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Reality Based


An Instructer's Christmas by

Author’s notes: After you’ve read through this, you may wonder why it features a Christmas theme. At first I was slightly wary of this; Christmas is an exclusively Christian event, and there are no single religions established in the FFVIII world. If you want, you can just consider Christmas, for this story, to be a “religion-less” event, associated only with general merrymaking and gift-giving. Also, please read the acknowledgements at the end once you’re done with the story. I had several sources when I wrote this, and they need to be recognized. Enjoy! Warning: Extreme violence towards the end of the story.

The Garden sure looks different now, Quistis Trepe thought as she glanced up at the various Christmas decorations set up everywhere.

She rather thought the Garden had gone from looking like a high-tech training facility to something almost like a town during a festival. Strings of colored lights had been put up along corridor walls and across doorway frames. Classroom walls had been laced with filigree, thin gold thread in intricate patterns, dotted intermittently with laurel leaves and tiny jewels.

Even the people contributed to the classic atmosphere. Students and teachers were dressed in their Garden uniforms, walking—or so it suddenly seemed to Quistis—with straighter backs and steadier steps. Clothes were pressed, boots were gleaming. Conversation throughout the school was a quiet drone, instead of the usual silences punctuated with loud hallway chatter and the desperate panting of students running late for class. All in all, not a bad atmosphere.

Quistis sighed. Even she couldn’t tell exactly where the sigh came from, whether it was one of contentment or weariness. She had come from another class of rowdy cadets, an hour-long trip through the rigors of classroom management—something all teachers knew the pains of too well. The session had added a touch of doubt to the sensation of general peace she was now experiencing.

Never mind them, she thought to herself. Their rowdiness is their own problem, at least now that they’re not in class. Come on, Quistis. It’s Christmas.


“You know what a great Christmas present for me would be?” Zell said with feeling.

“Actually, yes,” Irvine said, watching Zell empty half the mustard bottle onto a single hot dog. “More of what you know you love.”

“Bingo.” Zell swallowed the hot dog whole. For a second he sat there grinning—and then he started making choking sounds. He struggled for breath, then leapt out of his chair and ran for the bathroom. Irvine watched him go with a fairly blank expression, and then turned to Selphie. “He really shouldn’t be swallowing them whole,” he mused.

Selphie shrugged. “Go ahead, try to convince him. He doesn’t know any other way to eat them.”

That made Irvine laugh. “I’ll let it go. It’s Christmas.”

“That it is, cowboy. And you know what would be a great present for me?”

“Sure. More of what you know you love.”

They were grinning at each other as Squall and Rinoa came up and sat beside them.

“Oh, knock it off,” Rinoa said with an exaggerated scoff, looking at Irvine and Selphie. “You’re in public.”

“You hypocrite! Everybody knows about you and Squall!” Selphie retorted. The two women then began giggling and laughing so hard that it became impossible to talk to them further. Squall rolled his eyes good-naturedly. Women.

“What’s up, Squall?” Irvine said easily, relaxing in his seat.

“Everything’s in place. Decorations set up, everyone’s in uniform, food being prepared—“

“Whoa, man, I wasn’t asking for a status report. How are you?”

Squall shrugged. “Still alive.”

Irvine snorted, but he could tell that Squall meant no insult, was just being his strong, silent self. “Thank goodness for that, Mr. Leader. Where, by the way, is Quistis?”

Squall suddenly realized he hadn’t seen her all day. “Busy, I guess. Classes go all the way up to tomorrow afternoon.”

“Poor Quisty,” Irvine sighed, placing his hat carefully on his face. “Putting up with the little greenies till tomorrow.”

“I think I’ll go see her,” Squall said. He got up and walked off.

“See you, Mr. Leader,” Irvine called out just as Zell came running back for seconds.


As luck would have it, they ran into each other on the second-floor hallway. “Ah, Commander Leonhart,” Quistis greeted him with a dignified smile.

“Stop that,” Squall said, smiling back in spite of himself. “Anything I can help with?”

“Not really, unless you can lend me a GF with a guaranteed Silence attack. I’d find a use for it in my classes.”

“I’ll look around. In the meantime, let me help you with that.” He took some—most, really—of the things she was holding.

“Thank you, Squall,” she said softly. Why was she starting to feel funny?

