Disclaimer-It's been a long time since I've written one, but I still remember the drill. I do not own nor have any associations with, Final Fantasy VIII, Square-Enix, or any of its affiliates.

Author's Note-As this is my first time writing in Second Person, I'd appreciate as much Constructive Criticism as possible. In fact, any feedback is appreciated.

This one-shot also counts as a small exercise to get me started on writing in this fandom again. Hopefully it'll work.But either way, this ficcie probably isn't quite up to standards.


Ugly Ducklings

You sit awake in the darkness. The only illumination is the faint moonlight from the window. But even that is shrouded by the flimsy curtains you had installed.

She didn't like the way the noon sun flowed through that window and seared into her. She had mentioned it in passing. It was no big deal to her; she said she could handle it.

But you did it anyway. She was already weak enough from tests Odine was running on her. You were angry enough at the prick to punch a hole in the wall. At least working would get all that excess emotion out your system. Installing the curtains seemed like a good way to solve both problems.

It was.

You hear the muffled bass and stifled sounds from below. The Cadets are having their annual informal SeeD party. It was something that was always amusing. Even as a Junior Classmen, you watched as drunk Cadets—or SeeDs—flopped around, their intoxication taking them to a place they couldn't remember in the morning.

One time, just before you became a Cadet, there was news that a girl was raped. They called it "date rape". You didn't know the difference. It was still disgusting to you.

You half wanted to help the girl as you walked by her sitting dully in the hall. But you didn't. You didn't know how and you were afraid that you might do something wrong. You just passed her everyday, taking in the tousled hair she cut short and the male uniform Cid gave her.

That was why what happened to Quistis struck such a chord in you. You sat in the infirmary with Irvine and Selphie and Zell and Rinoa, waiting for news. You prayed to Hyne that she wasn't violated. Thankfully, you found out, that Quistis wasn't raped.

After that, you felt a relief that rivaled the emotion you felt when you saved Rinoa from Esthar. You couldn't take it if Quistis had turned into that girl. But, unlike that girl, you would have given anything to Quistis, if she needed it. You would've given her the same male uniform; you would've cut her shiny blonde hair yourself.

But luckily, you didn't need to.

What Quistis did need was time off. You gave it to her.

She needed to be watched as she slept for the first two weeks after that incident. As hesitant as you were, you were the only one left free to do it.

You stood guard as Quistis slept.

You used to watch her the way you stay awake now. The way you sit over Rinoa. You sit and admire how vulnerable she—anybody, in fact—can look in their sleep. Once, in a drowsy haze from the sleepless nights of guarding Quistis, you wondered if Seifer looked peaceful when he slept.

Then you awoke and wondered where he was and why the fuck you were thinking about him sleeping.

It was five weeks after that point that Seifer came back to the Garden. He looked tired, unshaven and smelled of fish. His hair was filled with flyaways and his face was smudged with dirt.

By Rinoa's request, you met with him inside your office. You didn't really want to. In fact, you really wanted to throw him out your window and into the ocean. But he wanted to stay. Not in so many words, of course, but Seifer admitting he wanted to come back was worth something.

So you met with Cid and Seifer became a Cadet, working alongside other pimply teenagers for the chance to be a SeeD. Eventually (you were not surprised in the least), he made it.

Irvine and Selphie were the only ones that were surprised he was raised to a SeeD. It wasn't because they were lacking of faith in his skills, but rather faithful in the odds of him pissing you off before he made it that far.

That didn't mean that he didn't piss you off. Seifer getting as far as he did showed caution to not overstep the boundaries that you put up. If he had stepped over them, you would've knocked his ass right out of Balamb. You still will, if he so happens to let a hair fall over.

You shuffle the blankets around you and make sure you don't make a sound. Rinoa waking up the middle of the night would not be a good thing. She was cranky and acting out of character lately. You hope she's okay.

The least you could do is worry, even though you don't like to acknowledge that you worry. But that's what she would do if she wasn't so irritable. Worry, that is.

You hoped that didn't sound as bad as it sounded to you.

You remember a time when you and Rinoa were celebrating a stupid anniversary. For her, it was for one year of happiness and many more. For you, it was making it past one year. But it was special to her, so you went along, smiling at the tie she bought and nodding serenely as everyone teased you.

When you two actually had the dinner, a drunk, idiot Irvine came in and started making a scene. For some inexplicable reason, he was nearby and came for a visit. You were angrier than you thought you should've been. Rinoa didn't mind Irvine's interference. She was content, though probably less accepting than she usually would have been, but content nonetheless.

It seemed that she never held grudges.

Irvine did though, at least to the male race. You wonder if the females get the same treatment. After all, the only time you've seen Irvine angry at Selphie was when Zell knocked her into a Cadet's lap.

It would've have been funny if you hadn't noticed that he was carrying his weapon around.

