When the Battle is Over

The Orphanage Gang was gathering. It had been well over a decade since the sorceress War and nearly as many years since all of the gang had been together in the same room. It was not a celebration or battle they gathered for though. This battle had long since been over. They came to say goodbye to one of their own.

"How is he?" Asked a stately blonde who had just arrived and was greeted by a non-bouncing Zell.

"Holding on, if just. It's amazing he's made it this long. But we all know he's a stubborn one. The doctors told Seifer to not expect much longer than tomorrow by dusk. Unless of course there's some miracle."

"Will the others make it on time?" Quistis had pulled out a tissue to dab at her eyes and was finding it difficult to keep her voice from shaking.

"Laguna and Ellone have been here for a while. Irvine and Selphie are expected any time." Zell who normally seemed so optimistic and so full of life even at 29, now he seemed as if there was a shadow before him and a deep sorrow in his eyes. Not surprisingly though. He had been with their failing comrade for nearly a year helping out while he could and slowly taking command of the Garden. Headmaster will go to Seifer, but Zell had a feeling it would take a long time for him to recover from this, if he ever did.

"Can I see him?"

"You have time still, he's with Matron right now. I don't know how Matron's going to take this. First Cid just over a year ago and now one of her kids..." The tattooed fighter takes a moment to stare off into the distance, thinking of better times or hard times to come is unknown. A touch to his shoulder brings him back to reality. "Sorry, been picking up some people's bad habits lately." A thin smile graces his lips. "Anyway let me bring your stuff to your room right now. I'll bring you to his room after you grab something to eat. Okay?" He doesn't wait for a response before grabbing her bag.

"Thanks. A meal sounds really good. I've just been so worried I wouldn't get here on time. You're a really caring person Zell."

"Aw come on now Quistis, now's not the time to make me blush." Zell ducked his head slightly and led Quistis to the dormitories.

*~~* *~~* *~*~ *~~* *~~* *~*~ *~~* *~~*

"I still don't see how it's fair." The older man pouted. Laguna Loire former leader of the nation of Esthar, proud father of the World's hero and elated Step Father and Grandfather to Ellone the first lady of Esthar whose husband, an ex white seed commander is now president of, looked quite foolish with his long greying hair pulled in a loose pony sitting on a chair and pouting like a 6 year old who doesn't get the second serving of dessert.

"No more of that old man." Seifer near growled outside a door leading into the Headmaster's rooms. "He's putting on a brave front for all of us today and we should do the same. This isn't about us. He needs... he needs us to be strong for him so that he remembers the happy times and so tha... that when he's no lon..longer... here we can remember him as he'd want us to. He wants to say his good... his farewe... he wants to say something to every one who has touched his life... He already broadcasted an announcement to the garden yesterday." The tall blond braced himself on the wall beside the door. He had put on a brave front for too long and now, when he desperately needed one it seemed to crumble. He felt a touch on his shoulder and stirred.

"No one expects you to be so strong Seifer. This will hurt you most out of all of us I think. Take a moment to collect yourself than join us." Ellone. Squall's sis. Even as old as they were he still referred to her as such. Even with her own two kids in tow she would always be the big sis to an orphaned boy.

"It's just... just that all of these talks are like giving up... I know what the docs say. I know what he says, but he's so strong... Even now I want to believe he can beat it. But with all of his talking to everyone it's hard to keep hope... I think... I think... He's really gonna.... you know...." Seifer's shoulders shook. He had known the inevitable would happen for near a year now, but only at night or when the world was too quiet had it sunken in only to be pushed to the back of his mind, but now that thought wouldn't leave and he just couldn't see beyond it.

"Hush now Seifer, time enough for tears later. He hasn't given up you know that. He doesn't know how." Ellone patted him once more and handed him a tissue. "I'm gonna bring the girls in now to say hi to their uncle." With that she opened the door and led her two cute girls in.

The door beside Seifer opened and Edea stepped out into the hall, only just holding back tears. Seifer moved closer to her and slung an arm around her in a protective hug. She returned the embrace than parted. "I think I need some time to rest. Trying to be as strong as Squall has drained me. Excuse me." Seifer gave her one more pat on the shoulder before she made her exit. Although she was close to sixty she had a long life ahead of her still, as her sorceress powers extended her life. However her powers did nothing to ease the pain in her heart, knowing that this would most likely be only the first goodbye to one of her children, but not the last before eternal sleep also claimed her.

The three men still in the hall watched her walk off. An uneasy silence began to settle over them before Kiros broke it.

"How'd the broadcast go? Asked the older man whom had long since lost the braids for a more age appropriate look. He was no longer as fast and agile as he was in his youth but his wit was still as sharp as his blades used to be.

Seifer wiped his eyes and blew his nose. "It went well Kiros. Until the day he dies he'll swear he can't make s....wait I didn't mean that." His eyes moved quickly to Laguna's and Kiros' faces. It was a bad slip. But a saying used in everyday vocabulary. He started again. "He always says he can't make speeches, yet he can deliver the most empowering ones I've ever heard."

