SFA // #1 Crush - Part One

#1 Crush

Part One

By J. Marie

Warning!!! This is a lemon yaoi fanfiction starring Squall Leonhart and Seifer Almasy from Final Fantasy VIII. It is rated NC-17. This is story is part of a fic exchange with Scarlet Fever, webmistress and fanfiction author of Fountain of Decay. Well, after trying to write a Seifer x Zell three times, I begged Scarlet Fever for mercy. She took pity on my muse, and instead requested a Squall x Seifer. Seifer and Squall seem to be an endless source of inspiration for my muse, so this worked out rather well. Then we got to cooking up a plot idea, and decided to write a story arc. She's doing the Kiros x Laguna end, and I'm doing the Squall x Seifer. We worked out a plot base together (although each story contains our own storyline), and even each put in our own villain. Eva Aufgerbrochen is Scarlet Fever's creation, and Donovan Aufgerbrochen is mine. She came up with the Garbage idea, and I ran away with it. :) I think we make a pretty good team, but as always, you guys are the judge. But of course this story is to please Scarlet most of all, because it's written FOR her. So I hope she likes it.... Otherwise I'm gonna haveta rewrite. And I would like to thank Serena Almasy for being kind enough to send me the lyrics of "#1 Crush".

I would die for you
I would die for you
I've been dying just to feel you by my side, to know that you're mine
I would cry for you
I would cry for you
I will wash away your pain with all my tears, I'm drowning on fear
I will pray for you
I will pray for you,
I will sell my soul for something pure and true, someone like you
See your face every place that I walk in
Hear your voice every time that I'm talkin'
You will believe in me, and I will never be ignored
I will burn for you
Feel pain for you
I will twist the knife and bleed my aching heart, and tear it apart
I will lie for you
Beg and steal for you
I will crawl on hands and knees until you see, you're just like me
Violate all the love that I'm missin'
Throw away all the pain that I'm livin'
You will believe in me, and I can never be ignored
I would die for you
I would kill for you
I will steal for you
I'd do time for you
I will wait for you
I'd make room for you
I'd sink ships for you,
Take the cross for you
Make me a part of you
Because I believe in you
I believe in you
I would die for you

---Lyrics to "#1 Crush" by Garbage


He was as impassive as stone. As cold as steel. And twice as sharp.

It was odd, Laguna Loire thought to himself as his son entered the room, how Squall Leonhart could look so much like him, yet act so completely different. The hair was a shade lighter, a rich chocolate color, the eyes a mood-changing blue, and his skin a bit darker, yet still a creamy porcelain. But it was in the face, and the willowy build, that Squall resembled his father the most. The delicate, ethereal, almost doll-like beauty of his father.

Behind the SeeD commander, trailed two other SeeDs. One was known to Laguna, a hyperactive blonde punk named Zell Dincht. If it wasn't the clothes or the odd facial tattoo that gave away his punk disposition, it would have to be his hair, that through techniques unknown to Laguna, managed to defy gravity by sticking straight up.

And the third SeeD to enter Laguna's office.... well.... His appearance could have been the exact reason why Laguna fell backwards from his chair, screaming unintelligibly.

Laguna's presidential aide, and long time friend, Kiros Seagill, while managing to remain standing, gaped at the third SeeD in complete shock.

"While I know that my dashing appearance has caused many women to swoon at my feet, the least of which being Squall's current girlfriend, I'm rather unused to men swooning over me," the third SeeD said in a bemused tone of voice. If it were possible for Squall to look even more sour, the mention of his girlfriend had the expression of his face change to that of a man sucking on lemons.

Laguna made it to his feet. He was about to say something, his hand hovering over the button to summon his guard, until Kiros silenced and stilled him with a feather light gesture to the raven-haired man's lip. "Eyes, Laguna. Look at his eyes. And the scar. And the fact that he's young enough to be your son. He's not him," Kiros said sternly.

All three of the younger men looked a little confused. Laguna turned his face, studying the third SeeD, his expression of fear and loathing relaxing. "But he looks just like him....." Laguna said quietly.

"But it's not him. Not even Donovan Aufgerbrochen could defy time. This is a boy. Maybe a relative," Kiros said confidently, turning his attention to the third SeeD.

