Stitch In Time

Chapter Nineteen

By Scarlet Fever

:Ultimecia’s Castle:

Zell studied the paintings on the wall with awe. Art had always been one of his secret passions, and he couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of the paintings before him. It seemed like a great paradox, having such works of beauty in such a horrible place. The castle was very grand and old. It would have been breathtaking if such a bitch hadn’t been the caretaker. Everywhere they walked, they could feel Ultimecia’s presence around them. Zell, Selphie and Irvine were wandering around, inspecting their surroundings. Squall had taken Rinoa and Quistis with him to start breaking the seals, and had told the other three to look out for monsters, and to get a feel for the layout of the massive building. Ultimecia had placed barriers on their powers, and in order to be able to use them again, they would have to defeat Ultimecia’s minions.

"Hey, she’s hot…." Irvine trailed off. He was standing on the second floor of the art gallery, inspecting a painting before him.

"Nice to see your dick hasn’t been affected by the collapse of time," Selphie muttered, looking at the painting he was looking at.

Zell smirked slightly, but basically ignored them. He looked down at his feet. He was standing on the clock that was painted into the floor. What was the point of a clock, anyway? Time had ceased to exist. The only thing the stopped clock did was help Squall and the others break the seal that had been hidden within the names of the paintings.

"Oh, fuck!" Selphie cried, surprised.

"What is it?" Irvine asked, placing a concerned hand on Selphie’s slight shoulder. Zell looked up. At least someone’s relationship was working out. After Time Compression had completed, Zell had lost Seifer. Where could he have gone? It had been a dangerous situation to have Seifer mentally unresponsive during Time Compression. Zell’s lover could have been lost in time forever. Zell shook his head, running a shaking hand through his gravity-defying bangs. He wouldn’t believe that Seifer could just be swallowed up forever. He wouldn’t believe it.

"Zell, get up here!" Selphie cried, leaning in closer to the wall.

He quickly climbed the lavish stairs, hurrying over to them. "What? What are you looking at?"

"Holy Shit!" Irvine exclaimed softly. "Are you seeing what I’m seeing?" He looked over at Zell. "Tell me who that looks like…."

Zell furrowed his brow in confusion, wondering what they were talking about. He gently used his powerful shoulder to nudge the much taller Irvine out of the way so he could look at the painting. It was in rich oil colour, which still looked in good shape, which was surprising, considering the state of everything around it. The frame even looked new. It looked like it was actual ebony, carved lovingly, like this painting had meaning over the others. It was of a woman in a red dress, just showing a bust depiction of her. Her face was lovely, and her hair was dark and piled atop her head. The dress looked timeless in design, so it was hard to pin what era she was from.

Zell raised his eyebrows as he studied her face. The dark hair actually had a tinge of copper, like gold dusted over the raven surface, creating a shimmering sheen of light. Her skin was very pale, and the strokes of the paintbrush were small, so the detail was much greater. It wasn’t a wan pale, but more of a creamy complexion that wasn’t aided by makeup. Her nose was straight and Romanesque, making her look aristocratic and powerful, but without dominating her features. Her lips were somewhat thin, and had a trademark smirk dancing on them, a smirk that sent familiar chills down Zell’s spine. Her eyes were a clear sky blue, the same shade that Zell had memorized. The same shade as Seifer's. He took in the whole face, analyzing it. "Fuck….." This woman looked a lot like Seifer. The hair colour was different, and her chin and brow weren’t the same, but there was a similarity. "It looks like Seifer…!" Zell whispered. He looked at the name of the painting. "Xerampelinae…."

"They don’t look exactly alike… The hair is different…." Selphie trailed off, looking closer.

"And there’s something different about her chin. Do you think they’re related?" Irvine shrugged. "The woman looks like she’s about thirty-five. Can’t tell what era it is, though."

