Chapter One: Assault

The Galbadia Hotel was one of the more opulent hotels in Deling City, the capital of the Republic of Galbadia and it frequently catered to the rich, famous and powerful. This was the primary reason that a five man team armed with handguns and pump action shotguns had stormed in and taken the staff and guests hostage. The men were members of the TFM (Timber Freedom Militia) a notoriously violent and committed paramilitary group that's main agenda was the freedom of Timber, a small sovereign nation in the southern part of the continent that had been ruled by Galbadia for the last twenty one years. They issued a list of demands that were hardly unpredictable, mainly large amounts of money, the release of their imprisoned fellows from various jails in Galbadia and Timber and transport out of Deling City. The police did not have the power to grant these demands and they decided to see if the terrorists were bluffing about killing hostages. With hindsight this was a bad move as there was a short amount of gun fire and a hostage's body was dumped outside the hotel.

The abrupt change in terms meant that the siege needed to be resolved through the use of violence. Ordinarily, the Dragon Squadron, the army's elite counter-terrorist and hostage release operatives would handle the job but President Caraway had requested the services of SeeD Special Forces from the mercenary enclave of Balamb Garden resolve the siege, backed up by the Dragon Squadron. The street had been cordoned off and the only people within sight of the hotel were specialist firearms police officers, but the terrorists were not fools and were keeping their heads down. A bank a few hundred metres down the road had been commandeered by the police and negotiators who had come perilously close to forcibly ejecting the small army of journalists and reporters that had been alerted by the unexpected sounds of gun fire in a busy public place. A pair of Black Hawk helicopters announced the arrival of the SeeD teams who entered the bank through a rear exit in order to preserve their anonymity and not get their faces in the papers.

"I appreciate your presence," A senior police officer said to SeeD Commander Squall Leonhart and Balamb Garden Chairman Cid Kramer. "But I'm confident that we'll be able to resolve this peacefully and you'll have had a wasted journey."

"Of course officer," Cid smiled thinly. "But you'll accommodate us all the same in case we're needed. We'll need some space to work if you'd please."

The police officer didn't look like he pleased but he gestured to a number of unoccupied trestle tables all the same. The SeeD members immediately dumped their rucksacks on the floor and started pulling out blueprints and cardboard mock ups of the hotels. Their designated sniper Irvine Kinneas quickly assembled an L96 "Artic Warfare" sniper rifle and headed off to get eyes on the hotel from the roof of the restaurant directly across the street. Squall and Cid meanwhile tried to find out what the police knew about the hostage takers. It transpired they were all veterans in the TFM with colourful pasts and were exactly the types that were fanatical enough to kill all the hostages, not to mention themselves if their demands were not meant.

"What do we know about weapons?" Squall asked as he studied the criminal records in a manila folder.

"Two pistols and one pump action confirmed." One of the police officers informed him curtly. "It's also possible that they'll have explosives. They've all got form for bombings."

"Have they given you any demands yet?" Cid enquired. "I've often found it's easier to predict their reaction if we know how much is at stake."

"It's the usual set of demands." The officer replied. "They want exorbitant sums of money, release of prisoners and so forth. They also want a helicopter to take them to the airport and a plane, presumably to take them back to Timber."

"No one's actually thought of giving them a helicopter have they?" Squall asked, hoping that the police might have some collective intelligence.

"We do prefer negotiation to sending your bloodhounds in to shoot the place up." One of the officers told him.

"It's a little more sophisticated than that." Squall replied evenly. "But getting back to my original question; I do hope no-one's brought up the possibility of giving them a helicopter."

"That's an absolute last resort." The policeman said. "We'll only do that if all other possibilities, up to and including a full armed assault are exhausted."

"What so you can shoot them down the minute they're fifty feet off the ground?" Squall snorted. "You and I both know that they'll take the hostages with them as an insurance policy or a human shield, possibly both. You're gambling with a lot of lives. These people are professionals, but if you hand control over to us and they'll be dead professionals in minutes, possibly seconds."