The term "boy" was not quite apt to describe him. He was a man, although young. The third SeeD was tall, over six feet. His hair was golden blonde, as opposed to blonde. His eyes were of a pale green color, that in some lights could be mistaken for blue. His body, even though hidden beneath a gray trenchcoat with a blood red cross sword symbol on the sleeves, was sculpted and muscular. But it was his face. His chiseled, beautiful face that startled the two older men. Not even the facial scar across his features marred his beauty. A beauty without sacrificing masculinity, but beauty all the same. His face seemed more appropriate for a Nordic god than a mere mortal.

"Well, I expect I should introduce him, since he's causing such a stir, as usual. Dad, Kiros, this is Seifer Almasy, former Sorceress' Knight. He was brainwashed and controlled into the job, same as Edea. But I confess that I have no clue why his looks should be such a cause for concern amongst you two," Squall said, in his even monotone, that threatened to be musical if he ever put forth an effort.

Seifer smirked at his introduction, giving both Kiros and Laguna the eye. He leaned over slightly, placing an elbow on Squall's shoulder, causing an expression of supreme irritation to pass across the brunette's porcelain face. "I don't know, Squall. I used to think you looked like a girl, but your dad has just made me realize that there are really men out there who could slip into a dress, and pass as a woman, without any other alteration," Seifer purred wickedly.

Laguna blinked slowly, not completely getting the gist of Seifer's statement. Kiros narrowed his dark eyes, fixing them sternly on the arrogant blonde. Zell rolled his eyes and plopped down in a chair, pulling out a Gameboy to preserve him from boredom. Squall tilted his shoulder, causing Seifer to slip off him, and almost fall over until he regained his equilibrium. Seifer gave Squall a half-angry, half-amused expression.

"Seifer, if you could manage to keep your own counsel on my father's appearance, I would not only be pleased, but downright euphoric," Squall said, his tone a little more animated than normal. Even if it was dripping with sarcasm, at least it wasn't monotone. Laguna blinked. He'd never heard his son sound sarcastic before. Even when he made sarcastic comments, it was in a monotone.

"Ooooh. Big words. Guess you feel it necessary to use big words. It's only natural to compensate for having a small-" Seifer began before Squall turned a baleful glare on him. Seifer Almasy was the type of man that couldn't be silenced easily, much less with a look. But Squall was downright gifted in the killer glare department. Seifer went silent, rolling his eyes and looking upward. Laguna was almost dazed. He'd never even seen Squall with a passionate expression before. Even if it was anger, it was still a form of passion and Squall was not a passionate man.

"You two don't seem to get along very well," Kiros observed.

Squall sighed, his expression returning to it's normal sour expression. "Who do you think gave me this scar? And who gave him his? I guess you could go so far to say he was my childhood rival," Squall shrugged, while Seifer worked his jaw. Zell snorted, never looking up from his videogame.

"Was?" Laguna asked, startled slightly by this revelation. The similarities were creepy.

"I'm now the SeeD commander. I take orders only from headmaster Cid, and he rarely sees fit to do so. I am the top ranking SeeD in Balamb Garden, and SeeD in general. What he had once, I got all the time. Rivalry? I blew him out of the water. You have to be at the same level to be rivals," Squall said calmly, the slightest hint of a smirk on his generous pink lips. Seifer scowled deeply, and actually growled back in his throat, shooting Squall a look that should not only have killed, but disintegrated him. Zell was chuckling.

Laguna blinked. Squall was rubbing it in. He was actually smug. Laguna was bewildered. He prided himself on being one of the few human beings who could see past Squall's cold exterior. And he'd never seen Squall like this. He'd never seen Squall react emotionally to anyone or anything, even Rinoa or Ellone. When Laguna had revealed his paternity to Squall, the sultry brunette had taken it in stride, seeming only mildly surprised. He was neither happy or unhappy to discover he had a father. He was neither warm or cold to Laguna. His neutrality frustrated Laguna most times.

"But I want to know why you two freaked out over me. You acted like you'd seen a ghost," Seifer was saying. Laguna's attention was diverted to the handsome blonde. Laguna frowned, and exchanged a glance with Kiros, who gave a shrug that said, Go ahead and tell them. It couldn't hurt, given what's happening.

"You look exactly like a man I knew. Know. Whatever," Laguna sighed. He noticed Seifer's eyes sparkle when he said 'whatever'.

