Rating: R (later chapters)

Disclaimer: All characters, places, etc. belong to their respective owners, and not to me

A/N: Okay...I'm not new to fan fiction by any means, just FF8 fan fiction...so please be kind! I'll catch on a little better to the fandom (characterization, etc.) in a little bit. In the mean time, I'm starting out with a shipper fic...although it's not my usual style.

Waiting for Magic

Chapter 1: Fantasy

Quistis Trepe looked down into the dark, ebony depths of her half empty coffee cup with distaste written clearly across her face. Slowly, her lips curved down into subtle frown, cursing the benign drink for everything that had ever gone wrong in her life. From being adopted into a less than ideal family to loosing her position as a Balamb Garden instructor, the hot liquid was responsible for it all...most notably the indelible stain that was quickly forming in the folds of her skirt.

"Sorry..." the junior classman who had bumped into her arm uttered, a horrified look blanching out her features to white. Her dark eyes were wide, shining pools that looked suspiciously like Quistis' spilled coffee.

"It's alright," she sighed. "I'm sure it'll come out." Like blood on a white shag carpet.

"Okay...well...sorry again," the girl replied, turning to walk away with noticeable stiffness in her muscles. From behind, she looked like Rinoa. The long, black hair and delicate frame that were as much a part of Rinoa's charm as he contagious laughter seemed a little out of place in the gray and silver uniform.

Quistis remembered only somewhat vaguely her days before becoming a SeeD. She remembered her determination, her unrelenting need to be strong and in control. Quistis hated to feel as if she weren't in control, everything needed to be carefully in hand. Being weak was dangerous, but being helpless was deadly.

Soaking up some of the coffee with her napkin, she got up to rid herself of the cup. Somehow, the rest of her drink didn't really appeal to her anymore. Distantly, she was aware of eyes on her as she walked out of the cafeteria. She'd been aware that some of her students looked up to her as more than an authority figure when she'd been an instructor. Those students, however, had been lost in the crowd when she lost her teaching license. Presently, she'd gotten used to people staring at her. After defeating Ultemica, she along with everyone else involved, had become legendary figures within the garden.

"Hey, Quistis," Zell went blazing by, almost knocking her to the floor, as she exited the cafeteria. She had to admit, he knew how to make an entrance.

Zell rarely missed out on the cafeteria's hot dogs. People let him to the front of the line, gave him their lunch when he got there late. All of his apparent fame didn't seem to bother Zell. If anything, he fed off of it and had become stronger. The boy who'd once been "cry baby Zell" had transformed into a man with the will of a warrior and a heart of gold. He still was filled with his characteristic nervous energy, still made impulsive and often reckless decisions, but Quistis could see maturity raising its head within him.

Maturity was never something Quistis had struggled with. Often she felt that she was all together more mature than she needed to be. She'd always been the adult, the level headed one. Her childhood had slipped behind her long ago, untouched and unbearably short. She didn't have the things that Zell had, didn't share in his innocence.

However, that was something Quistis had come to terms with. Her childhood, or lack thereof, had made her strong. It had given her a sense of stubborn determination to succeed that nothing else could have. The only thing that daunted her was how overall success seemed to evade her at every turn. When she looked back on her life, she could see herself blindly working toward a goal, and misery pulling her away each time she felt the warmth of happiness' light.

Shaking her head to rid herself of the dark thoughts that seemed to be circling her head, Quistis continued on toward her room. It was much too easy to become depressed by doting on things that had gone wrong. Quistis continually tried to remember that there was much in her life she had to be thankful for. She was a top notch member of SeeD, people widely respected her abilities throughout the world. On top of that, she had friends who had been to hell and back with her. That was a bond no one could break.

Quietly, she closed the door to her room behind her, and searched for something to wear. Ultimately, she decided upon her SeeD uniform. In a childish way, it made her feel good to wear it. It made her feel important, part of something bigger than herself. She had a meeting with the headmaster in less than an hour anyway, the uniform would do just fine.

Humming softly to herself, she rid herself of her ruined outfit, tossing it haphazardly onto the floor, and pulled on the navy and gold uniform. The skirt was shorter than her other one, showing off her knees. Generally, she preferred long skirts and her SeeD uniform featured a somewhat longer skirt than the ones others wore.

