Final Fantasy and its characters belong to Square-Enix. Final Fantasy VIII's original scenario was written by Kazushige Nojima, and is also the property of Square-Enix. This novelization is being done purely for fun, no infringement intended, and I hereby DISCLAIM ownership of Final Fantasy VIII, both in part and in full. (In other words, it's not mine, no matter how much I wish it was!)

Chapter I

He felt a tightness between his eyes; whether it was pressure or pain, he could not determine at this time. Something hot and fluid ran down his face, the bitter liquid even creeping into the corners of his mouth as he gasped for breaths. He had the strangest sensation that he was floating through the air, and had it not been for his determination to discover the reason, he would have believed himself to be dead.

But no, that would have been too easy.

His bangs clumped together in the sticky substance covering his face; he could feel it, even amidst the numbness.

The sun was so bright, hindering his attempts to make out the black silhouettes around him. He squinted in its brilliance, raising a hand to block the intense morning rays, and then he noticed the red stained leather glove. Perhaps it was his current state of mind, still in shock, but he didn't recognize it for what it was, instead dismissing it as some kind of illusion, or a trick that had been played upon him by the dawning twilight. But when he lowered his arm and turned his head, he noticed he was not the only one covered in that crimson substance.

"Hyne, look at these two," an unfamiliar voice spoke, reawakening his memories.

"I've never seen anyone go this far before. They're lucky they didn't..."

He could not see their faces, nor could he tell which voice belonged to which figure. It didn't matter, he needed them both to stop. Why couldn't he tell them to? Where was his own voice?

"The Headmaster won't be too thrilled about this..."

"Especially today, of all days... Man, oh man..."

They needed to stop. He needed to get down, there was something he left behind. "S... Sto..." That bitter fluid again, preventing his vocals from sounding with any amount of clarity. Still, he had to fight it, he had to make them turn around.

He somehow managed to roll onto his side and then reached his arm out, stretching it farther than reason said he could. The distance was just too great however, and it only grew larger with each weakening beat of his heart. "St... stop... My..." Suddenly, his lungs refused to open up any longer, and the pressure he'd felt in his head had multiplied ten fold in his chest. He screamed to be let go.

If they heard him, they ignored him. If anything, his pleas only seemed to make them quicken their pace, and rush with an urgency that hardly seemed justified.

"Hurry, we're losing him! Doctor!" The shadowed figure shouted with an alarming tone. "Doctor Kadowaki, over here, now!"

His vision suddenly darkened, and all sounds muffled to his ears. That pressure on his head intensified, but whatever was causing it seemed to elude all his rational reasoning.

Before he knew it, he was on the ground, the cold of the granite bedrock seeping straight through his leather jacket. There, as the light from the sky no longer seemed as bright, he had sensed it; time had stopped.

Dreams of Knight, Final Fantasy VIII
- Project: Requiem for a Sorceress -

The first piece...
What he lived for... Part I: Noon

She loved the periods of calm the hallways saw while classes were in session. Somehow or another, it almost seemed surreal, as if she were witnessing them in a state that was anomalistic, something not meant to exist, or at least, definitely outside the norm. Late at night, when the lights were dim and the windows dark, was really the only other time the halls were ever this peaceful.

Not that long ago, she herself would get caught up in the frenzy of that between-class riot where everyone rushed to get where they belonged. Now, however, she found herself confined to a solitary room on the second floor, not having to worry about being late for class, but at the same time, missing the finer points of being a student. She was an instructor now, at the very academy she grew up in. It seemed almost absurd at first thought; what motivated her to pursue such a path? The answer, she knew full well, but denied for a fear she didn't want to acknowledge.

The clap of her boots echoed behind her as she made her way for the elevator which would take her to the main lobby. This uniform she wore was something else she felt was somewhat surreal. For so long, she'd been underneath those who wore it, taking orders and obeying strict rules, but now it was she who gave the orders. It'd been less than a year, and it was proving to be a rather difficult concept for her, in many different aspects.

The hallway she was walking down gave way to a platform with open walls, allowing a view straight down over thirty feet to the ground floor. Directly ahead of her was the main elevator, enclosed in a shaft made of thick cylindrical stone and plexiglass walls, like one of those vacuum tubes used by drive-thru banks. There were five of them, all housed in a single core that rose straight up through the heart of the academy's main complex.

The glass was tinted dark enough to conceal details of the interior, but still translucent enough to make out the elevator car itself as it moved up and down with passengers.

She pushed the call button and then drew a deep breath. Not really sure what drove her to do so, she let it out quickly and leaned against the railing, folding her arms over her stomach with a slight smirk. It was him that had her feeling this way. She felt nervous on some level, that was true, but it was more a feeling of child-like elation. That is, she was happy to be on this path, and had actually been looking forward to any event which may have carried out in similar fashion.

He should have been finished training by now, and they were set to meet in the main lobby. She'd forgone her normal routine this morning, skipping home room altogether. Of course, she scheduled a substitute to take her place; she may have been inexperienced, but she was in no way irresponsible in her duties. Or so she perceived.

The soft ding of the elevator's arrival grabbed her immediate focus, and she stepped inside the car as soon the doors provided her the clearance. After pressing the button for the lobby, she leaned herself against the wall, using the small metalic railing to provide additional support. Everything became even more silent once enclosed in that small space, and she could hear herself breathing a bit harder than she realized.

Staring at her own reflection in the dark plexiglass in front of her, she smiled at herself for being so giddy in spite of her mature reputation and disposition. Pushing a lock of hair passed her right ear, she held her hand on her neck for a few seconds longer than normal as the contact awoke a very particular emotion within her.

If only he would touch her that way. If only he would touch her at all. Now that was a thought worth at least a few laughs.

Upon arriving at the bottom, she stepped out of the elevator to find the main lobby somewhat occupied by both students and staff. The cavernous nature of the building made for some very interesting acoustics, and despite the distance of some people, she could hear their voices echo loudly in the structure; although, the clarity of their words had been lost in the distortion.

Continuing on her way, she reached the bottom of the steps leading up to the elevators and stood beside the large directory at the front of the lobby. The directory provided a basic layout of the Garden, pointing out all the major sections for the first floor. The second floor was all classrooms and auditoriums, plus a massive ballroom for special celebrations. The third floor was where the upper faculty had their offices, including the Headmaster of Balamb Garden.