“How are the classes?” Squall asked as they walked to the faculty dorms.

“I don’t think I want to bore you with that. Just focus, Commander, on the merry spirit of the season.”

“I’ll take your word on that, Instructor. I don’t have anything to do tomorrow, so maybe I could help. Anything you need.”

“Thank you, Squall. I need the help. Here we are.” They had arrived at the faculty dorms.

“Here you go,” Squall said, handing her back her things. “I’ll see about—tell me that isn’t mistletoe.”

Quistis almost jumped. Right above the two of them, hanging on the door frame of her room, was a clump of what was very unmistakably mistletoe.

Sigh. “Who on earth…?” Quistis said indignantly. “No, Squall, we don’t have to do anything, just because some—who put that there?!

Squall shrugged. He really didn’t know. “I’ll leave you to take it down. Take care, Quistis.”

He walked away, leaving her standing there to glare at the clump of mistletoe.


“And,” Selphie told Rinoa in between giggles, “you’ll never guess whose door I put mistletoe on…!”


Quistis’ eyes darted nervously around as she entered her room.

No. Don’t. Don’t let it happen again.

She set her things down on her desk.

That was a long time ago. There’s nothing left. Only comradeship.

She removed her uniform jacket.

He never felt the same way. Let it go.

Boots off.


Into bed.


Lights out.



“That Trepe woman really ticks me off.”

“No kidding.

“I’ve had enough of her.”

“Wanna jump her off?”

“You idiot, that’d never work. Don’t worry. I’ve got an idea. And here it is.”


Last class, Quistis thought happily. And then—party time!

She led the class outside the Garden for their battle demonstration. All the cadets were in their regular clothes—Quistis saw a lot of black leather and chain—as they followed her to the forest area outside the school.

“Okay, stop here,” she said. “We are now in the forest area outside Balamb.”

“I coulda told you that,” one student muttered.

“If you’d rather teach this class, Mr. Gaston, you can go right ahead. I’m tired and I’ve got other people I’d rather be around,” Quistis snapped.

“Yeah, maybe I will!” Gaston marched in front of the assembly of students and began to speak in a drawl. Quistis stood on the sidelines, eyes narrowed and arms crossed.

“Aight,” Gaston said. “You chumps are now standin’ outside our beloved school. There’s monsters in these woods, so stand the hell back and watch the master in action!” He pulled out his weapon, a regular steel sword, and swung at a nearby tree. The sword bit into the bark with a sharp whack!

Immediately, a lone bite bug dropped out of the tree’s leaves, buzzing loudly. It hovered for a moment, and then launched itself straight at Gaston, who cut it down with one flashy swipe.

“Check that out, Instructor!”

Quistis rolled her eyes as the class cheered for Gaston. “Watch your back,” she said.


Another bite bug, noticed by Quistis alone, had hovered behind Gaston. In an instant it had stung him.

“OUCH! What the hell…?” Gaston whirled around. The bite bug was right in front of his face—too close for his sword. He staggered, and fell onto his rear end.

There was a loud crack, and the bug fell on the ground, knocked out. Quistis swung her whip over her shoulder and looked impassively down at Gaston.

“Bite bugs sometimes attack in pairs. Back to your place, Gaston.”

He glared up at her, and then stood up slowly, brushing dust off his shiny leather jacket. He returned to his place among the students, and said nothing more until the class was over.


It’s over! Quistis cheered mentally.

She smiled at herself as she led the class back towards the garden. A full, productive day—to be followed by a night of decent company and good, clean fun. She couldn’t wait to see Squall…


…and the others.

At the Garden’s front entrance, she stood aside and let her students enter first. She was about to go in when she was aware of a lone student running up to her from behind.


“What is it?” she said, turning to face him. Come on! I’ve had enough for one day!

“Instructor—someone’s been hurt—back there! In the forest!”

Argh. “You go in and tell Doctor Kadowaki,” Quistis said. The student nodded and ran inside.

Quistis jogged back towards the forest area, whip in hand and rehearsing cure magic in her mind.

“Hello?” she called as she reached the treeline. “Hello! Where are you?”

She didn’t like the situation. The sun was setting rapidly, and the forest was getting very dark very fast. Monsters would be out in force soon.

“Where are you?” she yelled.

“Right here.”

