Author's Note: I finished this and felt like there was something off with Squall. Yet I think the way it was written works, so I'm posting it. Your thoughts? Suggestions?

The Sorceress' Knight: Scenario Edition

I don't normally find myself here. For more reasons I care to count, I've never been a bookworm, and I've never seen the point of the written word. The last time I found myself in the library, I was studying for the written SeeD exam. That was over three years ago. Those three years were full of wars and missions and unending paperwork that have just caught up with me. Cid says, "Xu says we can't release any more missions to you until you do your paperwork. I'm sorry, Squall."

There are three sorts of things to complete after every mission: a minute-to-minute report from the moment the assignment falls into your hands to the moment when it is complete; a verification form with attached train tickets, hotel receipts, signatures, etc. which ensures Balamb Garden your report doesn't lie; and a detailed psychological evaluation, one filled out by you and the other by a health evaluator.

I've gotten by several evaluations by writing, "I'm great" and telling Quistis to override the signature of the psychologist. Cid wrings his hands together with a pained look on his face, "Xu says we can't let you do that anymore. You need to see a health professional. We're all sure you're fine; but it is a fact that assignments put a deep strain on all mercenaries. Xu says we can't let people bend the rules anymore. It'll take thirty minutes, tops."

My evaluation is for today. It's not that I'm nervous or worried that I might fail because I know that I shouldn't fail. I am in control of myself and my emotions. I won't go chopping civilians to bits with Lionheart because they raised the train ticket fee to 4,000 gil. I won't unleash Diamond Dust on Deling City because my ex hides with her new boyfriend under the protection of General Carraway, the hero of the hour who 'helped' lead the resistance against the Sorceress. And I won't shave my head and stalk the halls in my boxer briefs because somebody has died. And I think that's why I will fail.

Maybe I should bow my head and cry on the evaluator's shoulder, going on and on about how his death was just so sudden and that it had never crossed my mind that a mercenary could fall in battle. The voice of reason, Quistis says, "They like to see you're taking steps to relieve yourself of grief, instead of holding it on the inside. Tell them you miss him, but you don't let that affect your work. You've taken up kick boxing and you're making it a point to keep in touch with his former girlfriend to keep the memory alive." It seems too incriminating to say. Isn't this bad for a mercenary? She finishes with the classic line, "And what are you doing, anyway, Squall?"

I respond primly. "I miss him but I don't let that affect my work. I've taken up kick—" She doesn't let me finish.

Zell says, "I cried during my evaluation, I mean, that's when it really hit me, you know, that he's gone. Really gone. But I passed anyway. Dude, just tell them how you're coping, and that's that. It's been like six months. They'll understand."

The health evaluator, Maury, has called this morning to inform me that the health offices had a water leak and she is holding her meetings in a study room in the library. She's with someone right now, so I wander through the aisles, taking cursory glances at the books.

The first floor of the library has a small collection of novels, mostly classics; but it has some romances and mysteries and a smaller collection of coming of age books. Aside from literature class, I never had much use for these types of reads, never understood what they offered the reader other than meaningless words, but I recognize a few titles. Selphie advocates romances in her book club, which I was forced to join finally last year, and Quistis is known to read a few of them with another bookcover hiding the real titles. The Knight in the Seventh Wheel is a favorite of hers, recognized that right away. Another is Love Junkie in Hiding, I see that. Love Junkie in Love, must be a sequel. Some are just vaguely familiar.

"You must be Squall."

I turn slowly. She's not on active duty anymore, I can tell. She's short and round and her uniform doesn't fit her properly. She approaches with an outstretched hand, smiling. "I'm Maury."

I try not to hesitate before shaking a person's hand. I've been told it's a bad habit and it's undiplomatic, and I'm trying to instill good habits and seem more outgoing. I reach for hers without looking and grasp it firmly in my own. "My pleasure. How long will this take?"