Zell nodded absently, looking at a small pendant the woman, ‘Xerampelinae’, wore. It was a silver chain, delicate and thin. On the end of it was a small charm, resting just between the lovely woman’s collarbones. It was the cross-sword, the same symbol on Seifer's jacket. "Look." Zell pointed to the cross. "They have to be related."

"But in what capacity?" Selphie asked.

Irvine shook his head, his honeyed brown ponytail swinging with the action. "Who knows. Remember, this is generations ahead of even our time. I wonder if Xerampelinae is her real name….?"

Zell shook his head. "Who knows. Actually, Xerampelinae is old Trabian for ‘conduit’. But, it could also be a name. I’ll ask Seifer about it when I see….." Zell trailed off, his vision blurred by unshed tears.

Irvine patted his shoulder. "You sure are taking this hard….."

Selphie smacked him, hard. "You stupid fucking idiot! Of course he’s taking it hard! Wouldn’t you take it hard if your lover was lost in time…?" She trailed off, realizing she had stuck her foot in her mouth on two occasions. She had revealed to Irvine that Seifer and Zell had been lovers, and she hadn’t thought of Zell’s feelings. "Oh, Zell, I’m sorry……"

"If you’re worried about revealing that Seifer and Zell were lovers, I already knew…." Irvine muttered. "Besides, I’m sure Seifer's fine."

Zell nodded. "Yeah…. Wait, how did you know….?"

"I’m observant on the subject of love…." He titled his hat. "Whether it be matters of the heart, or the dark sensualities of the body, my soul is in tune…."

Selphie snapped her fingers sarcastically. "Very beatnik, Dante….."

"Dante?" Irvine asked, confused. "You’re such a square."

Zell smiled, wiping his tears away. "Maybe you should trade that hat for a beret."

"Berets don’t flatter my face shape," Irvine muttered airily as they walked away from the painting.

Zell gave it one last look before he followed Selphie and Irvine down the stairs. They left the Art Gallery, coming to a dark room. Cold air was wafting from somewhere. The trio was met with a decision.

"Up or down?" Irvine asked. There was a staircase that led down to God knows what, and a circular staircase, winding around it, that led to a door above them.

Zell thought for a moment. Something was drawing him down. He felt a presence, and wondered if it was a monster. A warm shiver passed over his skin. A warm, familiar shiver. "Seifer…." He whispered, barely audible.

"Huh?" Selphie asked.

"Down," Zell muttered, heading for the stairs quickly.

"Wait!" Irvine called. "How do you know that there isn’t some horrible monster down there?! I’m too pretty to die!" He wailed sarcastically as he followed the blonde down the dirty staircase.

"Fuck, you are soooo vain, Irvine!" Selphie muttered, running her hand along the rough wall. Her other hand was hovering over her nunchuku, which were hanging at her waist.

"What’s wrong with wanting to look my best? It wouldn’t hurt you to think about your looks for once, you know…." He winked at her, slapping her butt lazily.

"You prick," she muttered, looking around as they left the stairwell. "What is this?"

"It looks like an armory…" Zell commented. The room had dusty, rusted weapons lying about. There was a small moat running through the room. Zell crossed the footbridge to a door. It was heavy looking, and made of old, knotted wood. He yanked on the heavy steel handle. "Locked."

"What’s that door?" Selphie asked, looking over to her left. The door looked like it was reinforced with metal. "Guys…?" She trailed off, slowly turning on her heel when they didn’t respond. Irvine was looking at some of the cobweb-covered weapons on a table, but Zell was looking to the far right of the room, beyond all the weapons. It looked dark, but there was a large empty space beyond them. The floor was dirty, but it once had been hardwood. Years of neglect had taken its toll. Selphie noticed that Zell was looking into the darkness. "Zell? There probably isn’t anything there. It was more than likely a storage space for weapons…." She trailed off. "Zell?"

"Hey, dude, are you okay?" Irvine asked, approaching the blonde martial artist.

Zell couldn’t hear them. He was too busy staring into the dark. He could see a figure slumped against the stony wall, his pale gray trenchcoat splayed around him, tattered and torn. "Seifer…." He whispered.

