Uncertain Memory: In the End
By Elise Maxwell
“Where’s Quistis?” Squall asked shivering. Seifer rubbed his hands on the brunette’s shoulders helping to try and warm him up. It felt… nice. He looked up and smiled gratefully to receive an ‘Aw!’ from Selphie, and looked away slightly embarrassed.
“She told us to take you two up to the Commander’s office and have you tell us what the hell is going on.” Irvine jerked a thumb at the elevator and smirked. “But I think we have a pretty good idea about what’s going on.”
Squall turned red and chuckled when Seifer squeezed his shoulders. “Guess we have some explaining to do.”
“You sure do!” Selphie smiled and Zell patted the top of her head.
“We’d like to hear the whole story guys,” Zell followed her up, “and why you never told us.”
“Well, that’s simple.” Seifer shrugged. “You’re a loudmouth Chicken-wuss.”
“Tch,” Zell snorted. “You’re the wuss Seifer, using Squall, there as a shield.” He smirked.
“Naw, Squall likes being on top.” The 18-year-old blonde winked as he earned a glare from the 17-year-old Commander. “What?”
“Let’s go.” Squall rolled his eyes and pulled Seifer along to the elevator. So much for discretion…
The brunette stepped into the elevator first, his blonde companion behind him. Everyone piled in after them and Selphie happily pushed the button. Damn, she never changed. Squall leaned back into Seifer’s chest and was surprised when strong, warm arms wrapped around his torso. A fluttery feeling entered his stomach and he let a small smile slip out. Hyne, he’d missed this so much.
“You two are so cute,” Zell commented.
“Get used to it,” Squall muttered and the other three blinked in shock. So what if they didn’t think he’d say anything? It was finally time to accept this situation, and to do that they’d have to do it openly.
Once the elevator stopped, Squall led everyone into his spacious office, as Selphie oo’d and aa’d, and let them get situated while they waited for the missing blonde. It was as Squall was about to sit down in his own chair that he realized who else they were missing: Rinoa. What was he going to do about her? Rinoa was supposed to be his girl friend, and now…
“Good evening,” Quistis said as she pushed the door of the office open. She and Rinoa stood in the doorway looking quite smug for some reason. Squall felt a bit of fear creep up his spine as they entered. The blonde girl was carrying a binder and walked straight up to Squall’s desk as Rinoa took a seat in one of the plush chairs next to Selphie.
“Hi…” Squall replied to her as Seifer’s squeezed his shoulders from a standing position behind the chair.
“What’s that?” Seifer asked as he nodded at the binder in her hands.
“It’s mine.” Quistis smirked then became serious. “Squall, you are harboring a dangerous criminal. Before we proceed, we must take him into custody and determine whether he is still a threat.”
A snort could be heard from behind Quistis and Selphie giggled outright.
“I’m just following protocol,” Quistis admitted to them and turned back to the desk. “Look, we know it wasn’t you fault Seifer.” She gestured to Squall’s drawer as the brunette opened it and pulled out a tape recorder. “We still need to hear your side of the story and what was going on.”
Seifer’s eyes rested on the tape recorder for a long while before rising to meet hers. “Alright,” he agreed hesitantly.
Quistis nodded and turned to sit down with everyone else. As Seifer moved to go around the desk, Squall grabbed his sleeve and pulled him down.
“Was it that bad?” he asked worried.
“Don’t trouble yourself.” Seifer kneeled on the floor beside the chair momentarily. “I dealt with what I had to and its over now. I just know I’m here with all of you, and that’s what matters now.” He smiled before standing. Seifer sure had changed. He was quiet and much more thoughtful. War changed a person, that was inevitable, but Squall didn’t know if it was for the better or worse.
Seifer didn’t move around the desk to speak closer to the group. Rather, he stood next to Squall’s chair and recited his tale. At certain points along the way, some of the group went pale from what Seifer told them. To lighten the mood, the blonde threw in some cynical comments with what he thought about things at the time. It was good to see that Seifer could look back on it all without hating himself. In the end, Seifer’s mood had dampened a little along with his expression even though he tried to hide it.