Stopping to check her hair in the mirror, Quistis stepped out of her room only to see Squall walking toward her. As always, her breath caught in her chest at the sight of him. His lanky brown hair hung down into his clear, storm gray eyes. His stride was full of a solid confidence, and the scar that ran from his forehead down the bride of his nose did nothing to make him any less handsome. In short, Squall Leonhart took Quistis' breath away and left her heart pounding solidly against her ribs every time she saw him.

"Quistis," he nodded lightly as he passed.

Of course, he was heading to Rinoa's room.

"Hi, Squall..." she replied a little belatedly. He didn't seem to notice that she'd said anything, and continued toward his girl friend's room. Quistis had been madly in love with Squall for as long as she could remember, and he'd always been either completely oblivious to her feelings or had outright rejected them. Squall wasn't exactly a sentimental man with one very obvious exception. Rinoa brought out the best in him, had acquired his love and devotion. Indeed, Quistis had never seen anyone love someone as deeply as Squall did Rinoa.

Quistis wanted what Rinoa had so badly that it hurt. She wanted someone who would be her knight, someone who would protect and love with her every fiber of his being. She wanted to feel magic every time he touched her, to be able to sit back and know that she'd found forever. As silly as she knew it was, that had always been Quistis' fantasy, and she'd been waiting for that very special kind of magic for twenty two long years. Twenty two years that had felt more like fifty.

A little deflated, Quistis started toward the headmaster's office. It didn't hurt to be early, and she had nothing else to do. She figured that she could probably talk to Xu for a while, anything to get her mind off of Squall. To want the one thing she couldn't have, it was a strange feeling to Quistis.

Clasping her hands together in front of her, Quistis started the long walk to the other end of the garden to get to the elevator. She'd always felt that having only one elevator was a major design flaw in the garden. The lift itself could hold no more than four people...maybe six if everyone really squeezed. It made getting everyone to second floor classrooms at the same time completely impossible. Thus, the garden had to stagger class times so that the fewest number of students possible had to use the elevator at the same time.

Zell was just coming out of the cafeteria as she walked by. He waved enthusiastically and jogged up to her.

"Hey, Quistis," he greeted her for the second time in the space of an hour. "How're you?"

"I'm good, how about you?" she asked.

"Great!" he replied. "Where 'ya going?" He fell into step easily beside her, his arms held just a little to far away from his sides. Zell was more muscular than Squall, although shorter. Squall's skill made up for his light, agile frame.

"To see the headmaster," she answered. "You?"

"Squall and I are going to train a little bit," he shrugged.

"Really? I just saw him," Quistis mused, reflecting back upon how striking he'd looked walking toward her in his dark pants and jacket.

"No kidding?" Zell's jaw dropped. "I've been looking all over for him!"

"Oh, were you hoping to find him in a bun?" Quistis laughed. Zell chuckled a little himself and scratched the back of his head.

"I was just taking a break from looking for him," he replied a little sheepishly. "Keeping my energy up and all." Quistis couldn't help but laugh, Zell had enough energy to keep two people up and going.

"Well, I saw him heading toward Rinoa's room," she announced. "So you might want to head that direction."

"Okay, thanks," he nodded and left with a little wave when Quistis turned to get on the elevator. She could still see him sprinting toward the dorms as she rode up to the third floor, the motion making her stomach feel like it had dropped to her heels. The poor little organ had just climbed back into place when the elevator stopped, making her stomach lurch out of place again.

She stepped out and into the headmaster's office. Xu looked up from her position behind a desk in what could only be called a lobby and smiled.

"You're early," she said, looking down at her watch. "Really early."

"I know," Quistis shrugged. "But I really had nothing else to do, and thought I'd just head here anyway."

"You can sit down and wait if you want," Xu offered, motioning toward a chair. "I'll tell the headmaster you're here, maybe there's something he has he can discuss with you before everyone else gets here."

"Everyone else?" Quistis asked, not aware that anyone would be present at the meeting aside from herself and the headmaster.

"Four other SeeDs," Xu looked down at a piece of paper on the desk, frowned momentarily, and then quickly wiped it away. "Just a moment." She disappeared through the double doors that lead into Cid's main office.

