Author's Notes: This story has been in my head for a long time and is in fact the story I meant to write when I started "Hero" way back when. Please excuse the similarities, the story itself, I hope, will be completely different.
Many thanks to Darksquall and Xineko for advice and beta-ing. I hope the end result will be worth all the hard work you two had to put in.
As always, I don’t own Final Fantasy 8, or any of the characters. This is not for profit.
The words to Matchbox 20’s wonderful "Unwell" seem to be fitting in well as chapter titles. I have no right to use them, either.
Warnings: Violence, swearing, non-consensual sex, and cliffhanger. And that is only this chapter.
Chapter One - Making Friends With Shadows
By Race Ulfson
His eyes are just like Raine’s.
I always thought Raine was the perfect name for her; it matched her eyes: soft and gray like those gentle spring rains where the drops are so tiny they catch in your hair like jewels, and the air smells like lilies...
…anyway, he has his mother’s eyes.
The temper, however, he got from me.
Squall narrowed his eyes and tipped his head, hiding his emotions and his thoughts. But he had to look up at me, a little, and through dark lashes I could see silver sparks.
Oh, yes, he was pissed.
I was a little pissed off myself, so I said, louder than necessary, "I just want what’s right for you!"
Squall talks just like he uses his gunblade: carefully, deliberately, until he looses his temper, and then it’s a mad, angry rush straight for the heart. "The contribution of a teaspoon of genetic material 18 years ago does not give you the right to interfere in my life!"
"It not only gives me the right, but also the moral and legal obligation to-"
Squall turned away from me, making a cutting gesture with his hand. I thought to myself if he said ‘whatever’ I’d choke the life from him.
But what he said was, "I’m gone." Squall closed the door behind him with a click that was as loud as a slam, just to show that he was in control and I was acting irrationally.
I would have followed him, but my leg cramped up and limping after my son down the corridors would have been pretty ridiculous.
I could have called the guards to stop Squall, but that would have been ridiculous, too.
Instead, I threw most everything on my desk around the room. When I was tired of breaking things, I flopped back in the desk chair and buried my face in my hands.
Being a father is hard work.
Squall Leonhart was not an egotistical young man. He didn’t crave praise or recognition, didn’t need parades or even ‘thank yous’. But he was 17 and Hyne, you’d think after saving a girl’s damn life a few dozen times she’d let a man rant a bit, offer some comfort, maybe even a pity fuck. It’s not like she didn’t spread her legs for Seifer, not that it did her any good, as gay as he was. Is. Was.
And now Seifer was past tense and Squall was not, was NOT going to cry like a junior cadet. It was stress, that’s all, dealing with his father’s insane ideas of parenting and Rinoa’s histrionics. Hynebedamned, it wasn’t like they really could even tolerate each other for more than a few hours at a time when all they had in common was the Sorceress and Knight bullshit thing and a fascination for Seifer Almasy and why was he thinking about him again for the love of Hyne?
Squall Leonhart was a precise young man. He drove, very fast and very well, a high performance car that was a gift from his rich and doting father as a lame apology for screwing up his childhood and accepted by Squall as a sort of revenge since said father was continuing to screw up his life, constancy being one of his virtues.
The car handled beautifully, as was only expected, but precision was not enough to save Squall when a drunk took a short cut the wrong way across traffic.
The first thing Squall did when he woke up was cast Curaga. As he fought down the nausea that always came with the sensations of bones setting themselves, he took a quick look around.
He was in a hospital emergency room.
Squall sighed and struggled with the straps that held him to the gurney, intent on getting out of there before they pulled his ID and contacted his father. That’s all he needed; Laguna rushing to the rescue armed with another lecture.
A voice from behind the curtain said tiredly, "Where’s Underage Possible Head Trauma?" There was a rustle of paper; Galbadia General didn’t even use PDA’s.
Leaving a donation of skin along the rough edge of the strap, Squall slipped his arm free at last. He leaned over and unbuckled the other bands, unhurried, listening, judging risks.
"Cubicle Four, I think," and equally tired voice answered. "Something odd about his ID, we’re holding off admittance until someone somewhere clears… something. Breathing on his own, anyway, and Imaging can’t get him in for another hour."
Squall sighed again. They’d match his ID to Garden and call Quistis; she’d waste no time calling his father. The last restraint slid free and he sat up, swinging his legs over the side. A roil of nausea forced him to sit still a moment. Squall tugged off his jacket and turned it so the blood was hidden, draping it over his lap to cover some of his damaged clothes.
The first voice was telling the second, "I’ll just make sure he’s still breathing, then…" A young man in green scrubs peeked in and blinked at seeing a non-injured boy instead of the expected near fatality. "Ah… hello?"
"They said it wasn’t appendicitis," Squall lied smoothly, his customary veneer of apathy passing for boredom. "May I go now?"