“Okay, I’m going to repeat the very cut and very short version,” Selphie said and held up a notebook she’d been writing in since Seifer started. “When we were in Timber is when Edea captured you. She did so by casting a spell over you and by doing so you walked right into a trap?”
“Yes, she’d been poisoning my mind since I’d gone to Dollet. I guess she found me an easy target because she’d known me as a child and my mind was weak at the time.” Seifer nodded. “She then imprisoned me in something much similar to what Adel had been placed in, but with far more control and power.”
“She fashioned a simulacrum or illusion of you,” the brunette read aloud. “How did she do this again?”
“You said something about junctioning,” Zell put in.
“I can’t quite explain it.” Seifer took a moment to think. “Rushed that part did I?” He grinned when everyone nodded. “Well it was like she was using a part of me, stealing my power to make that illusion of me. It had my memories, but it wasn’t me. Do you get what I’m saying?”
“The jist of it anyway,” Selphie replied with a grin and went on. “And this machine might have been why Ultimecia wanted Ellone so bad?”
“If she could have junctioned Ellone’s power, she would have been unstoppable.” Seifer nodded.
“Something Dr. Odine or his followers will invent presumably,” Squall commented, his commander mode kicking in.
“Assuming Ultimecia gave it to Edea to use as she pleased until Ellone was found,” Quistis pointed out.
“I’m confident that’s where Edea got it, because after time compression, it disappeared.” Seifer crossed his arms, as he looked deep in thought. “I can’t remember much else from right before time compression.”
“That’s fine Seifer.” Squall waved a hand. “I’m sure we’re all unanimous on the vote for whether you’re a danger or not.”
“Yeah, you’re free to enter the garden again.” Zell nodded along with the others.
“I would like to transfer here also,” Irvine said. “I’m going to have to take the next SeeD exam anyway.”
“That can be arranged,” Selphie replied and scribbled on her notebook paper.
“I would like to enter the garden as a student also,” Rinoa piped up suddenly. She’d been so quiet throughout the whole interview that everyone forgot she was even there.
Squall swallowed and cleared his throat. “Are you sure? You don’t need to go back home and reassemble the Timber Owls?”
“With proper military training, I can still one day free Timber.” She looked determined. “And it doesn’t have to be through tactical means. Discussions could prove to be fruitful in the future.” She smiled. “I think a year of training could do me well.”
“Alright.” The Commander nodded. “You will have to take the entrance exam but I’m sure you’ll be accepted in no time.”
“As for the rest of us, I’m sure it’s been a long day.” Quistis stood suddenly and turned to the SeeDs. “Could I speak alone with the Commander and the Knight for a moment?”
The rest of the group began to stand and stretch before moving toward the door as Rinoa and Quistis came forward.
“I took the liberty of explaining to Rinoa what happened between you two before the war.” Quistis told them. “I hope I did the right thing.”
“Saved me for trying to explain things.” Squall looked away nervously.
Rinoa laughed. “It’s alright Squall. It didn’t seem… right anyway. You’re rather boring.”
“I should be insulted but considering the circumstances, I’m okay with that,” the brunette replied. Everyone burst out laughing at his sudden humor and he raised a hand to quiet the laughter. “I’ll arrange a dorm for you to stay in soon enough,” he told the crow haired girl with a polite smile.
She nodded. “Thank you, Commander.” Rinoa then left the room quietly, Quistis staying last, but not least.
“Like I asked, what’s with the binder?” Seifer reiterated.
“I have a confession to make.” Quistis set the binder on the desk and turned it to face Squall. “I’ve taken something precious from you, but within reason.”
“Does that belong to me?” Squall asked with a raised eyebrow.
“It’s not mine.” Seifer stood behind the brunette’s chair once again.
“The binder? No, that’s mine.” Quistis waved a hand. “What’s inside is important. I’ll leave you alone to find what treasure lies within.” The blonde girl saluted her commander and turned to leave.
