Pins and Needles
Silence. He hated that silence. The kind that deafened the ears, the kind that you could see in the air. The creepy, frightening quiet that normally resided in graveyards. But this place was no graveyard, it was his home. The place he arrived in after working all day, like he was doing now, to relax. No matter how long it had been, he wouldn't get use to this silence. Their silence.
Raijin closed the door softly behind him. He couldn't hear anything yet, but he knew they were both here. He walked quietly down the small hallway leading to the living room, which were their bedrooms. Sure enough, they were there.
She had always been quiet. Her lack of speech was nothing new. But Raijin could always hear the clockwork turning inside his best friend's mind. Her mind was never, ever, quiet. Until now.
Raijin knelt down beside the unconscious Fujin. She lay on her bed, a small couch, knees pulled up to her chest. Her blue top discarded on the floor, she wore only her white cotton tanktop and her black pants. Her breathing was barely audible, even in this silence. He touched her hand lightly. No response. He remembered when all it took was for someone to get near her, and she'd wake instantly. But not now. Silence.
He, on the other hand, was not known to be quiet. His voice was loud and rough, like his whole being. That's why he was their leader. His mind was never quiet either, especially lately. Raijin knew of his nightmares. They plagued him even when he was awake. Raijin could always hear the inner war inside their leader's mind. The nightmares never left him. Until now.
Raijin looked over at the still form of their leader. Seifer was also asleep, his trenchcoat thrown on the other side of the room. He lay in his bed, which was just a mattress on the floor, facing the wall. It was dark in their house now, but he could still see Seifer's face. No frown, face not twisted with anger, or pain. Peace. Tranquility. That's why Fujin hadn't stopped him. That's why she had joined him. So she could know peace. Rajin guessed that's why he didn't stop either of them. He remembered when the night was filled with Seifer's nightmares, talking in his sleep. But not now. Silence.
Raijin turned his eyes to the middle of the room. They were there, the cause of this silence. The little plastic bag filled with the white powder. The spoon and the lighter. The hypodermic needles. Was their peace worth the price? Before, coming home meant breaking up a fight between Seifer and Fujin. The arguing, the yelling, the shin kicking. Noise, and lots of it. Now, coming home meant nothing. Silence. The only time he heard them speak was when they were demanding money to buy more of the powder.
This wasn't going to work. Raijin's job alone could not support the three of them and their habit. Seifer and Fujin had pawned everything of value that they owned, which wasn't much. They were behind on the rent and didn't have enough money for food.
"This has to stop, ya know." Raijin said to both of them. But they didn't hear. They couldn't hear. Raijin needed to get them help. Help? But, where could he go? No one would help them. Not after what they had done. They were evil, the whole world hated them. The sorceress knight, and his posse. "But, I've gotta do something! I can't just let them die, ya know!" He stated to himself. Raijin's mind was wildly running, searching for ideas.
Home, his mind showed him. Not this home, of drugs and silence. But, our old home. The bright and majestic Garden. Would they help? Would they see them as old friends, or enemies?
"I have to try, ya know. For the posse!" Raijin said, finding a new purpose. Grabbing his staff, he headed out the door of their small shack outside of Balamb. Not knowing who he would seek this help from, or how, he ran towards Balamb Garden. He would help his friends. He would break the silence.
Night had completely come when Raijin had reached Balamb Garden. He approached his former home with unease and hesitation. His fear of the residents within could not stop him from getting Seifer and Fujin the help they desperately needed. Even if all the people in the Garden wanted them dead.
Raijin looked at his watch, 8:30 it read. Most everybody is in the cafeteria for dinner, he remembered. If he snuck in though the parking lot, he could go over to the dorms and wait for someone he knew that might help him. But that wasn't going to work, he couldn't chance getting caught. Maybe Headmaster Cid could help. He might, but it would be too hard to get to him. Headmaster Cid was never alone. Don't be stupid!, he scolded himself, Think! There's gotta be some way, ya know! Seifer and Fu are hurtin'! Hurting? What did they normally do when they were hurt? Dr. Kadowaki! "She's a doctor, she's gotta help us!" He exclaimed to no one. He also remembered that Dr. Kadowaki's room was in the upper section of the dorms, where the higher-ranking SeeD's were. That meant a possible run in with Squall Leonheart and the others, which would inevitably lead to death or prison. But he knew the doctor would help, everybody else would be unlikely to aid them.
Raijin breathed a heavy sigh, concluding that this was his only option. He crept around the side of the Garden to the parking lot. There were only a few cars there and the lot was well lit. He listened closely first, and when not hearing the sounds of voices or walking, he peeked his head around the corner. Satisfied that no one was in there, he slowly walked along the wall towards the glass corridor leading to the hall.
Before opening the door in front of him, he listened for people again. Hearing none, he opened the door. He walked quickly down the outer hall toward the archway that led to the main hall. After reaching the archway, he backed against the left side of the wall. No one was approaching on the right. He turned his head around the corner, looking left. Two women were walking his way from the library. Please don't be coming to the parking lot!, he prayed to himself.
He balled up his fists and silently waited for them to pass him by. When they did, heading for the dorms, he breathed a sigh of relief. As the two women reached the archway to the dorms, Raijin looked around once more. When the coast was clear, he dashed for the dorms. As he reached the archway, he made sure nobody was coming out of the dorms. He saw no one and continued to Dr. Kadowaki's room.
The halls of the SeeD officer's dorms were quiet. It's more lavish design allowed Raijin to hide behind corners if someone approached. When he reached the doctors room, he quietly knocked. Raijin heard her response from inside and waited for her to open the door. He bit his lip in panic and looked anxiously around him. It seemed like he waited hours for her to open the door.
Dr. Kadowaki's face snapped up to Raijin when she opened the door. "Raijin!? What…"
"Please, there's an emergency, ya know!" He interrupted quickly, "Can I come in, I don't wanna get caught."
She stepped aside, to let him in, and quickly shut the door behind him. She looked at him as he paced the room. "What's going on? What's the emergency?"
Raijin stopped pacing. "It's Seifer and Fujin, they're in trouble, ya know!"
Dr. Kadowaki approached him. "Okay Raijin, calm down and tell me what happened."
He took a deep breath and held it for a second. He told her what had been happening since the three of them found themselves in Balamb after Ultimecia's defeat seven months ago. "I didn't know what else to do, Dr. Kadowaki! I can't let them go on like this!"
The doctor nodded. "I know. You did the right thing, Raijin!" she told him firmly, "Don't ever doubt that!"
Raijin nodded slowly. "But how can we help them? If our landlord finds out what they've been doing, he'll kick us out for sure! We're already really behind on the rent, ya know!"
"We're just going to have to bring them back here." She told him.
Raijin's eyes sprung wide with shock. "Here!? We can't bring 'em here! Squall would never let us back!"
Dr. Kadowaki crossed her arms. "I don't think Squall would be that unforgiving."
"But Seifer would kill me if I brought them back here! Especially if Squall knew what Seifer's been doing. He'd be humiliated, ya know!"
She frowned. "That's true, Seifer doesn't need anymore more humiliation. The recovery will be bad enough."
Raijin's face cringed in confusion. "How is recovery bad?"
The doctor looked at him and sighed. "What they have been using, the white powder, is called heroin."
"Yes, it's a highly addictive drug. Very powerful and very dangerous. It can kill you even if you've only done it once."
"It can!?" He cried.
Dr. Kadowaki nodded solemnly. "They've been very lucky, Raijin," she said, "Like I said, heroine is very addictive. When someone stops using it, they go through what's called withdrawal. And since it's a powerful drug, the withdrawal effects are very bad."
Raijin looked at the floor, devastated. "Can't you just cure 'em?"
She shook her head. "The drug is in their blood, we have to keep them somewhere safe and isolated until it's out of their system."
"How long does that take?" He asked.
"Depends on the person. It could take anywhere from a few days to two weeks."
"But where can we keep them isolated, ya know?"
She shrugged. "Only here, in the Garden."
"What about Squall?"
Dr. Kadowaki paused, thinking to herself. Her eyes lit up as an idea formed. "Raijin, I'm going to call someone to come over here. I'm pretty sure we can trust her."
Raijin looked nervous and he scratched his head. "Who?" He asked.
The young instructor had just changed out of her uniform into her normal comfortable attire when the phone rang. Weary from another long, exhausting day teaching future SeeDs, she could not imagine who would be calling her now. Groaning, she lifted the receiver.
"Quistis?" The voice on the other end of the line said.
"This is Dr. Kadowaki."
Quistis' brow creased. Why would the doctor be calling her? Please, not another injured student! "Hello Doctor."
"I have a problem here, Quistis. I need your help." She told her, in a serious tone.
A pause. "I'll explain when you get here. Come to my quarters please, as soon as you can."
Her quarters? What is going on? Quistis pondered. "Alright. I'll be there in a minute."
She heard Dr. Kadowaki let out a gasp of relief. "Thank you Quistis."
Quistis hung up her phone and left her dorm. Hearing only the light tapping of her boots on the hallway floor, she considered what kind of problem could the Garden's doctor be having? I would have been called to the infirmary if it were an injured student, she reasoned. Having reached no answer in her questioning mind, Quistis approached Dr. Kadowaki's door.
Raijin jumped at the light knocking on the door. On Dr. Kadowaki's cue, he ducked into the other room before she opened the door. From around the corner, he heard the footsteps of the posse's former instructor walk into the room.
"Thank you for coming." He heard the doctor say.
"Can you tell me what's going on, Tayle?" Quistis said, impatiently.
