Disclaimer: I don't own FF VIII or any characters. But, I'll take em' if you'd let me?

warning: Rinoa bashing, adult language and content. So there.

Zell's POV throughout the story except at some points. They will be 3rd person.

Terminal Recovery

Chapter One - Collapse

By Tori Singer

It's funny how monsters think nothing about their own death until' it happens. Actually, I'm not sure if they think at all. They just blindly charge, trying to take you down with their vast numbers. But...

Of course, Grats are no problem for me anymore, not since the war. I pull my gloves on tighter as I slide into my battle stance. The disgusting looking creatures made their way toward me. Four grats halt in front of me, preparing to poison me and devour me slowly. Ha, not that I'm going down that easily.

It didn't take long at all before they were on the ground in weeping piles of goo. I wipe my hands on my pants and yawn. The monsters may be good for training the lower classes, but I was having a hard time breaking a sweat anymore. I stretch a few times before heading to the back part of the training center, where the T-rex lurked. I love having duels with the T-rex, it's so exhilirating.

I open the large metal doors and start across the wooden planks over the pond. I halt when I hear a strange noise. Crouching down, I creep my way past a few bushes. The sound, I recognize it as coughing. Who would be out in the middle of a dangerous forest, coughing?? I peek my head around a tree and my eyebrows shoot to the top of my forehead.

There, kneeling on the ground, was Squall Leonhart, my commander. He had his gunblade stuck in the ground in front of him as his body wracked with heaves and coughs. A few grats were trying to surround him, but he held out his hand and blasted them with blizzaga. That took care of them. I watched him get to his feet slowly, holding his sides as he still coughed. I was afraid he was going to cough up a lung or something.

I made my way from behind the tree and walked toward my friend. I stopped about a few feet from him.

"Squall?" I tried, my voice seemed to be drowned out by his fit. He slowly turned and looked at me. My eyes widened slightly at his face. It was so pale, he looked like a skeleton. I raised a hand toward him.

"Squall........are you ok, man?" I asked softly. He gasped out one final cough before picking up his gunblade and sheathing it. He nodded to me and walked toward the exit. I followed.

"Squall, come on, I can help, just tell me." I beckoned, hoping he'd say something, anything. He was starting to weird me out. He just shook his head.

"I'm fine." He stated unevenly. I caught the cough trying to break it's way to the surface. When we reached the exit he turned to me. I was caught in the seriousness of his stare.

"This stays here." He said plainly before walking out the door. I shook my head after a minute, realizing what he just said. How could I keep this quiet? He was my friend after all. I took off out the door only to find an empty hallway. Had he run? Or was I just standing there longer than I thought...

"Squall..." I murmured to myself. It was just like him to keep something like this a secret. I decided to humor him for a while, hoping he'd come out for help on his own. Like that would ever happen...

Two days later, I was in the cafeteria, chowing down on some lunch. Hotdogs, of course. I couldn't stop thinking about the way I found Squall the other day. I haven't seen him since then. I hope he's alright. Apparentally, my worried mood attracted the famous observer, Quistis Trepe. I looked up at her standing next to my chair. She looked sternly worried. If that's even a combination...

"Zell, what's wrong?" She asked in her no nonsense voice. I cringed, I didn't want to lie to her, I was worried about Squall. I motioned for her to sit down. She took the seat right across from me. I stared at my plate, willing this situation to go away. Ha.

"Zell..." She started, reaching out a hand and placing it over my own. Sigh, I guess I have no choice.

"Um, have you seen Squall lately?" I asked, trying to sound nonchalant, but probably failing miserably. She cocked an eyebrow and looked at me before speaking.

"Yesterday, why?" She asked, gazing at me with her all knowing eyes. I averted my face away from her, finding the floor tiles interesting. She nudged my hand with hers. I finally looked at her.

"And, well, how did he act?" I asked. Now her eyebrows could have been connected to her hairline. She studied me for awhile before answering.

