Disclaimer: FF8 is property of Squaresoft and whoever owns it now. Not mine in any way, shape, form or manner.

Diablos perched atop an icy spire in Seifer's mindscape, looking around at the imposed order Shiva had placed on the fiery young man. He knew it wouldn't last, couldn't last. One of them would break sooner or later. He was torn about which one it would be. He knew he could alter the odds, but couldn't decide whom to bend to their breaking point more, first.

And then, Diablos thought it through logically; whomever breaking would cause the most pain to the others, of course. Gliding down from his pinnacle perch, Diablos wandered the uncomfortable cold, suppressing a shudder as he quelled his innate need, the desire to make sure his host was safest, and moved into the darkness, out of sight, but not out of mind, at the sense of Shiva's nightly approach beginning.

The icy Guardian Force entered in her usual grandiose manner, a giant shard of ice manifesting, and shattering, herself emerging from its center, it was a display Diablos had long ago grown bored of watching. As soon as he was certain Shiva was occupied with extending the enforced personality on Seifer, the resident guardian force reached mentally out, piggybacking on the connection Shiva had forged, and extended a hand into Zell's mind, Zell's dreams.

And with that contact, Diablos forced his own line of thoughts into Zell's, carefully building it up to be a flawless forgery of a memory of Zell's, as carefully as Shiva built her delusional fortress in Seifer's mind.

Only when dawn broke, did Shiva return to Zell, and Diablos remove his contact, his false memory implanted firmly in Zell's dreams of the last night. Diablos allowed himself a toothy grin in his darkness.

Zell woke up second. He knew it immediately, as the bed was empty. As the fog of sleep lifted, Zell curled up with the blanket and pillow to capture whatever memories of sleep he could. And then he remembered. Sometime, in the night…last night, he had woken up. Seifer had been awake as well, leaning against the wall, looking coldly at Zell. He had said things, things Zell suddenly wished he hadn't remembered, and knew Seifer only said because Zell appeared to be asleep. Zell straightened, and slowly stood up off the bed. He looked around; blinking his eyes to clear them, making certain that, yes, the room was empty.

He took a seat a the table, and thought things through, making sure he wasn't imaging, wasn't dreaming, that what he heard Seifer say, things about Zell wasting his time, and not being there anymore come morning, that all he was, was someone to do, were just a nightmare. But, he was forced, each time, to the inescapable thought that Seifer WASN'T there now, that it was too clear a memory to be a dream.

Zell felt himself begin to tear up, vision blurring, and tried to force himself not to, to little avail. So he slowly walked around the room, gathering his clothes, and getting dressed, scratching a pen to paper, and quietly opening and closing the door, the faint sound of his boots as he walked down the otherwise empty corridor, and out to the common areas, looking for a spot with the vantage he was needing.

He knew Seifer would go look for him, if just to make a show for the others. Seifer wouldn't find him, not unless he wanted to be found, he knew. And so, rubbing his tattoo in thought, Zell leaned back, out of sight unless one was directly above him, such as on the balcony from the classrooms. That's where Seifer would look first, he realized, and so he waited. He knew he was skipping out on some of his duties, but they just seemed so…very insignificant when Zell tried to focus on them. He'd apologize later for missing them, if anyone brought it up.

Seifer poked his head in the room, pushing the door open with his leg, carrying two cups of coffee, moving into his and Zell's small dorm, quickly setting them on the table, and turning to close the door again. When he turned back, he noticed the small note on the table. Lifting it closer to read it, Seifer's brow furrowed, and he read it over a few times, not making sense the single word no matter how he thought of it. "Gone". What was gone? Zell himself was the obvious answer, as he wasn't in the room anymore. But why would he leave a note saying he was gone, without saying where he went? Seifer shook his head, believing it to be another of Zell's games, which he didn't get, but found them amusing, because Zell found them amusing.

Diablos sat in his darkness. Everything was going as he planned, but he just felt it wasn't his best work. Not even his average work. It was sub-par. And when he left Seifer, he resolved to do something better, to get rid of this nagging feeling of a bad plot. Of course, all he needed was for Seifer to follow his regular pattern, and go looking for Zell. Zell, of course, would have gone to the spot Diablos had slipped into his mind. And thanks to Shiva, he knew what to do to induce a headache in his host, or worse. Even so much as to cause him to pass out, which of course, would not be…convenient, if the man was leaning over a balcony rail to look down at Zell.

Diablos heaved a sigh. It wasn't his best plot. It wasn't even all that good. Sure, it would have the desired effect, of breaking Zell, and would probably cause Shiva's psyche to shatter into pieces that would never recover. But it still wasn't his best work, he felt.