But my dreams... they aren't as empty
As my conscience seems to be
I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance, that's never free

- Behind Blue Eyes

* The Dungeons of Bevelle *

I can almost hear her singing. She'd always practice her songs for me, before performing them for the crowds. She'd written a few songs that were just for us. Those were always my favorites, but then, I'm biased.

She tried so hard to prevent war... even tried to stop me. We've been together long enough, she should know better than to try that, especially when I get attached to an idea. It would've worked. It would've, if I hadn't failed her...

"What in the Summons were you thinking, boy?"

It's that damn priest again. He keeps coming down here, trying to get information out of me. He doesn't understand that I'm not going to fail this time. I won't even tell them my name.

"I haven't done anything wrong! How can you blame me for trying to use your machina?"

He's giving me that look. The words 'You foolish child' are on the tip of his tongue, I can tell.

"I had to do it to save the Summoner!" I growl in frustration. Doesn't this man love anyone? Can't he understand?

"If she was your girl, what would you do?" Standing like this is starting to hurt the bullet wounds, and I groan in pain and anger.

"Let me out!" The priest begins to walk away. I drop to my knees, defeated.

"... I want to see her..."

* Zanarkand *

"I don't need a bodyguard!"

"Lady Lenne, I don't think you understand the danger you could be in--"

"I'm a Summoner, for Shiva's sake! I have several half-deities at my beck and call! I do not need some love struck male trailing after me, trying to play knight in shining armor--"

Well, at least she isn't some flighty ditz like my last job. I decide to enter the room before my good name as a bodyguard gets maligned any further. Lenne and her guardian-- a middle-aged woman who's been handling Lenne's affairs for the past few years-- are facing off in the middle of the living room. They fall silent and look at me as I close the door. I bow politely to Lenne, discreetly looking her over as I do so. She really is as attractive as she appears on the vid screens.

"Lady Lenne, this is your bodyguard, Shuyin."

Wow. She's got one hell of a glare. I smile despite the bone-chilling look I'm getting.

"It's a pleasure to meet you."

"I assure you, the pleasure is all yours." She turns and stalks from the room, slamming the door to her bedroom a few seconds later. I glance at her guardian, who looks apologetic. I shrug and sit down on one of the chairs.

"Could've been worse."

* Hinakoto *

"The city's amazing!"

Lenne's standing on one of the bridges of Hinakoto, gazing into the water. This entire city is built over a giant river, and it really is quite impressive. She glances over at me, smiling brightly. "Come here, look," she says, pointing at the river below. I walk over and lean against the stone railing, pretending to look into the river. I'm actually scanning the area for potential threats. I'm pretty sure it's safe here, but still... you can never be too careful. Failing as her guard isn't something I want to have to live with.

"It's so much quieter here than in Zanarkand," she comments, looking out at the buildings. I nod, watching her out of the corner of my eye. Why in the Summons did she have to be so beautiful? And smart and talented... I've always had a thing for musicians; I should have known this job would be trouble going into it.

'Number one rule of being a bodyguard: you never, ever, ever get emotionally involved with your charge! Never. Worst thing a guard can do.'

It's funny how little the rules matter when they're put to the test.

* The Dungeons of Bevelle *

I wonder where they're keeping her. I don't remember too much after hitting the floor. Just her... she was crying.

They better be taking care of her.

* Zanarkand *

"A stunning performance as always, m'lady," I say, bowing formally as Lenne walks backstage. She hits me over the head as she passes, laughing.

"Stand up, you," she says. I do so, grinning and rubbing the back of my head.

"You hit like a girl. And believe me, I mean that as a compliment," I tell her, wincing. She laughs again.

"I didn't hit you that hard. Some bodyguard, if you collapse over one little tap."

"I didn't collapse!" I hold the back door of the stadium open for her. It's easier to leave this way-- the crowds have gotten larger and more fanatical of late. Makes it much harder for me to do my job.

I trail along behind her as we walk back to the apartment. I can hear her singing to herself under her breath, but I don't recognize the lyrics.

"Working on a new song?" I ask. She nods, distracted. She'll probably lock herself up in her room for the rest of the night, writing. Then, tomorrow morning, I'll be her audience while she works out the music and rhythms. Not that I mind... I like this treatment a lot better than our early relationship. It's damned hard to guard a girl who thinks she can ditch her bodyguard simply by climbing out the window. It's also hard to live with someone who makes a hobby out of despising you. Luckily, we're past that stage. I think we're friends now. And I'm happy with being her friend, much as I'd like to be more--

I can't go there. I can't. It's dangerous and wrong and... so hard to avoid. I think she's interested too, but she doesn't understand. Lovers are the worst bodyguards-- it's my job to stand between her and harm. But if she cares about me that much, she won't let me guard her. She won't want to let me go.

* The Farplane *

"You must stop!"

Lenne?! How did she--

"That's enough!"

Lenne, you shouldn't have come--

Soldiers running towards us, jump down from the balcony and hold her, as if that will protect her. Glare at the guns, as if that will stop the bullets from tearing through both of us, blinding pain as she's ripped away--


Reach out for her, one last time. She's crying... Lenne should never cry, I should protect her from everything, keep her safe for always--

"Please, just-- just stop it!"