"Alright, what did you see?" She asked, sounding more like an order. I bit my lip, am I that transparent? I fidgeted under the table, avoiding her gaze. Finally, with a sigh, I told her what I'd seen in the training center. She didn't look surprised.

"Well, that does explain a few things. He's been acting odd recently. I asked him to see the doctor but he gave me one of those looks. Sigh, I haven't seen him since yesterday though, so I don't know what or how he's doing." She told me. Maybe I ought to go check on him...

"Thanks, Quistis." I told her before bounding out of the cafeteria. I walked through the halls, waving to people I knew, which was just about everybody. I headed up toward the dorms, hoping he was in his room. I wound my way through the hallways, finally finding the top ranking dorms. This is where my room was, also Irvine and Squall's rooms. I made my way to Squall's door.

I knocked three times, hoping he'd answer. Nothing. I tried again, with no results. Maybe he was in his office? I sighed, slightly irritated about all the traveling, before heading all the way back toward the elevator. I must have a horrible look on my face, because everybody keeps getting out of the way, staring at me. I don't care.

Finally at the elevator, I get in and push the 3rd button. I leaned against the wall with my hands behind my head. The elevator dinged before the doors opened. I stepped out into Xu and Quistis's office, which connected to Squall's office. I noticed that Quistis wasn't back from lunch yet and poor Xu was being hit on my Irvine.

"But we're meant to be together!" I could hear Irvine's famous line. I tuned them out as I headed to the back of the room to the large double doors. A resounding slap echoed and I knew Irvine had stuck his foot in his mouth. I grinned as I knocked on the door. Waiting a few minutes, I knocked again. I frowned before lowly growling. This was getting ridiculous.

I grabbed the doorknob and pushed; surprisingly, the door opened. I pushed my way through and looked around. The desk was empty, but what got my attention was his chair, it was too far away from the desk. Squall was neater than that. I noticed a dark stain on the carpet next to the edge of the desk, coming from behind it. There was also a pool of something on top of the desk, thankfully missing the papers piled on it.

I took a tentive step forward, for once, slight fear shooting through my body. I swallowed hard and walked toward the desk.

"Squall?" I called out softly, hoping and also not hoping for an answer. I braced myself as I peeked around the desk.

"Ahhhhh!" I hollor as something comes down on my shoulder. I whirl around, jumping up on the desk, ready for action. I immediantly lower my fists as I take in my friend standing in front of me. I hop off the desk.

"Squall? What are you doing, man?" I asked, looking at the incredibly pale face of my commander. He just shook his head slightly, he looked like he'd just fall apart from the action. I looked at the red stain on Squall's face, below his lip. My eyes widened. I took a step forward.

"Squall, you need to come with me, to see Dr. Kadowaki." I told him, placing a hand on his shoulder. He looked at me a bit before he seemed to realize what I said. Squall..

"No." He said before brushing my hand away. I was hurt, but I knew that Squall would never accept help willingly. I watched him grab some papertowels and clean the mess on the desk. I watched him, noticing the differences in his body movements. All the grace was gone, and it looked like he was using most of his strength to keep concious. I sighed, there was only one thing to do then. When Squall bent slightly to throw the paper towel away, I made my move.

I hefted him onto my shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He was lighter than I thought he would be. As I raced toward the door, I realized that Squall wasn't even moving or struggling. This worried me as I ignored Xu's gasp and questioning. I just concentrated on getting him to the doctor. As the elevator started it's decent, I craned my head around, trying to glimpse Squall's face. I could barely see it, but it looked like his eyes were closed.

I couldn't get out of the elevator fast enough. I ran toward the infirmary, passing Quistis, who in turn, started after me. I could hear her boots clicking behind me. I reached the medical lab and hoped that the doctor was even in there. She was, thank god. She stood quickly when I walked in packing the commander. She looked at me before hurrying me to a small room. I laid Squall down as gently as possible.

"Please Zell, could I have you stand outside so I can check him?" She asked. I nodded, leaving. I saw Quistis standing there, biting her lip, looking worried.

