Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

As the rain poured down on the three of them, he promised himself he wouldn't cry.

Even with his mother crying right next to him, little sister clinging to his arm, sobbing into his soaked denim jacket, he promised himself he wouldn't cry. It was his job to be stronger than that, his responsibility to take on the duties passed on to him. His face remained a blank mask even as he looked at the headstone, a lion with a pair of wings carved at the top.

He engraved that image into his mind, the symbol of his family. He had to be brave and unflinching, just like that lion. Merciless at times, perhaps, but to protect his pride, he would do anything; kill anyone he perceived a threat. Even as young as he was, he knew what that meant.

The boy looked back down at the headstone, bangs of brown hair wiped from his eyes.

Here lies Laguna Loire. Soldier, Father, Hero. His sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Funny, all he wanted to do was forget, make him just another dead soldier in the field of dead soldiers that stretched out endlessly for miles on end. He wanted this to go away, to bury it along with the man six feet under his feet, but could only choke back his own tears.

He would not cry. He refused.

He looked over at his sister, black hair matted with water, eyes already turning red from her grief. He ran his fingers along her head to try and smooth out her locks. "We gotta be strong from now on, okay?" He tried to smile for her. "That means no more crying, for either of us."

She looked up at him, her clothes ruined from all the rain, eyes still watery. "I-I can't help it!" A heart-wrenching sob. "He's our daddy and he's gone! They took him away!"

Squall nodded. "Yeah… they did." He looked toward his mother. "They did, and now we have to take care of her for him."

"No, you don't have to do that." The woman, her hair as brown as his and eyes as damaged as his sister's, wiped the tears from her cheeks. "I'll carry his weight. It's the least I can do for him and for all of us."

Squall's eyes widened. "Mom, you can't do that! Let me take care of—"

She placed a hand on his head, giving him a watery smile. "Listen to me. I don't want to make you worry about me, or suffer for me." She knelt before him, the rain doing nothing to hide the tracks of her tears. "You have a life of your own, and so does she, and I want you both to be happy for me. It hurts, don't deny that it does, but it'll pass in time."

He frowned, eyes still filled with worry. Would it? Could this ever go away, this pain? The first time he heard about it, his heart almost stopped. Seeing it here though, he knew something was broken. He didn't know what, or where, but he knew it was important.

Seeing her eyes now, he knew something was broken in his mother as well.

He shook his head. "No. It has to be me. I'll never let you cry like that again."

He'd die before that happened.

And so, on the grave before him, he swore not to cry, not to flinch, not to break. He would be a lion or die trying.

That name would do him no good now. So from now on, he'd force everyone he met, everyone at school, and anyone who dared cross him, to call him Squall Leonhart. If there were a way to change his name legally, he'd do it.

His father was dead. His name had to die with him.

A pop beat shot out over the speakers as she flipped and tumbled around the studio, dark hair flying and whipping as she launched herself through the air. Her black and blue cheerleading uniform shone in the lights of the hardwood studio as she executed her routine, the one she'd be working at halftime.

Some of the moves hit her hard, sure. The new choreography took time to perfect, more time than she would have liked. They'd used their routine from last year before putting the finishing touches on this one, but they were almost done. And as they said, she had the potential to do it the best, because she was their best dancer.

Of course, she just loved to dance. She usually ignored the crowd, the players, and everyone else, just blending with the music and the lyrics. It put a genuine smile on her face, different from the ones plastered on the others. She knew they were fake, even at this young age. They didn't put everything they had into it, while she… she could almost feel a part of her spirit merge with the beat.

It made her giddy every time it happened.

A knock on the door broke her train of thought and she spun toward the noise, wondering who would interrupt her and why. The knock sounded again, and she moved to pause the music. "Coming!"

She jogged toward the door and opened it, revealing her father with a gentle smile on his face. "You must've missed the time, honey. It's time for dinner already." He turned his back to her, making a show of rubbing a hand on the back of his neck. "But if you feel that way about us, I don't mind. Don't let me stop you."

