Disclaimer: Ghost story, almost. It was written at Halloween and is chilling, but it's got a good heart. Don't own the characters, that be Squaresoft's job. Yaoi (malexmale) pairing, and very angsty. Enjoy.

Falling Prey

By almasy

"I found the angel in my dream,
I sucked her dry and cut her wing..."

-- Feeder, Under The Weather


It was nearly 2 years after the Sorceress War when it happened. It was winter. I should know, I've been counting down the days since my exile from both Balamb and Galbadia. Not really surprising, that, I suppose; I did try and destroy both their Gardens and a good proportion of their populations. It's a wonder that Trabia let me in, quite frankly. I sure wouldn't have done, had our circumstances been reversed. It was partly down to me, after all, that their Garden was reduced almost to rubble. When I showed up after my trial, after being mysteriously excused from the obligatory death sentence, they were more than a little bit suspicious at my request to assist in the rebuilding operation. Probably thought I wanted another go at tearing the place down. I don't know. I mean, I'm still not sure about SeeD, but the hatred was all on Ultimecia's part. My only qualm is with discipline and orders, I don't have a personal problem with the fighting force on the whole. Good on them, they sure kicked my ass. No, my interest in helping restore the place was just me wanting to equal the balance a bit more. I'd done some terrible things under my Sorceress, I know, and I just wanted a chance to give something back to everyone I'd hurt.

Funnily enough, I'm not as much of a heartless bastard as I know a lot of people would like to think. When I found out all I'd done, when the memories began to filter back to me, the pain was nothing short of unbearable. All I'd wanted was to be somebody. It was never my intention to murder thousands of innocent people, believe you me. I just wanted to go down a heroic legend. I wanted everyone who'd ever shunned me, told me I was worthless, to admit that they'd been wrong. I wanted to prove to the world that I wasn't just worthless old Seifer Almasy, incapable of passing SeeD and useless as part of a team. I should have followed Squall, right? Then it would have all turned out differently. But that's by the by, now. I went to sleep on the precipice of glory, and woke up a cold, ruthless killer of innocents. I didn't stop throwing up for days as the blood came back onto my hands. I saw my Sorceress in my dreams. I saw her in my realities, as well. By the time of my trial, I was wanting to be executed. The guilt was too painful. I'm in no doubt that it was Squall who dragged me from death row and got me the second chance. He pulled some strings, and my sentence was reduced to an exile from Balamb, Galbadia and Esthar, amongst others. I only found out on the day I was due in the court, when they told me that I was being given an oppurtunity to make up for what I'd done. I was being handed time to ease my own guilt, to become that which I'd wanted to be in the first place. Squall wanted me to be a hero after all.

So I started with Trabia. I realised how much it must have hurt Selphie, seeing her home desecrated. I didn't want her to live the rest of her days with the weight on her shoulders that her child companion had been responsible for it, for the injuries to her fellow cadets. I couldn't turn back the clock and make that go away, no matter how much I wanted to do it. I could only try and ease the pain and balance out the memories. And so, I asked them whether I could help restore the Garden to its former state, perhaps improve it. I would do everything I could, I promised. In me, I don't know what they saw beyond the wicked murderer. A guy strong enough, fit enough to carry out the physicalities of the work, I suppose. I certainly got some of the tougher jobs, that's for sure. But that was fine; I felt, for the first time in my life, that I was doing something good. Not because I was being forced to, or because it was my duty, but because I wanted to. It was right, and it felt good. I felt good. And when Selphie came out there, I felt even better. That was 6 months into the project, probably about a year after Ultimecia. It was spring. What was to happen in the same year, in the winter, was yet to come. This was far earlier than that. She'd sailed up in the Ragnorak, bounding down from the heavy machine like some sort of enchanted spirit, hair bouncing in the breeze. Seeing her again was strange, like a memory of the past standing so close to me. She was a different woman, I suppose. She'd grown up so much since I last saw her, since that day we took the SeeD exam together. Yet some things never change, I mused, as I watched her happily embrace the crowd of old friends that had gathered to welcome her home. The sparkle in her eyes was back, the glittering of huge green eyes fully intact. I stood in the shadows, waiting, not wanting to provoke her anger whilst she was with her old companions. I didn't want the smile to fall just then. As it happened, she looked up and surveyed the building, letting out a cheerful giggle, and then her eyes fell onto me anyway. Her face completely changed into one of alarm. A panicked look took over her face, and she frowned slightly. One of her friends leaned over, spoke into her ear, and she blinked. I took a few, tentative steps towards her. I think she probably knew then that I'd been brainwashed, that I hadn't meant for any of it to happen, but the last time she'd seen me, I was trying to kill her and her friends. You don't easily wipe that kind of memory from your consciousness. Then, she tripped up the stony path to me and gave me a cautious but tight hug. Wrapping her slight arms around me, she buried her face into my chest and began to speak.

