Phase I: Aftermath of War
It was quiet in Balamb Garden with just a few SeeDs and cadets
wandering the halls of the massive military academy. Despite its size, the
population of the student body and graduated SeeDs had dropped drastically
since the end of the last war. Lives were lost, people were injured, and others
were just so mentally worn down that they had dropped out. This led the profits
of Garden to decrease into a financial all time low.
Cid Kramer, headmaster of Balamb Garden, sighed looking over the last of the paperwork. He put the pages down against the manila folder that sat in front of him on his mahogany desk.
For almost twenty years, he had a dream. That was to give children affected by war a home and the training that would help them make a difference in the world. He had strong ambition to bring positive change to a crippled planet ravaged by human greed, political conflict, and most of all magical adepts- sorceresses. Well, that last one was SeeD’s original intent before it became a military academy.
With this in mind, he and his had wife worked hard to create the Gardens. Located in Trabia, Galbadia, and Balamb, they all specialized in different areas, but operated as a whole.
Trabia Garden concentrated on martial combat and weapons training. They offered specialized courses for students interested in joining SeeD, allowing them to write the in class test and participate in the field exam upon transferring to Balamb. Trabia also motivated those to express themselves creatively through elaborate Garden festivals and the arts. This Garden didn’t make it through the war and struggled with its reconstruction after the Trabian Missile Crisis.
Galbadia Garden focused on technology, the military, and diplomatic studies. Students had the option to either partake in the same SeeD transfer program or join the Galbadian military. The faculty was strict and cutthroat. They offered extensive training in every specialty, courses on Galbadian politics, and battle strategy. Their Garden was left in shambles from the ‘Battle of the Gardens’, but they were still in better shape than Trabia.
Balamb Garden was the home of SeeD. It was the main hub of operations within the massive organization he started twelve years ago. It had extensive training facilities, an accelerated curriculum, and the SeeD program itself. Students who chose to pursue training to become SeeD were required to use Guardian Forces to enhance their abilities in battle. Due to a highly speculated theory regarding memory loss from constant use, GFs were only approved by the education board in Balamb, while Trabia and Galbadia frowned upon them.
Now his blue eyes looked up to regard the five soldiers standing at attention in his office.
There was a reason why he specifically called these individuals here today and felt that they had the right to know before anyone else. These five had proven their worth to SeeD just a few short months ago, and underwent the most dangerous mission SeeD had faced to date. They achieved the unimaginable by not only defeating a sorceress, but one from the future that threatened to wreck havoc on their time and beyond. No other SeeD would have been able to achieve this, not even a veteran with years of experience under their belt.
Cid wouldn't of had it any other way because he believed in their destiny, and he saw these SeeDs as not only impressive soldiers, but his children.
The fated children.
They were veterans- heroes.
Every one of them now stood donned in their black SeeD uniforms with the gold and red trim. The only differences were the amount of medals pinned to the fabric, announcing their success and victory. The five were an impressive group, all Rank 27 and above.
“You are all probably wondering why I summoned you here today,” Cid started off with his voice level, showing no emotion. Their eyes looked straight ahead with stone cold expressions that he knew were out of respect.
“Today I was presented with daunting news, an outcome of the decline we’ve had in recent months. I regrettably must pass on news that I never thought I would have to deliver,” His eyes examined their blank expressions one by one hoping to get some kind of reaction. “In 48 hours, we are to close the doors of all Gardens and to vacate the premises. It’s sad to say that SeeD will be disbanding.”
“That’s bullshit!” The blonde young man with the tribal tattoo on the side of his face burst from his emotionless expression. His face was beat red as he stepped out of line. This elicited annoyed glances from the others, but they remained composed nonetheless. “We have to do somethin’! Right guys?”
“Isn’t there anything we can do!?” The smallest of the group, a girl with brown hair flipped up at the ends said next. Her big green eyes pleading with the headmaster.
