Stitch In Time

Chapter Eight

By Scarlet Fever

Sunlight fell on Zell’s face, causing him to rouse from his pleasant slumber. He had never realized that just sleeping beside someone could be so gratifying, leaving him feeling so whole, so complete. He frowned, realizing that the sun was the only thing keeping him warm, that the gentle heat given off by Seifer’s body had disappeared. He opened an eye, hastily brushing the shaggy bangs out of his face. Seifer was in fact gone. Zell sighed sadly, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, which felt so huge and empty. Zell had never felt so happy, or at least he couldn’t remember any more blissful occasion, and they hadn’t even had sex or anything. They had simply held each other, falling asleep in the serenity of their embrace. Zell felt happy, yet mournful. He had wanted to wake up to the warm sensation of Seifer’s arms around him, possessively and protectively.

When had Zell become so accepting to Seifer’s advances, when had his body begun to yearn for the other’s caresses? Only recently, Zell had disliked Seifer so completely, and now, he wanted nothing more than to see his scarred angel again. Zell tried to play over the almost schizophrenic pace of his emotional change towards Seifer, wanting to rationalize it, understand it. Being wanted had strong, strong powers over one’s emotions, and Zell liked knowing that Seifer wanted him. Looking at it now, Seifer was actually quite an eligible catch, and many people would have died to be in his position. Deep down, despite all the bad blood that had festered between them over the years, Zell knew that he cared about Seifer, too. There was just so much history there, and although Seifer had teased the smaller blonde endlessly through their childhood, there were strong bonds there. Zell had known Seifer longer than he had known anybody, and vice versa, and there were things that they knew about one another than nobody else could possibly know.

Zell smiled, brushing his bangs upwards into typical, gravity defying fashion. He had a great urge to rub the fact that Seifer had come to his bed last night in Rinoa’s face, but he wanted to keep his word to his lover. Lover? Zell asked himself, his quirky, toothy grin spreading. Using an intimate word like ‘lover’ to describe Seifer caused a warm flush to pass across Zell’s body. Could he actually consider Seifer to be his lover? Why was he thinking this way? Especially about Seifer? Zell sighed loudly, letting out all his mental frustrations with the single physical act as he dressed himself. Why couldn’t Seifer tell him what was going on? Zell frowned, thinking about the tender bruises on Seifer's back, wondering what he was covering up. He shook his head, hoping everything would blow over after the assassination of the Sorceress was over, and then he could actually try to progress with Seifer. As he finished dressing, Zell shook his head. When had he gone from wanting to rip Seifer's head off to wanting an actual relationship from him?

"Zell?" He heard someone call.

He stepped out of the bathroom. Selphie and Quistis were hovering near the door.

"What is it?"

Selphie grinned cheerily. "Hi. You look a lot better!"

Zell blushed. "I feel better. So, where’s Squall?"

Quistis crossed her arms. "He took Rinoa and Irvine to the Tomb of the Nameless King. Do you want to explore while we wait for them to come back?"

"Didn’t you go ‘exploring’ last night, or did you see all the sights of Irvine’s underwear?" Zell asked with a wink, noticing a faint tinge of pink passing over Selphie’s cheeks.

Quistis scoffed. "Cute, Zell, cute. Can you be serious?"

Zell shrugged. "Fine. I don’t have anything better to do…" Zell sighed. That wasn’t exactly true. He and his hand had planned to take a trip down memory lane while the sensation of Seifer's hands and lips on his body was still fresh in Zell’s mind. But, he could do that later.

"Why are you so happy?" Selphie asked before they left.

"Huh?" Zell looked over at her. "I could ask you the same thing."

Selphie looked at the scuffed toes of her boots. "Touché."

Seifer felt like he only weighed as much as a feather as he wandered into the Presidential Residence, which was serving as Edea’s base. Seeing the exuberant object of his affection had done wonders for Seifer's mood. The only dark spots were the fact that he couldn’t stay longer in Zell’s warm embrace, and the dull ache somewhere deep within his body. He didn’t know where it was coming from, but it felt like he was being slowly invaded, like someone was ripping apart his soul, making space for themselves. It would sometimes hit him in waves that seemed like the beginnings of a tsunami, then it would ebb away to a dull ache that was similar to hunger.

"Did you enjoy yourself?"

Seifer turned. Edea was standing behind him, her arms crossed over her chest.

"Are you surprised that I came back?" Seifer asked snidely.

"On the contrary, my boy. I know you’re a smart man. You know me too well to think that you could get away. I hope your tryst was worth it."

"Worth what? If you’re worried about me revealing you, you don’t have to worry. I didn’t say a fucking word…" Seifer spat, turning to walk down the long, dark hallway towards his room.

Edea sighed, a momentary pang of guilt washing over her. She knew that Seifer had gone to see someone who was very dear to him…. Zell. The thought of the small blonde left Edea with the same pangs of sad familiarity that would plague her on occasion when she looked at Seifer.

His loyalties kurrently lie elsewhere….