She lets go of my hand. "Eh, so it's true—what I've heard about your…bluntness. Straight to the point." She stifles a giggle with her chubby hand and answers, "It depends. It shouldn't take long. I just have a few questions." She nods to the study room door. "Shall we?"

I follow her into the study room. It's warmer in here than in the library, almost moist. It makes me itchy as I scan for a place to sit. She has the blinds closed to the library so nobody can look in at us as we're conducting the meeting. She has boxes overflowing with notebooks, loose pages, folders, and…slinkies? I must be frowning at the boxes on top of the worktable as I lower myself into the hard wooden chair.

She answers what is left unasked. "Things from my office. You know, my stuff and some of my former patients' things that they've left behind without coming back to claim. I didn't want them to get wet, so I had my aid bring them over here while the office is getting taken care of." She clicks her pen to life as she sits as close as she can to me with all the boxes around. "Does the clutter bother you?"

"No." Not really, anyway. It's just surprising, maybe. Study rooms are generally barren. They have a table with a few chairs and a white board. Most students don't carry this much with them when they come to study. I tug on the collar of my shirt as the moist warm air coils around me.

She opens the file placed before her, glances it over, following along with the point of her pen. "Nine missions, it says. And this is your first evaluation?"

"My second." The first was mandatory of all SeeD involved in the war, which was everyone. It was loosely conducted by professionals outside Garden, and they were so overwhelmed they hardly spent five minutes with each person. I had only to say, "Squall Leonhart" and they said, "Good. Next!"

"Ah." She adjusts her glasses to fit on the middle of the bridge of her nose so she can gaze at an angle at the paper. "Well, I don't see the point in talking about all of the other missions." She addresses the paper in front of her. "It seems as if you conducted each subsequent mission successfully and without incident, so I'm going to assume you were mentally capable. So let's just talk about your last mission, shall we? Where was it? Dollet? Good. Why don't you start off by telling me the date you received the mission and kind of just go from there?"

I look at a cardboard box in the corner. A sad stuffed moogle's antennae droops down one side. "I received the assignment on July 29. I boarded a boat to Dollet on July 30. Shortly thereafter I arrived there. I began interviewing people on August 1. And then I spent each night for the next week, that's August 2nd, 3rd, 4th—"

She clears her throat. "I'm less interested in the dates than the actual happenings, and I want to know the thoughts and feelings you had throughout. Okay, start again."

Why does this even matter? "I got the orders from Cid. I looked them over and I thought it was a waste of my time. I follow orders, so I left for Dollet and asked the people around the city about the sightings they have been having. They sounded like raving lunatics, and it proved to be true because all they saw were some teenagers setting off fireworks in the ravine nearby. I have pictures. I reported my findings to the locals and then returned to Cid with that same report."

"How does it make you feel, that Cid sends you on some grunt mission when you won the Second Sorceress War almost single-handedly?"

I try not to sigh, to bury my head in my hand.

"I know," she concedes, "these are stupid questions. But missions are serious business. Whether they are menial tasks or full out war, there are other issues that might arise. Does it bother you that all of your colleagues are getting more serious assignments while yours seem to be getting less important?"

"No." I just want an assignment.

"Are you sure?"

I just stare at her.

She goes on. "Do you think that this has anything to do with what happened to Seifer Almasy, an acquaintance of yours?" She pours over the file again, underlines his name and looks back up at me. "It says he was killed in combat a few months ago. You refused to attend his funeral, is that right?"

"If this is the part where I start sobbing, you're in for a real surprise. He died. It happens. It will happen to me, too. No doubt in battle as well."

"M'kay," she responds calmly, "Do you ever get the urge to call him up, tell him your problems?"

"No." And I never had that urge when he lived, either.

"You don't? Do you…feel like there's someone or something missing in your life?"

"No." I look away. This conversation is painful, but not in the way that would excite her. It's slow and it's grating on my nerves. The air in the room feels wrong against my skin, the light makes me nauseous; there's just nothing good going on here. It's not that I'm being difficult; there's just nothing to say.

