Stitch In Time
By Scarlet Fever
The desert air was warm, wafting through the car window as the trio of men parked beside the yellow car that Selphie, Quistis and Rinoa had been in. Zell parked the car, looking over at Squall. "Are you sure you’re okay, man?"
Squall nodded, smirking. "Yeah. Don’t worry about it."
Zell frowned, still looking concerned. They had barely made it out of the prison, and Squall could have died when the prison had begun to be buried in the sand again. He was already weak from being tortured by Seifer. Zell got out, holding the door open for Squall and Irvine. How could Seifer have done this?
Seifer, what’s happened to you? Why are you doing this? I know you couldn’t be this cruel.
While driving away from the prison, leaving the destruction of their haphazard escape behind, Zell’s mind hadn’t left the subject of Seifer Almasy. His behavior was rather erratic, and Zell knew that something was off, and that this wasn’t his normal self. The look in Seifer's laser-like eyes was burned into Seifer's memory, the wrathful smirk on his face as he saw them at the Parade. And the fact that he tortured Squall…. Zell flushed with anger. Why was he doing this? Why was he letting himself become her puppet? Even thought Zell was angry with the so-called Knight, he had sworn that he had heard his lover call to him, begging for help, his voice small and racked with agony. It had probably only been Zell’s imagination, and he had shrugged it away, concentrating his attentions on Squall. Even though their quiet leader was more than frosty to Zell, the blonde couldn’t help but worry.
Zell sighed, looking up at the horizon. Selphie’s silhouette stood out against the desert sun, which was bright. She crouched down on a broken down car, which was rusted out from neglect. The normally cheerful girl was sullen and distant. Zell’s head snapped up when he heard Quistis’s normally calm voice cracking with worry.
"The Sorceress is about to launch missiles at Garden?!" She looked back and forth between Squall and Selphie.
"That’s what Rinoa heard from Irvine!" Selphie exclaimed, looking out at the barren, endless wasteland. They were the only forms of life around for miles.
"The only thing we can do now is go back to Garden as soon as possible and warn the students," Squall began, his voice ever even, ever calm. "Alright, let’s get in the car and go."
"They’re targeting both Balamb and Trabia Gardens!" Selphie spun on her heel on the car’s roof. "We have to interfere with the launch! We have to stop the missiles!" Selphie’s eyes were wide with desperation. All she could think about was her former classmates at Trabia Garden, totally unaware of any danger as the shadow of Galbadian missiles clouded the sky, extinguishing them forever.
"I’ll do whatever Squall decides!" Zell exclaimed. He just wanted to stop Seifer and Edea. Seifer…..
"So, like…. I understand how Selphie feels, but…." Irvine stammered. His concern over their own safety was evident in his royal blue eyes.
"This isn’t just about Selphie," Quistis pointed out. Her thoughts dwelled on all her former students. Some of them were so young, and had all of their lives ahead of them…..
Squall sighed, walking over to Selphie. He climbed on the hood of the car, sensing that she was already hatching a plan.
She stared out into the desert, knowing that Squall was beside her. "I just transferred from Trabia Garden… I can’t just sit around knowing that Trabia Garden is in danger!" She looked at Squall with her large emerald eyes. They were shining with unshed tears of fright and determination. "So, Squall, please… Decide who’s going to the Galbadia Missile Base, before it’s too late!"
Squall sighed. It’s easier said than done…. What if something happens to the party members I choose…..? Squall frowned. He hated having to be in charge of people’s lives. Why couldn’t they decide on their own?
"Let’s take a vote!" Rinoa stated, trying to be cheerful among the sullen people around her. "Squall will decide on the party, Squall will return to Balamb Garden because he’s the leader. Anyone against the plan, please raise your right hand!" Rinoa looked around, adding "I don’t mind which team you put me on."
But you’re an outsider…. Squall reminded her mentally.
Quistis sighed. "You’re the leader Squall. What are the teams?"
Leader? Squall internally questioned. I never asked to be the leader…. Squall couldn’t understand why he had been chosen for this…. Why him? Squall stopped thinking as he heard the wheezing scream of missiles over their head. Selphie made a defeated noise beside him, sinking to her knees.
Irvine looked at the toes of his cowboy boots, sighing sadly. "I….I heard they were hitting Trabia first, and then Balamb." He sounded sheepish, which wasn’t like his usual player façade.
