Darkest Before Dawn

Disclaimer: I hardly own Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy VII, or Final Fantasy VIII. [pauses] Come to think of it, I do own KH and FFVIII. [cheesy grin] Think that'll get me out of trouble? XD

Notes: I can't say I know where this one came from. All I know is that I was wondering what happened to Squall previous to his arrival in Traverse Town and... voila! One strange one-shot! ^)^

Warning: Light shounen-ai, character death, language, and non-graphic bloodshed.

Pairings: Seifer/Squall, Cloud/Sephiroth

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It was growing dark again. Despite that was still early in the evening, he could see the sun's grasp on her hazy perch start to slip under the lead blanket of deadly night. In all his years, this simple detail had never really been apparent to him; just another, unending part of nature's design that required little attention.

But, since those... things had shown up, the nighttime hours had become a blind hell for him and all those around him. All the blood, the screams, the death; they all presided over the darkness like a king over his kingdom. Many of his friends had fallen prey to the shapeless shadows that slithered over the ground like phantasmal asps at the cusp of midnight, when the alien forces were the strongest.

But somehow, through the kindness or cruelty of the Fates, he was alive still to watch the sun sink from the miasma ridden skies with mounting terror.

A sigh passed parched lips. It seemed like forever that he and those remaining had been fighting forever without any hope. In reality, it had only been a little over three months. In that time, he couldn't remember a single positive thing happening.

True, the surviving fighters' laughably small number had been reinforced by an equally meager three. But, it only meant putting off their ultimate demise, according to the white haired stranger. All of us. We're all doomed to be destroyed. Just one second of insecurity or fatigue and-

"If you look at the sun long enough, you'll fry your eyes," an unexpected voice stated conversationally.

"Holy shit!" A gloved hand automatically went for the crimson caked weapon that lay against his leg. Wild storm blue eyes searched the endless emerald staring at him with some extent of relieved exasperation. "Seifer, you jackass," Squall hissed, moving his hand from his Gunblade.

Seifer smirked in his typical manner, tilting his head to the side. "What's on your mind? You looked pretty lost a second ago."

Squall shook his head. "Nothing important." Taking a steadying breath, the eighteen-year-old shifted his eyes back to the sun. "What time is it?"

"Five. Why?"

Three hours 'til they start to come again. "No reason."

Seifer grabbed Squall's face in his gloved hand, forcing the younger teenager to look at him. "Something's wrong, Squall. Talk to me."

Damn him. "I just wanted to know how long until... those things start attacking again."

Seifer nodded knowingly, a rare, warm smile crossing his handsome features. "Don't worry. We still have a few hours yet." The nineteen-year-old climbed to his feet, effortlessly dragging Squall with him. "In the meantime, dinner's done."

"I'm not hungry," Squall murmured listlessly. His stormy gaze held a desperate light when Seifer scooped him into his arms. "Please, I'm really not interested."

"Well, maybe it makes me feel better to have you close," Seifer shot back cooly, though there was a definite undertone of insecurity in his voice.

"The day you truly admit such a weakness is the day I eat my hand off," Squall mumbled.

"Start eating."

Squall rolled his eyes childishly. "Whatever."

Seifer chuckled. "You're the only person I know that can turn one word into an entire language."

Squall sighed and easily freed himself from his lover's arms. "I can walk fine." Tossing the blond a tight lipped smirk, the teenager headed over the mutilated terrain towards the meager camp the survivors had come to call home in the past couple months. Once he came into view, a familiar blond popped up from the fire.

"Hey Squall. Where'd you go? You okay? You hungry? Yuffie made some decent food! Why ain't 'cha talkin'? Where's Seifer?"

"Zell! Shut the hell up!" Seifer ordered, easily shadowing Squall and Zell with his impressive six foot, two frame.

Zell grinned sheepishly and started bouncing from foot to foot. "So, you guys ready for tonight's fight?" Somehow, the overactive eighteen-year-old hadn't been effected by the nightly carnage; if he was, he was too stubborn to let it show.

"Far from it," Squall all but growled, pushing past the hopping blond to sit at the fire.

"What bit his ass?" Zell muttered.

Seifer firmly batted the younger teen upside the head. "Shut up, chicken-wuss."

"WHAT?! How can you call me that after all the major fighting I've been through!" Zell rumbled.

"You killed some of the baby monsters. Remind me to give you a lollipop later," Seifer quipped.

"'Baby'?! Some of those things were like three of you stacked up... And in sets of three!"

"And they all fell down with one good hit."

"You have...er, had that Gunblade! I only have my fists."

"Leaving you in the position of weapon-less chicken-wuss."

