Fire Petals Chapter 21
Selphie's door had been open when Irvine got there, but he opted to knock anyway. Catching a glance at his face as she headed to the doorway, Selphie threw her arms up around his neck. Irvine looked so sad and tired. She was going to ask if he was alright, but he spoke first as she let go of him. "Hey, I just came to check up. I heard Rinoa said some nasty stuff to you."
Selphie shrugged, seeming even shorter since her boots now sat beside the door. "She said meaner stuff to Zell. That she thought he used her. I think it made him feel really bad."
Irvine scratched the side of his face, temporarity having forgotten about the cut that had found a home there. "He didn't seem too bad when I saw him. Maybe he realized that she didn't mean anything she said."
"She didn't?" Selphie flopped down onto her sunflower-print bedspread (nobody knew how she managed to get inspection to let her keep that--it was against regulations) and leaned against the wall.
"Nah, she was really upset. Sure, it wasn't the most mature thing to do, taking her anger out on you guys, but she didn't mean any of the bad stuff she said." Selphie patted a spot beside her on the bed, feeling particularly flirty, and Irvine took it, leaning against the wall.
"Okay." Selphie nodded, and looked up at him. "What about you?"
"What *about* me?" Irvine asked, puzzled, "I'm one of the few people in this place that isn't going through a gigantic personal crisis right now."
"Aren't you?" Selphie seemed particularly wise for a moment, looking at him through strange, inquisitive eyes.
"No, I'm just here to help everybody else out. I guess the reason I came here to see you was so I could get away from that. And cuz you're so damn cute of course."
This made Selphie let out a quiet giggle, and Irvine thought he noticed her inch closer to him. "Um . . . I think it looks like you're putting other people's problems on your shoulders, here. I mean, you talked to both Rinoa and Squall, right?"
Irvine nodded. How did she know that? He didn't remember telling her. This girl's natural gossiping talents almost scared him. How'd she manage to learn so much in only an hour or so? "Yeah. I sent Squall to his room to sleep and then went to see what was up with Rinoa, and she was really upset. But I managed to calm her down, and now she's gone to see Squall, I guess."
"If I were you, I'd take a rest from everything for a bit. I think that would be a good idea. You looked pretty darn tired when I found you this morning."
"I was." At the reminder of his fatigue, Irvine yawned, and Selphie smiled. Irvine fell sideways and flopped over onto her lap, hiding his face to cover a grin as she shook him.
"Hey, I didn't say rest *here*." she playfully whined, tugging lightly on his ponytail. He rolled over so he could look at her, his head still resting in her lap.
"Why not?" he asked, grinning up at her.
"Be*cause*." Irvine raised his eyebrows at her as she tried to think of a suitable answer. "Because girls aren't allowed to have guys in their rooms. It's the rules. I don't wanna get in trouble." Selphie crossed her arms and raised her chin high in pride.
"Yeah, since it's obvious how much trouble Zell and Rinoa got in." Irvine replied sarcastically, "There's no disciplinary comittee here and everyone's got too much to worry about already." He stuck out his lip in a mock-pout. "I know the truth: you don't want me here."
"Oh hush, you. You can stay. I was kidding, anyways."
"Thanks." Irvine grabbed his hat from above his head on the bed and covered his eyes. Selphie sighed, knowing she'd be there for a while but not minding one bit.
Coming out of the dorms, Rinoa noticed Quistis chatting quietly with a brown-haired girl she didn't recognize as they sat on a bench outside the library, and as she watched, found that she had made eye contact with her. The girl walked over quite shyly, taking little timid steps almost as though she were afraid of her. When they met up, she asked, "So, um, you're Rinoa, right?"
" . . . Yes." Rinoa tried to smile, wondering what she was being so timid about. And then she realized, "Are you Ellone?"
The girl nodded. "Yes. I . . . I want to say I'm sorry about what happened, since I sort of feel like it was my fault --"
"How could it be your fault?" Rinoa smiled a little, "I can't think of anything you did wrong."