Almost close enough to touch, if I could only move my arms--

"Please... please, leave me alone..."

* Hinakoto *

"It's been a while since we've been here, huh?"

"Yes... I still think it's wonderful."

Lenne turns to me and smiles brightly. The setting sun makes a red-gold halo around her, and I smile back. She's so beautiful, especially when she can relax like this and not worry about the conflict between Zanarkand and Bevelle.

"Lady Lenne?" I look over Lenne's shoulder and see two teenage girls, eagerly clutching notebooks to their chests. Lenne turns around and nods to then.

"That's me."

"We saw you in concert in Zanarkand last week! You were amazing!"

I can tell by Lenne's tone of voice she's smiling as she replies. "Thanks!"

"Can we get your autograph?"

"Sure, no problem!"

Lenne walks over to the girls and signs their books, laughing while they chatter excitedly at her. Eventually, they continue on their way, and Lenne turns and looks at me.

"What?" she asks, tilting her head to the side.

I shake my head, walking towards her. "Nothing," I reply, then hug her. She sighs and presses her face against my shoulder.

"Let's just stay here," she says quietly. "Forget about Zanarkand, the fighting... let's just stay." I close my eyes and tighten my arms around her.

"Anything you want, Lenne," I say, just as quietly, knowing all too well we'll be returning to Zanarkand. Lenne loves her city and people too much to just leave them like that.

No matter how happy we'd be.

* The Dungeons of Bevelle *

"Please, just let me see her! Please!"

It's been weeks, and I haven't heard anything about her. The guards should at least be tormenting me with news of her, shouldn't they? The priest stares at me for a long moment, then smiles sardonically. His tone of voice scares me when he speaks:

"Fine. You can see her."

He waves a hand at the guards, and then opens my cell. They handcuff and blindfold me, then pretty much drag me through what feels like a labyrinth. I gasp as sunlight strikes my eyes through the cloth-- it's been so long since I've been outside. We go down a hill, then stop. One of the guards pulls my blindfold off, and I blink at the sudden light.

My vision slowly clears, and I stare out over a huge field, freshly dug up. It takes me a minute to figure out what I'm looking at. They-- no. There's no way they could have done this to me. She-- she can't be...

The priest looks away from the mass grave and towards me. "Is this enough, or should we send someone out to find her body? It could take a while-- she's been out there a few weeks now..."

My knees hit the ground hard. I can't think, it's hard enough just to remember to breathe--

"You're lying." I hardly recognize my hateful voice. "You wouldn't kill such a valuable prisoner."

"She died in front of Vegnagun, when we captured you." The priest drops something on the ground in front of me and walks away. I manage to tear my eyes away from the graveyard and look down.

Yellow, pink, and white beads in a familiar pattern on a lock of dark brown hair, lying innocently in the dirt.

* Zanarkand *

"You play piano?" Lenne's voice startles me, and the keys thud dully as I jump, then turn my head to look at her.

"Yeah, a little," I say. It's the middle of the night. She should be asleep, she's got a concert tomorrow. I should be asleep too, but... I can't, some nights. Too many thoughts and feelings swirling around in my head. I never formally learned how to play piano, but I play well enough to calm my emotions through the music. I just play out whatever is in my heart or head. It was my heart tonight-- that's why I didn't hear Lenne come into the room.

"Why didn't you tell me?" she asks, walking over and sitting beside me. I shrug. She looks away from me to the empty music stand. "Was that something you memorized, or wrote yourself?" she asks.

"Neither. It's... it's just what I was feeling," I reply awkwardly. Lenne frowns, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear.

"It sounded so sad..." she says quietly, leaning closer to me. I close my eyes and sigh. When I look back over at Lenne, she looks upset, almost scared. Her brown eyes are wide in the half-light from the streets, and she looks so close to heartbroken it hurts me.

A voice in my head is half-heartedly telling me to stop as I lean in to kiss her. It's wonderfully easy to ignore.

* Bevelle Temple *


It's an almost sickening monstrosity of metal. I shake my head, suppressing my thoughts. The guard who (less than willingly) gave me information said that it could sense hostility, that I had to stay calm around it.

Right. Calm. When Lenne could be out there dying right now...

There's a faint mechanical humming from the machina. I walk down the pathway towards it, strangely fascinated.

"Right now, you're the only way to save Lenne."

The room begins flashing red as alarms go off. I turn and look back down the walkway, catching sight of a recording sphere mounted on the doorframe. I smirk-- there's no way they'll be able to catch me. I stare up at Vegnagun for a few seconds more, until I hear shouting behind me. Then I run to the end of the platform and jump off, landing on top of a ventilation pipe.

Guess that guard was good for something after all. I glance back up at Vegnagun before ducking into my hiding place. 'I'll be back for you. Then... you'll get your chance at glory.'

* The Farplane *

Hate. Hate them, hate myself, hate her--


Never her... she's too beautiful to hate...

