Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VIII, any characters within or placed involved. Original characters and places are my own.

Chapter VII: Bench of Broken Romances

Seifer was watching Selphie more than actually checking the rooms. Though her face was sit with a grim determination, there was a paleness that he couldn't ignore. They had been checking all morning and hadn't found anything yet. Except for a few dirty secrets, he thought with amusement as he found a treasure trove of condoms stuffed into a feminine looking box. The finding didn't coincide at all with the investigation, but it did make Seifer wonder about the owner. The rest of the room was decorated in a fashion that spoke of a student that was preoccupied with being a girl. There was far too much pink for Seifer's taste.

"Anything?" Selphie asked hopefully over his shoulder. He turned with a grin to watch her blush at the items. She righted herself and walked into the adjoining room. This room was impeccably clean with few personal items. A small statue of Hyne with a matron saint sat on top of the student's desk. The sight triggered a memory in Seifer that he would rather forget. He gave an involuntary shiver as it refused to be ignored. There was so much blood…

"I don't think we'll find anything here." She said looking up from checking underneath the bed and snapping him out of his thoughts. A look crossed her face, "Is something wrong?"

"Sometimes I feel like we're missing something to do with Hyne in this case, but I just can't believe it's religiously motivated." He evaded her question with a statement. He didn't want to tell her about the other part, not yet.

"Yeah, I kinda got that feeling too." Rubbing her arm and looking off into distance, Selphie pondered.

"I think it's time for lunch."

"Alright. I'll go get-"

"No. You're going back to the office and sitting down, I'm getting lunch."

"Seifer."

"No fighting it, besides, you have to keep your strength up." She left the dorm with a huff but Seifer could have sworn he saw a smile.

Seifer just finished picking up two meals to go from the cafeteria and decided to take a quick walk to the quad to clear his thoughts before seeing Selphie again. She had come a little too close to that part of his life that he had put behind him. Put behind… more like buried. He thought with a hint of pain. All the events that had lead up to him sitting drunk in a bar flashed through his mind. They were desperate times.

Hearing his name being spoken brought his attention to the present. It sounded like Irvine's voice saying it.

"How could I not?" This time it was Quistis. He quickly hid behind a tree and narrowed in to where the voices were coming from. Through the foliage, he could see Quistis and Irvine sitting on a bench.

"How did you find those names out anyway?" Irvine again.

"You're not the most discreet person I've ever met. If you were going to cheat on Selphie you should have kept your mouth shut, and told her to keep hers shut too. When you just throw away a woman like that, of course they're going to talk. Why would she care if your dirty little secrets got out. She was a stripper Irvine, you don't fuck with the underworld like that."

"But why did you have to tell him? You ruined everything Selphie and I had."

"I ruined it! You were the one that couldn't keep your hands to yourself."

"Oh sure, blame it on me. If she never would have found out, we still would have been together."

"That's no way to live Irvine. You can't just go around behind someone's back like that. You can't just have meaningless sex."

"You didn't complain." From where Seifer was he could hear, if not see Quistis take a sharp intake of breath.

"That was only once, and before you and Selphie got together."

"As I remember, it didn't bother you at all."

"Go." He could hear the anger lance through her words. "Just go." Seifer saw Irvine get up, he turned back to Quistis with a condescending smile.

"You better watch out who you talk to in the future." Quistis forcibly held on to the bench while Irvine sauntered off.

Disgust ran down Seifer's spine. He suppressed his rage and went to sit with Quistis on the bench. She was so caught up in her contemplation that she jumped when he sat down.

"What a dick." He leaned back.

"You were listening?" Her eyes not meeting his, a crimson seeped into her face.

"Yeah." Silence.

"Please don't tell Selphie." She wrapped her arms around herself and shuddered. "I never really expected it to happen, and didn't think anything would have come of it. I was so happy for them when they got together. It was almost like I was free from any attachments, and then to have him throw it back in my face like that-" She dropped her forehead onto her hands.

"Hey, it's all right." He put a hand on her shoulder. "Everyone does things that they don't think will matter later. I'm living proof." She smiled weakly up at him.

"Maybe we both should stop living in the past." She put her hand on his knee and a jolt of surprise sent his nerve endings on fire.

Standing up abruptly he said, "I have to bring lunch to Selphie." Seifer watched as understanding and a little pain flashed behind her eyes. She knew, Oh Hyne, she knew!

"Have you told her yet"

"No."

"Don't let her slip away."

"I won't."

