TAKE A LOOK AT ME NOW
Prequel to The Devil's Playground
"So take a look at me now
There's just an empty space
There's nothing left here to remind me
just the memory of your face . . ."
~Phil Colins, Against All Odds
Chapter One
The Hobo
Quistis Trepe walked the streets of Deling City to pass the time before her train back to Balamb Garden arrived. She had nearly three hours to kill, and at that hour of the night, all the shops were closed. The only place still open was the Hotel bar, and a dance club near the edge of town. She might have passed the time at either, had she not been alone, however the prospect of fending off horny middle-aged men as she sat at the bar by herself did not appeal to her. Nor did she feel up to answering questions about her past. Likely, she'd be recognized, so she preferred to walk the streets where she was more or less anonymous.

In the aftermath of the Second Sorceress War, she and her friends had become cultural Icons. Everywhere they went, they were recognized, hounded by press, sought after for any reason at all by important officials and private citizens alike. The last two years had been maddening. They could hardly leave Garden for fear of being chased down, hounded by townspeople, and by the tourists who'd come just to catch a glimpse of the local heroes. The craziness had died down somewhat in the last few months, but there was still the occasional run in with people who assumed they knew everything about her, yet knew nothing.

Missions had been nearly impossible for the Fated Children these last two years, and they were limited to those involving amnesty and diplomacy. Most frequent were the invitations to attend World Summit gatherings and the like. This held true for Quistis' current assignment. She'd spent nearly two weeks in Deling regarding an impending alliance between Esthar and Galbadia. She wasn't for the idea, since traditionally, Galbadia was a nation bent on war, however, the country's days of dictatorship were over. For the first time in a hundred years, elections had been held by popular vote following the death of Vinzer Deling, and of all people, General Caraway had been elected into office. Quistis could only hope that things would change for the better, though she felt Caraway was a questionable choice for President. However, Laguna Loire, Esthar's President had once served under Caraway while in the Galbadian Army, and he said the man could be trusted. Quistis hoped this was true, for if not, it meant trouble for the world.

Near the shopping arcade, Quistis noticed several people standing near the entrance to a small bar that boasted the best Mimmett in the world, and she crossed to the other side to avoid being recognized. That was the last thing she needed. Every now and then, a young man proposed his hand in marriage. Quistis found this terribly uncomfortable. She'd once accepted a date from an admirer in Balamb, and had sorely disappointed the young man. Whatever his expectations of her, she'd failed, for he never called on her again. No, proposals were merely a reminder of how flawed and pathetic she really was. They were a reminder of the lack of love in her life, of how utterly unlovable she was.

Whatever, she didn't want to deal with it tonight. Especially when she'd just gotten word that Squall had finally proposed to Rinoa. She was happy for them, but at the same time, depressed that it was Rinoa he'd fallen in love with and not her. She didn't begrudge them their happiness either, but she couldn't help but feel jealous that they'd found each other and she was still alone.

Everyone had paired up but Quistis, and she often felt left out at social gatherings because she was the only one minus a date. Zell had married the Library Girl, Zoe, last spring. Selphie and Irvine had been married almost two years, and now, Rinoa and Squall would tie the knot too.

Quistis didn't even have a boyfriend.

Disgusted with herself, she kicked at a rock and sent it flying down the sidewalk, right into the leg of a sleeping hobo. The man groaned and sat up. Quistis was briefly disgusted at the sight of him in his tattered pants and overcoat. He wore a snow cap upon his head, the long hair that poked out from underneath was a dingy blonde, and he sported a scraggly beard, full of something that she couldn't, and didn't want to, identify. And the smell. Great Hyne, the smell. The mixture of body odor, dirt, cheap wine, and urine was enough to make her gag, but she instantly felt guilty as he rubbed his leg. "I'm so sorry," she said and crouched down beside him. "I didn't see you there."

"It's all right," the man said and he rubbed the injury a little. "No one ever does. When you live like I do, it's easy to be invisible."

There was something familiar about him. He was young, perhaps her age, though she couldn't see his eyes in the shadows. "I feel terrible," she said, and then gasped as he looked up at her. This hobo was more than familiar, he was someone she knew quite well, in fact. "Seifer?" she asked and she couldn't help but gape at him in disbelief.

