Archive: (Hyne knows why you'd want it, but...) Want, Ask, Take, Have…Except for GlitterGirl who gets to jump straight to the Take part ;)

Disclaimer: All the characters, places etc., are the property of Square, not me (::sniffs::). I'm just borrowing them for my own nefarious purposes. I promise they'll be tidied up, and sent home all clean an' sparkling.

Feedback: YES PLEASE!! I'd really appreciate your thoughts on my work. Read and Review (I'll give you chocolate!). Flame if you feel the need, I can always do with a good laugh.

WARNING: Mild language, and shounen-ai for this chapter. Future chapters however, WILL contain yaoi, violence, character death (oooh, the power!!), questionable humour, OC's, pointless smut, and any other torture I can dream up.


Chapter One

By Seshat

He had always liked Balamb Garden, late at night. In that pin-drop silence it was almost possible to believe he was the only person left on Earth. There was a brief comfort in that sometimes.

And better brief comfort than none at all.

He leant back in the padded leather swivel chair, running a tired hand through mussed hair. The lone light in the office was the eerie computer terminal glare, casting long, distorted shadows on the generic beige walls. He rose, pacing to the wide window with its view of the deserted quad, flexing tense muscles as he walked.

Gods, he was truly pathetic. Afraid to sleep, spending night after night sitting in front of a machine, staring at an unchanging image.

As if the same damned thing wasn't permanently burned into his mind. As if he couldn't see it every time he closed his eyes, which admittedly wasn't often these days.

She was in his dreams again…

He turned back towards the buzzing screen, leaning back against the window sill. The photo must have been taken a couple of days after the fight. The scar looked fresh. Barely thinking, he reached up, absently tracing the matching brand between his own brows. Damn, some times he could swear the stupid thing still hurt, like bad weather in long-healed bones.

He sat back down, eyes scanning the records he knew by heart, a faint smile tweaking his lips. The smile always faded when he reached the final entry, the last date.

"What happened to you…?" He murmured, fingers moving of their own accord to the soothingly warm screen, carefully following the lines of a jaw, the slight swell of pale pink lips. He could almost feel them, satin soft beneath his touch, could remember how they felt against his skin. Abruptly, he jerked his hand back, suddenly self-conscious.

Five years. Five, fucking years, and he still couldn't let go. A smarter man would have taken the hint when the last of his frivolous hopes fell flat. A more realistic man would have put the whole mess down to experience and moved on. But he was neither, he was just a fool, clinging onto a past to which he wasn't entitled. Stubborn enough to keep searching, even when everyone else accepted it effortlessly. Hell, he could still recall the suspicious looks on his friends' faces when he suggested that the unexpected departure had not been fully consenting. As though the idea was absurd.

"You only want to believe that because you can't face the thought that he could ever leave you!"

Quistis' accusation still reverberated clearly in his mind, the careless barb more painful than any damage Save The Queen could inflict. Probably because it was true, he reflected ruefully.

It wasn't always this bad. On rare occasions, he'd gone days without it crossing his mind. It was just a result of exhaustion, combined with obscene amounts of caffeine and medication. And all those things were his fault, his responsibility.

So many things had been his fault. The sulking, abandoned child in him wanted to scream, stamp his angry little foot, and cry that it wasn't fair. If he hadn't been so self-absorbed, he might have noticed the signs. If he hadn't been so caught up in that pointless vicious cycle of trying to please the world, maybe things would have worked out differently.

"Maybe you'd still be here…"

And maybe not. After all, the department of naïve belief in the power of fate had been closed for some time, and none of them felt capable of taking up the vacant position.

The sharp knock at the door startled him out of his thoughts with a conspicuous flinch. With a wry, sheepish sigh, he blamed the reaction on excess caffeine, too.

Bright fluorescent light flooded into the room as the door swished open. Long since accustomed to the sheltering darkness of the office, he had to squint to make out the figure in the doorway.


Not bad. If anyone had to witness him having a nervous breakdown - not only talking to himself, but to a personnel file - it may as well be her. At least he could rest assured that it would go no further.

He mustered a shaky smile for her, apologetic and reassuring, hoping she'd just cock her head, smile that faintly condescending little smile, and leave him the hell alone. It wouldn't be the first time she caught him brooding into the early hours, pining over things he would never have again. While he was grateful for her concern, even more thankful for her friendship, he had no intention of sitting through another well-meaning lecture. She hadn't been his teacher for a long time, and even when she had been, he hadn't listened to her. Hell if he would begin now…especially when her questions would require answers that terrified him. Besides, she shouldn't be wandering around Garden in the middle of the night, looking for him, when she had a husband that could kick his ass without breaking into a sweat.