Selphie sobbed quietly, a choked back noise ripped from deep in her slender chest. "Trabia….I’m sorry….I couldn’t stop it….." She trailed off, staring numbly at the endless horizon, as empty as she felt at that moment. "Please, let everyone be alright…. Please…." Her begging was a silent whisper that nobody could have heard, save Squall, who was standing beside her, feeling useless. "That was a… miss, right?" A brief glimmer of hope shot through Selphie’s mind. "Squall, we have to report to Balamb!! Who are you taking?!"
"C’mon, Squall!" Zell pleaded, his heart as empty feeling as Selphie’s must have been, except he wasn’t mourning for possible lost classmates. He was mourning for a possible traitor.
"Squall, you have to decide," Quistis demanded, knowing they didn’t have much time.
"Squall, think carefully now…" Rinoa prodded gently. She knew that this was an important decision, but didn’t want to push the scarred SeeD. Besides, if she was a pain, he wouldn’t like her….What are you thinking, Rinoa, this is important…..
Squall frowned, crossing his arms. I’ve had it up to here with this fucking leader thing…. Alright, alright, I’ll fucking choose…..
"I’m on the Missile Base Infiltration Team!" Selphie exclaimed hotly. "I have to be. They launched Missiles at my Trabia!"
Squall nodded, deciding to take Zell and Rinoa with him to Balamb. Quistis and Irvine were more prepared for battle than the Forest Owls leader was, and this way, he knew she wouldn’t choke under pressure, because he would be there to keep an eye on her. "This mission is unlike any other," Squall warned, wanting to prepare them for the worst. "It’s not an order, or request from anyone… Selphie, do you have some sort of plan?" He turned to her, squinting against the sun.
"I think if we take this Galbadian Army vehicle, we should be able to make it inside the base." She waved her hand at the yellow car she had been driving after their escape from the prison. "But… That’s about it." She looked at her boots sheepishly. All she had known was that she wanted to avenge Trabia and all the students who were unable to defend themselves from Galbadia’s onslaught. "I’ll have to think about the rest once we’re inside. Do you think that’d be okay?" She looked to Squall for support, but continued without giving him a chance to respond. "I’m sorry…. I mean, thanks! There isn’t much time! You better hurry to Balamb Garden!!" She gave him an encouraging smile, hoping things went better with Balamb than they did with Trabia.
"See you at Balamb Garden," he said, showing in his own little way that he believed in Selphie, and her abilities as a SeeD.
As they boarded their vehicles, Selphie got a strange feeling that she wouldn’t be seeing Squall again. "Squall!!" She called desperately before getting in the car. She had become quite attached to her teammates. "Hurry!" She winked at him, disappearing into the car that was as yellow as the jumpdress she wore.
Squall nodded, deciding to let Zell drive, seeing as how the tattooed blonde was already behind the wheel. Rinoa smiled encouragingly at Squall.
Is she flirting with me? God, we’re in the middle of a mission….. Hmm, I never noticed how nice her eyes were before. Fuck, Squall, what are you thinking??!
Zell noticed as well while he drove. He couldn’t help but feel relieved. What an odd feeling, jealous of someone of the opposite sex for the affections of someone who had betrayed them to their most deadly enemy. Zell smiled, keeping his eyes on the road. He decided to make it a personal mission to get Squall and Rinoa together. It would be beneficial for the cold SeeD to have such a sprightly girlfriend, and Rinoa seemed smitten. A little, well, huge bonus would be that Rinoa’s grimy paws would be miles away from Seifer's body, while Zell’s would be all over it. What was he saying? Seifer had betrayed them, was launching missiles at the Gardens, at his former home, was going to hunt SeeDs like common rats…. Seifer, what have you done to me? Zell asked, feeling bewitched. Had Seifer in fact bewitched him? Maybe there was a bit of Sorcerer in him…. Even now, Zell felt a warm flush over his body, his flesh remembering the ghostly touches and caresses Seifer had left behind during their night together at the Galbadia Hotel. Even thought no sex had transpired, much to Zell’s chagrin, it had been wonderful. It made him think that Seifer could never be bad when he made Zell feel so right. Edea must have done something to him, and Zell swore at that instant that he would make that bitch pay for what she had done to his lover.
Zell sighed. Does Seifer think of you as his lover?
Rinoa cocked her head, hearing Zell’s sigh. It was made from more than worry over the Gardens. Rinoa could hear the lovesick air to it, like Zell’s heart was torn in two. He must have been thinking about Seifer. Rinoa would have wanted to talk to him about it, but remembered the promise she had made not to discuss it with anyone other than Selphie or Zell himself. She looked over at Squall, who seemed oblivious to the fact that his teammate’s heart was slowly breaking, being divided in two. Rinoa wondered if Seifer felt the same way, and instantly realized that he did. Seifer hadn’t exactly said that he had fallen for the hyper martial artist, but the look in Seifer's eyes couldn’t lie whenever Zell’s name had come up. Seifer may have been many things, but he wasn’t a liar.
