This is it people! This is the final chapter. The words I want bold aren't working for some reason, so hopefully that won't affect the reading too much. There's going to be a massive Author's Note at the end so let's just get this started.


Squall's POV

April 12th

We stepped outside the central train hub and let the spring air hit our faces.

I popped a cigarette into my mouth almost immediately.

"Those things will kill you, ya know," Rinoa narrowed her eyes at me. She said that almost every time I smoked, but I really needed one.

We were officially in Esthar…with no real plan. Find the Resistance and take it from there, but that isn't much of a plan. More like grasping for straws and floundering on the ground for something concrete to sustain our efforts. But we knew overthinking at this point was useless and would only add to our already stressful minds. Best bet was to arrive, get settled, then start branching out for leads.

But those thoughts strayed from my mind at this particular moment as I gazed around my surroundings.

I stood, for the first time in my short life, in Esthar. The trains dropped off right in the city center. The skyscrapers weren't as big as Deling, but they still reached high into the sky. There was a scattering of older buildings that dated back far longer than I could place. This continent's roots reached back to the earliest of civilization. Galbadia had its indigenous people of course, but it was only discovered by the rest of the world not even a thousand years ago. In that sense, Galbadia was quite young.

The other thing I noticed immediately was how clean the city appeared to be. Naturally, there was always some trash spilling onto the curb or missing a garbage bin. But, aside from a spot here or there…it was amazing. Clearly, a large portion of the city's budget went into caretaking and it was definitely worth it in my eyes. Deling had alleys filled to the brim with trash. In comparison, Esthar was spotless.

Even all the city plants and foliage was groomed and taken care of daily. The flowers were bright and the leaves were a healthy green. They weren't the gray tinge that I was so used to back in Deling. I love Deling, but Esthar's first impression was kicking Deling's ass. Deling had its charm as one of the biggest cities in the world, but Esthar was proving right now how a massive city didn't equal a dirty city.

I glanced upwards to see a monorail gliding easily along its rail suspended in the air. It made noise, but for a train, it was eerily quiet. Guess that was Esthar's famous transportation known for running on time. It was almost sad how the expectation for public transport has dwindled down to it being acceptable when something arrives twenty minutes late.

After taking the city in at first glance I looked at my crew behind me.

"So…the plan sounds all well and good back in Balamb. But does anyone have an actual idea where to start?" I shrugged.

"I think hotel takes priority," Quistis chimed in. "We can work everything else out after."

Before I could reply that her idea was perfect, I felt someone tap my shoulder.

"Excuse me," A man who couldn't have been a few years older than me said, "Are you the Saints?"

"Erm," I was so taken aback by someone knowing our group that I couldn't even answer him properly.

"Who's asking," Seifer took a step forward.

The man leaned in closer to our group, "President Deling sent me. I'm to take you to the Resistance."

"Oh," Selphie wisely exclaimed.

"Pardon me if that's just a little too…perfect," I said as I took a serious look at him. He was in plain clothes with a ball cap on. Nothing outstanding about him. He didn't look like a cop to me at least.

"I have been inside the Resistance working for the President," He explained, "He didn't tell you about me?

"No," Seifer grunted.

The man looked genuinely shocked, "I…I was told to introduce you to the Resistance. I have been telling the Resistance about you guys for weeks now."

"You have?" I pressed. My interest piqued to say the least. "Tell them what exactly?"

"Nothing specific," He quickly replied, "Just that I know some military guys looking for work. I never even said your names or how many of you there were. Deling gave me orders to start building you as a reputable mercenary group. Ex-military that was looking for good work. Only I and the President know who you really are."

"How important are you in The Resistance?" Seifer questioned.

The man looked sheepish, "Pretty low down. I only joined two months or so ago. Haven't really been given any major tasks. Deling has been pretty mad at me for not having any info to relay to him, but they don't tell me anything. I think he's worried I might be lying to him. But I'm not, I swear!"

I fought hard not to roll my eyes, "Don't convince us, we don't give a shit."

He cast his eyes to the side.

"What's Esthar like currently?" I asked moving on.

He shrugged and scratched his elbow looking around, "Well, it has been peaceful. I think the locals are content with what's going on. Not like there are riots or protests. Everyone is just living their life, ya know? But, there does seem to be some uneasiness. No one has seen the Prime Minister in a long time and people who are paying attention have begun to worry I think. But again, I'm just a person on the outside to The Resistance so I'm not getting the full picture. From a citizen standpoint? Everyday life continues."

"No accent?" I pressed realizing he sounded Galbadian.

"I turn it on when necessary," He almost seemed proud of this, "You guys ready to go?"

"One second please," I gave the man a kind smile that anyone could tell was masking pure irritation. I turned towards my crew and we all huddled up. "Thoughts?"

"It makes sense for Deling to send us a contact…it doesn't make sense he didn't tell us about the contact." Quistis pushed her glasses up her nose.

"He's a douche canoe," Irvine shrugged, "Enough of a reason."

"I'm with Irvine," Seifer nodded, "I think Deling was just interested in seeing what we do with no restrictions. If it's in his best interest to take down Adel he would've infiltrated the Resistance long ago. This was just another step in his plan."

Rinoa, Selphie, and Zell gave their nod as well.

I turned back towards the man, "Do you have proof you're with Deling?"

It was worth asking.

He nodded but paused and looked away.

"What is it?" I questioned.

"His words, not mine," the man held out his hands apologetically, "He said: 'you're a do-gooder with an IQ of 170'."

My mind flashed back to sitting in his office where he said that exact line. "Alright. Sounds good."

"Follow me," the man immediately turned and started walking down the street.

The group followed after him.

"What was that about?" Rinoa asked matching pace with me.

"No one would know my IQ except when Deling did a search on my name. And he called me a do-gooder when I was in his office. It's enough proof for me that this man is at least associated with Deling."

"But…we don't trust him." Rinoa narrowed her eyes.

I looked at her and then over my shoulder to make sure everyone was listening. I whispered so only my group could hear and not the man several paces in front of me. "We don't trust anyone from here on except each other. No matter what they say or do."

The return of serious nods told me they understood.

We walked for a few blocks before we were led down an alley. In the alley were several black vehicles. I exchanged cautious glances with Seifer but everyone proceeded to climb in. Me, Rinoa, and Zell in one car with the man. The rest in a second car.

We weren't blindfolded or bound…always a plus. We kept our suspicions and I knew everyone was trying to memorize the route. It was certainly possible, but a lot tougher when one is in a city that they've never been in before.

The ride took less than a half an hour before the cars pulled alongside the curb. We were ushered into a bar and quickly led down some stairs. There was a small room filled with boxes of beer and kegs. The man who initially greeted us darted around some boxes. He pushed open a false wall and pressured her us onward with a wave of his hand.

"How fancy," Irvine mused.

I stepped inside to see a much larger room. It wasn't dirty, but clearly older. This was probably from centuries ago and the modern world was built above it. The room was large and it splintered off into many sections. The ceiling lights needed cleaning, and as tiny of a detail that was, it told me many things. There was no cleaning service let in here. There was also no one low enough on the ladder to be charged with cleaning. So the Resistance was made up of all fighters that saw cleaning beneath them, or the leader didn't have enough power for people to follow his orders to complete simple tasks. Or, their structure was more of 'everyone-do-your-part'…that always ends in disaster. Regardless, the fact we were let in so easily tells me even more. They either are dumb enough to allow strangers in, complacent enough to think it isn't a problem, or they are actually plenty powerful where it isn't a worry.

I highly doubt the third option.

The people we walked passed told us a different story. The room was filled with all sorts of people from young to old. Some were dressed in full combat gear as if ready to march off to war. Others were in plain clothes. Some men were playing cards or throwing dice in the corner. I saw people whisper as our group stepped into the room. It was clearly a ragtag bunch of all backgrounds that came together. This was clearly a resistance even from the first glance.

We were directed into another doorway where there was a rectangular desk with a man sitting behind it. There were other desks in the makeshift office filled to the brim with papers. Every desk had a weapon within reach and I made a mental note of which one to grab if things turned bad.

The man at the main desk looked up. He was older with stress lines deeply embedded into his face. He was losing his hair and apparently did his best to transfer the loss of hair into growing a long beard. Sadly, the beard wasn't that impressive and colored with spots of gray.

He scratched at his beard watching us come in. We stacked up in a group and I glanced over my shoulder to see Zell facing backward ensuring we couldn't be flanked by something unexpected.

"These are the wankers I've been tellin' ya about," The man said pointing at us with a thick Estharian accent hanging on every word. "Hot off the train they are. Just came in and are eager to work."

"Good, good," the bearded man nodded with his own Estharian accent. "Bloody young, ain't ya?"

I crossed my arms, "Young doesn't mean bad."

"And fuckin' Galbs no less." He cursed hearing my Galbadian accent.

I narrowed my eyes, "Got a problem with that."

"Oh calm yerself," The man shot back. "Let's hope they are actually who they say they are."