Still hate them, though. And self. Failure, a failure, the one time it really mattered you failed


Pyreflies swirl overhead in a painfully familiar dance.

"No, not again... please... just go away..."

"You must stop!"


And for once, they obey.

* Zanarkand *

"You can't go."

Lenne glares at me across the room. "And since when do you get the right to tell me what I can and can't do, Shuyin?" she asks icily, turning her back to me and continuing packing.

"Since I became your damned bodyguard! For love of the Summons, it's my *job* to protect you!"

"You're fired, then."

I stare blankly at her. "What?"

She turns to face me, hands on her hips. "You said it was your job to protect me. You're fired. It's not your job anymore."

I stare at her, unwilling or unable to understand what she's telling me. Lenne finishes packing and walks past me with her bag. The ability to move suddenly returns to me, and I follow her down the hallway.

"Lenne, please... don't leave. Don't throw your life away like this!"

"Is that all you see this as? Throwing my life away?"

She stops, and I almost run into her. I shrug helplessly.

"What is it for you?"

Lenne shakes her head, beads clacking softly in the silence. "It's a sacrifice to protect my people. If I can give my life to protect them, it's worth it."

"But we can't win..." It's a hopeless fight against Bevelle, can't she see that?

"I know. But it'll give them some time. Time to come up with a better plan, or escape."

I shake my head as she starts walking to the door again. "Damn it, Lenne, don't do this to me! To us! This-- this isn't right!"

I hear someone sobbing for breath, and it takes a minute to realize it's me.

Lenne turns around slowly, looking at me. I know I look pathetic-- crying, my hands raised in front of me in a pleading gesture. "Please, Lenne," I choke out, shaking my head desperately. "Please."

She looks ready to cry as well, but she doesn't. "Save your tears, Shuyin," is all she says before turning around and walking away.

* The Dungeons of Bevelle *

Dead. She's dead. I failed her, failed her so completely and totally I can never hope for forgiveness. I may as well have shot her myself. I've experienced a lot of emotions in my life, but never true hate or despair. It's strange... now I can't even remember how it is to feel anything else.

They shouldn't have given me Potions in glass bottles. Glass breaks easily, and makes wonderful blades...

"Red alert! Prisoner injured! Red alert!"

I smile bitterly as my consciousness fades.

* Zanarkand *

"We must not fight! We have our differences, our arguments, but that is part of being human-- of being alive! War will not solve these problems or destroy this hate. It can only allow the hatred to continue!"

The stadium is packed to standing room only, and I'm relatively sure that most vid-screens across the city are showing this as well. It's Lenne's last-ditch effort at peace. She and the other Summoners have been fighting with the Council for weeks, trying to prevent all out war with Bevelle. The Council wants to strike first, since there's no way we could survive if Bevelle attacks us. When they couldn't get through to the Council... Lenne turned to the people. Her people. They're cheering for her now, screaming their support of her message.

"This isn't just for Zanarkand. It's for Hinakoto, for the Tierre Plains, and for Bevelle! All the people of these places will suffer from war. We can stop this from happening! And that's what this song is about-- stopping the hate, the war."

She glances over at my spot in the shadows, and I nod at her. She'd originally written this song for us, but I told her it should be heard by more than just me. She looks back at the crowd as the opening chords begin.

* Tierre Plains, Zanarkand Camp *

"Shuyin! What are you doing--"

I quickly cover Lenne's mouth with my hand and pull her off to the side, behind a tent where no one will see. I take my hand away from her mouth and brush my fingers across her face.

"I'm sorry, I had to find you. I-- I couldn't stand letting you go like that, with us fighting--"

She wraps her arms around me and hugs me hard.

"I know... I hated it too, but I had to leave..." She's crying. I shake my head and wipe the tears from her face.

"Shhh, Lenne, it's okay... I think I understand now. How you feel." I pull her back into an embrace and press a kiss to her hair.

Don't worry... everything's going to be fine. I'll protect you, no matter what. I found a way to end this whole thing."

She moves back, looking worried. "Shuyin, what--"

I kiss her to keep her from asking questions. It's best if she doesn't know.

* Mushroom Rock Road *

Drifting... the pyreflies have gone away for a little while. My cave is quiet, without my screams and pleas echoing from wall to wall. Sometimes people come in, but they usually go crazy and kill themselves within an hour of getting lost. Rather ingenious, the ways they choose to go. Stone is a deadly weapon when you want it to be.

Hmm... more people. Lots more. Soldiers with guns, this time. More of them without guns. The pyreflies swirl around them, and gunfire and screams ricochet off the walls. I smile. It's nice not to be alone anymore.

* Bevelle Temple *

'It's a simple enough code-- the piano shuts down the protections on Vegnagun and powers it up. The music doesn't really matter, just so long as it isn't hostile.'

I settle in front of the machina, looking over the keys. Pretend it's Lenne's piano at home in Zanarkand. We'll be home soon, once this is over. Vegnagun will protect Lenne for me, since I can't anymore.

Lovers can't be bodyguards, after all. And when we get home, she won't need me to protect her.

I close my eyes and begin to play.