She turned around to see Gaston swinging a heavy tree branch at her. It was impossible to react in time, and she fell to the ground, stunned.

Before she could move, Gaston had snatched up her whip and was bringing the branch down on her again, on her face. She felt her nose break and cried out. She rolled over and tried to crawl away, but he stepped quickly up to her and kicked her hard in the stomach. She felt the air slammed out of her, and saw purple spots before her eyes.

Gaston kicked again, hard enough to turn her over. She looked up at him in a daze, semiconscious.

“You can stay there,” he hissed, panting slightly, “until hell freezes over—Instructor.”

She saw the branch coming yet again, and then saw nothing else.


“Where’s Quistis?” Rinoa asked as she dressed.

“Haven’t seen her,” Squall said, pulling on his formal SeeD jacket. “Classes should be over now, though. She’s probably resting and getting ready for the party.”

“But Selphie went over to the faculty dorms to check on the mistle—on something. She didn’t see her there.”

Squall shrugged. “We’ll probably see her later. I’m sure she’s fine.”


Quistis groaned and sat up. She was aching all over, and her nose still felt broken. She touched her face and gasped when she felt blood everywhere.

Have to get…back to Garden…

She groped around for her whip, aware of the near pitch blackness of the forest. Her heart began to pound.

It’s not here!

And then she remembered: Gaston! She was going to kill the little son of a Grendel.

How can this be happening? It’s Christmas!

She stood up and almost fell down again. She really was aching all over. She willed herself to stay upright, and strode off towards the Garden.

She hadn’t gone three steps when she heard a horribly loud and wet growling close behind her. She whirled around and saw, in the darkness, a huge shape moving quickly towards her, knocking down trees and making the ground shake with every step.

Trying not to scream, she turned back around and ran for it. Please, not that one! Not a-


“—T-Rexaur!” Selphie yelled, waving the Triple Triad card in Irvine’s face. “Boom! Plus! You’re DEAD, cowboy!”

Irvine, watching all his carefully placed cards taken over by Selphie’s one-shot tactic, slapped his hand on the board. “DARN it! How could you possibly win AGAIN?! Let’s change the rules. Please?”

“Ten gil, Irvy,” Selphie said gleefully, rubbing her fingers together. Irvine sighed and placed the money in her hand.

“Bad luck, Irvine,” Rinoa said, coming up to the two of them. “Hey Selphie, how about we split that, er, two hundred gil you appear to have there? Come on, it’s Christmas. Are you going to deny a poor girl in need?”

Selphie playfully stuck her tongue out at Rinoa.

“I thought so,” Rinoa sighed, sitting down next to Selphie. “How about you just tell me where Quistis is, then? She’s really been pulling the disappearing act on us lately.”

“Probably just busy,” Irvine said, trying to sneak his hand over to Selphie’s pile of gil.

“She wasn’t at her room either, when I checked,” Selphie said, knocking his hand away. “I’m getting…a little worried.”

“Where’s Squall?” Irvine asked, rubbing his hand.

“Looking for her,” Rinoa said. “I think he’s getting worried too. He was gonna go help her with some errands today, but he hasn’t seen her lately…”

“Let’s leave it to Squall,” Irvine said confidently. “I’m starting to think that guy can do anything.”


Squall, thinking he might as well make an organized search, made his way to the second-floor classroom. He didn’t expect finding Quistis to be as easy as bumping into her in the classroom, but maybe he could ask the class if they knew anything.

“Have you seen Instructor Trepe?” he asked a female cadet coming out of the classroom.

“Oh! Squall! I mean, Mr. Leonhart…commander, sir…Trepe? No, I haven’t. Seen her, I mean. Sir,” the girl said, and walked quickly away, covering her face.

Squall sighed, a very small one, and continued asking students.


Quistis ducked behind a large tree, trying to keep her panting to a minimum. The T-Rexaur had lost sight of her, but it was now searching the area, poking its huge head around random tree trunks, snorting.

Not here. Please. Not here…

Even if she had found her weapon, she knew she would never be a match for a T-Rexaur, not if she was alone. And she was very much alone here. What was worse, she had noticed that the T-Rexaur had been driving her away from the Garden.

