Disclaimer: I don't own FFVIII or any of it's chars...yet...mwhaha...one or two of the chars in here are mine though.

Author's note: This is my first fic...Quisty was always my favorite character, and it looks like she's the one who would end up the most unhappy at the end...no fair! So, since the pen is mightier than the gun blade, here goes! Please R & R...that way I know if people are enjoying this and what not, and what changes to make; I feel bad now for all the people whose stories I read and then didn't respond...(cries)

Athena Forlorn

Chp. 1

Quistis Trepe squeezed her way past several groups of chattering students and SeeDs in the crowded cafeteria, absentmindedly searching for her one friend whose appearances here were as perfect as clockwork. Finally spying Zell in a far off corner, she carefully made her way over, refusing to resort to the childish pushing and shoving methods employed by the other inhabitants of Balamb Garden. With a rather frustrated sigh she perched on one of the cafeteria's conventional plastic chairs, appearing completely lady-like in spite of her simple blue jeans and long sleeved blue shirt, hair held up by clips as usual. Disturbed, she looked on as Zell attempted to coat a precious hot dog in enough ketchup to entirely cover the bun.

"Yo Quisty! What's happening?"

He didn't bother to look up as he finally put the (now nearly empty) ketchup bottle on the table and picked up his food, trying to keep any of the condiments from staining his training gloves in the process. Quistis sighed and cupped her chin in her hand, leaning against the table.

"You know, I really do hate to admit this, but I'm actually...bored." She told him, gazing about the brightly lit room. "Ever since we managed to defeat Ultemecia, no one has had any requests for SeeD. I was grateful for the rest, but it's been three entire weeks! It used to be that I would have been busy with lesson plans, but since I'm not an Instructor anymore..."

Zell finally managed to glance up, the hot dog halfway to his mouth and dripping ketchup onto the paper plate sitting on the table. He gave her a concerned frown before devouring half the hot dog in one bite.

"Welf...'aybe ew shud-"

"Please Zell...chew, swallow, then talk." Zell paused for a moment, obliging.

"I was saying, well, maybe you should apply for an Instructor's permit again, if you miss it so much and all...You know that all of us are gonna support you."

"We support you Ms. Trepe!!" Came a shout from behind her. Startled, Quistis turned around to see two boys who had been sitting at the opposite table, now on their feet and saluting her, dewy eyed. "We just knew that you missed us Ms. Trepe, as much as we've missed you!" The other boy nodded, a faint shade of red. "W-we'll go to He-headmaster Cid r-right now, to sp-sp-speak on your behalf!" They turned and raced out of the cafeteria, tripping over chairs in their eagerness, and leaving their friends flustered.

Zell watched them go with a slightly cheeky grin, which twisted the tattoo on the side of his face so that it was more jagged than usual. "Man Quisty, I gotta say I'm jealous...So what's it like having your own fan club?"

Quistis rolled her azure eyes at his reference to the 'Trepies,' an expanding group of students who paid her as much homage as the ancients did any goddess. She was spared from answering however, when Zell suddenly leapt up, his expression changed to one of surprise and pleasure. "Lily!" He cried, jogging over and giving the pig-tailed girl a one armed hug, which would probably have crushed her slight form if he hadn't been so careful. "You're off library duty early today!"

They seated themselves at the table, and Lily gave a soft sigh, reaching for the paper napkin dispenser. "Of course I'm off early today Zell...you said that we were going to have dinner at your mother's house tonight, remember? I'm a bit nervous, but I suppose it's about time..." She wiped a smear of ketchup off of Zell's cheek with one of the napkins, then suddenly turned stern. "You didn't forget, did you?"

By the look on his face, Zell obviously had. He gave a nervous laugh and waved one of his large hands around awkwardly. "No way, of course not Lily! Heh, we can leave right now if you'd like."

"But aren't you full? You've just eaten for Shiva's sake! Quistis, how many hot dogs did he have!?"

Quistis smiled. "I'm pretty positive that Zell will be able to eat his mother's cooking, regardless of how many hot dogs he's eaten."

"Hmm...that's true. He does seem to have a trash compactor in place of a stomach. Well, you're just a growing boy!" She reached over and attempted to ruffle up Zell's blond hair, made all the more difficult by the gobs of gel he must be using every morning. "Hey hey hey!" He cried, dodging backwards, "Don't mess with the 'do!" Lily giggled and grabbed his hand, dragging him up with her, before waving a goodbye to Quistis as they made towards the cafeteria doors.