"Go on," Seifer encouraged, waving his gloved hand. The haughty gesture made Laguna nervous, reminding him of another.

"When I say exactly, if it weren't for the fact that your eyes are green, not purple, and that you have a facial scar, you'd be twins. That and the fact that Donovan is old enough to be your father..." Laguna trailed off, the possibilities of what he said dawning on everyone in the room.

"Tell me more," Seifer said, his tone free of his bravado, urgent with curiosity.

"He... Well, I had my rival too. In the Galbadian Army, when I was a youth. We started together in the same division, Donovan and I. Donovan used a gunblade, like you two do. A hard weapon for a hard man. I guess he never liked me... I was too different from him. I like to smile, joke, play around. He was all business. But it got worse when we were sent to capture a village. He was needlessly killing people. Torturing, pillaging, raping. I tried to stop him and we fought. He won. I almost died. When I got better I was put in a new division, with Ward and Kiros.... It was okay for a while, until Donovan was promoted, and placed in charge of our division. He was a tyrant. He couldn't stand me, because I never sat there and took his orders. He was a cruel bastard, and I fought back... He got really pissed when I had his promotion board pass him over, when I told them of some of the stuff he would do. And then I got put in charge of the division, and they moved him to another. The rest of my career in Galbadia, Donovan took every opportunity to get me back. In fact, the order that got us sent to the Lunatic Pandora way back when was a result of his revenge. I never saw him again after that."

The room was dead silent for a while. Seifer spoke first. "And I look like him?" he asked slowly, understanding why Laguna had been so upset at seeing him.

"You move like him. You sound like him. You even carry your gunblade like he did. Some of your manners are like his. Even your smirk is like his," Laguna sighed. After all this time.... And now he had to deal with a youth that practically mirrored Donovan.

"But... I'm an orphan... Is he dead? Was he somehow related to me?" Seifer pressed.

"Unfortunately, Donovan Aufgerbrochen is very much alive. I don't know if he's related to you or not. I can tell you that he never married. He had a sister whom he was close to, but none of us ever met her. In fact, Donovan is the reason I called for your presence here, Squall," Laguna said.

"How so?" Squall asked, raising a chocolate eyebrow.

"My borders are being attacked. By the Galbadian army," Laguna said sadly.

The three SeeDs looked startled, and Zell put away his Gameboy. "But that's impossible! Squall broke it up! I should know! I was in charge of it when he broke them up," Seifer exclaimed.

"You were in charge of part of the army, Seifer. The part Ultimecia could get her hands on. When she killed Deling, she screwed herself actually. Donovan had risen through the ranks and had become the top-ranking General. He was over Caraway. He's a cruel bastard, but he is extremely charismatic when he wants to be. And he took at least half the army with him when Ultimecia took over. Most of those that he took were loyal to him, not Deling or Ultimecia. And he's been beefing it up, lately, recruiting from all over. Word has it that he's got weapons and rogue SeeDs he bought from Norg. Now that Esthar is no longer closed off, everyone knows that I'm president. Including him. So now he's trying to invade Esthar. And my reports are telling me he's doing a goddam good job of it," Laguna said bitterly.

"And you want us to do what about it? We barely had enough SeeDs to combat the half of the army that Ultimecia had. We can't fight a full-scale war for you, Dad," Squall said, his scowl almost concerned.

"I'm not asking you to, Squall. Even when I was young, I was no match for a warrior as powerful as Donovan. Me against a gunblader? I'm decent in a fight, but I'm not as young as I use to be...."

"You want us to fight him," Squall said evenly.

"Yes. I need you to, Squall. You're good. Better than I ever was. I need you to find him, and kill him. If you destroy their leader, the whole army will collapse without his leadership. I'm positive of it," Laguna said, standing up and sticking his hands in his pockets, feeling nervous.

Both Zell and Seifer were looking at Squall expectantly. Squall glanced at Seifer for a moment. Laguna noticed with surprise that Squall looked almost concerned for the tall blonde. It passed quickly, so quickly that Seifer never noticed, but Laguna did.

"And what if Donovan is related to Seifer somehow? What then?" Squall asked. He really was concerned about Seifer's feelings. If Seifer had suddenly found a relative, and was forced to fight him.... Squall never seemed concerned about other's feelings before, not even Rinoa's. This odd shift in character in regards to Seifer intrigued Laguna.