Her exhaustion from the chase, augmented by her earlier weariness due to the tiring day, threatened to collapse her completely. She was dirty and sweaty all over, her clothes were ruined, her hair was messed up and kept falling in front of her face and obscuring her view, her nose (and possibly a few ribs) were broken, and she just wanted to go home. She just wanted to go home.

She moaned in despair as she heard the T-Rexaur approaching the tree she was hiding behind. She staggered forward, clutching her side, and ran on. She ran and ran, breathing hard, the stitch in her side cutting into her, until she reached a small clearing. In front of her was a small dirt trail leading to a cave entrance.

The Fire Cavern…?


“Nothing,” Squall told the others. “Nothing! Every student I asked just doesn’t know where she is. I’m worried. I’m going to go tell Cid.”

“I’ll take care of that, Squall,” Zell said. “You gotta go look for her. Wasn’t her last class outside the Garden?”

“Was it?” Squall said. He was starting to feel helpless; and that helplessness inspired anger. “Okay, I’ll go look. Rinoa, come with me. Zell, you go tell Cid. Irvine, Selphie, you guys stay here and keep asking around.”

The speed with which his orders were carried out by the others sparked a deep pride and gratitude in Squall. He watched them go, and then went outside with Rinoa.


Quistis ran inside the Fire Cavern and whirled around, looking for her pursuer. There! The T-Rexaur was right at the entrance, but it couldn’t fit through. Quistis, feeling a mix of relief and deep apprehension, watched it roar in frustration.

Now she was trapped here. And nobody knew.

Somebody get me out. Somebody save me. Please.

She walked unsteadily along the stone paths, vaguely watching the lava pools on either side churn and sizzle. She was totally drained. She just wanted to collapse, but something inside her told her she must stay on her feet. She panted and coughed violently. The heat was starting to affect her.

Where is everyone? Squall? Where are you? Squall. It’s so dark…so hot. I don’t want…where…Garden. Bring me back. Squall…where are you? I can’t find you. Squall. I need you…”

Her body could take no more. Quistis Trepe collapsed on the hard stone and blacked out.


“Nothing. Nothing…” Squall muttered as he made his way through the trees. “Where is she?”

“Calm down, Squall.” Rinoa put a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll find her. I’m sure she—“

“Who’s that?” Squall called out suddenly, drawing his gunblade. “Who’s there?”

“Squall, who are you—?“

A figure stepped out from behind a tree, panting. “Wait!” he cried. “I’m a student!”

“What the hell are you doing here?” Squall said roughly.

“I’m…I’m looking for Instructor Trepe,” the student said.

“You—where did you last see her?” Rinoa asked.

“just here…somewhere,” the student said. “Sir, I don’t think…this is pretty hopeless. The monsters…they’ll be out by this time. Hundreds of them…”

“We’ll search,” Squall said forcefully. “Stay with us. What’s your name?”

The student looked directly at Squall.



“You! Have you seen Instructor Trepe?” Irvine asked a startled student at the second-floor classroom. “Come on, quick!”

“Instructor Trepe…no…I don’t think—“

“Have you seen Instructor Trepe?” Selphie asked another student.


“Hey…what is that?” Irvine asked, pointing at something sticking out of the student’s pocket.

“Nothing,” the student said quickly, poking it back in his pocket.

“Out.” Irvine said, advancing. “Now.”

“Who the hell’re you?” the student sneered. The three of them were now alone in the classroom.

“This guy is a Galbadian,” Selphie shot back at him. “He’ll kick your butt straight into the wall unless you do what he says.”

“Buzz off,” the student said, turning away.

Irvine grabbed him from behind, spun him around, and slammed him against the wall. Before the student could protest, the barrel of Irvine’s gun was in his face.

“There are only knockout rounds in here,” Irvine said, with the deadly calm of a trained gunner. “But imagine what it’ll feel like if I fire one into your face from two inches away.”

Selphie grabbed the thing out of the student’s pocket. She stared at it.


“What the hell…” Irvine breathed, looking down at Quistis’ whip.


Squall, Rinoa, and Gaston arrived at the Fire Cavern. Squall was holding the Lionheart, Rinoa had readied the Shooting Star, her mechanical boomerang, and Gaston had drawn his sword.

As they walked the dirt path, Squall noticed large tracks on the ground, leading away from the cave.


“Inside,” Squall said. His tone inspired no protest from either of the two.