Seifer moved his head slightly, like he heard Zell, but didn’t look over. Zell felt joy bubble up in his body. Seifer was responding. He was worried that Ultimecia had given him some sort of brain damage. Zell couldn’t keep a wide smile of pure joy off his face, and broke out in a jog to reach the slumped blonde. He gasped as his body hit something hard. "What the fuck?!" He fell on his ass in an ungraceful heap.

"Shit, what happened?" Selphie asked, crouching beside Zell.

The blonde rubbed his back. "I hit something, but I don’t know what…. There isn’t anything there…."

Irvine pulled out his shotgun, stabbing forward, like a fencer. The barrel of his gun hit something with a static crackle. He hit it a few more times, raising his eyebrows. He could feel a small jolt of energy pass through his arm every time his gun came in contact with the invisible barrier.

"What is it?" Selphie asked, standing. She looked over to Seifer, who seemed to be awake, but oblivious to their presence. She pulled out her nunchuku, tapping the air the same way Irvine had. She let out a surprised gasp as she felt what could have been compared to an electrical current pass through her arm. "There’s something there. It’s invisible, though."

Zell stood, touching it with his finger. "It feels like static electricity. Is it just a projection, or a barrier?"

"I think it’s a barrier," Selphie muttered, walking close to it. She could feel the magic crackling against the front of her body. "Ultimecia must have put it up. But, why?"

"Is that why Seifer can’t see us?" Irvine asked, his eyebrows still raised.

"More than likely. So, he didn’t get lost in time…" Zell murmured, obvious relief in his voice. "But, why the fuck would she put a barrier up…..?" Zell trailed off, feeling that he knew the answer. What was she planning? Was there to be a final humiliation for the scarred blonde? Zell could feel cold dread welling in his chest. Ultimecia had already done terrible things to Seifer, and there were probably worse that Zell didn’t know about, so what else could she do to him? What else was there to take? She had already taken everything; his dignity, his body, his soul, himself…..

"Seifer!" Selphie exclaimed loudly. She knew that he didn’t know her, but she felt close to him, if only from Zell’s feelings for him. She could feel something heavy hanging in the air, and knew that it wasn’t going to be pretty.

"Guys, I’ve got a really bad feeling about this…." Irvine trailed off, hitting the invisible wall harder with his gun.

"Seifer!!" Zell called loudly. The blonde stood, but it wasn’t for Zell.

Seifer stood slowly, his back brushing against the rough surface of the wall. Everything around him seemed dark, and for some reason, he couldn’t see beyond a patch of dark ahead of him. He felt something in the air that he didn’t really care to describe. It was cold and wrathful, whatever it was. He could have sworn that he heard Zell’s voice, but it must have just been an echo in his memory. He felt like shit, and he wanted to curl up and die. Ultimecia had shattered him, and there wasn’t anything good that he could take from his mind, except the memory of Zell. In his mind, all he could hear was Zell, and all he could feel was Zell. But he was gone, gone to fight Ultimecia. Probably killed….


Seifer turned his head into the darkness. As if emanating from blackness itself, Zell stepped out of the black. His clothes were as black as the environment. He was wearing a long coat, that was actually a deep scarlet velvet, but it looked so black. And he looked so beautiful. His ash coloured hair looked almost silvery, and the way Zell was looking at him made Seifer feel warm. "Zell?"

Zell’s head snapped up as he heard Seifer say his name, and in such a way as to cause the blood to begin to flow to the lower part of his body. He wanted to sigh with relief at the thought that Seifer could see him. But he noticed movement out of the darkness. It was a man wearing all black, his hair silvery, like moonlight was cast on it. He was very handsome…. It was him. Zell was staring at himself. He knew that he wasn’t ugly, but he wasn’t that attractive.

"Hey," Irvine cried, looking from the dark Zell to the real one beside him. "That’s you!!"