"Then I can't expect him to fight a lost family member... I don't know how that would concern you though, Squall," Laguna shrugged.

"That would put us on the opposite ends of a war. Again," Seifer said quietly, staring somberly at the ground. It seemed to bother them both. Laguna began to reevaluate everything about the two of them.

"If we did decide to hunt down Donovan, what would you be doing? Running your war from here?" Squall asked in disbelief. His father was not a man to sit back and lead from the background.

"Not at all. Someone else is in charge as well. There has been sighting of a mysterious woman, who has been placing bombs and leading attacks on my vulnerable spots. She seems more dangerous at the moment that Donovan, mostly because she seems to know so much about Esthar. That's why me and Kiros are taking care of her. And we need SeeD to go after Donovan," Laguna grinned.

Squall groaned. "Are you crazy? You could get killed," he said with an almost angry look at his father. Laguna was flattered that Squall thought that much of him.

"I'm not a badass like you or Donovan, Squall, but I get by. I can handle a woman. And besides, I'll be with Kiros and Ward. And I'll have guards," Laguna scoffed. The grinding of Kiros' teeth told what his opinion of Laguna's decision was.

"Have you met Quistis?" Zell asked.

"Well, yes. Pretty girl. Shame she's so young...." Laguna shrugged.

"Have you seen her fight?" Zell continued.

"Well, yes, of course."

"Would you fuck with her?"

Laguna looked thoughtful, recalling the power behind the whip lashes Quistis delivered to her enemies. "Alright, point taken. I'll be careful," he said, not entirely convinced. Quistis was a SeeD, and this mysterious woman wasn't.

The three younger men sighed and shook their heads. Older men always seemed to be chauvinistic.. until they got their ass kicked by a girl with an attitude.

"But.. will you guys take the job...?" Laguna asked hopefully.

Squall looked back over at Seifer. His expression softened for a moment at the unhappy, torn expression on Seifer's face. It was full of concern, almost tenderness. Laguna was shocked. Squall was actually waiting to see if Seifer was okay with this before he accepted the job. Based on their hostile interaction, Laguna doubted if Squall realized how much he cared for his supposed childhood rival. It didn't make sense, but it did. A good chunk of both their lives had been consumed with the other.

Squall looked back at Laguna, his expression stony again. "Let us think about it, Dad. We'll get back to you in twenty-four hours...." he said. Laguna nodded.

Seifer shook his head. "I just wish I knew more about this Donovan person...." he muttered.

Squall heard and turned back to Laguna. "What about Elle? Would she be able to do like she did with you? I know it's hard for her with people she doesn't know, but she was able to do it with Rinoa.... Could she send us back in time, to find out more about Donovan? About Seifer's family?" he asked, almost urgently. A look of hope passed across Seifer's chiseled features.

"I.. don't know. I'll ask her, Squall. I tell you what. You guys go back to the Garden, and I'll meet you there tomorrow. I'll bring Elle, and you can decide in the meantime? Okay?" Laguna offered, spreading his hands.

Squall nodded. "That's sounds fine. See you tomorrow," he said, his stony calmness returning to him as he got ready to leave. Laguna wondered if anyone else had noticed the odd flashes of emotions that passed over Squall's countenance, and realized that he was the only one.

Laguna wondered, as his son departed, how he would feel about his son developing feelings for a boy who could easily be the son of the only man Laguna ever hated.

"I don't know, Seifer. It would be hard. My powers have grown since Time Compression, but I honestly don't know if I could just pop you back in time into Donovan Aufgerbrochen. Much less at the right moment. It's very tricky..." Ellone said nervously, biting her bottom lip and giving Seifer a sympathetic expression.

"Could you at least try?" Seifer asked.

"I could. But I have to warn you that something bad could happen. With a tricky thing like this, I could accidentally switch your temporal awarenesses...." Elle said.

Laguna sat beside her, his arms crossed. He almost didn't want Seifer to find out if Donovan was related to him. It could mean things. Bad things. He tried to keep his misgivings off his face, and merely sat quietly beside his surrogate daughter.