People might talk. They wouldn't talk for long, but still…

Quistis was probably the closest thing he had to a best friend, yet he resolutely refused to involve her this time, not if his dreams were…

No. They're not. They can't be…not again.

Like the stirrings of one of his migraines, he belatedly noted that something wasn't quite right about the picture she presented. Perhaps it was that she was decked out in full SeeD garb at three a.m. Quite possibly it was the way her pale hands nervously clenched the hem of her embroidered jacket, worrying at a line of braiding. It could conceivably be the red-rimmed lashes that blinked behind her simple glasses.

Something cold and malevolent began twisting in his stomach when he added those factors to the singular thing that sent his unease into overdrive.

Quistis looked worried. And not about that fact that he spent his nights dwelling on the past.

When her gaze travelled to the picture on the computer screen, her apprehension evolved into unequivocal fear.

"Quisty? What is it, what's wrong?" He frowned. Her anxiety was radiating from her in nauseating waves, and he fought against the urge to shiver.

"Commander…" she began, and for a moment her voice was oddly distant, almost awed. He felt marginally relieved that whatever it was, it was official Garden business. So she was okay, Zell was okay. He allowed himself to relax slightly, startled at how tense he had actually become. Still, her use of his rank was a little unnerving…

She shook herself out of her trance, locking her ice-blue gaze back onto his. When she finally spoke, her steady tone belied the look in her eyes.

"It's happened."

Two words. What remained of his rationale told him that's all it was. Just because she said them, it didn't mean they were indisputable. Except that they were a gold embossed, scrolling script, exclusive invitation to a hopeless fear he had long dreaded, one that spectacularly usurped all the others he'd been experiencing. Two words that suddenly ripped the solid ground from under his feet, left him plummeting helplessly through unchanging space, waiting for the impact.

Hyne…he needed to sit down. His bewildered mind almost short-circuited when he realised he already was.

"Are…are you sure?" Hell, did that wavering little plea belong to him? Or to that little kid who was evidently still stamping his foot petulantly inside his head.

No! If I don't believe it, then it won't be true!

"I wouldn't tell you if I wasn't absolutely certain." She nodded, watching him carefully. "We received word from Timber an hour ago."

"An hour ago? And you only tell me now? Fuck, Quistis an hour could make all the difference…"

"I doubt that." She put her fidgeting hands on narrow hips. "I delayed in order to confirm that the information we were receiving was accurate. I didn't think you'd appreciate it if I burst in here with unsubstantiated scare stories."

Why not? He'd just been killing time, waiting for someone doing just that for the past five years.


Quistis stared at him. For a moment, she looked as though she might burst into tears.

"That's not funny, Seifer…"

"Wasn't meant to be." The Commander of Balamb Garden stood, switching off the terminal brusquely, and retrieving his trenchcoat and gunblade from the desk over which they were strewn. "What course of action have you decided on, Instructor Dincht?"

"Right. As if you'd let anyone else make any decisions on this one." She rolled her eyes. "But I have put a team on standby. We're awaiting your orders."


"Right…" she forced a laugh, "as if we'd let you make any decisions over this without us. Zell's waiting for us on the bridge, and I've already been in touch with Esthar. They're…" she shook her head, amending herself, "they were our friends too."

Seifer paused at the door, relieved he'd made it that far without his knees buckling. Glancing back at her, his heart wrenched at the bright, unshed tears welling in her eyes. Damn it, he hadn't even spared a thought to how this would affect her, how it would affect Zell, or Selphie. Her emotional response had been a little unexpected, considering how easily they'd all chosen to let go, but she wasn't looking to him for judgement right now. Even if he'd ever been in a position to judge anyone.

No, she was looking to him for reassurance, for strength, for direction, and that was something he was going to have to become accustomed to. He was willing to bet he'd get bombarded with that kind of look from here on in.

What the fuck makes you all think I've got the answers? Let alone that I'm strong enough to carry anyone but myself through this…if I get through it at all.

After a moment's hesitation, he reached out awkwardly, squeezed her hand lightly.

"Thanks, Quisty."

An ominous silence hung between them as they walked the short distance from the office to the elevator.