The interior was dark and hot. Squall opened his eyes wide, but could barely see in front of his face. He advanced carefully, the two following behind him.

Squall’s foot hit something soft. He bent down quickly.


“Squall…” Her voice was alarmingly weak. Squall had to strain to hear her over the rumble of the nearby lava pits.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“Squall…I knew…I just knew…you’re here…” She put her arms around his neck and moved closer to him.

“She’s in shock,” Squall said. “Let’s get back to Garden quickly.”

Squall turned to Rinoa—and found her being held from behind by Gaston. He was covering her mouth and had pinned her left arm—the arm with the boomerang launcher—behind her. Her eyes were wide.

“You little son of a—“

“Step back, Leonhart,” Gaston panted, backing towards the cave entrance, still holding his hostage. “Yes, it was me. It was all me. Not that you’ll get to tell anybody.”

“Why?” Squall asked. His anger was mounting, threatening to overcome his self-control. This little prick had left Quistis outside the Garden, left her to die, and now he was holding Rinoa in front of him—a hostage, a meat shield. He tightened his grip on the Lionheart.

“WHY?!” he roared suddenly. In his anger the magic he had junctioned to himself began to manifest. Energy fields and spikes swirled around him, making the Lionheart’s azure-blue blade glow aqua and setting a deadly light to the side of his face.

A flicker of fear went across Gaston’s face. “She was pathetic,” he said quietly—trembling. “She never saw anything in me. She always said. No talent. No motivation.”

“That’s your excuse?” Squall hissed, advancing towards him. Rinoa could feel the heat of his anger, made tangible by the elemental energies surrounding him. “You left her out in the jungle to die because you have a grudge against her judgment of you? I’ve known Quistis Trepe for years. She was never, ever wrong about a student. You BAS—“

With a strangled cry, Gaston brought his sword up and sliced at Rinoa’s neck; he shoved her hard and she fell forward onto the stone path…


The student suddenly shoved Irvine’ gun away and kicked him in the leg. Irvine yelled and fell over; Selphie leapt back and whipped out her nunchacku. Before she could do anything, the student had snapped the whip; Selphie’s weapon was knocked out of her hands. She dove sideways as he snapped the whip again; the force of the weapon splintered the seat that had been right behind Selphie.

Irvine leapt to his feet and tackled the student, knocking him to the floor. In a blind rage, Irvine slammed his gun, the Exeter, sideways into the student’s throat, cutting off his air. The student gasped and tried to push the gun away from his neck, but Irvine was too strong for him. He was about to black out when he made his last move; he kicked Irvine hard between the legs. Irvine shouted in pain and surprise, and rolled off him. The student scrambled to his feet and dove at Irvine…


Squall leapt upward and aimed a huge slash at Gaston; the latter barely blocked it with his own sword. Squall pressed his advantage and struck again, knocking Gaston off balance and onto the ground. Squall drove his gunblade down, roaring in anger; he fully intended to kill Gaston.

But Gaston had rolled away and gotten to his feet. He swung his own sword, cutting Squall deeply in the left arm. Squall yelled and brought the Lionheart up. Gaston aimed a flying kick at Squall, who blocked it but was pushed backwards, dangerously close to the lava pits.

As Gaston attacked again, Squall sidestepped. Gaston stumbled; Squall shoved his sword straight at him from behind. It connected, driving straight through Gaston’s back, right to the hilt. The entire blade went from azure-blue to deep, dark red.

Gaston screamed in agony, trying to pull the blade out of his torso by hand. Squall, losing control completely, bellowed with the force of an enraged lion; the sound of his voice echoed throughout the cave, a terrifying outpouring of uncontrolled fury.

With the blade still driven through Gaston, Squall pulled the trigger on his gunblade. There was a deafening bang as a .50 caliber round of pulse ammunition fired, at point-blank range, into Gaston’s back. Blood and clumps of flesh blew out the front of his torso and sprayed out into the lava.

Squall fired again and again, emptying his entire ammo load of energy shot into Gaston. Each bullet caused a small energy explosion inside him that blew out more of his innards.

Finally, when Squall was out of ammunition, he pulled the blade out of Gaston’s back. Now that the blade was out, a strong gush of blood sprayed out of Gaston’s back and drenched Squall head to foot. He couldn’t care less. Before Gaston’s maimed corpse could fall to the ground, Squall cried out and swung his weapon in a huge horizontal arc. Gaston’s corpse was immediately sliced into two halves, one of which fell into the lava with a sickening splash.

