“She awake yet?” Squall asked groggily as he rolled on to his side and looked at Selphie.
“No. She hasn’t moved at all,” Kadowaki replied, gently brushing Selphie’s bangs out of her eyes tenderly.
Squall sat up and felt his stomach rumble darkly at him. Kadowaki heard it and smiled grimly, “Go get something to eat, but come back after so I can run some quick fitness tests on you.”
“Hn.” Squall got up slowly and climbed into his uniform. Every movement caused his muscles to protest, but he felt much better already.
Squall was amazed at how much he ate. So were the cafeteria chefs. After soup, sandwiches, and three of the four specials, he was finally sated. But only just. Standing up and taking a deep breath which he let out in a sigh, he began to stride back to the doctor’s office. He was worried about Selphie, and still amazed that she had summoned Ifrit. She looked almost angelic, lying there serenely, but it was a tainted image, because she wasn’t smiling. He didn’t see Selphie without a smile very often, and it was almost alarming to behold. Behind him, the other wounded student suddenly gasped. Turning around Squall watched the student writhe in the middle of a nightmare. Squall walked over and gently shook the student, who spasmed as he woke up.
Squall watched him, silent, as the disoriented student looked around, and then his eyes rested on Selphie. Squall gazed blankly as the student’s eyes teared up and suddenly he began to shake. Kadowaki rushed in and began consoling the frightened student who was murmuring about the incident being his fault. He hadn’t gone out with his partner that day. Now Selphie lay, unconscious, because of his rash actions. Inwardly, Squall wondered if being with a partner would have saved them anything at all.
Running through all the tests didn’t take long, and soon Squall was free to leave. He found Irvine and Xu helping the mech crews block all the vents. Even though the beast was gone they didn’t want to take any risks. He helped them until his strength started to fail. Annoyed by the weakness he went to his dorm to lay down.
Inside his quarters, it was tidy with the windows open letting in fresh air, the lights were off and he didn’t bother flicking them on, it was light enough outside anyway. He lay down and then looked at the clock. Beside it was a picture of Rinoa, one that hadn’t been smashed. His eyes traced over her face, his angel, though in reality she wasn’t his anymore. Had she ever been? Squall silently mused about Selphie then, how angelic she had looked, though so cold in her sleep. He was worried about her, she should have woken up. He wanted Quistis to come back with answers, something tangible they could work with. Squall sighed. He just wanted to feel better.
Nida turned after he finished packing the blood samples away and saw Quistis freeze in her place. He stood up cautiously and then began to run we he saw her whip fall and the blonde go for her gun. When Nida reached her his eyes widened and he felt his heart thud painfully against chest.
Standing over a mess of blood, his chest heaving and crimson dripping down his blade, was none other than Seifer Almasy. His narrowed eyes were sea green and appeared haunted in the dim light. The barrel of Quistis’ gun was pointed directly at him and her jaw was squared in distrust.
Zell ran over and skidded to a stop on the wooden floor, his eyes flared and his fists clenched in preparation for the fight they all expected. For a moment there was silence, and then Seifer’s eyes rolled up in his head and he crumpled to the ground. Quistis hesitantly stepped over and then knelt beside the ex-soldier, gently searching him, her hands shaking as if she were afraid he’d suddenly wake up.
“What’s he doing here?” Zell demanded.
“I have no idea,” Quistis whispered, “Either he’s out from the poison or from the malnourishment.”
When Quistis finally got back to Garden she was flanked by Nida and Zell. Behind them were two of Garden’s patrollers, and with them was Seifer Almasy, laid out on a stretcher. Her stone-cold blue eyes met every wild stare, saw past every whisper, and instilled fear into the hearts of every SeeD, Junior, and officer that was in the room.
There would be no questions asked.
Even Cid looked pale.
Quistis took Seifer to the medical office and then glared down the other patients as they watched the Sorceress’ Knight be carted in. Seifer was placed next to Selphie’s still form where needles were injected into his body, nourishing him, spells cured the toxins in his blood, and the doctor and Quistis both worked at stitching up his wounds.
