Disclaimer: I do not own FF8, SquareEnix does.

The Taint

He knew she had done something to him after the Galbadia battle, and it bothered him that he was more concerned with it then with Rinoa's comatose condition. Her image was burned into his mind, that looming, haunting figure that had emerged from Rinoa, her smirk, a mere up turning at the corners of her mouth and she was gone. He couldn't recall another moment that he had been more terrified.

And when the terror passed he felt tainted, and he couldn't explain it.

"Squall?" A voice asked hesitantly, and he exhaled heavily before acknowledging it.

"What?" It was colder than he had intended, but for the past few days his voice had carried the bitter permafrost. He couldn't find enough regret within him to apologize as he watched Quistis' face fall with equally cold eyes.

"You should take a break; you've been sitting her with her for nearly two days…" She started, her voice held no more warmth, not even the kind hesitance it had possessed a mere moment earlier. She had slipped into her protection 'Ice Queen' façade. It occurred to Squall that she was merely reaching out to him, as she often did, and this was the backlash for his refusal at the emotional connection, but he failed to care.

He opened his mouth to refuse, one that would be laced with malice for such a selfish thought. Leave her?! How could she even suggest such a thing?

But before the harsh words could come, the taint did. The icy blackness washed over him and he choked on his words. The room darkened, even the sun filtering through the window could not dismiss the darkness that spread throughout it like a malignant cancer.

He doubled over, sliding from the chair to his knees on the floor. One hand braced himself against the bed frantically as he saw the shadows on the floor lengthen, black tendrils creeping from beneath the bed. He thought he heard Quistis say something in a sharp frantic tone, but the words were muffled.

Bile rose in the back of his throat as nausea crashed over him. The powerful urge to empty his stomach right there caused him to clamp his free hand around his nose and mouth. The fear was almost as choking as the nausea, but just as quickly as it came it was gone.

The shadows retreated as the sun once again claimed the room. Sound returned, and Squall realized that Quistis was kneeling next to him, a hand on his shoulder. "Are you alright?! Squall?!"

He remained in his position for a few more fearful moments, until his breathing slowed, and the nausea subsided. His hand slowly fell from his mouth and he nodded, more to himself than to Quistis.

"What…what happened?" Quistis asked, but her question went ignored as Squall shakily stood. His gaze fell to the bed that Rinoa's comatose body lay on, the crisp, white sheets hardly wrinkled or disturbed by her presence upon them. But he knew it was a lie, knew that whatever now tainted him had taken residence in her.

As he left the room without a word, in hurried shaky strides, leaving behind a puzzled Quistis and a serene Rinoa, he couldn't help but shudder at a thought.

That he was tainted. That it was using Rinoa.

((So what did you think? Please send me a review if you want me to continue and I'll probably update it ASAP.))