"My powers were used to hurt you and Squall, even if I didn't control them . . . I wish I could have run away, or just fought those people. . . or something. . ."
"Don't worry about anything. Nobody blames you."
"You don't? And Squall doesn't?" Rinoa shook her head. Ellone sighed, "I'm so glad . . . I was a little afraid that the two of you would . . . more you, really, since you don't really know me." She smiled with relief, her nose crinkling up. "Um . . . do you think Squall might be up for a visitor? I haven't seen him in years."
"Well . . . he might be, but I wouldn't stay long. He's really sleepy."
"Okay. I'll see how he is." Ellone smiled and left. Rinoa looked up to see Quistis waving her over.
"You don't look too good." was what Quistis greeted her with, standing up.
"Considering I've been crying all darn day . . ."
"I'm sorry to hear tha . . ." Quistis trailed off a little, raising a hand to her temple and sitting back down like she was dizzy.
She closed her eyes, her eyebrows pushing together. "Uh. . . sudden headache. Really . . . weird. It's like . . . burning."
Seifer could feel his mind becoming surrounded by Quistis', then could feel her fingers and toes surrounding his own. He could also tell that Quistis could feel his presence, snaking it's way through her nerves, like cold, controlling fire. Soon her body began to feel like it was his own, and then he looked down. Damn, he had boobs, and it was pretty freakin' wierd.
~Hi Quistis. Long time no see.~
~Don't say anything. Look, Fujin needs your help.~
"Why aren't you--"
~I can hear your thoughts. Don't let Rinoa know I'm here.~
*Seifer, if you can, why aren't you controlling my body?* She could feel the potential there, that Seifer could choose her movements whenever he willed so.
~I have no reason to. I just want to talk, and I want you to be willing to listen to me.~
"Quistis, what's going on? Are you o--"
"I'm fine, Rinoa. Just . . ." she looked up, hoping to look as normal as possible. "Just let me be for a little while." If she let Rinoa know Seifer was there, she didn't know what she'd do. And if she went against Seifer's request, he would probably get mad and either leave or do something drastic, both meaning that there would be less time to talk to him--less time to find out where he was so they could throw him in solitary confinement for twenty or so years.
Seifer saw, through Quistis' eyes, the pain on Rinoa's face just before she walked away. Her cheeks and eyes were red like she'd just been crying, her natural bouncy nature dissolved to a strange vacant bitterness he'd never seen before. She whispered "Okay." and turned to head down the hallway, looking lost.
~I did that, too?~ Seifer thought to himself, temporarily forgetting that Quistis could hear him. This mind-control thing was tough to get used to.
Yes, Quistis heard that. It sounded like he was sorry, which really surprised her. Was he actually regretful or just putting on an act to get what he wanted? She didn't know how deep this connection could go, but . . . these emotions that didn't belong to her flooding into her mind seemed too real to be any sort of act. If the feelings communcated to her were true, and she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Seifer was sorry . . . it would be all too difficult to offer him any sort of fitting punishment.
Sefier allowed her to lean back on the wall. He could feel how calm she was tying to act, especially when referring to him, but it was obvious to him that she was very much afraid, not to mention angry. He did his best to quell the anticipation for the possibility of overpowering her within his gut and posed his first important statement. ~Fujin's in touble.~
This caught Quistis by surprise--in the midst of all the things happening to Garden, she'd pushed the disappearance of Raijin and Fujin to the back of her mind. She did her best to keep her thoughts from stuttering. *Tell me where you are and we'll come help her. Is she alright?*
~I think it'd be better to tell you this way:~
Suddenly what seemed hundreds of pictures flashed through Quistis mind, and she saw each one individually in just a few seconds: Seifer hititng Fujin with the T-Bike, carrying her to the beach after the bike ran out of gas, and when he saw the Garden in the distance. Each picture carried with it another strong emotion, nearly making her feel them as well. He was full of shame, not as much for his faults as for having to ask someone, especially someone from Garden, for help. She could see why he hadn't chosen Squall's mind to enter again--Seifer would die before letting Squall know he needed help with anything. The strongest of all, even stronger than his ever-present pride, was remorse. For hurting Rinoa, and for hurting Fujin . . . and that was what really scared her. Seifer had changed. Or had he? He could have been like this for his entire life--he continuously did horribly mean things, but had he always hidden the remorse with more cruelty? And if he had, a punishment would still be necessary to try to keep him from doing such horrible things ever again.