I quirked an eyebrow, "And how do we do that?"

"I was informed you have an excellent hand-to-hand combat person with you." The bearded man nodded at a steroid jacked man to his right. "Then he should be no problem for you. Anyone can shoot, but skilled close-quarters-combat is a different matter entirely. Not everyone knows that, and I think it would be the quickest way to see if you are who you say you are."

The muscle bound guy stepped up and cracked his knuckles in a very cliche trope.

"This is very amateurish," I sighed, "But fine. Don't get mad at us when he's injured."

"So which tosser is it?" The big man eyed us all.

Rinoa brushed passed me and stepped up to him. Before the big man could even react she clapped him with open palms on his ears. He flinched and Rinoa planted a strong right foot on the ground to stabilize her and followed it with an even stronger uppercut. It collided with his chin.

I swear I could hear his brain knock against his skull for a very painful concussion.

He recoiled but didn't lose balance. Rinoa moved like lightning and placed a foot in between his legs. She pulled back her right leg to sweep his left leg outwards. At the same time, she shoved with both of her hands on her upper body. A top heavy man like that stood no chance of keeping his balance.

He collapsed to the ground like a wrecking ball.

I watched Rinoa drop her knee onto the man's lower abdomen and slam her fist across his face. Twice. Both hits were in the same location on the side of his head and the man's arms fell limp showing he was currently too busy counting sheep to fight back.

Rinoa rose to her feet gracefully and walked back to the group. She jerked her thumb over her shoulder at Zell, "He's the martial arts expert."

"Yo!" Zell saluted the man.

The bearded man chuckled, "You havin' a laugh? She isn't your main fighter?"

I did my best not to roll my eyes at how dumb this test was. "No, but that should tell you how strong we all are."

"Name's Don," The bearded man held out his hand, "And we were starting to fear you were going to be too late."

"In trouble?" I inquired.

"Your names first," He sat back in his chair.

"Tidus," I replied.

"Yuna," Rinoa answered.

"Wakka," Irvine answered.

"Lulu," Quistis answered.

"Auron," Seifer answered.

"Riku," Selphie answered.

"Bahumet," Zell answered.

I couldn't hold back looking over my shoulder at Zell and glaring. He gave me a wide smile and a big thumbs up.

"Okay," Don said," Tidus, Yuna, Wakka, Auron, Riku, Lulu, and…Bahumet."

"We haven't been briefed on much…" I left the sentence hanging to see if Don would bite and fill us in.

"Of course," He leaned back in his chair, "You understand we can't release too much information."

"I do." I kept my voice stern and straightforward. I was playing ex-military after all.

"We needed a specialized task force. We have great fighters here, but we needed a unit that is used to this sort of thing. That's all you were told really. So I ask you one last time if you're really in before I tell you the mission."

"We're standing here, aren't we?" I replied with a stone face.

"Of course," Don shifted slightly uncomfortably. "Your mission is to assassinate the Prime Minster of Esthar."

I knew that. We all knew that. But…apparently, we weren't supposed to know that.

Seifer let out a long whistle. I'm glad he knew how to play along.

"That's not simple," I spoke evenly.

"No, no it isn't." Don rose to his feet, "That son-of-a-bitch has been ruining our country for too long. It's time we do something about it. We have been planning this attack for months."

"Good to know you have something in mind."

He nodded, "We can do everything, except infiltrate the premise. We don't have the ability to move as fast as needed. That's where you come in."

"So divide and strike?" I questioned, "Simple concept."

He shrugged, "Tomorrow is a parade that symbolizes Esthar's strength. It's National Day. The military gathers outside the city for a bloody big demonstration. Inside the city is a big parade that takes up almost all the police. We will use that parade as a diversion and attack the residence of that bellend simultaneously. Even better, the parade happens at night to give us more cover."

"The Prime Minister isn't attending the events?" I inquired.

Don shook his head, "The Prime Minister never leaves the premises. That son-of-a-bitch is paranoid with good reason."

"Attacking anyone in their base is a bad idea," Seifer chimed in. "Attacking the Prime Minister inside his compound is the bad of all bad ideas."

Don nodded again, "And yet, it's all we got. We tried hard to figure this out, we have everything planned. You're the hired guns. Just do what you're told."

Our entire group chuckled organically and I could see Don's face fill with fear. The result of the accidental intimidation was obvious.

"You tell us everything," I replied evenly. "And then we do what we do."

"Alright mates, calm yerselves. I have a meeting shortly, but I can give you the brief rundown." Don sighed deeply letting his shoulders sag. "As you know, Esthar has been in turmoil with such a poor leader. From the outside things look great economy wise, and that keeps most people cheery. But anyone who takes a second to glance closer can see we are a country about to explode. There have been plenty of fights against the government and resistance recently. I don't know how many make national news, or how it is spun. I saw one report calling us terrorists. We are being criminalized unfairly."

I glanced back at our friend who led us here. He claimed everything was peaceful. Don was making it sound like a war. Two very different stances on what was happening. Then again, Don was leading the Resistance and knew everything. Our friends, whose name I don't even know, is on the very bottom. Who is more trustworthy. The guy with the information with reason to mislead, or the Galbadian agent playing the average citizen card.

I arched an eyebrow, "You can't expect a government or news agency to call you anything other than terrorists. That's how these things go."

"Regardless," Don seethed. Apparently he doesn't like being considered the bad guys. "The only way to end this is to kill that knob gobbler, innit? And that means getting into the Prime Minister's compound. While nearly impossible. It isn't actually impossible. Their roof security is the first that lowers during a special event."

"They must monitor the skies no matter what national event is taking place?" Rinoa questioned.

Don seemed hesitant to continue. "Before I say this, I am well aware of how bloody foolish this sounds. But….our key to getting into the compound is a ladder."

My mouth fell open without even trying to hide it, "That's the big plan?"

"Not all plans require elite acrobatics or technologies," Don exclaimed. "This plan took so long because we needed to get floor plans to the building and watch how their guards work. We also were able to get someone on the inside."

"Lead with that." Seifer grimaced lowering his face into the palm of his hand, "Having a person on the inside changes everything."

"Yes," Don shifted his shoulders, "The fewer guards watching from above leaves more spots to sneak passed. Our inside man has access to a powerline that shuts down the outside cameras. He tried getting access to the security room itself but its off-site. The best we can do is blind them briefly. Without guards watching from above and the cameras shut down, we will be able to get inside the East Wing."

"Why the East?" I asked.

"Reconstruction, mate. They are refurbishing the windows. Normally they have bars on them on the ground level. They have left them off as they fix them. They leave two guards to watch them, but we can easily take them out. Once we are over the fence they won't expect us so fast. Your martial arts expert – whoever that actually is – can take them out quickly. We move through the windows and are inside."

Don stood up and unfolded large blueprints on the table. It had marks all over it and I could tell in an instant our exact route through the building.

"Our inside man has told us that the Prime Minister is normally in his office most of the time. When something goes wrong, the protocol is to secure in the underground bunker, which is located here." Don pointed to an elevator on the East side.

"If we're coming from the East they cannot retreat that way," I nodded.

"And if they don't know what's happening, the protocol states that they leave the asset in place."

"So they won't move anyone without knowing what's happening first?"

"Exactly," Don nodded.

"What's their backup protocol?" I asked anyways.

"The main office is actually the second safest, this will keep our target in one spot." Don ran a finger from the east to the southern area. "A few rooms, up the stairs, a few more rooms, and then we have that bitch. I'm not saying there won't be any resistance once we are inside, but we estimated the time to be less than five minutes once we are inside to reach the main office."

I glanced at Seifer to see him very subtly shake his head. I agreed. That was too short of an estimate.

"That's if there are no guards or even a single locked door," I countered, "Anything can slow us down. We can't just run straight through if guards are shooting at us."

Don smirked, "This is Esthar mate, not Galbadia. Not everyone has guns. Many of the guards will, but those aren't on standby in these front area. They need to be contacted and deployed from further inside the building. That gives us the advantage in the early beginning."

"Can it really be that simple," Selphie peered over the blueprint.

"The problem is never the actual assassination. Anyone can kill someone," Irving mused accurately, "It's making it out alive without getting caught."

"What is the evac' plan?" I looked at Don.

"Naturally, we try to escape the way we came. There will be cars ready to grab us."

"You know that won't happen," I interjected.

He nodded, "I do. The real plan is something you won't like. The Prime Minister isn't all powerful. There is a council of 50 people that is voted in by the populace. Currently, the council is split almost exactly fifty-fifty with our current government situation. Of course, they can never openly support The Resistance, but we have been in contact with some."

"So we have political support?" My hopes raised a bit. That was good news if so.

Don nodded, "I don't trust politicians, but many have told me that the only reason any councilor's support the current regime is out of fear. If that fear is taken away…." He left the sentence hanging.

"You expect us to get caught but then pardoned," Rinoa spoke.

"Not officially," Don tipped his head. "But if we are caught we will be released very shortly. We may not be able to live in Esthar a while, but if we do this right, no one will know who we are anyways."