"You grew up with Seifer, didn't you? You were boyhood friends?"

"We grew up together."

"M'kay. Let's try something else. Do you know how he died?"

I fidget. "Does it matter how somebody dies?" The fact that he died doing what Seifer did best is a comfort to me, somehow. I know Seifer never came back to Garden for whatever reasons he had. Shame, maybe? He lived the quiet life of Fisherman's Horizon for a while before heading to the even quieter town of Winhill. He died there, defending it from invasion. I'm sure he died defending some woman he loved as part of one of his romantic dreams or some such nonsense. How he died exactly isn't important, is it?

"Sure it does. People get a great deal of peace knowing a loved one went peacefully in his sleep, but if that person is tortured and brutally savaged before meeting his end, it causes great pain. Do you know how he died?"

"I'm assuming he was tortured and brutally savaged before meeting his end." The words stuck in my mouth like salt, coarse and dry. It was hard to swallow. It's just the words, not what I'm actually saying.

"Sorry, that was inappropriate," she adds belatedly.

I stand. "How much longer will this take?" My height is more intimidating when she is seated. I move between the rows and columns of boxes to gaze outside at the ocean. I wish I could open the window, stand there as the cool breeze channels in through the opening and banishes that…stagnant, uncomfortable air. And that smell. It smells like day old pizza. The librarians should really enforce the No Food policy here.

"If you just answer my questions, I would be more than happy to shorten the length of your stay. All I really need to know is how you're coping with the death. It doesn't seem like you're dealing with it at all, to be honest."

Down below, Quistis is walking by with Xu in deep conversation, but she looks up at the window. I think, she can't see me. The reflection of the sun is the best protection from sightings, I would think. But she waves up at me anyway. I pull back from the window.

"I think you think you're supposed to be some kind of man made of steel or something, that you can't be sad, that you can't mourn the loss of a loved one."

I peer down into one of the boxes to my right. There's a blue and white hackysac and a notebook with shimmering star stickers on it. Wedged at an odd angle below it is a book with a vaguely familiar name. I must have read the title on Selphie's book club's main page. "I miss him," I finally say. "But it doesn't affect my work. I took up kick boxing and I'm making it a point to keep in touch with his former girlfriend to keep the memory alive."

She blinks, one, two, three times, and then she takes her glasses off, rubs her forehead. "You're just plain being difficult."

I turn to her. "I don't know what you want me to say." I'm not frustrated or yelling; I'm just honest. I have no idea what they want me to say about Seifer's death.

She sighs. "I'm not looking for an exact thing. I want to know how you feel about Seifer's death. You knew him, everybody knew that you two knew each other. You were rivals, weren't you? You two were always fighting. When Seifer would come in, he'd talk about some fight he goaded you into that earned him disciplinary action. The point is, you have to feel something. And I'm not going to sign off on your evaluation until you can tell me what that is and we can make some progress as to how to deal with it."

"Seifer used to be a patient of yours?"

"Yes. Seifer had issues. We were working through his…we were working on his people skills, among other things. People were constantly sending in formal complaints about his behavior; do you think the school won't take any action with a bully like that? He made Instructor Oved cry on the first day of class. So yes, we…saw a lot of each other."

I take a step back and look over my shoulder at that book. Yes, that's a familiar book. "These are your patients' things? This is Seifer's, then?"

"What?" She stands to get a better look. "I—I guess. I don't know, is it?" She approaches, craning her neck around me as if she thinks something might spring out of one of her boxes and attack. She straightens when she sees it, sighs. "It's The Sorceress' Knight: Scenario Edition. Seifer bugged and bugged the librarian to order it."

In fact, the brave librarian told Seifer that she couldn't order any books unless it was frequently requested, so he spent that summer harassing students into requesting it and giving away "free passes" to detention if they wrote a letter to the librarian describing how much they wanted that book.

She circles me and grabs the book from the pile of junk. "Do you want it?" She hands it out to me. "It's been missing from the library for 3 years now. I doubt they'll care if you keep it."

