Disclaimer: Let's just get this out of the way… I don't own Final Fantasy VIII, its characters, or anything to do with Squaresoft. I only own a personal copy of the game and other various collector's items. *cough* Anyway. On with the show!

Ballad for the Desolate

Shadows and light were swirling on the ruined battlefield of space. Stars were falling, and she thought for one moment that she could hear each one's wails as they plummeted to their end. Memories and daydreams came crashing down on her… wave after wave of loneliness, momentary triumph, and regret. Time was compressing; fusing everything she had ever known into a single instant. The instant seemed to be an eternity, however.

She first saw the execution of her biological parents through a crack in her family's kitchen cabinet. She saw the blood flow from the fatal wounds that they had sustained… but, above all, she remembered the lifeless blue of her mother's eyes as they passed from life to heartless death…

Cut scene.

She saw Matron's soothing eyes and felt her warm presence. She felt the cleansing ocean breeze for the first time as she stepped into the home she thought she would never leave. She saw her dearest friends in the childhood they had all shared. First, Selphie Tilmitt… with a spark and a passion nothing in heaven or earth could quench. Irvine Kinneas… continually patient, with a comforting ease and boyish charm that drew everyone he met into his arms. Zell Dincht… the lovable jester with a heart of gold and a purity that transcended all reason. Next, she saw Squall Leonhart… a subdued boy with fierce determination and a captivating silence. His silence, combined with his stormy grey eyes, wrenched every beating heart. Finally, she saw Seifer Almasy. Seifer with his endless jade eyes and the heart of a lost little boy… hidden under a rough and broken exterior.

She saw all these things, and then saw herself… but she blinded herself to the point where all she viewed was a child filled with unspoken daydreams and a natural sense of order. She could not see the joy that had once filled the girl's inherited blue eyes. She could not see the freedom that existed beyond the pain…

She saw countless perfect flower chains… each one meticulously crafted between her soft, innocent fingertips. She saw those same chains presented to Squall, who looked uncertainly between the flowers and the gift-bearer, then walked away without a word. She saw the chains stolen by Seifer… torn, petal by petal, into tattered shreds. She felt the anger, the dismay, and the pain rise up into her throat. She saw the same pain reflected in her adversary's eyes.

The scene cut again… this time to the event of her adoption.

She saw herself led away, a look of confusion and desperation etched across sun kissed features. She saw her new adopted father's lingering gaze, one that caused her to cry out the first name that found her lips. "Seifer! Seifer! Don't let me leave! Don't let me!" She saw the pair of jade orbs she was so familiar with gaze at her callously, with a barely detectable hint of longing… but it was too late. She was miles away from him, Matron, and the rest of her true kin.

Another cut scene.

This time, she saw herself on her first day as an Instructor for Balamb Garden. Timidly, but with a perfect elegance and confidence that was near to being real, she began the day's lesson. She scanned the classroom until she saw a pair of silent grey eyes partially covered by long wisps of chocolate-brown hair. She glanced down at her newly-made seating chart and addressed the boy sitting alone in the back of her class.

"Squall… Squall Leonhart. Tell me your current knowledge of Guardian Force junctioning," she queried with an authoritative tone.

"Isn't that what we're supposed to learn from you, Instructor?" a challenging voice inquired, also from the back.

Quistis shifted her gaze to the source of the challenge, where her own cerulean orbs were met with a fierce jade pair. Something in those emerald eyes sparked a flicker of feeling into the young teacher's already frozen heart. Whether it was insult, redemption, or resentment, she would never be able to tell. Another quick glance to her neatly organized seating chart. "Almasy… Seifer Almasy. Insolence and misbehavior will not be tolerated in this classroom," she declared, voice as chilling and ordered as her crystalline eyes. She gave him a look that would have frozen a wildfire, as if she was daring him to challenge her. The gaze that met hers was equally determined, but with a fiery passion fueled by years of tribulations no child should bear…

