( Some Bonds... Are Stronger Than Others)
Green eyes fluttered drowsily, threatening to forsake the realm of the conscious once again. He tried to rub his eyes with the palm of his hand and discovered, much to his amazement, his hand actually did as bidden. He exhaled deeply, feeling his body sink down into the inferior mattress, his spine acutely aware of the ancient bedsprings beneath him. Quisty, Quisty. The name echoed off the walls of his mind, plucked from some collection of memories he wasn't aware he possessed. She still sat beside the bed, her hand hovering on the bleached white sheet that covered him from the waist down. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he decided he didn't like the sheet. It was scratchy and hot and smelled of medicine. A hand moved in front of his face. After a moment, he decided that it was too small and delicate to be his hand. He had never painted his nails or had them quite so long, so it couldn't be his hand. The voice was intruding again, soft and secure, calling him.
"Seifer? I want you to pay attention to me." Quistis moved her hand in front of Seifer's face, vainly trying to get his attention. She frowned slightly, brow furrowed in a mix of concern and concentration. The sedative she gave him should have worn off by now, negated by the stimulant, but Seifer was still disoriented and lethargic. Seifer's eyes would follow her for a moment, then break off, wandering aimlessly, gazing at what, only Seifer knew. "You're at Balamb Garden, Seifer. Do you remember what Garden is?"
Seifer's eyes took on a near terrified look at the mention of Garden. He shook his head negatively. Either he didn't consciously remember or he didn't want to, but somewhere back in the depths of his mind, he knew and feared the name Garden. Quistis couldn't be sure. She put one hand to her temple, massaging lightly to combat the first twinges that signaled an impending headache.
When Quistis looked back down, she noticed that Seifer had fallen asleep. Motioning to the two men behind her, she led the way back out to the main room and sat down. Squall sat on the edge of her desk and Zell took a spot on the floor. The look on Squall's face said quite plainly that he wasn't pleased with the outcome of the encounter and wanted an explanation. If only she had one to give...
"At least we know he's not aggressive," she offered.
"Yes, and he seems to have all the mental acuity of a Grat and all the awareness of a Cacuatar," said Squall, rolling his eyes.
Quistis sighed heavily, putting her hands behind her head. She stretched her neck muscles for a moment, loosening the tension that kept creeping further up her neck and across her shoulders. "Squall," she said softly, "I can fix his body. I don't have the power to fix his mind."
Squall bit back an angry retort, knowing that it wouldn't ease the situation. For the first time in years, he felt that familiar twinge of helplessness creeping up from his childhood to wreak havoc with his adult life. Helplessness, the very thing he pushed, strived, fought, and bled to eliminate from his life now latched its dagger-like claws into his heart. Squall hadn't given much though to Seifer's whereabouts. Immediately following Time Compression, his thoughts occasionally turned to Seifer, vacillating between a belief in Seifer's demise and a belief that Seifer ran off, hiding from the world. Now, guilt gnawed at the edges of his emotions, mixing with the feeling of helplessness, an intertwined pair forming a möbius loop that fed on itself. He should have had more concern for Seifer's well being, but he was too busy playing the hero, too wrapped up in day-to-day life to spare Seifer more than an occasional passing thought. Unconsciously, his shoulders bowed under the weight of his emotions. Turning his eyes toward Quistis, he asked in a softly pleading tone of voice, "So what can we do?"
Piercing blue eyes met pale blue gray for a breathless moment. Defeated, Quistis replied, "We wait."
Four days passed with no improvement in Seifer's condition. Slipping in and out of consciousness, his world faded into a collage of images and sounds plucked at random from his environment and overridden by the haze of a mind pushed to its very limits. Reality was subjective, defined by whatever it was that his mind chose to pluck from the flow of thought, cobbled together with thin lines of reasoning that wavered and kinked according to the unregulated whim of his mind.
Occasionally the voice attempted to draw him out of the haven he had so painstakingly carved inside his head. Lined with idle chatter and random memories, it was a warm, comforting place. Outside the haven were confusion and pain, disorientation and incoherence. A world he couldn't understand.
So, Seifer passed time with himself, blissfully unaware of his own incapacity.