"I know what's happened can't disappear just like that," a timid smile, "and I don't know if we can ever be like we were before, but thankyou. For helping, for all of this. They said they couldn't have got so far so quickly without you, and I know you did it for me. So...thankyou, it means so much to me."

"'Welcome." I said softly. "If it could make up for even a tiny bit of what I did to you all, I'm really glad."

"It'll get easier." She whispered. "It'll get easier, I promise."

We stayed like that for some time, until she was ready to leave me once more and venture inside. I had the feeling that we wouldn't be having so many chats during her short stay, so I was glad of those moments. It eased my heart a little bit as she gave me a little wave, heading back to the Ragnorak for her baggage and kissing a lone figure on the cheek goodbye. I shaded my eyes from the sun, and then caught the tiny blowing of white fur in the breeze. Squall. Without a doubt the one I'd missed most. I'd spent months wondering what he looked like now, the last recollection I have of him being the one in the castle, him soaked in blood and breathing his last gasps. Not exactly the most pleasant of lasting memories, especially given what we were before. Lovers, in that light way that only teenagers can be. When we weren't fighting, exchanging strategies, teaching one another and learning the rules of engagement, we were wrapped up in each other. He kept his heart at a distance from me, but let me slowly into his mind when he chose. I'd capture glimpses of the person underneath the cold warrior, when we went to clubs at night, when we used to go down to the harbour in Balamb town and dive into the water. It was like a warm friendship, or that was what it was, except with kissing in the middle and the sharing of his bed at night. It wasn't sexual, anyway. I think had I not gone psycho and tried to destroy his life, it might have gone that way, but he just wasn't ready at the time. Contrary to popular belief, I only pushed him on the battlefield. I would never have forced him to do anything he didn't want to except when I had Hyperion in my hand and he had his Lionheart.

And then, there never were any rules. We'd given each other bigger scars than the matching ones on the foreheads, if you really want to know.

He looked different, too. Older, somehow. He'd let his soft brown hair grow, and it was nearly around his shoulders now. It still fell into his eyes, which seemed to have deepened in colour, become a lighter shade of blue, yet more tinged with grey. He was starting to look more like his new father. He was still beautiful. All the worries seemed to have gone out of his face, and he looked generally much more relaxed. Selphie gave him a gentle hug after her kiss, and he even seemed to embrace her back. Progress indeed. I could vaguely see, from where I stood, the slight smile on his face, the light in his eyes. She thanked him for coming out with her, and he pronounced her welcome. Evidently, his social skills had improved as well. He remained somewhat of a lone wolf, though, standing solitary, watching her leave him. I let my gaze descend over him, taking in the change in outfit with the same amount of intrigue as I did his elder looks. The coat he wore had the same white, fluffy trimmed collar as his old one had, but it was a totally different garment. Long, it reached his mid-calves and was a deep jet black. The fabric was thin, and the coat brushed against his legs in the breeze. There was something authoritative about it, less kinky and more adult. More responsible, yet still stylish and sexy, I guess. It suited him. The belts were gone, as well. He wore a simple pair of dark blue jeans, which he'd obviously worn into. They fitted him perfectly, made him look slightly less military. The vest was still there, hugging over tighter, more pronounced muscles, and of course, Griever still hung around his neck. It glinted in the sunlight, as did the caps of his army boots. He took a last glance at Selphie, smiled a little, before heading back into the heart of the red machine, and then he was gone.