Of all the students standing around, she could not see the one she'd made a point to the day before. She'd told him to be there at 0800 hours, sharp. He agreed to be there after his training, but perhaps his session dragged on a bit longer than he'd anticipated.

With a modest yawn and subsequent sigh, she leaned her back against the side post of the massive display board. Crossing her arms over her chest, she began tapping the toe of her foot on the hard tile flooring. He was late, and that was not good. He'd put this off for too long, it was either today, or next year. Frankly, she wasn't going to let him fail this.

Maybe she was making it more personal than she should have.

A few minutes slipped by and he still hadn't showed. She glanced at her watch, but she already knew what time it was. If he didn't get there soon, she'd be forced to forgo her afternoon schedule as well, and that was another thing she couldn't let happen. At this point, however, he was certainly going to get one of her lectures. That was a given.

Some activity caught her attention by the entrance as students rushed to the sides. It was almost instantaneous after she glanced over that she saw what had caused the commotion, and a sick feeling churned her stomach.

"Move, everyone back away! Give us some clearance! Move, move!" It was the resident doctor here at the academy. She rushed into the building leading a small team of med students carrying stretchers in front of them. "This is an emergency, please keep back!" she shouted.

It couldn't have been them, but there they were; lying helpless on their backs, their faces covered in blood. What the hell happened out there!

She pushed herself away from the directory and ran to the two students as they passed by on the way to the infirmary. "Squall! Seifer! What happened!"

The doctor grabbed her by the shoulders and held the panicked instructor back. "Quistis! Relax! It isn't as bad as it looks!"

Not as bad as it looks! Was she serious! They were covered in blood, and by the looks of things, they weren't moving or even conscious! "What happened! They were supposed to be training! What in Hyne's name happened to them!"

The doctor took a deep breath and continued to hold her back as the two students were wheeled farther down the hall. "I don't know. I don't know who struck first, all I know for sure is that they were definitely fighting. More than just training, it looks like they tried to..." She turned her head towards the two injured cadets just as they turned the corner leading to the infirmary.

Quistis waited for the words, waited for the explanation, but the doctor never continued. "Tried to what? Tried to what! Kill each other!" She didn't believe it, even as she said it. Her expression was one of pure denial and anger, but somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew it was something close to that instinctive assumption.

The doctor released her grip on the young instructor, and stood facing her, though her head was aimed at the floor. She went to rub her face, but noticed there was too much blood on her hands. Unintentionally, she had transferred some of that blood onto Quistis's uniform. "Quistis, honestly... I don't know what they were doing all the way out there. But I promise you, they'll both pull through. I'm serious when I say it isn't as bad as it looks, ok? Trust me. It's simply a matter of getting their blood pressure back up. They'll be all right."

Trust her? Maybe she had to, what other choice did she have? "Dr. Kadowaki, just tell me. What did they do to each other?"

The electronic door slid shut and he reached his hand out as if something important remained on the other side. Something he just had to get back, he couldn't leave it.

By now, he'd remembered what happened, though the drugs in his system seemed to work against him in his struggle to "wake up."

Now he was being lifted and transferred to a small, but comfortable bed with a ton of medical equipment nearby which filled the room. Turning his head left, he noticed a small table with a glass vase. Sitting in that vase was a solitary white carnation. Was that for him?

"St... Stop it..." He pleaded more as the people around him tore off his leather jacket and cut his shirt up the middle. Seeing the surgical scissors near his chin, he tried to grab the wrist that was holding them, but somehow missed and hit the man's forearm with his own. His depth perception was out the window, and he couldn't for the life of him understand why.

"Get... away from me. Leave me... alone already!" He found enough strength to sit up, but met fierce resistance as two others forced him back down. Then a familiar face walked into the room, holding something thin and long in her hand.

"Squall," the doctor began. "Just relax. When you wake up, everything will be all right, I promise."

No. No, he couldn't relax. What was she sticking into his arm! More pressure... It engulfed his head, tunneled his vision even more. Where was he going? What were they doing to him? Maybe he'd close his eyes for a second. But just a second! He needed to go back and get something... The darkness was so soothing though. Maybe he'd stay there... for just a little while longer.

Quistis waited in the office area of the infirmary, looking on as the two cadets were sedated in separate rooms. How could this have happened? Why, so close to their graduation? If there was any hope that they'd recover enough by late afternoon, would they still be up to taking their field exam? What a ridiculous thought. She couldn't expect that, or even ask as much.

But they were both strong, and she knew that. Of course they were going to pull through, that was no longer in question. Each had sustained massive blood loss due to the injuries on their faces, and as serious as it was, it wasn't nearly as bad as some other possible outcomes. With the academy's competent medical staff, and their experience in para-magic, she had a feeling they'd both be on their feet again in no time.

It was simply a matter of letting them find the strength within to continue.

A single second had somehow turned into an eternity. Paradoxically however, that eternity seemed to be over in just shy of an instant.

He'd found a peace unlike anything he could have possibly described; he was amidst a void of absolutely everything. Now that was true peace.

The bliss was soon tainted however; for his life rarely, if ever, granted him any time or reason to relish. Slowly filling the void was the distinct aroma of perfume, some kind of floral fragrance he couldn't identify, though it carried with it the slightest hint of vanilla. Washing over him was an orange hue, and though it brought warmth to his body and soothed his nerves, it stirred a feeling of frustration within him.

Why couldn't he just be left alone?

His awareness sank in, now fully conscious of his situation. That damn pressure inside his head had him wishing to Hyne that he never woke up; never left that void. What was it again, that tightness around his eyes and forehead? Right. How could he have forgotten.

Songs of birds were carried on the breeze coming from the open window behind him, along with a much more potent fragrance than that of perfume. It was the smell of spring and fresh mountain air which, for most people, meant a time for joy and youthful activities, a prelude to the future. But not him. This time of year meant only more of the same.

Ignoring for a moment that almost repulsive scent, he reached up to scratch an itch, but instead found there were cotton bandages in his way, wrapped tightly around his head. Ever reluctant to leave the safe realm behind his eye lids, he let the light creep in slowly as only his right eye could be opened. Those damned bandages prevented the opening of his left.

