Fire Petals Chapter 16
El Fuego Corriente
Ellone shivered. She had been doing so quite often lately, especially since Quistis left the lounge room beside the Headmaster's office. It seemed that being alone made her feel colder than she was. She hoped the others would get there soon. She was anxious to see them after so many years, and wondered how they had changed.
Soon enough, the group filtered in. As Selphie threw her arms around her neck, Ellone noticed Irvine leaning against the far wall coolly. He tipped his hat at her and offered a warm smile, acknowledging that he knew she was rather busy with Selphie at the moment.
"Omigod I haven't seen you in so long! I missed you so much!"
"I didn't think you'd remember me." she replied as Selphie found a spot on the antique-looking couch next to her.
"Well . . . I told everyone a little while ago." Irvine explained, "I'm the only one that remembered."
Zell plunked himself down on the floor. "How ya doin'?" he asked, unsure of how else to greet Ellone. It sure had been a long time.
Ellone smiled, brushing some of her short brown hair from her face, "I'm okay now . . . I was feeling pretty bad, but Quistis took good care of me before she found you guys. Um . . . where's Squall?"
Quistis cleared her throat as the others looked around the room nervously, hoping Quistis could find the right words to tell Ellone that Squall had gone bonkers. "He's in the disciplinary quarters right now," she said, "He assaulted Zell, and--"
"You don't need to say it like that. He didn't hit me *that* hard."
To the surprise of everyone in the room, Ellone began to giggle. "You two were always squabbling." she replied to questioning faces.
Zell shook his head violently. "No . . .no, you don't get it. He frickin' punched me right in the damn face. And I didn't even *do* anything to him."
"It's just funny . . . you bickered with each other more than Seifer did with either of you . . . and yet, you'd be found playing in the sand together ten minutes later."
"Ellone . . . he . . . tried to rape a visitor." Quistis said seriously. Ellone immediately ceased her giggling, her eyes turning to saucers.
"Ellone, she *said*--"
"No, Zell . . . I heard her. I just don't believe . . . How could he have done that? Squall would never. . ."
"I don't know . . . none of us know." Quistis replied, "He somehow knew to look for you earlier today . . . I was actually hoping you could tell us."
Ellone stared at the floor, silently pondering. After a few long minutes, she said, "The people who kidnapped me took my powers. They must have used them . . . manipulated them, and used them . . . On Squall."
"You could only use them on people you knew, right?" Selphie replied.
"Yes . . ."
"So, there would need to be someone working for the enemy that knew Squall . . ."
"Seifer!" said everyone in the room, practically in unison.
"He called me 'chicken wuss' today!" Zell stood up energetically.
"And Rinoa said he was acting like him! Mannerisms and stuff!" Selphie added, clapping her hands together.
Irvine remained silent against the wall. He was feeling rather guilty for doubting his comrade. He hoped Squall wouldn't hold it against him.
The others in the room exchanged glances. "She's the visitor we told you about." said Quistis.
"We were hoping they'd hook up, but after this . . ." Selphie drifted off, looking at the floor sadly.
"What? We know this wasn't his fault." Irvine added casually with a wave of his hand, "They'll be fine."
"You don't get it, do you, Irvine?" Selphie asked.
"What? I don't get what?"
Selphie shook her head, almost in unison with Zell. They both knew this wasn't something just to blow off, but they remained silent.
"I suppose I should go talk to him." Quistis said, relieved that she could tell Squall that they knew. She only wondered why he'd refused to tell them about it. Did he even know what was going on?
"I'm gonna head off to bed. You got somewhere to sleep, Sis?" Zell asked.
Ellone smiled. "Quistis already said I could sleep in her room. She told me she probably won't have any time to sleep tonight."
"I'll go to bed too." Selphie said with a yawn as Irvine pulled out his pocket watch. "What time is it?"
"Quarter to five. Sun'll be comin' out soon. Guess I'll go out to watch it."
Selphie nodded and yawned again as the group left the small lounge.
"Squall?" Quistis smiled slightly as she watched the boy turn away from the florescent light that cascaded in from the door. He seemed almost like a child. "We know what happened. We found Ellone."
Squall perked up at that remark. "What? Ellone?" he asked excitedly, joy showing through his squinting eyes.
Quistis nodded. "Yes. She told me about . . . Seifer."
"Oh." Squall lifted his hand to his temple, as though he had a headache. "Is Rinoa alright?"
"She's asleep . . . in Zell's room." *No, Quistis! Why'd you have to tell him that??*
"I don't blame her." Squall replied quietly, his voice laced with hopelessness. He honestly didn't . . . she would probably never speak to him again, even if she did know the truth.
"Anyways, Squall, we're willing to let you out of here. You're welcome to go back to your dorm."
"I'll stay here."
"What?" Quistis couldn't understand how anyone could want to spend time in this practical dungeon.
"I said I'll stay here. I don't know if Seifer will show up again." Squall's eyes were now closed and he absently ran a finger over the scar between his eyes. *One can be scarred in much deeper ways than this . . . as he has scarred Rinoa. As I have.*
"Or are you afraid to face the others?" Quistis inquired, stepping closer to Squall and kneeling in front of him on the hard white floor. "Especially Rinoa?"
Squall turned his face away from her. " . . . Whatever."
Quistis couldn't hide the smile that crept to her lips every time he said that. "That word's turning into a cliche, Squall."
"We can have someone keep an eye on you, if that's what you're worried about."
Squall sighed. Quistis was incredibly difficult. "Quistis, I don't know what he'll do when he finds out that everyone knows what's going on."
"Is that why you refused to tell me?"
"Yes. He . . . more or less said that he'd kill Rinoa if I told anyone. I couldn't risk that."
"That could have been what he was planning, anyways."
"No. Not Seifer. He had the chance and he didn't take it."
"He may have only been stalling. Seifer is an unpredictable character."
"It doesn't matter anyways. I don't want to take any risks with this."
"But don't you want to see Sis?"
" . . . Yes, but . . . will she want to see me?"
"Of course she will! If anyone does, she does. You're just being silly."
There was a long pause before Squall spoke again. "Alright. But if Seifer shows up again . . ."
" . . . I won't be afraid to wrap my whip --albeit not *too* tightly-- around your neck."
Squall almost smiled at this. "That's what I was hoping to hear." He reluctantly stood up and left the bleak disciplinary chamber, Quistis close behind him.
The click of Seifer's boots on the Palace floor was even louder than usual, the sound echoing through the desolate blue halls, loudest in his ears. *Yes, as your knight, I've made my decision.* he thought, clenching his hands into fists. With this motion, he noticed they were shaking, and that he could not quell them. He heaved a heavy sigh, hoping that upon speaking with Mayaden the nervousness would go away. He ignored the feeling that something was wrong; inner conflict could only cause more problems.
"Yes, Odine, I know it will kill him." were the first words Seifer heard as he approached Mayaden's office. He leaned on the wall, waiting patiently. The last thing he wanted to do was interrupt an important conversation. Unfortunately, he couldn't help but eavesdrop.
"But you don't vant zat, do you?" was Odine's timid reply, "Seifer vill die if he kills Squall while in control of his mind."
"I *said* it doesn't matter! I don't need the child's help any more. This will be a wonderful way to be rid of him. Killing two birds with one stone, shall we say?"
Seifer's head fell back against the wall as his eyes widened and then narrowed. *She wants me dead.* He leaned forward and began to run without thinking, found himself past the elevator, legs pumping faster than he thought they could, as he moved across blue glass and metal, past numerous guards, until he suddenly found himself outside. *Fuck this. I don't need ~her~. I don't need ~anyone~.*
Seifer continued to run.
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