Stitch In Time

Chapter Nine

By Scarlet Fever

Thestreets below were crowded with people, shoulder to shoulder, waiting for the last moments before the parade hit the Gateway started to slowly tick away. Zell quickly leaned out the window, checking to see if the parade had made it there yet. It hadn’t.

"Phew! Just made it!" He exclaimed, watching for the floats to near their location. So, their mission was to trap the float carrying the sorceress in the Gateway, and Irvine would take her out. Zell, Selphie and Quistis were in charge of lowering the gate, trapping her, locking in the Sorceress Edea. For some reason, saying her name had an almost familiar flow off Zell’s tongue, but he didn’t know why. Zell also felt lucky at the fact that they had even made it there in time.

Quistis sighed, knowing what Zell and Selphie were thinking: that they almost blew it big time, and it would have been Quistis’s fault. She had let her feelings get in the way… Again. She could have apologized to Rinoa afterwards, but no…. Rinoa had only wanted to help.

"Don’t feel so bad, Quistis. You couldn’t have known that Caraway would lock the door on us," Selphie offered, giving the blonde a sympathetic look.

Quistis nodded, half-heartedly. "I know, but I still feel responsible. If we hadn’t made it in time…."

"But we did," Zell replied, still looking out the window. "Don’t feel bad, Instructor." Zell turned his attention back to the streets. Quistis’s heart had been in the right place, wanting to apologize to Rinoa, who had been acting like a spoiled brat. He could see where General Caraway was coming from, wanting to protect his daughter. It had come as a surprise, that the leader of the Forest Owls, an ant-Galbadian government faction, was the daughter of General Caraway, a high ranking official in the Galbadia army. He figured that Rinoa took the surname, Heartilly, from her mother. All the General had wanted to do was protect his only child, and Rinoa had treated him like garbage. Sure, there was probably a lot of bad blood between the two that Zell wasn’t privy to, but he would never dream of being so cold to his parents. For a moment, he wondered if Seifer had known. Probably.

Speaking of Seifer, Zell frowned. Seifer hadn’t come back to see him, and the small blonde couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad had happened. There was a gnawing feeling of worry in the pit of his stomach, and it wouldn’t go away. Zell shook it away, thinking that it was because of all the secrecy that currently surrounded Seifer. Zell swore that after the Sorceress was dead, he would comb Deling City for Seifer. Zell vowed not to think about Seifer anymore, because the mission at hand was more important. Zell was half out of the window as he saw the float that Edea was riding approaching.

"Get back in here, Zell!" Quistis exclaimed. "You don’t want to be seen, do you?"

"Sorry," Zell muttered, pulling his torso back in.

Selphie sighed. "This is it….." She looked over at Zell, who seemed so calm. He had been in such a good mood all day, but while they had been taking in Deling’s sites, he had seemed like he was looking for someone. Did he have some sort of crazy idea that Seifer was still alive? Selphie didn’t know what Zell’s current stance on the fallen Garden student was, but knowing that someone was in love with you had to be a mind occupying thought. She looked out the window as Edea’s float passed under them.

"Instructor, now!" Zell exclaimed, looking over his shoulder at Quistis. "Hit the switch!"

Quistis quickly hit it, feeling the gate quickly tumbling down. It almost felt rickety, with its sputtery movement, and for a second, Quistis wondered if it would stick. She felt the gate close, and sighed with relief. She joined Zell and Selphie at their lookout point, looking down at the float, getting her first, and hopefully, last glimpse at the Sorceress Edea. Quistis felt a wave of recognition hit her, and she couldn’t put a finger on why she would know such a woman. Even from this height, the elegance of the Sorceress took Quistis’s breath away. She looked so exotic, so beautiful, her headdress fit for someone as mystical as her.