A long sigh clearly conveyed the sorrow he would normally go to great lengths to conceal. Flashbacks reminded him of why those bandages were there, and he didn't deny to himself the severity of the injury he'd incurred earlier that morning. Although superficial to most, to him it was a wound that penetrated much deeper than the flesh, straight into his core; his soul.

Of course, more disturbances came as he tried to dwell on the aforementioned incident. He didn't even have to look, he knew immediately when he heard the steps, the resident doctor was on her way in.

She'd stopped outside his door to converse briefly with a student who'd been waiting in her office. The words weren't carried over with enough volume for him to listen in, but even had he been able to hear them, he wouldn't have paid the slightest attention.

Finally, the door slid open as the proximity sensors built into the ceiling sensed her intentions of entering the recovery room. As the doctor passed through the doorway, she brought with her the scent of oranges. How strange, he initially thought. The reason was soon clear; she'd been snacking on one of those citrus flavored fruits, one small slice still at her finger tips just waiting to be eaten. Something seemed rather out of place; her eating in the infirmary and all. Weren't there rules against that?

"Awake now," she said vibrantly. "How are you feeling?"

He'd already closed his eyes again, but no amount of wishing or effort on his part was going to bring him back to that place any time soon. He felt his pillow move slightly and instinctively swung his hand up to put a stop to the unwanted disturbance. In the act of doing so, he unintentionally swatted the doctor's hand, the forbidden contact forcing him to open his eyes again; or rather, his eye.

She stepped back with a wide grin and popped that last orange slice into her mouth. "Sorry, didn't mean to compromise your surroundings." It was a sardonic remark, one that only her current patient would find meaning in, as it was conceived exclusively for him.

Again, he sighed, though it was much more brief and full of contempt this time.

He sat up and rubbed his forehead; it was beginning to hurt now. He couldn't remember receiving treatment, or even being brought back to Garden at all. The doctor must have sedated him before performing the necessary duties of patching him up. In fact, if she hadn't, he'd have left the wound the way it was; open and gushing.

The doctor swallowed her snack and picked up the chart at the foot of his bed. "You were out for a few hours. You should be fine though Squall, just take it easy for a while."

He grunted as he tried to pry the bandages from his face. "I don't need these," he said sharply, ending in strain. The pain, of course, had him eating his words.

"Don't mess with them, the stitches might come loose." She grabbed his wrist to pull his hand from his face, but was instantly met with a hostile shove back. "I don't get it," she said, shaking her head. She spun around and headed back to the door.

Squall turned his head to glance at the empty chair beside him. There was a small table there adorned with a small vase and a single, fake, white carnation. He suddenly remembered seeing that just before they...

The sight of it sickened him. "Whatever..." he said in curt fashion.

The doctor shook her head, promptly placing both hands on her hips. "You need to be more careful in training. You won't always be so lucky you know. It was very fortunate that you hadn't been too far away."

Lucky? Was she joking? It was anything but luck that enabled him to be there at that moment. If he were lucky, he wouldn't have to suffer the indignity of being told how "fortunate" he was. "Why don't you try telling that to Seifer." Yes, Seifer... The very person responsible for plunging him into this hell.

"That boy..." the doctor said softly. "He's a disaster with a conscience. Why don't you just ignore him?"

The remark was a shot straight to his ego, and for the first time since she'd walked in, Squall turned and faced her directly; an issue like that could not go unattended to. "You want me to just run away!"

Acutely aware of how much she'd just offended her patient, the doctor threw her hands up and waved with an apologetic smile. "No, no, I understand. You want to be 'cool', right?" Again, her words left with heavy sarcasm and deep implications. "Well, you should think of what price you're willing to pay for it."

Angry, but always in control, Squall turned away and rolled his eyes. She didn't understand at all, despite the overtone in her words. It went deeper than that, deeper than she could have ever guessed.

"Well, I see no reason to keep you here. I'll prescribe you some pain killers, but don't even think of abusing them." After shooting him a stern glare, she placed his chart under her arm for a moment and stepped into the doorway, leaning on the frame slightly. "I suppose I'll give your instructor a call now. You know, Quistis was..." she didn't finish that thought.

He didn't reply; not even a nod. Instead, his mind was focused on something far more important; sleep.

Seeing him resting on his back, the doctor smiled and shook her head. "Don't get too comfortable."

Impossible, he thought to himself.

Soon after she exited the recovery room, he heard her speaking again, most likely on the phone with his instructor.

He had noticed it earlier, but the realization only just hit him as he tried to drift away. He felt a little light and the reason was obvious; he'd been changed into a hospital gown, his black pants and leather jacket nowhere to be seen. He ripped the light comforter from his body and jerked himself upright, but his clothing seemed entirely elsewhere. What the hell? Who changed his clothing, and how dare they!

He hopped off the small cot, completely unprepared for when his bare feet hit the cold linoleum tile. It took a second for him to adjust, and ignore, and as soon as he did, he began searching for his belongings.

Convinced they were not in this room, he walked to the door, ready to bust through and make a mad dash back to his dorm. However, something grabbed his attention before even making it within the door's sensor range. A voice. Someone was watching him from the adjacent hallway, standing behind a large plate glass window that dropped right down to the floor line. For some bizarre reason, the blinds in this room had been pulled all the way up. Did the doctor ever hear of a thing called privacy?

"Squall!" It was a young woman, dressed in a vibrant blue shirt and a short white skirt. She also had a lime green wrap laced around her back and draped over her forearms. Though her hair was shorter than most women, long brown strands hung in her face, a large portion styled off to one side.

There was a smile on her face accompanying an expression that Squall hardly seemed to comprehend. She was almost laughing as she watched him, but there was something in her eyes that said more... She recognized him, that was clear, but there was just something else...

"Where are you going like that!" she asked with a small chuckle.

He turned his whole body to face the stranger, perplexed at how she could possibly know his name. Even more so, he was stunned that anyone was there at all. Had she just walked in from being outside in the courtyard? His mind entered a state of perpetual confusion, and he found himself staring back at her with a rather rude expression as his thoughts ran in circles.