"I'm hoping to avoid a bloodbath." The police officer argued, unwilling to be knocked off his pedestal by a man half his age. "I'd rather have our gun toting friends in jail than body bags."

"Well you're still in charge so God help us," Squall retorted. "But maybe they'll cave to a charm offensive."

"This is no time for facetiousness Commander," The officer spluttered, outraged. "I'm in charge until I hand over control, or my superiors tell me to. You can rest assured it'll be the latter. I'm not keen on a full scale fire fight in a built up area."

"Well why you're trying out a tea and sympathy approach we'll draw up a deliberate plan of action." Squall said before crossing over to his second in command Quistis Trepe who was poring over some blueprints. "What do we know?"

"The building was built back when security wasn't a major concern." Quistis said without looking up. "However after the job on the Dollet embassy they decided to upgrade their security, especially with their clientele. The roof is lined with steel plates and the rooms are very secure. We'll definitely have to go with explosive entry and that'll have to be P for plenty. The element of surprise is everything."

"Well the terrorists will be expecting the Dragon Squadron as a worst case scenario so provided old flatfoot over there doesn't let them know we're here they'll never see us coming." Squall sat down and kneaded his forehead. "I'll have to put my thinking cap on."

It was the early evening when the negotiator decided to have another go at talking the terrorists down though Squall privately though that all hope was lost. They'd already killed one hostage so they'd have to be complete idiots to think that they'd be allowed to go free.

"Hello, I'm the police negotiator." The negotiator said on the phone. "My name is Andrew. I just want to know if there's anything I can do for you?"

"I could murder a pizza!" The terrorist leader bellowed cheerfully before following it up with a stereotypical "evil mastermind" laugh.

"That might be possible to arrange," The negotiator said diplomatically. "But we need to talk about serious matters as well."

"What like toppings?" The terrorist laughed. "I'm a four seasons, spicy chicken kind of guy myself. What say you?"

"Whatever you're trying to achieve, this not the way." The negotiator said. "Please come out with your hands up and we can discuss your demands in a rational manner. This isn't going to work."

"And suddenly I'm so painfully bored." The terrorist sighed. "What about my helicopter? Did you look into it?"

"Yes I did but I'm afraid it'll take some time." The negotiator replied. "Authority from a helicopter has got to come from the very top."

"Sorry that's not good enough." The terrorist leader said. "Don't even try to fob me off about it taking time to get a helicopter because the place is buzzing with them. Maybe you should let me hurry things up." There was silence that was followed by two distant sounds, the cocking of a pistol and then a shot. Then the terrorist hung up.

"Was it a bluff?" The senior policeman asked a man who was wearing headphones and had a pensive look on his face.

"There was a shot, the sound of someone falling." The man replied. "I think he did it."

"Of course he did it!" Squall laughed bitterly. "He's already killed one hostage and now because you've been pussy footing around he's gone and slotted another. I'm curious; do you have a plan that isn't failure of various degrees?"

"We don't know for sure anyone else has been killed." The policeman replied stiffly. "I'm hoping to minimise collateral damage."

"Hand over control and you won't have any." Squall replied before his radio buzzed. He snatched it up. "Irvine anything?"

"There's something happening." Irvine said as he aimed his rifle at the front door of the hotel. He attached a small camera to the side of his weapon. "I'm sending you gun cam images. Hold on."

On the screen of one of the SeeD laptops, the police, soldiers and SeeD members could all clearly see a body being tossed out. Two paramedics rushed forward flanked by two armed policemen. They checked the vitals before rolling the carcass onto a gurney and carrying it towards an ambulance, even though it was fairly obvious that the hostage was the second fatality. The policeman turned to Squall.

"It's over to you guys now."