The doctor nodded. "Someone has come and alerted me of a life threatening situation. But, I will not be able to handle this on my own."
"What about your nurses?" She wondered.
"I can't trust them with this." Tayle claimed, watching Quistis' face form a shocked and puzzled expression. "It's a delicate situation."
"Who is this person that told you about it?"
Tayle Kadowaki turned her head toward the other room, where Raijin was hiding. This was his cue to come out. Raijin approached the two women slowly. He watched Instructor Trepe's face flood with expressions.
What is he doing here?
How did he get in here?
If he's here, that means…
As Fujin would put it, RAGE!
Quistis could feel her face flush red with anger. "What the hell…" She started loudly.
"Calm down!" Tayle demanded. "I can see you're angry, but please calm down."
She gazed at her former enemy again, her sapphire eyes narrowing. Angry could not begin to describe her feelings, and that anger certainly wasn't for Raijin. Quistis saw his face now. Fear? Does he fear me? Or what the others might do if they find him here? He fears for his life, she concluded. Why would he come here if he feared us? "Alright. Who is in danger, Raijin?"
She saw him swallow hard before his answer came. "Fujin…and Seifer."
The very mention of his name sparked her fury again, but she fought it down this time. She didn't want to take her animosity towards Seifer Almasy against Raijin. "What's happened?"
"From what Raijin has told me," Dr. Kadowaki stepped in, "they have been using drugs."
"Why?" She questioned.
Tayle shook her head. "I'll explain later. But right now, I have to get over there and check on their conditions. One, or both, of them could be dying."
Quistis saw Raijin wince at those words. "What exactly do you want me to do?"
The doctor hesitated. "I need your help in transporting them here."
Raijin watched the same shocked look spring on the instructor's face.
"Here!?" Quistis had repeated his exclamation with the same stunned tone.
"Regardless of what they did, I am a doctor and I must help them if they're lives are in jeopardy." Dr. Kadowaki stated firmly.
"That's all good for you! But I have no obligation to them!" She protested venomously.
"They are the enemy for Hyne's sake!"
Raijin heard her words. Enemy. No, he thought. They knew what they had done was wrong. They admitted it. Well, maybe not Seifer. But Seifer didn't want to fight anymore. Neither did he.
Quistis saw Raijin take a small step forward. Her hand instinctively went to her side, grasping for her whip. When her hand grabbed nothing but air, she realized she'd left it in her room. Why would she have brought her weapon with her?
"No." Raijin spoke, his voice low but forceful. "We're not the enemy anymore. We don't wanna fight you guys anymore. We don't wanna fight anybody." He told her, desperation flooding his face. "But we knew you'd never forgive us. It's as much Edea's fault as it is Seifer's, but you forgave her! I know it's because you all hated Seifer before."
Quistis shook her head. "I didn't hate Seifer until he put my name on that Hyne-forsaken list of his! He got me fired, dammit!" She said harshly. She could feel the tears forming already. Fight them, Quisty! Don't start bawling like a child now!
Raijin winced at her enraged voice. He'd never seen her like this before.
"And why? Because I teased him by wishing him luck!" Quistis continued.
Raijin recalled that day with sadness. That's when it had all started. Seifer's third failure of the SeeD field exam. Their blonde leader had been sure he would pass that time. He was wrong. "He was wrong, Quistis." Raijin said softly, turning to her overwhelmed face again. "He hadn't planned to turn it in. But he was mad, ya know! He failed the exam again. He knew he couldn't blame Squall or Zell, cause they were under his command. So he blamed you. But he was wrong! I knew it, Fujin knew it, and he knew it too!"
Dr. Kadowaki had remained quiet for this battle, but time was running short. "Quistis, you and Raijin can talk about this later. Time is important here." She told her. "This is what I would like for you to do. I need you to help Raijin sneak out of this room. I will go get my van from the parking lot. We'll go to Balamb together and evaluate their condition. If it's not an emergency, then we will transport them here and isolate them for their withdrawal."
"That could take weeks!" Quistis exclaimed.
"I know. But there are two rooms in the infirmary that we can close off for both of them."
"You want to hide them from everybody for two weeks? That's impossible!" Quistis objected.
"No, it's not. This is where you will come in. I won't be able to watch over them all day and night. We'll need more help."
Raijin groaned loudly. More people would have to know they were here? That his friends were doing that heroin stuff? What else could I do? I had no choice, ya know. "How many people?" He asked.
"Obivilously Cid and Edea. Edea has medical knowledge, so she can watch them at night. She'll also be able to keep Seifer more comfortable." She said, getting a small 'hmph' from Quistis. "And Cid because he's the headmaster, and he'll be able to cover for all of us incase people start asking questions. We might be able to get him to send Squall on a mission, to make things easier."
"No, Squall cannot know about this! That is a necessity." She told Quistis. "Now, people have been know to panic when going through withdrawal of heroin. I won't be able to handle it by myself if that happens. Raijin can do that, he'll be able to restrain Seifer in his weakened state. One more person for Fujin and the daytime will be covered. You could help Edea at night. But you both will need one more person, who should be male, incase Seifer goes beserk at night."
"I have classes. I can't possibly teach and watch over them at night as well!"
"I can take care of that." Dr. Kadowaki smiled for the first time the whole night. "You're sick Quistis, you need a couple weeks off to recover."
I can't believe this, Quistis' mind cried. "What about the other two people? Who else is going to go along with this?"
Raijin's eyes burst with exuberance. "Does this mean you'll help?"
Quistis rolled her eyes and pushed up her glasses. "Yes." She replied, and was taken by surprise when the massive hulk wrapped his arms around her in a hug.
"Thank you! Thanks, Instructor Trepe!" Raijin's muffled cry came from her shoulder. Seeing Raijin express such joy, she couldn't help but smile.
Quistis watched the night scenery roll by from the passenger side of Dr. Kadowaki's van. Even though the ride to Balamb was a short one, the thoughts and questions that kept popping up in her mind made it take forever. How did I get talked into this? Why am I helping them? That last thought brought her eyes forward. I feel bad for Raijin and Fujin. In order to help them, I have to help Seifer too. But I despise him! He was our enemy! Not only that, but he's an arrogant pig! Always has been! He got my license taken away! I should be letting him kill himself! Why am I doing this? Why? Her eyes rolled at that. Who am I going to convince to help us? Her mind visually went through her friends.
The secretary. Xu? No chance! She hates Seifer more than I do!
The pilot. Nida either, same reason.
The tattooed martial artist. Again, same reason.
The spunky messenger. Possible. I'll bribe her by joining the Festival committee.
The cowboy. Maybe. I'll bribe him too. But if he asks for sex I'll maim him!
The sorceress. Probably not. Seifer did throw her to Adel. Besides, she wouldn't be able to keep this from…
Quistis did not want to think about Squall now, but she couldn't help it. What if Squall found out? What would he think of his rival's drug habit? Would he feel bad? Would he laugh? No. Squall would probably be too shocked and angry that he was even in the Garden to care what he'd been doing. Quistis inwardly groaned. I have to keep this secret from everyone? I have to lie to my students and friends!? For Seifer!? I have to let the enemy back in the Garden and keep it a secret!? That makes me a traitor! A worthless traitor! Just like him! What the hell am I doing!? They trust me and I'm betraying them! Why!?
She looked over at Dr. Kadowaki for a moment, then turned her eyes away again. She the one who talked me into this. Made me hurry and get in this car before I had time to think about it like this. Before I could tell her no! She knew I wouldn't want to help! Why did she do this to me? Why?
"It's right over there!" Quistis heard Raijin tell them. She looked at Raijin's house as they pulled up to it. House? That's barely a building! When the car stopped, she got out and looked at the home of the 'posse'. It was very small. It didn't look comfortable for one person to live in, let alone three. It had to be over fifty years old. "You pay rent for this place?" Quistis asked Raijin, who lowered his head.
"This was the only place somebody would let us stay." He replied.
Nice, Quistis. Real nice. She scolded herself, regretting her comment. "I…I'm sorry."
"I understand, ya know." Raijin said, attempting to smile. Then, the dark expression reappeared. "Come on in."
Quistis followed after Raijin and Dr. Kadowaki inside the house. Inside it was dark. The only light coming from the window, where the moon's glow seemed to invade rather than shed light. Then she saw him.
Oh…oh Hyne…Seifer? The Seifer Almasy she remembered was larger than life in every way. Muscular and powerful body to go along with the personality. She remembered he was very particular about his physical appearance. Quistis had admitted to herself on more than one occasion of his good looks, even though he was a jerk.
But this Seifer Almasy was different. He'd lost a lot of weight and muscle, probably from lack of food and exercise. Quistis approached the sleeping figure slowly. She could see his face now. His hair had grown longer, almost down to his chin. It was dirty and tangled. He hadn't showered or shaved in weeks. The temples of his forehead and his cheeks were sunk in slightly. He seemed as though he'd aged ten years. Is the moonlight making his skin so pale? He looked dead. She crouched down quickly when she realized that he might actually be dead. She went to feel for a pulse, but hesitated.
"Don't worry." Raijin said to her. "He won't wake up."
Quistis nodded and felt Seifer's wrist. It was there, a little too slow, but there. "He's alive and he's breathing normally." She said, gazing over to where Dr. Kadowaki was examining Fujin.
Fujin!? Seifer's appearance had been shocking, but not nearly as bad as Fujin. The already thin woman was now extremely gaunt, skeletal. Her skin had always been pale, but at least her lips had been pink, not white. Her hair was now down to her shoulders, also disheveled and unwashed.