"Well, it's good to see you again." She realized he probably had no idea who she was. He had to have forgotten about her by now, it was so long ago...

She raised her hand to her cheek as her expression changed without warning. She then reached over to the window, placing her hand on the glass; her fingers were slender, but so perfectly flawless. Her eyes were now laden with sorrow, a sight that Squall could recognize with ease. "I'm sorry," she said, her words just barely making it through. "I hope you can forgive me."

Before he even had time to absorb her words, she continued on her way, leaving him staring into an empty hallway. Who was she? What did she mean?

Suddenly, the door behind him slid open and the doctor took a step into the room. "Glad you could muster the energy to get out of bed. Here."

A duffle bag landed beside him, his back still facing the doctor. Was that...?

"You're pants and a new shirt, dear," she said, as if reading his thoughts. "Get changed, Quistis is on her way down to escort you back to class."

He leaned over and grabbed the handles of the bag. Something else of his was missing however, and he highly doubted he'd find it in that tiny black sack. God forbid they left it on that mountain trail. "My gunblade?"

The doctor folded her arms. "Back in your dorm. And don't worry, I know what you're thinking."

Yeah, right. He crooked his head just enough to see her white lab coat in the corner of his eye.

"I brought it up there myself and even placed it gently inside its case. I of course cleaned it for you too." She stood in silence for a second hoping to receive some kind of thank you. Of course, she knew it wasn't coming. "Right, you're welcome."

The door slid back shut, finally. God, how he hated everyone's need for such inconsequential remarks as thank you. It was a load of crap, he didn't appreciate at all what she'd done. It would have been best if she'd just left his gunblade alone, blood or no blood. It was his, and it was his everything. How could she violate that?

Seeing as how she'd already scheduled her morning to take Squall on a very specific field trip, she used the now free time to relax and think things over. Though, she would have to resume class next period. It hardly seemed worth it, just one class. She'd much rather have stayed where she was and dwell for just another hour.

The doctor had just called her, telling her Squall was finally awake. Even better, he was coherent and pretty much back to his normal self. It seemed, as the doctor had assured her earlier, he was going to be just fine.

Seifer had been released a couple hours before, in much better shape than Squall. His spirits were bizarrely high, and she couldn't help but sense he was somehow happy over the incident.

She rose from the soft leather sofa in the teacher's lounge and slowly walked to the door, placing her cup of coffee down next to the pot. A grin formed on her face, despite her every effort to keep it in. She was just so happy that he was all right. Although, he still had to survive the lecture she was going to give him later on.

As she grabbed the handle on the door, she stopped herself from turning it all the way. The way the late morning sun shone through the closed blinds on the windows made it feel as though it were still dawn. In reality, today had been among the longest days in her eighteen years of life, and it was barely noon.

Regardless of whether or not Squall and Seifer were going to participate in the field exam later that evening, it was something she simply couldn't miss. She was not just an instructor at this academy, but had already graduated into the elite mercenary force this school had created. She was a SeeD of Balamb Garden Military Academy, and her duties came first and foremost.

Remembering that, she finished turning the handle. Right now, her duty was to get Squall and make sure he passed his prerequisite to the exam. If he could manage it, that is...

Pulling the door open seemed to come much easier than normal, and before she could figure out why, another person had bumped into her.

"Oh, excuse me my dear."

"Headmaster?" Quistis stepped back to let him enter. "What are you doing here?" She would've sounded a bit more formal, had she not been caught so off guard.

He entered the small lounge and closed the door behind him. "Why, I was looking for you as a matter of fact."

Looking for her? Was this about Squall and Seifer? Of course, it had to be. She'd been the one who paired them up at the beginning of the semester, even though she knew they always got carried away with each other. But she never thought in a million years it would ever go this far. Even so, it was her fault, and she was going to have to face the consequences for her decisions. "Sir, I apologize for what happened this morning." She hung her head in shame as she continued. "It's my fault, I should have known those two..."

The Headmaster cut her off, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. "I must agree, it was a very irresponsible thing to do, considering the knowledge of their rivalry. However..."

She looked up at him, her eyes meeting his behind those glaring lenses he wore. That didn't help ease her tension.

"The students of this Garden must be held responsible for their own actions as well. Whatever had led them up to this incident, in the end, it was still their actions that put them where they are now. Frankly, it was going to happen sooner or later." He removed his hand and paced over to the coffee pot, lifting a fresh paper cup from the stack on the counter. "Ah, you instructors always hoard the good stuff." He poured himself a cup and immediately took a sip, his expression conveying in no subtle amounts how perfectly blissful it was. Interestingly, he didn't seem upset with her at all. "Infinitely better than that liquid tar the faculty forces upon me." He winked at the nervous instructor and offered her a sip.

"Oh, uh, no thank you sir. I already poured myself a cup not but a minute ago."

He shrugged his shoulders and took another delightful sip.

Quistis was becoming more nervous with every passing second, and her body language did nothing to hide that fact. "Um, sir? Is there anything more you wish to speak to me about?"

He took a deep breath, then finally relinquished his heavenly coffee back to the counter top. "Quistis..." he said, clapping his hands together softly. "Make sure Mr. Leonhart finishes his prerequisite. It would be a real shame if he couldn't participate in the exam." He raised an eyebrow to her with a small smirk escaping his lips.

She smiled, almost laughed at the relief she felt, but quickly saluted her superior as any SeeD would have done after receiving such an order. "Yes sir, I'm on my way to get him now."

The Headmaster nodded and once again sipped that perfection in a cup. "Now this... is coffee."

"Quistis!" the doctor exclaimed while rising to her feet. "How are you doing?"

The young instructor smiled and reached over to accept an offered handshake. "Good afternoon again Ms. Kadowaki. Thank you so much for what you've done."

All the tension and worry surrounding the cadets' "accident" this morning was finally over, as both were perfectly fine. Well, save for one "tiny" wound on each of their faces.

The doctor shrugged her shoulders and returned to her seat. "Well, I have to admit, if it weren't my sole responsibility here as a doctor..." She raised an eyebrow as to implicate the rest of her unspoken thoughts.

Quistis nodded when she'd received them. "I know. But then think about how badly you'd feel afterwards. I don't believe you have a mean bone in your body."