Don sat back in his chair, "So that's it. I know it's simple. Almost overly so. Any questions?"

"You said tomorrow earlier."

"Ah," He nodded, "I did. I wished you arrived earlier, but sadly you came today. Yes, this goes down tomorrow."

"Don't give us much time to prep," I sighed. "But if you give us weapons and time with these plans that should be enough."

"Of course, of course." Don stood and gestured us outside as he rolled up the blueprints. "We have plenty of supplies you are welcome to. And take this office to talk. I would love to hear any suggestions."

"Thank you," I nodded and allowed myself to be ushered into another room.

Seifer took the blueprints from Don's hands and we all walked into a plain room filled with chairs, desks, and cabinets. A makeshift storage room to be sure.

Zell shut the door and leaned against it. He had a good sense and would be making sure no one would come in unannounced.

"The room could be bugged," Quistis commented looking around.

"I doubt it, but let's assume it is," I nodded my message by taking loud and clear to remain in character.

"So can I bring up the biggest issue?" Seifer said as he rolled up the blueprint on the only table in the room. He roughly shoved random debris off the table onto the ground. "Nobody assassinates a Prime Minister or President or anyone without having a fall guy. And the best way to get a fall guy...?"

"Bring in someone from out of town," Irvine sighed leaning against a wall with his arms crossed. "Well boys, I guess we know why we're here officially."

"Correct," I nodded as my eyes scanned the blueprints. "It's very obvious to everyone that we are the one's going down for this."

If this room was bugged, which I did severely doubt due to how poorly this Resistance appeared to be run, I wasn't afraid of them over hearing our skeptical role in this tragic play.

"So what do we do?" Selphie asked.

"I don't think he was lying about our escape route. Theoretically, if we get in and out in time, we can escape on our own. We don't have any reason to stay here. We can escape as fast as we came. No one knows us and I don't believe Don is looking to throw us under the bus. But if we are captured, the councilors will let resistance members go and keep us. So it's important we never get captured."

"So we go along with the plan?" Rinoa inquired.

I nodded, "Simple plans are usually best. People always want a crazy sky diving entrance or tunneling underground. Plain and simple I prefer. I know what the outer walls look like. They aren't covered in razor-wire or meant to hold back an invasion. They're to keep out tourists. A ladder is quick to get up and over. The cameras warn the people to prepare inside as any assassin's struggle to gain entrance. If what they say about the windows are true, we can get inside within seconds."

"And if they actually get the cameras off, it slows the response of security. If they're smart they will still go on high-alert, but they can't direct them anywhere. Compare that to seeing us climb a fence, they can get a response to us immediately."

Rinoa placed her hand on mine, "What's the chance that this plan works. I got a bad feeling."

I chuckled morbidly, "A bad feeling about killing Adel? I think we all do."

"You know what I mean."

"I do," I sighed and looked at my team. "There is no reason we all need to go inside the building."

"Out of the question," Quistis threw her arms to the side dramatically, "We are all sticking together. No matter what. We are all going in and coming out."

It only took a quick glance around the room to understand everyone stood by that fact. It wasn't a death sentence, it only meant everyone wanted to stay together. I couldn't blame them. I couldn't imagine sitting on the sidelines as my friends charged behind enemy lines.

"Very well. If we move fast, move as a group, I think this is actually possible. I know escaping will be hard and that's what I'm working on right now."

"How will people not see us with a ladder?" Zell asked fairly.

I pointed to a spot on the map so everyone could see, except Zell who was still against the door, "This is in an old part of town and there isn't much space on all sides. It's the North East fence that is closest to any buildings. Esthar is a major city and they needed more space when the industrial revolution hit. The grounds surrounding the Prime Minister's home used to be immense. Now? Not so much. It's a lot of space for a city, but it's crowded compared to many others. If a truck backs right up to the fence and we slide the ladder on the other side. We can jump the fence in seconds. Sprint to the East windows, take out the guards, and get inside. I think we can do it in less than a minute."

I turned towards Zell, "If you were standing there and watched someone hop President Deling fence what would you do? Call the police? How long does that take to dial and explain? About a minute, maybe more when you factor in how hesitant people get when dialing the police. So, if someone sees us, we'll be inside by then. It won't matter."

"Won't police surround the building outside for our escape?" Rinoa pressed.

"Let's hope not." I answered before turning to Seifer with a whispering voice, "Take Quistis and go by clothes and bags. We will stash them nearby. If we can escape and change our outfit, we can blend in with the crowds."

"There are cameras everywhere in Esthar." Quistis added.

"On National Day, many, and I do mean many, people wear patriotic masks. Get some of those too. Shouldn't be too hard to find. Plain clothes, masks, and crowds. It will be a nightmare. We get on the first train going anywhere out of Esthar. Trains going to Fisherman's Horizon leave every hour if not sooner."

"They will shut the trains down almost immediately," Seifer claimed.

I nodded, "I estimate twenty minutes if they know the Prime Minister just died. If they don't, and there's more confusion, the trains could be open longer. If the trains are closed, we push north."

I looked at Seifer, "When you go shopping, get the Resistance to rent you a car. Say it's for scoping out the city. But plant that car for a secondary escape. We drive north all night towards Trabia."

"Plan C?" Irvine asked.

"Hunker down in the city. I don't trust The Resistance but let's hope they are trustworthy and can keep us safe for a while. I bet they will be more than happy to if we pull this off."

"So the name of the game is still speed," Seifer said with his finger tracing the blueprints from the East fence to Adel's office, but to the fence. "That's going to be tough."

"There is no reason to be quiet once we are in," I looked at him knowing everyone was watching me, "I don't want to kill innocent guards, but we will do what we have to. Once we are in I want us moving in a dead sprint. We can make it to Adel, we put a bullet in her brain, and run back out. No need to delay in any way. We sprint back to the windows, and back over the fence. I think it will get a little bloody on the way out, but we'll see."

"Agreed?" I looked at everyone to get a series of nods in return. "Alright, let's get to work. Seifer, Quistis. Go get us what we need. Irvine, Rinoa go check out the weapons we can use. Selphie and Zell stay with me. I want to look at all the plans so the three of us will have everything memorized if we need to deviate from our group."

They nodded and were off.

I sighed looking at the plans. This was some serious shit.


"I can't believe this," Irvine muttered under his breath.

"Believe it," Don gripped his handgun tightly, "This is happening. We're killing that bitch today and saving Esthar."

We were all comically huddled inside a white van with a collapsable ladder. There weren't many pickup trucks on hand in Esthar and using one would make us stick out more. We could hear fireworks going off and music thumping in the distance. The celebrations were already underway and it was one of the biggest party days of the year. The city was dressed to impress with shining lights of color scattered throughout. Skyscrapers had blinking windows in rhythmic colors displaying Esthar's colors and flag. A quick tour of the city earlier and many people were congregated in other areas near bars or the parade. No one was in the government district today and that only benefited us.

Don's radio crackled: "Cameras going down in thirty."

"Copy," Don replied. He looked at my group, "This is it. I know we don't know each other and all. You help me do this, and I will do anything you want."

"Getting out alive is a priority," I told him.

I didn't expect Don to be coming with us, but he informed me yesterday that he planned on firing the final bullet to end all this. That relieved me slightly to know we weren't taking all the risk. With Don with us we have a better chance to escape. I know he doesn't want to die, and if what he said about the council is true, having him in our group will help negotiate our freedom….maybe.

"Ready?" Don asked.

"Let's do this," I told him bracing myself against the empty van wall and feeling the two handguns pressing against my chest in their holsters.

The van began reversing slowly before speeding up immensely. There were a couple people that looked at us curiously but didn't seem to care. People were drunk and doing dumb things. We were just another group. Once we got closer to the compound I couldn't believe how lucky we were. There was no one around. I mean no one. Everyone was out partying somewhere else.

The downside was how visible that made us.

The van bounced up onto the curb and then onto the grass. The fence was growing closer. We timed it so the cameras would go down just as the guards on the roof were looking the other way. A resistance member that was scouting earlier already told us that the guard members were normally at the Western edge overlooking the city. Now with the fireworks I hope they were really distracted.

We backed right up to the fence and in one smooth motion swung the doors open and threw the ladder over the fence. The fence was about ten feet tall, but we hopped on top of the white van and were able to jump over the fence. Even Don did it with ease. Seifer grabbed the ladder and dragged it closer to the building so it would be out of sight. The van pulled away to return to a hiding spot before we needed it to escape.

Zell was already off to the windows we were going to enter through. By the time we caught up he already had both guards knocked out. They laid limp on the ground. Siefer and I grabbed them to drag them closer to the building. Zell climbed up the windows since they were about eight feet from the ground. Irvine handed him a prying tool. Zell quickly jammed it in the corner and with a little effort popped the window out. He was careful not to break the glass, but the frame surrounding it instead. He yanked at it as the frame splintered, but it came out fairly quickly. He jumped in and we all followed in after.

