written for rokukami's "faith" challenge.

(splinter)

They say that a sunset in Centra is the most beautiful thing the world has to offer. It sets early behind the range, turning the mountains and forests and barren lands to yellow fire, vibrant and glowing and glittering like the sands are made of gold. They say that to watch a sunset in Centra is to see the face of God.

She's never believed in that nonsense about Gods and angels and demons, but it is a pretty sunset.

--

The thing about losing her memory is that she isn't entirely sure it's a problem. In exchange for power, she gives up her past - is that such an unfair trade? There are a lot of things in her past that she wants to forget, and don't most people spend their entire lives trying to outrun theirs? It's a gift, really - each moment is a new beginning, another place to start over new.

Without her memory, she can easily forget that she fell in love (love love) with Squall. Without her memory, she can pretend it was all brother-sister, motherly love. And even if it is just a feeble excuse, it's enough for the moment, and that's all that matters.

Everyone else is worried about it, trying to find ways to hold onto their pasts and keep living the present. She'd rather let go, let her past float off into the sand dunes and ocean waves. Forget about it, live for right now, make the future happen. She's a little unnerved to realize how much she sounds like Rinoa or Zell when she thinks like that. It seems like something they'd say.

It's funny, though - she doesn't forget the details, just the picture as a whole. She can remember stone walls and a black dress, but can't quite recall what the orphanage looked like. Brown hair and skin, but not her foster mother's face. It's a little frustrating, a little painful, and a little liberating all at the same time.

--

The thunder wakes her up. Sudden and sharp - like a gunshot, only louder - and she bolts upright in bed, shaking the remnants of nightmare from her eyes. She's been having them lately, warped, fragmented visions of what might have been - visions of Squall, dying over Rinoa, or of Zell, crashing off the tower into oblivion, or Selphie, bloody and mutilated and broken. And in all the nightmares, one thing is consistent - she is never harmed. Only Quistis, out of everyone, finds herself unscathed, safe and secure and painless.

She splashes cold water on her face and glances at the clock - 3:26 AM - before looking out her window. Rain is lashing at the glass, leaving streaks that become visible in the lightning flashes. Wind howls around corners somewhere nearby, making her shudder. There's no sound in the world more terrifying than that.

Behind her, through the mirror, her dorm is a mass of shadows and ambiguous shapes, eerie and haunting. She closes her eyes, and she can still see the nightmare - opens them, and sees the uncertainty of darkness. She's been telling them for years that there aren't enough light fixtures in these rooms. In a shaking surreality, she returns to bed, and somehow in the morning, the mirror is broken, but she doesn't remember breaking it, or why.

Cleans the blood off her fingers, and picks up the fragments. They'll never fit again. It's another memory, another broken mirror, another superstition, but none of the pieces will click. She doesn't remember how they're supposed to go anymore.

--

Believing that a GF will come is half of the power in it. Really, it's just a lot of faith - you throw out your arms and pray to anything that will listen that this great beast will show up and save you when you need it. It's like jumping off a cliff. Close your eyes and freefall and hope that you'll land on something soft.

They believe in the GFs - that's why they come, that's why they show up, that's why they take such a toll on memory. Because throwing out your arms and saying "Come on, Bahamut!" isn't enough. You've got to really, honestly, desperately believe that Bahamut cares so much about his little master that he'll run in and save her. And when you throw your all into hoping one thing and one thing only, you begin to forget the rest of the story. Did Squall really run out in space, or did she dream that? Did Ultimecia have blonde hair, or gray?

Did Quistis fight the battle, or sit it out? She doesn't remember anymore, and doesn't dare ask.

They all know that they're losing their memories, that the things they cherish and love and want to remember are slipping away faster than they can make new ones, faster than they can realize. That's the thing - if you can remember that you've forgotten it, you can hang on to a piece, a fragment, a shard of glass to remind you - it happened, even if you don't know how. There's evidence, right here, you know this.

There's a scar on her knuckle from the broken mirror. She tells people she got it from a fight while she was off saving the world. No one questions her, and after a while, she believes it, too.

--

It's standing on the beach under a Centran sunset - golden fire lighting the ocean into glittering, blinding fragments - that she starts to regret the price she's paid. Forgetting the past sounds great until you realize that the past is all you have. It makes you who you are, and without it, you're still you - she's still Quistis who fought Ulitmecia, Quistis who was born an orphan, Quistis standing on this beach - but it's blurry and hard to understand. Why does it make her heart ache to see Squall and Rinoa together? Why doesn't she trust Seifer? Why does she laugh whenever she sees Zell eat hot dogs?

Nothing makes sense when you don't have a past. It's all the result, and none of the equation. It isn't enough to know the answer - you still have to know the question. Under the sunset fire of the face of God, she regrets throwing away her past on power.

But it's too late now to go back and fix the already-forgotten mistakes. They float away, drift off into the wind until no one remembers what happened or who made what mistake or who is supposed to apologize. And that should make it easier, but it doesn't, because there's still this fragment, needle-sharp like glass, reminding her that she did something wrong. And that no one has made her answer for it. She gets away with something she'd rather confess, but no longer recalls what.

Power alone isn't enough to call the GF - it's about believing in it, more than you believe in yourself. It's about putting your faith into something ethereal because it seems more real than you. It's about trusting a monster to do a human's job. It's about forgetting the details that define you. In exchange for the power to call a GF, you throw everything you are into it.

It's selling your past in fragments to kill an enemy with the greatest of ease.

It's like watching yourself turn to dust, one grain at a time.
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(A/N: Hmm. Eh... Okay. I tried to tie it all up with a cool conclusion, but I couldn't think of one. Review!)