"I didn't see you making an effort to fight."

"I didn't see you killing anything."

Squall sighed, looking to his right when he heard a chuckle. "What's so funny, Cloud?" he demanded of the pale haired refugee.

"Those two," he replied easily.

"Asshole!"

"Chicken-wuss."

"Don't you know any other insults?!"

"Leck mich am arsch."

"In English, Seifer."

"Not cultured enough to pick up another language?"

Leaning comfortably against Cloud's back, the second of the refugees, Sephiroth, laughed. "Chickens can't be cultured, Almasy."

"I'm not a fucking chicken! I outlasted everyone one who faced that monstrosity of a thing!" Zell crossed his arms, shooting daggers at Seifer. "I lasted longer then you, Squall, Quistis, Yuffie, Sephiroth. Hell, I outlasted Laguna!"

Unexpectedly, Squall flew to his feet, eyes bright with hellfire. "ENOUGH, Dincht. Shut the fuck up and sit down," he snarled, hand curling around his Gunblade in a clear death threat.

Zell shrank back and Seifer stepped to the side. Having been on the receiving end of his boyfriend's temper before, the tall blond wasn't going to risk personal injury trying to save the chicken-wuss' lame ass. Again.

"I-I didn't mean-"

Squall sneered. "You're tongue's too loose for your own good," he growled. "We've all fought those goddamned things and many of us have fallen. That you're still breathing just meaning you're a lucky son of a bitch." He advanced on Zell slightly. "You're alive by luck, Zell. That's all. A luck... my father didn't possess."

Gulping, the formerly feisty teenager nodded. "I'm sorry, Squall. Really."

"Save it." Squall turned on his heel and sat back down, glaring at his prized weapon angrily.

Seifer shot Zell a halfway apologetic look as he strode over to his brooding lover. Sitting down, he wrapped the brunet in his arms, drawing the lank form to his own. "Calm down, Squall."

"Yeah. We've all been through a lot," the ninja refugee known as Yuffie agreed. "We all deal with it in our own ways. Zell just happens to talk too much to cope."

Under any other circumstances, Zell would have jumped at the petite girl feet first. But, he knew he had overstepped the line and didn't dare push his strained luck any farther."

"Yeah, whatever," Squall growled. His blue eyes moved over to the small fire before him. She's right. The teenager scoffed. At least I still have a home to protect. He spared Cloud, Sephiroth, and Yuffie a sideways glance. Everything they knew and loved has been destroyed. Just stragglers in a strange universe now.

There was an unbreakable silence in the wake of Squall's breakdown; any thoughts that crossed the group's mind promptly died. It wasn't until wretched tendrils of darkness quickly started to drown the setting sun did anyone speak up.

"What in the hell is that?!" Zell demanded of no one in particular.

The very same force that had overtaken the sun now blanketed the sky with undetermined layer of black laced with dark amethyst. From these foul clouds, two angry, vermillion eyes were making themselves known while probing tendrils leaked from the shapeless beast; whatever ground the shadows touched turned dry as a desert.

"Oh no," Yuffie breathed, frantic gaze turning towards Cloud and Sephiroth. "Tell me that isn't-"

The snow haired warrior nodded. "I'm afraid it is." Piercing green eyes searched the skies restlessly. "This will be the final stand. If we cannot win tonight, we will fall."

"How can you be so sure?" Seifer asked.

"This is the hininjou destroyer," Cloud replied uneasily. "This is what consumed our world as me, Sephiroth, and Yuffie fled."

"So you don't know if it can be stopped?" Zell asked.

"It devoured our entire world within mere seconds of our departure. It's like an insatiable glutton," Sephiroth replied. "Nothing can stop it." Aquamarine eyes narrowed. "But, this does not mean we can't try."

"Scatter!" Zell suddenly shouted.

As the small group of six took off in opposite directions, the oozing tendril suddenly started to form into several dozen imps the size of a small child.

"This looks promising," Seifer growled, holding himself at ready to box whatever came his way. Having lost Hyperion against one of the sumo wrestler-like hininjou, he was left with the same bare-fisted techniques Zell resorted to.

"Here they come," Yuffie warned.

The tendril of darkness ebbed into the last of the Shadows; the small onyx imps regarded their opposition with cold vermillion eyes before springing.

Unfortunately for them, Lion Heart and Masamune cut through their innumerable ranks before any real fight could begin.

"This isn't right," Squall noted. "Where's all the big guys?"

"You're complaining?" Yuffie shot back.

"Zell, move!" Sephiroth growled, seeing another tendril dipping into the ravaged ground to release more of those cursed Shadows. Before the thread of darkness could completely spawn it's imps, the diamond haired warrior leapt forward, Masamune flashing in the ill light.