The doctor laughed at her comments, knowing how true they were. "Yes, probably so, ha ha... Anyhow, he's in there getting dressed. I'd knock before entering if I were you."

Quistis raised her own eyebrow. "Well, perhaps, but if it weren't my sole responsibility to do so as his instructor..."

Both eyes went wide once the doctor inferred the rest of that thought. "Oh dear, that just won't do. I have to pretend I didn't hear that!"

Quistis laughed briefly. She was only one year older than Squall was, it wasn't at all unnatural that she had a crush on him. Yes, she admitted it, if only to herself; she had an interest in him that went far beyond the normal teacher-student relationship. But again, they were practically the same age. Just last year they were classmates, so why should her feelings have to change simply because she landed a teaching position and had become his instructor? She was still a human being, and a teenager at that.

There wasn't a god in heaven nor a soul on Earth that could tell her how to feel.

She stepped up to the door, forgetting already that she should have announced herself first. It was too late, however, the sensors activated and the door slid open.

Squall turned around with his hand still on the zipper, and simply stared his instructor in the eyes. I guess privacy is a lost concept here, he thought to himself. She didn't catch him off guard, just half naked.

"Oops!" Quistis quickly spun around to face her back to him, rushing her hands to cover her embarrassed expression. "Sorry!" Although, she couldn't help but try to sneak a peek. She noticed the doctor nearly fall out of her chair in laughter and shot her an evil look.

Squall finally pulled his shirt over his torso and sat on the bed to tie his boots. He didn't say anything, as any words that left his mouth at that moment would have been somewhat less than friendly. Then again, he probably wouldn't have been able to think of anything anyway. Instead, he quietly looped his laces into knots, and let his instructor agonize over her mistake.

"Well," she said, bringing her hands down to her flexing chest. "I see that you two managed to poke each other's eyes out." She slowly, cautiously, turned back around. "Or came very close to it..." She frowned and shook her head. The image sank in, and all sense of embarrassment or giddy emotion vanished with the realization of how serious his injury was. Seeing it before was somehow different. Now, with the bandages, it had become more real.

"Squall..." Her sudden change in tone had him look up at her, but only for an instant. She moved her hand to cover her mouth as she tried to imagine what lied beneath the wrappings of white cotton. "...Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," he said without hesitation.

Look at you, Quistis thought. How could anyone say they were fine in his condition? She sighed and let it be known that she wasn't exactly thrilled about his little accident. "Squall, I can't believe you two. You do remember that the field exam is today, don't you?"

He finished the last knot. "I'll be all right."

She nodded. "Yeah, of course you will." After taking a short pause to purge the thought out of her mind, she turned around and walked back into the doctor's office. "Let's go. You missed the first three periods. You only have one class left today, I don't want you to miss that too."

Squall fastened the silver chain around his neck which contained a large pendant in the shape of a lion's head. That was his most cherished possession, even more than his gunblade. He wore it everywhere, only taking it off to sleep at night. If he ever lost it, well... The end of the world couldn't come too soon after that.

He followed his instructor into the main office of the infirmary where the doctor tossed him a bottle of pills.

"Squall, take two of those every six to eight hours. Also, don't even try to take those bandages off, I've scheduled you an appointment to come see me later next week. I'm serious mister, believe me... You don't want that getting infected."

He pocketed the bottle of pills and proceeded to walk out the door, uttering sharply, whatever, under his breath.

"Thanks again doctor," Quistis said politely as she waved on her way out.

Dr. Kadowaki smirked as she sat back down. She knew already that he was going to tear those bandages off the first opportunity he got. "That boy... Even more stubborn than Seifer."

She followed him a few steps behind, her attention focused solely on him. He seemed so rigid as he walked, his posture just about perfect. His exposing tank-top revealed a muscular frame, and Quistis couldn't help but admire how fit he was. He was certainly an attractive guy, even with the occasional battle scar apparent on his arms.

His hair was brown in color and styled in a wavy, almost unruly manner. He sometimes went a couple days without shaving, as was noticeable today, and the extra stubble made him look more gruff; which only added to Quistis's physical attraction.

Yet, there was so much more. Everything she knew about him was either inferred, or had come second hand somehow. Squall was extremely introverted and never opened up to anyone. Try as he did to conceal his emotions, there was always something in his behavior that betrayed his intentions though. Quistis had come increasingly skilled at reading the young cadet over the years, and she knew that deep inside of him was a soul trapped in torment. He'd constructed a wall so sturdy, and so damn thick, not even he could begin to tear it down. She hoped, against better reason, that she'd someday be the one to break his defenses.

A slight breeze whisked through the open structure of the corridor. Squall turned his head to the right as he heard the bells atop the Garden begin to sound. It was passed noon now. He had been out for a while.

Students began pouring out of classrooms and flooding the halls. The corridor Squall and Quistis were in was no exception, as it also fed straight into two large courtyards where many students often went to study.

Squall stopped for a moment as the crowd grew to a point that had him wishing he'd been carrying his gunblade. Trying desperately to ignore the stares, he marched on, Quistis right behind him. Not once did he look back at her amid the chaos.

She smirked as she began to realize how uncomfortable he was becoming. She imagined she would be too, but despite Squall's outward appearance through it all, he was in even more anguish than she could comprehend.

Part of her wanted to ask him about it, but she knew it would have been a futile effort. Still, she felt a need to get him talking. She wanted to know more about him, and it was so important that she learned it directly from the source. But how should she even begin? "So, Squall..." Perhaps just starting simple was the best way to go. "What's on your mind?"

He didn't react in any physical way that she could see, but he definitely heard her. A few seconds passed, and he still hadn't responded.

She smiled wider, and quickened her pace. "So tell me. What are you thinking about?" Now, for sure, he would respond. At least, if for nothing else, to tell her to leave him alone. In fact, she already knew exactly what he was going to say.

Squall continued to walk at his regular pace, eye trained forward. What did she care what he was thinking about?

"Nothing..." They had both uttered the word in unison, causing Quistis to break into a brief moment of laughter.

Hearing his instructor take a pause for humor's sake, he stopped walking as well and turned around to see what was so amusing. Placing his hand on his hip, he frowned and looked the blonde woman in the eyes. "Something funny?"

