dislike, this is about injustice. This is about Galbadia Garden wanting to cover their asses and their profit margin by absolving themselves of all blame, and by the way they weren't under the Sorceress' control and they've already demoted Martine anyway. Besides, just because I don't like Seifer much, doesn't mean I want to see him killed for something that he did over a year ago." Squall pushed his chair back from his desk and running his hands through his abundant brown hair, began to pace behind his desk.

"We can't go against Galbadia alone, you remember what happened last time and I am not prepared to allow it to happen again. The truth is, that everyone else wants someone to blame for what happened and it looks like they've chosen Seifer. His charming personality certainly puts him at the top of the list."

Quistis' tense posture relaxed a little, she allowed her arms to drop at her sides. "We have to do something," she said quietly, "even if you're angry that Seifer never came back. You know, it would have been easier for you to go to him, you do run a school that flies."

Squall's head snapped up and he stopped pacing, fiercely he growled out, "that isn't why I . . . I'll talk to Laguna. If he can see his way to giving us Estharian support, then we'll be able to go in and stop them." Squall's shoulders slumped and he sat back down carefully in his chair. "For now though, all we can do is hope that Seifer's remarkable talent for self-preservation is still with him."

Seifer was running. He was running faster than he ever remembered having done in his life and not only from the Galbadian soldiers. The whole world wanted him dead.

It was cold in Trabia, but there were plenty of places to hide. The worst drawback to the area, as far as Seifer could tell was that the days were shorter this far north. He had a couple of Guardian Forces junctioned to him right now, he'd gotten them off of Raijin and Fuijin before he had to leave so that they wouldn't get hurt by the Galbadian soldiers. Even Balamb welcomed the soldiers back into their peaceful little town to apprehend the evil war criminal. At least Balamb Garden had not been nearby when it happened. Seifer didn't know if he could go on running, if he knew that they had been standing there, turning a blind eye while Galbadian soldiers beat Raijin and Fuijin and he slipped out the window and started to run. He waited till night fall in the forest and then stowed aboard a freighter in Balamb Harbour. It had been carrying goods to Trabia Garden in the Snowfields and so, here he was.

The sunlight was bleeding away on the horizon. It was only a matter of time before Galbadia found his escape route. There weren't many ways off of Balamb island and they would figure out where he'd gone soon enough. When they arrived Seifer didn't know if he would still be alive anyway. There was nothing on this god forsaken continent besides Trabia Garden and a few insignificant towns scattered here and there, but if he wanted the Galbadians to kill him sooner all he had to do was spend some time with the friendly villagers. With Adel's lunar prison no longer operative, television transmissions had become possible and photographs of Seifer's face were shown every night on the news he was sure. Seifer had to use the few spells he carried with him to light a fire when it was especially cold, to try and take some something other than Mesmerizes to eat because he was sure that all that mutated monster flesh wasn't doing anything for him.

As the last of the light faded, Seifer whimpered. He had never really gotten over his fear of the dark, not really. Since Ultimecia, it had only gotten worse. Seifer remembered that in the dark there was nothing that wasn't present when it was light. He was alone in a snowy wasteland, huddling amidst some frozen ruins, and he had never been more terrified of himself.

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