One Moment, And A Year
Chapter 19 - Black Cats and Sorceresses
Sunday, 14th June- Friday, 19th June
Oh, he'd fucked that one up royally. That was for sure. Totally and utterly screwed it up. Not that he was going to admit that to himself... or *anyone* thank you very much. No more warm bed, no more lazy mornings, no more breakfast. He was back to gulping down black coffee and freezing his toes off when his electric blanket decided not to work. Good one, Almasy. Absolutely fucking fantastic. And it wasn't like he'd meant any of it anyway. That one line. That one pathetic, stupid, little lie and he'd been thrown out on his arse. Zell was surprisingly speedy for one so small. He'd got Seifer's collar in his fist and had the taller boy out on his arse in the hallway before either of them said another word. Of course Zell had. The hyperactive, talkative little thing always had to have the last word. Or three as it happened.
"Good bye, Seifer."
Well done, Almasy. Round of applause for *you*. You pathetic, arrogant wanker.
So now the older boy sat in his room, head in his hands and questioned exactly what the hell he had meant by that. Was it a lie? Of sorts, yeah. He had liked Zell... He did like Zell. But it was gone now, and that was probably for the best for both of them. Easier on Zell and probably better for him not to get even remotely attached to anyone... ever. This was his life, he knew that. This was what he'd made for himself. To be hated, to be despised, to be blamed and to be alone. At least he was alone though. At least he didn't have *Her*.
There was a knock at his door. Seifer did his best to ignore it but knew that the mood he was in this evening was no good. Whoever it was would get his attention after only three knocks. And his attention would come in the form of lobbing something at their head.
That was Rinoa's voice. 'Speaking of Her,' the gunblader thought. But that was unfair, as annoying, vapid and just plain cringe worthy as Rinoa was she wasn't as torturous as Her. "Piss off, Rin. I'm not in the mood."
"But I found something!!"
Seifer could see her rocking forward on her toes in his mind's eye, and that irritated him... more than it should have. "I don't give a shit. Piss off!"
Outside Rinoa could sense a certain amount of hostility from the gunblader and not just from his words and the tone of his voice. Something inside him was building up walls again. The Sorceress frowned. She had noticed a few subtle changes in Seifer since his return to Garden and the lowering of internal walls was one of them. It probably wouldn't be evident to anyone who didn't have the heightened empathetic senses that Rinoa did now she was a Sorceress but it was still cause to worry when Seifer started building them back up again. She considered opening his door with Squall's special All Purpose KeyCard she had stolen for just such an occasion but figured this change in emotion was a recent development and maybe it would sort itself out.
Her information could wait a while, she figured. "Umm, will I see you at work tomorrow?"
"Not likely," Seifer muttered. Then raised his voice to reply. "Yeah, sure, whatever, Rinoa. Bye."
He didn't go back to the office when Rinoa was there for three days, by Thursday Squall's impatient phone messages were irritating him so he decided it was now or never. He could just tell them he'd had a cold. Not that Seifer had spent the whole time in his bed, in fact he'd been wandering up in the mountains just behind Balamb Garden. Before Her he'd liked the indoors, technology, people, things. Now he wanted the serenity nature offered, not least because he wouldn't get hassled by squirrels or birds for being the Ex-Knight of an evil Sorceress. Up there in the wilderness he could fight monsters, read, sleep, think and dream without anyone else around. He was alone... and innocent. That was one thing he would never be again and something, he found increasingly, that he was missing. He found himself wishing for a time when things were simpler, when he had Matron and the Orphanage and needed nothing else. Now the list of things he needed was getting longer. Like a way to stop himself from saying stupid things and pathetically 'protecting' himself under the hard shell of his arrogance. It wouldn't have been that difficult to actually tell Zell what he was really thinking. But he'd never been the sort to share.
When he arrived at his shared office Rinoa gushed about to make him a cup of tea, apparently she'd already decided he had been sick. "You're better now though, right?"
"Sure," Seifer coughed a bit to keep up the charade. "It was just a little 'flu."
The Sorceress smiled cheerfully at him and handed him his tea. It was obvious to her that whatever had kept him away from work for three days was not yet healed but she also knew that he would have to be told sometime. She couldn't hide it from him forever, upset or not. "So...umm, I came 'round the other day--"
The gunblader in question sighed. Great, Squall, just what he needed at this time of the morning. "Yes?" he asked pleasantly, laying on the sweetness.