Within thirty seconds the rest of us were inside. That was good, real good. If someone saw us they would probably be dialing the police soon. It's wise to assume that the police and security have already been notified. If someone actually called, it would take minutes for any police to arrive. They never really had the response time that most people believe. Our hope was to have this whole thing done in less than 10 minutes. We were really hoping to have it done in less than five. We were making good time so far.

And if no one alerted anybody….then we were really golden.

The interior looked as if it had the same interior decorator as any presidential estate in the world. Boring, stuffy, and filled with fake pleasantries. The floors were cut in wide tiles of marble that were covered in sections by modern artistic carpets with intricate designs. Various paintings of historical Estharian figures hung every twenty or so yards and perfectly placed between them were smaller sculptures standing on dark oak tables.

If one were to imagine a place a president or prime minister would live in…this would be it.

It was dead silent minus my heart pounding loud enough that I swear everyone in the group could hear it. We all stayed crouched with guns drawn until we were together. There was no more talking as I waved my hand to follow and we moved.

We debated for a while if we should stay quiet or sprint as quickly as possible. We determined a full-sprint was the better plan. When the cameras went down the security would be on high alert anyways. The key was doing this as fast as possible before anyone could receive orders.

The carpets muffled our footsteps at first, but when we entered into a grander hall, the flooring switched to marble and nothing was muffled anymore. Our loud footsteps resounded off the marble flooring and echoed throughout the halls. Every step made me cringe and regret the decision to sprint. It sounded like a horse tap dancing on stage with the pattering of all our feet. But every second that passed was another ten feet closer to our destination.

But there was a problem I noticed after half a minute of running. I glanced at Seifer. He held up two fingers and tapped his right ear aggressively. I nodded.

Too quiet.

There wasn't a single person. National Day or not…this was the residence of the Prime Minister. It was filled to the fucking brim with people at all times. Councilors, security, lawyers, secretaries…even fucking custodial staff.

There. Was. No. One.

Looking at Seifer I took my right index finger and jammed it into a hole I made with my thumb and index finger on my left hand.

We're fucked.

He nodded and shrugged.

Too late. Can't do shit.

So on we went. We took a turn up the stairs and ducked through a door double presenting us with the final hallway to our destination. There was still no one. But we didn't have a choice in the matter. There was nothing else we could do. If we turn back we were dead men anyways. Maybe we could escape, but Deling would hunt us down for the rest of his life….not that I believe he will leave us alone even if we succeed, but I don't think he will care as much about us if we did succeed. He's a stubborn ass that refuses to let anyone get their way except for his.

And if we turned around now the Resistance would drop us and stop supporting us. That's the best case scenario. Worst case? They start hunting us as well and then we have two groups after us. If they're smart they will leak our picture to Esthar's government as the possible assassins. Then we have two governments and a resistance group after us. There's a zero percent chance we survive that.

And most of all…if we are already in the trap...then it's too late. Turning around now isn't going to do anything.

The best outcome is to kill Adel, hope Don is not part of the trap so we can work with him to escape. Then Deling and Don are happy so we can get away. It won't be that easy by any means, but it is still the best outcome with the shitty cards we've been dealt.

But we were close. Close to being done with this shitty hand. Close to getting back to what we were before. Close to being together without under someone's thumb. Close to being free in a world without Blaine in it. Close to our freedom.

Closer. Closer. Closer. Closer.

Every turn, hallway, door, and fucking step we grew closer to Adel and our freedom. My blood was rushing so fast I felt like I would sprint for eternity and never tire. My adrenalin urged my muscles faster than I have ever felt before.

The doors appeared in front of us. The final doors that led into the executive office. Unguarded.

Zell got in front of the group by sprinting even faster somehow. He took three elongated steps to gain momentum into one powerful kick. He planted it right in the middle of the double doors. The metal lock instead snapped and I heard the heavy thick door frame creak from the immense pressure. The doors flew open and banged into the wall.

He landed inside the room and our entire group breached the door right behind him. Seifer held out his hand to catch the left door from bouncing back at us and I did the same right the right door.

The room reminded me of Deling's office. It wasn't massive but still an impressive size. The entire floor was one big red carpet. There were three couches and two arm chairs about twenty feet from the main door. Behind the seating was a large wooden desk. It had a scattering of papers and documents covering it. Clearly a used desk and not for show.

Behind the desk was a person standing there. There were looking directly at the door, completely ready and expecting us. If there was any doubt left that this was a trap, it was completely removed.

So I while I wasn't shocked by any means to see this was a trap, I was shocked for a completely different reason.

Don held us his handgun and stepped forward screaming in heavy breaths. "Laguna! You son-of-a-bitch!"

Before he could pull the trigger I reached out and grabbed him by the arm. He looked at me with pure rage in his eyes. My own eyes were dead as my mind was drawing blanks trying to figure out what I was looking at.

"Z-Zell," I managed to squeeze out somehow.

Zell restrained Don immediately by twisting the gun out of his hand and shoving him to the ground. Zell was clearly confused but listened without hesitation.

"What's happening?" Irvine held his gun at the man standing behind the desk.

Rinoa quickly put her hand on Irvine's arm and looked at me in the face. "Squall….is that….?"

I nodded and stepped forward.

The man behind the desk smiled gently with his hands in his pockets casually.

"What is happening!" Zell exclaimed, "We need to move!"

"Stop!" Seifer yelled at Zell. "Everyone stop. Squall...is that-"

"Yes," I whispered barely able to utter the words. My head was feeling light as I continued to stare at the man behind the desk.

The man walked around the desk slowly. He wore plain dark pleated pants with a white loose button-down shirt. His pace quickened as he walked towards the group. He removed his hands from his pockets.

"Squall?" Seifer pressed.

"I-I…I…."

It happened in a flash. The man stopped walking and dashed forward. Irvine shot out of reaction but missed from the sudden burst of speed the man dashed with.

"Don't shoot!" Rinoa shouted at Irvine shoving his arm down.

The man reached Zell and yanked the gun out of his hand that originally belonged to Don. He pressed the tip to Don's head. Zell grabbed the inner elbow of the man but didn't do anything further. Zell looked at me and waited.

I stood frozen.

"Fuck you Laguna!" Don spat still being held down by Zell with one hand. He glared passed the barrel of the gun at the man. "Fuck you and everything you stand for! You fucking traitor. You fucking ruined this country!"

Laguna pulled the trigger and the entire group flinched from the bullet.

Don's blood spattered on Zell for being so close before the body toppled over. Zell, using the pressure on Laguna's inner elbow, was able to apply the proper force to submit Laguna onto his knees and yank the gun from the man's hand.

Zell hopped back and held the gun at Laguna's head. Irvine, Selphie, Quistis, Seifer and even Rinoa held their guns at the man on his knees.

Laguna smiled gently and held up his hands. He looked over at me, "Hello, Squall."

"W-what….what the fuck is happening!" I screamed. I stepped forward with my arm cocked back and slammed it into his face as hard as possible. He took it with a twist of his neck and then returned to looking at me.

"You've grown so much. I'm happy to finally see you." He smiled brightly.

"Shut the fuck up!" I screamed punching him in the face again.

And again. And again. And again. I felt my knuckles bruise with each hit and every time I pulled my arm back my a string of blood flew into the air. I wasn't sure if it was from my hand or from my father's nose exploding into a mess of red. He didn't try to resist or fight back. He knelt on the ground, looked me in the eye with a sadness I couldn't comprehend and gave a small despairing smile that hit me harder than a punch ever could.

"Stop smiling!" I yelled in a fury as I kept slamming my fist down on his face.

"Squall, stop!"

My head snapped to the left where a side door leading to the office was. There stood Ellone. My kidnapped sister that was presumed dead so many years ago. In a simple dress, with her hair braided tightly to her head. She gripped the doorframe with tears in her eyes looking at me.

"What the fuck," I uttered stumbling back from my father. "You're…you're…"

"It's okay Squall," She smiled, "Everything's okay now."

And I feinted.


Rinoa's POV

After Squall's very masculine feinting spell, we were all ushered to another room. We were even allowed to keep our weapons which made us far more comfortable. We weren't sure at all how to react, but the fact they didn't separate any of us. And kept Squall in the same room as us, made us feel more at ease. At ease in the slightest possible way that is. Because who the fuck could remain calm in this fucked up situation.

I wasn't even sure how to process what the hell just happened or what was about to happen. We were served refreshments which was a kind gesture. Not that anyone ate them, but the offer was a welcomed one.

We were told we could get some rest but none of us wanted to be alone, and we didn't want to leave Squall's side. He was put on a couch near us as he recovered.

We sat in silence mostly in this small, well-lit room.

"So…" Zell spoke first, "What's going on?"

"I don't know," Quistis sighed, "Squall's dad and sister were dead along with his mother. It's…it's…"

"It's the whole motivation for all of this," Seifer grunted, "It is what led his life in this direction. To come to Galbadia, to try and stop all the shitty people in this world. It's because of his terrible childhood. It was with him constantly. It's why he's so good at what he does. It's why we are all together. It's….it's everything. For it to suddenly be rewritten like that…I can't imagine."