Later that night Quistis sat with a cup of tea in her hand, staring blankly at the kitchen table. Today hadn't been such a good day. Hell, this last while hadn't been so great. She had taken the job as Head Instructor eight months ago when the old one had retired. It had been one of the proudest moments of her life. After saving the world, she had gotten her dignity back, her instructors license soon followed. Working hard to regain her credibility the old Head Instructor had taken notice and named her for the position in his retirement speech. Surprised, she had given an acceptance speech right then and there at his request.

She'd remember that day forever. They were all there. Everyone that had grown up in the orphanage and the friends they had made along the way. Quistis laughed, she thought she had even seen Seifer there briefly. Knowing smiles had beamed from their faces that day, they had been in on the surprise. Together they had all gone out and celebrated. It was just like when they were young, laughing and making memories without any worries.

But that night she went home alone. It hadn't bothered her that night but now… Now its just painful. She had everything going great in her life. Friendships that had been with her during everything were as strong now as they ever were. Her career had taken a wonderful turn that she hadn't expected. Colleagues adored her for her professionalism and dedication. But she still didn't have what she really wanted.

She wanted to be loved for who she was. The feeling of waking up alone every day of her life was wearing her thin. It was making her lonely. The events of today reinforced that. How could Irvine have said that? The truth, she told herself, was that she was a little sad when nothing ever came of that night. He had been just the person to break through the self-imposed distance she gave everyone. He was so different from her that it was a thrill that at the time she had wanted more of. And while it was true that she was happy for Selphie and him when they got together she was also a little sad. She had accepted at the time that it just wasn't her time to fall in love, that it was better to be the friend to hear about everything.

Now she was afraid she would always just be that friend. The only guy she had taken notice of in so long had been Yuri, a new instructor. But the very thought of getting into a romance with someone that worked under her made her remember all the doubts she had before. Sitting back and sighing, she reflected. And then I… I can't believe I hit on Seifer. What's worse is that he-

A knock cut short her soul searching. She got up to answer the door, a little angry at the interruption. Opening the door and seeing who it was, she spoke in a clipped voice, "Yes, can I help you."

"Can I come in for a minute?"

She thought for a moment on the wisdom of this, but finally gave in. Closing the door behind them, she thought the sound was rather final.

Dear Mother. She was in my room today. I can't believe it, she touched my things. She was right there. But I've found another girl. This one needs to be taught so much Mother. Her Pain is so great. She's so beautiful and her Pain so divine. I didn't want to help any other girls before my symphony but… Every symphony needs a prelude.

Sitting at the table with Seifer, Selphie refilled her coffee cup. They had taken some of the files back from the office to go over again that night since the dorm check had turned up nothing. Officer Leon hadn't been into work today, the station had called saying he would be in tomorrow. Sounded like he was in a bit of trouble over losing it. Her hand self-consciously rose to her arm thinking about yesterday. She had been in worse situations than that, but the fact that someone so young had so much undirected anger was frightening.

Across from her Seifer groaned and shifted positions, never taking his eyes off the page in front of him.

"Frustrating isn't it." He startled and gave her a confused look.

"Huh?" Was she imagining it or did a blush hint at his cheeks?

"The case. It frustrating doing all this work while the killer is still on the loose." He let out a breath she didn't realize he had held.

"Right." An uncomfortable silent settled between them. The papers he was holding fluttered as they hit the table. "Selphie, I-"

A knock at the door reverberated in the dorm. He got up much more quickly than she was expecting and answered it.

"Hi! Could we please speak with SeeD Tilmit?" Came a bubbly voice from the doorway. His muscled arm pulled the door fully open and he stepped back glancing at her. It was Lydia and Sharon from the Garden Festival Committee. "Hi Selphie." She called in greeting.

Selphie gathered the papers into their folders while she replied. "Hello Lydia, what brings you here." She smiled despite the current events.

"Well, myself and Sharon are planning a festival for next Saturday and were wondering if you could help us."

"I'd really like to but I'm very busy with work right now." She said with regret.

"You don't have to do any planning, we've done that. We were hoping you'd be Titania from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' We thought you'd be perfect for the part. You would only have to remember a speech for the beginning of the festivities."

"Um…" Selphie thought about it. One little speech would turn into days of costume fitting and details. "Sorry girls, I really have to say no. Ask Quistis, I'm sure she'd be willing to help."

"Oh." Then Lydia's eyes shone. "That's a great idea! Could you ask her for us? She's a little intimidating."

"Yeah sure." With that, they squealed in delight and left in a flurry of thanks.