She composed herself and waved off the short bout of laughter. Removing her glasses, she began to rub the bridge of her nose. "No, no... Don't miss understand." She wiped the lenses with a small cloth tissue she carried in the pocket of her blouse and then returned them to their original position on her face. Smiling, she stared back at the cadet with half squinted eyes. "I just feel happy. I think I'm beginning to understand my student a little better."

Oh Hyne, he thought. Was she kidding? She had to be joking. "I'm more complex than you think," he told her in a flat, emotionless tone. As soon as the words left his mouth however, he wished he could take them back.

"So then tell me," the infatuated instructor almost pleaded. She folded her arms over her stomach and took a step closer to him, inadvertently forcing him to take a more defensive posture; he spun back around and turned his head off to the side. "What are you so afraid of?" She found herself almost frightened after that question had slipped out. Quickly, she followed up with something far less probing and intimate. "I mean, why don't you tell me more about yourself? I... You're just so distant all the time, I'm curious as to why, that's all."

He sighed heavily and started to walk again. Why was she doing this to him? Why couldn't she just leave him alone? "Because my life is..."

She cut him off, knowing already how that sentence ended. "'...none of your business!'" She started to laugh again as she simply couldn't help herself. He was so predictable.

Squall froze and drew a deep breath, summoning all the strength he could muster to keep himself from lashing out at her. No, Squall Leonhart never acted out on his emotions. Along with a flavor of stale saliva, he swallowed his anger and remained calm.

Quistis knew she'd poked a little too hard, but it was through such prodding and probing that she learned more about him. Satisfied for now, she started to walk ahead of him. As she passed by, she brushed her hand over his essentially bare shoulder and winked when their eyes met. "All right, let's hurry. We're going to be late."

The halls began to quiet down a few minutes later as classes returned to session. Squall's thoughts took him back to that incident in training earlier. He was engaged in a fierce battle with another student, a young man who always seemed to get the better of him.

They settled on a spot a little ways up the mountains, about thirty minutes walking distance from the academy. There, in a clearing amongst boulders and dirt paths, they initiated a training match, each with a gunblade as their primary weapon of choice.

As the battle progressed, it got more and more heated, until it had reached a point that was undeniably beyond simple practice. Each had begun to strike harder, and faster, neither really considering the outcome if one was to falter in their actions. Or perhaps they were...

Squall's partner was not one to pull his punches in a fight however. And yes, that was exactly what it had become. Emotions took over, and their focus shifted towards darker goals. Unfortunately, Squall was hit first. Struck by a sneak attack, he staggered backwards until he lost his balance and fell. There, while still on the ground, he froze in horror as his partner's gunblade came down on him, slicing open his face.

While waiting for the elevator to descend, Squall stood at the other side of the steps to keep his distance from Quistis. As he kept his un-blocked eye trained on the tan colored tile, he reached up to feel his bandages. Seifer's blade struck him almost directly above his right eye. From there, the hot tip carved a path that led down over the bridge of his nose, then finally lifted just below his left eye socket. The instant of the strike embedded itself forever in his memory; he could remember that split second as if it had taken eons to pass.

If not for the pure adrenaline in his system, he might have lost himself and given in to the pain. Instead, he used the agony to fuel his rage and give him the strength to strike back. Grabbing his gunblade, he dragged the tip along the rocky ground, throwing sparks to the wind, and then just when his partner realized it was coming, he swung the blade upwards, striking him in exactly the same area of the face.

An eye for an eye. It was all a blur after that.

Quistis let Squall enter the classroom first. He immediately went straight to his seat, not bothering to acknowledge his presence in the row beside him. Seifer.

Of course, Seifer gave him a long stare as he sat at his study panel. He smirked at the sight of those bandages. "You look like you've been run over by a truck." He was also referring to the many scars that littered his upper arms.

Squall didn't flinch.

"All right class, everyone settle down," Quistis said as she walked to her desk. Most of the students couldn't help but stare at both Seifer and Squall, the former giving rather rude gestures in response.

"Yes, those rumors were true," the instructor added to satisfy their curiosity. "Two students were injured in training this morning, but as you can see, they're both going to be just fine."

A younger cadet in the first row had his sights fixed on the two cadets in the back. "Looks to me like they were trying to kill each other." A few students chuckled in agreement, incurring a rather hostile comeback from Seifer.

"Shut it, squirt. Trust me, you don't want the committee coming down on your ass when I'm in a mood like today."

The cadet widened his eyes. "Oooo, I feel so threatened."

Before Seifer could have gotten up, and believe it, he would have gotten up, Quistis silenced them both. "Knock it off! The next person to talk will be thrown out, is that understood!"

The majority of the class nodded in unison, with the exception of Seifer and the younger cadet. Squall hadn't been paying any attention at all; he felt slightly depressed as he stared into the blank monitor in front of him. He was cold; he wanted to run. Too much was weighing on him lately, yet he could barely do anything to alleviate it.

Quistis made a particular note to the injured cadets. "And Seifer, do not injure your partner in training. You're walking a very thin line right now, the administration is not happy about this morning. If you ever pull something like that again, you can forget about ever becoming a SeeD, is that clear?" She was assuming he struck first, but it was a rather safe assumption. He was usually the instigator in such events.

Seifer turned and looked at his partner, whose eyes were still unwavering. He slammed his fist down on his desk and shouted back to his instructor. "Sorry, but I've already heard that once today."

After eyeing him for a moment, Quistis grabbed a stack of papers on her desk. "Now then... Good afternoon class." She stood up from her chair and began passing the stacks to the students in the front rows to distribute the sheets of paper back. "I've finished grading your literature tests from yesterday, and I'm disappointed with some of the results. I expected more, considering graduation is so near for most of you. I know most of you find this subject to be boring," a look went out to a particular student in the back, "but it's an important part of history."

Seifer grabbed his test sheet from the student in front of him. Stamped directly on the face of it was a big red F. He grinned and crumpled it into a small ball. "Not really my forte," he said under his breath.

Squall reluctantly took his. Not to his surprise, he saw a capital red A underneath his name. The grade did not make him feel any better for some reason.