"You've been absent for three days." The Commander cocked his hip to one side and glared at Seifer from under a lock of brown hair.
"My," Seifer took a sip of his tea. "You are observant aren't you?"
"Don't start with me, Seifer. I don't know what the fuck your problem is but I'm getting sick of you wandering about like you own the place--"
"Mmm, that's your job," the taller man nodded sagely.
As the Commander fumed some more Rinoa stepped in. "He's just been a little sick, haven't you Seifer?"
The gunblader nodded, smiling sweetly at Squall. "I had the 'flu."
"I'm sure you did," Squall replied. "Now hurry up and get back to work."
So, as it turned out, Squall *was* a slave driver. Who knew? Bloody idiot, just because he was now Master and Commander (1) of Garden he thought he could do whatever he wanted. Seifer scowled as he hunted through another one of Esthar's 'politically fragile' documents. What the fuck did 'politically fragile' mean anyway? Seifer supposed it had something to do with exactly what Esthar had done during the First Sorceress War but from what Seifer could tell none of it was any worse than Galbadia... but then Galbadia had suffered re-imbursement treaties and all that... The gunblader shook his head and massaged a temple, he wasn't cut out for this sort of thing. Rinoa was, she was a little Princess and belonged in a nice shiny office with pretty hot pink nail polish and sparkly lip balm... But then she was stuck in the basement with Seifer too so things weren't too bad... Except he was forced to suffer her company.
Seifer took a few deep breaths and decided 4.35 was about as close to 5 o'clock as he could work. If he could work through Friday then he could use the weekend to sort his brain out. All he needed to do was keep his mind on the boringness that was his job... awesome. To his pleasant surprise however, Friday night came around a lot quicker than he would have expected. He was watching a bad telly movie with Hunter curled up on his lap before he knew it. Now all he needed was a nice cold beer... stupid summer. It was too hot... The gunblader hunted through his collection of items in his jacket and trouser pockets, wondering if there was anyway he could levitate a drink across to him so he didn't have to disturb the cat... But strangely, salvation from having to get his own drink came in the form of a Sorceress. Seifer smiled thinly as Rinoa entered his rooms without knocking. Salvation? From a Sorceress? Now he'd thought every stupid thought he possibly could.
"How polite of you," he snapped as Rinoa approached. "Have you always known my key code or did you look it up specifically for tonight?"
The young Sorceress held up Squall's All Purpose Card with a small grin. "I stole this."
While the gunblader was busy rolling his eyes and being irritated Rinoa put the kettle on. "I've been meaning to talk to you for a while now, but I put it off because you seemed... upset about something..."
Was he that fucking see through? How scary. He'd lost all of his strength, independence *and* acting skills. "I wasn't upset--"
"You were," Rinoa emerged from the kitchenette. "You still are. You've changed so much since Her, Seifer. In the year or so you've been back at Garden you've grown, you've become so much more... likeable. I don't know what happened to change you but I'm glad it did..." She took a deep breath as she took cups from the cupboard. "But you've changed back again now haven't you?"
"I have not," Seifer sulked he turned back to glare at the television, petting Hunter absent-mindedly. "Now piss off."
Rinoa sighed and went to take the kettle off as it whistled at her. She should really just do what she came here to do and stop trying to sympathise or soften the blow. The Sorceress knew she was essentially kicking him while he was down but she knew she had to tell him now she was certain. There was no point putting it off any longer, things would only get more dangerous.
"Seifer?" She said softly as she emerged from the kitchen, cups of tea in hand. "Has Squall said anything about when he'd let you junction?"
"Probably when he lets me go on missions with physical requirements," Seifer scoffed. "He doesn't like me taking Hyperion anywhere. Even to the Training Centre."
Rinoa sighed and sat beside him, she knew better than to pat Hunter though, the little cat still wasn't that fond of her. "You remember I'd said I found something?"
"Mmm," Seifer pretended to be distracted by the cute animals on the telly. "What about it?"
"I..." Rinoa sighed and got up to turn the television off. "This is important, Seifer."
"Whatever," Seifer scowled. Did he really just say that? "Fuck off, Rinoa. You know I don't give a shit about any of this stuff. I just..." The gunblader ran a hand through his hair. "I want to be left alone OK?"