A great shrieking cry shattered the thick air as the blade inadvertently sliced through not only the Shadows, but the tendril as well.

Cloud saw another one flying down at his lover and dashed forward, swinging his sakaba upwards to bat the wretched energy away. In the corner of his vision, he saw another set plunging for the ground.

"I think we pissed it off," Squall grunted, taking a sloppy shot at the twin tendrils. He grimaced when they were replaced with a trio. "Zell, Seifer, try to stay away from these things."

"I can fight fine, Leonhart," Seifer growled, kicking away an errant hininjou to prove his point.

"Not without Hyperion," Squall argued. He took a two handed swing at a descending tendril and shot away an imp poised to attack Zell. "If you can't kill them, you're no good."

"Then you give me your Gunblade and you sit down."

"Shut the hell up and sit tight," Squall growled, raking the point of Lion Heart over a wispy thread trying to root into the ground. "The hells..." he muttered, watching in fascination as little red lanterns floated up from the now retreating tendril.

"Watch it!" Sephiroth yelled. "They look cute but they spit fire."

As if to reenforce his point, the little red lantern glowed golden before spitting a wad of fire at Squall. The little thing squeaked when it saw the business end of Lion Heart flying at it, zipping away before it could be destroyed.

"Dammit. They're fast," Squall growled, trying to slice at more of the speedy little demons.

"Never mind them!" Zell hissed, knocking a blueish lantern away from his face. He made a quick, upward motion before dodging behind Seifer.

Cloud looked upward, startling blue eyes going wide. "Everyone, scatter!"

As the command echoed through the night and the small group went in opposite directions, a large hand hit against the ground with the force of an aggravated giant. The resulting shockwave sent everyone to the ground.

"The fuck is that?!" Seifer breathed, edging away from the poisonous black pool that was leaking everywhere.

Cloud sprung to his feet, sakaba slicing away at the 'wrist' of the gigantic hininjou, the wide sword taking out the small imps that started spawning from the ill looking puddle.

As the others recovered, another volley of tendrils touched the ground, spawning a practical army of hininjou in a matter of seconds. Deafening screams pierced the pseudo-night as deadly aimed throwing stars sliced through the wisps.

Sephiroth saw a pair of winged hininjou diving at a distracted Zell with deadly claws outstretched. He brought Masamune to bear, slicing the airborne imp cleanly in two. "Get a weapon or sit this one out," he warned darkly, taking a swing at one of the imps trying to sneak up on his turned back.

"There's too many!" Yuffie pointed out, now using her throwing starts as daggers of the sort.

"There's nothing we can do," Cloud replied, his sakaba cleaving a trio of jerky hininjou. He felt something whisper past his tattered cloak and spun on his heel, seeing an army of little yellow lanterns bobbing in the air. He brought his weapon to bear on them and received a shock great enough to send him to his knees.

"Cloud! Get up!" Sephiroth growled, destroying another imp before turning on the yellow lanterns. He saw them glowing white, the hair on the back of his neck standing on end. Before he could utter a warning, a rapid blast of gunfire shot over his head.

The little lanterns exploded in an array of blinding colors, lightning strikes suddenly cracking against the ground. At the same time, another hand hit the ground, unleashing more of the hininjou.

Zell boxed the closest creatures upside the head, doing no more then stunning them long enough to open up his escape route. The tattooed blond jumped on one solider's head and kicked another's in with enough force to shatter its skull. He saw an imp sneaking up on Seifer, who was engaged in warfare with one of the winged imps. He leapt forward, intending to tackle the stealthy devil behind the taller blond.

"Zell! Don't!" Yuffie screamed, seeing another hand plummeting towards the ground. "MOVE!" she tried to ward the imposing limb away with her stars, but only succeeded in angering it. "Squall! Shoot that damned thing!"

Cloud, being closer, saw the descending hand and tried to ready his sakaba to cleave it in half. In that moment of spilt concentration, a winged imp sneaking up on the blond warrior and raked deceptively sharp claws down his arm.

As the sakaba dropped to the ground, so did the hand. The only scream that was heard was from Cloud as the hininjou converged on him; as the hand withdrew, any trace of Zell's existence had been erased.

Sephiroth pushed aside his own knot of opponents, hearing Cloud's vainly repressed screams from under the writhing pile of imps and soldiers. Masamune flashed in the violent light, slicing through the mass with practiced grace. As Cloud came into sight, he felt Squall's blade pass by his back and the twitching forms of a imp fall to either side of him.