Squall and Rinoa sat near Seifer. Rinoa was trying to nuzzle up to Squall, but he wasn't paying her much attention, being focused on the conversation between Elle and Seifer. Laguna sensed a certain sort of impatience in Squall concerning Rinoa. A disenchantment even. Laguna wondered what was really going on between the couple. It had been a year since they had started dating, and Squall seemed to grow more and more distant the longer they dated.

"It's a risk I'm willing to take, Elle. I want to know... I need to know...." Seifer pleaded.

Squall rolled his shoulders, pushing Rinoa off of him. It was a fluid, unconscious movement. Rinoa frowned and got up, sensing Squall's irritation with her. Laguna almost felt sympathetic for her. She was Julia's daughter, and Julia was his first love. He chewed his bottom lip as she left, wishing that Squall could at least be more sensitive to her feelings. She looked so sad when she walked away.

"I don't know if it's a risk I'm willing to take, Seifer..." Elle sighed.

Squall was so intent as he watched Seifer. Laguna was almost positive that there was a glint of sympathy for Seifer in Squall's eyes. If Squall must feel something for someone, why must it be this arrogant boy that reminded Laguna of his hated rival? Laguna was slightly resentful of the blonde boy. He didn't mind if his son was gay, for Laguna himself would admit to having feelings for men, but Laguna minded if Squall felt things for someone who was related to a sadist.

"But...." Seifer began, trailing off as alarms went off in the Garden.

"Wha...?" Squall said, standing up.

"Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert! Hostage situation in the Quad! Commander Leonhart, please report to the Quad!" the intercom screamed. It sounded like Quistis.

Squall dashed out the door, pulling out Lionheart as he did so, with Seifer, Laguna, and Elle close on his heels. They said nothing as they ran, each harboring their own suspicions. Laguna unholstered the handgun Kiros always made him carry, and Seifer was unsheathing Hyperion. Elle just clasped her scarf to her as she ran.

Galbadian soldiers were in the hallways, and the SeeDs and Laguna relieved them of their lives. It seemed there was a surprise invasion, and most of the able-bodied SeeDs were fighting.

They soon arrived at the entrance of the Quad. Xu was stretched out on the ground, her neck severed to the spine, the floor of the Quad stained with the red of her blood. Squall barely cast her a glance as he ran down the steps. Seifer paused and his eyes widened, but he set his jaw and followed Squall. Laguna paused long enough to close the dead girl's eyes, as Elle covered her mouth in horror. Laguna ordered Elle to remain where she was, and trotted down the steps, watching as Xu's blood trickled down the steps, as if it followed him.

Laguna gaped at what he saw, his gun hanging limply at his side.

"Holy Christ!" Squall exclaimed, in an uncharacteristic moment of surprise. Seifer sunk to his knees, muttering to himself.

"Hello, Laguna. Long time, no see... Did you miss me?"

Laguna managed to close his mouth. He narrowed his aquamarine eyes, and his face seemed to come alive with hate. Laguna was a peaceful, loving man. And only one man could ever bring out his negative emotions.

"Donovan. You murdering bastard."

Donovan Aufgerbrochen stood before him, his sharp, military uniform crisp and clean, despite his bloody work. Despite the fact that he was in his forties, he had aged impeccably well. Only a few strands of silver were in his golden hair, and his violet eyes were as cold and hard as amethysts. His chiseled good looks had only improved with age. He was the older version of Seifer.

In his arm was a struggling Rinoa, who might as well have been limp for all the good her struggling did her. She was crying, and trying to reach for Squall. In his other arm was his gunblade, a powerful blade called Tigerclaw, a blade that curved slightly, and with the emblem of a tiger head on it.

But it was what was behind Donovan that had the group silent. Behind him hung Headmaster Cid, naked, his face bloated with asphyxiation. His eyes bulged from his head and various parts of his body had been mutilated and cut. He had been castrated before death, judging by the blood. His fingers were frozen in a claw, hanging limply from his sides. He had tried to pry the noose from his neck before he died, but to no avail.

"I've been waiting for you, son of Laguna Loire."

Squall seemed to recover from his shock and a tear sprung to his eye for the man that had been like a father to him, before he even knew he had a father. He raised Lionheart, and pointed the tip of it in Donovan's direction. The resemblance to Seifer was uncanny. Seifer could have been his clone. Or his son.

