(¯`'·.¸(¯`'·. .author's note. .·'´¯)¸.·'´¯)

. I am proud to present FF.net's first ever Laguna/Quistis fic. I doubt many will read this, really, but this is for my enjoyment more than anything. I've given the plot much thought, and I've tried to put in every main element and theme into it . . . action, adventure, romance, angst, drama, humor(of the dry variety), suspense. It's more romance than anything else, but that's not all it's about. There will be a lemon in the future, but only if my reviewers demand it, since I dislike writing them.

(¯`'·.¸(¯`'·. quistis .·'´¯)¸.·'´¯)

I relish the mornings for one reason-I get to slam my hand on the snooze button. My one act of rebellion, the demon on my shoulder's one respite . . . Yet, I do it every morning, and find myself having actually planned it into my schedule. . . .more of a daily ritual than an act of rebellion, now. Duplicitous, perhaps, but I prefer to ignore this . . . and continue the disillusionment of rebellion.

Getting dressed, I open my closet, and haul out something stark and blue. And frown. A glimmer of something not dark and clean-cut catches my eye . . .my old peach gear. Haven't worn that since the Ultimecia ordeal . . . I suppose wearing it today wouldn't be so bad. A little six month anniversary vignette outfit. Replacing the hanger I'd chosen, I pull it out and put it on.

I head to my classroom. Not as a student, but as an instructor once more, despite my lack of competency. . . it seems being a hero has its own perks. The slightest mention of desire for something, and it's served to you on a plate with a red bow and cherry.

"QUISTY!!" I winced. Selphie is up early this morning, despite her tendencies to ignore her alarm clock completely. Very strange. I turn, and I paste up smile-to regret it a moment later. I really am glad to see Selphie, but faking a smile for it? Vaguely, I realize that's pathetic.

She bounded up to me, her face bearing it's usual bubbly smile. In a word, Selphie was . . . bouncy. Very bouncy. She squealed, clutching to my bag like it was lifeline. "Have you SEEN the message boards? Squall's wedding is the number one topic! I started the thread just YESTERDAY and the submit count just topped two hundred!! Isn't that great?"

I smiled genuinely this time, even though Squall would kill Selphie for letting the news out so soon after the actual proposal. I agreed loosely, and went on.

. . .

. . . I had once thought I was in true love with Squall. Yes, love! I thought I was in love with Squall. How is this even possible? Looking back, it's hard not to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. But I manage, as always.

I, in love? Hah. Perhaps I needed that single dream, though. I needed the slap in the face, the one I'd gotten after I finally realized . . . what I felt for Squall was nothing compared to Rinoa's passion for him.

It was in the eyes, you know. I saw them look at each other once. It was something in the eyes.

My heart is broken, you see. I smile ruefully. I can't think of another way to describe it. Other people say this too, people who have loved, and found that their love is not returned. No, my heart is far more literally broken. Because, you see, I cannot love.

My heart doesn't work.

It's broken.

Oh, it's not completely broken, I suppose. I care deeply for people, i.e. Squall, Zell, Selphie, etc., etc. . . but you see, that's not what I'm worried about. I yearn for that . . . other kind of love. The kind that makes you leap into nothingness(Squall), the kind that makes you plot pick- up lines(Irvine), the kind the makes you relent from eating the last hot dog(Zell). . .

But I can't. Oh, I've tried, but if love has a toggle switch, then I would dearly love to find it. I would absolutely adore having the ability to stare onto the campus, pick a random person of the opposite gender, and say, 'Alright then, I am in love with you now. Please, come and ravish me.'

Yes! I DO have the occasional ravishing fantasy! My heart is broken, not my womanhood! But sex without love . . . I can't go against my morals. I'll just die a virgin, I suppose. In this career, it won't be that long anyway.

I'm shocked at myself. I don't shock easily, either, it takes a lot to shock me. Its just that I'm looking at this rather delicate topic with such an objective point of view.

But . . . that's me, I suppose. I can't even get depressed right.

. . . I wonder what everyone would think if they knew that I berated myself for not getting depressed properly.

I try to do everything properly. I am the deity of rigidity. I know how to fall and die without showing too much leg with my skirt. That alone is proof. Most people, when dying, wouldn't give a damn whether they were stark naked or not, but it would be impolite for me, Quistis Trepe, to show a little thigh whilst collapsing.

Makes me wonder why I go for the bare midriff look.

Hmmm . . . I'm not being very comforting. I suppose I'm to be wallowing in self-pity at my predicament. Yes, yes, the predicament of inability to love, imperfection, etc. etc. Is this reverie of mine self pity?

Dear God, I hope not. I would hate to be the wallowing type.

Reminds me of a book I read the other day. The title escapes me, but I was arrested by a single line of poetry. "So here I lay, a discarded porcelain doll. . ."

