Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy 8, SquareEnix does.

Knight's Redemption

They chose to pardon him when the war was over, to save him from the many countries that wanted nothing more than to execute him. He thought that was a death sentence in itself.

Living after his betrayal, living after all of his failures; perhaps that was the point, to make him suffer.

Nearly an entire year had passed since Ultimecia perished, and after his trial, Seifer had been more than happy to disappear completely. He dwelled on his mistakes and failures, consuming that self destructive poison hungrily. It was the only way he could explain why she had died, because he had failed.

Failed to defend her during the assassination attempt, failed to stop them in the Galbadia garden, and failed to ensure Adel's complete resurrection and absorption of Rinoa's powers.

Thrice he had failed, and thrice he had begged for forgiveness.

"Never again shall I fail you." He croaked, his voice nearly a sob. "I will prove myself worthy to become your knight." He promised every time, and every time he was forgiven and given another chance. Except the last.

The train jarred as it winded through another turn, reminding him of where he was now physically. Not in Deling city, Galbadia garden, or the Lunatic Pandora. He was on the train that ran from Timber to Balamb, that winding underground tunnel that he had once found vaguely fascinating.

But that man had died long ago, along with the man that might have found regret. He wasn't returning to the garden to ask for forgiveness, no; there was only one who he would beg for that. Instead it was for redemption, to redeem her, to redeem those little slivers of dignity that he had nearly lost a year ago.

When the train finally reached Balamb Seifer took a cab to the garden. The cab driver had been reluctant at first, saying: "You look way too damn much like that traitor for me." A large tip was a good enough bribe, in the past he would have snarled, insulted, and demanded but that fire was gone, snuffed out by his tremendous emotional pain and exhaustion, exhaustion that shone in his blue eyes like a white flag of surrender.

The clerk at the entrance looked startled when he entered the garden, snatching up the phone before he even passed through the gate. Seifer knew he didn't recognize him, but rather the tattered, ragged trench coat he wore, donned for the first time in a year just for this occasion. He wouldn't recognize the blonde man who only appeared to have gained a little weight without it.

They reacted quicker than he expected them to. Squall, Cid and Matron were waiting for him in the lobby, the rest of Squall's little entourage stood to the side; Quistis, Irvine, Selphie, Zell, and Rinoa.

Good. He thought. They're all here.

He waited for one of his sarcastic remarks to leave his mouth, to make some inappropriate joke but he didn't; and the defensive postures of those around him relaxed slightly when the comment never came. He saw sure they could see the exhaustion in his eyes; damn they could probably hear it in his voice. "I think we need to talk."

Cid and Matron were the only ones who allowed the hostility and contempt to fade from their gazes. "Let's go up to my office Seifer." Cid said, and Matron reached forward to touch his shoulder in comfort.

He tore back out of her grip violently, his eyes wide with panic and fear. "No! Don't fucking touch me! Not after…not after…" He played the drama well, immediately their shock was replaced with pity, and he had to dip his head to hide his disgusted grimace.

"I'm sorry. I know you're not…but…I just can't." The words he spoke were false but his regret was true, not for them, never for them.

Understanding and hurt passed across Matron's features and she nodded. "I'll stay here then."

"Let's just talk in the Quad." Seifer said, shakily, as if attempting to calm himself. "I don't have to say anything that anyone doesn't wish to hear." Cid nodded at that, and he walked beside Seifer as they made their way to the Quad.

The others seemed defensive, but relaxed as they followed, Selphie even laughed at something Irvine said, giggling as his arm slid around her waist. Squall remained cold, his expression hard and condemning. He didn't fail to notice that he kept himself between him and Rinoa; after what happened on the Lunatic Pandora Seifer didn't blame him.

Cid immediately cleared the Quad out and when the last of the curious students had been led away by Matron they took a seat at one of the middle tables. Cid sat at Seifer's right and Squall directly in front of him, the rest of them sat at the outlaying tables, turning chairs to face him.