Zell turned around for a moment to walk backwards, cupping his mouth with his free hand as he shouted; "Yo Quisty! Are you gonna be ok here on your own?" Quistis blinked at him, surprised at his seemingly uncalled for concern. She put her hands on the table in front of her and stood up. "Of course I will...I think I'll go looking for one of the others right now- perhaps they will have discovered some new and sinister plot to pilfer the Garden's supply of GF's and hotdogs..." she said, with only a slight touch of sarcasm.

"Umm...Rinoa was reading in the library when I signed out." Lily told her. "She might still be in there." Quistis nodded curtly. "Alright then, thank you. Now go and have fun you two!" She crossed her arms and smiled as the couple left the cafeteria, headed towards the garage...Lily wouldn't want to walk after such a long day working.

It was always amusing to see the loud, flamboyant, almost childish Zell tag along after the cute yet quiet bookworm like an overzealous puppy dog. He had been so nervous when he asked Lily out for the first time that his face color had just about matched that of his cherry red shoes. Not that he had anything to worry about; it was well known gossip (in the library circle, at least) that Lily had her eyes set on him for quite a while. Sometimes, when Quistis saw them walking together in the quad or in front of the dorms, she felt a small, dull ache in her chest. She felt it now as well, but regained control and pushed it away as quickly as it had come.

--

With a metallic "Vwoosh", the library doors slid open for Quistis and she strode in, turning her head slightly from side to side, searching for Rinoa. Really, out of all the people Quistis was closest to, Rinoa was not the first on her list. It's not that she didn't like her, just that they too frequently had differences of opinion...alright, attitude as well. Too often, the bubbly Rinoa seemed less friendly to Quistis and more immature than anything else. Granted, she had improved greatly recently, only throwing one small tantrum when Headmaster Cid informed her that her dog, Angelo, was not to be allowed inside Garden...she won that debate in the end, as well.

She would probably feel more comfortable having some tea with Squall or engaging in some long overdue "girl talk" with Selphie, or even a game of Triple Triad with the mild mannered Irvine. However, Squall had disappeared at least an hour ago and was no where to be found, something Quistis had learned long ago meant that he didn't WANT to be found. As for Selphie and Irvine...they had disappeared too, together. Quistis didn't have the courage to see where THOSE two had ended up. For the moment though, Quistis was bored enough that a potted plant would have made good company, and under the hypothesis that Rinoa was currently more mature than a potted plant, she was the best choice. In truth, it did seem that the cheerful girl was going out of her way to improve her friendship with Quistis, something Quistis was willing to give her credit for.

Finally, she found Rinoa seated at one of the long pine tables in the back, several books tossed next to her in a haphazard pile. Rinoa had the tip of her index finger on one of the pages and was deeply engrossed in whatever it was she was reading, therefore failing to notice Quistis' approach until she was standing right behind her.

"Hi Rinoa...what is it you're reading?" Rinoa jumped about a foot out of her chair, her book falling to the table with a clatter. "Eek!! Oh...Quistis, it's you..." Rinoa turned red, embarrassed, as she picked up her book again and flipped through a few pages, finding her spot. Quistis laughed quietly. "Sorry for frightening you." She picked up one of the other stray books on the table and searched for its title. "Bippity Boppity Boo...Sorceresses and What They Can Do to You...who wrote this trash?"

Rinoa looked up, eying the book warily. "Yea, that one's not very good at all..." she shook her head, her dark hair swaying back and forth. "This one here is much better at least...not like that, that...bleh!" She said, sticking her tongue out at the other book. Quistis rolled her eyes just a little. "Well, what's the one you're reading now?"

"Umm...It's...lessee...The Life and Times of the Most Misunderstood People of Our Era: Sorceresses." Rinoa smiled brightly at Quistis, who raised an arched eyebrow- in her opinion, that book seemed just a tad bit slanted as well. Still, she couldn't blame Rinoa for choosing it over the last one. "Rinoa, if you don't mind me asking, exactly why are you reading all these sorts of books right now?"

Rinoa fingered the two necklaces she wore on the silver chain around her neck, a nervous habit of hers. One of which was Squall's ring, which Rinoa was supposed to have returned after Zell made a copy of it for her, yet somehow she had never gotten around to it. Not that Squall minded so much anymore...

"Er...umm...well...I just, you know, wanted to know how many there have been, and what sort of people they were, and what kinda things they did...you know..." she mumbled, so quietly that Quistis had trouble fully understanding her.