. . .I like it. The way the prose rolls off my tongue, and mental imagery it gives me. I see myself, perfectly whole and unharmed, crumpled in a heap. No wounds, no physical damage.

Just discarded. Left behind.

I resisted the urge to shake my head vehemently. No, I know my friends would never allow this to happen. They care for me as much as I care for them . . . either that, or they're damn good actors.

I sit down at my desk. I must admit, it's a lovely desk. However, the left leg is slightly deformed. I chose this desk for that reason. They were all so neat, so orderly in the store. I bought this one, the one they were about to throw out. Stereotypical of me, wasn't it? But I relate to this desk. Imperfect. Wanting to be, trying to be, but never can be.

I don't have it in me to be perfect. Selphie is perfect, in her bouncy happiness. Rinoa is perfect, in her fierce loyalty. I am not. I am a rather bossy know-it-all who cannot fathom half the things she wraps her tongue around.

I do manage sounding knowledgeable about things, though. I can, in crude terms, BS my way through anything I wish. An abnormally long word here, a curt nod of agreement, then contradiction there, and no one's ever the wiser. A gesture here, a slight rising of voice there, and I can convey any emotion I wish.

Nearby, a small herd of 'Trepies' stand. I will never admit it aloud, but I am secretly proud of them. I loath their mascot, perhaps, but I feel a tendril of pride that am exalted enough to earn a few admirers. Oh, mind you, most of them merely admire the fact that I am an authoritative young woman with a whip. . . ahem . . .but never-the-less . . .

It's another ordinary day for I, Quistis Trepe, to pull through. An achievement made many times before. Must I really go through it again?

Yes. Yes, I must.

I would sincerely love to curse in a loud tone, but I don't curse. I am Quistis Trepe, after all.

*Quistis Trepe, please report to the Commander's Office. Quistis Trepe, report to the Commander's office* Rinoa's voice crackled merrily from the intercom. And here I thought being merry was reserved for the holidays. Go figure.

Rinoa's job as a secretary for Squall had been going well, it seemed, for Squall to allow her to play with the shiny buttons on the console. Not that Rinoa was unintelligent, of course, but . . . she could be overly curious about certain things.

I place a random student in charge-whom the Trepies glare at so pointedly that I have no trouble believing that the student will be in the dumpster by the end of the day-and head for the elevator. Garden, as usual, teemed with its own variation of life.

I've heard the dumpsters are nice this time of year.

Now, I realize that it wasn't supposed to be a loathsome torment, going to the Commander's office. However, stuck in an elevator with a few choice Trepies was becoming excruciatingly painful for my mental image of Squall.

As an over-dosed Prozac victim assaulted my whip with benignly obvious compliments (i.e. Oooh, it's so pretty! Can I touch it?), and as my Mental Squall went through various stages of agony through my creativity with weapons, I could not help but grow faintly annoyed at the pattern.

I get up, work, do various other, smaller deeds, and sleep. Rinse, and repeat. This was becoming all too familiar. Perhaps I need to do some field work.

Which would proceed as follows:

Get up, work, KILL KILL KILL, do various other smaller deeds, and sleep. What a difference. I really am beginning to get tired of . . .

I can't put my finger on it. What am I growing tired of?

Never mind this. I am, after all, Quistis Trepe. Why this changes anything is irrevelant, but it does get me back on the track. Squall is waiting for me. With a folder.

A mission folder? I tilt my head. Why would I have a mission? Well . . . speaking of fieldwork, it seems Squall has a mission for me.

I wait to be proved wrong. I'm not. "Quistis, I have something important for you." I saluted nonchalantly before sitting down.

Squall continued without notice, and I couldn't help but notice that he was being, if possible, more serous than usual. His normally aloof and concentrated self was now intent and . . . well, for lack of a better word, serious. "You are being assigned this mission, Quistis. It isn't optional."

But I'm not on active duty anymore . . . He noticed my change of expression.

"I'm afraid my hands are tied for this one. They specifically requested one of us-" meaning, of course, either Squall, Selphie, Zell, Irvine, Rinoa, or myself "-to take it, and no one else can take it. And we are accepting a considerable amount of money for this."

Ah. Money. The true foundation of SeeD. "Fine, Squall. I'll take the mission, I was deliberating of taking up fieldwork again anyway."

Not really, but I suppose a little white lie will go unnoticed.

Deftly, I accepted the folder, and peered at the symbols scrawled on the pages. I narrowed my eyes as I drilled the information into my head.

Oh, my. I shook my head.

General Caraway had recently been elected president of Galbadia. (Rinoa, to my knowledge, hadn't even recognized this fact, but I digress.) It appears he plans on signing a treaty with Esthar. However, various radicals and similar groupings are vehemently against such a alliance, and has threatened to tear this down by force. Apparently it was being taken seriously, because I was getting hired as a bodyguard.