“Where did you find him?” Kadowaki asked after a long time.
“Shed,” was all Quistis replied.
“And he fought with the enemy, correct?” Kadowaki pursued.
“I’ll get a sample of his blood then.”
Vials were filled, tubes inserted, taken out, moved around and then thrown into a tub of boiling water. Quistis was always amazed at how efficient the doctor was at everything; she could do nearly ten tasks all at once and never miss a beat. Quistis looked down at Seifer, a thousand questions in her mind, the largest one being what was he doing in the shed? Hiding out? When was the last time he had ate anything? He looked terrible. His cheeks were sunken in, his hair had lost its shine, and he had taken such good care of himself before.
Beside him was Selphie, a glass doll for the moment. When she was serious she lost all her cuteness, she looked…beautiful even. Quistis appraised her silent friend sadly, when would Selphie wake up? The brunette had since grown pale, there was no healthy flush on her face, and there was a continuous supply of fresh blood going into her system, cure spells cast regularly. The poison seemed to be taking a darker effect on the girl, or maybe it was the over-casting. Quistis couldn’t tell, but she had an unsettling feeling in her stomach.
Kadowaki chased Quistis out later when the blonde was only hovering and looking discontent. Once pushed out she was left to walk aimlessly down the halls until Xu put her to work sorting papers for her. All night the ex-instructor sat puzzling over Seifer as she organized files. Finally, dawn approached and she was forced to get some rest by an early-rising Xu who was appalled that Quistis had stayed up. Quistis toddled off to her dorm, falling into the covers. Why did she bring Seifer back? Was it because she felt like she owed him something? Something in return for their childhood? Quistis couldn’t think on it anymore, for her mind was finally resting, whether she liked it or not.
In the middle of the night, two eyes opened in the darkness and looked around warily. Fingers twitched, coming to life, and began to pull at the restraints binding them to the hard surface. Hair fell across skin as the figure sat up, pulling off bandages, curiously exploring the limbs, the bed, looking for any sort of light and finding only trackers and heart-beat regulators.
Selphie was confused. She found a needle in her arm and gently eased it out, replacing the bandage there and then capping the tube so none of the liquid would flow out. Looking around she slowly slipped off the bed and tested the strength in her legs by taking a practice step. Wobbling, she fell as blood rushed to her face and pins and needles flooded her limbs. Her hands darted out to catch herself and she crashed into the bed beside her. A person. Selphie shrieked and back-stepped once more. Her palm slammed against the closest wall, smacking a row of the lights on. Seifer. His face half in shadow. Selphie's breath caught in her throat and she fell over her bed before stumbling out of the doctor’s office. She couldn’t remember what day it was, or how long she had been knocked out, nor why she had had so many needles in her. The stairs seemed impossibly high that night, and the girl crawled up them, each arm stretching out as far as it could to get her to the next step.
Swaying down the hallway, the delirious SeeD tried to find her room but she was having a terrible time seeing. The numbers were so blurry now, and Selphie squinted, trying to make them out. Behind her something drew near and she turned around, her fists tightening to fend off whatever was coming her way. Unintentionally she stepped towards it, and her lack of balance threw her into the figure, the solid blackness crashed against her cheek.
“What are you doing?”
“Where am I?” Selphie blurted out, confused and clutching pieces of black material, it felt like leather.
“Selphie, you shouldn't be up.”
“Why’s Seifer back?”
Selphie began to slide down to the ground, bringing the blackness with her. It held her close and then picked her up, and when she was enveloped in the warmth Selphie closed her eyes. Who cared where she was? She felt so tired.
Sunlight streamed down on to Selphie when she woke up. A soft bed this time, no dark rooms and Knights of the past. Just a pale room with a blue bed, a curled up figure with soft brown hair, the blinds half closed and a neat orderly room…wait…
Selphie tucked some hair behind her ear and watched Squall as he slept. Memories came back to her slowly. The inferno in the Training Centre, seeing Squall about to get hurt, summoning Ifrit again and again…using her weapons, the poison, the pain, the confusion…waking up and then trying to get back to her dorm, and hitting the blackness. His jacket. Soft leather.