Oh, Zell, I hope you don’t give up on him…. Rinoa mentally mused, trying to make eye contact with Squall. She knew that he couldn’t be as horrible as he pretended to be. Maybe he was just being defensive. Hmmm, why does that sound familiar? She muttered to herself, thinking of Seifer's defensive anger.
"We’re here," Zell quietly announced, his mind elsewhere.
Squall nodded, getting out of the car. Rinoa followed close behind, while Zell lagged behind. Squall looked back at the blonde. What was wrong with him? He seemed like he lost his best friend. He must be worried about the Garden… But it seems like more than that….. "Let’s take that train," Squall muttered, pointing lazily to the one that looked like it was about to leave any second.
Zell and Rinoa nodded, watching the Soldier carefully who was occupying the engine. The uniformed flunky moved away from the engine compartment, and that’s when Squall and company made their move. They boarded the engine car, and Squall started up the train.
"Hey!! Stop!!" The Soldier cried desperately, his voice sounding high-pitched and whiny.
Rinoa watched as the Soldier began to run as fast as he could. "Squall, he’s coming after us!!" Despite the fact that the train was moving, it was going slow enough for the Soldier to catch it.
Squall remained silent, realizing that they had a chance of being caught without Rinoa pointing it out. He glared at the controls, accelerating their speed.
"S-stop that train!!" The Soldier wailed, which caused Zell to snort despite his morose mood. The Galbadian Soldier let out a disappointed groan as the train became too fast for him to catch.
"Sorry!!" Rinoa called. After all, he was only trying to do his job.
"Argh!" The Soldier wailed, tripping over his rapidly moving feet, landing face first in the dust.
"Sorry, it’s an emergency!!" Rinoa called.
Zell started laughing, watching the guard trying to get up, but he lost his balance again, falling down, a cloud of dust rising around him. Rinoa tilted her head, glad that Zell was laughing. He looked at her, and then his gaze became sad once more. Rinoa patted his shoulder, silently telling him that she understood.
Squall looked at them, shrugging. It’s none of your business. Hmmm, does Rinoa like Zell? They make such an odd pair…. Fuck, Zell and Seifer would make a better match….. He sighed, hoping that they got to Balamb in time…..
Seifer sighed, staring out onto the empty basketball court of Galbadia Garden. He was sitting on one of the benches, looking at nothing. The air around him felt good, cooling his skin. It was actually calm and serene here, and there was nobody else around. He didn’t know where Edea was, and he sure as hell didn’t want to face any soldiers after what had happened. After he had cleaned himself up, Edea had cast a Curaga on him, which fixed him physically, but did nothing for the shattered emotional mess he had become. There was a downside to his calm moment, however. He began to think about how lonely his pseudo-lifestyle was. He missed Zell terribly, which made him want to cry because Zell probably hated him. Seifer also thought of Fujin and Raijin, his only friends in the world, the only two people who probably cared if he was alive or dead. Despite the fact that Raijin could be dense as hell, and Fujin lacked compassion sometimes, he missed them. A warm breeze passed over Seifer's face, and he sighed. The way that the sun was hitting the court, making it look shiny, yet dead, made Seifer have the urge to draw, something he only did when he was alone. He found it relaxing, but was too embarrassed, afraid of rejection, to show anyone anything he had ever drawn. Besides, he wasn’t that good.
He closed his eyes. Maybe being alone wasn’t such a good idea. It was making him think too much. Edea was leaving him alone for the time being, which actually wasn’t a really good thing. It was letting his mind wander to all the things she had done to him… And what about that strange, dark, Slavic sounding voice that he had heard? Who was she? Was she the one controlling Edea, and therefore, controlling him, as well. Seifer sighed again.
"You seem troubled."
He didn’t have to open his eyes to know that it was Edea. "Fuck, I wonder why…..?"
Edea sighed. "Seifer…."
He snapped one of his eyes open at her tone. He slowly opened the other one when he saw the look on her face. She looked very sad, mournful. "What?"
Seifer laughed, still hearing the taunts of the guards, still feeling his body being ravaged, still remembering the hot canine breath on his cheek.
"We must begin searching for Ellone."
"Who’s Ellone?" Seifer asked, not really interested.