"Would you look at that," Seifer said, leaning over into the isle. "Look's like teacher plays favorites. An A, excellent job there Squall buddy. Tell me. What did you have to do?" The implication was sick.

It was only because of his unrelenting behavior that Squall found it necessary to turn and face him. He was instantly shocked however, when he saw that Seifer had not been wearing any bandages. The wound on his face was stitched up nicely, though the edges were swollen and purple. Is that what his looked like underneath the white cotton?

"What's the matter?" Seifer stared back at him with his trademark grin.

"Seifer!" Quistis shouted. "Get up!"

He lowered his head and sighed as he reluctantly rose to his feet. "What now?"

"Just because you passed the written test for the SeeD exam doesn't mean you can slack off in the rest of your studies. Let me remind you just how thin the ice is on which you tread."

He diverted his eyes to the wall with a long sigh.

"You're dismissed from this class. Don't even think about leaving the Garden premisses, I believe the Headmaster would like to have a word with you before the field exam."

Grabbing the white trench coat on his seat, Seifer kicked the base of the terminal. He made his way to the front of the class in an unmannerly fashion, dishing out nasty looks to anyone who dared make eye contact. Passing his instructor's desk, he grinned wider, but said nothing on his way out the door.

With a major disruption gone, Quistis found it easier to move on. She lifted her glasses for a moment to rub her eyes, then took a deep breath. "Finally," she said softly, returning to her seat. "Now then. As you are all aware, the SeeD field exam is today. Garden has been contracted by the Dollet Dukedom and SeeD will be dispatched to the front lines shortly. For those of you participating in this exam, you will have the rest of the day free until assemblage is called later this afternoon."

A couple students immediately shot to their feet, ready to fly out the door.

"Hold it," Quistis said. "Wait until you're dismissed, please." She flipped open a binder on her desk which contained a list of names for those who'd passed the written part of the exam. Proudly, Squall's name was right at the top; Seifer's was right below it. "For those of you who failed that test, or aren't enrolled in SeeD training, you will resume classes as normal. I'll be leaving with the cadets in a moment, so a substitute will be in shortly."

She stood up to address the class. "When I call your name, you may be dismissed. Don't forget to meet up in the lobby at 1600 hours. The Headmaster will be there to give a final statement, and the other instructors and I will make team assignments. Be sure to keep yourselves in top condition." She couldn't help but give a stare to Squall, shocked that he and Seifer would still be participating. Then again, maybe it wasn't all that surprising.

"Nida Tidesky," she began reading aloud. "Raelin Kail, and Squall Leonhart, you three are dismissed. I will see you shortly." There were two names on the list she did not read; Seifer Almasy, for obvious reasons, and one Selphie Tilmitt, who hadn't showed up for class yet.

Two of the three named students rose and filed out of the class room, strutting as they went. Squall simply remained at his seat lost in a world of solitude.

"Squall Leonhart?" Quistis asked, seeing him there with that glum look. "Can you come up front please, I need to discuss something important with you."

He lifted his head, and finally got on his feet. His instructor moved to the corner by the door where she could speak to him a little more privately.

"Yes?" he asked in his usual unenthusiastic tone.

"You haven't yet acquired a Guardian Force in the field."

He shifted his weight to his left leg and placed his hand on his hip. "Shit, I was supposed to go with you this morning, but Seifer..."

The young instructor tilted her head to better read his expression. "Well. Perhaps you shouldn't have put it off for so long."

He looked her in the eyes and shrugged his shoulders. "Whatever."

In truth, he didn't have any good excuse, he was given the assignment over a month ago. He really shouldn't have put it off until exam day.

"Well, this is a problem. You see, it's a prerequisite I'm afraid. If you don't find and battle a GF, then you won't be able to participate in the SeeD exam."

He clenched his teeth, but had nothing to say. She was repeating herself, he knew this already. "Just get to the point."

"Don't worry," Quistis assured him almost in a whisper. "I've got your back." She pulled out a small piece of paper from her blouse pocket and handed it to her student. "I was supposed to take care of some preparations with the other instructors, but it looks like I'll have a couple hours free. There's a Guardian Force residing in the mountains. There's a cave there called the Fire Caverns. I haven't been inside personally, but I heard rumors the GF is quite powerful."

Squall unfolded the sheet of paper. It contained directions to the caverns. He didn't need them though, this was exactly where he had planned on going this morning. In reality, the directions were for her.

"Hmm? Is something wrong?"

He shook his head.

"Good. Why don't you meet me downstairs in the lobby in about fifteen minutes. I'll go see what's holding up the substitute for this class."

He still didn't understand why she needed to tag along with him on this. "Instructor, I don't need an escort you know."

She smiled at him, knowing precisely what he was thinking. "I'm not going along to babysit you Squall. It's mandatory that a cadet be accompanied by a member of SeeD on this test. I'll be there as backup in case anything should go wrong."

He scoffed internally. "A babysitter then..."

"All right, you're dismissed. Don't forget to stop by your dorm, I think Dr. Kadowaki returned your gunblade there this morning."

No way would he forget that. Plus, he needed to grab his jacket to cover his exposed arms and torso before all this fresh air and bright lights melted his flesh off.

He left the classroom feeling bothered somehow. It was what his instructor said about her tagging along as backup. He didn't need any backup, he was one of the best in his class. Of course, he wasn't going to argue with her. Squall always did what he was told, for failing to follow orders always led to complications he didn't want to deal with.

His was a simple existence, and that was exactly how he preferred it. Unfortunately, Seifer would always find a way to disrupt his otherwise balanced system of living.

Down the hall he could hear someone yelling and making a lot of noise. Just as he was about to turn the corner for the platform leading to the elevator, someone ran straight into him. The force caused him to stagger back, but the girl who'd initiated the contact bounced back so hard, she fell flat on her ass with a loud thud and grunt.

"Oww!" she screamed.

Squall stood in front of her with a blank expression.

The teenage girl looked up at him, but didn't see any of the concern she'd hoped to receive. He didn't even ask if she was all right.

Unfazed, however, she rose to her feet and brushed herself off. "Gees, I'm so late! Sorry I ran into you like that!"

Squall raised his eyebrow, but otherwise remained expressionless and silent.

"Heeey," the spunky young woman began. "Did you just come from that classroom over there?"