I study the dust jacket, two lovers—Laguna Loire and the Sorceress, no doubt—are on the cover before a stormy background. I'm not sure I can stomach it. I suppose watching the actual movie would be worse than reading the script, but…I don't read for fun.

But I want it, anyway. I don't know what draws me to it. It could be anything, really. Maybe I'm curious about a movie in which my father starred? No. Maybe it's because I want to know what drove Seifer's Sorceress' Knight madness. Maybe.

Insight into Seifer's deranged mind? That's what I want? Give me a break.

"I'll return it to the librarian on my way out." I finally snatch the book from her hand and tuck in under my arm. "Is that it, then? You won't sign my evaluation until I cry over Seifer's dead body?"

She bows her head. "Make another appointment to see me in a few weeks. Think about Seifer. Like really think about the memories you have together and review the conversations you've had, and ask yourself how you feel. What do you feel when you think of those memories? And does it make you sad, at least, that you'll never make more memories like it?"

I salute her and leave the study room. The library doesn't have much traffic today. Midterms are over for now, students are out celebrating. Only a few avid readers linger in the cubicles as I walk past them to the front desk, but as I near the librarian, I slow my pace. It's an old book. It entered the library undetected, won't it leave it undetected, too?

But no, there's no reason for it. None whatsoever. I pull it out from underneath my arm and crack it open to flip through it as if I could absorb its contents with a whoosh of its pages, but I notice some writings. On the inside of the cover, the margins in the text, just words or paragraphs in any empty space written in neat squarish letters.

I tug away from the desk and leave without even thinking on it. What is this? What would someone like Seifer be writing in some book?

Quistis stops me in the hall. She just crosses my path and plants her feet. With my pulse beating so fast and my thoughts whirling in my mind, I nearly barrel into her. She doesn't even flinch. "What's with you, Squall? You look…different."

I pause. I don't feel different.

"Was it something the shrink said? Did you tell them what I told you to? You look sick."

Without words, I flash the book at her. She stares at it blankly. "It's Seifer's." I open it, show her the pages filled in by Seifer's hand.

She takes a step back, tucks her bottom lip between her teeth as she considers what this means. She folds her arms across her chest and then asks, "What does it say?"

"I dunno."

She's brimming full of questions, but I start walking on again. She tags along behind. "Where did you find that?" But she gives up after a while.

When I return to the dorms, I contemplate my failed evaluation and the odd resurfacing of something that had once belonged to Seifer. I don't want to think about him and I don't want to think about his copy of The Sorceress' Knight: Scenario Edition. I don't want to think about the last thing he said to me, and I don't want to think about my time spent in the D-District Prison.

I shouldn't have brought it to my room with me, but it's inevitable that I bring it to my hands and read it. I mean, what else am I to do if I can't go on a mission, right? Maybe this will help bring me to tears. I open the book to inside of the front cover, where he begins a lengthy ramble. It spills onto the following pages, where the words mold around the title and the author's name, the publishers.

Sometimes I think our bodies are getting in the way. When I touch him or pull him into me and hold him tight, still it feels like he's not close enough. With lips mashed together, tongue sliding across tongue, it feels like the distance between us is infinite. When I've got him in my arms, warm skin on warm skin, muscle pushed against muscle, and I thrust into him, I feel like my voice echoes through a chasm as I call his name. I feel like the response time to my touch is too slow, that his shudders and moans take lightyears to arrive.

He has these irises, dark pools of quicksilver, that gaze up at me through half-lidded eyes. His eyes flutter as I push him to the edge. His murmurs are so low, so soft. "Harder," he says. "Harder." I understand that. Because he knows our bodies are in the way, too. If I go harder and faster and harder, I might finally get close enough to him.

