Three months later, a very pale Squall opened his eyes to see the sun again. He was thin and weak and could do with a shave. What he lacked in physical health he made up with being so far ahead in his studies there really should be no reason to hold him back a grade. But the rules of the garden were absolute. He was demoted two grades down and wouldn't even be able to take the SeeD test at all for at least two years in punishment for what he did. He was told that he had nearly killed Seifer. Seifer only had to tell someone that he felt the least bit threatened by Squall and Squall would be expelled. On top of that, Seifer now had two body guards following him around everywhere.

Squall would have to behave. He wanted to get back to Quistis. He thought about her everyday. Her letters to him, the ones they would let him have, were what fueled him on his darkest days in the discipline room. Few students really knew what it was like to be in the discipline room. You sit there alone for hour after hour, day after day, with nothing to do. You have a book maybe, and a pencil on occasions but usually it was just you in a dark room with no sunlight. It wasn't pitch black but it was barely bright enough to read with effort. The room also wasn't very big. It was just large enough for his bed, a sink, and a toilet. Squall couldn't even pace as it was only enough room to take two steps each way. His food, books, class assignments, and mail came through a slot in the solid steel door. He heard not a word of another human voice for three months.

There were days in the discipline room he thought about just resigning from the school. He could do that. But he had nowhere to go. His parents abandoned him. He would be a teenage boy, homeless, walking the streets of Balumb. It might be the case that someone would take him in, but there was no guarantee. He would have to get a job and work, if anyone would even hire him. He might have to steal to get food. Since the wars have been raging constantly for the last 57 years, the old safety nets were all gone. That was why they needed Seed, to fight, to win, to end the war so life could get back to being good the way it used to be. If Squall wanted to be part of that future, part of the solution, and not just a homeless kid who lives by the dock; then he would have to tough it out in the discipline room. Besides, there was no other choice if he wanted to get back to Quistis.

Maybe they wanted him to quite. Maybe that was why the kept him in there for so long. It wouldn't matter. He would show them that if they weren't going to expel him, then he wasn't going to quite. Maybe Seifer really had been hurt as bad as they say. Seifer certainly had an attitude problem but he was a good fighter and would make at least a decent soldier one day.

The two staff members that let him out without even a word to him escorted him to his room. He wanted to look around, to chat, to get some food on the way but the light hurt his eyes. It seemed like such a long walk to the dorm. He couldn't tell if anyone was staring at him or not. He couldn't be sure. When he was at the dorm room, there was no one there. Squall wondered if his old roommate ever passed the Seed exam.

Alone in his room he let his eyes adjust. He found some old sunglasses and put them on. He was hungry. What time was it? Maybe he could get something to eat. If not, then he could at least get a new book from the library. He was free again. He opened his door and the two staff members were still there in the hallway. Squall closed the door. He just didn't feel comfortable leaving with them knowing about it. He was free he thought but it wasn't confident enough to leave his room until he opened the door again and saw that the staff members were gone.

Slowly he opened the door and stepped out into the hallway. He really was hungry. He really should run to the cafeteria. But he didn't run. He walked calmly to the lobby that separated the girls' and boys' sides. He lingered in the lobby as his heart began to speed up more and more. He didn't know how to sneak into the girls' side and he didn't think he should be committing a new infraction so soon after getting out of the discipline room. If he were patient, she would eventually come through here anyway. But then again, maybe he could use this poor sight as an excuse and say he got lost.

Looking down at the floor he moved his body in the direction of the door to the girls' side. There was no word of rebuke or warning. The lobby officer either didn't see him, didn't care, or was reporting him. Squall continued walking in a slow, zombie like manner with his eyes on the floor. If a teacher or a staff member were to suddenly come upon him he would pretend to pass out. That would get him sent to the infirmary not the headmaster's office.

Standing in front of her door Squall allowed himself to look up and down the hall. It looked clear. He softly knocked and the door opened but it was not Quistis.

"Hello. OH, a boy." said one of the girls who looked like an underclassman.

"Is Quistis here?"

"Who?" asked the other girl.

"Quistis"

"What sort of name is Quistis?"

"It's from an old language. It means 'who is tweeting'. Is she here? Do you know where she is?"

The two girls looked at each other and laughed. "Who is tweeting?" She laughed harder.

"I'm sorry to bother you two. I seem to be a bit lost. Which is the way out?"

They laughed even harder still and just slammed the door on him.

Squall made it out and found his way to the cafeteria. Finally he was able to get some real food. Squall could never remember having a home cooked meal so even though Zell would always brag about how much better his mom's cooking was, Squall had to just take him at his word. He had been to some restaurants on rare occasions but he didn't like paying a premium for a meal that really wasn't that much better than what he got at school.

While he was eating another boy named Dean came up to him.

"Squall?"

Squall looked up with is sunglasses still on.

"Dude." said Dean excitedly. "You're back. I thought you left man."

"They just let me out."

"Awesome. Cards later?"

"Maybe. I'm not sure I even know how to play anymore."

"No sweat."

"Say, you haven't seen Quistis around have you?"

"You're going to love this. She passed."

"What?"

"Yeah. Her blue magic ability really got her noticed. He passed last month sometime."

"So, she's already a Seed."

"Yep. I don't know if she's already gone on her first mission but she definitely passed the test."

Squall was happy for her but now also sad. Members of seed couldn't have romantic relationships with students. Still, he had to see her. He thought about waiting in the lobby. Even though she was a member of seed, she was still technically underage to move off garden and so she would still have a room in the dorm.

Squall stopped by the library and got as many books as they would let him have. Only after he got them did he discover that they were too heavy for him to port all the way back to the dorm. He didn't want to put any back so he did the best he could but since it was so obvious that he needed help someone stepped up. It was Noa, a girl older than Squall. She seemed happy he had decided to return to garden and Squall didn't feel like correcting her.