When morning broke the SeeD and Dragon Squadron assault team trooped into the bank control, aside from Irvine who had barely moved from his sniper post. Every member of the team were dressed in flameproof black overalls, Kevlar vest, body armour, belt kits, gas masks and balaclavas. They were also armed with a selection of weaponry including axes, knives and flash bang grenades. Most of them carried a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol strapped to their thigh and a few carried sawn off pump action shotguns, used to blast doors open. Everyone was also carrying a high powered MP5 submachine gun, an excellent counter terrorism weapon. Squall nodded at the negotiator, who lifted the phone and dialled the hotel.

"Do you have any good news for me," The terrorist leader enquired lightly. "Or am I going to have to kill some more people?"

"Let's not get excited." The negotiator said. "We couldn't get a helicopter but we've managed to get you alternative transport. A plane has been arranged and we're sending a bus to take you to the airport. Is that sufficient?"

"I suppose that will do." The terrorist said after a tense pause. "I'm warning you, if you try anything I will start shooting and once I'm finished with the hostages I'll come down there, stick my gun up your arse and blow your guts out your wide open trap. Do you understand me?"

"I understand." The negotiator said. "There will be no excitable reaction from our side. Can we expect the same of you?"

"I don't think you have much of a choice." The terrorist said. "If the bus is not outside the hotel by eight on the dot you'll have another five dead hostages on your hands so think carefully if you can live with that." There was a click and the line went dead.

"If we weren't about to kill him I might have to offer him a job." Cid said, dressed in the uniform of a bus driver.

"Does everyone know their jobs?" Squall asked looking around. No one answered except Irvine.

"Can I come down yet?" He asked over the radio. "I'm beginning to get cramp."

"Hold your position Irvine." Squall replied. "We'll need you to take them out of they try to make a break for it. Just provide sniper support for now. If it makes you feel any better you can have first dibs on the hot tub when we get back to Garden."

"With complimentary babes in swimsuits?" Irvine asked, perking up immediately.

"I'm not even going to dignify that with an answer." Squalls aid as he put on his balaclava and gas mask before sliding a magazine into the slot on his weapon. "Let's do this thing."

Two hours later, everyone was in position. The bus was in position to enter the cordoned zone. In addition to Cid who was posing as the driver there was an entire Dragon Squadron team crammed into the luggage compartment, acting as back up to the SeeD teams. SeeD Team Blue, led by Quistis were in position on the roof and they'd enter the building by blowing open the skylights and rappelling down the front of the building. SeeD Team Red, led by Squall would follow the bus in, riding modified land rovers with upright ladders bolted to the roofs. Squall was waiting at the foot of one of the ladders while a recently qualified SeeD Ryan Kemp was halfway up. Squall tapped his radio.

Red One Alpha," He said quietly but urgently. "In position. Please respond." He nodded in satisfaction as he heard his whole team respond. He pulled out a small Maglite and flashed it twice at the roof of the hotel. A few seconds later, a member of Team Blue responded with an identical signal. The bus started to move slowly forwards until it reached the entrance. Squall reached up to Ryan and handed him a frame charge, a flat explosive device that would blow a window in, but posed little danger to hostages. Cid opened the bus door automatically.

"Standby…" Squall murmured tensely as he fingered his weapon. It was comfort thing because even after everything Squall was always a little tense before a job. He knew only too well that jobs like this one rarely went according to plan. "Standby…standby…and go!"

It was at that point a bloody hell broke loose. There were deafening explosions from the roof as Quistis' team blew open the skylights with massive plumes of white smoke while two other members of her team rappelled down to the top floor windows and kicked them in, before tossing flash bang grenades in and then following. The land rovers streaked forwards and Ryan blew the window in before climbing inside, Squall tossing a flash bang grenade ahead of him. The luggage compartment on the bus opened discharging Dragon Squadron troops who took up back up positions. One of the terrorists had been heading for the bus when the assault began. He hesitated momentarily as he saw the Dragon Squadron waiting for him. This was a fatal mistake as Irvine proved why he was known as the best sharpshooter in Garden. He dropped the terrorist with a single shot, picking up a perfect line through all the smoke and marginally controlled mayhem.