~Do you understand now?~ Seifer asked, interrupting Quistis' wandering thoughts.
*Yes, but what do you expect me to do with this information?*
It was then that Seifer sent her the most important mental image of all: a view off the shore of Grandidi forest, with Balamb Garden far off in the distance. She now knew where he was. ~Quistis, we're both here. The Garden came and left, though I don't know why. I . . . I think Fujin's dying.~ If the voice that people think in could have cracked, Seifer's did. And Quistis felt something she rarely did and never thought she would for Seifer: sympathy.
Suddenly a voice boomed loudly over the speakers, "*Quistis, please come to the Bridge as soon as possible.*" It was Xu, and she sounded anxious. Quistis stood up and made her way there, still feeling Seifer's presence but no longer dizzy or in pain from it. She did her best to look normal as she listened to Seifer speak agian.
~Is there any way you could steer the Garden over here?~
*I can get there, Seifer. If Fujin needs help, there is no choice. If it were you, on the other hand, I'd have to think much harder about it.* Quistis headed into the elevator, and up to the Bridge to meet Nida and Xu. "What's going on?" she asked.
"Look." Nida gestured to the window. On the horizon, just barely visible, was the shore of Grandidi forest. "I called you because Selphie visited me a little while ago to let me know not to call on Squall. She said something about him being busy." Quistis nodded, still looking out the window. She could feel Seifer's happiness in her mind, now that the Garden could see where they were.
Xu was the one who continued. "No one thought we'd arrive this quickly, but now that we have, what do you think we should do?"
"Keep the Garden here. Some issues have arisen concerning Squall. He'll want to come onto the island, but he needs to rest--sleeping problems and such. Wait until tomorrow as planned. I'll leave now to investigate.
"And what if there's resistance?" Nida asked, "You can't fight off a whole army by yourself."
"If there's an army, I'll be able to see them before I get there. I'm not going into the forest, just to the shore, to make sure it's safe to unload our SeeDs. I'll be alright."
Nida sighed and nodded. As Quistis made her way back down to the Infirmary to pick up a med kit, she heard Seifer say in her mind, ~Thanks.~ With that he left her to herself to wait for her arrival. *He ~thanked~ me?*
Ellone found Squall's room after having to ask one of the students where ut was, and knocked timidly on it when she got there. After several minutes without an answer, she turned the knob, surprised to find it unlocked. She gasped at the sight of him, curled up into a fetal position, facing the door. He was asleep, of course, his soft breaths barely audible. He was as pale, and as peaceful, and as motionless as the last time she'd seen him sleep, twelve years ago. He almost looked the same, too, and would have had it not been for all that leather. Carefully, she crept to his side and sat down on the bed, lightly touching his hair as she felt tears begin to sting at the corners of her eyes. It was as soft and brown and beautiful as before, too. In so many ways, he hadn't changed.
But then, in so many ways he had. In brushing his hair from his face, she found a long scar over his forehead and the bridge of his nose that hadn't yet completely healed. How could he have gotten that? She decided she would have to ask him later as she ran a finger lightly along it. He seemed so mature now, so much older, so much of his previous innocence dissolved to what looked like biterness.
She pulled her hand back with a start when his eyes opened, looking up at her questioningly. She smiled, and he found his answer.
She nodded and returned her hand to his hair. "Hi," she whispered, "I didn't mean to wake you. I just wanted to see you . . . It's been so many years--" She cut off she saw him smile, very slightly--something she hadn't expected, considering all he'd been through.