She giggled and tried to make her way past him, only for him to block her every time she moved. "Stop it, daddy! I wanna eat!"

He grinned and turned toward her, scooping her into his arms. "Then let's get you settled, shall we?"

She laughed as she squirmed in his arms, the tall figure of her father making the world around her seem even more amazing from where he held her. Through the west wing of the house, they headed toward the main dining room, passing by the two grand staircases in the foyer on their way. His sock-clad feet made imprints on the carpet as they headed for the kitchen, and just through it, made their way toward the table, already set and loaded with piping hot food.

A woman with dark-brown hair turned her head to regard the two of them with a smile in her eyes. "Well, look at that! She's finally come out of her cave to join us!"

The girl giggled again as her father put her down, just in front of her seat, the one next to his. He sneaked bits of his food to her time and again, and she didn't hesitate to nibble on them when mommy wasn't looking. Not as if she didn't love her, she was just a growing girl, like her daddy said. Besides, it was always funny when he got caught.

"Now honey," the woman said with a mock pout on her face, "I know you need to eat, but there's something wrong with sharing from daddy's plate…" She gave him a very real glare. "…Something very wrong, because it's teaching her the wrong thing. And I don't wanna see any more of it, you got me?"

He raised his hands as if trying to block her words. "I promise to behave this time, Julia."

The scowl turned into a smile. "I hope so, or there will be consequences." With that, she started eating from her plate, not noticing the look that passed between her husband and her daughter.

The girl gave him her best, whitest smile. They'd share anyway. She knew it. It always happened, no matter how often mommy threatened him, because she always gave him that one look that he couldn't help but cave in to. She was enough of a smarty-smart to know how to look at someone just the right way. She promised she wouldn't tell mommy under her breath, and he smiled back at her.

Mommy didn't catch them that night.

She went back to the studio after she excused herself from the table and putting her dishes away, not even stopping for dessert. To her, this was only a break, a rest from her real work, work that she loved. Break time was over now. She had to finish this before the next game. She couldn't afford to waste any more time.

The music started again and she counted the beats in her head before starting the routine all over again. This time she closed her eyes while she did the steps, trying to let the music invade her like it did out on the field, letting her body move instead of trying to remember everything.

She zoned out within seconds.

After the three-minute track ended, she opened her eyes, having landed in a front split from a front layout, her face flushed with exertion and a grin plastered to it. She screamed, the thrill of finishing the routine without a single stumble rushing through her voice box.

She went to bed with visions of the routine, full and complete, with the other girls, in front of a packed house, dancing in her head.

The door to her room closed without a sound, her father giving a chuckle as he walked away from her room. "Good night, Rinoa, my Angel."

Chapter 1: Prologue 1 – Fate Sets the Stage

What, you think I'm just going to give you everything? No, I'm not!

Anyways. This is something to get my mind-fires stoked for LionHearts. Thus, this fic will have the same amount of detail; the same amount of love and respect put into it, but will be in an alternate time-line, universe, and setting in the same world. Battles, yes. Death, maybe. Mercenary academies, sorceresses planning to take over the world, theories on who Rinoa really is, and time travel? No, no, and no.

This is Final Fantasy VIII though. It's there in its entire spectacle, but without the magic, without the glory, without the drama that any world-spanning war would bring. This admittedly short first chapter is a taste of that, due to me giving Squall a family, having Rinoa's parents both there, and other things that I will invariably pull out of thin air in order to create this world.

Not to be too harsh, but if all this concerns you deeply, stop reading here. Because now that I've started, I can't stop.

On that note, please review. I mean, seriously. I put a lot of work into this. It took me a good… three hours to put this together, listening to music all the while, looking for that one perfect poem to start it all off, and creating scenes in my head. Review it.

Full fic, minus these author's notes is 1.6k, give or take. Future chapters may or may not be this bite-sized, so don't take this as a standard.

Anyways, I'm gonna see how many more of these I can plunk down before I inevitably pass out. Wish me luck!

This is your Slayer.