"I used to be called that," he said and he scratched at the beard on his chin. He didn't appear to remember her.

"Seifer, it's me, Quistis," she prompted. "From Garden? And the orphanage?"

"Quistis . . ." he murmured, but his eyes showed no sign of recognition.

At that moment, Quistis Trepe knew that she couldn't leave him there like that. He may have done some terrible things, but he didn't deserve to die in the street, though she knew some might disagree with her. Some would say he deserved what he got, but Quistis didn't believe that. Anything would have been better than living on the street, in her opinion. If it had been her, she would prefer to live the rest of her days in prison, rather than slowly rot away on a sidewalk.

"Come on," she said and offered her hand.

He looked at it as if it were a poisonous snake that might strike him at any moment. "Leave me alone."

"Seifer," she said. "I'm trying to help you."

"Why?"

"Because I want to."







Seifer refused to go with her until she promised him a bottle of liqueur and a pack of cigarettes. She purchased both with him in tow, though they received many strange glances as they passed. Some people felt the need to shout comments their way, others merely laughed at the sight of the lovely blonde woman leading a drunken hobo around. Quistis took it all in stride. Nothing they said mattered, and she refused to let their words hurt her. Seifer however seemed to shrink a little more as each statement was hurled their way.

At the Hotel, the desk clerk wrinkled her nose as they approached, but she smiled at Quistis. "Ms. Trepe!" the young woman said. "We didn't expect you back so soon. What can I do for you?"

"I'll be staying longer than I planned," Quistis said, all business. "I would like your best room, please."

The clerk leaned forward and eyed Seifer with suspicion. "Would you like me to call security?" she asked in a hushed whisper.

"Of course not," Quistis said. "He's with me."


"Ms. Trepe, with all due respect, this is a proper establishment. We don't accept his kind here."

"What do you mean, 'His Kind?'" she asked, and she felt her anger rise to the surface.

"Well, he's a bum," the clerk replied.

"This man is my friend. I am a paying customer. Should you refuse us, I must insist that Garden sever all ties with your establishment," Quistis said authoritatively. "Garden has used this Hotel quite frequently in the last two years, and I believe there is even a special room devoted to SeeD, is there not?"


"Of course, ma'am," the clerk said. "SeeD is one of our best customers. We rely on your business."

"Then, I would like a room for me and my friend."

With great reluctance, the clerk reached for a key. "I'll need a damage deposit this time."

"That shouldn't be a problem," Quistis replied and handed the girl a thousand Gil note. "This should cover it. Oh, and I'd like a selection of men's clothing sent up in the morning. All kinds, all styles. Preferably from a place that caters to tall men."

"Of course," the clerk said and placed the key into Quistis' hand. "Enjoy your stay."

As she walked away, Seifer close behind her, Quistis was thankful that she'd learned Rinoa's way of demanding rather than asking. She smiled to herself as they stepped onto the elevator.







Street Rat couldn't quite place this gorgeous blonde who called him by his old name and had coaxed him from the street. No one had called him that in a long time, so of course she had to be someone from his former life. Someone from the days before Ultimecia devoured his soul and left him an empty shell. The days he could no longer remember. There were still traces of what he'd once been in his memory, but when he tried to recall the events that had lead to this, he found he could not.

And he wasn't sure if he wanted to remember. He remembered enough of Ultimecia to wish that he'd forgotten her as well, but that was something that would remain with him for the rest of his life. He would always remember the way she'd crept into his mind and seized it, bent him, and turned him inside out. He would always remember the pain she inflicted when he resisted. To put it accurately, the only memories he had were of her. Everything else was fragmented, like a jagged reflection in a broken mirror. He knew he'd been called 'Seifer,' but he couldn't remember anything about who Seifer was. Seifer might as well be dead, for all he knew. He might have been imaginary, someone Street Rat had made up to keep himself company.