I hadn't realised how much I'd missed him.

And from seeing him that day, I would never have thought that the feeling was mutual.

Like I said, it was nearly 2 years after the Sorceress War when it happened.

Are you sitting comfortably?

That summer, my passing SeeD had been quite a surprise to most at Trabia Garden. Hyne, it shocked the hell out of me. They'd only just got the power that year to hold the tests, and I guess it was their way of rewarding me for my work; 'give him a chance, he'll never make it anyway'. But I did. The classes were a doddle, it was the shutting off the part of my brain that despises instruction and governing. Still, I made it in the end, that's what counts, finally began to feel like I was worth something as a human being. I suddenly realised why Squall had worked so damn hard for it, why he got off on it so much. The day I passed was the biggest buzz. Before they clipped my wings, obviously. Of course, now that I *had* passed, Trabia-G was in a panic, big time. Nobody was sure what they were going to do with this surplus and rather unwelcome SeeD, but they knew for certain that they didn't want him on missions yet. They probably wanted to avoid having to make the inevitable confession to the world that it was them who let arguably the most dangerous war criminal around into the SeeD forces. So, they stalled, got into contact with Gardens Galbadia and Balamb, both of whom had seen my name on the lists and reacted with a similar fury. Together, they drew up a plan for further testing, all three slightly suspicious of my motives, and wanting to test my dedications to the appropriate causes. Also, as I was under exile from both Balamb and Galbadia, my being a SeeD, -and thus entitled to take refuge in any Garden-, was a bit of a problem. Whilst they were going through the books for a solution, preferably one that involved my being shoved off to FH and never seen again, I studied more, practiced harder, worked my ass off. I wasn't confident that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but it beat standing around waiting for a golden egg to fall into my lap.

Ironic that it did, though.

Around this time, I was vaguely aware of rebellions starting up all over Centra; though I'm not sure, I think it was actually somewhat of a civil affair. SeeDs, as I recall, were taking on SeeDs. Brothers, sisters of those lost in the Sorceress Wars, angry and saturated with grief, were lashing out at those who they deemed put their siblings on death row. They themselves had fought through the Garden system, got into SeeD, gained GFs and magic skills, purely on the basis that they would use these teachings against the very people who tirelessly worked to help them gain them. No, it wasn't the fault of SeeD that its forces were deployed; that was just the way of the game. All of those soldiers knew what they were facing. Sure, it doesn't make their countless, unnecessary deaths easier to handle, but there are easier ways to go about gaining inner peace than more fighting, more needless killing. I only knew, though, what was passed onto me by my SeeD compatriots at Trabia; those who'd become used to me and to a degree, accepted me as Seifer Almasy, SeeD, not Seifer Almasy, ex-Knight. I never watch the news. Newsreaders across the continent discussing their hatred of me, questioning why I am allowed to live, much less live unimprisoned? Funnily enough, it's not exactly my bag. So, what I knew of the current chaos, I knew only through word of mouth. That SeeD was rebelling against its older members because of crimes past and the lack of a decent scapegoat. That was the basic situation, though I imagine it must have been more complex than that in the hearts of those young soldiers.

