This is the Way the World Ends


The Gayla steak tastes better than anything she has eaten in weeks. Sure, it has the texture of tree bark given their limited cooking supplies, but at least its protein.

A risky protein. The steaks have to be cut exactly to avoid a poisonous vein running through the beast, if cut the wrong way…

Thankfully Seifer has amazing foraging skills, something they discovered early on. Something he discovered after living life as an outcast, with no one but Fujin and Raijin to call him anything other than traitor, or worse.

Seifer was an unlikely ally, and an even unlikelier lover, but these were desperate times. And eventually she had grown to love him. Even be in love with him. She loved all of them. At this point, if she lost any of them, it would be the same as losing a limb. She wasn't sure if they could keep going.

At least they had each other. It was more than most.

Staring at the eyes of Seifer, Rinoa, and Squall—hollow, demoralized, worn-out, sunken in from Hyne-knows-how-long malnutrition, she knew it was true for them as well.

Rinoa is eating at Squall's insistence. Her face is pale, but her eyes still have the playful twinkle they had in her youth. Even now.

Squall looks strange with facial hair. It doesn't really grow in as a decent beard, almost reddish-brown in color, more scraggle at best. His piercing blue eyes still cut deep underneath the sunken cheekbones. He is still their leader. He remains strong. He makes their plans for the future.

Seifer is the one that keeps them surviving day to day. He never looks ahead.

They eat in silence. Noise is dangerous now.

Quistis doesn't know how long it's been. Since the announcement. She thinks around two years. She stopped counting after year one.

She can still see Odine's vile face on the television screen, laughing as if he thought the fate of the world was some sort of joke.

"We are all infected. Zere is no hope. All veel succumb to the virus…"

They've seen it firsthand. Zell, awakening into a monster before their very eyes, even though he was never bit, never sick. Squall having to…

Having to…

Quistis blinks back tears at the memory. It happened early on, but it still hurts. They didn't believe Seifer at first, when he said people could transform without contact. But he had been forced to dispatch of Fujin and Raijin before they even met up with him.

This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Rinoa said that at the beginning. Said it was from some book of poems she liked to read at the library. Quistis always thought it was a stupid quote. Of course the world would end in a blaze of last attempted glory, or a war. Not like this.

Never like this.

Seifer is next to her, his warmth a comfort. He leans over to give her a quick kiss on the cheek. His shaggy beard tickling her skin. A nudge with his elbow, a gravelly whisper in her ear. "Our turn for watch."

It's the same every night. The couples take turns in the tent, while the other keeps watch. Giving each other time for tangled limbs, promises that can never be fulfilled, whispers of love and devotion, and satisfying the need for human contact. No matter how covered in grime and dirt they are. They've long since stopped being embarrassed around each other, embarrassed that the other might know what they are doing. It's a necessity. A necessity for their sanity.

Seifer lets her sleep through their turn at watch. She can sleep through anything now as long as he is nearby. He fancies himself her knight in shining armor. Maybe he is. Even though magic is useless now. Another discovery made early on.

Magic can't heal the virus. Antidotes won't cure it. Magic can't even harm those infected, when they begin to attack. Rinoa has all the magic in the world, and its useless. Quistis knows Rinoa carries guilt.

This is the way the world ends.

"We'll need a ship to get to Esthar." Squall whispers, loud enough only for them to hear.

"It's a risk. We'll probably have to head to Dollet." Seifer replies.

"There may be people there." Rinoa adds softly.

People.

They can be a threat, there to take what's left from you. Or maybe an ally. It's usually not worth the risk.

All they have is each other. At least they have each other.


When it all started, they made their way to the mainland, thinking Deling City may have resources, battling their way through the train tunnels. It's where they lost Zell. It's where they met Seifer.

Deling City was overrun. A waste of months of travelling. Travelling by foot was slow, only covering a few kilometers a day given their hunger, the need to hide, the monsters…the infected.

They created a camp at The Tomb of the Unknown King and for a while and it was a reprieve. It's where she fell in love with Seifer. Three blissful months. Until a group of people tried to take it over, and unleashed the infected upon them.

Other people were the most dangerous threat out in the open.

There was a rumor that Esthar was a safe zone. So that was their next destination. It was a risk, but there was no alternative. It gave them hope. Maybe, just maybe.

There's another reason they are so desperate for a safe haven now, one they won't speak of. Growing inside Rinoa.

This is the way the world ends.

She stopped using Save The Queen and started using guns. It's the only way to dispose of the infected. The brain. Turns out she's a great shot. She could even give Irvine a run for his money. Quistis briefly wonders what happened to Irvine and Selphie. They never saw them after the announcement. Are they alive? Are they also heading to Esthar?

A few twigs snapping grabs her to attention, and she holds up a hand, indicating they should all stop walking. Squall and Seifer ready their gunblades, while Rinoa adjusts her Shooting Star on her arm. That thing can take out ten infected at once.