"This isn't good." The doctor said. "Her pulse is too weak and her breathing is shallow. We need to get her back to the Garden, now."
"Is she gonna die?" Raijin asked anxiously.
Dr. Kadowaki looked at him. "I don't know. I'll go open the doors for you. Quistis, you get Fujin and lay her down in the back. Raijin, I'll come back and help you with Seifer." She directed them.
"What about that?" Raijin asked, pointing to the middle of the room.
Quistis looked over where he pointed. The heroin. Seifer and Fujin's sickness and salvation. Their pain and pleasure. It was there, along with the instruments to use it.
"Get a bag and put all that stuff in it. I'll need to dispose of it properly. I don't want any kids to find it in the trash." Tayle told him.
He nodded and went off to find a bag. Dr. Kadowaki left to open her van doors, leaving Quistis alone in the house. Still kneeling by Seifer, she gazed down at him again. His arm donned dozens of tracks. The pinpricks of the needle. Some used more than others.
She heard Raijin come back and begin putting the heroin and it's components in the bag.
"How long have they been doing this?" She asked.
Raijin looked over at her. "Seifer started about a month after Ultimecia. Fu started a couple weeks after."
"Six months!" Quistis exclaimed, trying to keep her voice down. Raijin nodded, standing to take the bag to the van. Quistis stood as well, walking over to where Fujin lay. She gently moved her arms under Fujin's head and knees. The comatose woman didn't flinch as Quistis lifted her. She weighs almost nothing!
She felt a little better now that she was outside, carefully placing Fujin in the back of the van. She looked back at their house just to see Raijin and Dr. Kadowaki, holding up Seifer in between them. They eased him cautiously into the back, alongside Fujin. Quistis couldn't believe they hadn't awoke. She waited until Raijin went back in the house for the posses few possessions.
"Is this what heroin does?" Quistis asked the doctor.
"Yes, for the first few hours. But they might come around on the drive back, depending on how long ago they used it last."
Quistis placed her hands on her hips. "How are we going to get them in the infirmary?"
"You're going to drop me off at the parking lot and then drive over to the back door of the infirmary. We'll get them in there, and I'll get Fujin taken care of. That's when you need to talk to who ever you're getting to help. We'll all gather in the infirmary and talk about it." She told them.
Raijin had come back with the rest of their things in a trash bag, along with their weapons. "Could you carry this?" He asked holding out Seifer's gunblade. Raijin chuckled uneasily. "It's a good thing I didn't let him pawn it. He woulda been pissed, ya know!"
Pawn his gunblade!? Is that how desperate he was for the drugs? Quistis took the Hyperon in her hands in shock. Shock. This had to be the most shocking night of her life. She was beginning to thing that she was just dreaming. Dreaming, safe and sound in her dorm room back at the Garden. Not outside a shack with the doctor and the former Disciplinary Committee.
"Alright, let's go." Tayle said, starting up her van.
Quistis watched the night scenery roll by from the passenger side of Dr. Kadowaki's van, again. Even though the ride to the Garden was a short one, the thoughts and questions that kept popping up in her mind made it take forever. How did they get like this? Why did they start doing heroin? Her eyes looked forward again, and her mind began to race quickly. I feel bad for Raijin, having to support them. He's been practically alone for the last six months. I want to help them. But I despise him, don't I? He was my enemy! But so was Edea, because she was possessed. Was he? He had to have been! He was a wretched person, but he wouldn't do those things of his own free will? Would he? He was my student. Not only that, but I grew up with him. He was an orphan just like me. I can't just let him kill himself! Why are they doing this? Why?
Quistis sat rubbing her temples in the front seat of Tayle Kadowaki's van, parked outside of the Garden by the infirmary. Surprisingly, neither Seifer nor Fujin had awoken during the way back. Quistis was now praying silently. Please Hyne, don't let them wake till we get them to their rooms! Not until they're safely hidden! Safe? Could they be safe during their stay? Right now, this place was the most dangerous place for them to be. Should someone discover their presence, they wouldn't be in any condition to fight or even escape. Lambs to the slaughter. Quistis knew that soon she would be asking people for help with this. She didn't want to force them as she had sort of been. Who would she go to first? I don't want to go to Cid and Edea by myself. But everyone else will react as I did! Selphie didn't know Seifer before, Quistis thought, but then added, That could be a good thing too! I wish I could remember something good about Seifer to encourage her. Selphie has only really known him as an enemy. If she thought there was something good about him, she might be more inclined to help.
And then it hit her. Irvine! Quistis stopped rubbing her temples as she thought of the Galbadian cowboy. He was the one that remembered their childhood together the best. Maybe he remembered Seifer in a different way? At least if he didn't, he would be able to realize most of the reason Seifer was the way he was. A lonely, abandoned orphan, just like them. It might be a long shot, but worth a try. Besides, with Irvine's help it would be easier to get Selphie. They have always been close friends.
"Whatcha thinkin' about, instructor?" Raijin asked her from the passenger side. He had been lost in his own thoughts and worries when he saw the instructor deep in hers.
Quistis looked over to him and gave a small smile. "Please, just Quistis." She told him. "I was thinking of asking Irvine for help first. He might remember Seifer better from when we were kids."
"Who's Irvine? And how does he know Seifer?" Raijin asked.
Quistis looked at him perplexed. Then, she realized that he didn't know anything about Irvine Kinneas or the orphanage. Or maybe he did, and just forgot because of GF's like they had. "Did Seifer ever tell you anything about his childhood?" She asked.
Raijin shrugged. "Just that he was sent here to the Garden when he was ten. Why?"
"Well, before he came here, he lived in an orphanage. Irvine Kinneas lived there too, as did I."
"You grew up with Seifer?"
"Yes. So did Zell Dincht."
"Chicken-wuss too?" Raijin said using Seifer's term for Zell, but not as insultingly.
"And Selphie Tilmitt."
"Umm… she graduated SeeD with Zell and Squall."
"Oh, that hyper girl?"
Quistis laughed lightly. "That's her." She told him, then hesitated, wondering what he would think of the next person. "Squall grew up there too."
Raijin looked shocked. "Squall and Seifer grew up together? Did they always hate each other?"
"I think so. Headmaster Cid and Edea ran the orphanage."
"So all you guys grew up together in an orphanage. Seifer never told me that. I knew he was an orphan, so are me and Fujin." Raijin told her. "Didn't you guys feel bad about havin' to fight Edea and Seifer?"
Quistis sighed. "We didn't remember that we'd all grown up together until Irvine told us at Trabia Garden, after Seifer blew it up." She regretted adding that last part.
"But how could you forget something like that?" He asked. Quistis explained about how Guardian Force's make people lose their memories. "Wow. I wonder about all the things that I might have forgotten."
Dr. Kadowaki came out the door of the infirmary, telling them that the coast was clear. Tayle and Raijin got Seifer first, taking him inside the Garden. Quistis followed, carrying Fujin. After both of them were in their rooms, and Fujin was given an IV, the three of them stood in the doctor's office.
"This is what we'll do now." Dr. Kadowaki told them. "I'll go to Cid and Edea, get them down here, and explain the situation. I think they'll respect my position as a doctor. Quistis, you go talk to whoever you have in mind and get them down here. But when you talk to them, you must get them to keep this a secret, before you tell them exactly what they have to keep a secret."
"Easier said than done!" Quistis retorted bitterly.
Tayle understood. "I know, but I know you can do it. You can do anything, Quistis. That's why I called you. That stuff about you not having leadership skills is rubbish!"
Quistis' mouth gaped, too overwhelmed to speak. Raijin nodded in compliance. "What do you want me to do, ya know?"
"You're going to stay here and watch Seifer, make sure he doesn't flip when he finds out where he is." Quistis told him.
"I'm going to lock the door behind me, Raijin. And when we get everyone here, stay with him until I come in and get you."
He nodded and went in the room with Seifer. The two women left the infirmary to their respective destinations.
Quistis got to Irvine Kinneas' room quickly. It was only 10:00, so he might not be asleep. She just hoped he wasn't in there with anyone. As she held her ear against the door, she discovered that her hopes were not answered.
Irvine was just about to get Geena's shirt off when there was a knock at the door. His first reaction of the knock was anger. Then panic when he thought it might be another woman he'd invited over that night. He rose from his bed and went to the door.
Quistis tried to stifle a laugh when she saw Irvine after the door opened. He was in his jeans, without a shirt, but still wearing the cowboy hat. He had a look of irritation on his face. He stood in the doorway, blocking her view of whoever was behind him.
"Well, Instructor Trepe," He said loudly, and Quistis could hear someone scrambling out of the bed and hiding in the bathroom. He's with one of my students again! I'll have to remember to scold him later. "What brings you here?" He asked innocently.
She smiled slyly. "Don't worry, I don't care which of my students you're with." She said quietly, smile dissolving into a look of all seriousness. "I need to talk to you now. It's very important. Meet me in my quarters in five minutes." She said, knowing he was going to take this the wrong way. "I'm serious, Irvine. There is a critical situation happening that I need your help with."
He noted her words and nodded, retreating back into his room. She sighed and left for her own dorm. Quistis immediately went for her aspirin. Irvine was there in three minutes.
"What's the problem?" He asked, taking a seat in one of her chairs.
Quistis breathed out heavily, sitting down as well. "Before I tell you that, there are a few things I have to clear with you."