"Let Rinoa go," Squall said in a gravelly tone, that spoke of violence untold. No one attacked, seeing that Donovan held the gunblade to Rinoa's neck, prepared to decapitate the Asian girl at the slightest wrong move.

"It took your people a while to sound the alarm didn't it? I let one go, to make sure you came. I had to wait until your pretty little woman came in my direction. A pity it wasn't the saucy little blonde I kept. The one with the whip. I do question your taste in women, son of Laguna. I would have kept the blonde, myself. This pathetic little brunette isn't very worthy of you, if you're as good as everyone says you are," Donovan shrugged, a smirk on his face that made Seifer's seem a ghost compared to the pure malice in this man's.

"Why her???" Squall cried.

"Why? Well, you see, Laguna is the sort of man who would die happy knowing his son was happy, no matter what. You see, when I finally kill him, I don't want him to be happy. I want him to be miserable. I want you to be miserable. Because you are his son. And what better way to do that, than take away the one you love?" the tall man asked, his violet eyes glittering in sick delight. No one would attack him as long as he held the girl.

"Don't you dare kill her!!!" Seifer screamed, standing up and making his presence known.

Donovan's eyes finally rested on the blonde youth, whom he had dismissed before. The resemblance to himself didn't go unnoticed.

"Hmmm. A relative, most obviously. Most likely one of my bastard children. I'm sure I have several. But it's like looking into a mirror, almost. And if memory serves me, you are the Sorceress' Knight. Retired, I assume?" Donovan chuckled.

"Don't you hurt that girl!!!" Seifer shouted, enraged. This cruel, cold man couldn't be related to him. It was too horrible.

"Oh, don't worry about her, boy. I think I shall have a little fun with her before I kill her," Donovan purred, snaking out his tongue and licking the side of the screaming Rinoa's face, causing the girl to sob.

"I'm going to kill you," Squall said evenly, and there was such menace in his voice that even Donovan paused for a moment, before the cruel smirk returned.

"We'll see about that, Leonhart. Your daddy wasn't good enough to do the job, and I doubt you will be," Donovan snickered. "On the contrary, I have every intention of killing you and delivering your still-beating heart to your pansy father. But out of respect to my own blood, I'll leave the other out of it."

"You're going to pay for this, Donovan. You'll never kill my son, and we're going to get Rinoa back!" Laguna shouted.

"You think so?" Donovan asked in feigned interest and the sound of a beating helicopter propeller was heard.

"I know so," Laguna said darkly.

The helicopter came into view, hovering over the Quad. A rope ladder was slowly being dropped.

"Care to come with me, boy? You'll not find any glory here, in the shadow of Leonhart. If you truly are my son, then you deserve better than all this. Come with me, and I could give you power and glory beyond your imaginings..." Donovan tempted, grabbing onto the rope ladder, grasping Rinoa tightly to him.

Seifer narrowed his jade green eyes. "I've already been offered all those, and all I got was heartbreak and pain for my trouble. I make my own way. And I'll never work with a sick murdering bastard like you, father or not!" he shouted. Donovan shook his head, looking disappointed.

"I'm going to kill you!!!!" Squall screamed again as the helicopter began to lift, carrying Donovan and the hostage Rinoa with it.

"Then catch me if you can, boy!! Catch me if you can!!" Donovan laughed, as the helicopter flew away, his cruel voice swept away by the wind.

Seifer sunk to his knees again, tears rolling down his face. The possibility that he might have finally found his father was no longer tempting and enthralling. Squall turned on his heel to face Laguna, his face a mask of intent anger.

"I accept your job offer, Father."

"Quistis, are you able to fight?"

The elegant woman stood forward, brushing back her blonde hair. "Yes. A few Curagas did the job," Quistis said coldly. She had a permanent scar on her stomach now, thanks to Donovan Aufgerbrochen. She wore a blue uniform, her pins marking her as the new SeeD commander. Squall had been named Headmaster since Cid's death two days ago.

"We have located Donovan's camp, just inside the Esthar northern border. You will accompany Irvine from the south, inside of Esthar. Place him as close as possible to Donovan, and try to get the cleanest shot to assassinate him without harming anyone else or endangering your own lives. I don't care what you do, just kill him. But make sure Rinoa is out of the way.