"No, Seifer, that's not OK. It's not good for you," Rinoa moved back to sit beside him on the couch. "I know you say you don't need us and... Well, maybe you don't but you need *someone*."
Seifer massaged a temple with one hand. Yeah, thanks Rinoa, he fucking knew that already. But he was too a) rude b) mean c) arrogant d) stubborn e) all of the above to admit that to anyone... Least of all his *ex* girlfriend. Maybe if he ignored her she would go away.
It was evident to the young Sorceress that Seifer was no longer listening. She tried again. "I know about Her. About Ultimecia."
Seifer flinched... and frowned. So? Most people on the planet knew about the Sorceress what was her point? Curious despite himself he looked around. "What do you mean?"
The young Sorceress watched him with a puzzled look, she knew then that he was totally unaware of what she knew, what she sensed. She'd thought he must have some idea, how could he not? "You mean you're not...? You can't...? Oh..."
Seifer took a breath, cleared his head and prepared himself for the long haul. "What *are* you talking about?"
"I thought you would be aware of it," she said quietly. "I thought I should tell you I knew so maybe we could fix it together..."
The gunblader clenched his teeth. "Rinoa. Just tell me what the fuck you're on about, *please*."
"Ultimecia," Rinoa put her tea down on the coffee table. "I can sense her."
"She's still around?" Seifer felt his stomach knot up. The Hynedamned, evil, murdering, psychotic, ugly piece of shit was *still* *HERE*?
The young Sorceress looked so guilty all of a sudden Seifer thought maybe she'd done something stupid... again.
"I sense her when I'm around you."
There was a second of silence. Seifer froze. He didn't blink, no expression crossed his face for a few seconds before he breathed out, "What?"
"*She's* dead, Seifer, but I think you might still have some of her power." Rinoa rushed to reassure him. "You feel kind of like Edea, like there was a little magic there but now it's gone..."
"What are you saying?" Seifer snapped angrily. "That I'm a Sorceress? Get out, Rinoa. I don't want to know."
"Not even about how I know about you and Zell?"
Seifer turned the full force of his glare on her. "Me and Zell? There is no me and Zell." He was startled for a second as he realised the truth in that statement, whatever they *had* had was gone now.
"You're not a Sorceress, Seifer" Rinoa smiled. "It's not like that. It's just that a little of the magic has been left behind in you. That's why you're stronger than you ought to be. That's why I can pick up on things about you, because the magic ties us together."
Suddenly everything he'd ever told himself to keep the nightmares at bay came crashing down around him. She wasn't gone. She was still here, and not just alive but inside him. Somewhere in his brain a piece of Her still lived. She could do anything, She could control him again, make him hurt people.
"It's only a little bit Seifer, you're not very powerful... It's just.. not normal."
"No," Seifer replied quietly. "I've never been normal, have I Rinoa?"
"Seif..." But he did have a point. Seifer Almasy had never been your average fighter. "But who wants to be normal, eh?"
"*I* do!" His sudden shout caused Hunter to leap from his lap and hide under the coffee table. He got up and stalked to the window. "Hyne Rin, you don't understand. It's..." The gunblader covered his face with his hands. "Do you know what this means?"
"It's just leftovers, Seifer. I have Her power too, remember?" Rinoa forced a smile at him. "But I don't have Her. She's *dead*. If Squall let you junction your stats would be through the roof... kind of like mine now I've got used to this." The Sorceress twirled her hand about in front of her face, smiling. "That's all this is, I promise. Just a little bit more... power."
"I don't want it," Seifer turned to look at her, his face so pained Rinoa wanted to bundle him up in a tight hug. "Can't you take it?"
"No, it's part of you now Seifer. It's not like Sorceress power that can be given and taken. It's boosted your stats but so far as I can tell that's all it's changed." Rinoa moved to his side. He needed support and if he wanted to ask her she would be there to give it to him.
But he turned away. "I..." The gunblader rested his head against the cool glass of the window. "Please, Rin... " He stopped and turned suddenly to leave Rinoa alone in the living room.
She knew that he would need time to think, to understand and accept eventually... hopefully. But a part of her had still wanted him to turn to her. She had loved him once, or thought she had, and hoped maybe he had cared for her too. Times had changed, he preferred the company of men now.
