How the fuck did you get in?

The front door, of course. You're terrible at choosing hiding spots. One of these days, somebody is going to find your key under the mat and rob you blind.

Like I have any shit that's worth stealing, but that's beside the motherfucking point. Why the hell are you here?

"So I wake up, go to the kitchen to make some coffee and the stupid bitch is sitting at my table, playing solitaire like it's a perfectly normal thing to do."

Birdie poured Seifer another whiskey and quietly waited for him to continue. He was slightly drunk, but that wasn't what had her worried. The liquor she was serving to him was strong enough to have even professional alcoholics stumbling and stammering, so she wasn't surprised to see him in a confessional mood. What bothered her was the fact that he had ordered enough greasy bar food to send him on the way to an early death by cardiac arrest. He never ordered the food when he came to the bar, but tonight he acted like he was starved.


Yeah. Why? And don't answer a question with a question. I hate that shit.

Do you really want to know?

Fuck you. You know that I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want to know.

Hmm. No, you wouldn't have, would you?

So why?

Tearing the meat off of a hot wing, he sighed and dropped the bone onto his plate. "Bird, don't advertise this shit as spicy if it doesn't make anybody sweat. You're gonna disappoint the wrong asshole one of these days."

"Advertise? Who the fuck is advertisin' it? This is a bar. Ya walk in, take a seat and ya get booze, cheap chow, and a jukebox with songs nobody likes." Grinning, Birdie offered him a napkin when he seemed too disgusted to suck the sauce off of his fingers like the other customers might have done. "That's a bar. A shitty place with shitty food. If folks walk in here expecting filet mignon and a chandelier, then they need to check their expectations again."

Seifer wiped his hands and tossed the crumpled napkin at her head. "You know, a steak does sound pretty good. Why don't you wiggle your pretty ass back into the kitchen and cook one for me? I want it so rare it's bleeding and I want a baked potato, no, two baked potatoes on the side."

"What? Are ya knocked up or somethin'? Hell, I ain't never seen anybody eat so much when they came into this place! Why ya eatin' so much tonight?"

Hot wings now just a pile of bones and gristle, Seifer began choking down his chili fries, swallowing loudly before asking, "Do you always harass your customers when they're spending their cash in this dive? Why the fuck do you care if I eat the whole goddamned kitchen as long as I pay for it?"

Birdie took a piece of wilted celery from Seifer's order and smeared it through the layer of red sauce cooling on the plate. She considered taking a bite, but she knew that she would regret it later if she did. Her stomach could only handle so much and the pepper sauce on Joey's wings was plenty spicy for her. Tossing it into the trash can under the bar, she barked, "I was just askin', ya goddamn prick! Ya always get so damn worked up when I ask ya a question!"

"I'm not fucking 'worked up'. I just don't like it when people get into my fucking business!"

Shaking her head, Birdie pulled a cigarette from behind her ear and placed it between her lips, vowing silently to burn Seifer with the tip if he started acting like an asshole. She'd give him two dots on either side of the scar he already had and make him look like a motherfucking percent symbol if he kept mouthing off. Fucking bastard.

Seifer finished his fries and washed them down with a sip of whiskey. Birdie was pointedly ignoring him and he didn't like it. "Hell, aren't you gonna ask what she did next?"

"I ain't asking ya a goddamned thing."

Leaning closer, he winked at his favorite bartender. "But you want to, don't you?"

"Fuck off, Mr. Sexy."

"That's my girl!" Seifer pinched her cheek and stole the cigarette from her lips, stubbing it out into his plate. "Or 'that's my old bitch', in your case..."

Laughing her hoarse, wheezing laugh, she said, "Ya little bastard! I'll kill ya!" Had it been anyone else, she really would have killed him, but she was fond of the cocky fucker. Although...if that had been her last cigarette, she really would have gutted him and left his body to cool in the alley with the puke and empty bottles. "So, alright. Ya win. What did she do next? Did she tell ya why she came back?"

Well, I got really bored, so I thought I might see how you were doing.

You got bored? Bullshit.

You don't believe me?

No. You're a fucking terrible liar. You've never been able to hide anything from me, so why are you trying to do it now?

Okay then. You tell me. Why am I here?

Don't screw with me.

No, you know so much about me, so tell me. Why am I here?

"So I told her to fuck off, but you know how she does; the harder you hit her, the faster she comes back for more. She must get off on having people knock her around."