He turned around to look at the door he'd just emerged from a moment ago. To answer her question, a simple nod seemed enough.

"So is class over now?"

Another simple nod.

The spunky young woman grew excited a little too prematurely. "Woo-hoo...! Oh, super bummer!"

Squall was ready to leave.

"Hey, did they give out the team assignments yet?"

"No," he finally answered with his voice, trying again to break away.

She looked relieved, and relaxed her shoulders. "Oh, good..."

Squall studied her features for a moment. She was wearing a SeeD cadet uniform, but he'd never seen her face around here before. Her hair was very light brown and styled with large banana curls. Her voice was high pitched for a girl her age, and was the kind of voice that got real annoying real fast. Unfortunately for him, she didn't seem to realize how piercing her own tone was, and continued to talk his ears off.

"So hey, I just transferred here yesterday. This Garden is sooo much bigger than Trabia Garden! The Headmaster gave me a tour already, but I keep getting lost! I keep winding up in all the wrong classes!" She started to laugh at her own foolishness considering she did have a map to go along with her class schedule.

She sounded so full of energy and spunk, that it made Squall nauseous while listening to her. He didn't give a crap about any of her misadventures as a new student in Balamb, why the hell was she talking to him? Hyne, he'd rather have his nose hairs plucked!

"Heeey, do you think you could give me another tour of the place? Pleeease!"

He wanted to shout. He wished so hard that Lionheart, his prized gunblade, was at his side right then.

Sensing his desire to break away, the girl stopped talking about herself and focused on something she found somewhat curious. "Wow, what happened to you?" She was of course referring to his bandages.

Squall looked her dead in the eyes, the sudden connection almost scaring the young cadet into a corner. Suddenly he didn't look like the friendly type anymore, if he even did to begin with. "I'm busy," he said rudely before finally storming away.

"Booyaka!" the girl shouted out.

Squall froze, his back facing her. What the hell did she just say?

He finally reached the elevator, relieved that the Trabian girl would not be joining him on the ride down. The elevator was much too small for the two of them, even if it could physically fit close to ten people. He didn't even want to think about it. As he waited for the doors to open, he watched that girl stop his instructor on the way out of the classroom. They had engaged a conversation, and was just happy that he wasn't a part of it.

The dormitories were all the way at the back end of Garden. The academy was very unique and not at all like conventional buildings. The entire structure took on a dome like design, with two floors above the ground level. The ground floor was the largest, as the circumference of the dome structure was widest at the base.

There was a rumor that all the three Gardens were built in abandoned military shelters, and that there were a lot of hidden corridors and secret passages deep below the surface. This bunker had been renovated into an academy shortly after the last Sorceress War ended, and was now home to an elite mercenary force called SeeD. SeeD was the brainchild of one man; the Headmaster of Balamb Garden, Cid Kramer.

Squall had been training to become a SeeD ever since he was a child. It was what he lived for now, and nothing else mattered in his life. Nothing.

True to her word, Squall discovered the doctor had placed his gunblade in its case, and cleaned it, returning it to its brilliant metallic luster. Remembering how he felt about her touching it, and how he wished her to leave it alone, he suddenly felt relieved that she hadn't. His jacket was placed on his bed, and he quickly threw it on, also relieved to find that there was no visible stains of blood. Now he was finally feeling that some sense of normality had returned to his life. Only now, did he feel his day had truly begun.

Holding Lionheart in front of him, he practiced a few swings in the air. The sunlight reflected sharply off the razor edge and triggered images in his mind of the battle he'd fought that morning.

After Seifer struck him, he snapped. The radiant stains of blood they left behind mocked the rising sun, and Squall had a feeling so much more was going to follow.

The field exam for SeeD cadets... This was a real battle. The closest he'd ever been to actual combat before was fighting the monsters in the training center here at the academy. But those simple minded creatures and holograms were nothing compared to trained and armed military soldiers. This was a human battle he was going to fight. Was he truly prepared?

Of course he was. This was what he'd been training so hard for his whole life, he knew this day would come; yearned for it even. Now that it finally had, nothing could make him back down from such a huge opportunity.

Returning his thoughts to the wound on his face, he realized he wasn't yet complete. Those bandages had to come off. If Seifer could manage without them, then so could he. Squall wouldn't admit it, but he always felt a need to better that guy. There was something about him that made Squall's blood boil.

Standing in the tiny bathroom, he carefully cut the bandages while staring at himself in the mirror. The pain wasn't that bad as long he didn't apply too much pressure to the stitched area. Even so, he downed a couple of those pills just in case later on the pain may decide to creep up on him.

He tossed the cotton into a waste basket and examined the patchwork. The doctor did a good job, the stitch line was nice and straight. The wound would certainly leave a scar, but that really didn't matter. Just one more among many. The only real difference was the fact that this one was in plain sight. Still, that didn't matter.

There was a knock at his door, and he heard his instructor call his name. That's right, he was supposed to meet her in the lobby; again, he'd been late. "Squall, are you in there? We need to get going, I have to be back here by 1500 to go over the assignments with the Headmaster. Hello?"

The prerequisite: obtain a Guardian Force in the field. Squall shut the light to his bathroom and closed the door behind him. There was just this one minor test he had to complete before he could join the other cadets in battle. It shouldn't take him that long, after all... his SeeD instructor would be there for "backup", right?

"Squall? Don't tell me you're taking off those bandages!"

Author's Notes:
Ok, this turned out to be longer than I planned, but I promise that not all of them will be so long.

As a special note, you've probably noticed already how certain elements are going to change. I assure you though, the main plot will remain intact. My ultimate goal here is this: To bring you (as well as myself) back into the world of Final Fantasy VIII with a fresh new take, as if we were experiencing the story for the first time. I don't know about all of you, but I've played FF8 so many times, I've gone through all the possible scenarios and now there's nothing new to surprise me. Hopefully, this novelization will allow us all to re-experience this magnificent story.

To those who've never played FF8 (are you actually reading this?) I urge you to stick with this, only because it's such a great story with modernistic concepts that I believe most of us can truly relate to. I only hope that my retelling does some kind of justice here, rather than completely disgrace the title!

Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my work!
Let me know what you think, ok?
Liminal Raz