Ah. A bodyguard mission. How I loathe them. You stand there, and wait. And watch over an overly paranoid politician, who A) Is most likely getting attacked for a very good reason, OR b) is just being paranoid. And, if their paranoia served correctly, you take down the offender in one hit.

And it was the tedious sort of boredom, the most annoying kind, because you had to stay alert. You really can't doze off and just pretend, as much as you would like to on such a mission.

Squall knew I hated these things. Yet, he was giving it to me anyway . . . why me? Hypothetical question, yes.

I fought with the urge to rub my temple. I could have sworn that was a headache, not a twitching vein. "I'll finish reading this tonight, Squall. When do I leave?"

With at least the grace to look apologetic, he answered. "Tomorrow evening. Listen, I know it doesn't give that much time, but this was handed to us last minute, and though we'd never normally accept such a request . . ." He hesitated.

General Caraway was his fiancé's father. He didn't want to piss off Rinoa before the wedding. Understandable. . . God hath no fury like that of a woman scorned. "I understand, Squall."

Well, as much as I'd like to, anyway.

Now heading back to class, I'm alone in the elevator. Alone. Strange. I haven't been alone for awhile. Granted, I do have my dorm, but being positioned near the center of Garden activity, the sounds of the students and teachers were always there. But the insulated walls of the elevator blocked all noise.

As I said, I was alone.

I wondered why this made me uncomfortable. After all, I am Quistis Trepe. The Ice Queen. Save the Queen? Hah. The Queen saves herself.

I am an intelligent young woman. I do not have deep, brooding thoughts. I do not suffer from angst and trudge about the Garden grounds in dark colors and heavy boots.

I am not depressed; I don't know how to get depressed.

So . . . why did the silence irk me so?

(¯`'·.¸(¯`'·. laguna .·'´¯)¸.·'´¯)

My butt hurt. A lot. Ow.

I've been sittin' all day! Duh, of course my butt's going to get a bit cranky. I scowled at the papers in front of me. I wish Kiros were here to help, but no, he had to abandon me for a date. With MY secretary.

Sure, Ward my man is still here! But Kiros is the only one who can figure out what the hell he's thinking.

I sign my signature with an extra squiggly line. Hey, my name looks cool like that. Laguna Loire, President of Esthar.

Seems I've gone up in the world . . . I'm thirsty. Wish I had a coffee. With lots of cream, and sugar. And a cool umbrella thing in it. . . yeah, I know coffee doesn't usually have umbrellas in it. But I think they look cool.

I stretch my arms above my head and lean back. Y'know, this whole leader thing was pretty tiring. I mean, I like it a lot, making a difference in the world, and all, but man. When you weren't out fighting bad guys and saving the nation from one crisis or another, it got pretty damn boring, if you'll excuse my language.

" . . . " Ward got my attention.

I swiveled in my chair. "Wha-at? I'm workin', see?" Yup. Constantly signing stuff.

He shook his head. Great. Without Kiros here, it was '20 Questions' until I figured out what Ward wanted.

Lucky for me, he was pretty clear. Ward waved a fancy looking piece of paper at me. I grinned, and snatched at it.

"Whoa, big guy, that's mine! Top president stuff, hey?" Still grinning, I scanned over it. Seal of Galbadia, handwritten. That meant it was really mportant. "What is it, anyway?"

Blah . . . blah blah blah . . . fancy words . . . General Caraway . . . understanding between two great nations. . . "Oh, yeah! That big treaty! I agreed to that, when is it?

Ward snapped the paper away from me, and handed me an envelope. I read the info on it . . . oh. "Oh. Damn. That treaty thing is in TWO DAYS?!"

Ward shook his head and pointed at the calendar. No, it was tomorrow. I shook my head. "Ward, my man, why don't you tell me these things? I gotta get packed!"

Ward let out as much of a sigh as he could. He knows I'm smarter than I act . . . I suppose since I never got to be a real journalist, I gave up on the pretense of being smart . . .

I abandoned my office and jogged down the hall. I winked at couple people taking a tour, and waved at the guards. Yup, lookit me, the cuddly president of our fine nation!

I fumbled with my room's keys. It wasn't really a room, more of an apartment. A really big, posh apartment, in a place called the Presidential Residence.

I rammed a couple of clothes into my suitcase. Man, time really does fly when you get busy! I can really get into the whole president thing. I guess it's my natural skill, my incredible good looks, and let's not forget my unspeakable modesty.

What else should I take? I read over the paper again; without an audience, I can be serious about this. And lo and behold, it seems terrorists have threatened to blow me up again. Geez. I grabbed a spare Uzi and my machine gun and tossed it on top of the pile.

Hmm . . . wallet, check. Passport-would I really need that?-check. Photograph . . . check. I blink.