Things were very tense in Trabia, in the light of the current climate. Very cold, very mournful. It merely added to the sense of acidic iciness that follows us around here; the snow kingdom, where the light of summer never hits us. It makes a pretty picture, at Christmas and such, but when times are bad it feels like the most depressing place on the planet. I had to get out of Garden. Too many people discussing the new SeeDs, spilling and spilling blood because Seifer Almasy hadn't been around. Would this have broken out, had I been executed? I didn't know, nor did I want to think about it, yet, somehow I felt incapable of keeping my mind off the subject. Sometimes, it's as if my sins have been done and dusted, yet sometimes, they are ongoing. I keep on committing crimes, yet I do not know of them. Wars break out because of *me*. It's a very cold place to be, a vacuum of ice and the stinging burn of guilt. It is very difficult to live, knowing that blood is being spilt for your name. Very, very difficult. I had thought that it was over now, yet the numbers keep on adding to my lists. I am killing more people by the day. Numbers always rising, and I felt sick to the stomach. Sick, twisted, wracked with the knowledge, the horrific, draining knowledge, that people were dying for my crimes, and there was nothing I could do. I wasn't allowed onto the battlefield. Rules had ensnared me once again, and I was forced due to the mass confusion, as were the others, to stay in the grounds of Trabia. I walked alone amongst the icy forests, contemplating, willing myself not to be physically sick at the thought of what was happening miles away. I contemplated, I mused, I dare say I might have cried a little. I just wanted...salvation...


I looked up with a jolt of shock. Rarely do people congregate in these forests, not at night, anyway. Training is done during the day, but when it darkens, these plains become deserted, and I had never once come across another soul within them. The ideal thinking place. When I'm deep in thought, I hate company, so I felt rather disgruntled at the thought of intrusion. Yet still I looked up, and a different feeling surged through my veins.


"Seifer." He replied, as if I were not aware that it was my name. He stood, shrouded in milky moonlight, long hair glinting in its icy streams. A circle of frost-tipped tree branches surrounded his taller form, shards of freeze covered his army boots, and his eyes, oh, those eyes; they glinted at me through the darkness like those of a hungry predator. Except that, they weren't hungry. They were calm, accepting, lifeless, even. It was as if he was deeply bored, saturated by all that life had to offer and banished to a place where there was no inspiration for him. It scared me to see this ambitious man, my pillar of strength, my lover of perseverance, so worn away. The long coat I'd seen 18 months or so ago wafted listlessly around his legs, had collected tiny lumps of snow as it swayed. The fur collar seemed to offer no protection to his pale skin; his neck goosepimpled, a slight shiver in his limbs. All of a sudden, it was as if nothing had changed. It was just he and I, as it had always been; Seifer and Squall, making sandcastles on the beach, Seifer and Squall, fighting over the tiny fire in the Orphanage, Seifer and Squall clashing gunblades together as if it would banish the heartache, Seifer and Squall, wrapped in each other's arms, in each others' beds, in each others' hearts. And now?

Seifer and Squall; alone, open, cold...empty.

"Why..." I began in a hoarse whisper. "Why are you here?"

"You mean," He scuffed one boot into the frozen soils. "because the fighting is still ongoing?"

"Yes." I whispered, nodding just a little. "Yes, because...you're a SeeD..." My voice trailed off, but I quickly gathered confidence. "Why aren't you there?"

"I came to find you." He replied smoothly, eyes unreadable and cold. "I need you."

"You've never needed me to fight, Squall." I commented, coming closer to him in a few quick steps. Ice crunched under me as I reached for him, dead weeds entangling under my feet as I came to rest before him. "Never." I reiterated.

"It's a bloody one, this battle." He continued, apparently ignorant that I'd ever spoken. "Death everywhere, blood everywhere, endless fields of red, an eternal scream of agony and misery and," He took a deep breath. "our own breed, our own children, Seif."

"I know." I whispered. "I know. Doesn't seem so long ago that we were like them."

"2 years, perhaps a little more. 2 years ago, we were just kids. I was 17, you 18, an arrogant prick if I ever knew one but...I loved you all the same."

"And you," I remarked. "A self-indulgent, frigid bastard if I ever knew one, but...I loved you all the same."