"I missed you." he said quietly, his face quickly returning to it's previous emotionless state. He sat up, bringing his legs to the edge of he bed. "What happened? You just left the orphanage. I didn't know where you went."
"I'm sorry, Squall, I couldn't--"
"*The Garden has almost reached the shore of Grandidi forest. Squall Leonhart, if you're awake, please come to the bridge.*" said Nida's voice over the P.A. Squall stood, mumbling an apology for having to leave so quickly.
"Do you want to talk later?" Ellone asked hopefully.
He nodded. "Yeah, after all this is over."
Ellone smiled, then frowned as she noticed that his steps towards the door seemed much less than stable. "Are you going to be alright?"
"I'm fine." he replied as he headed out in the hall, leaving Ellone alone in his room by herself. She doubted that what he said was true--even she could see the pain in his eyes.
Soon Quistis was on the water, her hair whipping furiously behind her, surf and spray and salty mist blurring the world behind her as she turned the Garden-regulation motorboat into a higher gear. Half-an-hour later, she could see the shore quite well: she could see the tiny images of Seifer sitting up, turning to Fujin, who seemed to be laying on her back motionlessly. Seifer waved to her once, as though directing her, and the boat soon skidded into the sand, its motor becoming silent as she turned it off, grabbed the med bag, and jumped out. She avoided eye-contact with Seifer, sure she'd jump on him and rip out his hair if she looked at him, and turned all of her attention to Fujin, who looked to be sleeping until she spoke. "Okay, Fujin, I'm here to help you. Just lay still and let me do what I need to." Fujin looked at her and attempted to nod. Then Quistis added to Seifer, who was leaning mighty close over the two, "And Seifer, stay out of the way."
Seifer took a few steps back and stood there silently, awkwardly looking on as Quistis crouched beside Fujin and undid her jacket. Quistis found, when lifting up her shirt, that her injuries were much worse than she imagined. "Turn around, Seifer." she mumbled, waiting until she heard his shuffling steps in the sand before pulling the white tank off over Fujin's head. It was obvious that several of her ribs had been broken in the collision, meaning that the use of a Curaga or Potion before the bones had been properly set could prove quite dangerous. The bruises were dark and covered much of her torso, and as Quistis touched them to find out how serious they were, Fujin let out a loud groan, her face contorting with pain. Yes, quite serious, for she knew how stubborn Fujin could be when trying to hide pain or discomfort. It seemed her med kit wouldn't come to much use right now.
"Okay, Fujin, we need to get you back to the Garden." Quistis covered her chest by laying her blue jacket back over her and went to the boat to grab a gourney. She looked around frantically only to realize seconds later that she had forgotten one. She didn't want to risk injuring Fujin further, and attempting to move her without the proper equipment could do just that. Luckily, one thing she had remembered was a two-way radio and, unclipping it from her belt while looking out at her home on the horizon, buzzed the bridge. "Nida, Xu, steer the Garden over here." She replied to the scratchy answer, "There's no resistance, but . . . " She had to think hard about the information she was about to give, "We have an injured student in need of medical attention, and--"
"A student? How did a student get there?" Xu asked, quite confused.
"I'll explain it all later. Oh, and you may want to be ready," Here Quistis lowered her voice to a near whisper, "She's accompanied by another student, previously Awol. He must be taken into Garden's captivity. I don't know if there will be resistance. There hasn't as of yet."
"Awol? Quistis, I can only think of one, and if--"
"Yes, yes, it's Seifer. Only say something to those you must. Tell the SeeDs to be ready with weapons in case they need them. He still has his--" and she cut off, feeling sharp pain at the small of her back.
"Gunblade." Seifer finished for her. "Drop your toy." Stiffening, Quistis dropped the radio by her side.
"Quistis, are you th--" Nida asked, cut off by the crush of Seifer's steel-toed boot. He then kicked it into the water and it was gone.
"Seifer, what are you doing?" Quistis asked quietly, raising her hands as Hyperion's sharp point pressed harder into her spine.
"I'm not going back into your damn captivity. I want to be back at Garden as a student, even a SeeD maybe, but not a criminal." he snarled.