"Well?" She asked, staring at me. I shook my head and stood next to her. I took a seat and beckoned her to do the same. She did so and stared at me impatiently.

"Well..." I started before telling her what happened. She looked at me in shock before shivering and rubbing her arms. Confused, I leaned toward her.

"Uhh, someone cast a spell on you?" I asked. She shook her head.

"It's just, that's the commander, sick in there. What do we do about running the Garden?" I scratched my head as I thought about it. What about all that paperwork and decision making? I leaned back in my chair. I glanced toward the door as it opened. It was Rinoa, and she looked pissed. I stood up, wondering what she wanted.

"Where is he?!" She practically screeched. I flinched, wishing I could drown her in something. Quistis marched up in front of her and brought a finger to her lips.

"Shh, the commander is sick and unconcious, please be qui-" But Rinoa cut her off.

"Oh! He's sick?! Where is he?! Tell me!" I grimaced as her voice changed from totally pissed to sickeningly sweet in less than two sentences. I really hated that girl, but I wasn't going to say anything, it's not like Squall and her were together anymore or anything.

"Please, Rinoa, we're not allowed in, you'll have to wait." Quistis explained. That did it, I looked at Rinoa's face, it turned a deep red. You don't tell a pampered bitch that she had to wait.

"What! Me?! Wait?!" She yelled, making me cover my ears. I felt a hand on my shoulder roughly. Quistis looked at me with wild eyes.

"Help me get her out!" She commanded. I looked at the ranting girl. She was something, that Rinoa. I solemnly but happily picked her up and left the infirmary. She screeched and hollored as I made my way to the fountain in the center of the Garden. She gasped as I tossed her in. She came up gasping and glaring at me, but I just walked away.

I heard a few people giggle and laugh as I walked back to the infirmary in triumph. I flashed a grin to the ladies who just laughed harder. I felt the pain again, that pain that none of the girls took me seriously, that I was never one to be romanced with. Sigh. I opened the door and looked at Quistis. She had a relieved look on her face.

"At least she's gone...." She whispered. I knew that Quistis never liked Rinoa, that she was merely competition for Squall. I chuckled to myself, it seems like everybody has a thing for Squall, even me. I stare at the floor silently as I think on that last thought.

These feelings of lust I get whenever he's around sometimes. Strange affection I feel for the man in leather. I know it's stupid, I know it's futile, but, I like holding onto these personal thoughts; if only to myself. I sighed and sat back down next to Quistis, waiting for the doctor's verdict.

It was close to half an hour before the doctor finally came out of the room. Quistis and myself stood as soon as she walked in. She had a worried look on her face. That wasn't good. I felt Quistis grab my hand tightly. I bit my lip. Dr. Kadowaki shook her head.

"He's really done it this time. He was a serious case of Pneumonia. It's good that you brought him when you did, Zell, his lungs are incredibly weakened and he's wheezing really bad." I sat hard at her words. I heard Quistis gasp beside me. I stared down at the tiles between my feet, they were becoming unfocused. I felt tears threaten to fall, but I held them in. I couldn't cry in front of the doctor.

"Is he awake?" Quistis asked the doctor. She shook her head.

"No, he's still out. I want him to rest here for a long time. I have him attached to a respirator so that he can breathe easier." My heart broke at those words. Squall? Having a machine to help him breathe? This can't be happening....

"May I.....may I see him?" I asked, gripping Quistis' hand firmly. She squeezed back reassuringly. The doctor thought a minute.

"Just for a moment, he needs rest, alright?" She told me. I nodded and looked at Quistis. She nodded for the door.

"Go ahead, I will tell the others what has happened." She patted my back soothingly before leaving. I steeled myself before slowly opening the door to Squall. I could hear a few machines running as I walked in. I shut the door behind me and glanced at the bed. I bit my lip to keep from crying like a moron.

Squall had nothing on but his pants; machines and moniters were hooked up all over his body. He had a tube in his mouth, must be the resperater. I walked to the edge of the bed, he looked pale and cold. I shook as I grabbed one of his pale hands in mine. It was lifeless, he didn't move at all. I gripped the hand and brought it to my chest.