Quistis clenched her fists. "Everything I'm about to tell you and everything you're going to see must not be told to anybody. This must be kept in complete secrecy, even from our friends. Especially Squall."
It was Irvine's turn to be confused. "You sound so serious. How big is this secret?"
"It's pretty big." She stated. "Actually, it's really big! That's why it must be a secret! I'm not going to tell you what it is, until you promise not to tell anyone!"
"Okay, I won't tell anyone." Irvine said.
Quistis shook her head. "No, Irvine. You must think about it before you make that promise. You absolutely cannot tell anyone what I tell you. If you told, It could mean death to a number of people, including me."
Now, it was his turn to be shocked. "Death? Sweet Hyne, what the hell is going on!?"
Quistis sighed again. "If you refuse, I'll understand. If I had been given the time to think about it like I'm giving you, I would have probably said no. But now that I've seen… Anyway, if you can't make that promise, I only ask that you not tell anyone that you were here."
"Does anybody else know this secret?"
"Yes, but I can't tell you who."
Irvine looked directly into her eyes. "Is this that important to you?"
"Yes." She replied.
"Alright Quistis, I promise I won't tell anyone the secret."
Quistis finally unclenched her fists. "Thank you, Irvine."
Irvine nodded, pulling his chair closer to hers. "Now, what is this about?"
There was a slight narrowing of his eyes. "What about him?"
She bit her lip. "He's… here."
"Here? As in, here in the Garden?" He said surprisingly calmly.
"Yes. I…brought him here."
The calm was now lost. "What!?"
"Shut up! Dammit, I told you this was important!"
He settled down slightly. "You have a really good reason I suppose?"
"Yes, I'm going to explain everything." Quistis said.
After a shortened version, but nothing excluded, of the night's events so far, Irvine shook his head. "Heroin? He was the last guy I thought would get messed up in that." He told her, getting a concurring nod from Quistis. "So, what now?"
"Well, we still need one person."
"Did you have someone in mind?" He asked.
"I was thinking Selphie."
"Yeah, she would help. But I don't know if she could deal with the keeping it a secret part." Irvine suggested. "It's not that she has a big mouth, she can keep a secret. But the weight of it alone would take a toll on her behavior. People would noticed if Selphie wasn't being all happy like she usually is, especially Rinoa."
Quistis frowned. "You think she wouldn't be able to hide it?"
"Probably not, and definitely not from Rinoa. Selphie would feel guilty about having to keep such a big secret from her best friend." Irvine told her.
Quistis nodded. Rinoa and Selphie had become very close friend after Ultimecia's downfall. "You're right. I don't want to do that to her! You have any suggestions?"
"Actually, yes. And you're gonna think I'm nuts when I say who!" Irvine said.
"Just tell me."
Quistis rolled her eyes. "Holy Hyne, Irvine! You are nuts! He hates Seifer!"
Irvine smirked. "So did you."
She was taken back by his comment to say the least. Indeed, she had hated him. But what surprised her more was that he used the sentence in past tense. "And you think he would be able to keep this under raps?"
"He's kept a lot of things under raps. You'd be surprised. Zell and I have been getting along really well, and he's confessed a few things to me. I'll tell you one, just because it will help our cause."
Quistis' brow frowned. "What?"
"If you asked Zell to watch Seifer, he would do it. And keep it a secret."
"Why me?" She asked.
"Because Zell Dincht is in love with our little Instructor Trepe."
Hyne, I can't take much more of this! "He's in love with me?"
"Uh huh." Irvine said with a silly grin on his face. Quistis clasped her forehead, on the verge of tears. Irvine's grin quickly faded. "Is this bad news?"
Quistis shook her head. "You shouldn't have told me that!"
"Because! By going to him and asking for his help, I'd be using him! Using the love or whatever he feels for me to get my way! It's wrong, Irvine!"
Irvine groaned. "I know that Quistis! But so is this whole situation! Bringing Seifer back into the Garden is wrong! Lying to our friends is wrong! Treason is wrong, Quistis! This goes against every rule and moral code we have!" Irvine stated harshly. He stopped when he saw Quistis' tears. "But there's a reason we're doing this."
She laughed bitterly, wiping away the tears. "There is?"
"Regardless of what they've done, Seifer and Fujin are still human beings. And they're lives are in danger. We may not be doctors, but we are human too. Helping them goes against our moral code as SeeD's. But not helping them goes against our moral code as human beings." Irvine told her.
Quistis looked at him surprised. That had to be the most intelligent thing he's ever said. "What about Zell?" She asked.
Irvine shrugged. "I think he'll understand."
Quistis let out another exasperated sigh. "I hope so."
Zell leafed through the book he'd got from the library with a skeptical mind. Why am I reading this? She'd never go out with me! He closed the book in frustration, gazing at the title again.
"'How to approach women.' Yeah right!" He said aloud to no one. This book doesn't help when you're the shyest guy and in love with the most unapproachable woman! He wondered why he continued to fantasize about her. It was hopeless. She was so high above him, a perfect being. At first he thought it was just her looks that had captivated him. But there were a lot of pretty girls. Rinoa and Selphie were pretty. But Quistis was different. She was beautiful. Not many girls in the Garden possessed such beauty. She wasn't a just a girl, she was a woman. A very intelligent woman. He'd lost count of how many times he'd grabbed a dictionary after she'd used some big word he didn't know. He'd tried so hard to get into her class when he was still a student. But, of course, it was full. Everyone in the Garden loved Instructor Trepe.
Zell broke out of his revelry when he heard knocking at the door. He quickly shoved his book in his desk and went to the door. His heart stopped when he opened it.
"Quistis!" He said a little too excited. Calming himself a little, he continued. "I didn't expect to see you tonight."
"I know, I'm sorry if I'm disturbing you." She told him.
"You're not disturbing me. I was just reading." Zell said, hoping she would not ask what he'd been reading.
Quistis looked down both ends of the dorm hall, then back at him. "May I come in?"
Zell immediately stepped out of her way. "Of course!" She nodded, quickly entering his room. Zell closed the door behind her and took a long glance at her. She seemed tired, stressed. Worry instantly invaded his mind. "Is something wrong? Are you okay, Quisty?"
She gave him a small smile and sat down in a chair. "I'm fine Zell. Thank you. But I need to speak with you."
Zell took the seat next to her. With a closer look, he could see she'd been crying. Crying!? "Have you been crying?"
Quistis looked at him, an expression ridden with guilt. "There's something I have to ask of you."
"It's a big favor, I hate myself for even coming to you…"
Zell shook his head. "No, don't say that. I'll do anything for you." He paused, blushing slightly. "You're my friend, Quisty. No favor is too big!" He corrected himself.
She didn't say anything, seeming to be searching for the right words. "You're not going to like it."
Zell looked at her in disbelief and bewilderment. "How do you know?"
A laugh that sounded almost sadistic escaped her mouth. "Trust me, you won't like it."
He sighed and took a brave step by taking her hand in his. "Just tell me what's happening." He asked softly.
Quistis bit her lip. "First, I have to ask you to keep everything I'm going to tell you a secret."
"Yes, nobody must find out what I tell you. Not even our other friends." She paused, "Especially them."
"Why?" He asked.
Quistis eyes almost started flooding again, but he could see her fighting them back. "I can't tell you until you promise not to tell them. I know this is confusing, but it's necessary. Myself and some others could get in very serious trouble if you said anything."
Why is she in trouble? And who else is in on this, whatever it is? "Okay, Quisty. I promise I won't say anything to anyone. I swear." He told her.
She nodded, visibly relieved. "Some…people are sick. Very sick. They need our help. Dr. Kadowaki and myself need help to watch over them until they get better…" she stopped, "Oh Hyne, I'm talking to you like you're a child! I'm sorry Zell."
He didn't care, he was too worried about her to notice her way of speaking to him. "It's not you is it?"
"No." She assured him. "It's not any of our friends either."
Of course, stupid, he scolded himself. If it was, why would it need to be kept a secret from everyone? The preverbal light bulb appeared over his head. Wait a minute! If someone's sick, why would it need to be a secret? And why won't I like this? "Who's sick, Quistis?"
Quistis saw the suspicion creep on Zell's face. He was catching on, fast. Here goes. "Fujin and Seifer."
What happened next was a complete surprise to Quistis. She'd expected surprise, shock, and intense anger. She saw the surprise and the shock. But no anger. She wondered if it was just delayed.
Seifer…She wants to help Seifer? Why? She hates him! Probably just as much as I do! He's our enemy, he betrayed us! Now she wants to help him? And hide it from everyone! "Quistis…I'm confused. Why are you helping him?"
"I know you're confused. So was I. I couldn't believe I was going along with this. But then I saw him and Fujin… It was horrible. They don't even look the same anymore."
"What's wrong with them?" He asked.
"They've been doing drugs. Heroin. Raijin came to Dr. Kadowaki for help. Raijin has been supporting them and their drug habit for six months." Quistis said to him. She begun telling the whole story for the second time that night.
"You mean they're already here in the Garden?" Zell asked after hearing her tale.
"Yes, in the infirmary. Dr. Kadowaki went to talk to Cid and Edea. Raijin is already there keeping an eye on Seifer. And Irvine's down there waiting for us." She said.
"Irvine knows?" She went to him first? Does she trust him more, he asked himself. No, she probably thought that Irvine wouldn't be as pissed as she thought I'd be.
"Yes, he suggested that I ask you instead of Selphie. He said you would be able to hide the secret better than she." Quistis admitted to him.
Zell nodded. "Yeah, I can see that. You can always tell when something is bothering Selphie by her attitude." He added. "So basically, he told you to come to me because there was nobody else."