Seifer ordered another whiskey, then settled back and watched a few minutes of golf on the television screen. Dumb ass sport. What jackass thought it would be fun to hit a tiny ball with a stick and try to fit it into a fucking hole? The golfer missed the putt for the second time and Seifer snorted. "You know, if I ever meet those pussies that adopted her, I'll kill 'em. Same goes for Puberty Boy and that damned school. They all fucked with her head. She wasn't always like that."

"Like what?"

"A fucking coward." The next golfer was even worse than the first. Seifer was half-tempted to take up the sport just to show those assholes how it was done. Pick a club, hit the fucking ball, and knock it in the hole. Simple. If they'd spend less time arguing with their caddies and stop worrying about getting grass stains on their expensive shoes, they might be able to get better scores. "She used to be my instructor, you know, but she sucked at it."

Birdie lit another cigarette and poured a glass of whiskey for herself. "That bad, huh? I figured she'd be a natural for it. Brainy gal like her needs a job like that."

"Yeah, she's a fucking genius, but she was absolute shit when it came to leading people." Seifer finished his whiskey and waved Birdie off when she offered to refill his glass. He knew that if he drank anymore, he would get pissed at the golfers and throw his glass through the television screen. "I used to give her hell in class, just so the other fuckers wouldn't try it. I was Balamb's big bad-ass. Everybody was scared of me and my little posse. God, I loved that shit."

Birdie waited.

"See, nobody fucked with us, or we'd beat the hell out of 'em." The memory of being called into the headmaster's office one afternoon, not to be punished for tying that skinny kid head-down into a toilet, but to be offered the chance to lead a new group called the disciplinary committee still made Seifer laugh. It was funny how Cid's mind worked. He allowed an eighteen year old girl to teach and he gave Seifer and his posse official clearance to bully without fear. "I knew she'd never be able to control those twats in class, so I was an ass. I'd throw books, push the other students, tear wires from computers, all kinds of shit, just so the others would see that it was her controlling me. I was a real dick."

"Shit. It ain't like yer any different now." Birdie was pleased to see Seifer smile at the remark. She meant it as the highest compliment she could give.

"See, I always figured that if they could see the school's biggest bad-ass was given detention every day by the school's sweetest instructor, then they would behave."

"And did it work?"

Seifer's smile fell, replaced by a bitter grin. "Yeah, it worked. My plans always fucking work, but they don't always have the results that everybody wants. The last plan I had, before some serious shit went down..." Ignoring orders, failing the exam, going to the training center to blow off some steam, seeing her walking with him to the secret area, only to see them walking out again after only a few minutes...ignoring orders again, running off to Timber, her chasing him, fighting their way to the station, then meeting his beautiful, broken mother...following every order this time, laughing when she gave the commands for her armies to kill and rape and burn and play and...

Birdie was a clever old cunt. Seifer wondered how much she might really know about him, how much she might remember if given the proper reminders. Destroyer of nations usually meant that folks remembered your name. Mikey was a dumb-fuck that probably didn't remember his own mother's name, but Birdie was different. "Bird? Do you know who I am?"

Shrugging, Birdie took a small sip and held it in her mouth. "I've wondered, but Blondie thought the world of ya, so I figured there must be somethin' decent about ya. Yer an ass, but I like ya."

"And that's it? I've done some bad shit. I mean bad in the truest sense of the word, like the opposite of everything good."

"Ya musta had yer reasons, else she wouldn't have wasted her time with ya."


"Yeah." She left it at that. She knew exactly what he was and exactly what he wasn't. There was no fucking point on dwelling on some shit that couldn't be changed. She was only concerned with what he had been telling her about her favorite gal. "Now tell me what else she did."

Damn you Instructor, I don't know why you're here. I want you to fucking tell me.

Why do you want me to tell you?

God, you're stubborn as hell. I just want you to tell me.

Well Seifer, isn't it enough that I'm here?

Enough? Enough for what?

That's a very fucking good question. I really don't know. Enough for you, maybe. Enough for me as well. You know, just...enough.

Seifer tossed some gil on the bar for the bill and pushed Birdie's tip into her wrinkled hand. He hadn't really thought much of Quistis in a few weeks, instead focusing on working as much as possible to save every gil, but on occasion he couldn't help himself. Just last year it was dreams of Edea keeping him awake, now it was dreaming of arguments with Quistis that kept him from sleep. For two weeks, he had dreamt of fighting with her until he was so angry that he had would spend his days seething about some hazy arguments that existed only in his mind. One night he had gotten so furious that he had thrown his alarm clock through his bedroom window, though it wasn't that he really needed it anymore.