In order to allow the Infirmary to resume operation, Quistis moved Seifer to the back room. All students seeking assistance were required to have either Faculty or Staff permission, sent via com directly to Quistis. It was the only way to keep the Infirmary from turning into the student body's own personal peep show. Were students allowed free access to the Infirmary, Quistis had no doubts she would spend the majority of her day dealing with students seeking to gawk at Seifer like some sideshow attraction.
Putting the final additions on some miscellaneous paperwork, Quistis shuffled the stack off to the side of her desk. The com chirped at her once, then incessantly, until she gave it her full attention and opened the channel. "Trepe," she said quickly.
"I'm on my way down to relieve you," said a familiar voice. "You need to go get some lunch, get out of the Infirmary, anything."
"Squall, I'm fine, really," she answered. Her stomach gave a hollow rumble, deliberately betraying her words. She pressed one hand to her midsection as if able to quiet the noise through physical pressure. "Okay, so maybe I could use a meal," she admitted. "I'll see you in a bit."
"Give me about ten," Squall said. "Leonhart out."
Quistis killed time in the worst possible way; amusing herself with a mindless game or two that Zell installed on her terminal some month’s prior. Soon the door beeped and slid open, admitting Squall. She looked up, catching his eye and noting, with some concern, the growing circles underneath the haunted gray. "You look like you need rest more than I do," she said, raising an eyebrow.
"I'll sleep when I'm dead," Squall replied dryly. "Until then I'll get along just fine." He wasn't about to admit to her that this present situation had caused him, sequentially, more than one lost night of sleep. He was simply unable to shake the feelings that stalked him. For some reason, his usual ability to adapt wasn't working. When he did sleep, his dreams filled with troubled images from the last time he saw Seifer. A bruised and broken body covered in a battered trench coat and yet even then Seifer was nothing but master of his own destiny. Refusing to submit even at the last. What happened?
"If anything happens, page me. I'll probably get something to eat, maybe stop by the library and see if they've got anything new in," Quistis said, fixing her gaze on Squall's.
"I will, I will," he replied. "Don't worry, I think I can handle this for an hour or so." Waving in the general direction of the door, he shooed her out. Squall sat down at the desk, propping his feet up on the Formica desktop. Idly, he began to click his way through the various areas of Garden's computer system. It appeared that this year's Garden Festival would pull through without a hitch. The theme was somewhat fluffy, something about magical nights and enchanted gardens or something equally horrid. Then again, in his opinion the entire festival was fluffy. His father, however, he noted wryly, was horribly excited and eager to attend. Laguna Loire still proved to be as popular with the students of Garden as he was with Selphie so many years ago. She still thought the world of him, even though she had since relocated back to Trabia Garden.
Squall's gaze flickered idly over to the face of his watch. A mere twenty-two minutes had passed. He stifled a yawn, pressing the back of his hand over his mouth and blinking a couple of times. He stood up and walked to the door that led to the back room. Opening it, he walked in and took a seat by Seifer's bed. Quistis would have a fit if she knew he was in here, but what she didn't know... Well, she'd survive. Squall looked over at the figure that lay twisted in a near fetal position, protecting itself from only Seifer knew what. Reaching out, Squall brushed at a strand of hair that fell into Seifer's face. The figure on the bed shifted at the light touch and Squall withdrew his hand in shock.
Squall decided the movement was a fluke, because Seifer showed no other signs of consciousness. Sighing, Squall buried his head in his hands and ran them through his hair, brushing it back from his eyes. "Seifer," he whispered. "What happened to you?" There was no answer from the form on the bed. Squall stood and looked down at Seifer one last time. Turning, he walked back to the door when a noise startled him. He turned wildly, panic setting an icy trail down his spine and a heavy feeling in his gut.
There, on the bed, sat Seifer, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the glare of the mid-afternoon light. Seifer's brow furrowed as he stared at the figure in the doorway. He knew this person, much like he 'knew' everything else; he was simply unable to attach the proper name to it. Seifer's eyes latched onto the figure, his expression tinged with confusion. The figure blinked at him, and for a moment, Seifer was sure that the person would run away. He didn't know how he knew that, but somehow, he sensed that he scared this man. Summoning all his energy, Seifer opened his mouth and said the first thing that formed coherently in his mind.
"Don't leave me again."
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