"Seifer, you must understand what you've done. Rinoa and Squall have been greatly affected by what you've done to them. Punishment is mandatory in order for you ever to be accepted as a student, let alone a potential SeeD."
"I doubt they'll even accept me. Squall's in control there, is he not?"
"Then don't try to make me believe that *you* give the orders. He'll never accept me back, even as a captive. He'll have me killed on the *spot*. Therefore you, my dear ex-instructor, are going to be my collateral." He pulled Quistis' whip from it's clip on her belt and tried use it to tie her hands, but couldn't do it using only one hand. The other, of course, was occupied by his gunblade. "Fujin, come help me. I know you're not hurt *that* badly."
"NO." came Fujin's reply, with more strength forced into it than she thought she had.
"I will not help you dig your hole even deeper. Do as Quistis says."
Quistis couldn't help but smile, and was glad that Seifer couldn't see her face. *Go Fujin.* She thought. Fujin's punishment for leaving the Garden without permission would surely have to be shortened for this. It took a lot of guts to stand up for what was right, considering how she was so obviously close to him.
"Get over here *now!*"
In his frustration at knowing that he would get nowhere when Fujin's stubbornness was at it's strongest, Seifer got ready to shove Quistis to the ground and try to do it that way.
"*Hey!*" Came a yell from the edge of the bush, "Seifer! I never thought I'd find ya, ya know?"
*Dammit*. Quistis thought. Seifer had always had Raijin wrapped around his little finger, taking advantage of every weakness he had. Raijin followed Seifer as though he were a god.
Raijin first ran to Fujin's side, noticing her laying on the ground and not looking at all well, "Fujin! What happened to you? You look like death, ya know?"
"LONG STORY." Fujin replied.
"Raijin, gimme a hand!" Seifer called sternly. Instantly Raijin was by his side, "What's going on?" he asked, scratching his head.
"Fujin can explain it to you later. I need you to tie this around the lady's writs. Here." And he handed him the whip.
"Hello, Raijin." Quistis said politely. "I wouldn't help him if I were you. You're in enough trouble as it is."
"Instructor Trepe! Seifer, I don't think--"
"Shut up. Both of you." Seifer jabbed the gunblade a little harder into the small of Quistis' back and shoved the whip to Raijin's chest. Raijin took it and did as Seifer asked him, not muttering a single word as he tied and looped and knotted Quistis' wrists together so tightly that her hands already began to get numb.
Seifer looked up to see the Garden nearing them, his eyes narrowing. They'd have to get out of there soon. "Raijin, watch her." he said, handing him the gunblade's handle, its tip never leaving Quistis' back. "If she moves, you have my permission, no, my *order* to run it right through her."
Raijin nodded. "Yes sir." he said with a tiny hint of fear in his voice. He stood tall and strong, though, and though Quistis was sure he was just slow enough for her to get away, she didn't want to risk it. Seifer always kept the weapon sharp enough to split hair.
Seifer crouched beside Fujin, worry filling his lungs again as he looked at the pained expression on her face. "The Garden's coming. They'll take care of you." he said quietly.
"What are you doing?" She asked, trying to search his face for an answer to why he so often made such insane choices. More so, she wondered why she chose to follow him.
"Don't worry about that. I know what I'm doing. Tell Garden that they don't get Quistis back until I'm guaranteed to be a student again without being killed or reprimanded. Can you remember all that?" Fujin nodded. "Stay alive."
"I never planned on dying." Fujin replied with a smirk. Seifer nodded and stood, heading back to Quistis and taking Hyperion from Raijin's hand.
"Raijin, stay here with Fujin. As you can see, the Garden'll be here shortly. You, sweetheart," here he grabbed the whip that bound Quistis, "are coming with me." He pulled her around infront of him, nearly tripping her, and lightly dug the blade into her as an incentive to Get Moving. The pair disappeared into the forest, leaving Fujin and Raijin to wonder what the hell Seifer thought he was doing.
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