Edea felt the hardness return to her heart as she spoke. So cold, so empty, but as the bleak existence blanketed over her, Edea wouldn’t have had it any other way. She knew that her Mistress was right, that a divided heart was a liability. If Seifer felt greater loyalty to someone who could pose as an enemy, that situation had to be dealt with. Breaking Seifer would be an easy task, and when he was at a weak mental point, Edea could move in, and his thoughts and emotions would be like clay to her molding hands. Edea knew that Seifer was more emotionally fragile than he let on, and she had so many weapons in her arsenal that she could use against him.

"Maybe you didn’t," Edea began, causing Seifer to stop. "But how can I be positive? Anyway, the most distressing thing is that you still show so much defiance against me, Seifer."

"What are you going to do, beat me?" Seifer asked, raising an eyebrow. He could handle a beating.

Edea smiled wrathfully, waving a hand. When nothing happened, Seifer let out a surprised snort. He turned towards the hallway again, but stopped dead in his tracks when he heard gentle clicking against the marble floor. He suddenly felt very uneasy, being surrounded by shadowy corners, and being the only other person around besides his psychotic Mistress. That noise was one that Seifer dreaded, and as it slowly advanced behind him, he got a sickening tightness passing along his entire body. He could feel a thin sheen of fearful sweat covering his body under his clothes. He slowly turned, his gray trenchcoat making a lazy arc around his long body. When his eyes stopped on the source of the noise, Seifer felt his heart leap into his throat, all his lingering childhood fears coming up in one giant wave of terror. He looked straight into the faces of a pair of large Rottweilers. Despite the warm brown colour of their eyes, Seifer could only see their cold glare and his own frightened expression. The tall blonde tried desperately to act cool, not to show the fact that he was inwardly terrified, that something as silly as a pair of large dogs was sending him into a mental tailspin. He felt a drop of sweat run down his forehead, and his breath came out shaky. His mind was totally engulfed by residual images of his small, child limbs in a painful vice of sharp canine teeth, his body wrenched around like a broken rag doll.

Edea felt a surge of power, being fed by Seifer's secret phobia. He could try to hide it all he wanted, but Edea knew, she knew, even though Edea’s puppet master was miles and decades away, they knew that it would be clear sailing. Seifer was far more fragile than he let on, and Edea and her Mistress would use his weaknesses, his fears, his secret self-loathing against him. A brief flicker of regret passed through Edea’s soul, regret about abusing the purest feelings that Seifer felt, and turning them into something twisted and bitter. Was it really necessary to take what pleasant feelings of love that Seifer had and extinguish them, turn them into fear and despair? The empathy was snuffed out before it could build into anything, and Edea lazily waved her hand again, which caused the dogs to slink forward, ever closing on Seifer, who was practically shaking. "When are you going to learn?"

Seifer barely heard what Edea had said. All his senses were concentrated on the dogs, their inky black muzzles looking menacing and feral. One of the dogs growled low in its throat, the noise ripped from its powerful barrel chest, and shaking Seifer's core. The other dog bared it fangs, which looked so sharp, so sharp…. A string of drool fell from its curled mouth, making it look rabid.

Oh, God, oh God, oh God….. Seifer mentally chanted. Fuck… Okay, Seifer, calm down. They’re just dogs. Shit, why couldn’t you have gotten over this years ago, you stupid idiot. They’re just dogs… Dogs who can rip your arm off. You were almost killed last time. Oh, fuck, what if they have rabies… Oh, fuck…. All thoughts stopped in Seifer's mind when one of the dogs began to lunge at him. Instinct and fear took over as he stumbled backwards, almost tripping over his feet. He narrowly missed having his wrist caught in that deadly mouth. The only thing in Seifer's mind was now silent images, blurred together, hazy from time lapse, of the powerful, heavy body of a large Rottweiler tackling him as a child, his leg being painfully bitten into, the awful surgery afterwards, too much for a five year old to handle alone, which he had. All the years of pain came back in one great whoosh, causing Seifer to cry out in pain and fear as the second dog began circling.

"Run, my little kitten," Edea taunted. "You poor little kitten…." She laughed as the dogs prepared to run.

Seifer took a few small steps backwards before turning on his heel. He began to run, his long legs moving faster than they had in a while. A heavy, dull ache set in over his chest as he heard the dogs running behind him, their long, loping strides rapidly approaching behind him. The dull ache became a burning pain of exertion, and Seifer felt hot tears prick at the corners of his eyes. How could you be so weak?! She wanted you to run like a coward, and that’s exactly what you did. God, you’re so stupid. You’re afraid of harmless little dogs. It was years ago. You could have gotten over it if you had faced your fear, but you bottled it up like the stupid coward you are. No wonder you’re all alone. What would Zell think of you now? Seifer's train of self-hatred and cursing came to an abrupt halt as he felt strong, unrelenting jaws sink into his calf, the same calf that housed the scars from so many years ago. Seifer cried out in agony as the teeth sunk into his muscles, yanking at the tender flesh, creating new scars on top of the old. Seifer collapsed in a shivering heap under the massive dog, his body now submerged deep beneath utter fear. Tears streamed down his face as he wheezed in agony, the dog’s grip slowly tightening.