"I wish I was that good looking…." Zell trailed off.

"You are," Selphie replied, instinctively. "It’s just, I think there’s a charmed air about that projection."

"Maybe that’s how Seifer sees you…. What’s going on?" Irvine scowled at the invisible barrier.

Zell couldn’t help but feel warm. Is that how Seifer saw him? He frowned deeply in frustration.

"I really have a bad feeling about this…." Irvine muttered, placing a protective hand on Selphie’s shoulder.

"Zell?" Zell could hear Seifer call.

"No!" Zell cried. "It’s not me! Seifer, please!!" Zell was beginning to feel dread washing over him. "Seifer!!"

"Seifer!" Selphie called. "He can’t hear us…."

The dark Zell sauntered over to where Seifer was standing. "Seifer…."

Zell blinked a few times. It sounded exactly like him. Selphie looked back and forth between them. If Zell hadn’t been standing beside her, she would have thought that it was him.

"Zell…. Where are we?" Seifer asked.

"Ultimecia’s castle."

Seifer slumped against the wall, his body still weak, his mind still fragile. He felt relief wash over him. Zell’s presence was soothing, comforting to him. However, Zell felt a little different. The small blonde approached him, resting his gloved hands on Seifer's chest.

"What’s wrong?" Zell asked, his face hovering just before Seifer's.

"Are you okay?"

Zell tilted his head. "What do you mean?"

"Something’s different. What’s wrong?"

Zell laughed softly. "Nothing’s wrong." He then leaned in, pressing his lips to Seifer's.

"Stop it!" Zell screamed angrily. He growled low in his throat. The laugh had been a giveaway that it hadn’t been him. It was off, too harsh, too cutting. "That isn’t me!!"

Zell pulled away from Seifer, licking his lips. "I’ve missed you." He ran his hands over Seifer's arms, pinning them to the wall.

Seifer was just staring at Zell, too surprised and weak to do anything while Zell pinned him to the wall. He stared into Zell’s icy eyes, the feeling of his lips still a ghostly touch on Seifer's. "Who are you?"

Zell blinked a few times, his icy eyes regarding Seifer with confusion. "What do you mean?"

Seifer scowled angrily, trying to struggle away from Zell’s grip, which was like iron shackles around his wrists. "You’re not Zell."

"You’re deluded, Seifer. But, you always have been." Zell winked at Seifer, snapping the taller man’s wrist under his hand.

Seifer howled in agony, his limp wrist shooting pain up his arm. He looked over at his hand, which was bent at an unattractive angle. He felt Zell release his grip on the useless wrist, letting it fall heavily to Seifer's side. He quickly reached into a pocket of his jacket, pulling out a sharp spike. He then gripped the injured wrist roughly, pinning it to the wall again.

"Zell….." Seifer trailed off, tears of pain pricking at the corners of his eyes. The pain of his broken wrist was nothing compared to the utter agony as Zell drove the spike through Seifer's open palm, tacking him to the wall. He screamed, his blood flowing and spewing around the wound. He felt his arm go numb, blocking out the pain.

"Seifer!!" Zell screamed from the other side of the barrier, the real Zell. He began to pound against the magic, ignoring the electrical pain that shot up his arms. He moaned in defeat as the mirror of himself drove a second spike through Seifer's other hand, crucifying him against the wall. Zell had never felt so useless in his entire life. All he could do was stand there and watch while Seifer was punished by Zell’s clone. Was it Ultimecia in disguise? The pain shooting through Zell’s arms was causing his pounding to become weaker and weaker. "Seifer….." He moaned, his voice dejected, defeated.

Selphie turned away, her cheek against Irvine’s coat. She couldn’t bear to watch as Seifer was tortured, his screams ringing in her ears. "We have to do something….."

"But what?" Irvine asked. He was looking away as well.

Seifer's vision was blurry from the pain, but he could see Zell’s face hovering above his, or what he had thought was Zell’s face. The way this imposter’s lips had felt on his made Seifer see that it wasn’t truly Zell.