Selphie widened her eyes as Edea got up angrily, whipping her sensuous body around as the second gate, behind her float, came crashing down. Why did she feel like she knew the dark Witch from somewhere? Selphie couldn’t imagine in what capacity she would know such a woman, but the feeling wouldn’t go away. Relief also hit her. They had done their part. Now it was Irvine’s turn. Selphie felt a small blush pass over her cheeks, even in all this commotion, and she cursed herself. Come on, Selphie. This is an important mission. Get it together. Who cares if he’s handsome and charming? He’s such a player, and you’re just a pair of breasts and a pussy to him…. So, why does he make you feel so special? Selphie pushed her internal ramblings away, looking down on Edea again. The feathers that made up the boa of Edea’s black gown reminded Selphie of a raven. It almost seemed a shame to destroy her, but it had to be done, and despite her lovely appearance, Edea was deadly, and had to be exterminated. Something deep in the reaches of Selphie’s mind tugged at her heart as she thought this, the wave of recognition returning.

Zell ran his gaze quickly over the float. Edea sure had meant her introduction to the people to be lavish. For a brief moment, Zell had wished that he was watching the parade on the sidelines, like everybody else, not having to worry about missions or assassinations. It would have been nice to watch the floats and dancers go by, his fingers looped with Seifer's, their only worries being who was going to pay for dinner. Now that he had seen the sultry Sorceress, the feeling of familiarity was staggering. Zell could have sworn that he had met her before, but he figured even someone as forgetful as he could be would remember her. As Zell watched her pace like a beautiful tiger, caged for them to watch, he wondered what was taking so long. Irvine should have taken the shot by now… What was the hold-up? Had Squall and Irvine been caught? Zell’s thoughts were interrupted by a gasp, ripped from Quistis’s throat.

"What is it?" Selphie asked. "What’s wrong?"

Zell looked over at her. "Instructor…." He began to ask, following her gaze. He didn’t need to say any more when he saw what had made her have such a reaction.

"Oh, shit!" Selphie exclaimed, seeing what they had both seen. "Seifer! He’s alive?!" She looked over at Zell, who had a look of surprise on his face, which was mixed with sickening realization. Zell seemed shocked, but not at the fact that Seifer was alive. Had he known? Is that why he was in such a good mood?

"What’s he doing with the Sorceress?" Quistis asked.

Zell shook his head, the only thing in his scope of vision being Seifer. Seifer was standing straight, proud, holding his body with confidence, his gunblade assuredly slung over one broad shoulder. The fire surrounding both him and Edea was bouncing off his dark gold hair, creating a halo, making him look like a dark, fallen angel. To Zell, at that moment, Seifer looked perfect, except for the look on his face. It was so hard, so cold. Seifer had never been the warmest man, but this was an emotionless, death-like mask, that made Zell frown. Zell wanted to see Seifer use the smile that he only seemed to use for Zell, and Zell alone. So, is this why Seifer didn’t tell Zell what had happened? Was Edea the one who had caused the injuries to his back?

"Why isn’t Irvine shooting?!" Quistis exclaimed. The words died on her lips as she saw the lightning quick motion of a flying object, cutting through the night sky and confusion below. A smile of relief was plastered on her full lips for only a moment as Edea easily blocked the searing bullet with what looked like a high end, extremely powerful Reflect spell.

"Dammit!" Selphie exclaimed, somewhat jumping in place. "What do we do now?"

"Yeah," Zell echoed. He wanted to run down there and shake answers out of Seifer, demand to know what was going on. "You’re in charge. What should we do?!"

Quistis frowned. "I have instructions from both Squall and General Caraway, that this is our post, and I don’t think we should reveal ourselves. All hell could break loose…."

"Fuck," Zell whispered, looking back down to Seifer and Edea. He remained put, but he hated feeling so useless.

"Hey, look!" Selphie exclaimed quietly. She didn’t want to yell, because she was afraid that Edea would hear them. "There’s Squall!"

The trio leaned out the window as Squall climbed the float, only to come face to face with Seifer. Zell held his breath, unsure what was happening. He had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach, the same echoing emptiness that had plagued him since Seifer had left his hotel room. Zell let out his breath slowly, quietly as he heard Seifer speak. From their position, they could hear what was going on.