"Um," the Intern said. "Let me find your chart." He blinked at Squall, then raised his hand to brush his own face in reflection. "I’ve seen that scar before…" The Intern shook his head and hustled off with the irritable query, "Who took Head Trauma out of Four? Where’s Suspected Appendicitis’s paperwork?"
Squall slipped silently from the gurney and ducked under Cubicle Four’s curtain, a vision that temporarily distracted the elderly woman in Three from her gall bladder pain. He ghosted out into the hall and headed for the closest exit, only to back up when he saw the local authorities there.
Deciding that caution was the better part of valor, Squall headed for the elevators. There was no guarantee that they were looking for him, but they certainly would be once his ID was confirmed. Galbadia wasn’t the best place to be disabled, either, since anything from Esthar was still viewed with superstitious suspicion and Balamb… was still the enemy to a lot of people. Squall waited, head down, until everyone else got off or had chosen a floor and then pressed one floor above the last choice.
He was released to a dimly lit corridor guarded by a heavy security door, the security guard himself conspicuously absent. Off to the side, behind a sliding security window, a young woman slept at her computer, risking a severe case of keyboard face.
There was no where else to go, except back onto the elevators, so Squall slipped forward and checked the door. It opened easily, the locking mechanism set to keep people in, not out. With a shrug, Squall went inside.
The hallway was darkened to stimulate night, and it was an easy matter for Squall to avoid the better-lit workstations. He passed the dispensary and the nurses’ station; neither of the quietly harried women looked up.
Soon the corridor terminated into a roughly clover shaped area, each ‘leaf’ lined with 5 doors with large windows. There was a small monitoring station in each cul-de-sac, none of them manned but one was activated. Squall examined it, intent on switching over to main security to determine the extent of the search for him. The system flipped past various sleeping people, each room designated with a letter and a number; everyone in the A section seemed to be heavily restrained. Security was far too lax to be a criminal ward, so the restrained individuals must be dangers to themselves.
‘Nut ward’, Squall thought, dismissing the patients as irrelevant to him. He reached for the keyboard to start switching when an odd movement in A-3 caught his eye. He hit the button to keep the camera focused on that room, idly wondering if he should assist with an inmate escape attempt and use it for cover for his own disappearance.
The room was lit only by the streetlights outside, and the surveillance equipment was hardly the quality Squall was used to working with, but he could make out a man moving rhythmically. Even with the limitations of being unable to pan back or change the angle for a better view, the man on the screen’s movements were setting off warning klaxons in Squall’s mind.
The man moved and lifted one of his victim’s slim legs so that he could get a better angle for his thrusting.
Squall found himself sliding through the shadows towards A-3, Lionheart in hand, summoned from the junction in null space without his conscious thought.
Ingrained training caused Squall to note A-3 was the furthest from the Nurses’ Station, and the door was protected from casual glances by the angle of the wall. The door was unlocked, reasonable since the expected occupant was heavily restrained.
He faded into the room like a wraith, righteous fury curled around him like armor. "Get off," Squall hissed, and Lionheart’s blade flickered with blue light, snowflakes drifting off it like precum.
The orderly, absorbed in his own pleasure, snarled, "Wait your turn."
"How about," Squall raised his blade, "I fuck you up now?" He calculated the angle, hoping not to hit the patient when he cleaved the rapist in two.
Movement distracted him and Squall saw in his peripheral vision a figure leave the darkness in the corner of the room. The pain wand hit him and Squall’s inner lecture on letting his emotions blind him scattered along with all coherent thought.
Instinct and training took over. Squall removed the wand wielding security guard’s head with a slash that sprayed blood over most of the room. From the bed came a gasp as the previously silent victim struggled for the first time.
The orderly muttered curses and scrambled off. He kept his cool despite the unholy light glowing in Squall’s eyes as he turned on him. He stalled, backing away and fumbling behind him. "What’s wrong, didn’t want to wait in line? He’s a good fuck, but I bet you’ll be better."
Squall waited, letting the fool talk, allowing him to waste the lasts breaths of his life.
The orderly found what he was seeking and grinned, triumphant. "You know what they’ll do to you? It’s crazy to kill people like that, they’ll send you back in here, and then it will be payback time." He lunged forwards with a hypodermic spray gun, aiming for Squall’s face.
Suddenly the silver rush of Renzukuken took over Squall. He hadn’t taken enough damage to trigger the limit break, it was more like someone had thrown an aura stone or cast the spell. When he returned to reality, the walls were literally dripping with gore.
Squall could not in all honesty feel any regret for the orderly’s messy death. He was, however, concerned about the effect witnessing said death might have on the already traumatized patient. He made his way to the head of the bed, using Lionheart’s pulse of blue light to see if the victim was even conscious.
Squall found himself looking into familiar sea colored eyes and his mind stuttered for the second time that night.
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