"X-Ray down in the reception area." He radioed quickly. "That's one X-Ray down, four to go!"

Squall and Ryan found themselves in an empty room and they immediately headed for the door. It burst open before they reached it to reveal a man carrying a shotgun. Squall threw himself backwards as the man fired. He twisted around on the floor to return fire but the man dived out of the way. Squall stood up but came to a halt when he saw Ryan.

The SeeD man had taken the shotgun blast in the legs, both of which were now spurting blood like a scarlet geyser. Squall wanted to help him but that wasn't how he'd been trained. If he lingered who knew how many of his team mates might get it because he wasn't covering their backs.

"Man down in two Echo!" He radioed as Ryan's struggles grew weaker and weaker. "Man down in two Echo!" He followed the man with the shotgun along the corridor. He ducked a shotgun blast but the man should've looked where he was going as a SeeD member shoulder blocked him before hurling him headfirst down a staircase and finishing him off with a burst of machine gun fire.

"X-Ray down, stairs two," The SeeD radioed and Squall smiled as he recognised the voice. Despite her diminutive stature and childlike innocent façade he knew that Selphie Tilmitt was a cheerfully violent maniac with a penchant and great love for blowing things up.

Two floors up, Quistis and SeeD's resident martial arts specialist had spotted the terrorist leader and followed him. They were momentarily delayed as they were fired upon by another man with a shotgun. Zell tossed a flash bang that distracted the man long enough for Quistis to drop him with pinpoint accuracy.

"X-Ray down in four Delta," Quistis said as they followed their target. Quistis inched the door open and saw the terrorist leader with a woman in each arm, his pistol ready. Quistis nodded at Zell and kicked the door open. The first person to see the two black clad machine gun toting figures was one of the woman.

"Oh god," She cried and the terrorist leader swung his gun towards them. Zell reacted instantly and fired twice. In a textbook shot the bullets went straight through the terrorist mouth and blew out the back of his brain, stopping a message getting to the trigger finger. He dropped and Zell closed him down, kicked the gun aside and finished him off with a bust of four shots to the chest. One of the woman was still screaming bloody murder, seemingly traumatised so Quistis grabbed her, spun her around and knocked her cold with a single punch to the temple.

"X-Ray down in four Golf." Zell radioed as he reloaded.

"Be advised," Squall radioed back. "One X-Ray is still unaccounted for; repeat one X-Ray is still active."

Five minutes later, the hostages were all sitting against the counter in the reception their hands on their heads. The missing terrorist had not been accounted for so Squall deduced that he was masquerading as a hostage.

"I want them all checked out!" He ordered. "We've still got one X-Ray active and I want him found."

"Right!" Zell said before going along the line of hostages. "Get your heads up! Get them up. UP!"

It was at that point Squall noticed a dark haired youth fidgeting and he stepped forwards. The women next to the youth instantly recognised Squall intentions and she looked up at Squall imploringly and pretty much nailed the coffin lid down.

"No!" She cried. "He's just a child! He won't hurt anyone! He's only…" She was cut off by the deafening chatter of Squall's weapon as he emptied his gun into the youth. Blood fountained everywhere and the hostages all started screaming their heads off. It took several blasts of a shotgun to restore order. Squall dragged the body of his kill away from the counter and pulled his blood stained jacket open. He withdrew a pistol and set in on the counter before tapping his radio.

"All X-Ray's accounted for." He said monotonously. "Stronghold secured. We're handing back to Plod in five minutes. All shooters remain by their victims. The news crews will want to talk to us I guess."

A few minutes later Cid entered, having been brought up to speed. He was followed by two paramedics who rushed upstairs to attend to Ryan. Two other men were with him and Squall guessed they were reporters. Cid looked over Squall's grisly handiwork calmly before turning to him.