"…please….." Seifer trailed off, his voice coming out weak and pained.

Zell laughed, gripping the front of Seifer's shirt, pulling slightly, which caused the wounds in Seifer's hands to tear. He screamed hoarsely. "Please what…..?"

"….stop….. kill me….."

"What would be the fun in that?" Zell kissed him again. "You know, this body is quite pleasing…. Maybe I should find the original, hmmm?"

Seifer growled low in his throat, despite the pain. "Drop dead…."

"Not a bad suggestion….." The false Zell laughed. His eyes seemed to milk over. "I was told to give you a suitable punishment. Pseudo death has been used before for certain failures, but I can spice it up."

Seifer shook his head, not knowing what ‘failures before him’ meant. He tried to ignore the pain, ignore Zell, ignore the dull ache in his chest, being tortured while looking into those eyes. It may not have been the real Zell, his Zell, but it was a carbon copy, and hard to distinguish between the two. Now, the icy blue eyes had taken on a milked over, necrosis quality. It was like he was staring into the eyes of a corpse. The pseudo-Zell murmured something that Seifer couldn’t make out, but it didn’t sound pleasant. He tried to jerk his head away as he was kissed roughly, but strong hands gripped the sides of his face, bruising him. He couldn’t really move, because of his crucified position. He moaned in displeasure as this creature’s tongue was thrust into his mouth. He was betraying Zell… with himself. It was almost an amusing thought, but Seifer squirmed in disgust as he felt something alien, besides another tongue, moving around in his mouth. When the kiss broke, Seifer turned his head to spit out whatever it is. It tasted gross, like death. He closed his eyes, spitting a few times to completely rid his mouth. When he opened them to see what had been in his mouth, he whimpered in absolute disgust.

"Fuck!!" Seifer screamed, overwhelmed by the urge to vomit. Small, writing maggots were crawling by the heel of his boot, mixed with his own saliva. Maggots, and a lot of them, had been in his mouth. Seifer spit again and again, the feeling of the disgusting, squirming insects still on his tongue. He looked up at the Zell standing before him. Patches of his lovely face were painted with dark, greenish purple bruises, where the skin had gone gangrene. "What the fuck?!"

Zell smiled, showing that his once, straight teeth were rotting and decaying in his mouth. "What? Oh, I didn’t think you would be this superficial…." He trailed off, kissing Seifer again.

Seifer moaned in utter disgust as the putrid mouth was pressed to his. His struggling against the dying skin caused a chunk to fall from Zell’s tattooed cheek, running down the side of his face in a small sea of greenish, rotting pus. A smeared trail of the fluid ran across Seifer's cheek, which was already wet from his own tears. Seifer slowly opened his bleary eyes, staring at the rotting monster. The spot on the face where the flesh had fallen from was a hollow hole, all the way down to the bone. He turned his head, choking back a sob. He tried to struggle, not caring if he ripped his hands off. The pain of the holes in his palm, compounded with his broken wrist made Seifer whimper, defeated.

The rotting Zell laughed harshly, gripping Seifer's hips painfully, slamming them against the wall. Seifer's eyes rolled in his head as he felt his tailbone being bruised. When the rotting body grabbed the front of his pants, Seifer's eyes widened with fear. No, not again……. No, please…. Someone, help me. Zell, help me….

The rotting Zell laughed, his black chuckles bubbling like pus in the back of his throat, shrugging out of the black fabric of his coat. The bare arms were covered in the same softening bruises that covered its face. When one of the arms pressed against Seifer, he could feel the flesh squishing through the torn and tattered fabric. When the skeletal fingers, the bones underneath the decaying flesh already showing, pulled on the front of Seifer's pants, lowering them around his hips, Seifer screamed in terror. "NO!!" His eyes widened with his fear. "Please, not again…." He felt his legs being pried apart by the corpse’s strong thigh, which was surprising, because this false Zell was falling apart before Seifer's terrified eyes.