"Well, this is how it turned out," Seifer murmured, his voice cutting through the trio above. His voice sounded sultry, seductive, and the sound of it made Zell’s skin crawl, both with desire, and something else, a fear of some sort.

"So, you’ve become the Sorceress’s lapdog?" Squall asked, standing before the much taller Seifer.

Lapdog? Zell thought. Had Edea saved him from execution, and he was paying back the debt, or had something else occurred. He could never picture the free-willed Seifer taking orders from anyone, not even Sorceress Edea.

"I prefer to be called her Knight," Seifer said dryly. "This has always been my… dream…." Seifer trailed off at the last word, a note of regret, hesitation hitting his sexy voice.

"Knight?" Selphie hissed. "Seifer's Edea’s Knight?!"

"Shhh," Quistis commanded, holding a slender gloved finger to her lips. "What’s going on?!" Quistis asked, more of herself than of anyone else. Why was Seifer doing this? Was it really his dream, or did Edea have some sort of hold over him? She began to watch with rapture as Seifer advanced on Squall, and they began to battle.

"Squall, you’re mine…" Seifer stated, almost like a command. He was acting very lazy about the whole thing, and even Zell could tell that he thought he was going to win. The look in Seifer's eyes as he watched Squall unnerved Zell. It was predatory, like a wolf, ready to pounce.

"Thought I was dead, eh?" Seifer asked of his opponent, echoing Selphie and Quistis’s questions. "Not until I fulfill my dream!"

Zell breathed deeply. That last statement didn’t sound like Seifer. It was his voice, but it sounded like someone was actually impersonating him. He bit his lip as Squall got in a good shot. Despite the fact that Seifer was obviously working for the enemy, which made him an enemy himself, Zell felt nothing but concern for the taller blonde.

Seifer growled low in his throat as Squall hit him again. "Ugh. Not bad….." He smirked, and Quistis, Zell and Selphie noticed an inhuman quality to his eyes, the look on his face. "Squall, this is it!" He swung his blade in a quick arc, hitting Squall.

"Squall!" Selphie exclaimed. Her fear for their leader was unwarranted, though, as he sliced again at Seifer, which brought the Sorceress’s ‘Knight’ to his knees.

"I…I lost…?" Seifer asked weakly, casting his gaze to Edea.

The sound of Seifer's voice tugged at Zell’s heart. He sounded so lost, so small, and it made the tattooed man want to wrap his arms around Seifer, and gently whisper in his ear that everything would be okay. The look of dejection, shame and fear on Seifer's face was also unmistakable, even from this height.

Squall looked at Seifer. "You’re losing it, Seifer." He was surprised that Seifer was on the float, surprised that the blonde was alive. There also seemed to be something somewhat off with him. It was small, but Squall felt something wrong. For a moment, the real Seifer seemed to show his face, when he looked at the Edea with shame, but it passed quickly. Why was Seifer doing this? Did he really take their rivalry that far? He looked up from the kneeling Seifer, to see Edea slowly sauntering over to him. She was shorter than Squall, but she was imposing, and Squall could feel a little bit of nervousness creep into his stomach, the butterflies beginning to beat their wings. He was going one on one with Edea, someone who could probably crush him under her heel like a bug.

"He looks nervous," Selphie whispered. "Do you think he can handle the Sorceress by himself?"

"Where is Irvine?!" Quistis spat angrily. "It’s so like him to dick off on a mission like this!!" Quistis stopped talking when she heard Edea speak, her black voice reaching into her soul.

"… A SeeD….. Planted in a run down Garden…." She said this musingly, like she was singing a song, a siren’s song. She smiled wrathfully, and began battle with Squall.

"Rinoa?!" Quistis exclaimed as the raven-haired girl ran up beside Squall, followed closely by Irvine. "What’s she doing there??"

"I can fight if I’m with you!" Rinoa exclaimed. "That’s why I’m here!"