Seifer, left in the same defenseless position as Zell had been, was growing angry with his own hopeless situation to the point he was rending the hininjou's heads off with his bare hands. He worked his way closer to Squall, knowing there was refuge behind Lion Heart.

Yuffie destroyed a soldier going for Seifer, her eyes darting over to Cloud and Sephiroth. "Seph, get him out of here!"

"I'm not going anywhere," Cloud growled, trying to recover his sakaba. But, with his diamond haired love holding him like a scared child and his injuries, he couldn't move much. "Let. Go," he hissed.

Yuffie reached for more stars, the faint realization that she had exhausted her supplies dawning on her like a cold slap. The ninja girl dodged forward for Cloud's weapon when the ground started rumbling.

Slowly, cracks started forming in the earth as columns of angry black and amethyst shot up like twisted magma. The deadly pillars joined with the miasma in the sky and suddenly, everything grew still as the hininjou that hadn't been destroyed withdrew from the fight.

"I don't like this," Squall murmured.

Suddenly, the low rumbling turned into a violent earthquake as a curtain of acrid black descended from the skies, glowing vermillion eyes perched atop the forming head of a gigantic beast.

"Me neither," Seifer agreed.

A soul shattering roar filled the thick air, shattering the fragmented ground like a rock against glass. The hininjou started attacking from the clouds in wave after unbeatable wave.

"We must leave! They'll destroy this world soon!" Sephiroth growled, gathering a stunned Yuffie up into his grasp. "Seifer, Squall, come! There isn't much time."

Not needing to be told twice, Squall started forward after the snow haired drifter. Before he was completely out of the area, he heard a yell that made his heart stop. "SEIFER!" The brunet skidded to a halt and turned sharply, seeing the hininjou converging on his lover like they had Cloud. He looked down at Lion Heart. You'd better help him. "Catch!"

"Don't!" Seifer knocked away the imps and winged creatures, his eyes trained on the Gunblade flying at him. That idiot!

Squall prayed his weapon would reach the tall blond safely, his stormy eyes widening when he saw a spindly hand coalesce from the curtain of shadows, a pair of cat-like eyes appearing as well. The hand, hued green and edged with long back claws caught Lion Heart like it was nothing.

"Tell him good bye," a deceptively soothing voice hissed, a full figure coming into view as the weapon wielding arm moved in a quick stabbing motion. "Tell him good bye for the last time, Squall."

The teenager's breath caught as Lion Heart slit his throat open neatly, bringing the proud fighter to his knees, emerald eyes trained hazily on his lover's. A smile, genuine and warm, quirked over his lips before he fell forward.

"Before he falls, say a sweet goodbye."

"Seifer! No, don't!" Squall limped forward, falling to his knees and holding his dead lover to him. "Don't leave me, Seif. Not like everyone else. Don't leave me here alone."

"Squall! He's gone!" Sephiroth yelled, heart constricting painfully as he clung to Cloud. "Come on!"

A single tear slipped down Squall's bruised face as he placed a sweet kiss against Seifer's lips. "I-I love you," he whispered. He felt sudden claws tear down his back, dragging him back to reality and Sephiroth's calls. "GO! Take them and leave!" Anger started to spread through the teenager's heart, seeming to feed the hininjou. He could feel a blinding force begging to be let go in the depth of his soul.

"Yes, fall to the darkness."

"SQUALL! COME ON!"

Another tear trailed down Squall face as he called forth the buried power of the Guardian Forces. Seifer, wait for me, he whispered to the heavens as he unleashed the blind fury in his soul, feeling Griever's suppressed power rip him apart as he was released.

The last thing he felt was Seifer's comforting touch as his world faded to white and his body slumped forward bonelessly.

* * * *

It hurt. No, scratch that. It killed. It felt as if I had been thrown into the fires of Hell and dragged around by a Harpie for a few hours. I groaned and tried to sit up, but a gentle hand forced me back down. I slowly opened my eyes, blinking against the soft glow of a nearby lamp. "W-Where am I?"

"Good question," a female voice replied.

I looked over and saw a familiar ninja woman, Yuffie I think, staring at me with sad eyes. "What happened?" Why in the hells do I feel so god awful?

"You don't remember?" She looked shocked.

"I remember..." Not much. Bits of fight, a lot of pain, and... "Where's Seifer!" I looked around and didn't find him anywhere. "Yuffie!" I growled when I saw a flash of pain cross her face. "Where in the hells is Seifer?!" I know she was with us during the fight and would know where he is.

"He's not here," another, male voice snapped bitterly.

I looked in the shadows and saw a shock of untamed blond hair belonging to a sullen and beat up guy no older then me glaring hard in my general direction. "Where is he then?" Wait, he had that large sword... Cloud.