“How about the younger classmen, Sir.” Quistis said respectfully. “Where will they go?”
Cid folded his hands in front of him, “We have made accommodations in several orphanages and foster homes for anyone aged 15 and under. Unfortunately, the rest have to carve their own path in life.”
“So yer basically sayin’ they can go fuck ‘em selves then.” Irvine Kinneas snapped. The group looked at him silently, scolding him for his vulgar behavior and disrespect. Irvine caught on quickly, clearing his throat, and getting back into line, “…Sir.”
“I understand your concern for yourselves and the rest of the student body, but this is something that cannot and will not be negotiated. This is happening, with circumstances as they are the world thinks it no longer needs SeeD. The lack of funding and resources is shutting us down. If there are any other questions, please feel free to stay behind so we can discuss this. Dismissed.”
Nobody chose to stay as they filed out the wooden door of his office. Cid noticed that one man did not speak or react at all to the news. It concerned him, but it didn’t surprise him.
“Squall.” Cid said before the youth could make it out the door. Just as expressionless as he had been in line with his friends, Squall Leonhart faced him. “Do you have anything to say, Commander?”
“Permission to speak freely, Sir.” Squall replied in monotone, and when granted, his formal straight posture relaxed slightly. “I’ve seen the reports myself. I manage operations for SeeD dispatch and mission selection. I knew about the decline for missions. I saw it coming.”
“And you’re not the least bit upset?”
“I am upset!” Squall shouted, “Just like everyone else. I’m losing my home, Sir. I have nowhere to go and no other plans. So pardon my lack of respect, but are we done?”
“Yes, Squall.” Cid spoke softly, slightly touched by Squall’s rare moment of expressing passion, “Dismissed.”
Without hesitation, Squall stepped out of his office.
Balamb Garden/Girls Dormitories
Later, Squall walked through the halls of the dorms at a rushed pace. He ignored the looks he was getting from a group of junior classmen and SeeDs. He had something he needed to do, someone he needed to speak to. The news they had received, coupled with their absence made Squall a force to be reckoned with. Judging by his speed and the concentrated look on his face, nobody wanted to stop him for a chat today. They moved out to the sides of the walkway like he was a magnet that repelled them away.
Why didn’t she show up to Cid’s office? He called her name, too. Why the hell would Rinoa miss a meeting like that?
Not watching where he was going Squall made a sharp left around a corner and slammed right into someone. He swore a profanity under his breath and glared down at the unfortunate culprit that stopped his gait.
Big green apologetic eyes peered up at him from her spot on the floor, and he should have known from the high pitched squeak that it was none other than Selphie Tilmitt.
“Hey!” Selphie pouted, now surrounded by papers she had organized for her report on a mission she had just finished. Squall ignored her and scowled in annoyance. He maneuvered around her as if they hadn’t collided to continue down the hall of the girl’s dorm wing.
“What the hell!?” Selphie’s frustrated voice could be heard behind him, “I worked all day on these!”
When he got to the room four doors down in the next hall, he pounded on the door to a guest suite. Nobody answered at first. Squall continued to knock and finally someone came rummaging to the door. A dog barked at the sudden noise, which could only be Angelo.
“I’m coming!” He heard Rinoa say from behind the automatic door. A few beeps indicated that she was unlocking it. Squall barged into her room in a hurry.
“Where were you?” Squall snapped. “You were called to the headmaster’s office, and you never showed up.”
Rinoa raised her black brows at Squall’s sudden burst of anger- well, sudden to her. “I was taking a nap.” She replied simply.
Squall’s eyes caught the time on her bedside clock and shot back at her. She was clad in a blue bathrobe that hugged against what he imaged to be her naked body under the garment. Her hair was tied back in a messy ponytail. He pushed aside any attraction he had for her for right now, wanting to get answers first. “At 1500 hours?”
Rinoa gulped and struggled to maintain her composure, “I was tired, okay. I trained all day.”