"And how people saw them as well, I'm assuming."

"Yea...something like that."

Quistis smiled at Rinoa in understanding. Ever since Rinoa had been forced to become a sorceress, she had been nervous about what people would think of her, especially her close friends. The five of them had quickly dispersed her fears, yet could do little to quell her doubts about the other members of the Garden, and the population of the rest of the planet, for that matter. Rinoa smiled back.

"Not all of them were seen as terrible evil things which needed to be killed. Some of them actually did things like use their powers to help people! You know, protect the defenseless, save the endangered, rescue kittens stuck in trees! Or...um...whatever good things, I guess. People actually liked them too. Although, deep down, people always had their suspicions..." She sighed for a moment, looking depressed, then suddenly bounced back.

"Oh, Quisty, I've been meaning to ask you something! I've been thinking lately...and I kinda remember how when we were out traveling, you know, all of us together, and we had to fight...I could never really fight as well as the rest of you. I just wasn't as well prepared, I suppose. So, I was wondering, do you think I could start taking some classes here? I mean, I don't want to become a SeeD, but I think that if I learn more, then I'll be more ready for anything that comes our way. Besides," She added quickly, tucking some of her hair behind her ear in another nervous gesture, "I should probably learn more about my magic, and how to control it, in case..." She didn't finish her sentence.

Quistis nodded. "Of course. I don't see why not. I suggest that you mention this to Squall...He can help you to enroll."

"Thanks! Oh, hey, umm...I've also been kinda wondering...don't you think we've been here too long? Stationed at Balamb, I mean. Shouldn't we be, like, out there fighting baddies and stuff?" Quistis frowned in irritation and tucked several loose strands of her own blond hair behind her ear. "Yes, I think so as well, but I don't know what it is we could do. We've defeated Ultemecia; Matron has returned to exactly what she was; and the Galbadian Empire is starting to fall. There just isn't any use for mercenaries recently." Quistis shrugged and smiled at the irony of the situation: This calm was exactly what Garden's goal had been to achieve, and now look at the trouble it was causing. A nearby voice interrupted Quistis' thoughts.

"This lack of action is exactly what is being discussed right now." Xu had just brusquely entered the library, wearing as always her complete uniform. Quistis respectfully stood at attention, and Rinoa nervously followed, after a moment. Rinoa bit her lip, not sure if she would be looked at reproachfully for speaking right now, (doing ANYTHING in a military base when she was still technically a "civie" seemed to be enough to get her scolded these days), but decided she would make the venture anyway. "Umm...Xu, how much longer till you're going to be finished? Squall's with you, right? There's something I'd like to talk to him about, if it's not, um, too much trouble..." She said, her voice getting quieter as she went on. Xu shook her head crisply, her short hair swishing back and forth.

"We still haven't managed to decide on anything yet, that's why I am here. Quistis, Squall and the Headmaster request your presence in the cockpit." Quistis furrowed her brow, taken slightly aback. "Just me?" "Yes, you're the only one they asked for."

To be honest, Quistis couldn't remember the last time that there had been any sort of meeting without Irvine, Selphie, Zell, and even Rinoa included...after the SeeD ball, she supposed, when it had just been her and Squall. No...that most certainly didn't count. She had just pulled rank on him that night.

Rinoa gave a little sniff, probably offended that Squall hadn't asked for her to go too. "Well, ok then. Bye bye Quisty! Tell Squall to meet me in the cafeteria as soon as he's done, ok?" She wagged a finger at Quistis, as though reprimanding her. "Don't forget now! I really need to talk to him!"

"Alright already...I won't forget Rinoa, don't worry. I'm sure that Squall would much rather be here with you than in a meeting anyway." Though I'm not quite sure why. She couldn't help but add to herself. Oh well, I suppose that's what the poets are speaking of whenever they talk about the 'power of love.' Oh well...as long as he doesn't neglect his duties, he can do whatever he wants.

Quistis followed Xu out of the library and towards the elevator which was the hub of Garden's circular shape. As they silently walked, she couldn't help but feel a surge of pride at Squall, HER student's, accomplishments. He was now the commander of all Balamb Garden's SeeDs...and that whole saving time and the world thing was a nice addition to his resume as well. Quistis knew that nearly all of that was Squall just using his natural born talents, yet as his teacher, she must have done SOMETHING right, right? This thought made her frown. Even though it was her student that had excelled, (and even Seifer had excelled, in his own twisted way), they had still ended her teaching career. It just didn't make any sense to her...