This memory faded into another… the afternoon that defeated her…

She was watching Seifer disappear into the shadows, followed by his new temptress. She was seducing him with promises and dreams. She was teasing him with a hope for success and an escape from failure. Quistis could only stand, paralyzed, as he followed this sorceress to what she was sure would be his demise. She remembered locking eyes with him, seeing the pain etched across his fact as plainly as the scar across his forehead. She saw the boy she had reached and called out for, and she saw him disappear into the tangible darkness. In that instant, she knew that she had truly failed. She had not been able to save him from the madness he was lured into…

All of these memories, and countless others, flooded her mind. It caused her to whimper into the quickly decaying darkness. Pain ravaged her body and soul as she witnessed every regret and failure she had ever experienced over and over again. Time was compressing… it was almost too late. She tried to focus on where she wanted to go, but she could think of nowhere. She could not think of anywhere that she truly wanted to be. There had been many pleasant times at the orphanage, but those childhood days were long gone. She had lost her instructor's license, been declared a failure. Garden held no promise for her anymore.

She tried to focus on who she wanted to be with instead. Squall was surely with his angel, and deep in her heart she knew that he had never truly cared about her. Her friends cared, but they could never understand. And she would never let them close enough to see her pain. They would never see her cry. They could never see the loneliness that consumed her… the fear that distanced her from contact. They would always be blind to the lost little girl that was sobbing… desperate to be held forever…

The only person that had ever seen her for what she truly was had been Seifer. They had inflicted so much agony upon themselves and each other that they had become kindred spirits, though very different from one another. She was structured… Seifer was chaos. They were both filled with seemingly hopeless dreams and illegible fragments of youth.

As this new idea dawned on her, amongst the crumbling surroundings and the chaos of a shattered dream, Quistis Trepe yearned for truth. She no longer wished for the lies that helped her go to sleep at night, only to wake with realization of the façade. She wanted to be rid of her false apathy.

She closed her eyes and concentrated. The world gave a jolt, and Quistis' head was spinning. Vivid and subdued colors blurred violently, and she realized she was falling. With trained reflexes, she repositioned herself and landed on her feet with a resounding thud. After a moment and a controlled breath, she took in her surroundings. It was twilight on the shores of Balamb Beach. The stars were just beginning to fade into the sky. The gentle lapping of ocean waves against her rigid boots began to awaken her senses. Save the Queen was at her hip, and her honey-tinted hair had fallen out across her porcelain shoulders.

After her eyes had readjusted, she spotted an odd shape sprawled out across the shore a few yards off. Cautiously, she made her way over to the figure. A shock of golden hair reflecting the waning moon caught her eye, and a tattered grey trench coat swaying with the waves caused realization. Swiftly, she lifted the fallen knight and dragged him to the outer rim of soft green grass. She checked his breathing and pulse, then observed a horrifying gash across his abdomen. Quickly, she removed his trench coat and tried to stop the bleeding. A soft moan escaped his lips as his eyelids fluttered open.

His once proud and bright emerald eyes were now filled with defeat and hopelessness. Their luster and arrogance had faded. All that was left was the scared, lost little boy that Quistis had first known as a child. He groaned and tried to sit up, only to be repressed by Quistis' firm grip. She tucked a strand of strawberry-blonde hair behind her ear as she leaned over Seifer. She watched him intently, and once again met his eyes. This time, however, there was no animosity. Only a vulnerability and utter despair that cut her deeper than anything in her past. She wanted to put an end to his pain. She wanted to compensate for all his fear. Hot tears rose up to her eyes, and fell hesitantly on Seifer's clothing. He furrowed his brow, taken by surprise, and lifted a worn, calloused hand to wipe Quistis' eyes.

There was a bond of understanding between them… the fallen knight and the frozen queen… and it transcended all reason. Quistis continued to cry silently, laying her head down over Seifer's now rhythmically rising and falling chest. He stroked her flaxen hair and wrapped his arms around her. Not a word was spoken, and not a word was necessary. The two broken souls lay there until daybreak, when the sun spread its glory across the horizon, and brought the promise of a new day…

Author's Note: So there's a little button right below this note… a magical button that lets you communicate with me. I don't care if you flame me or sing my praises… I wrote this story because it was in my heart, and I wanted to share it. Thanks for reading!