The young Sorceress took their tea cups to the sink and rinsed them. With luck Zell could help him. She didn't know exactly what was going on between them but he would have more sway than she did. Rinoa considered paying the martial artist a visit but if her intuition was correct Zell might not respond the best way to the news... yet for some reason she'd thought now was the best time to tell Seifer. Leaving the cups draining on the sink Rinoa let herself out. If she knew Seifer (which she did) he wouldn't let her anywhere near him, not at the moment at any rate. If she got some sleep then she might be of more help to him tomorrow.
Seifer stood with his back against the door and prayed he would be left alone. This was not something he wanted to talk to her of all people about. Certainly she knew what it was like to have some insane Sorceress set up shop uninvited in your brain but she now accepted her powers and knew how to control them, Seifer couldn't... *wouldn't* accept that he was anything like Them. He was not a Sorceress, he had no magic powers... Once he had been ashamed to have been used so easily, but now he almost wanted to be only a puppet, a pawn in Her stupid game. And that was exactly what he wasn't anymore. Now he had a power of his own.
He looked down at the black cat that wove its way through his legs and felt almost as though he might cry, but then he hadn't when he'd woken from the 'dream' of Ultimecia, he hadn't when he'd realised he might be executed for all those things her Knight did, he hadn't when he almost died... but now he was Her, and he didn't even have Zell.
Maybe he was over-reacting, maybe it was just a little left-over status benefit... Yeah, and maybe Rin was just good with magic. He slumped to the floor, resting his forehead on his knees and pondered if maybe the gods that were so obviously against him didn't have a point. After Her he couldn't go back to normal. He had changed and so had they. Things would never return to the way they ought to be. He would forever carry this weight around with him, the question was how, and if, he would accept it. A gracious defeat? Or would he fight until he fell down dead from exhaustion? Was there any other way? Zell would tell him to make the best of it. There was no point fighting because it was there whether he wanted it or not. And there was no point giving up because that would be letting Her win. Maybe he could use it for something...
Seifer sighed. But what was the point of using it? Squall would see this as a chance to get rid of Seifer, no doubt the rest of Garden would too and Zell, the only ally he'd ever remotely had here over these past few years... Zell would want him gone. Zell wouldn't want to remember. At least he had his cat.
As though she understood completely what he was thinking, Hunter clambered between his chest and legs and bumped his nose with her forehead. Maybe he really was a witch, they had black cats after all.
After a moment Seifer became aware that Hunter had actually managed to make him smile. He lifted the kitten in his arms and went to lie on the bed. There was something comforting about lying about in bed, something familiar. As Hunter cuddled against his chest the gunblader considered calling Raijin and Fujin; for some reason, despite his best efforts, he was feeling a little needy... no, not needy, in want of companionship. Yeah. That was it.
He dialled the number slowly. They wouldn't be too surprised to hear from him would they?
"Hey Fu," he replied quietly.
"Seifer?!" the gunblader heard her laugh. "How are you?" She paused. "You're not well, are you?"
"I'm all right," Seifer sighed. "Just needed a friendly voi--"
"That bastard!!" Fujin interrupted. "I'll kill him!! What did he do? Did he hurt you Seifer?! For Hyne's sake he should know you've been through enough!! You don't need shit from him as w--"
"Fujin!" Seifer shouted into the handset to stop her. "I'm *fine*. Really. I'm OK."
"You're not OK," Fujin replied somewhat softer. "I can tell. If he hurt you I'll come down there and hurt *him*."
A soft chuckle alerted the one-eyed girl that Seifer did not want to talk about it. He probably rang to take his mind off whatever was bothering him, she figured.
"I'm all right, Fu. I just called 'cause..." Mmm, why had he called?
"There was a bit of a break through today," Fujin replied. "The Galbadian President agreed to "peace talks with the rebels and independence movement"... Whatever that means. At least it shows they're taking us seriously though."
Seifer smiled, it was so good to have someone who understood exactly what he needed: a distraction. "Does that mean talks with you and Raijin?"
"Maybe, it depends who the Owls decide to send," Fujin shrugged and scowled at the awful television program Raijin had left her with when he left the room... taking the remote with him, of course. "The whole thing sounds a bit dodgy though, if you ask me. Nothing will come of it. They'll all just sit around and drink coffee and talk about what's wrong with the way things are instead of trying to make anything right." She sighed. "It's very annoying."
"At least when I was commanding that army I knew what I was fucking doing," Seifer joked.