"I have to redeem myself," Irvine muttered lowly, shooting the Sorceress a deadly look.

Zell knew that he should be worried for Squall, Rinoa and Irvine, for they were going against a formidable foe, but his eyes traveled to Seifer, who was still kneeling, a dead look plastered on his face. It was if he was feeling and seeing things that only he could see. Had Edea done something to him? He looked back at the battle as Rinoa summoned Carbuncle, casting Reflect on them. He had to commend Rinoa on her quick thinking. It was a good idea to Reflect against Edea’s strong magic spells.

"Accursed SeeD," Edea muttered, casting Dispel on the party, wiping away the advantage of Reflect.

Zell sighed in relief as Squall hit Edea with an excellent shot.

"Impudent SeeD!" Edea roared, defeated. The battle, however, was far from over. Edea stiffened her body, which caused Quistis’s, Selphie’s and Zell’s bodies to echo the action. They knew that something was going to happen.

A gentle glow began to emit from Edea’s body, and it grew to an angry, wrathful light. She reached a graceful hand up, creating some sharp, jagged ice blades.

"Oh, shit!" Selphie cried.

Before anyone could react, Edea flicked her wrist, sending the barbed weapons flying passed a stunned Rinoa, burying themselves in Squall’s chest. Seifer stood, snapped out of the trance he had been in, the images that Edea had flashed him for punishment fading away. His eyes widened as Squall went careening off the edge of the float. Despite everything, he had never wished death upon Squall, and this seemed too terrible. He looked over, shocked, to Edea, who seemed to have her own look of regret plastered on her beautiful face.

Edea raised her eyebrows, her indigo coloured lips parting with surprise as Rinoa reached out for Squall, calling his name, her breathy voice high with shrieks. How could I have done this? He was just a boy….. A boy you swore you would protect…..

That was a different time, my dear, a different life…

Edea frowned, the veil of blackness coming over her heart again as she heard the distant voice of the future. Her face hardened again, and she advanced on Rinoa. "Guards, take these two!!" She roared angrily, pointing at the weeping Rinoa and stunned Irvine.

"NO!!" Zell cried out, immediately regretting it.

"Zell!" Selphie exclaimed angrily.

Seifer craned his neck up, the feelings of hatred and wrath, his lust for revenge, filling him completely. When Edea had regained her composure, Seifer had felt the psychic claws reach into his mind, wiping away any sadness for Squall, and shame or fear, and twisting them into ugly hatred. When he looked up, an unholy smirk crossed his set lips, his eyes meeting with Zell’s. He had wondered where that little slut had been hiding. Well, time for this little game of theirs to end.

Zell’s lips parted in surprise at the anger and hatred he saw in Seifer's eyes, all directed at him. He had barely even noticed Selphie or Quistis. Why did Seifer look at him like that? Zell bit his lip sadly. Seifer didn’t even really look like himself. Everything was physically the same, but there was something off in his eyes, like something in him, something wonderful, had died.

Seifer continued to stare at Zell. He motioned with one hand to a small group of guards. "There are three of them up there. Seize them."

"Yes, sir!" The guards exclaimed, running into the tower.

Seifer gave one last hateful smirk to Zell before turning his back on him.

"Fuck!!" Quistis cried as a group of guards came barging in, grabbing them.

"Seifer!" Zell cried, sadness filling him. What had happened to him? "Seifer, please!!" He let out an enraged growl as two Soldiers grabbed him.

Seifer stopped as he heard Zell’s frantic plea. Worry shot through him, for he knew that the guards would probably beat Zell. It was quickly replaced by anger and he felt a gentle whisper across his skin. Remember, he used you…..

Seifer smirked, Zell’s cries being extinguished as the guards exacted their authority.

"How could you….?" Zell asked as he was kicked in the stomach. He barely felt it, for it was nothing compared to the pain of knowing that Seifer had betrayed him. Tears of mourning rolled down his tattooed cheek at the guards beat him into unconsciousness.

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