Seifer stepped forward as Quistis closed the door behind her quietly. “It looks like a photo album…” The blonde’s hand stopped in mid-reach toward the binder. He looked as if he was realizing something.
“What is it?” Squall asked.
“Something from not to long ago, yet it seems like an eternity.” Seifer kneeled beside the commander’s chair again. “They are photographs. They’re from a time when we were happy.”
“Well, I understand that, but why are they so important?” Squall asked confused.
Seifer’s green eyes wandered off to the side as obviously he tried to think of what to reply. “When we prided ourselves in remembering.”
Squall bit his lip, hurt at what the blonde had said. He eyed the album with a determination. He wanted to remember now, not forget. “Seifer,” he started.
“I’m not leaving this room.” The blonde’s threat didn’t change anything.
“Just—just this once.” The brunette looked down at the other man, his eyes harboring a sullen sorrow. “I need to do this by myself.”
“Alright.” Seifer finally caved against his will. “I’m going to be right outside though.”
”I know.” Squall told him and looked back to the album.
The blonde nodded at the young man and took his leave, albeit slowly. Squall could tell by the harshness in Seifer’s eyes that it was difficult for him to leave, but this was something the commander had to do alone.
Squall’s hands ran along the shiny black gloss of the cover to the album before his fingers closed around the edge of the cover and hefted it like a great weight. The first page held a note:
Envy, not envied. It meant that she still believed in them. Good. He needed that encouragement.
Squall took a breath as he took the first page in his hand. He summoned all his courage to turn it slowly. A frown appeared on his face as he admired himself yelling at the person with the camera, while he tried to cover himself with a towel. He found it amusing and quite an odd way to act, not to mention how out of character of himself.
As his eyes wandered over more pictures, his heartbeat slowed and his memories began to unlock. Though he’d remembered the love he and Seifer shared, he couldn’t quite remember specific times of their love, until now.
Situations and events rushed through his brain like a coursing current. His breath stopped as he remembered the particular reason why these pictures were taken—Quisty’s birthday… Quisty…
Squall’s hand trembled as he reached for the corner of the page, scared to turn it, yet excited for what he might find. The page was solid steel in his fingers and was turned at a slow-motion pace to his eyes. He stared at the new photographs that held moments of intimacy between him and the blonde caught on film. Hyne, this was…
Tears again streamed down his cheeks as the memory and various others were returned to him. He couldn’t believe how much he’d lost.
~I take leave of you. Precious fragments must me preserved.~
“What?” Squall questioned the piercing female voice in his mind.
=Your memories are much more valuable to you than I could ever be. I’m sorry that I agreed to take them from you= A deep voice replied.
“Agreed?” His eyes darted around the room, confused as he slowly stood.
<Please forgive us> A group said cryptically.
Squall gasped inadvertently as a sudden rush hit him and his junctions dissolved. He fell forward off of his chair to his knees in shock, eyes wide.
“No…” he whispered scared. Empty—it felt so empty. “NO!!!”
He heard someone burst through the door and jerked his head up to see Seifer staring at him in surprise. Streams of tears ran down his raw cheeks and a sob escaped his throat.
“They're gone. …They're GONE!” The brunette’s face fell into his hands and he wept. “I’m all ALONE!”
He felt hands close around his wrists to pull his own down, as Seifer knelt down in front of him and placed a finger under his chin. Squall blinked through his tears to see Seifer’s hands move up and wipe the wetness from his cheeks. An understanding began to form in Squall’s mind as the blonde gave him a sympathetic look.
“I have you,” Squall whispered.
Seifer nodded. “You have all of us.” His hand threaded through the chocolate locks to rest at the brunette’s neck. “You’ll never have to be alone again.”
“I didn’t want to rely on anyone.” Squall buried his face into Seifer’s chest. “I guess it’s inevitable.”
“But not totally bothersome.”
He pulled away to see Seifer’s dancing green eyes and smiled. “I hope you’re right.”
Seifer bumped foreheads with Squall. “I’m always right.” He smirked.
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