Chapter 19 - N.p.s.N.g.s., Part II

<a mind divided>

By YuriNigasa

At a quarter to midnight, there came a knock at the door. Squall didn't bother getting up from Seifer's side. They could find him here. It was a small enough place for that. He heard the sounds of ritual pleasantries being exchanged, then a shuffle of feet as they moved toward the bedroom. A light knock on the door, and then he found himself enveloped first in the strong arms of his father, then the comforting hug of Elle. Squall looked at her in a wordless plea, knowing that if he spoke he couldn't assure himself of what he'd say. By the look in her eyes he could have sworn she knew more than she would admit.

"I promise that I'll try to reach him. Funny that," she said, "when I was at Garden, he was never anything but nice to me."

Seifer was exhausted. It seemed that for the moment Ultimecia had tired of him. He wanted to close his eyes, but there was no such thing in this place. "No rest for the wicked", he thought wryly. His thoughts were starting to wander and he began to question what he had assumed had been reality. There was no way to keep track of how long he'd been in a place time didn't exist. Had he really ever left? If he had, was there any way Ultimecia could have found him? She said he had kept her alive. How could he do that if he wasn't here? Had she simply been toying with him? He looked down and saw the battered leather of his tight-laced combat boots and the gray of his trench coat that seemed to blend seamlessly into the gray of the mists. He could have sworn he had been wearing something else, but he couldn't remember when that would have been. He glanced up and saw those unwavering eyes staring back at him. She floated there, a specter laced in gossamer.

"Such thoughts." She smiled at him and he would have sworn he saw the teeth of a most vicious predator. "It seems as if you have all the kwestions, and I the answers. This shall be most... amusing."

The five of them had crowded around the bed, Elle on Seifer's right side, Squall on his left, with Edea, Zell, and Laguna at the foot. As Elle prepared to search, Squall steeled himself for the disorientation that would come when she sent him to Seifer.

Seifer began to hoard his memories. It no longer mattered if they had been real or not. Maybe he was only tormenting himself. If only there was some way to know. Ultimecia simply stared at him, a faint glimmer of amusement across her twisted features.

"Here, they are all real. There is no difference between was, is, and kould in this place." She smiled coyly and snapped her fingers, and an image of Squall appeared before her, just as Seifer thought he remembered him. Seifer involuntarily reacted.

"Wonderful! Wonderful!" Ultimecia cackled, lifting her hands.

It was taking too long. Squall could sense something was desperately wrong. Why wasn't Elle sending him back? Sighing heavily, Elle lifted her head, her expression pained and evident of the fatigue the efforts put her under.

"I can't," she said.

"Can't?" Squall asked.

"It's not that I can't send you. It's just that I have nowhere to send you to. He's not there, Squall."

"What do you mean 'not there'?"

"I don't know. Physically he's here... but... Squall he's not there. Wherever or whenever he is, I can't find him. It's like he doesn't exist."

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