Seifer took another one of those shaky breaths that was so common among those struggling to find the words to start, in truth though; he had gone over these last words a thousand times. Even with a thousand times of practice he probably still wouldn't express his hate fully enough.

"The incident at Timber was the only time Ultimecia ever exerted her hold over me. After that I served her of my own free will." He said, he knew his answer had been expected. Shock didn't appear on any of the faces that watched him intently, only pity; especially from Cid who had defended him vehemently through his trial. The headmaster's mouth opened, probably to make some sad, sardonic remark, and Seifer's hand rose to silence him.

"No let me finish." His voice was returning to normal as he stopped acting, this was his purpose here and he would not be interrupted. "But you don't understand, no one ever did. She offered something I never had, a purpose, a reason for being." His gaze swept to Rinoa, lingering on her gaze for just a moment before he glanced away; a movement that made Squall stiffen in irritation.

"When I thought I found that reason elsewhere and was betrayed." Hatred laced across Squall's face then, and his hands clenched into fists that fell into his lap, Rinoa glanced down at the floor, avoiding his gaze. Seifer almost smirked at that, almost.

"That was a stupid reason Seifer. You helped kill hundreds because you needed a fucking purpose?" Squall seethed, leaning forward in his chair a little. "You had a fucking purpose. You were a SeeD, no wait; you had the chance to be a SeeD but you fucked that up too didn't you? Was she your escape plan because you couldn't pull your shit together?"

He found it again, his old rage, that hulking red monster that bled to the surface faster than blood to an open wound. He stood so quickly that his chair flew back behind him and the table rocked unsteadily, and his hands slammed flat, deafeningly loud on its surface.

"You never knew what it was like you selfish son of a bitch!" He hissed, and he relished in the look of pure shock that widened Squall's eyes. "Even if you never knew it you had someone there for you! Even when you kept pushing every away someone was still there that needed you! That wanted you!"

One hand rose to point a finger at himself. "No one ever fucking wanted me! No one ever fucking needed me! Except her. She needed a knight and became one because she needed me too!" His voice lowered and he laughed, bitterly. "I guess it's one of those fucking complexes. But we're all fucked up in some way from that damn orphanage, right?"

He sighed, relaxing a little as he unbuttoned the top button of his trench coat. Tension still lingered around him, but they didn't say anything, they didn't have to.

"But its different now, Ultimecia's gone, the war's over, and we all survived. And no one wants me now, except dead of course, and no one sure as hell needs me." He laughed again, and his hand rose to undo another button.

"But that's okay, because she's waiting for me, and you're all mine now." His gaze turned dark and horribly viscous as he undid one more button on his trench coat and the complicated mess of wires and explosives beneath was exposed. He flipped the detonator before any of them had a chance to react.

Perhaps if they had looked closer they would have seen how gaunt and ghost like he had really become, and how deceiving and cleverly placed that 'extra weight' had really been.

It was in that half second before the ensuing explosion that Seifer found his redemption. The terrified faces of Selphie as she turned towards Irvine, instructor Quistis' mouth opened in a rare display of shock, Zell falling out of his chair as he attempted to scrambled away, Cid's complete disbelief even as he stared at the explosives mere inches from his face, Rinoa finally glancing up to a Squall who even now attempted to protect her. It was everything he had hoped his redemption would be and more, for he found peace in that moment, something his life had been lacking for a troubling nineteen years.

Am I worthy to be your knight now, Ultimecia?

He thought, his arrogant smirk returning as he felt what he hoped was her approval.

Then he felt nothing at all.

--

(( So were you surprised?

Yeah, just a little break from Griever's Taint, it's just a little something that hit me the other day and it really demanded my attention. I don't think there are enough fics out there that focus on Seifer after the game that aren't…well…He always seems regretful for what he's done. I don't think there's enough where he really sided with Ultimecia and stayed there of his own free will. Yes in the final battle he seems to doubt his actions tremendously, but everyone does, and maybe instead of concluding that he was wrong he might have chosen the other. I think it would fit his personality better.

Anyway, read and review. I'm interested to see what you guys thought. ))