Squall wanted to laugh at the absurdity of that statement. “You…trained? I didn’t think you knew where the Training Centre was.” He tried to lace that statement with some amusement so she knew he wasn’t entirely pissed off. He was, but she didn’t need to know that.
“Hey, Rin.” A male voice said from an adjoining room, and it grew clearer when he got closer, “What’s goin' on…shit.”
There in Rinoa’s dorm stood the three of them. Seifer Almasy was clad in just his white undershirt and black boxer briefs with a surprised look on his face. Rinoa clad in just a bathrobe with no indication that she had even made it to a bathroom yet because her hair and face were still dry. Her black hair messily sat atop her head and makeup smudged.
Squall’s blue eyes were wide as if he just walked into something he shouldn’t have. Like he disturbed something. His heart pounded against his chest, and his breathing prevented air from escaping his lungs. Many questions ran through his mind all at once, and he wasn’t sure where to start. But the obvious one would have to do for now.
“What is he doing here?” Squall asked in an even tone trying to control his anger.
Rinoa looked both shocked and uncertain at the same time. She breathed heavily calculating what to do in her mind. He could see the gears turn in her brown eyes- the same brown eyes he grew to fall in love with over the past few months. Her body would melt into his whenever they were in bed together.
And all he could think about was Seifer instead of himself. The sudden mental images made him want to puke or strangle his rival until he couldn’t breathe. At a time like this he wished he didn’t leave the Lionheart back in his own dorm.
“Squall,” Rinoa said firmly, cautiously stepping closer to him until her hand rested on his forearm, “It’s not what it looks like.”
“You didn’t tell me what he's doing here.” Squall replied quietly so Seifer couldn’t hear.
It was lucky he did because Seifer walked into the room looking just as cautious. “Look, Leonhart. The princess is right. We were just talking about old times is all.”
“In your underwear!?” Squall lost it not caring who was listening outside the room. “What the fuck!?”
Rinoa tried again, “He spilt soda on himself I was just…”
“Seifer.” Squall spoke staring directly into Rinoa’s eyes. “Get out now.”
The blond didn’t even hesitate. He disappeared back into the other room and grabbed his clothing not even bothering to put pants on. After a few moments, Squall heard the door hiss shut behind them.
Rinoa looked terrified then. Squall didn’t care. He felt a hundred different emotions he had never felt all at once before. Betrayed, humiliated, angry, confused…
She took in a deep breath, and when she exhaled tears fell over her cheeks, “What do you want me to say!?”
“What do I want you to say?” Squall echoed her with more force, “Explain to me what the fuck you were doing with him!”
“You can’t barge in like this and demand to know everything I do!” Rinoa screamed at him, “I’m sorry I missed the meeting okay! We lost track of time and-“
“Doing what, Rinoa!?” Squall shouted back, “Were you fucking him!? Is that it!?”
“Squall, please listen-“
It was too late; Squall was done here. He threw his hands up mainly to get hers off of him and stepped away. He shook his head giving her the most disgusted glare he could muster, “…how long?”
Rinoa’s tears worsened, she couldn’t speak. When she locked eyes with him guiltily, she knew he wasn’t going to back down or change his mind. Her voice came out pathetically small, “A month.”
Squall inhaled sharply and turned around slowly making his way to the door. Before he walked through it, he stopped, “Garden’s shutting down. You better find a new place to live. Have a nice life, Rinoa.”
The door hissed shut behind him leaving her to reflect on what just happened in the last ten minutes.
Once outside the room, Squall felt like he could breath a little, but needed to get back to his room before he broke down in the hallway. He rushed down the hall again, ignoring the concerned look he got from Selphie who had finished gathering her paperwork into a neat pile on the floor.
By the time she stood up to watch him leave, Squall had turned the corner and sprinted down the hall out of sight. She felt something squeeze at her heart, knowing something bad had happened. She sighed.
Today just can’t get any worse.