Quistis tapped her fingers on her knee impatiently while Xu was gone, her mind running over the strange little bit of information she had just received. If the meeting involved other members of SeeD, then it had to be a mission. The thought was a nice one, she hadn't really been on any worthwhile missions for a long time. After the liberation of Timber, the Galbadians had gone back into the shadows and remarkably little was heard from them. Since then, all of the missions that had come Quistis' way were monster exterminations.

Of course, what mission could possibly compare to defeating Ultemica and ultimately saving the world? Quistis kept getting the nagging feeling that she'd reached her peak, fulfilled her destiny, and the rest of her life would be a slow spiral downward.

"Quistis?" Xu tossed open one of the doors and motioned inward with one hand. "The headmaster will see you now."

"Okay, thank you, Xu," she smiled amicably at the other woman. Xu was an extraordinarily capable woman, and Quistis often wondered why she served as little more than a secretary most of the time.

If I was headmaster, she'd be out in the field.

"Good afternoon, Miss Trepe," Cid didn't look up as she walked into the room, closing the door behind her. "How are you today?"

"Quite well, Sir," she replied, giving him a short salute even though he wasn't looking at her.

"Glad to hear that." He stood up, running one hand thoughtfully along the stubble gracing his strong jaw line. "I'm sure you've probably figured out by now what I'm about to say." He stood and looked at her, his hands behind his back. As usual, he wore a red sweater vest over a white shirt. Cid wasn't a physically intimidating man, but there was an air of authority about him that Quistis respected.

"A mission?" she asked, unconsciously tilting her head slightly to the side.

"One that I feel is well suited to your talents," he replied. "And also one that will be very important to you."

"How is that?" she asked, swallowing deeply and desperately hoping he wasn't going to say what she thought he was going to.

"Yourself and four other SeeD members are to be dispatched to Galbadia," he announced. "Naturally, you will lead the team. The governments of Timber and Dollet have contacted us concerning rumors that the Galbadians are building new missile bases and preparing to launch a new campaign to gain complete control of the continent."

He paused, clearing his throat, and then continued.

"You'll depart for Timber tomorrow morning and then continue on to Deling City. Try to determine whether there is any truth to the rumors. Should the Galbadians indeed be poised for attack, return to Timber for further instructions." He nervously licked his lips. "Quistis...if this mission goes smoothly, your reward will be the renewal of your position as an instructor. That is, if you want it. I honestly believe that you have proven yourself ten times over, but a number of the faculty would like to see your leadership skills in action."

"Sir..." Quistis paused for a moment, not sure how to reply. "Naturally, I would love to become an instructor again...but, if Galbadia is going to attack...what would the nature of our mission be?"

"To protect the free governments that Timber and Dollet have established for themselves," he answered. "I suspect that the rumors are more truth than fiction. We will dispatch more people if needed."

Quistis chewed this over for a moment. The mission itself didn't bother her, only the fact that her teaching license was being dangled in front of her nose as incentive. Being an instructor had been one of the more rewarding experiences of her life, and loosing it had been very painful. She could feel herself shying away from the prospect of setting herself up for that kind of failure once again. Still, a part of her couldn't pass up the chance to get back what she loved so much.

"Who will I be working with?" she asked.

Cid cleared his throat again. It was beginning to bother her, and she knew she wasn't going to like what she was about to hear.

"Well...some of the best," he replied reluctantly.

"Anyone I know?" Quistis inquired.

"Yes..." Cid looked down at the floor. "We attempted to find someone with ties to Galbadia. Rinoa will be on a mission to Esthar with Squall. Irvine will be with them...and we were left with one notable alternative."

"Who?" Quistis asked, completely baffled as to who they could have chosen. She didn't have to wonder very long, mere moments after she asked the rest of her team filed into the office. Selphie was at the front of the pack, two people Quistis vaguely recognized as former students behind her, and the person who's name Cid had been so reluctant to say hovered in the back.

Seifer. Of course...he was with the sorceress when she was named Ambassador. Not necessarily a good connection to Galbadia, but a connection.

"Hey, Quistis!" Selphie grinned, her green eyes wild with enthusiasm. Seifer simply gave her a long, impassive look.

"You're team, Miss Trepe," Cid smiled, a hint of apology in his eyes, and motioned to the four people who had since lined up and saluted in front of the door. "Good luck."

A/N #2: lol...when I spell checked this, it offered "sexier" as an alternative for Seifer. Hehe...just thought that was funny.