"She has interesting powers."
Seifer shrugged. "I’ll agree to help you."
"You don’t sound very enthusiastic…."
"Because I’m not. Look, Mistress, I may do your bidding, but that doesn’t have to mean I’ll like it."
"Aren’t you the least interesting in Ellone’s powers?"
Seifer frowned. When Edea said the name Ellone, something deep within Seifer's memory flickered. Who was Ellone? How did he know her, or did he even know her at all? He sighed deeply. "Does it matter? You’ll capture her, and destroy her according to your own designs. Just as you did with me."
"These are not my designs."
Seifer again heard the broken glass voice in his ears. "Your Mistress… She’s spoken to me."
Edea frowned. "Yes… Ultimecia."
Edea nodded. Her eyes were no longer the cold amber that Seifer had come to know, but a familiar golden brown. "Yes. She’s another Sorceress. The strongest of all time. Stronger than myself, more powerful than Adel…."
Seifer blinked. Adel had been the Sorceress that had wreaked havoc over the world when he had been a small child. His parents had died in the Sorceress War, or so he had been told. He couldn’t remember them at all. In fact, he couldn’t remember anything up until he was about five or six, when he first came to the Garden.
"She’s from the future… Using me as her conduit."
Edea nodded. "She’s using my body to do her bidding in this time. Time Compression."
"Time Compression? You’re telling me that she wants to create a time vacuum?!"
"Yes. A world where she, and only she, could exist. All other life would perish."
"Why are you going along with this?" Seifer asked, shocked. "And you’re making me commit suicide to help you?!"
"I cannot fight her off. Her power can ebb and flow like a tide. Right now, she must be resting, for I feel like myself again. But, Ultimecia will be back. Nobody can fight her off."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I’m not the only conduit she’s used…. There was another…. A greater Sorceress than even myself… But she was so young, only a child, and Ultimecia destroyed her."
"What, killed her?"
"I know not. Maybe I can stop her in some way….. I don’t know. A lesser Sorceress would have perished by now. I’m surprised you can hold up as well as you can."
"What do you mean?"
"Normally, the Knights and Foot Soldiers that she chooses aren’t as mentally strong as you."
Seifer looked at his boots. "I’m not mentally strong…."
"Something’s keeping you together…. Love, perhaps….." Edea smiled, her eyes wistful.
Seifer blushed. "Do you have anyone?"
"A husband. He’s so kind. He knew I was a Sorceress, and loves me despite of it, because of it. We’ve created so much together, even if we couldn’t create a family. He adores me, and I adore him."
Seifer sighed. He thought of him and Zell. He wanted to create so much with Zell, even if they couldn’t create a family. "Sounds nice."
"It is. You know him."
"Do I? Is he one of the Soldiers?" He asked that question with disdain.
"No. Cid Kramer."
"Headmaster Cid is your husband?!" Seifer looked at her, his eyes wide. "He never mentioned you… Well, I guess I never conversed with him. He only yelled at me because I was such a bad student."
Edea smiled. "You are just too free spirited. You always have been."
Seifer narrowed his eyes, but said nothing.
"Do you miss him?"
"Who? Headmaster Cid?"
"No, no. Zell. Do you miss him?"
Seifer blushed, wanting to change the subject. "So, Ultimecia wants us to find Ellone?"
Edea nodded. "Ellone can project the past, a bit of a time dabbler, if you would. She isn’t a Sorceress, and that intrigues her….."
"Ellone…" Seifer trailed off. "Why does that sound familiar?"
Edea began to answer, but felt a wave of dark nausea hit her. What do you think you’re doing, little one? You’re going to give him ideas of opposing me.
I won’t let you destroy him, or me. Not like her… Not like….
Don’t mention that kursed name to me! She was the past. You and Seifer are the future.. My future.
Edea’s ears rang from the inward scream of rage. She felt Ultimecia’s presence all around her, within her.
Seifer cast a sidelong glance at Edea, whose body had tensed beside him. Her eyes had become that horrid glowing amber, the pupils stretched to hourglasses, which, considering the new information that was fed to him, seemed appropriate.
Enough idle konversaton. We must begin to search for Ellone….
Seifer felt a chill run up his spine, and any residual feelings of contentment or pleasure fading away. Now that Ultimecia was beginning to let herself be known to Seifer, he felt himself slipping further and further under the veneer she had created for him. Seifer smirked, his mind feeling light. Ultimecia was much stronger than Edea, and everything but her voice, her wishes, disappeared from Seifer's mind.
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