"This one's yours I presume?" He waited until Squall nodded. "You are Soldier A." He turned to the reporters. "Do this one first."

"Right Soldier A," The reporter said before pulling out a notepad. "Tell me about it."

"He went for his weapon." Squall spoke monotone. "I believed he posed a reasonable threat to life and I duly fired." As the reporters moved on he noticed Zell looking at him. "Something to say Zell? Didn't I tell all shooters to remain by their victims?"

Later, as the police were trying to restore order Squall was sitting in the passenger seat and thinking about what had happened? When he rewound the scene in his mind he couldn't believe how calm he sounded. While Ryan was thrashing about, screaming and bleeding Squall had sounded as if he was ordering a pizza as opposed to letting control know that one of them was seriously injured. Squall looked up to see paramedics wheeling a body bag out of the building. Squall rushed over to them.

"Wait a second." He unzipped the bag and sure enough, Ryan was inside. Squall had heard that dead people look like they're sleeping. Ryan didn't. He's been a vibrant, buzzing young man and all that vitality was lost. No one could look at him and think he was anything other than dead. Squall sighed and closed Ryan's eyes.

"Are you okay?" One of the paramedics asked, sounding as if she genuinely cared. Squall nodded and grabbed Ryan's dog tags, undid the clasp and then zipped the bag up again.

"I'm fine." Squall replied as he stowed the tags in his belt kit. "Really, I'll be okay."

"If you're sure." The paramedic replied. "Nice job in there by the way."

"Cheers." Squall nodded before looking over at the rest of the SeeD forces. "Come on, bag up your weapons, get in the helis and we'll debrief back at Garden. We haven't got all day!"

As was customary the SeeD members who'd participated in the raid on the hotel headed to a bar for a warm down. Ryan's death had cast a slight shadow over the meeting but everyone knew the risks of what they did and they weren't about to let a death stop them celebrating the fact that they'd been successful. A framed photograph of Ryan in full uniform was resting on the bar. Squall turned away and faced the assembled SeeD's raising his glass.

"Ladies and gentlemen," He said quietly before casting a significant glance at the photo. "To Ryan."

"Ryan," The entire bar murmured as they raised their own glasses and drank. Squall took his pint glass, half of which he'd drained in one breath away from his mouth and cast a sidelong look at Zell who was observing him unsmilingly.

"What?" Squall asked, wondering why Zell was looking at him with something close to disgust on his face.

"They boy you shot." Zell replied. One of the hostage takers had been little more than sixteen and Squall had killed him when he'd been masquerading as a hostage.

"You mean the one that had his hand on a pistol?" Squall said taking another mouthful of his pint.

"You didn't know that." Zell replied glaring at him, disgust mounting as they stared each other down unflinchingly. Zell had faced building sized monsters, fanatical terrorists and a Sorceress bent on total destruction but Squall's antics lately had really rang some alarm bells.

"Yes I did." Squall replied easily, setting his glass down and motioning to the bar tender for another. "I could see it in his eyes. He was hiding something and I guessed I knew what."

"Oh really?" Zell sneered. "What if you were wrong? What if he'd just been trying to conceal some pot or something?"

"Then there'd be an investigation and I'd be pardoned due to heat of battle." Squall replied unconcernedly. "No problem."

"So that's all you care about then." Zell asked disgustedly. "Getting away with murder."

"Better him than one of the hostages." Squall growled. "They didn't choose to be there. He did. We don't get to be the best because we're nice and well mannered. We get to be the best because we train hard and we fight easy."

Zell shook his head and headed off towards some of the other SeeD. The brawler played a couple of games of pool with Irvine and a few recently graduated SeeD's before sitting down and glaring at the table top.

"You look pissed." Squall's girlfriend Rinoa said as she sat down on the arm of his chair. "Want to talk about it."