"Damn straight," Fujin laughed softly back. "You wanna take over again?"
"No," Seifer replied suddenly serious. "No, I really fucking don't."
"Seifer..." Fujin bit her lower lip. She knew her friend wouldn't tell her what was wrong and she knew that what he wanted was to be distracted but he really needed to learn to talk to people. She scowled. If that hopeless little Chicken Wuss had ruined any of her perfect plans to help Seifer re-enter society she could *not* be held responsible for any harm or death that might befall him... honestly. "Are you busy this weekend?"
"Not really," Seifer plucked at a loose thread. "I was going to come visit you guys but Squall wants me to do some stupid report... I think he's trying to make me give up."
"Well don't. Don't you dare," Fujin demanded. "Don't let that horrid little shit make you do anything you don't want to. Don't let him win, Seifer."
"I don't intend to," the gunblader rolled onto his back and stared up at the regulation off-white ceiling. "Sometimes I just want to tell him that I don't care. He can do whatever he wants but I'm not leaving until he physically kicks me out. I can't leave, Fu."
They sat in silence together. Just the knowledge the other was there was enough.
"It's late," Seifer finally mumbled.
"You need sleep," Fujin replied. "It'll be better in the morning, you'll see."
"Huh," Seifer snorted incredulously. "I'll see you soon, Fu."
"'Course you will." 'Sooner than you think. I'll make that little shit pay...' "Have a good night's rest and call me tomorrow OK? Or I'll call you."
Seifer cradled the phone for a moment listening to Fujin's growl of irritation as she put the phone down. He knew it wasn't directed at him but he still hated to be the cause of it. Fujin's advice was usually sound and with that in mind he stumbled from the bed and tugged off his clothes. It was too hot at the moment to sleep in much, so once he was down to boxers he crawled into bed, tucking the covers in around him so nothing could get in and tried to get some sleep.
Seifer awoke curled foetus-like over one side of the bed. He yawned and rolled onto his back, absently reaching out beside him for the warm body that ought to be there. When he looked over the gunblader remembered that Zell would not be found in his bed anymore, and hadn't been for almost a week now.
It was 2 am and surprisingly cold for that time of year. Hunter, curled under the blankets with him, was snoring softly against his chest. She kept one side warm but the other was freezing. Seifer closed his eyes and tried to order himself back to sleep, needless to say it didn't work. Looking down at his little cat the gunblader noted the symbolism of her getting past all his blanket defences to cuddle up beside him. Despite everything he had tried, all the work he had put in to boundaries and fences and walls, Hunter managed to crawl through, and the only other person small enough to follow the holes she'd made was... curled up asleep in his own bed... maybe even with a cowboy keeping company beside him.
He tried not to let it get to him, but it did. Zell had never belonged to him, in fact he doubted if Zell had ever belonged to anyone. But there had always been something between them, some familiarity. They had never forgotten each other, indeed they couldn't. Although they'd both try their hardest. Now Seifer just needed someone to talk to. He had to knock down these defences and stupidness that had bought them to where they were. But his pride was all that had kept him alive, once he relinquished that, once he showed a weakness, he was as good as dead.
Better in the morning, Fujin had said. Only if he was no longer alone... with Her. Making his decision the gunblader crawled from the bed, and found solace in the weight of his trench coat over his shoulders. He wouldn't leave without it. With luck at this time of the morning everyone else would be in bed, there would be no one around and nothing to stop him.
He pulled on his boots, ran a hand through his hair, and shut his dorm door behind him.
(1) He he he.
I love Seifer *glomps him* Someone needs a huuuug!! This is a relatively short chapter and exceptionally Zell-less but I thought it needed Seifer. He's the one getting angst. But I have 'Chapter 20: How Much Hope I've Placed In You' almost finished... I'll post it soon-ish.
So what did you guys think of my attempt at plot? Review and tell me. Please!!!
Is it just me or is Balamb one of the hardest words to type fast? I type about 30-40 words a minute and let me tell you I *always* get Balamb wrong. I have to pause and think about it... Anyway, Chapter 20 will be done soon, I promise. Unfortunately my computer is evil and doesn't want to work. I won't let that stop me though!! *shakes fist at computer* If I appear to be taking too long or whatever come visit me at livejournal.com/users/akare_kay
Oh yeah, and sorry for the cliff-hanger. :P
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