Because the beating of his heart against mine isn't enough. Because his breath softly whispering across my neck isn't enough. Because his cries in my ears as he comes aren't enough. Because the salty taste of his skin as I run my tongue across his chin to his much abused lips isn't enough. Because the feel of his fingers as they ghost across the scars of my back aren't enough. Because…because…no matter what I do, there's always a space between us.

It's unbelievable, really, that Seifer would write something as ridiculous as this and that I would actually read it. I swallow the lump in my throat. I shouldn't read this. I should put it away or burn it or get as far away from it as possible. A tidal wave of these odd emotions crashes about me, guilt shames me into reading on.

I do all of this, wrap him up and hold him and kiss him and come inside him, and yet we're on different continents. When I whisper in his ear how much I love him, it's like writing a love letter and sending it in the post. When he blushes, it's like watching ivy grow, it creeps up from his chest and burns its way across his cheeks to the tips of his ears, until there's nowhere left to grow. I know the story of every scar on his body, I know every mask he puts on, I know the meaning behind his voiceless expressions, but I don't know him. I've never seen him, not really. Just his body. And I've come to think it's all just a misunderstanding. Maybe we're the only two people in the world who feel this way, maybe we're mistaking it for something else. Maybe it's not a sign that we love each other, it's that we don't love each other enough. But sometimes, I just think our bodies are in the way.

I thumb through the next few pages. He marked a few pages with simple phrases and words, and I have a feeling they weren't meant to be notes to the movie script. At the end of scene three, Seifer wrote:

First love is nothing like you've ever experienced. The person can rip your heart out, eat it, and spit it up again and still they do nothing wrong. First love is all-consuming, a fire that leaves nothing untouched, undamaged. It clouds your mind, and suddenly the whole world circles him. Even as the days and months turn into years, and first love is a memory, it's still a vivid memory. You can still taste it, feel its fingers close around your heart and claim it. Your heart still flutters at his name. I can't believe him. To throw it all away like that.

I can't believe him, either. Where did Seifer find these words, and why in the name of Hyne would he bother to write them down? Just reading them brings a blush to my cheeks, the heat spreading through my body like a wildfire. He spouted his "sorceress' knight" nonsense all the time, but, even so, I never really thought anything of it.

I turn a few pages, glance over his scribbles in the margins. His writings are sparse, really. He doesn't seem to write a whole lot, but he does seem to put care into his words. I try to read his words with his voice, but they don't seem to match his arrogant tone; I try to imagine him saying it, but his expressions don't match, his gestures are boisterous and vulgar, his moods just as poor.

I hopped on a train and ended up in the heart of the Galbadian desert. The air was heavy and still warm as I stepped off the platform underneath the cover of a full moon. The faded orange lamp servicing the platform flickered and paled in comparison to the bright moon, ringed with blood and so close to the earth. From here, as the train thundered along the tracks away from me, leaving me in a comfortable, quiet solitude, I knew I was alone. In a place like that, miles and miles of desert expanse, ghost towns infested with geezers and other unwelcoming creatures, there is only loneliness. There are only memories of those who used to be in our lives, when they come knocking on your brain and demand to share the sight of the full moon filling the midnight sky with you. That was when I thought of you, how you'd like this. Not the heat or the gnats fluttering around, but the endless skies, the endless emptiness. You and me, we'd be here alone together in a world of our own. But you never came.

It's not as if SeeD students can just leave any time they feel like it, especially so late at night, but I can feel the words cut deep. I remember that night, that full moon, but from the beach in Balamb. The moon shimmering across the ocean, the waves cresting and falling in tune to its own lullaby. I was fifteen, and it was still summer. It was just as lonely.

Freedom comes with a price, you say. It's a high price, something people aren't willing to pay. What is freedom to a mercenary? you ask. There is no freedom in taking orders and fulfilling them.

I had to think about what you said, but you're wrong. I've lived with freedom my whole life. Freedom just means being tied to no one or no thing. There aren't any rules to freedom. It's an open road with smaller ones intersecting it, you can take whatever one you want to, but you'll always end up on the open road. There is no right side of the street, and there aren't any rules of thumb. I'm free. I'm not chained. I don't live by anyone's rules. I don't even have my own rules. I feel freedom every time I open my eyes. Freedom is choice; and I have that. And you have that. Remind me to tell you that next time I see you.