"Oh it's Squall." Zell muttered reluctantly. "It's not really important it's just a few of his antics have been annoying me lately and he kind of exceeded the limit earlier."

"Preaching to the choir baby." Rinoa replied. "He's had a bit of an attitude problem going on recently. What happened earlier?"

"Well there was this hostage taker that was masquerading as a hostage and Squall didn't make sure before blowing his head off." Zell shrugged. "What if he'd been wrong?"

"You killed one of them." Rinoa said quietly. "What matters is Squall knew who he was and he dealt accordingly."

"You're not getting it," Zell said insistently. "You weren't there. I killed my guy, the proper way. Two shots through the mouth, taking out the back of the brain stopping a message getting to the trigger finger and four more chest shots to finish him. Six bullets but Squall, oh no he uses an entire magazine on the poor sod. You can kill him with one bullet but Squall sees it fit to reduce him to tomato puree. The hostages were terrified, screaming the place down blue bloody murder. It was completely out of hand."

"Maybe you should see Doctor Kadowaki." Rinoa suggested. "If you're having that hard of a time with it…"

"It's not that." Zell said. "The method I used is a lot messier than most and after everything I've seen I'm not squeamish. It was the hostages I feel bad for. They were totally freaking out."

"They'll get over it." Rinoa said stubbornly, despite the fact that what Zell was saying was further proof that Squall was having some problems. "I'm sure Squall has his reasons for acting like he does."

"What you have to realise is that you and Squall have very different temperaments…" Rinoa said before Zell interrupted.

"Yeah and mine's the sane one." Zell continued forcefully. "The guy's not playing with a full deck. He has almost no deck. He's got a three."

"Zell let's be honest here." Rinoa said unimpressed at being interrupted. "Let's put all our cards on the table. You could be accused of overreacting from time to time couldn't you?"

"That's not what this is about." Zell said. "You're sleeping with the guy. You're not the best person to talk to about it. Someone really needs to talk some sense into him. Remember that terrorist leader we grabbed? Squall got some information out of him but when we handed him over to the Dollet authorities I noticed his torso was black and blue. We never hit him that hard when he got him so it only could've happened in the cell. I checked the tapes but they'd been wiped."

"You'd better not be saying what I think you are." Rinoa said, her voice hardening as she pointed a warning finger at Zell. Something was bothering Squall, that much was clear to her but she didn't like what Zell was saying, making Squall sound like a foaming at the mouth psychopath.

"Open your eyes Rinoa." Zell replied. "Something is seriously wrong with our eminent leader and the sooner it's remedied the easier it'll be on all of us."

Later that night the SeeD's were heading home. Several had left early and only the hard core drinkers remained, as well as the designated drivers and those of Ryan's friends who felt they owed him a decent send off. Zell and Irvine were a bit drunk, whereas Squall had bucked the popular opinion of him and was totally smashed, almost to the point where he could barely walk. He stopped by his Land Rover and after much difficulty and unintelligible muttering he pulled his keys from inside his jacket.

"Uh-uh there is no way you're driving!" Nida told him before reaching for the keys. "Give me the keys."

Squall's response was to push him back against the car and crack him across the face. Nida countered ruthlessly. He didn't drink so he easily reacted, jabbing two fingers into Squall's kidneys, sending him into spasm before punching the Commander in the back of the head and then bundling him to the ground.

"OI THAT'S ENOUGH!" Zell yelled at both of them as Squall hauled himself back to his feet. "You two get caught and you're out of SeeD and Garden." He bent down to pick up the keys that had been dropped in the scuffle.

"I'll take him back to Garden." Quistis announced supporting Squall towards her own car. "I haven't been drinking."

Most SeeD's were orphaned or had nothing resembling contact with their parents but unfortunately Ryan was not one of them. His mother had been crying when she'd arrived with the coffin but as the SeeD coffin bearers lowered it into the grave she was dry eyed. Cid approached her bearing a beret and a belt containing his battle knife. The coffin was mahogany with silver handles and a simple marker.