"Why didn't they contact him?" Selphie asked.

"I don't know," I replied looking over at Squall on the couch. "I have no idea."

"I do," Laguna proclaimed walking into the room. He stopped to look at Squall for a second before taking a seat and facing the group.

"You're finally going to explain what's going on?" I pressed. I almost wanted to copy Squall and start punching the man myself.

He nodded sitting down, "I am."

As he sat, I could see Squall in him almost immediately. The slender face, the thick set of hair, the build of his body, the way his shoulders hung, and so much more. The main difference I could immediately note was the soft face Laguna held. Compared to Squall's constant stern face; seeing Laguna with a gentle smile at us and warm eyes was different from his son. Naturally, Laguna had more stress lines across his face, but his eyes kept my attention. Squall's eyes could be cold. They had happiness and that shown through, but he was almost always thinking about the darkness in this world. Laguna, without even knowing him, I saw the opposite. A man that went through his own hell, still smiling. It wasn't hard to imagine Laguna enjoyed the everyday simplicities and didn't let the world hold him down

A stark contrast to his son.

"Then start." I commanded, "Tell us everything."

He crossed his leg onto his knee and drummed on it briefly with his fingers. "Where to start….I guess I'll start with what happened tonight."

He folded his arms, "So I used to work with Don. I was in the Resistance. He picked me up and we worked together for years. We changed the Resistance from a little protest and spray-painting to fully weaponized powerhouse. It was necessary in those times to fight back against Adel. She ran these streets with blood whenever she could. Peaceful wasn't going to do much against her. For reason I will explain in a little bit, I ended up in the Resistance. I owed them big and dedicated my life to it.

"The story of what I did in the Resistance could go on forever. Just know I helped them a lot. I became their unofficial leader, so to speak. Don was at my side and we got closer to our goal of liberating Esthar. As we got closer and closer, I understood Don was not going to do what we planned. We were going to put a Councilor in the position of Prime Minister. I was going to disappear, and Don was going to help in the new government.

It became very apparent that Don wanted the Prime Minister position for himself. He said on multiple occasions how he was going to hold public executions for all those that supported Adel. I wanted trials for everyone and forgiveness to move on. He wanted more blood. That alone wouldn't be enough for me to stop him. He talked about how with our skill and the power of Esthar we could do 'so much more' as he put it. He never said what he meant, but it wasn't hard to imagine whatever he meant would be more death in the world. Without sounding arrogant. The majority of the Resistance was following me at this point, not Don. I do not know if he knew this, or didn't think it was a problem. I started speaking with the council that was on our side behind his back. I started explaining my fears and they backed me."

Laguna paused for a moment to take a breath, "When the time came to put our plan in action, we did. It worked and we took Esthar from Adel. It was this moment that Don was expecting me to kill the Councilor we planned to put in place and help him gather support with the Resistance. I didn't…I refused to. I suppose it was foolish of me to assume he would back down when he realized he was outnumbered, but he didn't. He tried to attack and shot me in the leg."

Laguna patted his leg. "He was restrained and taken away. I was prepared for the Councilor to take the position but they refused, giving it to me. I didn't want it, but the support of the council, the Resistance, and the spread of my name throughout the important people in the city was hard to refuse. They all wanted me and trusted me. As much as I didn't want it, I felt it was my obligation to help them. If they saw me ruling their country, then that's what I had to do."

Laguna sighed, "Don went back underground with his few supporters. He quickly met up with Adel loyalists and from the first day of me being in office, he fought against me. It kept me locked up as I tried to deal with this matter. It's why Esthar has been falling more into isolation as I've been doing my best to prevent civil war."

"What about now?" Quistis asked, "You killed Don. He still has supporters."

Laguna shook his head, "Most of his supports are no more. I knew about your plan from the beginning and have been setting up a counter strike once you put your plan in action. The 'inside man' Don thought he had was a double agent working for me the whole time. I knew of this plan from the very beginning. The Resistance headquarters have been raided, the councilors that supported him have been detained, and without going into further details…a lot of bloodshed has happened tonight. Tomorrow, the whole world will hear about the awful death toll that occurred this evening. Your break-in is actually the most peaceful attack tonight."

That took a moment to really comprehend. This entire time, Don was outmatched. Not even in the contest by the way Laguna was speaking. He knew the Resistance headquarters, had a double agent, and set up the perfect trap. 'Headquarters have been raided', I almost shuttered at what that statement meant. It meant slaughter. I could picture the underground bunker being raided and the gunfights that followed. Detaining Councilors and taking care of everyone else opposing him it sounds like. It was a simple sentence that carried immense weight. In one night, he changed the history of this country. Not only that...it sounds like the second time he did something.

Who was this man that could topple an entire country and also defeat an entire resistance? I looked at the soft-eyed man that was Squall's father and I immediately realized that for a man to go from a nobody, to leading a resistance, to ruling a country...he was no ordinary person.

"But…." Quistis was having trouble finding words.

"How did you get here? How are you alive?" I pressed.

"How much do you know?" Laguna replied.

"I know everything." I shot back, "I know you were dead in a ditch back in Balamb. You spoke with some man at a bus stop and he robbed you."

"Not dead," Laguna quickly shook his head. "Very badly beaten, and very close to death. I was even shot several times, but none were kill shots and I did not cross over yet. As the men who mugged me left to rob my house, one man stayed behind. He was the one I originally spoke with at the stop. He looked practically identical to me. It's why I spoke to him in the first place. We were waiting at a bus stop and I made a joke about how similar we looked. It was almost scary how identical we were. I had no idea what his plan was at the time."

"Squall confirmed the body," I hotly snapped. "He saw you."

"Like I just said, the man was almost my twin. I beat him until his face caved in. It would look like me, I imagine. Especially to a traumatized child. It was pure coincidence."

"What about DNA?" Selphie asked.

Laguna shrugged, "I'm not sure, but I imagine they didn't need DNA. My wallet was on the man since I never took it back, and Squall told them what he overheard in the house. He confirmed the body. They didn't need DNA, it was obvious what happened. Maybe it was oversight. I have no idea."

"How did you survive with gunshot wounds that bad?" Seifer asked.

"My friend, Ward, had medical training and kept my stable until I was really taken care of. It delayed my search by too long, which postponed everything."

"So why did you not get your son," I seethed. "Why did you leave Squall by himself?"

"I went to the house. I was barely alive but I needed to find my family," Laguna explained with great sadness, "I saw what happened, I thought they took both the children. That's what they told me when they beat me on the road. That they would rape my wife and steal my children. I saw Raine…" Laguna paused for a moment with his eyes closed. "I saw…I saw my wife, and I knew they came. I immediately set off after them. I couldn't let them get a head start any further than they already did."

"They led you to Esthar?" Quistis asked.

Laguna nodded, "I learned they were heading that way. I passed out on the boat and was out for weeks in Esthar as I recovered from my injuries enough to move. Kiros, my other friend, and Ward were both in a special forces unit with me. They were my biggest allies in that time. They eventually connected with Don. I met up with Don and we promised to help each other. He would help me find Ellone and Squall, and I would help him with Adel."

"Where was Ellone?"

"She was being sold in a sex ring." Laguna's face looked pained from the memories. "We got her just in time. A moment later and I may never have seen her again."

"How young?" Quistis inquired.

"Young." Laguna answered with regretful eyes.

There was a moment of silence before he continued. "After we got her out, she told me Squall was never taken. I had no idea. At this point, I owed everything to Don. I had already promised I wouldn't leave him until Adel was taken care of. I had Ward try to reach out and he found Squall in a boarding school. I'm not saying it was right, but I had to take care of my promise in Esthar before leaving. Tensions were high and I know it sounds simple to think I could've just left, but it is never that easy. At that time, even if it may have ended up a mistake, I decided to stay."

"You stayed," I gaped at him, "Knowing your son thought you and Ellone were gone. And you stayed in Esthar?"

"It was never supposed to be so long," Laguna held out his hands palm up, "But before I knew it, I had my face on posters and I was wanted by Adel personally. It was no longer safe for me to travel. I was locked in Esthar, in a country that I was trying to take down. They knew about me, my friends, and Ellone. But they didn't know Squall existed. He was safe. If I contacted him, Adel would've gone after him immediately. If he knew I was alive, he would come find me. He would enter a war zone. I had to keep him safe. I decided the best way to get back to Squall was to finish this as fast as possible."

"So after you became Prime Minister…you didn't reach out?" Seifer finally spoke.

"By that point you guys were the Saints. It wasn't so easy to contact you."

"Wait," Quistis crossed her arms back and forth, "How did you know that?"

"I didn't at first," Laguna shrugged, "By the time Ward was able to check in on the boarding school again...Squall was gone. I had no idea where he went. Then, it just so happened Squall and you guys turned up."

"Turned up where?" Quistis pressed.

"The EEL apartments where you stay," He shrugged.