He knew he should have been surprised, shocked, scared…something apart from this aching numbness that was pervading his every nerve like a strong shot of Novocain. Through the haze, the only thing of which he was certain, was that they were all going to be demanding answers, purpose. While a large part of him wanted nothing more than to curl up in the darkest corner of his mind, and quietly fall apart, he knew he couldn't.

They needed him. They needed him. They needed him

And hadn't that been all he'd ever wanted? Funny, he couldn't remember how everything became so twisted. Such a shame that his romantic dream had to be at the cost of his worst nightmare.

He closed his eyes, only to discover that the comfortable anaesthesia hadn't touched his heart at all. Instead, he felt it crack just a fraction more, at the memory of soft lips, and stormy grey eyes.

"Seifer? Are you okay?"

He opened his eyes, a little taken aback by her vehement concern.

"I'm fine."

"Liar." She scolded weakly. "But I understand…I still don't believe that it's…" She shook her head. "I mean, we've always been prepared, we always knew it was possible, but when it's real…"

"I know. But we knew this would happen one day, and it's our duty to take care of it. It's what we do." He shrugged. Quistis narrowed her eyes, frowned.

"Is that how you're dealing with it?"

"Fuck, who said I was dealing with it at all?" He growled. "Ask me again when it's sunk in. In the meantime, we'll mobilise the squad you've assembled, head to Timber, see if there's anything we can do…"

"I…" Quistis paled, "I'm afraid that isn't an option."

"Why not? I thought you said that's where they are?"

"Where they were." She corrected. "There's no point going to Timber. As of sometime this afternoon, the only thing left of it is a couple of houses and rubble."

Pictures flashed in his mind, of streets, bridges, trains, arches…people.

Oh, Gods, no…

"What…?" His voice sounded hollow to his ears, it felt as if it was echoing from a million miles away.

"It's been razed to the ground. We gather that a number of residents did manage to escape…The connection with our contact wasn't the best, but from what I understood, the Sorceress and her Knight tore the entire town apart in the space of a couple of hours."

"But…that's impossible! They don't even have an army…" Even as he spoke, a light exploded in his brain. Absently, he massaged the scar on his forehead, in a vain attempt to clear the dull throb behind his eyes.

"They do now."

"Oh, fuck…How many?"

"Not as many as they could have." Quistis shrugged. "The details are sketchy, but it appears they orchestrated a raid on a military prison, took their pick of the dregs and the psychos. We only know that because half the escapees went back to the city, and demanded to be locked up for their own safety. After all, Estharian soldiers aren't all that desperate to serve a Sorceress, and most of them are still unfailingly loyal to President Loire."

"Maybe, but with the exception of SeeDs, they are some of the most rigorously trained fighters in the world these days. Hell, one of them is worth a dozen of Edea's Galbadian fuckwits. They don't need all that many. If he's managed to convince even a couple of hundred…" A sudden burst of frustration bubbled over the meticulous barrier. "Shit!"

Quistis narrowly dodged the blow, as he threw a hard punch into the elevator wall. It lurched slightly, before coming to a smooth halt at the bridge. Before he marched out of the door, a trembling hand caught the sleeve of his coat.

"He'll be okay, Seifer…"

No, he won't. He could have tried telling her how it felt, a prisoner in your own body, forced to watch while someone else pulled the strings. He could have tried explaining what it was like cowering in your mind, while your hands killed, and your voice taunted. How it felt staring through eyes that weren't really yours anymore, at the devastation your shell had caused. How much it hurt when the ones you loved stared at that shell as though it was a monster, honestly believing you still existed within.

No-one was going to be 'okay' after living through that.


Not Seifer Almasy, and certainly not Squall Leonhart.

But Quistis didn't need to know that, and in his heart he doubted she could ever have understood.

"Yeah…" He nodded, instead. "We'll get him back, and he'll be fine…"

And maybe when he gets back, he'll be as good a liar as I am.

Authors Notes: Well, what do you think? First attempt at a fic that actually requires a plot ::grin::. As always, PLEASE R+R, let me know if I should continue. Got chapter two written up, and the entire plot kicking around in my head, but I decided to post what I had, to see if you guys think it's worth it.

And if anyone thinks it's going to be just another 'Rinoa's-A-New-Evil-Sorceress' plot, obviously hasn't realised yet quite how warped my little imagination really is! ^_<

Oh, and big thanks to past reviewers, and all the kind folk that helped me out with my pronunciation. ^_^

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