"Yes." He said simply. "I know you did. I couldn't not know. It was too much, the knowledge. It overpowered me. Made something of the frozen wastelands in my heart. You set fire to me, I couldn't breathe, couldn't stand it. I'd spent so long making this little ice palace inside, you know? And you torched it."

"I'm glad I did." I said frankly. "If the affection that you showed me was my reward."

"Not so long ago." He replied. "That affection. The kisses, the lying in your arms, the fighting and the cuddling and the feeling of your damn arms around me. Hyne, what *happened* to all that, Seif?"

I shrugged, and replied with all the flippancy I could muster. "I was entranced by a Sorceress and you were hired to kill us both. It's tough on a relationship."

"You're not dead, though." He commented, and before I could make some sarcastic comment as to his observancy skills, he continued. "I could have come back to you. It wouldn't have been impossible."

"You're a SeeD, Squall. I'm a war criminal. You had your duties. I understand. Things don't work out the way you want them to, sometimes."

"Fighting isn't everything. Being a hero is bollocks. I could have done it."

I cupped his face in my strong, large hand. "You're here now."

He looked at me with a flash of grey-blue intensity. "Hoping it's not too late." He whispered.

Just before his lips, reddened with cold, touched mine, I whispered back to him.


We returned to my quarters quickly, getting out of the chilly air and into the familiar, comforting warmth. Without a touch of insecurity, he sat down on my bed to remove snow-covered boots and listlessly watched snowflakes curling outside my window, to his left. Tiny pellets of white powder covered the carpet as Squall discarded the boots and continued to watch the snow fall, only the tiny puffs of breath proving he was still conscious. I watched him from the kitchen around the corner, removing my jacket and boots as he had, and felt separate pangs of feeling that I couldn't quite banish. Protective instincts. He was perhaps, a little too thin. His limbs were long, and lean, but he looked so exhausted that I couldn't help but feel he'd neglected too many meals in the last year. Lust, clearly, we'd been lovers for some time and his was a beauty I never quite got used to. Love, even. My little lion, so long since I'd talked with him, been close to him. I'd missed him so damn much.

"Do you want something to drink?" I called out from the kitchen, suddenly realising that I wasn't exactly playing the great host. People rarely came to see me, then.

"Nah, I'm fine." A gentle swish of fabric suggested to me that he'd lain down on the bed, and as I came into the room I found my suspicions confirmed. He lay in a cocoon of midnight blue, eyes on the ceiling, arms stretched languidly over the tiny bed, lazily blowing strands of chestnut hair away from his eyes. As I entered the room, he looked at me tiredly, but made no move. Slowly, I climbed onto the bed and removed the jacket he was wearing, as it was encrusted with beads of snow and probably not doing his temperature any good. He let me assist, watched me hang it up, all with the cold, weary eyes of someone in need of salvation. Just like me, I guess. Again, I joined him in the midst of the covers.

"You remember that Christmas, when we were 14?" He asked, gently, his gaze returning to the window.

I glanced at the falling snow with some contemplation, before shrugging slightly and moving to lie down, gathering him up into my arms as I did so. He went willingly, tucking his head into my shoulder and taking my hands in his.

"I don't know, Squall. I've tried not to remember the past, to be honest. Hurts like fuck."

"Sorry. It's just one memory that comes to me a lot right now, because it's cold, and dark, and...crap, basically. It was the same feelings I had that Christmas. I'd come into your room because I was so damn cold, and shivering, and I figured you'd be warm, because you're always warm. I loved you for that. And I...I asked you if I could curl up with you, and you said yes, and you just held me and we watched the snow outside the window. It felt like serenity." His voice was cracking up a little, and I held him tighter.

"I remember." I said, hoarsely. "Always here, Squall, always. You need serenity, I'm here."

Again, it was as if I hadn't spoken, yet I knew he'd heard when his eyes connected with mine. There was a warmth he couldn't hide. "And then we..."

