Notes: I wanted to write something ambiguous, leaving it up to the reader to decide whether Squall and Seifer love or hate each other. I don't think I succeeded. Anyway, this has been in the process of revision for the last four or six months or something. I just got tired of revision after revision, so here it is. Read it, send me comments and criticism, and if nobody likes it... oh well. If somebody *does* like it, maybe someday I'll be interested in attempting to improve it again.

As always the characters, game storyline, world, and (alas) the Ragnarok don't belong to me. I'm still driving my parents' old Mercury Sable instead of a dragon-shaped spaceship. *sigh* ~Kaerith

Last Battle

By Kaerith

He came from the east. A silhouette obstructing the reds and purples and golds of the sinking sun. As he neared, the unmistakable grey coat garnished with bloody crosses identified the stranger. I watched him stride towards the front gate on which I was leaning. Waiting.

Eventually he reached me. Stepping close he thrusted his face inches from mine. I struggled to keep a cool, nonchalant front. We stood silent, his face angled down and mine up, looking eye to eye.

"So. Squall." He broke the quiet and his warm breath softly hit my face. I exhaled, and our breaths mingled, almost tangible, in the chilly air between us. "One last battle?"

I shrugged, pulling Lion Heart from its rest, my fingers immediately resting in the reassuring grooves on the hilt.  "I did promise you."

He stepped back as I kicked away from the gate and led the way to a rocky outcropping where months- years? - ago we had both earned our mirror-image scars. We kicked loose twigs and rocks out of the way, clearing our arena. Squaring off, we began circling, waiting for the first move. He'd strike first; it had always been that way.

Attack. He rushed towards me, slashing downward. Quickly, I moved my blade to block the blow, my bones not even feeling the impact. He wasn't using his full strength yet. He was merely testing.

Parting, we both pulled into guard positions. I checked my feet; he had always taunted me about having a poor stance. I'd be damned if he'd catch me unbalanced in our final confrontation. We circled some more, our eyes never breaking contact except for brief flickers to chest and feet searching for a hint of the next move.

His came without a twitch of a warning, Hyperion slicing horizontally. I jumped back just in time and whirled Lion Heart in a quick arc leaving a cut along his arm. We broke apart.

The sound of my heartbeat thudded in my ears as I rushed; I felt the reassuring thumping of Griever on my chest. I advanced, aiming at his stomach. He neatly blocked my gunblade and stepped back. I went at him once again unsuccessfully before treading back a few paces and assuming a two-handed guard position.

He quickly lunged towards me, executing a reverse crescent, which I barely avoided. I struck back with a counter-cut, my blade smoothly slicing the air. He checked my counter and began advancing on me, hacking towards me. I was forced to cross-step back from his furious assault. Metal rang and sparks leapt as our blades collided.

I saw an opening. Faster than thought I attacked, Lion Heart sweeping in a vertical butterfly. He bared his clenched teeth in concentration as his weapon rose. The shock of his block rattled my bones.

Once again he advanced, this time with an advance-lunge. Cords of muscle jumped from my arm as I pulled his blade to my right. We disengaged, and I leapt back a relatively safe distance. I shook sweat from my eyes before a jump-thrust-lunge combo and a whirling my blade in a complex attack. He barely managed to parry it. I felt a flare of pride for my improved strength; I hadn't been nearly as strong during our last duel.

We both stepped back to circle again, catching our breaths.

The sky had darkened. The sun was gone, leaving only a stain of lighter blue rimming the eastern horizon. I stared at his eyes, reflecting light from the Garden. He was practically panting and my arms nearly quivered with adrenaline and the weight of my gunblade. But we kept on fighting, determined to battle until someone won and the other lost.

 Each blow from his weapon made my muscles scream. It was time to end this.

I lifted Lion Heart and executed a series of bluffing attacks before sneaking the tip of my blade to his throat.

It was so easy.

I tried to convince myself that he was just tired, that he fell for the bluff because of a mind numbed by physical instincts. Tried in vain.

But he grinned. With my gunblade held to his throat, the bastard grinned. And knelt. "Alright, Leonhart, you win." Regardless of the threat of steel he laid Hyperion on the ground, giving the finely honed, magnificent weapon one last caress with his gloved hand. "Just don't forget I taught you everything you know. I made you what you are." I peered through the darkness trying to see his face, but shadows obscured his expression. I could only see his eyes gleaming and teeth flashing in the glow of the Garden's fluorescent lighting. He looked feral, despite his goddamned grin. Or maybe because of it.

I shut my eyes for a brief second, gathering up all my remaining strength for the final thing that had to be done.

Opened my eyes.

"I know."

Metal cut through his throat. Hot blood erupted, puddled, then quickly cooled. I felt points of heat on my cheek and wiped at them. When the last jerks of his arms and legs quieted I slid my blade from the gore. Stared down at what has been Seifer. The bastard was still grinning. I turned my face into the cool breeze and closed my eyes. Tears ran down my face, and I smiled slightly. "I won," I whispered, enjoying what I knew would be a fleeting feeling of triumph. He had wanted me to win; had come tonight for just that to happen. I felt pride in being the one person able to give him what he deserved after so many years.

My feeling of victory was transitory. I examined my left hand, saw it streaked with my lifelong rival's blood. My tears turned more bitter, more grieving. I pulled myself under control, and bent down to retrieve Hyperion. I gripped the heavier blade in my left hand, automatically finding the balance. I gazed back down at the empty shell of the widely despised Sorceress' Knight.

"Our last battle. As I promised."

I turned and slowly walked back to the Garden.

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