Cloud's eyes just went harder, now edged with misery. "He died, Squall."

I felt my own eyes widen. "No! He's not dead. How could that be?!" If Seifer was gone, I would have remembered! He has to be here.

"Squall," Yuffie said softly. "When your world was attacked, Zell and Seifer died. You used this strange attack that destroy all the little hininjou. We barely escaped before the destroyer devoured your world."

I looked at the ground, lost. 'A strange attack'? What in the hells is that supposed to... mean... The Guardian Forces. "What did the attack look like?" Please, don't mention Seifer again. He's not dead. He's just missing.

"Like a fire lion," Cloud replied shortly.

Griever. But, why would I use him for such a minor battle? It explains why I hurt so badly and the loss of memory. But, why?

"When you went unconscious, we thought you were dead," Yuffie continued in a whisper. "Sephiroth insisted on going to get you. Somehow, he knew you were alive."

"Shut up," Cloud hissed venomously.

"What happened?" I asked.

"The same bitch that slit Seifer's throat took Sephiroth," Cloud replied, tone cold as ice, if not colder. "She said to watch for the Heartless more carefully and to search for Malevescent for revenge."

...Slit his throat? No...

Squall prayed his weapon would reach the tall blond safely, his stormy eyes widening when he saw a spindly hand coalesce from the curtain of shadows, a pair of cat-like eyes appearing as well. The hand, hued green and edged with long back claws caught Lion Heart like it was nothing.

"Tell him good bye," a deceptively soothing voice hissed, a full figure coming into view as the weapon wielding arm moved in a quick slicing motion. "Tell him good bye for the last time, Squall."

The teenager's breath caught as Lion Heart slit his throat open neatly, bringing the proud fighter to his knees, emerald eyes trained hazily on his lover's. A smile, genuine and warm, quirked over his lips before he fell forward.

I blinked at the flash of memory, choking on a sob as I buried my face in the pillows. The battle, the blood... It all came back at me in a violent rush. Seifer... He died because of my Gunblade. He... Seifer's gone.

"Hey, c'mon now, Squall," Yuffie tried. "It couldn't have been helped."

"Couldn't have been helped?!" I seethed, digging my teeth into the pillow after a short, "Whatever" to the ninja girl. My world shrank down to a few bare thoughts, everything else falling away like everything else in my life.

Seifer had to be avenged.

The Heartless had to die.

And I realized had no idea how to do either.

* * * *

The throne room fell silent after the lengthy explanation, the small, strange king mulling over the tale that had been spun for him from the threads of utter despair and heartbreak. Everything was deathly silent, those present waiting for him to say something -anything- to the foreigner standing at terse attention before him. Finally, he sighed and shook his head. "Personally, there is nothing I can do for you."

"What?" the dark haired man all but growled, taking a threatening step forward. "I thought-"

"Let me finish, stranger," the king interjected. "While the Heartless spread through the worlds like a plague, there is one person who can save us."

"Who?"

"Do not scoff at this, but a young child." The king paused, worrying the cuff of his ceremonial robe. "Two children, to be honest. Both may be the Keyblade Master, but I fear one of them will fall to the darkness of Kingdom Hearts."

A mage to the side quite rudely barged in. "The world containing the Destiny Islands is where these children reside for little more then a short time," he stated it a sanctimonious, yet annoying scratchy voice. "The Heartless are almost upon their world and I have foreseen the fall of the first Master of the Kingdom Key."

"So-" the king tried.

"The boy you will want to seek out is Sora," the mage interrupted. "If my prophesy is correct, you will travel to Traverse Town and wait for him there."

The king gave a weary sigh, shooting the egotistical mage a rather dirty look. "Do not loose heart, Squall. It will take time for the Keyblade Master to appear, but when he does, guide him with what you have learned in your years. I have no doubt your knowledge will aid our little savior when he needs it the most."

Squall nodded, tilting his head toward the ground. "And what of my other quest?"

"Do not seek revenge," the king replied. "Your friend, Cloud, has fallen to the darkness as he has searched for that which he has lost; I have seen this personally. Do not follow his path, Squall. Keep a clear head and do not loose faith."

The eternally heartbroken fighter nodded and turned on his heel, now having his answers and a direction to go in after ten long years of blind stumbling. Before he passed the grandiose doors, he turned and paused with a thoughtful light burning in his stormy eyes. "By the way, it's Leon."

The king nodded, a small smile donning his face. "May the gods be kinder to you... Leon, in this new life you will lead."

The man formerly known as Squall nodded and swept away from the grand palace towards a future he knew little of with only the timid hope that this child would be the one to save them all.

-Fins.