"What?" Why was I getting the feeling that everything was moving too fast, as if Squall was scared time was slipping away from us?

"You...well. I wanted you to sleep with me and that was when we tried and it didn't work."

That I did remember. He'd caved into peer pressure, having been taunted and teased for being a virgin at 14, for Christ's sakes. Yet, he so hated being persecuted, he'd have done anything to cease their jeering. It was fine for me, he said, I'd slept with a fellow cadet girl at 12 and was somewhat of a legend, but he was terrified of being treated badly forever more. He was very unstable at 14, I probably should mention. When he hit 17, he didn't give a fuck about what anyone else said. He was a virgin then and he didn't care. At 14, it meant a lot to him, and he asked me to take the curse away from him. Yes, I did try. I loved him, he loved me, whatever the other circumstances, it felt right. It clearly wasn't, though. He froze up something worse than Shiva. I knew, then. He was my first guy at the time, but I knew I couldn't do it to him. He wasn't ready. He wanted it to prove something to the others, but inside, he was terrified. Even when I pulled back, told him I wouldn't do it, he begged and begged to try again and promised that he'd try to relax more, but...no. I couldn't do it to him. Much as I wanted to, I'm not *that* much of a bastard. I know where the limits are.

"Yep." I confirmed quietly. "I remember that, too."

"I still am, you know." He whispered, craning his head to look at me with a calm, searching expression. He was waiting for my reaction.

"A virgin?"

"Yes. I didn't...after the Wars, I knew I was ready, but I didn't want it with anyone but you. You never once bugged me about it. You never once tried to force me, or complained because I wasn't putting out like all the others who were dating at the time. You could have easily put pressure on me, but you didn't. That means a lot to me now, Seif."

"You weren't ready, how could I have forced you into it?" I asked incredulously. "I'm getting far too much credit here."

"It means something to me because it means I can trust you. And..." He whispered softly, disentangling himself from my arms. "...it means something to you because, you've earned it. If you want it, it's yours." He stood in front of me, paused, waiting, wanting. I stared at him in disbelief.

"Squall, when are you going to learn that this isn't about me?" I asked, softly. "It's about you. You have to be ready."

"I am." He answered firmly. "I've waited a year, I should be by now."

I couldn't help but laugh, the echo of the throaty noise bouncing off the walls in a somewhat eerie fashion. "You are?"


In all fairness, it didn't take very long. It had been difficult at first because he was a virgin and a nervous one at that, but the awakening had been incredible once he'd become used to it. All of the tiredness just fell away, as if he were being encompassed by sunlight. His eyes brightened, his skin hot and glowing, a smile on his face so wide that it could have touched Balamb if he tried. He was without doubt, the most beautiful vision I'd ever seen. I felt encompassed by the eighteen years worth of warmth he'd kept locked inside him, feeling almost delirious on the sensations. I felt like some poor traveller who'd just seen a vision of God and from then on, didn't care about anything but their miracle. It was intoxicating, amazing, hell, almost *religious* to me. I didn't want him running out of my life after this, that I knew. I wanted to keep him with me, protect him, be with him, love him. As we settled down to sleep, I could only hope he agreed as I slipped into a heady, happy unconsciousness. Beside me, I felt Squall also falling prey, and I toyed slowly with the Griever pendant around his neck as we both fell asleep.

My eyes slowly opened the next morning to the sight of falling rain outside the window. Where it had fallen still on the frame, ice remained, and the entire room was distinctly cold. I shivered and drew the blankets tighter around myself, wanting to escape into the hot sanctuary myself and Squall had created for ourselves. It was then that I realised in a flash of coldness, one icier than the room temperature, that I was alone. Totally, utterly alone. I bolted upright, looked around the entire room. Nothing. Squall's clothes were gone, Squall's boots were gone, Squall was gone. I was left with no signifier that he'd even been there. I frowned harshly, anger forming in my gut. He hadn't even had the decency to thank me for letting him stay, at the very least. Maybe icebergs never change. It wasn't true anger, though. More like disappointment. I'd fallen back in love with him a little that night, and clearly, it hadn't been mutual at all. He'd probably just wanted to get his rocks off. I turned over with a snarled grunt and my head made contact with a crisp piece of paper, lying on the pillow next to me.