Quistis shook her head. "No, that's not why." She told him. Well, it's not a lie. But I can't tell him why. "I could have probably convinced Xu."
Quistis looked at the ground. She hated having to lie to him. But it would be too embarrassing for him if he found out she knew about his affections for her. "Irvine told me that you two have been becoming good friends."
Then why didn't he come and tell me this? Why did he send her, his mind questioned. Then, it hit him all of a sudden. What else has he told her? He wouldn't tell her that I love her, would he? He looked over at her searching her face.
Quistis looked up from the floor to his face. He was staring at her, with a worried expression. Oh no! He's figuring it out! I didn't want this! Dammit it all! What do I do? Hyne, I hate myself for this! I don't want to use him! He'll hate me!
Zell swallowed hard. She didn't have to say anything. Irvine had told her. He could tell by her face. Her mind was panicking. "He told you, didn't he? He told you about…me."
Her resolve could hold no longer. Quistis Trepe broken into tears right before his eyes. "I'm sorry! I wish he hadn't told me. I can't lie to you, you're my friend."
He could hear his heart breaking in his chest. "So, I guess…you…don't…"
"No, that's not it!" She protested before he could finish. "I don't know how I feel yet. It's just that I only found out ten minutes ago."
A wave of relief and hope passed over him. "Then what is it?"
Quistis looked away. "I don't want to use your…feelings to get my way. Irvine knew that you would help if I asked you to. I didn't want to, but I knew you'd help if I did. But either way you look at it, I'm using you."
Zell sighed heavily. She's only worried about my feelings. She probably thinks that I'll hate her because of this. Even in this strange situation they were in, he smiled. "Quistis…" He said softly.
She started at him confused. "What?"
"You must have a heart of gold."
Quistis wiped the tears from her eyes. "No, I'm horrible."
"No!" He exclaimed. "Look at what you're doing. You're going against everything that SeeD is. Keeping some of your friends in the dark, and dragging the others down with you. Worried, frustrated, and crying over this! And for who? Seifer Almasy! A guy you don't even like! The traitor! You're doing all this to help him and Fujin. And on top of that, you didn't want to ask for my help because you feel that you'd be using me. All this just got thrown on your shoulders and you're worried about my feelings!?"
Quistis lowered her head. "Don't say these things! I'm not perfect."
Zell gently lifted her head and looked in her eyes. "I know that now. I thought you were. But there is no such thing as a perfect person. But the side of you, the imperfect side, that you've shown me tonight hasn't made me hate you." Infact, I think I've just fallen even more in love with you, he said to himself.
Quistis smiled warmly at him. "Thanks Zell. After…after this is over…"
Zell nodded. "Don't worry about it now. Let's just worry about the mission we have to do. For now, use me. Use me all you want."
Zell and Quistis had successfully made their way down to the infirmary hall unnoticed. There, they met Irvine, who was standing partially in the shadows. He was trying to be still, his hands shoved in the pockets of his duster.
"They're not back yet?" Quistis asked him, as they huddled together in a corner.
"No." He replied, looking over at Zell who was avoiding his eyes.
Quistis brushed a strand of her hair back. "I'm gonna go peek down the hall." She told them, proceeding back towards the archway.
Irvine took this opportunity to speak with his friend. "Zell?" Zell still did not meet his eyes. "If it's worth anything, I'm sorry."
He seemed to be fighting his anger. "It's alright." Zell responded quietly. "I just wish you'd picked a better time."
"I know. But I really didn't have a choice," Irvine admitted, "I knew you would help, for her. But she didn't know that."
"Yeah, I understand. I just hope this doesn't screw up my chances. They weren't great to begin with!"
"Don't worry, man!" He assured him. "You just gotta keep your cool."
Zell turned his gaze back to Quistis. She was coming back towards them. "They're coming."
"Good." Irvine noted. "I feel like a sitting duck out in this hall!"
Dr. Kadowaki, Cid, and Edea strode quietly down the hall towards the three SeeDs. Cid and Edea Kramer both wore an expression of paternal worry. Tayle acknowledged Irvine and Zell. "Thank you both for helping."
They nodded, following the others inside the infirmary after she'd unlocked it. Dr. Kadowaki turned on the lights and the group formed a circle in her office.
"Alright," Tayle began, "I trust Quistis has explained the secrecy issue to you both?" Both boys regarded her with a nod. "Good. Now, this is the situation. We have two drug addicts on our hands. Seifer's vitals are good and aside from malnutrition, he'll be fine. Fujin, however, is in critical condition. I didn't want to say this in front of Raijin, but I'm not sure if she'll survive." This statement produced surprise from everyone except Quistis. "If she does survive, her withdrawal will be extremely hard and painful. The withdrawal alone might kill her. Quistis, Irvine," Tayle said, looking at them, "you will be the ones looking after her. You must do everything, short of giving her more heroin, to make her comfortable. Keep an eye on her vitals, which I'll show you how to do. You'll need to be kind, calm, and gentle with her. No excitement or panic!"
"Why?" Zell asked curiously.
"Heroin effects the heart's function. Even the slightest excitement could cause heart failure. That's why you must keep her calm. It won't be easy, especially when she finds out where she is." She told them. "Now, I'm going to get Raijin. He needs to hear this part. I'm also going to check on Seifer. Quistis, take everyone in to see Fujin and have Edea check up on her."
Tayle went to the room Raijin and Seifer were in. Quistis lead the others to the room next door. She opened it and everyone filed in, one at a time.
"Fujin?" Zell exclaimed quietly, as if his voice alone would shatter the figure of the woman lying on the infirmary bed.
Edea moved to the bedside, glancing over at the monitors. "Poor girl." Her voice said softly.
"I don't remember her being that skinny!" Irvine said more to himself.
Quistis nodded. "She doesn't even weight more than ninety pounds."
Matron turned to Quistis, her eyes brimming with tears. "I want to see him."
She led them out the door and into the office. Dr. Kadowaki was already there with Raijin. Cid and Edea went into Seifer's room while Raijin looked nervously at Zell and Irvine.
Zell noticed this and held out his hand. "It's cool with us, Raijin. You don't have to worry."
The relief washed over his face. He took Zell's hand and shook it. "I'm sorry, ya know, for draggin' you all into this. I just couldn't let this go on!"
"Hey, it's okay…" Irvine stopped, hearing a soft cry coming from Seifer's room. He, Zell, and Quistis entered, seeing Edea kneeling by Seifer's side. Irvine was taken back as well by Seifer's appearance. "You can hardly recognize him."
"My boy…" Matron wept by Seifer's side, "Oh my poor Seifer…" She touched his face lightly. Matron's eyes shone with a maternal anguish and worry.
Dr. Kadowaki came in the room, sighing as she saw Matron. "Come back into the office please. I don't want him waking yet." Matron nodded and followed the others back. "Okay. Raijin, Zell," Tayle said, gazing at them, "you'll be watching Seifer. This will not be easy either. In fact, this will probably be harder. I say this because Fujin will have a harder withdrawal, but she won't be able to move around for most of it. She'll probably need to be bedridden for a while even after it's over. Seifer…" She paused. "Okay, I'm going to be honest with you. This next week for you two is going to be hell." Zell rolled his eyes, Raijin's face fell even more.
"Why do you say that?" Cid asked, speaking for the first time since arriving.
"Well, let me tell you some of the withdrawal symptoms of heroin. There's loss of appetite, muscle cramps, nausea, insomnia, chills, tremors, and panic." She stated, getting gasps from everyone. "Those are just the usual ones. Some people have experienced much more severe symptoms, like hallucinations."
"Are you saying that Seifer is going to be going through all that?" Irvine exclaimed harshly.
"Most of it, yes." The doctor answered. "I'll be honest with you, he's going to be a handful! The main thing you'll need to do is try to keep him calm and quiet, especially during the day. If worse comes to worse, we can restrain and sedate him." Dr. Kadowaki told them.
Matron shifted herself slightly, showing that she wished to speak. "Raijin?"
Raijin popped his head up in attention. "Yes, Mrs. Kramer?"
Edea folded her arms across her chest. "Why? Why are they like this?"
Raijin sighed heavily, then took a deep breath. "It started about six months ago. Seifer was going nuts havin' to sit at home alone all day, with me and Fujin workin'. He never told us, but Fujin heard him talkin' to himself. She said that he was hearing voices in his head."
"Voices?" Zell asked in disbelief.
Raijin didn't pick up on the skepticism and nodded. "She said it sounded like they were callin' him names. Cause he was sayin' stuff like 'No I'm not' and 'Shut up'. But that was just during the day. At night, he couldn't sleep good cause of the nightmares, ya know. He'd be tossin' and turnin', then he'd wake up screamin'." Raijin told them, visibly disturbed by his own words. Recalling the many times before when the night was filled with Seifer's screams.
"Do you know what the nightmares were about?" Matron asked.
"No, he wouldn't tell us, ya know. I think he was embarrassed. But Fujin said that it might be because of what other people say."
"What do you mean?" Tayle inquired.
Raijin looked down at his feet. "Well, before Seifer stopped leavin' the house, people would be mean to him, ya know. Callin' him names and stuff." He replied, shame and anguish reaping his face. "I don't wanna tell you guys what they were sayin'. It's…bad."
"It's okay," Quistis assured him, "we've got a pretty good idea."
"How did Seifer react to these people?" Dr. Kadowaki asked.