Every now and then, he snuck a glance at the blonde, Quistis, as he stood awkwardly in the middle of the room. She'd handed over a fortune on his behalf, and he was reluctant to sit down upon the fine upholstery, for he was suddenly aware of the filth that surrounded him. He wasn't worthy of sitting on the textured brocade chairs, that much he knew.

What he didn't understand was, why did this woman insist upon helping him? Who was she to him? What could she possibly want from a street urchin like himself?

She was lovely though. Her hair was the color of wheat, and it was so shiny under the gas lamps that he couldn't help but think it was made of pure gold. He wondered if it was as soft as it looked, and then mentally kicked himself. This woman would sooner run screaming from the room than let him find out.

Her face was that of a classic beauty, like Diana, Athena, Aphrodite . . . she had the face of a Goddess. It was a face he wouldn't have forgotten had he known her. His mind told him he didn't know her, but his heart told him a different story, and he thought perhaps, she might be someone he could trust, though he had no way of knowing this.

The truth was, he'd been waiting for a long time to validate his belief that he'd once been someone named Seifer. Of late, he'd been doubting his sanity, and for her to come along and acknowledge him by that name was a relief. As reluctant as he was to learn the truth about who he'd been before Ultimecia, he hoped silently that she would be the key to all his lost memories. For good or bad, he needed to know.

"Seifer, sit down, will you?" she asked and extended her hand towards one of the chairs.

"It's Street Rat," he said. "No one calls me Seifer."

She stared at him, uncomprehending.

"I haven't been Seifer in two years," he said. "I don't even know who Seifer was. I just know that I used to be called that."

"Maybe I can help you remember, then," she suggested. "But first, a bath."






Quistis drew a bath in the oversized tub and she poured in a healthy amount of complimentary bubble solution. Seifer didn't know it yet, but the bath was for him, not her. He needed one as badly as he needed a decent meal and a roof over his head.

He still didn't seem to remember her, though Quistis had to wonder if it was an act. She'd caught him eying her with gratitude a couple of times, and she could have sworn that there was some recognition there. It was obvious that she'd been the first in a long time to show him kindness, and perhaps this was the reason for his reluctance to admit he knew her. Perhaps he feared she'd do something terrible to him once he let his guard down.

Still, he'd sounded sincere when he'd said he couldn't remember who Seifer was. Perhaps he had amnesia. Maybe his experience with Ultimecia had been so terrible, he'd blocked everything out in order to keep from going crazy. Quistis had heard this happend sometimes after a traumatic experience, and she considered that it might be the case with Seifer.

"All right, mister," she said as she exited the bathroom. "Go to it. There's shampoo and soap next to the tub, and you'll find some razors by the sink, though I apologize that they're lady shavers."

He stared at her blankly. He still hadn't taken a seat, and for a moment, he looked as if he might run.

"Please," she said softly. "I'm trying to help you."

"What do you want from me?" he asked as his green eyes rested upon her hair, and then upon her lips.

"Nothing," she answered honestly. She wanted nothing from him except to know that he'd be all right.

"If I wanted to leave right now, would you try and stop me?"

"I couldn't stop you if you truly wanted to go," she said as she took his dirty hand in hers. "But I have a feeling, you want me to help you."

He closed his eyes and sighed. "If you can help me remember who I am," he said softly, "I'll do anything you ask."





****Notes****

I'm not sure why I'm starting this, since I have two others I haven't yet finished, but I kind of liked the idea, and thought you might too. This IS a prequel to 'The Devil's Playground' but you don't have to read either story to understand the other, I just wanted to write a Quifer/Seiftis and figured it would be easiest to combine the two. Don't know yet if this will be long or short, but it will at least cover some of their romance. It really depends on how many reviews I get, how interested people are in reading it. I won't continue if no one is reading it.

I realize that there are several 'Seifer has Amnesia' fics out there, and I haven't read them yet, but it is a good premise to get the story rolling. It won't last too long, I don't suppose, since there is a bit of a timeline here that must correspond with 'The Devil's Playground' and I do have to stick with that. Anyway, this is a little bit off the top of my head, so I have my doubts about it's quality, and I hope I haven't unintentionally replicated someone else's work.

That said, please read and review. Let me know if I should post more or not.