Finally back in his room alone he picked up a book. He was too tired to go out again. Waiting in the lobby for Quistis now was futile anyway. His best bet would be to send her a message via the dorm staff after curfew.

Curfew time came and Squall was asleep on his bed with a book on his face. The sound of Zell coming into the room woke him. Zell was jumping about this way and that way and doing who knows what when Squall came to his doorway. Squall stood there feeling cold. Zell at first didn't notice him but then jumped nearly to the ceiling with fright when he did.

"Hey, you're out."

"Yeah" said Squall wondering if he was going to have to have this entire conversation again. Zell didn't say anything else. He just walked up to Squall and before Squall could react, Zell hugged him.

"We all missed you man. I wrote letter after letter to the headmaster to try to get you out."

"Thanks." answered Squall as he desperately tried to wiggle out of this embrace of another male.

"That's the longest they've ever had anyone in there."

"Yeah, anyway. Do you know if Quistis is around? Is she on a mission."

"You heard she passed huh? Yeah, she's around. I guess you would want to talk to her." Something in Zell's tone let Squall know that not all was right.

"Oh, do we have class tomorrow?"

"No. We have three days off. It's the emperor's birthday."

"We still celebrate that?"

"It's tradition."

"Yeah, but he's been dead for how long now?"

"Well, you go to class if you want to. I'm taking the three days off. Oh, I know. We should throw a party. Freedom, baby, freedom." Zell began to sing as he put his arm in the air as a kind of dance.

Squall excused himself to the lobby to get the staff to ask Quistis to come. Squall waited and eventually she did come. She stood in the center of the lobby and Squall got up from the chair and went to her and hugged her.

For Squall, this is what waiting all that time was leading to. This was why he didn't resign. This was why he still had hope for the future. He could be with Quistis again. This was what his dreams had been for three months. This was what would finally fill him with joy.

And the moment was short lived. Almost no sooner had he gotten his arms around her and gotten her scent into his nose than she was putting her arms up between them to break his embrace and then push him away.

"Squall, I'm really happy you're out." she said while keeping him at arm's length away.

Squall really didn't notice at first. He almost wanted to cry and just sit and hold her again. He was snapped back to reality when she turned to walk away.

"Quistis?" he called out to her.

She turned around. "I'm happy you're out. What more do you want from me?"

"I don't understand."

"Squall. Look. I'm Seed now and you're just a boy still. We can't be together. There are rules. Rules that are there for good reasons. You couldn't begin to imagine the life that I live now."

"Ok, but …" Squall couldn't think of anything to say.

"Enjoy your days off from study. Then get back to class. You're going to need every bit of education if you ever want to have a hope of passing the Seed Test. You have no idea what the real world is like or what actually goes into a real mission. I'm sorry, Squall. I am happy you are out but I'm too busy to hear about your problems or sit around and baby you. I have a real life."

Squall was crushed. He sat there wanting to cry but he couldn't. He wanted to run away but he couldn't. He wanted to resign but he couldn't. Eventually he just got up and went back to his room.

Zell was there and it looked like Zell already knew what the outcome of the conversation was.

"Don't take it too hard man."

"So, party, sounds good." said Squall weakly.

"Yeah, you bet. And we can invite girls we can actually date."

"Yeah, every girl in garden."

"Every girl but Quistis."

"Yeah."

There was silence for a moment.

"Um, look you're probably going to hear about it eventually so I might as well tell you." said Zell.

"What's that?"

"You remember when Quistis first came to garden and we both wanted to date her."

"Yeah. And I beat you by a long shot."

"I know. It's just. After you were gone…"

"What?"

"Well, it didn't start out that way but it happened."

"What happened?"

"Well, Quistis and I … We … you know."

Squall felt his stomach go sour. He stood up from his stool and felt a chill run down his body. His hands were shaking. His jaw was tensed. "When?" he asked.

"About two weeks after you went in. We were together until she passed the Seed exam."

Squall wanted to punch this guy's lights out but then all the time he spent in isolation would be for nothing. He just shook his head and then went to his part of the room.

"I'm sorry man" said Zell as he entered the archway.

"Get out. Go home and feel up your mom."

Zell didn't say another word.

That night was a long night for Squall. He had no one to talk to. He had no one who cared enough about him to talk to him. He had no one he could trust. He was all alone in the world and now even being part of Garden meant he was still alone. He thought again about resigning. Seed would win the war without him. They didn't need him. Living alone by the docks didn't sound so bad now. But he just couldn't bring himself to resign. If all those days in isolation were to mean anything it would mean that he was going to come out of it and prove them all wrong. Squall was going to be the best of the best and pass the Seed Exam with a higher score than anyone had ever seen before.

The next day Squall asked for a room transfer and luckily he got it. That was the end of his luck however. Zell usually didn't sleep at the dorm anyway, since his mom would pick him up and bring him to school almost everyday. He chose the gunblade as his weapon of choice because it was so difficult to master and took so long. He couldn't take the test for two years anyway so he had the time. Seifer, in his never ending struggle to show how much better he thinks he needs to be than everyone else, especially Squall, also went for the gunblade.

In an amazing twist of fate, it seems all the students all forgot about Squall's three months in the discipline room but the staff never forgot and they never let Squall forget either. Squall was treated like a second class student with no privileges ever. He was on never ending probation. Squall was forced to take every test twice, in case he ever cheated. He wasn't allowed to take placement tests and had to take every prerequisite class before getting to the higher levels. Even when he was scoring perfect on every test, they still would not acknowledge him or his ability or his effort to stay in the school.