"I always felt he puts a bit of that heart he doesn't let people see into his speeches. They aren't made up in advance and he doesn't spout out lies, it's the truth and straight forward." Laguna interjected having heard many of Squall's passionate speeches over a variety of topics through the years.

"Yeah well he hasn't lost any of his skill. I don't think there was a dry eye in the place. He still doesn't see that people would gladly follow him into Hell, because they believe he can lead them back. He just thinks it's some odd respect for his position. Hardly. He's the best man I've ever known. I would sacrifice my life a million times for his...."

" I think we all feel the same about that last part. He just has a certain charm that makes you want to give it your all no matter what." Kiros sighed as he to leaned against the wall.

"Yeah well it was a gut wrenching speech. We asked if he wanted to say anything to the world he saved or the other gardens but all he did was blink with that innocence he still has and asked 'what would they care about me? They have their own worries.' That's my lion for you." The blond let out a small chuckle thinking how Squall could be so foolish. "Anyway we taped the announcement to the school. Gonna play it for the other gardens and stuff." He mumbled being once again on uncomfortable ground.

"Sounds like a marvellous idea Seifer."

The three lapsed back into silence, this time a sad and thoughtful silence, but not completely uncomfortable.

*~~* *~~* *~*~ *~~* *~~* *~*~ *~~* *~~*

"Selphie, Irvine! It's so good to see you two." Quistis embraced the usually happy couple.

"Well if you didn't run off so far away to Galbadia we might see each other more often." Stated the small brunette.

"As I recall it was you two who ran off to the rebuilt Trabia Garden and eloped on the way." Was the blonde's reply. The two females looked at each other for a few more seconds before breaking into grins and hugging each other again.

The two males in the room just stared baffle by the exchange. It seems it had become a ritual of sorts because each time the two would meet they would blame the other for the long separation but then break into laughter. Today the grimness of reality kept the laughter at bay but smiles were safe enough, and quite a welcome sight.

"How you doing Zell? You look wiped." Irvine asked as he shook Zell's hand in a half hug.

"What did you expect? It's been a crazy month. I think reality must have finally hit Seifer, he's been a mess, and so I've been doing both of their jobs and mine as well. I'm not complaining though. They deserve the time together after all they've done for the world and us. It's just that… well… I just wish it wasn't him. I just think that he deserved a lot better out of life. It isn't fair… I just wish..." Zell couldn't finish the sentence as all the pent up emotion of the last few days over took him.

"Hyne Zell. When was the last time you vented?" Irvine asked as he pulled Zell in for a real hug.

"I know you felt you had to be strong for Balamb-G, but you could've called us you know. We're still your friends" Selphie said as she joined in the hug. "And you're right you know. It shouldn't be him lying in that bed. But you know what? He'd be killing himself inside if it was any one of us."

"I just can't believe it. Until I arrived here I still held some hope that this wasn't really happening. That everything would work out ok." She too stepped up into the hug. "Hyne if we're breaking down in the middle of the day how is Seifer holding up?" Quistis asked as she wiped a tear away.

"He's been living in and out of denial. He'd spend every spare minute with Squall. Always by his side, even at the beginning when they were both still working. His mind has always known but I think his heart has finally accepted it too." Zell whispered still trapped in the giant group hug.

"Like a walking zombie isn't he? Trying to be the tough guy no doubt." Irvine muttered.

"I won't hold it against him, Probably the only thing keeping him from having a break down. Squall wouldn't want that."

"You're right Quisty. Squall's gotten better with emotions but if Seifer were to break down in front of him, I think he would too and then we'd all cry and then Garden would flood and then we'd all drown..." Selphie replied starting off serious and drifting to crazier thoughts. Three muffled groans greeted her rant but Selphie never could stay depressed for long.

"Guys, I'm finding it a bit hard to breath." Zell gasped.

The group broke apart with vague smiles and apologies. They stared at each other for a moment memories of happier days going through their minds.

"Do you think he's ready to see us now?" Quistis asked Zell. They had all collected themselves, and seemed ready to face Leonhart.

"Yeah, let's head over there."

~~~~~~~~

I don't know why I wanted to write something so sad and depressing (Because I'm putting off the next chapter of 7mos that just won't write itself for me). For the most part I don't enjoy death fics (Except for about three that were so well written one actually made me want to cry) but this idea came into my head while reading a marvelous book and it wouldn't leave (probably should have been studying for Calculus instead though). There will be three chapters... maybe an epilogue. I know the first chapter sort of jumps a bit but I wanted it to feel that way. I also wanted emotions all over too. Please review (and stroke my ego, or give me some constructive criticism... cause I know I'm not perfect) and see if you can guess what book I got the idea from. I'll give a hint it's from a fantasy trilogy. The scene in the novel actually made me cry (even when I reread it to steal some tips), I loved that character so much and the author is so good. It might be easier to guess after the last chapter

Special thanks to ZenCreation who has volunteered to beta my chapters for me!