"Squall, why? Why did you do this to yourself? All you needed to do was see the doctor..." I said to the man on the bed next to me. I didn't get an answer. I saw his chest slightly rise and fall with his breathing. I could hear hitches in the breathing... I shook, not knowing what to do. What was going to happen to him? Could he....die? I squeezed my eyes shut, no longer wanting to see him anymore.

I leaned and kissed the cold hand in mine. I wouldn't let him go that easily. I wouldn't. I stood and made my way to the door. I looked back one more time before leaving the room. Dr. Kadowaki was writing something on a piece of paper. She looked up at me before sighing.

"I will let you know if anything changes." She told me, walking me to the door. I could hear my sneakers squeak against the clean tiles. The noise distracted me from my thoughts, a little. I left the infirmary, wanting to strangle something. I stopped in the hallway and looked up, all of my friends were standing there, looking worried. I noticed that Rinoa was NOT there. I glared at nothing in particular.

"Well?" Selphie started, I could hear the tightness of her voice. Her eyes shimmered with tears of worry. I smiled, slightly.

"He's.......asleep right now." I told her. She nodded and pursed her lips. I started passed but Irvine grabbed my shoulder.

"Hey, what do we do about this?" He asked. I slumped against his touch. Why was everyone asking me?

"How should I know?" I whispered and walked away. I could hear them whisper amongst themselves as I left. I knew I was being inconsiderate, but I just wanted to be alone. I turned in the direction of the dorms and then stopped. I contemplated my thoughts before changing direction and heading to the elevator. I got in and pressed the button.

It wasn't long before I'd made it to Squall's office. I glanced around at the empty room. I made my way over to the desk before easing myself into the chair. I leaned back and sighed. Why did this have to happen to Squall? Because everything happened to Squall. A voice in the back of my mind answered me. I grumbled at the empty room before glancing at the computer moniter. The window that was open on the moniter caught my attention. I leaned forward and read it.

"Diagnostics. Maintenence." There was many options on the screen. It looked like the Garden Guide or something. What was Squall working on? I clicked a few buttons and came to a window that looked like an order form. I slightly panicked, not wanting to accidentally fuck something up. I exited out of all the windows, returning to the desktop. The image on the desktop caused me to stop in shock.

It was that picture of him that they had taken in Balamb. He had been standing on the dock, the sun had been setting. He had glanced back at the gang when they took the picture. He was framed in the orange light of the sun. It was.......kind of a cool picture.

I touched the screen lightly. I didn't know that Squall still had that picture. I quickly crushed the bubble of hope in my chest. I didn't need to think about that now. I had too much other stuff on my mind. I laid my head on the desk, wrapping my arms around my head. I sighed and closed my eyes.


"I'm worried about Zell." Quistis stated to the others as they walked toward the cafeteria. Selphie bounced along beside her.

"Yeah, seriously, he seemed so down..." She stopped at the door and waited for the others. Irvine flipped his hair off his shoulder.

"Well, it's not everyday that your commander falls sick. I mean, who's gonna run Garden, y'know? Keep everyone in line and stuff?" He asked the question on everyone's mind. Quistis stopped and rubbed her temples.

"I don't know, but we'll have to think of something." Selphie bounced up and down.

"That's what we're for! We shall help do Squall's work while he's sick!" She stated, bouncing into the cafeteria. Quistis thought a minute.

"Hmm, that might not be a bad idea. We could take over running the Garden just until' Squall's able." She looked at Irvine, who shrugged.

"If we all work together, I'm sure we could run this place!" He pumped his fist in the air. They walked into the cafeteria together, not knowing that they were being followed. Seifer watched them walk inside before clenching his teeth.

"When were they gonna tell me that Leonhart was sick?" He asked no one in particular. He shrugged and walked inside. He quickly spotted the crew sitting at a table at the far side.