"What? What does that mean?" I asked perplexed.

"I'm missing something," Zell pipped in, equally confused.

Laguna smiled, acknowledging the confusion, "Of course I didn't keep Ellone with me in the Resistance. Like I said, Adel knew Ellone too, I had to get her away. I had Kiros raise her far away and keep her safe with very limited contact between us. She could have her own story for how crazy her life has been, but eventually, she started a simple business as a cover for her and Kiros in Centra. It was a housing market and somehow, it spread. She really is a smart one," Laguna smile proudly at the thought of his intelligent daughter.

"Through the years, the business grew. First, apartments in low-income families. Then, condos on the beach. Then, city top housing in major areas, and then that spread to Deling. Where she created high-income living arrangements for the wealthy. By this point, she knew how to avoid all of Adel's spy network with the help of Kiros. We found ways to funnel money back into the Resistance, and she became a major contributor to us."

"You can't be serious," Quistis arched an eyebrow, "The apartment complex we live in…"

Lagune shrugged, "E.E.L. stands for Ellone Elizabeth Loire. When the top suite of her prime apartment in Deling was sold she looked into who bought. She immediately recognized Squall, and after very minor activity, she pieced together you guys were the Saints. She never reached out because she didn't want to draw attention to you guys. And at that point, the Resistance was really heating up. It was any day before we took Esthar, and it was never sure what would happen. Were we supposed to reach out to Squall and tell him we were alive, that he couldn't reach us because we were in hiding, and that we may die any day? He needed things to settle down. That wouldn't work. But I was overjoyed he was alive and well!"

"This is full of fucking coincidences," Seifer scoffed.

"Too many," Irvine backed him up.

"I'm not trying to ask you guys to understand or accept my reasoning. I am explaining what did occur and why Squall was never informed about me. I was going to find him the second Adel was gone, but-"

"-But then you were tasked with being Prime Minister," I finished for him. "So that happened very recently?"

He nodded, "Less than a year ago. And Don immediately went after everyone I knew. I told Ellone to stay away, but she snuck into Esthar and has lived with me since. Now I couldn't let him find Squall. He didn't even know Squall was alive, I never told anyone in fear a spy in the Resistance would leak it to Adel. So once again...Squall was on the outside to be safe and not dragged into all of this."

"That's…that's…it's so fucked!" I screamed. "This is messed up beyond belief!"

"It is," Laguna nodded, "It is. I won't deny that."

"To think, we almost killed you," Zell spoke with wide eyes.

"I knew your plan since Deling captured you," Laguna spoke calmly, "I have old friends in Deling and they kept me informed."

"Spies in the Galbadian Capitol?!" Quistis gasped.

Laguna smirked, "I prefer friends, but yes, I suppose now that I run Esthar, they are spies."

"So….all along…" I was finding this impossible to comprehend. Truly...this man was not only playing Don in the Resistance, but us as the Saints, and now even Deling? I felt my skin crawl thinking about how powerful Laguna actually was in this world and no one even knew. Nobody had the slightest clue that one man was running so many operations behind the scene. It was hard to swallow.

"All along I knew your plan, had eyes in the Resistance as well, and used your strike to plan my own that would end this Resistance for good. I just never expected my own son would get wrapped up in this somehow. It happened so quickly when I got the message that Deling caught the Saints. I knew immediately and was prepared to start negotiations with Deling, but then I heard word of his plan. He was sending my son right to me. The Resistance got to him first and I adjusted the plan from there. Either way, Esthar is finally safe, the country can stop hiding in fear, and most importantly, my son has returned."

"How did you keep Adel being removed from power a secret?" Quistis asked.

Laguna scratched the back of his head, "Well, we sort of just never said anything. Honestly, we assassinated Adel so quietly no one knew. We had the councilors claim Adel wasn't well and would be working more off-hands. Of course, people were worried at first, but things returned to normal soon enough. The councilors still did their duty and ran the country. Aside from some conspiracy theorists who were completely correct in guessing Adel was actually assassinated, everyone figured Adel just sort of...I don't know...went on vacation."

"Seriously?" Seifer gaped, "How dumb is this country."

Laguna shrugged, "The important people had inside knowledge to know what really happened. Adel was almost universally hated, so while they were weary with me in charge, they were focused on their own business, agendas, and whatever. The less important people had an idea and I think it trickled down the line until everyone more or less knew, they just couldn't do much about it...or they were happy. Those that had no idea, well...they just didn't care or never knew. I think if anyone actually paid attention they knew Adel was gone, but I'm sure you realize how many people don't care about anything outside of their own lives."

"But you kept it a secret from the world." Quistis insisted.

"Yes," Laguna chuckled, "That I tried very hard to keep from spreading. It's why Esthar has been going into an unofficially isolation period. I didn't want Deling or something to think Esthar was broken and start a war or something catastrophic like that. I'm sure he's heard rumors but you can't believe what you hear. I actually suspect he fully knows Adel is already assassinated and has sent your group to uncover what's really happen."

"That bastard," Zell cursed. "He was playing us too?!"

"Apparently everyone was," Quistis sighed, "That makes sense for Deling to know this. Undoubtedly he has his own spy network and a secret this big can't be kept secret from everyone. He sent us in to assassinate a prime minister because if Adel was still ruling, we would have to do our job. If Adel was gone, we would be the confirmation and support the rumors. Honestly, it's a wise tactic."

Laguna nodded agreeing with Quistis reasoning, "I'll be making the official announcement tonight so don't worry about this being a secret to protect anymore."

There was silence as everyone tried to process such a crazy story. How in the world could this be the turn of events? Adel was already assassinated? No one knew? Squall's father was not only alive but also the Prime Minister of Esthar? That's too insane to comprehend.

"Also," Laguna cut the silence off, "Before anyone thinks it, I will speak with Deling and ensure he does not chase you anymore. That you are under my protection and you are safe."

"Well, that's one good thing I suppose," Selphie shrugged.

"It's all good things, technically," Seifer admitted soberly, "Just…doesn't feel like it."

There was another long silence as everyone played with their hands and shuffled their eyes back and forth.

"We're all alive," Zell finally spoke as he made eye contact around the room. "I know this is a lot to handle but….we are all alive. We all came into this as if it was our last adventure but now….we can….um..."

Seifer put a surprisingly comforting hand on Zell, "We can live. We aren't under someone's thumb and we don't have a madman trying to kill us."

"But…" Selphie looked at Squall's sleeping body, "What do we do?"

Laguna rose suddenly, "While I am not forcing you guys to do anything, stick around until I have what will be a very shocking phone call to Deling. I do have something in mind you guys might like as well. So please bear with me a little longer."

And with that, Laguna stepped outside the room and left us all in just as much shock as before.

No one spoke or said anything. We all sat in a close circle with our eyes shifting back and forth. In a shocking moment of paternity, Siefer held out his two hands palms up. In a very serene and natural moment, everyone in the group locked hands.


Squall's POV

I woke up in a daze to unfamiliar surroundings and my body tensed.

"Easy," Seifer's rough voice calmed me after seeing me visibly tense.

"We're all here." Rinoa soothe voice spoke and I felt her hand squeeze mine.

I draped an arm across my eyes, "How real was what just occurred?" The flashes of my father being alive flooded my mind.

"All of it...with lot's more to explain," Quistis answered.

"Tell me," I sighed, "All of it. Now."

And they did. Everything that Laguna informed them of they relayed to me. It was too fucking coincidental but at the same time….it fit. There must be more to it and I'd get those answers from him myself.

I looked at the group and they all returned my serious gaze.

"We did it ladies and gentleman," I let a smirk grace my lips, "We fucking did it. Maybe not how we planned. It would be nice to be the chess player and not the pawn, but either way...we did it. We stopped Blaine, we saved the city, we survived Deling's blackmail. Technically, Adel is no longer the leader of Esthar and that's either new info for Deling or confirming something he needed to know. We aren't being hunted, and we're are all alive. Even better, it sounds like we are under the protection of Esthar and since the ruler is my family, I think it's safe to say we can't be reached by any enemies for the time being."

I smiled uncharacteristically brightly this time, "We really did it."

Selphie launched herself at me into a big hug. Rinoa followed her and next thing I knew, we were in a very cheesy group hug. It lasted a few perfect moments before it broke up slowly.

"Now," I stood up, "Wait here. I have someone I need to speak with."

Irvine let out a long whistle as a joke.

When I left the room a guard approached me. I asked where Laguna could be found and he directed me without hesitation. I assumed Laguna warned him I would be asking for him sooner or later.

As we walked I saw the previously deserted building flourish with all sorts of people. They must have been kept out of sight as they waited for us to strike. They were running around in a crisis mode trying to contain this mess. The world would change after this. Adel was gone, there was a new leader in Esthar, and it was going to be announced tonight according to what Laguna told everyone. It would shock the world and everyone here was preparing for that announcement.