Oh, God, not again. Seifer squeezed his eyes shut, his tears falling onto the marble floor beneath his cheek. He could feel the warm trickle of blood moving down his leg, into the mouth of the dog, and dripping onto the floor. Somebody help me…. Zell, help me.

Edea frowned as she gently probed his mind, displeased with Seifer's mental cries for his lover. She sneered, ushering the dog to bite further. Seifer screamed hoarsely, jerking slightly, but remaining in a tight ball on the floor. The second canine moved, standing beside Seifer's head, leaning in. Seifer felt the hot, panting breath of the dog on his cheek, and shivered in terror. All it would take was one nip with those sharp, deadly fangs, digging into his jugular, and that would be it. He would die at the feet of a dog, one of his deepest fears realized.

The Sorceress knew that now was a ripe time to delve into Seifer's fragile mind, which would be easily susceptible, considering his state of terror. She pushed invisible fingers into his psyche, their feather touch reaching his mind. She saw Seifer's body pike at her action, for he could feel her invisible touch, invading him. When Edea had been in his head before, it had left Seifer feeling dirty, but this was far worse, and he had never felt so violated in his entire life. He let out a low moan, not even aware that the dog had removed it’s teeth. All he could feel was Edea sifting through his mind.

This wouldn’t have happened if you had only obeyed me.

"Do you expect me to follow you after you’ve done this to me?" Seifer asked, his words coming out shaky, his breath fogging up the pristine surface of the marble floor.

I’m the only one who even cares about you. Everyone else thinks you’re dead…

"That’s not true…" Seifer rasped, remaining in fetal position.

You mean your ‘lover’, don’t you? He was only using you….

He whimpered. "That’s not true…"

He knows how desperate you are for companionship. Who wouldn’t use someone who was throwing themselves at them?

Seifer said nothing. He hadn’t thrown himself at Zell. He had only done what felt right. Hadn’t he?

Nobody likes a sniveling, desperate weakling. He thought that you had used him, and cursed your name, even when he thought you were dead.

"No…" Seifer whispered.

"He wanted to use you as he thought you had used him. You mean little to him, just a faceless body to keep his bed warm," Edea said, now speaking manually to him.

"Why… are you doing this….?"

"They’re our enemy. The others have poisoned him against you…"

Seifer said nothing, but made a protesting noise in the back of his throat. Although, he could believe that Squall and Quistis would say negative things about him.

"I need you, Seifer. I want you. He doesn’t. He’d destroy you in a second."

"Stop… Please…."

"Besides, what would he need with such a coward, anyway. You can’t even face a pair of harmless dogs…."

Seifer would have protested, but her words echoed his own thoughts about himself.

"I can change that, you know…."

"Change that?" Seifer asked, his voice coming out small.

"I can make you strong, Seifer Almasy. I can give you back your self-respect. I can help you show them all the errors of their ways, show them that you’re a force to be reckoned with. They will never see you as weak again. You won’t be a coward anymore…."

Seifer would have protested, but Edea’s psychic fingers reached into his mind again, touching even his deepest feelings, ones that Seifer himself barely knew were there. He arched his body on the floor, almost sexually as images were fed to him, images of Zell rejecting him, the cold glares of Squall and Quistis, pity on Rinoa’s face as she looped her arm with Squall’s, Zell saying that he hated Seifer, admitting ill feelings in front of them all, his words echoing painfully off the walls of the waiting room in Galbadia Garden, and off of the walls of Seifer's heart. Zell hated him? Had the smaller blonde only used Seifer as a warm body, who had thrown himself to Zell? He knew that Squall and Quistis thought of him badly, was it the same with Zell? They all saw him as a weak coward who failed at everything he ever tried, not taking the time to see what Seifer was really like, not bothering to look behind the wall of defensive anger. Hot, angry tears ran down Seifer's cheeks as he thought of the betrayal, Zell using him for sex, simply because he was there. He had given his body to Zell, urged Zell to take him, and to have such an intimate offering treated like trash was making Seifer feel dirty. He felt only the purest feelings of affection for Zell, he loved Zell, and to know that Zell only felt lust, if that, made Seifer wail, his heart snapping. How could you do this to me??!! Seifer mentally screamed.

"Now do you see?" Edea asked, her amber eyes glowing like hellfire in her head.

Edea would help him, she would make them pay for this, she would give Seifer the redemption he needed…. Seifer slowly opened his eyes. Edea was the only one who cared, the only one who would ever care. He had been a fool to put his entire heart and soul into Zell, and he knew that Edea could help him. She wanted his help, needed him. He looked up into her fathomless amber eyes. All else disappeared, except her pleading eyes. Seifer felt all his emotions melting away, like the man that was Seifer Almasy was being buried, the last nails in his coffin being pounded in.

"Do you see?" Edea repeated. Edea looked into Seifer's sky coloured eyes, seeing the last of his emotions fizzling away, just as she, they, had wanted.

Seifer smirked, ignoring his bleeding leg. "Yes, Mistress, I do."

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