Irvine should have been suspended. It was prohibited to carry weapons around the Garden unless in the Training Area. You made Cid install that rule after Zell got into a fight with another SeeD over hotdogs. It didn't do the other guy much good, considering Zell's fists was his weapons, but it helped…some people out.

Neither of them was penalized. Maybe you were too lenient. Maybe you showed favoritism but you didn't mean to. At least, you thought you didn't. You and Rinoa both assured you that you didn't.

But you weren't really sure anyway. So you ignored it, like you always do. Maybe you still ignore it.

You chew the inside of your cheek and listen to the "fun" the cadets were having downstairs. You wonder how Rinoa was sleeping through the ruckus. You wonder if Selphie's in there partying with them. You wouldn't be surprised. It would account for all the music and the laughing. And the fun.

Her behavior in all is overly contagious. Sometimes, you feel like smiling even though you have no reason to. It was illogical and stupid and you don't like it.

Well, maybe you do. But you won't admit it, even when she's pestering you and pulling on your sleeve. You may not like her personality, but you do try to help her out.

She needed a card for that game you can't remember the name of. It was supposed to be rare but you got it for her. You don't know why she asked you. Zell's girlfriend was more into that stuff. But you got it for her. You can hardly remember how. But you did.

You did.

She said you were sick and begged you to take the funny smelling caterchipillar mixture. You waved her off and headed to your office. You liked hanging out in the Quad before working, though. It was a habit you didn't realize you had.

You walk through the air-conditioned halls and shiver, making a mental note to turn down the A/C. Suddenly; you feel a strange anticipation for the bright, sunny heat.

How you got here, you don't remember, but you're outside and the sun's lending its heat to you.

You pass the crowds of cliques chatting incessantly about the latest gossip. It buzzes loudly in your ears. Annoyingly. The cold in your bones is still there, but not so much anymore.

You find a seat among the giggling girls and mulling students. When you sit, you feel like the weight of your body is pressed upon your back and you feel like tipping over, like one of those weirdo see-saws you always see at the park. You don't, though.

The backing of the bench saves you.

Sighing heavily, the sun doesn't seem so welcoming anymore. It's sitting on your neck, crushing your windpipe with its overbearing light. Nothing feels the same. Below you, the stone bench seems to bend under your weight.

A southern wind brings a foreign scent. The musky headiness reminds you of Estharan Ale. Your vision is blurred and charred at the edges. You can't breathe or think straight. It's like your mind's gone for a day trip and lost its way back.

You think you let your files drop beside you but you can't remember. You see a hint of ebony hair and a cowboy hat. To the right, you see glints of blonde, one bleached, and one natural. To the left, an overly coaxed curl of brown and a black tattoo upon pale skin.

They feel and look like your friends. You want to go up to them but you can't. Your muscles are stiff and immobile, like a petrify spell was cast on you. You feel panic creeping up your back.

"Squall?" They call. You think its Zell. But you're not sure. They call your name again and again, faster, louder until all you hear is a buzzing of your name. They're speaking to you. But are they?

You don't know. Confusion and drowsiness is penetrating your thoughts until all you can hear and think are questions of certain uncertainty. Then you aren't cold anymore. You're sweating and breathing heavily. Your face feels flush the heartbeat of blood is drowning out your thoughts.

You open eyes that you didn't know were closed and blink as the shining sun filter into your retinas. Now you understand what Rinoa feels in the sun.

"Squall?" You search around blindly, hoping that it was Rinoa calling you. Yet the only thing you see is blurry faces.

Anger. So powerful and so strong a flow floods through you, like a tidal wave Leviathan called. You're angry that they're surrounding you, closing in on you, choking you. It's their fault, you think.

You look down at your hands and find that they're shaking. They don't feel like they're moving at all. They feel like blocks of stone. Slowly, painfully, you pull your fingers into a fist and watch as it trembles.

It reminds you of the shaky feeling of three years ago. Everyone crowded round you, suffocating you with their confusion and their burden. They were dependant on you. You were their leader.

You felt like a parent and they were the children, the ducklings. Even Cid, the middle aged man, looked at you with trusting eyes. You felt the pressure like a weight on your chest. Choking, suffocating.

You can't breathe anymore. White specks permeate and contrast from black specks that are blending in with Irvine's hat and Zell's tattoo and you can't see anymore. You're gasping for breath and vaguely aware that you've fallen to the ground. You hear the murmur of shock as students crowd around you.


Before settling into the realm of unconsciousness, you see a flash of images that you think are your memories.

"Squall? Can you put up curtains? I have a headache."

"Squall? Could you accept me back in the Garden after I terrorized you and the world? Pretty please?"

"Yo, Squall! Could you install a stupid rule so that students can't carry around their weapons in the Garden?"

"Hey Squallie! You gotta help me find a card for a worthless game!"

"Squall? Do you think you could watch over me while I sleep? I know it's inappropriate and hard on you, but I need it."

"Hey, Squall. I was wondering if you could not suspend me when I so blatantly broke the rules."

The world was spinning.