Corporal Ryan Graham Kemp

Rest in Peace

"I think Ryan would've wanted you to have this ma'am." He said handing her the items.

"He was so proud of being a soldier." She replied despondently. "So proud of being in SeeD."

"I'm sure you were very proud of him as well ma'am." Cid said attempting a reassuring smile. This was clearly the wrong thing to say.

"I would've been proud of him whatever he'd done." Mrs Kemp said glaring at him angrily. "I would've been proud of him if he was the bloody milk man! Mostly, I was just scared for him. Ever since he joined up. I don't want these." She tossed the beret and knife into the grave. "No offence, but he can have these. Maybe that's best. Maybe it meant more to him than his entire family." Cid and Squall exchanged looks as she shook the priests hand and then walked off.

"Excuse me, Mrs Kemp." Squall said as he followed her towards the car. Her shoulders were shaking with suppressed sobs.

"You're not going to start calling me ma'am are you?" She demanded as she stopped and turned around.

"No, I'm not." Squall said, deciding not to attempt a smile. "I'm Commander Leonhart."

"Are you?" She asked before shaking her head. "I'm sorry. I'm not as familiar with death as you are. I'm not sure how to do this."

"Ryan was a great lad," Squall told her sympathetically. "And a very good soldier. His marksman trainer once told me he could shoot the eyelashes off a gnat at forty paces."

"You're Squall Leonhart aren't you?" Mrs Kemp said, comprehension dawning on her face. "Ryan said you were the only one he was really frightened of."

"Well he always had a good sense of humour." Squall said, though inwardly he was a little shocked.

"No he didn't." Mrs Kemp contradicted him. "Not about that. He never, ever liked you. I'm sorry, I don't know how…to behave with all this." She broke down and Ryan's brother Luke escorted her to the car while Irvine came up behind Squall.

"So what did she say?" The sharpshooter asked.

"It was private." Squall told him shortly. "Now let's mount up, get out of here and get the beers in."

The venue for the wake was the Garden ball room, as they lacked any other room of adequate size. Black drapes were on the wall. Ryan had been well liked and nearly everyone had turned out for him. Squall was sitting at the bar between Zell and Quistis, staring into his pint glass.

"So," Quistis said after a long silence between them. "What did Ryan's mum say after the funeral?"

"Nothing important." Squall replied dismissively as he took a large mouthful of beer.

"So," Quistis said insistently, never being one to be put off by Squall's frequent relapses into what has become known as the "brooding block of wood mystique". "What did she say?"

"Quistis," Squall thundered ominously. "It's personal. Take the hint." He turned to Zell who was silently drinking. "What's your problem?"

"You're more murderous than usual." Zell observed dryly to which Squall simply shrugged. Irvine was on hand however.

"It's Ryan's wake Zell." He said. "I mean come on mate who were you expecting: Johnny bloody Chuckles?"

"I know whose wake it is Irvine and I'm choked to." Zell snapped. "But it's not like any of us are to blame."

Squall snorted.

"Well it isn't!" Zell continued. "Look guys if you want to be sad then fine, be sad. I'm sad but there is no point being guilty. It's one of those things."

"You know what Zell," Irvine hurled back, lighting a cigarette. "When I need you to start handing out forgiveness, then I'll really know I'm screwed."

"Good!" Zell barked, glaring at Irvine. "I can live with that." In reality Zell and Irvine were close friends but neither of them had ever been brilliant at taking things going wrong and especially where alcohol was a factor a fistfight wasn't out of the question.

"Ryan can't though can he?" Squall interjected.

"Oi!" Quistis said sternly, hitting him none to gently on the shoulder. "That's a low blow."

"Well I'd really like to know who died and elected Zell the bloody padre." Irvine exclaimed belligerently.