"He ignored 'em most of the time. Sometimes he'd tell 'em to 'fuck off'." He said, then his eyes widened. "Oh! Sorry Mrs. Kramer!"
Edea waved her hand. "It's alright."
"Nightmares, voices, and the whole world hating you? That's a lot to handle, even for Seifer." Zell spoke gravely.
"I'd probably want to kill myself too." Irvine added.
"Raijin, was there something in particular that drove him to heroin? Something specific that happened?"
Raijin bit his lip nervously. "But I can't tell, they'd be mad at me."
The doctor put her hand on his arm. "You must tell me. It's part of the recovery process. If there's something that happened that drove him to his breaking point, we can focus on that to help him recover."
"It didn't really happen to him, but it was because of him, ya know."
"Please explain, Raijin. We're not here to judge."
"Everybody hates Seifer, and because we're his posse, most of 'em don't like us either. It happened one night when me and Seifer were waiting for Fujin to come home from work, ya know. We waited for two hours. When she didn't come back, we got worried, ya know. So, we went out lookin' for her. It was late, so it was kinda quiet. We were on our way down to the piers when…" He stopped. His forehead was creasing and tears were starting to fall from his eyes. "We found her crying behind the hotel. She was bleedin', she got beat up pretty bad. And… and her… her pants were torn off…" His voice would no longer let him continue with the details.
The group stood there staring at him, horrified. Dr. Kadowaki was the first to ask the impending question in everyone's mind. "Was she…raped, Raijin?" She asked softly.
Raijin nodded, wiping the tears from his face. "I tried to tell Seifer it wasn't his fault, but he didn't listen!"
Matron buried her face in her hands. "Dear Hyne!"
Irvine shook his head, trying to shake off his anger. "That's wrong! To hurt her like that because of what he did!"
Quistis was not clearing her own tears, she freely let them pour. "I don't care what Seifer did! She didn't deserve that!"
"Nobody does." Zell agreed.
Raijin nodded, calming himself somewhat. "Fujin stayed home with Seifer after that. We didn't want her goin' out no more, ya know. Fujin wouldn't eat or let either of us touch her. Then she started havin' nightmares too. I wanted to stay home with her, so I could try and make her better. But Seifer said that one of us had to work if we wanted a place to live, ya know. So, one day I came home from work like always, and there's this guy in our house. He was the guy who gave Seifer the drugs, ya know. Seifer said it was just stuff to help him sleep. To stop the nightmares, ya know." Raijin told them. "And it worked! No more wakin' up in the middle of the night hearing him screaming. The first week, he just did it once, cause the guy told him to try it out first. The next three weeks, it was three or four times. One night, Fujin had woke up from a nightmare again. Seifer was sitting there with that stuff getting ready to take some and sleep, ya know. He offered her some, and she said yes." He shook his head. "I was happy for them at first. They were both sleepin' good, ya know. No more nightmares. But then… they started doing that stuff every day. They didn't eat much, so they got all skinny. About two months ago, they started doing it three and four times a day. When they ran out of the stuff, they'd wait till I got home and ask for money. Of course, I gave it to them, ya know. Seifer would go find that guy, and Fujin would wait at the house." He paused, another regretful memory invading his mind. "She'd sit in the corner, rockin' back and forth, waitin' for Seifer to come back."
"Four times a day? For the last two months?" Dr. Kadowaki asked.
"Is that bad?" Raijin asked.
"It's amazing either of them are alive!"
Raijin stomped his foot on the ground in frustration. "Why do I gotta be so dumb!? Why…"
"Don't go blaming yourself now!" Dr. Kadowaki interrupted. "They brought this upon themselves. They chose this! Don't ever forget that!"
"I've just got one question." Zell spoke up. "What about everybody else? What is everybody gonna think with all of us in here for a week?"
The doctor acknowledged him with a nod. "That's where the Headmaster comes in."
Cid cleared his throat. "I'm going to pretend to send you all on a mission together. We're going to say that the mission is in Deling City, just a routine diplomatic situation with the Galbadian government. I'm going to send Selphie to Trabia with the Ragnarok, to estimate the supplies needed to rebuild their Garden. Squall…" Cid paused, sighing. "I'll give him a weeks vacation, maybe have him go to Esthar. I'll urge him to take Rinoa with him."
Tayle agreed. "I'll give my nurses the week off as well. We can order out for food and…" She stopped suddenly and turned to the direction of Seifer's room. "I think I hear something."
Silence filled the room quickly as the group listened for sounds emanating from that room. Sure enough, there was a low groan heard.
Raijin's eyes filled with honest dread. "Uh oh…"
"…you're only a little boy."
Flash The beach. Gunfire. Explosions. Soldiers dying. Blood in the sand. Flash
"Poor, poor boy."
"… just wanted a fight."
"…captain is a joke!"
"Such a confused little boy."
Flash The woman. Mask. Holding the man with the suit. Blade to the throat. Whispers. Voices. Blood in the veins. Flash
(No… not… boy….)
"Seifer! What are you doing!"
Flash The crowd. Cheering. For the Sorceress. Dancers. Fireworks. Knight. Her Knight. Blood in the air. Flash
"Come with me…"
"…to a place…"
(Stop it…no…leave me alone…)
"…of no return."
Flash The prison. The Rival. Prisoner. Torture him. Pain. Blood on the floor. Flash
(Leave me alone!)
Flash The Garden. Conquer. Students running. Kill. Kill. For the Sorceress. Students dying. Blood on the blade. Blood on the hands. Flash
"Come with me to a place of no return. Bid farewell to your childhood."
(Hyne…I…I'm…I'm sorry…I'm so sorry…)
The group stood around paralyzed as more and more noises were coming from Seifer's room. At first, it was indecipherable sounds of derision. Those grew to soft painful cries for something to stop and leave him alone.
Quistis peered at Tayle Kadowaki with uneasiness. "Who's gonna go in there first?"
"Not me!" Irvine whispered back.
Raijin started to move towards the room when Edea stopped him. "I shall go first."
"Don't try and get him to talk to you at first." The doctor warned. "Wait until he speaks to you. That way you'll know he's sober enough to talk to."
Matron nodded, going to the door and opening it. She softly stepped into the room, closing the door behind her. She once again laid her eyes on the now animate form of Seifer.
His brow was crinkled and covered with sweat. His face twisted in fear, confusion, and anger. Too many emotions. Edea want to run to him. Wrap him in her arms like she did when he was a child. Try to ease his mind. Everything will be alright. She wanted to make it alright. She wanted that power. Power to make it stop.
"Matron?" A harsh and cracked voice said, breaking her from her reflection. Seifer was looking at her now. His eyes were still red and glassy from the drugs, but he was conscious.
Give him your smile, her mind told her. That smile he always loved. So, she did. The smile that she would use when he was hurting but tried to act like he didn't. "Seifer…" she said softly. Edea went to him, slowly, and sat beside him on the bed. "You gave me quiet a scare, child."
"Why? I'm…not sick." He told her, in the boyish innocent voice of Seifer's that she hadn't heard in years.
"Still being brave." Matron said, lightly touching his face. "But you are sick, my dear. And I'm going to help you get better."
Seifer frowned and…Pouting? "Does this mean I can't play 'Knights' with Squally today?"
Oh dear…He thinks he's back at the orphanage? Maybe I shouldn't have been first. Matron took the blanket folded neatly at the end of the bed and pulled it over him, tucking him in. "Not today, Seifer." She told him, trying to hide the sadness in her tone. "You must rest so you can get well." If only for a little while, you can forget…we can both forget what we've done…
"Okay…" He gave in, still pouting.
Edea kissed his forehead and stood. "Sleep well. I'll be right outside if you need me." She assured him, casting a sleep spell on him. "Good night, my brave boy…I love you."
The people that had taken seats jumped back up as Edea exited Seifer's room. They all stared at her silently, awaiting her to speak. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. "He's asleep now."
Raijin bit his lip. "What…what did he say?"
"He was conscious, but he wasn't lucid. He was…" She paused.
Cid put his arm around his wife. "What is it dear?"
Matron gave a sad, haunted smile. "He was disappointed that he couldn't play 'Knights' with Squall today."
While everyone else was bewildered, Irvine laughed softly. "I remember that."
"You do?" Zell asked, curiously.
"Yeah…they played Knights a lot, before Ellone left. We'd all play. Ellone would be the Queen, cause she was the oldest. And Quisty and Selphie would be the Princess's they would rescue from me and Zell. I was the evil Warlord, and Zell was my troll sidekick."
"Troll?!" Zell exclaimed.
"How would it end?" Quistis asked, ignoring Zell's outburst.
Irvine frowned. "They would beat us, of course. But then we would be forgiven and allowed to live with you all in the castle. Happily ever after."
Quistis shook her head, turning to Matron. "Could he have been possessed too? Like you were?"
"Ultimecia made him do all that, didn't she?" Zell pleaded more than asked.
"No, only a sorceress can be possessed by another sorceress." Edea said.
Quistis nodded. "That makes sense. If Ultimecia could possess whoever she wanted, she would've just possessed Ellone from the beginning."
"But," Matron inferred, "That doesn't mean he was acting of his own free will."
"What do you mean?" Raijin asked.
"Sorceress, as a whole, have some of the same powers. Such as the use of different magic, levitation, walking though solid walls and doors." Edea told them, "But sorceresses also have powers unique to themselves. Ultimecia had the power of time control and compression. I had the power to captivate the masses. You might remember in Deling City how the crowd reacted positively even though the tone of the speech was atrocious." Zell and Quistis looked at the sniper, who nodded fervently. "Ultimecia could have easily persuaded Seifer to turn against the Garden. And with her possessing me, a woman whom he known as a mother, how could he refuse. Even thought the GF's were meant for you to forget that, Ultimecia could have brought back those memories to him."