“DIIIIIEEEEE!!!” Squall roared at what was left of the body.

And he collapsed.


Selphie jumped the student, grabbing him from behind, wrapping her nunchacku around his neck, and pulling—HARD. He spluttered and grabbed at his neck. He was really struggling hard, fighting to throw her off. She couldn’t hold on—

“Selphie. Stand back.”

On his feet, Irvine raised his gun and aimed between the student’s eyes.

Selphie released her grip and dove out of the way…

Irvine fired once. The knockout round slammed into the student’s head, making him scream and stagger backwards. He was still on his feet.

Irvine fired again, at the same spot. The student was shoved backwards farther. Cock Exeter. Fire.

The last shot rammed into the same spot between the student’s eyes, finally breaking the skin; blood spurted out. The force of the shot knocked him hard into the second-floor classroom window. The glass shattered, exploded into a thousand glittering pieces, dozens of them cutting into the student’s body as he fell outside. And kept falling. It was a full five seconds before Irvine and Selphie heard the loud thud of the body hitting the ground below.

Irvine lowered his gun, breathing hard. “You don’t get to hurt Sefie,” he breathed.

The two moved together and embraced. The wind from outside, coming through the broken window, cooled them.


The moment Squall opened his eyes he wondered vaguely if he had died and passed on; he had gone from a dark, hot place to a bright, cool one. It was only when he moved, and immediately felt a massive ache surge throughout his whole body, that he realized he must still be alive.

His eyes came into focus. The brightness came from the ceiling lights he could now see. He had been brought out from the Fire Cavern into the Balamb Garden infirmary. He was safe.

Doctor Kadowaki was standing beside the bed he was lying on. “Ah, you’re awake,” she said. “Good. Before anything else, since I know you’re going to ask, both Quistis and Rinoa are safe. Rinoa’s neck wound was not fatal—thank goodness. They are inside the infirmary as well. Squall, I don’t know what you might be planning to do, but I suggest you forget about it. You’re in no condition to move. You’ve suffered a bad cut on the left arm, heat exhaustion, bruises on your elbows, knees, and head, and quite a bit of shock. So please stay put.”

Squall didn’t want to risk the potential pain that talking might cause. He simply nodded, and Kadowaki went away.

Squall turned his head carefully to the left. On the bed next to his lay Quistis. Her entire torso was covered in bandages, along with her nose. She was awake and looking at him.

“Hello, Squall.”

Squall sat up. “Where’s Rinoa?”

“Squall, you heard Doctor Kadowaki. You need to—“

Squall got up from the bed, and fell onto the floor from the sheer physical strain. He stood slowly back up, grunting, and walked unsteadily to the bed on Quistis’ left.

There lay Rinoa, her neck plastered with styptic and bandaged. She was unconscious. Squall touched her face.


“Squall, you heard the doctor. Now please lie down.”

Squall looked at Rinoa a moment longer, then sighed and limped back to his bed.

He gasped. It was only now that he saw that the whole mattress he had been lying on was stained dark red. He recoiled slightly, nearly lost balance, and looked hesitantly down at his own hands. They too were covered in sticky red.


Quistis stood up and helped Squall lie back down. She then lay down as well, on her own bed, and closed her eyes.

Squall’s breathing quickened as he remembered. He had stabbed Gaston with every inch of his gunblade; had emptied his ammunition into the body, watching the blood spray; had sliced the corpse in half. He had killed.

“Quistis,” he choked. “Listen to me. Did you…see everything?”

She opened her eyes and nodded. “Squall…”

“Quistis, listen to me. I don’t know what happened to me in there. I wasn’t myself. I…went crazy. It wasn’t me in there. It wasn’t me!”

“Squall, calm down—“

“I’m not a killer!”

“I know you’re not,” Quistis said, quietly but firmly. “You are not a killer, Squall. Entirely different. You are a man who…who defends and avenges…what he knows is right. What he loves.”

Squall was silent, looking again at his hands.

“I’ve always believed that,” Quistis said in a whisper.

They were both quiet for several moments. And then Quistis said, “Squall…I wasn’t quite myself in there as well.”