In the margins of another page, he wrote, I can write a better sex scene than that, but the scene depicted an epic battle between the Knight and the dragon.

On the last page, he wrote in black ink.

Two of us, just the two of us, turning in circles and circles. I'm waiting for it to begin again but it never seems to end.

Rage, it draws me into an embrace. Tears, I turn away. Laughter is like thunder to my ears. March, march, on my own, always alone. A smile, what smile? Pride, pride is what I've always had. Inborn, like the hair on my head.

I keep waiting, but it doesn't seem like I can remember why.

I shut the book. Well, that's over. Is that all I should say?

I organize my desk. I put my unverified verification form on the stack of other paperwork, straighten the pencil so that it's parallel to the edge of the desk.

Seifer has always been Seifer. He's not like anyone else. He's always on the move to something else, his mind always full of BIG things. His brain never seems to work like anyone else's, it's never easy to predict what he'll say, what he'll do. So why are his words so surprising? Why does my pulse quicken, my blood roar in my ears. Why does my mouth run dry, and swallowing become so hard to do? Why does this stupid book and the pencil markings in the margins affect me at all?

I have to stand, shake it off, pace. I straighten the magazines I have on the shelf, prop them up between a bookend and the edge of the shelf. I pull out Lionheart, gaze at it, shut the case again. What is this restlessness?

But when I'm down in the training center, hacking away at the T-Rex, I know. I try sweating it out. I grit my teeth and push my muscles to their limit. I swing with as much force as I can muster. I'm waiting for the pain, I'm waiting for that moment when my arm shakes under Lionheart's weight, when my legs buckle. Maybe I'll have to go through a thousand T-Rexes, but I just don't want to feel anything else.

I might not have Seifer's words, but I do have words of my own, and only one word seems to stick out. Maybe I'll write it down, too. I don't need a whole lot of space, and I'm sure Seifer wouldn't need me to spell it out.

When the T-Rex falls, I move on. Grats mostly. It'll be a few more encounters before I find the next T-Rex.

In the end, it only takes seven higher level T-Rexes and dozens of grats to do it. When I can't hold onto Lionheart anymore, I drop it and sink to my knees amidst the bloodied bodies. It takes effort to wipe the sweat from my brow; my arm shakes. But still my chest is tight and my lungs feel like they are being crushed underneath an iron weight.

/ - / - / - / - / - /

Maury's real office is worse than her study room. I can't decide if she just hasn't had much time to organize her boxes into neat piles in her closet or if she just doesn't have a particle of organization skills at her disposal. She seems comfortable amid the clutter.

She stands when I enter and reaches out to shake my hand. "Welcome back, Squall," she says. She's smiling genuinely. Perhaps she's forgotten how frustrated I left her last time. "Are you ready to get that form verified yet?" She nods to the chair across from her desk and takes a seat herself. "How have you been?"

I have come here for one thing, not to exchange pleasantries. I won't be deterred. I just start talking. "It's been six months since Seifer died." Her expression changes, her eyebrows knit together in some forced concern while she listens. "When I first found out, I didn't care. I didn't want to go to his funeral, not because it was painful but because I didn't feel anything. I didn't feel sad or happy, relieved or lonely. I just didn't care. My world didn't change; Seifer hadn't been in it for years, why should it have changed? I didn't miss him anymore than I did before he died."

I know she wants to say something stupid like, "You were just burying your emotions, Squall," so I try not to lapse into a second of silence.

"I'm SeeD. It's really that simple. The instructors don't lie, they don't soften the blow. From the start, we know the people we study with can die at any moment throughout their careers. One of our instructors actually died while out in the field. It's just one of those things you are around from the start. So, I don't know why I should be expected to be upset that Seifer died, too. I prepared for that as soon as we came to the Garden.