"Quisty! Who's gonna do what? Y'know, who's in charge of what?" Selphie asked, wiggling in her seat, obviously excited. Oh well, at least she wasn't busting into tears and breaking down. Quistis looked at her two friends and raised up her hands in a submissive manner.

"I think we should wait for Zell before we make any decisions." She told them. The other two agreed. Quistis looked up as footsteps came close to them. She turned and looked at the person standing next to her.

"And when was I going to be invited?" Seifer asked casually. Irvine snickered and Selphie groaned. Quistis frowned at the other two before looking at Seifer.

"And since when do you care?" She asked rather coldly, causing Seifer to flinch. He frowned at them. Did they really think that he didn't care at all? He shrugged.

"Fine, whatever then." He turned to walk off and ran right into Zell.

I wonder where everyone else is? I stand and yawn, I must've fallen asleep in Squall's chair. I hear my stomach growl. Maybe I should grab something to eat. I start toward the door, my feet nearly soundless on the plush carpeting. He loved Squall's carpeting. It was a light grey, befitting the commander's other touches of decorating. Everything was either black or grey. I sigh as I walk out, feeling rather lonely. I wanted to hear Squall's voice. Even if it is just telling me to shut up or mind my own business...

I make my way to the cafeteria and scan the tables. I find the one I'm looking for, but I was surprised at who was standing next to it. Seifer? I walk closer, yeah, that's his grey coat and blond hair. I come up right behind him when he suddenly turns and bumps into me.

"Yahh!" I say out of surprise and step back. Seifer looks at me and smirks. Uh oh.

"Chicken-wuss!" He exclaims. I grit my teeth. I'm really not in the mood. I voice my thoughts.

"I'm not in the mood Seifer. What do you want?" I ask him, noticing a slight hurt look in his eyes. I wonder what they were talking about before I got here? I have no time to think about it before he answers.

"I was just worried about the commander, and your friends don't like that idea." He emphasized the word friends with venom. I cringe. I look to Quistis, who had a slightly guilty look on her face.

"Umm, so?" I say and sit down. Selphie pouts at me. I ignore her.

"Hey, everyone's worried about Squall, it's not right to turn down anyone's help." I state, feeling rather proud of myself. I hear Seifer snicker.

"You sounded just like Leonhart." I can't help but swell at those words. Irvine laughs.

"I gotta admit it, he's right, that sounded like something he would say." Quistis speaks after that.

"Well, since everyone's here, we might as well go over our plan." I look around, noticing that Rinoa wasn't there, again.

"Umm, what about Rinoa?" I ask, trying to ignore the glares everyone's sending my way.

"Hey, I was just sayin'..." I try to redeem myself. Seifer takes a seat and places his arms on the table.

"She left, remember?" He told me. I frowned, I didn't know.

"What?" I ask. Quistis sighed.

"Well, I guess after you threw her in the fountain.." Seifer cuts her off.

"You threw her in the fountain?!" He asked with amazement. I grin, my fangs showing.

"She was being annoying, so?" I avert my gaze. Irvine leans back in his chair.

"Oh well, serves her right. So, where'd she go?" He looked at Seifer. He smirked and ran his hand through his hair.

"I'm not really sure, but she was luggin' a bunch of shit out the front gate, looking like she was ready to kill someone. I was wonderin' why her hair looked like it was wet..." He smirked at me, causing me to grin. Irvine laughed aloud.

"Well, hopefully she's gone for good, no offense to anybody here who liked her." He glanced around the table, meeting guilty faces. He grinned.

"Guess nobody, then..." He snickered. I leaned back in my chair, feeling anxious all of a sudden.

"Well, Quisty, what do we do?" She cleared her throat and looked at all of us. She stopped her gaze on Seifer.

"Seifer." He sat up straight at the mention of his name.

"Yeah?" He inquired, eyeing her with a smirk on his face. His smirk broadened at her discomfort.

"Umm, well, I want you to lead the disiplinary committee once more. If that's alright with you." She looked at him, trying to read his face. His eyes gave it away that he was very pleased with that order.