"Oh, God….. Not again….." Zell whispered, still banging his fists against the barrier. He desperately began to cast Dispel on it. He had many spells Junctioned, and hoped that he would eventually wear down the barrier. "No, no, no!!!" Zell screamed. He could feel tears streaming down his cheeks as he was forced to listen to Seifer's wails of agony. Seifer, I’m here…. I’m coming to help you….

Irvine groaned, feeling useless. He didn’t know Seifer in the least, but this wasn’t something that anyone deserved, and it hurt the cowboy to see Zell in such pain. He looked down at the barrier. "Hey, look….."

"What?!" Selphie exclaimed desperately, tears running down her own cheeks. She looked at the barrier. It seemed to crackle momentarily. "Zell, look!!"

He wiped away the angry tears on his cheeks, looking at where Selphie was pointing. He could feel the crackle of the electricity. A wave of determination washed over him. Zell began to cast Dispel again, but jerked his head up when he heard Seifer scream. Seifer's head was lolled back against the rough stone wall, his eyes looking vacant, his skin grayish white. The scream seemed to be more of a physical reflex than anything else, for Seifer looked comatose.

"Seifer!" Zell screamed, protectiveness washing over him.

Seifer rolled his head back and forth, not really feeling anything anymore. In his head, there was only white noise. He didn’t want to think about the monster inside him, he didn’t want to think of Ultimecia, or the horrible human being he had become. A surge of nausea hit him like a train as the penis of the creature pushed in and out of him. It felt spongy and unnatural, like it was decomposing within Seifer's body. It also felt like it was oozing a fluid of thicker consistency than semen. Seifer wanted to retch, but his body didn’t respond. Just when he was about to shut down, he thought he could hear the ghostly sound of Zell calling for him, the real Zell.

"Zell….?" Seifer whispered, his lover’s name escaping his lips, which were turning blue as he slid into shock. He moaned in utter agony and disgust as the corpse came within him, hot and putrid. Disgust at what was being done to him, at the fact that he was letting it happen, at what he had become. The last of Seifer Almasy shattered as the corpse totally rotted around him.

"Seifer!!" Zell screamed again, his throat becoming sore. He watched in absolute horror as the corpse that had been his double decayed and decomposed fully, turning into nothing but dust and bone all over Seifer's body. Seifer remained totally still, which wasn’t a good sign. His face looked pale, almost bluish gray from blood loss and shock, and his eyes were distant and dim. Zell banged on the barrier again, crying out in surprise as he fell forward, the restriction gone.

Zell stumbled, catching his balance. Immediately, he ran over to Seifer. He looked into Seifer's eyes, whimpering at the lack of response. "Seifer….?" He whispered.

Seifer remained silent. It didn’t even look like he saw Zell. The smaller blonde pulled Seifer's pants back up, covering him again. He looked back and forth between Seifer's pinned hands, gingerly touching the broken wrist. "This might hurt for a second, okay?" Zell gripped the broken bones under his palm, using his other hand to pull at the spike. His hands slid off of it because of all the blood, but he braced himself, cringing when he heard a suction noise. "Can one of you help with the other one?" Zell called desperately as he continued to pull at the thick spike.

"Oh, yeah….." Irvine stepped forward, shock still all over his face. He leaned his shotgun against the wall beside Seifer, his stomach churning at the dead look in Seifer's eyes. Sure, Seifer may have acted like a prick, but he didn’t deserve this. Irvine felt so sorry for him. He pressed Seifer's cold, blood covered wrist against the wall, and pulled as hard as he could.