“Squall?” She asked, lying at his side.
He was curled up with one hand under his head, elbow thrust out, and the other carelessly thrown over his side, the fingers dangling over his back. He was porcelain-faced and breathing deeply, which made Selphie uneasy about waking him up. She had to know what had happened though.
“Squall?” Selphie gently touched Squall’s shoulder.
“Uh!” Squall’s eyes shot open and in seconds he was off the bed, standing, and his gunblade was in his hand.
Selphie’s eyed were wide as saucers and she pressed her back against the wall. Squall could have split her in two with that speed. She swallowed and then watched Squall relax somewhat; at least he put down his gunblade and then ran a hand through his hair, further messing up the silken locks. There was a long silence before Squall looked away and began to speak.
“You escaped the medical lounge, you were put in there days ago when you were attacked by the creature. We’re still not sure how you managed to summon Ifrit, the poisons in your body shouldn’t have let you.” Squall said softly, his stormy eyes looking out past the window.
Selphie sat up straighter, “I remember that!”
Squall looked back at the girl and waited for her explanation, “I felt so dizzy, but that stupid monster wasn’t about to leave me alone so I had to do something! It was really, really hard to think but Ifrit and I have been a team for so long that even though I could barely work the words he completed the summoning for me.”
Squall’s eyebrows rose slightly. If summons could complete their own castings he wondered if they could come out whenever they wanted. Inside him he felt Quezacotl stir, and a current of electricity rippled gently through his mind. Squall sighed softly. They would remain ever mysterious; the Guardian Forces liked to keep their secrets.
“Was the summoning what knocked you out?” Squall asked.
“I think so,” Selphie said in a small voice, “I…I don’t remember too well,”
“It doesn’t matter, the thing is gone,” Squall ran a hand through his hair once more and shrugged,
“Seifer fought it.”
“Oh.” Selphie bit her lip, “I’ll…um…go catch up on my school work. I probably missed a lot.”
Selphie stood up awkwardly and then started for the door. As her hand flashed over the release panel, her strength gave out in her knees and she toppled to the ground, her hand sliding down the door and her forehead resting upon it as her vision swam. Squall was at her side in seconds his hands running up her arms ever so gently as if he didn’t know what to do. Everything was getting fuzzy once more and Selphie tried to stand up but her body wasn’t moving at all. Suddenly she felt the hard pressure of Squall’s chest under her cheek. Her fingers bent to grasp his shirt for balance and she curled her body tighter as he picked her up and walked as fast as he could down to Kadowaki’s.
The doctor was in a panic, having discovered Selphie missing. When Squall showed up the woman nearly mauled him in trying to get Selphie back on her bed. A ruffled Squall managed to spit out the story while turning faintly pink before, in a fit of anger, Kadowaki threw him out. Right into a hovering Quistis.
“Squall!” Quistis stared at him in confusion, “Why were you…when did you…?”
“I found her late last night,” Squall shrugged.
“She was walking?” Quistis brightened at that.
“Yeah. This morning she was talking as usual, she fainted when she stood up,” Squall informed the blonde.
“Well, I’m glad she’s getting better. She probably had no energy,” Quistis smiled, “How are you?”
Quistis grinned. Typical Squall answer for her. His directness was a comfort for her now. Quistis’ eyes transferred over to the windows of the medical centre. The curtains had been drawn shut tightly over the glass so it was impossible for her to look in. She wanted answers from Seifer, she wanted to know why he was here.
It was unsettling to say the least. She had never thought she’d see him again. Like a sudden explosion he was back in their lives, and she had just let the ice smooth over the waters, calming herself down from the mayhem they had endured. Now it would melt and the waves would flow freely. Quistis didn’t know if she were ready for that. There was the possibility he had changed, but would it be for the worse? Had the magic run too deeply and manipulated him in such a way that he was unfixable? She didn’t know if she could trust Seifer. But then, she didn’t even know if he would stay.