My old photo of Raine. My chest settled into a familiar lump . . .man, I missed her. I missed her smile. I missed her kisses. I missed her eyes. I missed her scolding at me for digging in the fridge.

. . . I'd left her behind. I'd gone after Ellone, like I'd promised I would. Raine had seemed anxious, but I told her that everything would be alright, and that I'd be back before the year was out. Raine had bit her lip, but nodded, and smiled.

I left, and ten months later, I found Ellone. And I'd brought her back, like I'd promised I would. And found that Raine had died, giving birth to my kid.

I hadn't even known she was pregnant.

I stared at her face, her own timeless grin, forever stilled on that piece of paper. She was . . . gone. But the photo didn't know that. It showed every detail, every sparkle in her eye. Every joy in her heart shone from within, to without.

This was . . . all that was left of her, really. Except for Squall.

I'd let Ellone stay with Edea because Edea had been doing wonders to help with her powers. Ellone had liked Edea, Edea had been a good friend. But I'd left Squall too.

I don't know why I'd done that. Hell, when I'd first seen him, on the spaceship, I hadn't even known he was my son. Ellone told me that a couple days later, with one of her dream thingys.

Squall Leonhart. Raine Leonhart. Did Squall know that it wasn't just a coincidence, the last names? Did he even know what his mother's last name was?

Why hadn't Raine named him Loire? Didn't she care for me enough? I'd given her that ring. She'd cared for me enough to get engaged, but not enough to give her son my name?

Damn it. I had fought and captured an evil sorceress, led a nation out of a pit, and I was scared to death of telling my own son his mothers name.

Figures, doesn't it? I guess so. I'd gone once after that to see him. Squall, I mean. Ellone was still there, and Squall, seeing her so enthusiastically welcoming me, had solemnly held out his hand for me to shake it. He was quiet, but I saw him in a fight with another one of the kids.

He had been winning.

Well, before Edea had put a halt to it. I'd been rooting him from a window, kind of proud of him, but . . . I should have told him then. He was young, he would have been overjoyed to know he had a father after all. But even then, I'd chickened out over a six year old.

And now, Squall was leader of the last remaining Garden. The last of the Elite forces, the Commander of SeeD. Position, rank, fame, heroism.

I can't say I don't have a clue about those kinds of things, since I do. But hey, I wasn't the one who'd gone into time compression.

I admit, I hadn't been too sure he'd make it. He didn't look like the love and faith kind of guy, if you know what I mean. But he'd done it. He'd made it. Yeah, and I'd had the perfect opportunity to tell him who his parents were. Then again, what could I have done?

Immediately, a corny vision of me in a freaky black mask, and him dangling off a pole, came to mind.

"Squall. I AM your father."

Nah, I don't think he'd be a big fan of Star Wars. And I'm not too happy with the fact that the next line was big denying "NOOOOO!!" or something to that effect. I shook my head. What a crappy father I was. I stared at Raine's picture, before putting it down again.

" . . ." I looked up. Ward?! How long had he been there?

"Waaah!" I stood up abruptly. "Eh heh heh . . ." I scratched my head. Caught.

"Hey, Ward! Uh . . . how long you been there? You coulda spoke up, you know!"

Ward looked at me. Aw, no . . . "Wait, not like that of course! Just an expression! But jeez, man, don't do that to a guy!"

He shook his head. " . . . "

"Uh . . . yeah. Right back at ya."

I dumped my stuff in the suitcase-being careful of the old photo-before slamming it shut. It wouldn't close at first, so I had to sit on it a couple times. I handed it to Ward.

Kiros and Ward are my guys. My buddies. They're my advisors, too, but they're my friends. The best a guy could have; I know. It's a real job keeping me in line, trust me. Speaking of keeping in line . . .

I turned to Ward, grinning. "You know, Kiros is probably gonna need the night, so I was hoping to drag you along for my guard person. I'm gonna need decent company with all the creepy politicians."

" . . . " Ward nodded, and grinned. I grinned too.

"Hey! I think I understood that one! You said 'That's what I'm here for,' right?" I nodded proudly.

Ward grinned wider (Hey, I'm getting better at this!), and left with my bag.

Now that I think about it . . . I wished he'd left it. I'd packed my photo of Raine.

(¯`'·.¸(¯`'·. .author's note. .·'´¯)¸.·'´¯)

The first chapter is up. Joy. I'd like someone to tell me how to use italics, as the document manager seems to have a certain dislike for my writing. And since I failed to add a disclaimer at the top, here it is. I do not own Final Fantasy VIII. I never will. Now you can't sue me, you callous bastards.

Love is compared to war all the time. I can't count the phrases on my fingers; there are too many. Make love, not war. Love is like war--simple to begin, but the devil to get out. All's fair in love and war.

"Farewell," says the dying man to his reflection in the mirror... "We shall not meet again." --Paul Valéry