After several minutes the guard led me to a door and gestured me through it. I stepped inside to see my father and sister along with two other men. My sister sat in a chair pushed against the wall, she was rapidly scrolling through a tablet. From the angle I was standing I could make out they were all news headlines. My best guess: they already made the public announcement that Laguna was running Esthar by now.

No one noticed me. They were too busy conversing with each other about what was happening.

"So," I started catching everyone's attention. Their heads snapped in my direction. "How'd you like the ladder plan?"

Laguna cracked a smile, "I...I couldn't believe that was the actual plan."

"But if you didn't know," I shrugged, "Would it have worked?"

Laguna glanced around the room, "It...might have gotten you guys in and got you to my office. Killing many on the way, I might add. But there would be no way you make it out alive."

"I couldn't believe da' plan was a ladder," Ellone smiled setting the tablet down speaking with a natural Balamb accent. "That was Don's brilliant plan. After all t'is time plotting. It was a ladder?"

I shrugged and didn't really say anything else.

"Karos, Ward." Laguna said to the two men standing near him, "Please, give us a moment."

They both nodded and stepped around the desk. They nodded to me politely as they left through the door behind me.

Now only four were in the room. Laguna, Ellone, me, and the incredibly awkward silence that was tense enough to be considered a fourth entity.

I scratched the back of my head and turned to Ellone, "Hey, Sis."

Ellone wiped away a tear that streamed down her face instantly hearing 'Sis' and rose from her chair. She swiftly closed the gap between me and her. She wrapped me tightly in a hug and I returned it just as strongly.

"I cannot imagine what you've been through," I told her as I held her tightly. "I...I…I need to thank you for being so brave and smart so long ago."

"Hush," She stepped back with more tears on her face, "Ya don't have to t'ank me."

"I do," I felt tears forming in my eyes and I didn't pretend to hide them, "You...you saved me, Ellone. I'm sorry I didn't search for you. I should've...I should've used my resources and my skills-"

"Oh you bloody, eejit," She hugged me again, even tighter. I felt her wet cheek press against my own. It was an emotional moment that I couldn't even begin to understand. "I'm safe, you're safe, and we're ta'gether again."

I could only nod and hold her. So that's what I did.

She stepped back and finally wiped her face. "I'll leave ya two alone," She glanced at Laguna behind her. I wanted to tell her not to go, but I knew I needed to have this talk with Laguna. "But don't t'ink I'm not gonna pry every little detail about everything ya been doing, ya hear?"

I chuckled and nodded, "I'll find you after. We have a lot to catch up on."

And with that, my long lost sister walked out the door...leaving me alone with my previously dead father that I cursed my whole life for ruining mine.

"Did...your friends tell you everything?" Laguna asked quietly.

I nodded and crossed my arms.

Laguna touched his face, "You throw a good punch."

I glared at him. I wasn't sure what I would feel seeing him again, but currently, the main emotion overtaking me was anger.

Laguna dropped his hand and rested it on the desk looking uneasy. "I won't pretend...I won't-erm...well, I'm just saying...I'm...well I'm sorry, son."

"I'm mad." The statement was obvious. Almost stupidly so. It sounded more intelligent in my mind, but it came out like a little kid angry at not getting ice cream.

Laguna nodded, "I know you are. You have every right-"

"I don't," I admitted, not sure what words would leave my mouth next. This was all new territory. How is someone supposed to speak with their father who was previously dead? I was lost and confused. I was feeling emotions I didn't know existed and I found myself more tongue tied than ever.

"I know," I hesitated to chew on my words a little more before spitting them out, "I know you did not wish to keep me in the dark. If what my friends say is true, and that would depend on if what you're saying is true, then I know you made tough choices. If there is one thing I remember about you, it's how good of a person you are. You always stopped to help people, I remember that. I didn't know you were a special forces agent or whatever, so there are clearly things I don't know. You took over an entire country, that alone shows how strong you are. But to say that you...well...you didn't want me." I looked him in the eyes, "I don't believe that. I'm sure you wanted me the second you discovered where I was and I understand the pressures of staying secret to keep others safe. Trust me, I do."

For fuck's sake, we kept Kristi in the dark to protect her. That's exactly what Laguna did to me, I can't judge that.

Laguna stepped around the desk but I held my hand out to stop him.

"But I'm mad," I told him evenly, "I know it isn't fair...maybe. I don't know how else to explain it, but...life sucked. It did. I mean, it fucking sucked. I'm broken and damaged and lost and depressed and seriously, seriously fucked up. That's on you. No, that's on those fuckers who killed mom and took Ellone, but you are to be blamed as well. If you kept your mouth shut-"

"I know!" Laguna exclaimed, "I know. Every night I relive opening my stupid mouth to that guy. If I didn't, maybe we'd be living a normal life. None of this would have happened and your mother….she may be here."

I stared at my father and understood a deeper level of his grief. In his world, he lost the woman he loved and both his children. He found one and was separated from his other child. He had to fight in another country's resistance and was trapped. He fought for how many years? How long was he fighting and surviving knowing he caused the death of his love? How did he go through every day with the regret he felt.

I felt regret for that day but I was only a child. He...the weight on his shoulders from that night must be an unbearable pressure I couldn't begin to understand. It was another reason it wasn't fair for me to hate him when he wasn't exactly enjoying life.

"You lost your accent," Laguna commented after a brief moment.

"You too," I responded.

Laguna shrugged slightly, "When I arrived in Esthar I was pretending to be Galbadian for some reason I don't even remember. Been faking the accent so long it's now just how I speak."

There was another silence that could have flattened us to the floor from the pressure.

"Thoughts on the Saints?" I looked at him.

Laguna had a wide smile, "More than impressed." Laguna gestured with an open hand to the seat in front of the desk. "Please, sit. I want to hear."

I obliged as he sat behind the desk. He pulled out a bottle of whiskey and two small glasses. He held them up asking silently if I wanted some. I nodded, and he quickly poured the alcohol.

He took a sip and leaned back in his chair, "I have been dying to ask how you started it, where it began, and just...everything."

I took my own sip and felt the whiskey burn my throat briefly. "Well...it started when Seifer and I caught a murderer who was released due to faulty evidence. We realized that the justice system was broken, and we wanted to change it. So, we went outside of the law…."

And I told him everything. We talked for appointments.

Eventually, Rinoa checked on me and informed me that everyone was okay. They had their rooms and were calling it a night. Then, she stayed with me as I kept speaking with my father. My father's eyes twinkled when he saw Rinoa grab my hand, something that made me slightly red in the face.

Laguna stared at me through every word that spilled out of my mouth in an unorganized mess. He was asked questions and followed along. He never yawned or found his attention drifting away. When attendants came he shooed them away instantly. He was locked into my every word.

We talked and talked and talked….


June 1st

Squall's POV

I scratched at the scar of where the GPS sensor had been removed. I let out a sigh and stepped onto the balcony. I leaned on the railing overlooking the shimmering water of Fisherman's Horizon. The waves lapped and crashed gently as if playing with one another. The setting sun's warm glow was spreading its orange fingers far across the sea. A seagull echoing in the distance and a fish jumping from the water were the only disturbances in the serene landscape ripped from a painting. It was another time I simply breathed, amazed to be alive. Something that continued to astound me.

Our group decided we needed some long overdue downtime and have been on vacation in FH for the last few weeks. We took a train from Esthar and have been enjoying our downtime ever since. Fishing, swimming, eating, drinking, laughing...so much laughing. So nice not to feel like we're in the middle of a war. This felt like the first real break in years.

It was almost impossible to think back on it.

Leaving the police force with Siefer to start our own group. Finding Zell after his grandfather died. Picking up Quistis after she chased Seifer and begged to join. Finding Selphie and Irvine together already doing the good work. And finally...Rinoa.

After killing her father, contacting her at a funeral, and putting her through hell to join our team. Locking her in a room, mentally and physically torturing her. I think it's safe to say she has become the strongest in our family. I never would have expected it when she froze on her first mission. Getting kidnapped I thought we were screwed, but she killed Capella and saved me. We escaped, we succeeded, and our relationship deepened.

I chuckled thinking back to that Christmas party and how that went down. It was definitely the beginning of something more serious between Rinoa and I.

Then things got serious. She allowed herself to be bait and was tortured by that crazy Doctor. It was almost when we turned Detective Cass to our side. I smirked thinking of how Rinoa took down the giant ripped straight from a horror movie. I really wish I could've been there when she killed three people naked in a bath tub.

And...Blaine. I sighed. It was all still to fresh. I couldn't think about it. It was too real still, too horrible to imagine what he did to the city.

But eventually my mind returned to thinking about Laguna. That damn bastard. I did my best to pretend he wasn't constantly on my mind on this vacation, but that wasn't true. It was all I could think about.

He explained his tale and besides how crazy and asinine it sounded…I had to take it as the truth. It made sense in a weird sort of it's-not-believable-in-a-movie-but-in-real-life-it-works-out. Besides all the insane coincidences. After speaking in more detail…the timeline added up. It made sense. Every question I had he could answer. Even after our long talk, I was still angry with him. He still caused all this. As happy and appreciative as I was that he saved my friends...my family. I still could not put aside the hatred I felt thinking about his stupidity to get my mother killed and Ellone taken. What led me down this dark and twisted path.