"Seifer will accompany me to attack his camp from the outside of Esthar, from the north. We'll be using a minor glamour to get us inside, where we can get Rinoa out safely. If we engage Donovan, then consider your mission as back-up. I'm keeping Zell and Selphie in reserve, in the Ragnarok, to help scatter his camp when battle occurs. Any questions?"

The assembled SeeD shook their heads.

"We head out at dawn tomorrow. Prepare yourselves today, and memorial services will be held this afternoon for both Headmaster Cid and Xu. Dismissed," Squall said quietly.

His friends quietly filed out from the room. It was odd now that Cid was dead. And Xu. A year ago, when they had defeated Ultimecia, it seemed that battle was a game. But now that people were actually dying, it wasn't a game any longer. It was a deadly business. Even Selphie had been somber and silent. Each and every SeeD was filled with a deadly purpose now. Their beloved Headmaster and surrogate father had been tortured and murdered. Their friend and peer had been decapitated.

Donovan Aufgerbrochen was a dead man.

He just didn't know it yet.

"Are you sure?"


In twelve hours, Seifer and Squall were to head out to Esthar, to save Rinoa. Not a few hours ago, they had attended the funeral for Headmaster Cid and Xu. Now they both stood before Ellone.

Squall was leaning against a wall, his arms wrapped around himself as he stared at the ground. It seemed he almost felt Seifer's pain, as if it was his own. "I'm going with you..." the brunette said somberly.

Seifer swallowed. "If you want to...." he said. Ellone watched the pair intently. Even when they were rivals, and fought as children, there had been a certain sort of empathy between them. A connection. Elle wondered at it now.

"You'll need someone," Squall said simply. His offer touched Elle. Had their relationship evolved to this? It had gone from respected rivalry, to sympathetic friendship. They shared the other's pain. It was obvious to her.

Seifer turned away, and pulled something off from under his shirt, that he kept hidden. It dangled form his hands, swinging before Elle. It was a long silver chain, with a red cross sword pendant. "It was my mother's. I thought it might help..." he said quietly.

Elle solemnly took it from his hands, cradling it in her closed hand. "Are you ready?" Elle asked. She no longer put up any objections. Even Laguna's doubt had been wiped away. Her surrogate father had all but asked her to do her best to settle Seifer's past for him.

Seifer nodded, his face a mask of pain. It wasn't out of curiosity anymore. It wasn't about the need to find a father he never had. He had to know. He had to.

Reality shimmered and faded away.

A tall blonde woman sat huddled beside a smaller blonde, beside a rock, which only partially sheltered them from the rain. Dozens of people were nearby, all trying to find shelter from the rain. Tents lay off in the distance, and a group of men with flashlights approached the refugee camp. They were all Galbadian soldiers.

"The soldiers... The soldiers are coming, Mary Ann," the tiny blonde woman whispered fearfully to her older sister. The girl couldn't have been older than fourteen. They shared an old blanket, trying to cover the other.

"I know, Lucy. Don't worry about them...." Mary Ann whispered back. Her cat green eyes glittered in the light of the flashlights. She put a protective arm around the younger girl.

The soldiers swept their lights over the huddled refugees from the Sorceress Wars. Their village had been destroyed and only fifty people remained. A couple of women were dragged off by soldiers, and the sound of their screaming soon drifted on the soft winds. Mary Ann set her jaw, trying to cover her and her sister's femininity with the blanket.

A flashlight shined on them, and Mary Ann squinted her pale green eyes, and tried to shield the trembling girl beside her.

"I found a couple of hotties, Captain. A nice tall blonde, and cute little one," the soldier sneered, whipping the shabby blanket off the two young women. Mary Ann cradled the sobbing girl. They both knew what was going to happen to them.

"Really? It seems you have. I confess I have a weakness for blondes. You may have the little one if you like," a tall blonde man offered arrogantly, a cruel sneer pasted on his handsome face.

The other soldier laughed and snatched Lucy away from Mary Ann. Mary Ann screamed, and flung herself at the soldier, scratching him with her nails. The other man dropped her sister, attempting to defend himself. Mary Ann was desperate to help her little sister, even if it meant her life.