"Sure, instructer." He grinned lopsided. He continued.

"I'll keep those baddies in their place." He winked at Quistis, who averted her gaze, a pink hue on her cheeks. She coughed and looked at Irvine, who looked anywhere but at her.

"Irvine, I want you...." She trailed off, thinking. Irvine grinned.

"I want you too, instructer." He laughed as she smacked him on the arm a few times. Selphie glared at Irvine.

"Hey! I thought you wanted ME, Irvy?" She gave her most pathetic pout and unleashed it on poor Irvine, who looked like he wanted to sink into the floor. Quistis wrapped her arms around her sides.

"Irvine, you will take care of the training center and the parking lot. You will be in charge of making sure they remain operational, clean, and also that there are plenty of monsters in the TC." Irvine grinned and tipped his hat.

"Sure thing, Quisty." He winked at her. She rolled her eyes. This was annoying. I could tell that Irvine was happy with the request, but you could tell he had his eyes set on being in charge of cleaning the lady's lockerrooms.

"Selphie, what I want you to do is to take care of the quad, as you usually do, but also, you will be in charge of the dorms. The floor, being swept and mopped, cleaning what needs cleaning, ok Selphie?" The girl in question grinned and nodded vigorously. Seifer sighed.

"Did you want me to do anything else?" He asked hopefully. Quistis thought a minute before smiling at her former enemy.

"Yes, assist the library committe in anyway you can." She grinned at the displeased look in Seifer's eyes. He finally forced a smirk.

"You got it, explore- I mean, assist the ladies anyway I can." Irvine had to laugh at Seifer's comment.

"Hey, that's my line!" He challenged. Seifer met it with his own.

"Oh? You think you could do better?" Before things could get any worse, Quistis stood.

"Stop it right now." She commanded, sitting only when they behaved. I rolled my eyes, they were so immature. I piped up.

"What about me, Quistis?" I asked, wondering what I could do. She looked at me.

"Ok, here's how it is. You and me are going to take care of the paperwork in Squall's office, as in order forms and whatnot. I will also be taking care of my usual duties, while Zell also has the cafeteria to take care of." I grinned, I liked that.

"So, the cafeteria is my turf, right?" I rubbed it in. I chuckled childishly at the others' groans. Quistis looked at her watch and then back at us.

"Ok, I believe we have stuff to do, move out." She instructed, waiting for me to follow her. Selphie took off out the door, dragging Irvine behind her. Seifer got his best 'don't fuck with me' look and went looking for baddies. I followed Quistis out the door and toward the elevator.

I glanced at the infirmary before stopping.

"Quistis?" I call. She stops and looks at me before smiling.

"I'll meet you in his office, don't be long." She smiled warmly in understanding before heading off. I watched her leave, her frail but able body swaying with her movements. I grinned at her back before trekking into the infirmary. I saw Dr. Kadowaki sitting behind her desk.

"Hello, Zell." She greeted. I grinned back, only a hint of the worry I felt in my eyes. She gestured toward the door.

"Only a few minutes, ok?" She implored me. I nodded, I only needed a few minutes. I entered the room and shut the door. I glanced at the still figure on the bed. He looked about the same as he did last time I was here. But, he didn't look so pale. I sat in the chair next to the bed.

"Squall?" I called, knowing I wouldn't get an answer. I watched his face, so serene. His breathing wasn't so ragged either. I reached my hand out before I could stop myself. I caressed the smooth cheek of my commander, feeling silly afterwards. I blushed, despite nobody but me seeing the action. I took his hand and rubbed it.

"Don't worry, Squall, we'll handle things while you're out of it." I assured him, hoping he'd open his eyes and smile at me. I looked up and noticed a boquet of flowers. Upon further inspection, there were a few vases of flowers on the various tables in the room. I wonder who sent them? I didn't care to look, it wasn't my business.

I kissed his hand before leaving the room. I savored the feeling of his skin on my lips as I walked out of the infirmary. I waved to the doctor and made my way to Squall's office.


End of chapter one.



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