Slowly, I retrieved it from the crumpled sheets, and began to read;

No, I never needed you for me to fight. I needed you to let go.

You're going to make a great hero, Seif. I love you.

Yours always,


Tears pricked my eyes. Then where are you, you bastard?, I muttered, opening up the small piece of paper covered in neat handwriting, feeling something heavy sliding out from the crumples. Looking down in utter disbelief, I studied Griever with something like horror. Flattered horror, but...I fingered the long chain and sighed heavily. Why had he given me this...? It didn't make sense, none of it did. Why give up a treasured possession if he didn't love me enough to stay? Or if he did, why was he gone? I got out of bed and dressed quickly, hungry for answers, a mixture of loved, comforted and concerned. Walking down the corridors, Griever heavy in my pocket, I felt the latter emotion only increase. The halls were deserted. I poked my head into different classrooms; all were either empty or full of eerily quiet cadets. The whole damn Garden was still, as if one giant silence spell had been placed over it. Something was very, very wrong. I swallowed over a lump in my throat and broke out into a run, heading for the main office, all systems go in my body and alerting me to this unidentifiable threat, this strange feeling of something not being right. When I arrived there, many cadets and SeeDs stood in little circles, almost in prayer. I looked around, turning quick circles on the spot. I was like some twisted dream, everything warping and out of place.

Going into the main office building I found the closest Trabia had to a leader, standing with tears running down his face. Some minor minions stood around him in a similar state, and I looked around hastily for a familiar face. It would not have been right, I decided, to disturb those already in states of distress. Perhaps they had lost loved ones, after all, and thus my interference would probably not be welcome. Eventually, in my searching, my eyes hit upon a familiar pair of bright green eyes and curly, light brown hair. Selphie. I rushed towards her, taking in the dullness of eyes usually sparkling and vivacious, watching dumbstruck as she too seemed likely to succumb to tears. Selphie never cried. Even when Trabia was blown to pieces, I heard she didn't cry. What in Hyne's name was going on?

I repeated the question to her, and, rubbing the back of her hand over her watery eyes she lead me to a quiet spot, just outside the office. SeeD cadets congregated some way away, quiet, thoughtful, morose, but we were otherwise alone, and she began to explain to me the cause of the black cloud that had descended upon us all.

"We just received word of Centra, Seif." She began in a broken voice. "Being this far away, we're always the last to hear these things. The battle is dying away, now."

"That's..." I chose my words carefully. "...good, isn't it?"

"Yes, of course..." She affirmed, a tiny nod of her head accompanying the agreement. "But...we just got the death lists in, too." Her eyes filled with fresh tears, and she forced them back with a loud sniff.

"How...how many...?"

"Too many, as always." She whispered. "Always too many. But...that's not it."

"Anyone from Trabia?" I asked quickly, trying to process the onslaught of information.

"Limited. Bigger losses elsewhere. That's still not it. Seifer, it's ending because of a huge, climatic battle that happened three days ago...one in which, we lost someone..."

I leaned back against the wall, studying her with a serious gaze, unblinking, unsure. She stood a little closer to me, took one of my hands in her tiny, firm grip and looked at me with those huge, sympathetic eyes of hers.

"He died three days ago, Seifer..."

Suddenly, in a sickening, nauseating, positively horrendous flash of revelation, I knew who she meant.

"No..." I whispered, shaking my head from side to side. I stilled, looked at her with desperate eyes. "Not..."

She let tears fall down her face at last before replying in a tiny, tiny voice;


Griever felt heavy in my pocket.

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