"Yeah Irvine," Zell said standing up too fast. "You know what I would really, really like to know?"

"I don't give a monkey's!" Irvine jeered.

"No because you are the bloody monkey!" Zell shouted. "So why don't you sod off and let the organ grinder here fight his own battles?"

"What's eating her?" Irvine said with a smirk so wide you could drive a tank through it.

"Irvine's right." Squall said decisively. "If you're feeling that philosophical about it you shouldn't be here."

"Steady!" A thoroughly shocked Quistis said.

"Well what's he saying?" Squall said, attempting to justify himself. "Easy come, easy go!"

"This is not what I'm saying!" Zell broke in forcefully.

"Bollocks!" Squall roared, his temper breaking before he composed himself. "Ryan was one of us and if you're not bothered about it, you've got a nerve turning up at the wake." He slid off his stool and smiled drunkenly. "That's all I'm saying." He wandered off, leaving behind a blue mage, brawler and sharpshooter, the latter two glaring as if they would like nothing better than to thump each other.

"No, no, no," Quistis said, keen to head off a confrontation. "Let me get the drinks in. Come on, no drama! Get back in your cages. Irvine, what can I get you?"

Two security guards opened the doors to the outside portion of the ballroom while another two bundled Zell and Irvine out. Zell tried to get back inside but Irvine clotheslined him. Zell scythed his feet around, knocking Irvine's out from under him. The sharpshooter hit the ground like the proverbial ton of bricks.

"Right, you asked for it!" Zell shouted furiously as he threw himself on Irvine, both of them rolling around in the rain.

"Get off of him!" Quistis outranked them both but they were both too angry and drunk to listen to reason. "Irvine, get off of him!"

"Get off me!" Zell yelled before bucking upwards and throwing Irvine off and punching him in the chest. "I'm going to kill you!"

"Give it a rest you two!" Quistis said, attempting to peel Zell off Irvine who was swearing fluently. "Stop it! That is enough!"

Irvine threw Zell off and they both leapt to their feet but Irvine charged forwards, tackling Zell and knocking him to the ground again.

"Shouldn't you be stopping that Squall?" One of the security guards said as he walked back inside. Squall's response was to nut the guard in the face, knocking him to the ground before smiling inanely and reeling back to the bar.

Author Commentary: Uh oh, what's going on with Squall? Fear not all will be revealed in due course but things will get considerably worse before they get better believe me. You may think I'm still exhibiting my recently abated hatred for both Squall and Rinoa but that's not my plan. That said I don't think a large portion of this fic will please fans of the Squall and Rinoa romance but I beg of you please don't write it off out of hand. My point being that the whole game was built around that epic love story so believe me when I say it will remain pivotal but it will also go through a boatload of conflict like any half decent romance (Clark and Lois, Elena and Stefan/Damon). This episode was based heavily off the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980, as I wanted to draw parallels between the S.A.S. and SeeD as the ultimate fighting forces in their respective worlds. Please don't mention Delta Force, Spetsnaz or Kopassus. It's my opinion that the S.A.S. is the toughest regiment in the world, but it's an opinion, not fact. Tell me who you think if you want. The other primary characters will turn up but if you're a fan of Final Fantasy Eight's resident bad boy Seifer Almasy you will have to wait a fairly considerable amount of time. You will know all about it when he turns up believe me. A couple of original characters will turn up, including one that's a dangerous random factor. Seriously, the guy makes Keith Moon look responsible and reserved and he is immense fun to write. As always I'd appreciate a review but please don't feel as if you've got to leave one. I'd appreciate reviews containing constructive criticism over all others, even those that make me out to be a cult figure (I can dream) and if you want to leave a flame or the venomous death threats I probably will receive because of where I'm taking Squall then feel free. Don't expect me to lose sleep though because I'm well aware that my work is not to everyone's tastes. 'Til next time.

~Ally Todd