Strong arms grabbed Mary Ann and flung her to the ground. The other refugees looked away, as they did with all the other rapes, wishing to save their own skins. Mary Ann screamed, but the tall blonde man was over her, his glittering violet eyes staring her down, his hands yanking up her skirt. She struggled fiercely, but he was a trained warrior, and far stronger than she.

It wasn't so much what happened to her that caused Mary Ann to cry. It had happened before. But it was the screams of her little sister. Her sweet, innocent sister. Whose innocence was lost forever.

The blonde captain who had just raped her laughed, standing up and zipping himself up. He looked over at the other soldier, who was also coming to his feet, yanking up the young blonde girl.

Mary Ann caught a glimpse of Lucy. The girl's dress was torn, her face bruised. Blood trickled down her thigh. But it was the defeated, humiliated look on Lucy's face that enraged Mary Ann. The cheerful, sweet young girl that had been Lucy was no more.

"Got to pop a cherry. What about you, Donovan?" the soldier holding her sister's limp form asked the tall blonde, a sneer on his scarred face.

"Nope. No such luck. But she was still not too bad," the man named Donovan shrugged.

Mary Ann screamed, and pulled out a kitchen knife she had kept hidden and flung herself at the soldier who had raped her sister. She had never dared use it before, for fear of retaliation. But this was too much. She didn't care if they killed her. She just wanted to kill the bastard that had raped her little sister.

The knife sunk into the soldier's eye, driving into his brain. His body fell backwards, and Mary Ann fell on top of him, and stared down at the soldier she had just killed. A smile of satisfaction crept across her pretty features.

"You bitch. That was one of my best drinking buddies," the cold voice of Donovan snapped at her, causing Mary Ann to turn and gape at him in fear, still on top of the dead soldier. Lucy was on her knees, staring in shock at her older sister.

"You can't expect to kill a man's friend and get away with it. Well... I suppose since you didn't hurt me, I'll let you get off easy. It'll teach you a lesson," the harsh man sneered and pulled out a handgun, pointing it at Lucy.

The shot rang out before Mary Ann could even scream.

She watched the cruel Galbadian captain saunter away in shock before crawling over to mourn over her sister's corpse.

"He's a good boy."

The raven-haired woman known as Edea Kramer nodded and silently accepted the blonde child into her arms, solemnly contemplating his mother.

"You'll take good care of him, won't you?"

Edea dipped her head, looking sad. The little boy craned his neck, staring at his mother with wide eyes. He was no older than three.

Mary Ann couldn't help but smile at the little boy she had given birth to. Although the question of his paternity was never in doubt, she still held a fondness for her son. He was still half hers. Her own eyes glittered back at her from his face, which even at three resembled his father's face enough to give her nightmares.

"You be a good little boy, Seifer. Do everything your Matron tells you. She'll be taking care of you now. Mommy has to go away," Mary Ann smiled, tears spilling down her face. She reached out and stroked her son's cheek, kissing him gently on the forehead.

"Mommy?" the little boy asked, confused and frightened.

Mary Ann took off her necklace and placed it around Seifer's neck, smiling gently at him. It was silver necklace with a red cross sword pendant. "I want you to wear this with pride, Seifer Almasy. It was your grandfather's. And don't forget that I do love you...." she choked out before turning away.

Edea remained silent, and held the small blonde child tightly in her arms. He began to sob, even before his mother walked away from him, and out of his life forever.

Ten hours later, she took her own life with the kitchen knife she had used to kill her sister's rapist.

Tears were rolling down Seifer, Squall, and Ellone's face.

It was Seifer who stood up first, wiping at his face, his expression grim, but determined. Squall also came to his feet, and touched his cheek, looking surprised that he was crying.

"Thank you, Elle," Seifer said in a shaky tone.

"I'm so sorry, Seifer..." Elle began, but Seifer raised his hand, silencing her.

"Don't. I don't want your pity. Either of you. All I want to do is kill the son of a bitch that has killed and hurt so many people. Including my mother, and the aunt I never met. That's what I want," Seifer said coldly, but there was fire in his eyes.

"I'll pray for you, Seifer," Elle whispered as she returned Seifer's necklace to him. He lovingly replaced it around his neck.

Seifer nodded. "I'm going to go rest now," he said quietly, and turned away from Squall and Elle, heading off alone.

Elle didn't miss the look of hurt on Squall's face when Seifer walked away from him.

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