A/N ~ My latest epic, still a work in progress. Inspired by Maximís artwork. One look at her drawings of Seifer and Squall and you have no doubt whatsoever that they were intended for each other.

Misery's Son

Prologue

By Pixie518

"Are you going to stay out here all night?" Her soft voice drifted toward him. Even speaking so softly, he could hear her melodious voice. There wasnít even a wind to stir the leaves in the trees. It truly was the still of the night.

"Hadnít really thought about it." He answered honestly as he let the lights of this place that he loved spill over him. Even in the darkness Balamb Garden shone like a beacon. Squall knew the lights that so lit up the interior were not visible from the outside. Any outsiders staring up at the gates of this place would never know precisely how beautifully illuminated the inside could be. Unless that outsider had once been inside, that is.

"Squall, you have to snap out of this. Heís gone. Heís been gone for months and no one knows where he is."

Squall didnít answer as he listened to her, the ever-present voice of reason, tell him why the guilt that plagued him was not his burden to bear.

"He made his choice, Squall. It was her or us. He chose. Itís really that simple."

She moved closer to him, wanting to offer him the comfort that simple human touch could bring, but knowing in her heart that he would not welcome it. He turned to her slightly, the lights behind him highlighting his beautiful, graceful profile in such a way that Quistis quite forgot to draw breath. Just looking at him made her heart ache, each glance he bestowed on her like a dagger to her heart because she knew, despite the closeness theyíd begun to share, he would never be hers.

He sighed then, the fur at his collar heaving with his intake of breath.

"Nothingís ever that simple, you know that."

How she hated to hear that defeated tone of voice coming from her lion. But Quistis was afraid that there was really nothing that would make him snap out of it. When he was like this, brooding and reflective, no words from her could bring him back. Such was his nature and sheíd long ago learned to accept him for what he was.

"What else can you do, Squall? If he doesnít want to be found, you wonít find him. This is what he wants."

Squall turned then, his eyes alight with something sheíd never seen before. She was hard pressed to put a name to it. But the storm was brewing in his eyes again and so she would let him speak.

"Quistis, we donít know what he wants. We never did. What I do know is that we couldíve stuck by him, forgiven him. Maybe he wouldnít have done what he did."

Quistis did touch him then, her hand feather-light on his arm. He flinched, although she was certain he couldnít feel her touch through the leather of his jacket.

"Squall. Iím not certain. About him, about anything. But I do know that he was one of us once and it just wasnít enough. And now that things have changed and that terrible war is behind us, where is he?"

Squall moved out of her reach and he didnít miss the hurt look she gave him.

"I donít know where he is. But Iím going to find him and when I do, Iím going to convince him to come back. We owe him that." He said determinedly.

"What do we owe him, Squall? He fought us eagerly; he tried to kill you not once but twice. Have you forgotten the D-districtÖ"

Squall cut her off with a forbidding look.

"I havenít forgotten any of it. The things we did in the name of preservation, of peace, it haunts me still. But I donít blame him. He was only doing what he was driven to do and I remember once upon a long time ago when we really werenít so different. He was part of us."

Quistis turned her back to him, knowing that to disagree was futile. His mind was made up and when that happened, Squall would do what Squall wanted to do. Why he bothered rationalizing to her she couldnít guess, but she would listen as long as he wanted to speak. Because to hear him, and to have him hear her in return, was all sheíd ever wanted.

"Find him then. Bring him back. Redeem him if you can. But how, I ask you, will you ever make Zell understand why you need to do this."

Squall regarded her intently. "Thereís no need for me to explain my actions to Zell, or anyone else for that matter."

"Thereís a need, Squall. How can you be so blind? It will seem as though Zell isnít enough. He knows how you feel about Seifer, how youíve always felt about him. He could see it when no one else could and the reason is because he loved you so much himself." As I do to this very dayÖ

"Iíll try to make him understand. I donít want him to be hurt, you know that. But I will do what must be done." He told her stubbornly.

"I didnít expect anything else from you, Squall. I just want you to consider the path youíve chosen. This is not going to be easy and there will be repercussions."

He nodded solemnly, turning his gaze out toward the quad, closing his eyes as a slight breeze ruffled his hair.

"The winds are changing." He murmured, not really speaking to her as much as to himself. "Itís time."

And then he turned to face her, his gunmetal eyes burning with a resolve that she could see even in the shadowy light.

"I need to know youíll back me in this." He told her.

Her heart thrilled to think he cared for her opinion now, when before he couldnít even be bothered to wish her good night.

"Iíll do whatever you need me to do, Squall. I just pray to Hyne that we donít live to regret this."

Squall pulled his jacket closer around his spare frame.

"Not as much as I do." He agreed.

"When will you go?" She asked lightly, her stomach twisting anxiously as she considered the risk he was taking.

"At dawn." He said resolutely.

"Well," She breathed, her heart heavy, "We still have a lot to do."

She paused when he didnít answer and looked him over carefully, seeing him as though for the first time.

"Will you tell Zell the truth about this?" She had to know.

Squall met her gaze evenly and blinked once.

"Iíll tell him whatever he wants to know." He promised. But then he turned at the door that would take them back into the Training Center.

"My life is my own, Quistis. I donít owe anyone any explanations."

It was his way of letting her know where he stood, where Zell stood. He would not be swayed, by anyone. No matter the consequences.

"I never thought otherwise." She told him, and silently followed him into the Center knowing that when they parted ways tonight, he would leave her in his usual fashion. With silence and indifference, because he just didnít know any other way. Quistis prayed to the Gods that this pilgrimage he was so hell bent on would not disillusion him further. She didnít know what another betrayal would do to him, to all of them. All she could do was prayÖand wait.

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