Zell nodded. "She had plenty of time between Timber and Deling City to convince him."
"She used all the things that ever happened to him against him. His dreams, his rivalry, his failure…" Quistis thought out loud.
"And made him promises of glory, victory, and the acceptance he desperately craved." Edea added.
"By the time Matron wasn't possessed, it was too late to turn back." Irvine spoke.
"And if he had said no, he would've been killed." Zell also added.
"Maybe…maybe we won't have to keep this a secret forever, ya know. We could make them understand, right? We could come back, and it'll be like old times except better, ya know!" Raijin exclaimed.
The room went silent. After a few moments of this, Dr. Kadowaki spoke up. "We'll see, Raijin. But we have to get them better first."
"Yeah…" Raijin said, his excitement deflated a bit.
"Well, we should start getting prepared." Tayle suggested, turning to Quistis, Zell, and Irvine. "You three should go back to your rooms and get the things you'll need. Clothing and supplies for a couple weeks. You'll probably want some things to keep you occupied too. Edea and I will put down some cots for you too sleep on."
The three SeeDs concurred and left the infirmary once again. The Garden was noiseless and placid, with only their footsteps to be heard.
"Hey Quisty," Irvine whispered as they made their way to the dorms, "what time is it?"
She looked down at her watch. "11:30."
"Oh man!" The cowboy exclaimed.
"What?" Zell asked him.
"It's about this time, every night, that Rinoa sneaks out of Squall's room." Irvine replied.
Quistis' mouth dropped. "You're kidding."
"Maybe she'll stay there tonight. She's done it before." Zell observed.
"Let's hope." Irvine said.
"And how do you guys know all this?" She questioned.
Zell stifled a chuckle and Irvine winked. "Squall's opened up some since hooking up with her." He said.
Irvine, Zell, and Quistis entered their dorms and began gathering up their supplies. Quistis hurriedly packed clothing, personal belongings, and some books for all three of them. It had been about ten minutes when there was a knock at her door. Her heart jumped in her throat wondering who it could be.
"Quistis, it's me Zell." The voice said through the door.
Sighing with relief, she opened it. "What is it?"
He smiled at her. "Irvine is already on his way back. I just came to see if you needed any help."
Quistis blushed slightly. "Alright…here." She told him, handing over a small duffel bag.
Zell noticed her face colored. It made his heart skip a beat. Maybe Irvine telling her wasn't such a bad thing after all. She was finally taking notice of the nice things he'd been trying to do for her. Maybe he could finally prove to her that he wasn't some brainless jock. But he would have to watch his behavior, especially while watching Seifer. He would have to keep his anger in check. He would not disappoint Quistis.
"Quistis…" He spoke as they walked down the hallway.
"I…I know you're doing this for Seifer and Fujin." He told her. She said nothing, so he continued. "And I'm kinda doing this for them too. But I'm really doing this for you."
Zell swallowed nervously. "I guess what I'm saying is that I'm gonna do my best."
Quistis looked over at Zell. "I know you will."
"I won't let you down." He continued, not taking his eyes off of her.
She smiled warmly. "Thank you."
"And…I just…wanna say…that I…" He stopped, trying to cease stumbling on his words.
Quistis stopped walking and faced him. "Zell, you don't have to…"
"No," he interjected, "It's not fair that Irvine said it and I didn't…I want to."
Zell cleared his throat. He'd been waiting for this moment for years. To be standing before her, with her full attention. And even thought she already knew what he was going to say, he still felt the orange-sized lump in his throat. "Quistis, I…"
Footfalls from a distance interrupted him. Whoever they belonged to was approaching them from around the corner of the dorms. "There's nowhere we can hide!" Zell exclaimed.
"Hide the bags at least!" Quistis urged him. Their bags were shoved behind some decorative plants, out of view. "What if it's one of our friends? What if they ask questions?" She whispered.
The footsteps were coming closer. Zell's mind panicked. He had no idea what he would say if it were one of their friends. Closer. If there was a way that whoever it was would ignore them…
"Quistis…I'm sorry." Zell said quickly.
Rinoa swore she heard talking from around the corner. It would be just embarrassing to get caught coming out of Squall room. She quietly tiptoed up to the corner of the hall, and peeked her head around the other side. She instantly recognized one of the figures that was halfway down the hall. What's Zell doing out this late? She could also see someone's arms wrapped around his neck. Ooh! What have I stumbled on? Who's he with? Rinoa saw Zell passionately kissing someone…a blond…a tall blond. Quistis!? Zell and Quistis!? Sure enough, with a closer look, the young instructor was lip-locked with the energetic fighter. Rinoa threw her hand up over her mouth to keep from giggling hysterically. She wanted to scream out congratulations to them, but knew it would be inappropriate. They'd be embarrased if they saw me…I'll just go the long way, Rinoa told herself. She quickly continued down the hall she was already in, bypassing her friends.
As Zell heard the footsteps begin to walk away again, he held the kiss for a moment longer. Partly because he wanted to make sure she was gone, and partly because he was enjoying it. When he finally released the embrace, he looked down the hall where Rinoa had come from.
"It worked!" Zell exclaimed. He heard a strange noise coming from the woman who he still had his arms wrapped around. Quistis face had a look of utter surprise. He immediately released her and stepped a few feet back. "I'm sorry Quistis! It was the only thing I could thing of!"
Quistis quickly tried to compose herself. "It-it-it's q-q-quite al-right. L-let's g-g-go." She stammered out her words, her cheeks flushed red again and a big smiled forced its way to her face.
Zell blushed as well and rubbed the back of his head. His lips still tingled from where hers had been. They both gathered their bags and continued down to the infirmary, without saying anything else.
The arrangement was cramped and not very secure. One room for Seifer, one for Fujin, and one for the four caretakers. Come midnight, Raijin and Irvine were sleeping uncomfortably on the cots the doctor and Edea had made up for them. Dr. Kadowaki and Cid had returned to their respective rooms. Edea was storing Fujin and Seifer belongings and weapons in a cabinet. Zell and Quistis sat in the infirmary office, drinking coffee.
"During the day, we'll be sleeping in there, right?" Zell asked.
"Yes." Quistis replied.
"But, during the day, Raijin and Irvine can't sit out here cause of all the students coming in, right?"
"They'll have to say in the rooms with Seifer and Fujin."
Edea joined them at the table they were seated at. "I was thinking about that myself. I think we should have Seifer and Fujin up during the night, and sleeping during the day."
Zell nodded. "Makes sense. Less chance of people finding out if they're sleeping and not making noise."
"I don't think we'll have that problem with Fujin." Quistis noted. "It's Seifer I'm worried about."
"My sleep spell should be wearing off soon." Edea added.
Quistis sighed heavily. "I'll be the one to explain things to Seifer. You should be in there with me, Matron."
Matron agreed, Zell bit his lip. "I should probably stay out here for now, huh?"
"Yes, that would be best." She said. This is not going to be fun.
Edea's head snapped up at the sound of her name being called. "Quisty, we'd better get in there."
Quistis nodded, standing up. "Zell, I want you to go in there with Fujin. Just incase she wakes. And remember what the doctor said."
"No excitement. I got it!" Zell replied and went off to the room.
Quistis waited as Edea stepped in the room first. She watched as Matron went to Seifer's side.
"Seifer?" Edea spoke.
Seifer blinked a few times and looked at her. "Edea?" He said, his voice harsh and low. He was looking around the room when his eyes saw his former instructor. "Trepe!? What the… "
"Seifer! Calm down, please." Edea spoke firmly.
Quistis came closer to him. She saw that Seifer made no move to attack or back away, he just stared. "Seifer, do you know where you are?"
He looked around again. The sudden realization hit him and he groaned. "The Garden."
"The Infirmary." Quistis told him.
"How?" He asked.
"Dr. Kadowaki and I brought you here."
Seifer sat up in the bed, pushing his long hair back away from his face. "Raijin?"
Quistis nodded. "He came to us for help. Don't be angry with him."
Seifer glared at her. "Don't tell me what to do."
Matron put her arm on his shoulder. "Seifer, please."
He pushed her away, getting up off the bed. He tried to walk to the other side of the room, but ended up falling on his knees. His mind and body still weak from the heroin. "Get away from me!" He demanded angrily.
"Please," Edea begged, staying near him, but far enough away, "we're here to help you."
Seifer tried to pick himself up, but failed. "I didn't ask for your help!" He yelled.
Oh Hyne! This isn't going to work! We're gonna get caught! Quistis' mind screamed in panic. Stay calm, woman! Stay cool! She bit her lip and kneeled down in front of Seifer, who glared at her with a murderous look in his eyes. "You have to keep quiet! Nobody knows you're here! If we get caught, we'll all go to prison, or worse. And…"
Seifer interrupted her with his trademark smirk. "Screw you, Trepe."
Quistis did not hesitate to slap him across his face. The strike came as such a surprise to him, that it knocked him on his side. "Now you listen to me, Almasy!" She began in her instructor's 'don't mess with me' tone. "You also have to be quiet because of Fujin."
That got Seifer's full attention. He stopped rubbing his cheek and looked at her suspiciously. "What about Fujin?"
"Are you ready to calm down and talk with me?" She asked. Seifer hesitated, his jade eyes narrowing. Reluctantly, he nodded. Quistis stood, holding out her hand to him. He took it, and with her help, got off the floor and back on the bed. "Fujin is here as well. She's in the next room."