This last dream was too different. Anger had been replaced with the keenest sense of disappointment when he woke up to find that it was indeed a dream.

He felt like a goddamned pussy, especially when he went running to some old broad like a kid that had a fucking nightmare about the boogie man.

"That's exactly why I've gotta get the fuck out of this town."

"I wish ya weren't leavin', though. It's gonna be boring as hell around here. Ya might even be wrong about her, ya know."

"But I'm not. I know her and I know how she thinks. She'll do something stupid like that and come back to this city just because she gets these worried moments."

"Worried? Sounds to me like ya want to see her. Ya might oughtta pay attention to that brain of yers. Seems like it has better sense than ya ever will. Why don't ya pack up and head to that school? Maybe drag her outta class and show her exactly how much ya've missed her?"

Seifer grinned. "If I did something like that, Xu would be after my balls." He thought for a second and added, "Yeah, except she wouldn't use a knife like a normal person. She'd try to use something like a rusty spoon or... her teeth...fuck me."

Birdie laughed and waved goodnight to Seifer. "Well, when are ya leavin'?"

"In the morning."

"It's supposed to rain. Why don't you wait a day or two?"

"No, it has to be tomorrow. I've got a couple of things I need from my apartment, then I'm leaving in the morning."

"Then where are ya goin'?"

Seifer shrugged. "I have no fuckin' clue. Just away from here. Might try to find my mother and see if she's killed her husband yet."

"You know Blondie'll be disappointed when she comes back and yer gone, don't ya"

Birdie was trying hard, but she couldn't get him to wait. She didn't understand them, stubborn little fucks that they were. "Will ya at least give me a call when ya get to where yer goin'?"

Seifer laughed. "It might be a while before I call you, Bird. I gotta find where I'm going first."

"As long as ya call. That's what matters."

"Yeah...I'll see you around, Birdie."

"See ya, Sexy. Don't forget to call me."

Seifer winked and walked out of the door, leaving Birdie to clean up his mess. She sighed, then grabbed his plates and left them on the counter next to the industrial dishwasher in the back kitchen.

Lighting another smoke, she served a few more late night customers and waited for closing time so she could think properly.

Those dumbass kids.

Those stupid, stupid kids.


"This movie is ridiculous."

Xu laughed, barely able to keep the quiver from her voice as she mimed the protagonist's unique way of saying his lines. "Ridiculous? Vat is dis ridiculous? No. Finest film from Trabia. Ve have greatest studios. Ve have greatest films. Ve are great empire destined to rise again...Ve also have very good shrimp."

"Shrimp? I don't think that Trabia is known for its seafood exports."

"Vell, ve have greatest frozen shrimp. Make fine cocktail. Shrimp cocktail to make other nations shake in fear! Are you questioning might of Trabian shrimp?! Infidel! Ve have vorld's finest shrimp!"

Quistis finally smiled. "Fine, you have the world's finest..."

"No, ve have vorld's finest shrimp!"

Quistis rolled her eyes and returned her attention to the screen, trying to ignore how Xu was staring at her from the other end of the couch.




"Xu, I swear to God, if you don't stop throwing popcorn at me, I'll.."

"You'll what? I'm not scared of you, Trepe. What are you gonna do? Send your army after me?" Xu would never admit it, but the loyalty of the Trepies had her concerned. Though Garden was functioning very well as a strictly educational establishment, the Trepies were continuing their military training as an extracurricular activity. Their discipline and fervor were frightening at times. When she saw that they were altering their uniforms to distinguish themselves from the rest of the student body, she knew that she had to keep a much closer eye on them.

"Please, I just want to finish this movie and go to bed."

"Fuck! Stop pretending that you're paying any goddamn attention to this piece of shit movie and talk to me."

"About what?"

Xu crammed a handful of popcorn in her mouth and swallowed hard. She had never been nervous around Quistis before, so she didn't know how to act. "About that call."

"There's nothing to talk about."

"Please, Q. I know you. You're not happy and I feel like it's my fault. I made you come back to Garden because I thought you needed to, but now I..."

"Stop it. I wouldn't have returned if I didn't want to."

"No, you returned because you thought we needed you."

"That's partly true, but not all of it." Quistis hugged her legs to her chest and rested her chin on her knees. "I wanted to see if what Seifer told me was true."

"About what?"

"A lot of things. Things about me, about why I teach, about this place...just a lot of bullshit, really. I had to come back to see it for myself." She smiled and Xu found herself very, very jealous of Seifer for a moment.