Squinting through the trees she tries to see what is approaching them. She hopes it's a monster. She can take out a Behemoth single-handedly at this point. The infected tend to travel in packs. She can't see anything, it's foggy in the early-morning.

Seifer's back presses against hers. Her comfort. "It's the infected. I can tell by the gait pattern. A bunch of them. Get ready, Quisty."

"I always am."

It's not a lie.

"I love you." He admits softly. As he does every time before they engage with an enemy. Just in case it's the last. Because, it could always be their last. All it takes is a bite…

This is the way the world ends.

They are surrounded by thirty infected. It should be an easy fight. She quickly figured out how to dissociate. They aren't real people anymore. They are monsters. She had to keep reminding herself of that at first. Now it's second nature.

Monsters. Undead. Infected.

Rinoa takes out five with one shot of her Shooting Star. Taking their heads clean off. Seifer takes out three more, his skill with Hyperion still a graceful dance that she loves to watch, even if his arms and chest are half the size they once were.

Squall takes out three more with Lionheart. It's becoming difficult for him to wield the heavy blade. He may need to change weapons soon. He's been giving his rations to Rinoa even though she begs him not to, and it's taking its toll. He can still fight though, and will until his last breath.

There are only three left now, Quistis easily taking a few out with a perfectly aimed shot.

Two more.

Quistis makes the mistake of looking it in the face.

"Selphie…" She hesitates. It's not Selphie. Not really. She knows that, deep down.

The monster is in the yellow sundress. Torn, faded, grimy. The body of Selphie Tilmitt. Now one of the infected.

Hesitation is a mistake.

"Kill it!" Seifer's voice cuts through. "Dammit, Quitsis! Now!"

"Oh! Selphie!" Rinoa understands the reluctance. "Quistis, it's not really her."

She hesitates.

This is the way the world ends.

The infected's teeth are on her forearm, tearing off a piece of flesh, her gun dropping to the ground.

The pain is unreal, venom shooting through the bite and travelling up her arm. It feels like she is being burned from the inside out. She collapses to the ground, screaming in agony as the infected starts to leap on top of her. Ready to eat her alive.

Before Selphie's mouth attaches to her neck, she is decapitated. Squall standing above Quistis, breathing heavy, Lionheart heavy in his hand, pointed to the ground. It's always Squall. He is always the one to do the difficult tasks.

She is in so much pain, she's sure she will die from it. The burning is making it hard to breathe, and it is coming out in short gasps. Quistis thinks she's calling out for Seifer, but she can't be sure. She sees him out of the corner of her eye. He's cleaning Hyperion with care and precision, his sharpening stone out. Entirely focused on the task. Why is he doing that now? When she is clearly going to die from this pain.

This is the way the world ends.

She doesn't register the fact that Rinoa is ripping off her clothing, examining her body closely. They moved past shame in nudity around each other a long time ago.

Oh, I get it now. She thinks. Seifer will kill her with a clean blade. One last act of mercy. It has to be Seifer. They promised each other after all.

"It's only the forearm." Rinoa's voice is soft and it sounds like she is nearly hissing to Seifer.

"Make her shut up, Seifer!" Squall is near her face and shoves a stick in between her teeth. "You gotta be quieter, Quistis."

She didn't even realize she was screaming. Noise is dangerous.

This is the way the world ends.

Rinoa's body is on her own, holding her to the ground. Pinning her with strength she didn't realize the young Sorceress possessed. "I've got her. No other wounds. Get the arm. Squall?"

"On it." Squall grabs her arm, twisting it away from her body and extending it out on the earth away from her. She can see the bite, on the outside of her wrist. Bone protruding. Blood…

"Under the elbow, Seifer." Rinoa commands. Then, in a gentle voice. "It's going to be okay, Quistis. We're all going to be okay. I promise."

Quistis can feel the magic humming underneath Rinoa's skin, melting into her own body. It takes away some of the pain. She knows Rinoa is not trying to heal the bite, because that's impossible, the only hope is in Seifer's blade. Rinoa is preparing her for what's to come. It isn't going to be pretty.

Squall is kneeling on her hand, keeping her wounded arm away from her body, undoing one of his belts and tightening it around her bicep.

Oh…

Hyperion is clean and she can see the sunlight glistens off its blade. Sharpened. Cleaned. Just for her.

Hope.

She meets Seifer's eyes and sees zero hesitation as he readies the blade above his head.

Quistis spits out the stick in her mouth. "Do it."

"I love you." He says and Hyperion arcs down to her arm, the rays of the sun almost blinding her as they dance off the blade.

It's going to be okay.

It's going to be okay…


beta: Queen Bebedora *kissy face*

"This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but with a whimper"

Is a line from T.S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men".