“I know. You were in shock. I was surprised you were still conscious.”

Then they were both silent again, both thinking of how she had wrapped her arms around his neck, had moved close and held onto him as though he was her only hope, the one thing left that could save her.

Quistis seemed to be gathering what willpower was left in her, and then spoke hesitantly and in a voice so soft that to Squall it was almost silence.

“We never…really talked about it…did we…?”

“Talked about…what?”

He didn’t know what she was talking about. He didn’t remember. The tears, held back all night, finally ran down Quistis’ cheeks. She turned away from him quickly.

“…Nothing, Squall. Nothing.”

Squall listened to her muffled sniffling with a look of total confusion on his face. And then he looked up, above their beds, and saw on the wall above…

“Tell me that isn’t mistletoe.”

Quistis turned back around and looked up. There indeed was a sprig of mistletoe, hanging innocently above them. Quistis began to chuckle amidst her quiet sobs; chuckling at the irony and silliness of it all, this stupid mistletoe hanging there on the wall, while she, Quistis Trepe, might tonight lose the one person she loved more than anybody.

Squall took her hand tenderly. “Talked about what, Quistis?”

Now the floodgates were open wide. “Squall,” she said thickly. “I don’t know how to tell you this…maybe I should have just told you directly all those years ago, when I was your instructor…It’s just so…wrong, in so many ways, but I just can’t help the way I feel and its killing me to hide it any more. The real, honest truth is…Squall…I still—“

There was a knock on the wall beyond the curtain, and a second later Doctor Kadowaki came through the barrier with Headmaster Cid.

“The headmaster would like to speak with you, Squall,” she said, and left.

Cid looked kindly down at the two of them, bloodstained and bandaged. Squall started and immediately let go of Quistis’ hand.

“I hope you two are all right,” Cid said. “Squall…I’ve been given a full report on what happened inside the Fire Cavern, and—“


“Wait, Squall. I’ve decided that you will receive no punishment for your actions.”

“Sir, I—“

“You did what you did in anger, but in righteous anger. You were defending Rinoa, Quistis, and yourself. You attacked with the right motive, Squall. You are not guilty of anything.”

Squall was quiet. Trying not to stare at his hands again.

“Trust me, Squall. You’ve done nothing really wrong. I’ll let you think about that, and I hope you will be able to convince yourself.”

Cid turned and left.

Squall sighed, turned, and looked at Quistis. Her back was to him, and he couldn’t even tell whether she was still awake. He had been turning things over in the back of his mind while Cid had been speaking, and he thought he knew what Quistis had been talking about earlier. He wasn’t sure if she could hear him, but still he spoke to her in a clear voice.

“Quistis, I think…I understand you. What you mean. And…thanks. That kind of sentiment means a lot to me…coming from you. Thank you.

“What Rinoa and I have shouldn’t stand between the bond between you and me. You were my instructor here for a long time. We were all in the orphanage, except Rinoa, but then you were also my instructor here for a long time. When you think about it, I’ve known you longer than…well, anybody.

“I remember you saying, in front of everybody, that you had once been in love with me. Honestly…I never felt the same way about you. But, Quistis, I do consider you a friend…one of the best, closest, dearest friends I’ve ever had. And remember that there is love in friendship.”

He put a hand on her shoulder, gently, and then drew back and closed his eyes. In moments he was asleep.


Quistis Trepe opened her eyes and smiled.



Thanks to…

· My two brothers for proofreading this.

· An unknown story and author. Part of my story (where Quistis holds Squall around the neck) was inspired by a similar scene in another fanfic I once read where Squall rescues Quistis from a spot of trouble. Unfortunately I can’t remember the title of the fanfic or name of its author. Sorry.

· Another story and author I forgot wherein Squall gets really emotional and magic effects and attacks start appearing all around him. Something similar in my story.

· The makers of the videogame Def Jam: Fight for New York for their “Blazin’” action. That was partially inspiration for Squall’s anger. J

· Joel Silver movies for their tendency to show several battles happening at the same time. I tried that myself here.

· The movie Face/Off, for the idea of shouting “DIE!” at a corpse.

· A person I once knew, who told me that there is love in friendship…

· The Final Fantasy crew for making a whole series of awesome games YEAH!

· You for reading this. It’s a COOL feeling when others read your published work. J

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