"You turned down a chance to be a faerie queen?" Seifer, who had been quiet up to this point, closed the door with a grin.

"Oh be silent."

Quistis leaned against the door with her arms crossed and a similar look on her face. "So what do you want."

"I actually think I might have some information on that serial killer case, but I was too afraid to talk to Selphie right now. I thought I'd let things cool down a little before talking to her."

Quistis turned around to lock the door and thought about how weird this situation was. Something was wrong besides the obvious. She tried to rack her brain for the answer as the lock noisily slid home. Why couldn't she figure out what was wrong.

She leaned against the door trying to think but her thoughts were becoming entangled within each other. Her knees started to rub against the door as she belatedly realized she was slipping towards the floor. Blonde hair was the only thing to cushion her head as it hit the floor. A sleep spell… but why? She looked up at her assailant and her sight caught five perfectly placed earrings on the left ear. Oh.

Quistis barely felt the needle split her skin.

"Do you really think she'll do it?" The ex-Sorceress Knight asked Selphie.

"I'm sure she will with the right amount of coaxing. Besides, she needs to do more fun things." She said as they walked side by side down the hallway. "I'm beginning to think her job is eating her alive." Excitedly she grabbed his arm. "Maybe we should set her up with someone. Yeah, then we could make him Oberon and she'd never know it was us." The smile that graced her reminded Seifer of the rambunctious Messenger Girl from so long ago.

"What do you mean 'we,' I'm having no part of this insanity." At her pout he reiterated, "Well maybe. So long as she doesn't know I'm involved."

"Great! I've been noticing that this new instructor- Yuri I think his name is- has been giving her these longing glances and shuffling around when she's not there." To accompany her words she made the most hilarious dramatic poses. He gave a laugh which she joined in on and put his hand on her shoulder as they reached her door. Seifer was just as pleased with the prospect of seeing Quisty happy as he was that Selphie hadn't nominated him.

She knocked as they tried to contain their laughter. It wouldn't do to let her find out. They heard movement from inside and he gave her a mischievous look while they waited for the door to open. They both broke out in peels of laughter again, doubling over.

They both stopped.

An abyss of red was spreading from behind the door. Panic as she had never felt took over Selphie and she flung herself towards the door, desperately clawing at it. The handle wouldn't turn, so she put her weight behind it slamming herself into the door. She heard a high keening noise crawl from the back of her throat. She was ripped back by a strong hand. The stitches ripped open, she thought faintly as she watched the blonde hit the door in a similar manner.

Stepping back he kicked just under the handle. The sound of cracking wood echoed through Selphie's psyche. Splinters fell in slow motion as she lunged into him, providing just enough force to break the door. The door gave, crashing against the wall it was attached to. They both came to a dead halt that seemed to stop time with it. In some fragmented part of her mind she took it all in. The blood, blonde hair turned a deep crimson, and somewhere in the room was movement. Her head snapped up, seeing a foot slide out of the window.

Quistis lay spread on the floor, completely bare of clothing. A rough cross had been etched into her torso starting at the hollow of her throat and ending at her naval. Detailing had begun on the lower section, a bloodied piece of silk lay draped over her lower abdomen. Her eyes were half open staring into the great beyond.

Seifer was trying to get out the window, presumably to chase after the killer. She watched in shock at the futile effort to get his shoulders through. Aggravated he banged his fists against the wall, giving a cry of pure rage.

Slumping to the ground beside her friend, Selphie wrapped her arms around Quistis, pulling her into a sitting position in front. She was still warm and her body gave no resistance as the brunette buried her face into Quistis' neck sobbing. The cloth had fallen away and her heart stopped as she gazed down.

"Selphie" was slashed into her flesh. Grief hard and fast threw her head back and she howled. She vaguely heard an answering mourn come from Seifer. Tears hot and bitter fell unfettered from her eyes as her grip tightened. A jerk reaction came from Quistis.

Time suspended.

She could feel it. She could feel the slow rhythmic pulse of Quistis' heart surge against her skin. A wash of ice crystallized Selphie's veins. Looking up and meeting Seifer's eyes she whispered.

"She's alive."

Note: All right, here's the next chapter even though it took forever. The next one will be much faster, screw university, screw work, and screw everything. I am finishing this fanfic.

I was actually thinking of redoing this fic to make more sense, but then we'd have to start over from square one and I think you guys have been waiting long enough to find out who the killer is.

And if this chapter is any indication, I will be doing the prequel fic about Seifer.

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