Selphie slowly approached them, staring up into Seifer's face. He didn’t seem like he was really there. How could Ultimecia do this? Being raped was one thing, but by a horrible monster, in the disguise of the one you loved best? Selphie couldn’t imagine the mental strain that it must have put Seifer under, that everything must have put Seifer under. What else had Edea, had Ultimecia, done to him? Was this the final straw? Had Ultimecia gotten her final revenge, keeping Seifer alive so he could live with all that he had done in the Sorceress’s name, all that they had put him through? Would he ever be the same again? Selphie felt a few tears fall from her jade eyes as she looked at Seifer. She reached out, brushing the dust left behind from the rotting body off his face and body. Her fingers lingered on his cheek, and she felt a sob well in her chest.

Seifer's body suddenly slumped as Zell pulled out the spike. He tossed it away, splattering Seifer's blood over the front of his body. He wrapped his strong arms around Seifer's waist so that the one arm that was still pinned to the wall didn’t support his entire weight. Irvine let out a groan as the slick metal came out of Seifer's palm with a sick squishing noise. He let the spike drop with a clatter that sounded so final. Seifer's weight dropped, and Zell caught Seifer's body in his arms. Irvine stepped back, wanting to give Zell and Seifer some space. He noticed that Selphie was silently crying, and wrapped his arms around her shoulders from behind.

"Why would she do this?!" Selphie cried angrily. "How could anybody be this cruel?!"

Irvine stroked her reddish brown hair. "I know, I know. No matter what Seifer did, he didn’t deserve this…."

"What are we going to do with him…?" Selphie asked quietly, comforted in Irvine’s embrace.

"Seifer….? Can you hear me…?" Zell whispered, his fingers stroking Seifer's cold cheek. "Please…. It’s me…. Zell… do something so I know that you can hear me….." He pressed his forehead to Seifer's, closing his eyes, his tears falling onto Seifer's cheeks. It felt like he was holding a corpse.

Seifer blinked a couple of times, feeling something wet falling on his face. He felt like he was a million miles from everything, even himself. He could faintly hear something in his head, within all the dead, still noise. Seifer never knew that silence was so loud. It sounded like a sweet siren’s song, echoing gently in his mind.

"What are we going to do with him? We still have to join up with Squall, and defeat Ultimecia…" Selphie murmured.

Zell nodded, turning to her. "I know…." His voice came out choppy and shaky. "I’ll give him one of my GFs. That way, the GF can protect him…. He’s in no condition to fight off anyone…."

"But, won’t you need them to defeat Ultimecia….?" Irvine asked quietly.

"Well, what’s behind that reinforced door over there?" Selphie pointed behind her, pulling away from Irvine. She jogged over, opening the door. "Hey, a cell. Bring him over here. No monsters will get him in here…." She paused. "They’ve been in here…."

"Who?" Irvine asked, coming up behind her.

"Squall and them. I can smell Rinoa’s perfume." The faint smell of strawberries wafted in the cell. "So, that means it’s secure…."

Zell nodded again, turning to Seifer. "Sweetie, can you hear me? Dammit… I am going to kill that cunt!!" He stood up, dragging Seifer's dead weight to his feet. "Okay, honey, come on." He dragged Seifer to the cell, looking around. He inspected the wounds on Seifer's hands. "Selphie, do you have an Elixir?"

She nodded, using it on Seifer. The colour returned to his face, but the vacant look in his eyes remained. She shook her head, looking at Zell, whose gaze never left Seifer.

"Come on," Irvine whispered gently. "We have to go….." He pulled Selphie to her feet. "Come on, Zell."

"Can I have a couple of minutes?"

"Sure. We’ll wait outside." Selphie and Irvine left the cool cell.

"Seifer, please listen to me. I know that you can at least hear me. Will you please fucking answer me?" He took Seifer's hands, looking at the scars where the wounds had been. The Elixir had closed them up. "When we defeat Ultimecia, time will be compressed again, to make things normal. You have to promise me that you’ll concentrate, okay?"

Seifer blinked a few times, but said nothing.

"Laguna said that we’re supposed to think of our friends, and love and hope and all that shit…. Seifer, will you promise to meet me? Squall promised to meet Rinoa, and I want you to do the same for me. Okay? Seifer, promise me that you’ll think about me, and wait for me…." Zell broke off, a small sob making his voice incoherent.