"You didn't believe him?"

"I don't know. I still don't fucking know. All I do know is that I want to talk to him about it and now I don't know where the fuck he is."

Xu placed the popcorn on the coffee table and reached for her soda. She blamed the sudden constriction in her throat on the popcorn. It had nothing to do with the disappointment on Quistis' face.

No. Nothing at all.

"Did Birdie say anything about where he might be headed?"

Quistis tucked her chin towards her chest and closed her eyes against her knees. She could have told Xu that Birdie had mentioned Seifer finding his mother, which undoubtedly meant that he had left to find Edea in Centra... but telling her that would also mean admitting that he would rather travel thousands of miles south instead of hopping on a ferry to take a quick ride to Balamb Harbor.

Fuck him.

"No. He just left and that's that."

Xu squeezed Quistis' upper arm and gulped the rest of her soda, praying that it would wash that fucking lump from her throat into her belly so she could speak without her voice cracking. She'd kick herself later. At that moment, all she wanted was to see Q smile again. "We have the whole summer...we could try to find him."

Quistis laughed. "Are you trying to tell me that you've developed a crush on the lapdog?"

"Come on, Q. You know this is making me sick, right? Like, I'm ready to puke popcorn all over the place just thinking about it. I don't care if he dies in a ditch somewhere, but for some fucking reason, you need that bastard."

"I don't need him."

"Then what do you plan to do? Sit here, teach your classes...go insane from boredom?"

Quistis laughed and reached for Xu's hand, tightly clutching her fingers, though still hiding her face. "Do you think I'm crazy for thinking about that asshole?"

"Crazy? Yes. Quite honestly, I think you've lost your fucking mind."

Quistis heard the film end and the rather dramatic music for the credits begin. Still unwilling to meet her concerned gaze, she quickly turned and buried her head in the space between Xu's neck and her shoulder. Voice muffled against her neck, she mumbled, "Could I ask you a question?"

Xu tried to ignore how pained she sounded, but it was difficult. When she felt her collar growing damp, she pulled Quistis a bit closer and whispered, "Sure, Q. Ask me anything you want."

Grateful that Xu was simply waiting and nothing more, Quistis exhaled and released it all, her disappointments, worries, fuck-ups, and everything else. Without Seifer to guide her, asking certain questions and leading her into confessions, she didn't know where to start, but she finally ended with the questions she originally meant to ask.

"It seems that nothing ever goes right. Anything or anybody I've ever wanted just floats away or doesn't want me in return. Why can't it ever work out for me?"

Xu shushed her and waited until she was finished, unable to give her an answer. She didn't know what to tell her.

"What is it about him that makes the world want to fuck with him so much? And with myself as well? What's wrong with us?" Pulling away and wiping her cheeks, she tugged at Xu's collar in silent apology for soaking the fabric. "What do I do?"

"I don't know, Q. I can't help you with this one."

Quistis smiled. "I know."

Xu rolled her eyes. "Well fuck it then. If we're going to find him before the next semester starts, then we need to get our asses moving, don't we?"

"Find him? What if he doesn't want to be found?"

"It's gonna suck to be him in that case. I'm tired of seeing you like this, so pack a bag, grab your whip, and let's go."


Note: I'm EXTREMELY unhappy with this, but I'm also very, very anxious to begin the next fic, plus I'm just out of ideas for this one. I mean, really sapped, like to the point where I wish I had ended it a few chapters ago. This is nothing like the ending I thought it might be, but I couldn't just give them a happy ending. My apologies.

I really, really wanted to send Q back to Dollet, but I didn't want to leave either of them in such a shitty little city. They need better than that and I couldn't think of a good way for that to happen unless they got away from each other. The next fic isn't so much a sequel so much as it is another fic with the same versions of Q and S, and they'll make several references to some conversations they had in this fic. It'll be a little closer to the game itself, with magic and all that shit that I kind of ignored in this one.

Also, I hope to fix a LOT of stuff with this fic, the last chapter, grammar issues, characters that bug me (Squall, especially. I don't like what I've done with him.), weird little quirks...ugh. All sorts of things. And I fucking swear I'm going to fix the ending. I just need a break for a while so I can think of a better way to do it.

Anyway, all bitching aside, I've had a fucking blast with this one. All of the cursing and screaming was fun as hell. Thank you to everyone that has stuck with this monster for so long. Really. Thank you so much. I appreciate it like you wouldn't believe.