Worst yet...I actually felt guilty. Because my ragtag group that all came together in this dark world. We found each other in the darkness to become the light that kept us floating above the dark abyss that was this life. Now….

Now….

I had a family. I had my father and sister, but everyone else….they still didn't. They didn't suddenly get reunited with a long lost sister or previously dead father. They didn't get that fairytale ending like me. They still were left in the darkness struggling to breath in any sort of happiness.

Or rather...that's my own mind projecting my feeling on them. Time and time again...they tell me they're happy for me and they do not feel any jealousy or resentment. And I know that's true. If Selphie's mother randomly showed up, I wouldn't hate her. I'd love the second chance she received.

So in that line of thought...I know they are thinking of me that way. But still, I can't get my mind around it. This feeling of guilt from everything working out almost too perfectly.

I felt a hand slide on-top of mine and Rinoa smiling at me.

"You going down an emo hole again, mister dark-and-gloom?"

"Maybe," I gave her a weak smile.

"You need to stop," She gave me a playful pout, "Enjoy the time we have. Enjoy your family being back. Enjoy...well...everything!"

"I know, I know," I laughed, "It's hard to...grasp it all."

"You've had a hard life, Squall," She gave me a serious, solemn look. "You struggled all your life and now...now you don't have to if you don't want to. You can actually just...just...fucking live."

"You know-"

"Yes," She sighed, not really upset, just knowing my answer already. "You have SeeD to worry about."

SeeD was my father's brilliant idea that I fully supported. A joint force, funded initially by all countries, but then completely standalone from any government. Safe Environment Enforcement Department. A terrible name, but the message clear. The start of something-the seed. To hopefully flourish and branch out into a new world.

It would be a force that was politically-free (something not possible in this world, but maybe less-so than most military forces) that is still held to reprimandable laws. Basically, a police task-force for the world. It was a tough sell for sure, but with Laguna pushing it so strongly...it was possible. He even talked Deling into it, with some negotiations of course. When the two strongest countries in the world joined together on an idea, the other countries normally followed.

SeeD was so assured, they already started creating blueprints for it to be built in Balamb. The middle of the world that could get to most places the quickest, and little ties to Deling and Esthar. It would be the start of something new.

And my role in this? To be the first leader with my group, if they choose to join, as the first agents.

In layman terms. We are going from vigilantes to super spies with clearance to do our work in any country.

That's more simplistic than what it will actually be once all the complications tacked on from leaders of various countries are added, but it was truly something I could get behind. It was what I always wished for a kid. A true shield for the good people in the world to stay behind against all the corruptness.

It wouldn't be perfect and there was a long, long way to go before it is realized, but it's the start of something great.

But for now…

I leaned down and quickly kissed Rinoa on the lips. For now, I was with Rinoa and that's what mattered.

She gripped my hand tighter and kissed me back deeply. I held her as she leaned against my shoulder. We enjoyed the brief moment of serenity of each other's embrace as we started at the crimson sea shimmering.

"We should join them," she told me breaking the tranquility after a moment.

"Sure."

We grabbed our oversized bag and made our way down the wooden steps. We walked for a bit through the streets lined with farmers selling their fresh fish. We held hands, free from our troubles for the moment.

We finally reached the beach. Selphie already had a big bonfire going. Irvine was manning the grill. Seifer was fishing off the nearby dock. Zell was quickly eating every hotdog that Irving took off the grill without hesitation. Kristi, who recently arrived, laughed at Zell as he started to choke on one. And Quistis sat by the fire with a book in her hand, smiling to herself as she turned the page every so often.

Even if my thoughts the passed few days have been shockingly upbeat in an almost uncharacteristically way. I couldn't help but smile once more in a truly happy way that has been unknown to me for most of my life.

I dug for a cigarette in my pocket and shook one out.

"Those things will kill you," Rinoa pouted.

I looked at her, down at the cigarette, and then tossed the pack in a nearby trashcan. "You're right."

And she grabbed my now free hand and we walked over to the group to enjoy our food on the beach.

My name is Squall Leonhart...I am not corrupt, I am not a murderer, I am not insane... I was simply doing God's Dirty Work….but now...well….we'll see.


The Last Author's Note

That's it. That's really the end. I know many will be disappointed by this. I know many have lost interest in the story by now since I took so long to update. I know many will send me what they thought should end the story. That's okay, I understand that this is not the ending many people want.

I know the tone shifted slightly and these last couple chapters weren't nearly as great as many earlier ones. Truth is, this story was being pushed from my mind. I couldn't really think about it compared to other ones. It was getting to the point where I wasn't writing anything for this story for months and months. I had to force myself to sit down and write. And even if I'm not happy with it completely, I know that if I kept waiting and waiting to edit and improve it...it wouldn't happen. I'd delay forever. So I committed. For better or worse, I finished my story.

The truth is, at this point, I would have written a different ending. I grew as the story was told and I know this isn't really fitting to the world. It's too happy, too upbeat, too perfect. But, it was the originally ending I came up with back in 2008. Even the cigarette line which I tried having sprinkled throughout the story so it wouldn't be so random at the end...maybe it still is. Who knows.

I wanted this story to be a reflection of myself in the time period. God's Dirty Work isn't about something I created now, but something I created back when I was a teenager. I wanted to hold true to that image and even if overly cheesey, too predictable, or just plain overused ending (Laguna was in Esthar this whole time?! gasp). This ending is the one I think keeps this story's original identity in my mind.

Random Fact Time!

Some of you may know this, but God's Dirty Work was originally going to be a one-shot. The second chapter was the "one-shot" A tactical team taking out Caraway. The lyrics I put in the chapter (which I wish I never did) were originally going to be Handlebars by the Flobots (look it up, you'll remember the song from back in the day). Anyways, I expanded the idea past a one-shot and decided I should make it a full story.

Second random fact! I knew my original plan for God's Dirty Work would be so tough to finish before I even introduced Blaine. I originally planned multiple villains that were going to have different themes. One was called The Philosopher King based off of Plato's work. He was going to have mental battles with Squall debating religion, ethics, etc.. Another, a military combat expert that would beat Rinoa up to transform her into the more serious person she becomes. He was also going to be able to challenge Zell skill-wise. See where I'm going? I combined them all into Blaine to prevent the story from going on endlessly with different arcs. Otherwise, the story would be like 100 chapters long and never ending.

Third random fact! The whole point of SeeD starting at the end of this was supposed to lead into a sequel. Let me be clear, I will not have a sequel for GDW, but I want to at least tell you the premise for, well, fun I guess. Essentially, as many will surmise from this ending, SeeD does in fact become corrupt. Squall leaves SeeD and has to take down the organization, but Rinoa does not leave with Squall. It was about Squall going against Rinoa. Since Rinoa became this empowering badass, it was going to be a mental thriller (mental as in battle of wits, not British slang). Frankly, I had a lot of cool ideas for it, and maybe it isn't fair to leave this concept at the end of this story without any plan to develop it, but I think it helps explain why SeeD is coming into existence in my teenage mind. For the sake of random facts, it was going to be called God's Work is Never Done.

Now pardon me as I reminisce some more.

I consider God's Dirty Work to be the story that really started me gaining a little popularity on fanfiction. It was the story I started working with some new techniques and ideas. I believe it was the first time I wrote in first-person, not third. It was the first story (if I'm remembering correctly) where I came up with the start and end at the same time. Other stories I started with no real destination and continued to wing-it until I stumbled upon some sort of plot halfway through. It was my first story that was more serious. Not teenage drama or mainly romance. The first story with a bigger world and more complications than Squall and Rinoa romance. God's Dirty Work was really what I consider my first, true story.

So it's ending, and that makes me insanely happy and melancholic all at the same time.

I started this story in 2008. I was in high school. That is so crazy to think about. I have a full-time job and I am essentially a semi-functioning adult. I never thought I'd be writing this story for so long or how important it would be to my life as I grew older. I am not pretending to be an old man by now, but it has almost been a decade since I started! It's hard to think about.

I met a lot of cool people on fanfiction through God's Dirty Work, and some I still talk to even today! I can't appreciate enough how amazing making friends through writing stories can ever be. Again, I credit God's Dirty Work for a lot of that.

I know I'm rambling forever here. But I also know aside from maybe a random one-shot here or there, this is my last FF8 fanfiction. This is essentially my goodbye to this fandom that I dedicated countless hours of my life too. While I'm not deleting my account or anything crazy (still have another Zelda story to finish), this is a major stopping point in my writing life, fanfiction life, and my actual real life too.

So, for those that stuck around since the beginning and through this incredibly rambly author's note...I hope you enjoyed the story. I hope I provided some decent entertainment and I hope you found yourself invested in the characters within the story. I know these characters became a part of me at some point and this story will always be a special one for me, no matter how many more I write in my future.

-Frey