Zell jerked his head up. Seifer was now looking at him. He still looked sort of distant, but at least he was responding. He felt like he was looking at Zell through a layer of frosted glass.

"Seifer?!" Zell moved from his crouched position, so he was directly kneeling beside Seifer. "Seifer….I….."

Seifer closed his eyes wearily. "Where should we meet?"

"Huh? Oh…… The soccer field. Remember…?" Zell looked at Seifer, concern all over his face. "Are you okay…..? Well, that was kind of a stupid question, wasn’t it." He squeezed Seifer's hand.

Seifer just stared straight ahead. "I remember. It was the day I fell in love with you….." Seifer closed his eyes again, his voice sounding so small. "We could have been so happy….."

"What do you mean, could have? We will be…." Zell breached the last of the gap between their bodies, pulling Seifer's body into a gentle hug. "I have to go find Squall…. Just stay here, okay?"

Seifer sighed, his body stiffening. "I’m sorry……"

"For what?" Zell met Seifer's gaze, smiling sadly.

"I thought…it was you…. I should have known better….. I’m so sorry….I betrayed you……I betrayed you…..I’m sorry……I’m sorry, I’m sorry….. I should have known better…." Seifer kept whispering over and over again, totally lost in his guilt.

Zell frowned. Seifer didn’t even seem to know he was there anymore. "Seifer!"

The scarred blonde blinked. He looked at Zell again. "I don’t deserve you."

"Stop that. None of this was your fault!" Zell exclaimed angrily, pulling Seifer closer to him.

"But I betrayed you……" Seifer let out a small whimper. The small noise of guilt turned into a wail of the utmost human suffering. The sound reverberated off the walls of the cell, and tore Zell’s heart apart. No human being should have been able to make that noise, no human should have been subjected to enough suffering in order to utter it. As Seifer continued to wail in agony, Zell’s body shook with sympathetic sobs.

When the moan stopped, Seifer's voice trailed off into weary pants as he stared up at the ceiling. Zell wiped his tears away, planting a small kiss on Seifer's forehead. "You didn’t betray me, Seifer." He cupped the sides of the blonde’s scarred face, making Seifer look him in the eye. "I love you."

Seifer sighed shakily, his body wearily echoing the action. "I love you, Zell, but I don’t deserve to….I’m not worthy enough for you to love me…."

"Please don’t say that, Seifer."

Seifer closed his eyes. He was so tired, so tired. "I do love you…."

"I know. Now, stay here, and promise me you’ll meet me….." Zell stroked Seifer's hair, as if he were a child.

"Alright…." He trailed off. "What if Ultimecia…..?" He opened his eyes, looking at Zell with concern.

"I’ll be fine." Zell’s cute face darkened with anger. "I’m going to rip out her uterus and shove it down her throat."

Seifer sighed in response. His body felt cold as Zell stood.

"I’ll see you……" Zell trailed off, going to the door. "I’ll lock it so nothing can get in, alright?" Before leaving, he turned again. "Seifer…. I love you….." He shut the door behind him.

Seifer closed his eyes again, feeling weary. The Elixir had cured the ache in his body, but his mind, his soul still throbbed. What was there for him now? He could still feel Zell’s presence around him, and he felt comforted in it. He couldn’t understand why Zell loved him, especially after all the things he had done, but he had promised the small blonde that they would meet, and Seifer didn’t want to disappoint him again. He sighed, slipping closer to unconsciousness. He wondered if Rinoa was angry with him. She could have been killed, and all because of him…. The silence around him was actually comforting, too. He couldn’t hear Ultimecia’s horrid voice in his mind anymore. The only voice in his mind was Zell’s, Zell telling Seifer he loved him.

"Zell….." Seifer trailed off, a small smile gracing his lips for the first time in a long time. He breathed in, his last thoughts of the spiky-haired blonde before welcoming blackness took him.

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