"I'm not sad he's dead. I'm just mad. At least, I think I am. Look, I'm not here so I can get back into missions. I'm here because I'm right. I'm here because I want you to sign that paper, and then I am going to head to Winhill."

She gapes at me. I let her. I've thought this through and through again. I can debate the pros and cons of leaving SeeD, but it's not forever. I don't take vacations, so it's not as if I haven't earned to take a week or so off. And then I will return and I will move on, and that will be that. I don't even see the logic in leaving in the first place, but it just feels right.

When Maury collects herself, she rubs her thighs, which are a bit too big to be confined in the SeeD skirt, and asks the reasonable question. "And what do you plan to do in Winhill?"

"That's between me and Seifer, and since he's dead, I guess that's just between me and myself."

"I have two questions, and then I'll sign the evaluation to pass on to Xu. The first question is: why are you angry at his death? The second: what made you realize it?"

I've only taken a handful of courses linked to the field of Psychology, but I know enough to expect these two. I have prepared my answers. They are short and precise; they are honest.

She scans the evaluation form one last time, initials here, writes a few things in the boxes provided, checks a few blank spaces. At the end, she signs and slides the paper in a cubby. She says at last, "Well, I fulfilled my side. Write a self-evaluation and submit it to HR as soon as you do. And you'll be back in business in no time. Farewell, Squall."

Quistis finds me already packed. I packed before I even came to see the health evaluator. I travel lightly; I have a spare change of clothes, toothbrush, and battle gear in the event I'll run into enemies. I also have The Sorceress' Knight: Scenario Edition with me, but I intend to carry it on the train, finger it while the train rumbles onward.

She has just returned from a meeting; she's wearing her uniform with her honors displayed just above her heart. She says, "I'd like to see what's in there to make you so suddenly want to see Seifer's grave."

"Seifer's words."

There's no point in denying it, not even to Quistis. It is what it is. I don't read; I don't come to libraries to immerse myself in the written word. I don't need to bury myself in someone's imagination because I don't need to escape. I've never really thought that words were all that necessary. But the reaction caused by Seifer's words indicated otherwise. Words meant a great deal to me.

"They made me angry," I admit casually, though I try not to look at her. I look over my desk, organized and clutter-less. I check my wallet and count the gil inside. "He didn't think they were important, but things might have been different if he'd only shared them."

She doesn't understand, but I don't care. I tell her I've already bought an overpriced return ticket from Galbadia to Balamb for the 19:00 arrival, so she can pick me up if she's worried, but we both know she has diplomacy duty and has to help ease the tension between the three Gardens. She'll be leaving tomorrow or the next day, and I won't see her for another month, maybe.

She opts to drive me there instead, but I won't expand on what I've said. Seifer is the only one who would understand, or maybe he wouldn't, who knows what the dead understand? He'd probably laugh and call it irony. He said to me once, "It was luck the first time, but the second time will take brains. By then, it might be too late." I believe him.

While I'm on the train, I stare out the window. The air is cold, the vents constantly jetting out increasingly more cold gusts, but the sun is still out, blinding and bright and high in the sky. The train will arrive after dark, then I'll have to rent a car and probably invest in extra fuel.

As the train pulls from the station and gains momentum, I browse the pages in the book and what Seifer wrote, the words I, too, penned in. I would have taken this train a long time ago if he'd only said these things to me and not to some stupid book. Instead of sitting alone on the beach in Balamb after hours, staring at the moon's disparate reflection across the choppy ocean, I would have been on the train to the desert station and watched the moon with Seifer, and it would have been only the two of us for miles and miles. Alone, but together.

I don't normally find myself here. For more reasons I care to count, I don't chase after things. The last time I found myself here, I was in Esthar, running after Rinoa. That was over three years ago. Those three years were full of heartache and more isolation that have just caught up with me. Cold and buried six feet under the earth, Seifer laughs and says, "I'm waiting."