"She awake?" He asked.
Quistis paused, wondering how he would take her news. "No. That's also why we need you quiet. Dr. Kadowaki said not to excite Fujin."
"It could give her a heart attack."
Seifer jumped on his feet. "What!?" He shouted, losing his balance again. Plopping back down on the bed hard. "Heart attack?"
"She…she was barely alive when we found her." Quistis said, more softly. She tired to lighten it as much as she could. She didn't want to imagine having to tell Raijin this. "She might not make it…"
Seifer face was full of confusion. "She might die?" He asked, trying to hide the worry in his voice. Quistis could only nod. Seifer shook his head. "No…I…I'm dreaming again. This is just another nightmare…"
Quistis placed her hands on his shoulders, looking him directly in the eyes. "No, this isn't a dream. This is reality. You are Seifer Almasy. You're here in the Garden. All of this is happening."
To anyone not standing right in front of Seifer, it would seem as if he showed no emotion at all at that particular moment. But from Quistis' viewpoint, staring right in his eyes, she could see it all. Those pair of emerald eyes held more pain, more guilt, more agony than any pair of eyes should. Regardless of past infractions. Isn't evil not supposed to care? Aren't they without remorse? Quistis could see Seifer's guilt, his remorse.
"You're not evil…" She said aloud.
"Just mislead…" Matron spoke from her silent observation.
Seifer closed his eyes, parted his lips, and spoke two almost inaudible words. "…..I'm sorry."
Matron came to his side again. "I'm sorry too."
But just as Seifer seemed settled down and calm, he rose up unsteadily again. Bracing himself against the corner, he refused to face them. "Let me out of here." He said, his voice firm and harsh again.
Quistis bit her lip again. "No. We can't do that."
"You can't…" He paused, his tone shaking, "You can't keep me here!"
Matron rose from the bed. "Seifer, we care about you."
"No! No you don't!" He stated, his voice rising.
Shit! He's flipping out! "Seifer," Quistis said softly, "we do care. But you have to calm down."
They both could see Seifer's legs becoming unsteady. "No…no…no…" His voice became mumbled. But he quickly turned around, slamming his back against the wall. His hands gripped his head. "SHUT UP!!!"
Behind the women, the door opened quickly. Irvine and Raijin quickly dashed in the room. Raijin went to Seifer, restraining him with his arms. Irvine handed Edea a syringe. Edea nodded and took it, then sticking it in Seifer's arm. As the injected sedative coursed through Seifer's body, he stopped struggling and began to lose consciousness again. Irvine helped Raijin carry him back to the bed. Zell entered the room shortly after.
"What happened?" He asked.
An exasperated Irvine wiped his brow. "Seifer lost it, that's what happened."
Matron shook her head. "It was the voices."
Quistis agreed. "It had to have been. We had him talking to us normally, then all of a sudden..."
"How's Fujin?" Edea asked.
"She's still out. That rant didn't even disturb her." Zell assured her.
"Is he gonna be like this the whole time?" Irvine asked.
"I don't know." Matron told him.
"What if," Zell spoke, "Seifer is really crazy? I mean, he's hearing voices and all. What if the whole Ultimecia thing drove him mad?"
Edea sighed sadly. "It's very possible…even likely."
"Well that's just great!" Irvine exclaimed, irritated. "We've got a drug addict schizo to baby-sit."
"Irvine!" Quistis scolded, pointing at the larger dark man by Seifer's side.
Raijin was looking at the floor. "I'm sorry…" The hurt was etched into the man's face.
Irvine rubbed the back of his neck. "Raijin, don't be sorry. It ain't your fault. I…I'm sorry. I'm just…tired, that's all. I get cranky when I'm tired."
Raijin took some comfort in Irvine's words. "Let's get back to sleep then, ya know."
"Good idea." Irvine replied, and followed him back to the cots.
"The sedative should last for a few hours." Edea mentioned.
Quistis just groaned in response, exiting the room. Zell followed behind her. "What now?"
"Well, I shall go into Fujin's room and write." Matron told them. "I'm going to document this time, leaving out names of course. I want to use this as an example for children not to use drugs."
Zell nodded. "That's a great idea Matron."
Edea smiled back and entered Fujin's room. The infirmary grew quiet once more, as Quistis and Zell continued to sip their now cold cups of coffee. Quistis was quickly getting bored, deciding to strike up a conversation with Zell.
"So…What were you reading earlier?" She asked.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Cid Kramer was not one to be so nervous. Usually, he could keep his cool. Especially, when it concerned talking to Squall Leonheart. But this time, it was different. This time, he had to lie.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
After that late night last evening in the infirmary, Cid had been worried. About Seifer. About Fujin and Raijin. About Quisty, Irvine, and Zell. About everything. This was not going to be easy. The Garden's first cover-up. First conspiracy.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Cid was nervous, very nervous. He didn't want to do this. And yet, he wanted to get it over with. It was a bright morning and Squall, Selphie, and Rinoa were coming up to his office, as requested. You're just sending him on vacation. That's all. He needed one anyway. There's nothing to be nervous about.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
He wished Edea were with him. Things would be easier with her around. She could give them her assuring smile. Her trusting smile. But…then she would have to lie as well. No, she could not lie to her children. She wouldn't.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Cid snapped out of his revelry. "Come in."
The door was opened, and the three people he'd requested to see entered.
Squall saluted him. "You wanted to see us, sir?"
"Yes, yes. Have a seat." He told them. All of them sat before Cid's desk, waiting. Cid cleared his throat and handed a folder to Selphie. "This is a mission for you, Selphie. You are to take the Ragnarok to Trabia Garden. I want you to assess the damage and take inventory of what they'll need to rebuild." He said, smiling as Selphie's already cheery face lit up even more. "I figured you'd like this mission."
Selphie nodded. "I totally love it! Can I take Irvine with me?" She asked.
"Um, no." Cid said quickly. "He's…already on a mission."
"Yes, he, Quistis, and Zell left very early this morning."
Selphie shrugged. "Bummer."
Cid rose from his chair. "Thank you, Selphie. Dismissed."
Selphie saluted him, and then turned to Rinoa. "Come see me before I leave, kay?"
"Okay." Rinoa responded.
Selphie left Cid's office for her dorm. One down…Cid thought to himself. "Now, for the reason I called you, Squall." He said, sitting back down in his chair. "I'm giving you 2 weeks vacation."
Squall looked stunned. "What?"
Rinoa looked overjoyed. "Really!?"
"Yes," Cid replied, "You haven't had a break since Ultimecia. And since you're going to be keeping your position as Commander, you'll need vacations." He said, laughing slightly out of nervousness. "I suggest you and Ms. Heartilly go to Esthar."
"Why Esthar?" Squall asked immediately.
"Well, you didn't have much time for sight-seeing last time you were there. It really is a wonderful city. I'm sure Ellone would like to see you again, as well as President Loire." And just maybe he can finally tell Squall the truth! Cid thought.
Rinoa agreed happily. "I think that's a great idea, Squall!"
"Yeah…" Squall said, sort of absent-mindedly.
Rinoa saw him about to slip into his own world, and shook her head. "Don't worry Headmaster, I'll get him on the next train out of Balamb."
Cid smiled and saluted her. "Good work, Rinoa. Dismissed."
Rinoa giggled and grabbed Squall's arm. "Come on! We have to pack!"
Cid nodded. "I don't wanna see you for two weeks, Leonheart. Have fun, that's an order!"
Squall gave a small smile. "Thank you, sir." He replied, getting up and leaving the office with Rinoa.
Cid breathed a sigh of relief. But to his dismay, he discovered that lying to people he thought of as his children, wasn't that difficult.
Squall walked down the halls to Selphie's dorm, holding Rinoa's hand. "That was weird."
"What was?" She asked him.
"Headmaster Cid was acting strange."
Rinoa peered at him. "What do you mean?"
Squall looked at her as well. "You didn't notice it?"
She shook her head. "Nope."
"He just seemed…nervous, or something." He said.
"Squall, you're being paranoid." Rinoa told him, grinning widely.
Squall rolled his eyes. "No I'm not."
"Your boss just gave you two weeks off, and you're complaining!"
"I'm not complaining." Squall objected. "Just concerned."
Rinoa shrugged. "He was probably just tired. He did look like he didn't get a whole lot of sleep last night."
Rinoa groaned and lightly punched his shoulder. "Come on! We're gonna have fun!" She told him.
When they arrived at Selphie's dorm, she was almost done packing. "Hey, guys!" She said, "So what'd the Headmaster wanna see you about?"
Rinoa smiled brightly. "He gave Squall two weeks vacation!"
"Wow! That's sooo cool!" Selphie exclaimed. "Nobody deserves it more!"
Squall smiled a little. "Thanks Selphie."
"So, where are ya going?" She asked.
Selphie blushed and bit her lip. "Say hi to Sir Laguna for me!"
"Come on Selphie, he's like thirty years older than you." Rinoa voiced.
"Twenty seven years older!" Selphie corrected her, then grinned again. "And he's still a cutie."
"Hey Selphie," Squall spoke, interrupting the girls, "Did you notice the Headmaster acting weird?"
Selphie tilted her head to the side. "Acting weird? Yeah, he kinda was. But only when I asked about Irvine."
"And that's another thing! How come I wasn't told about their mission?" Squall wondered.
"I wanna know why Irvy didn't tell me he was leaving today!" Selphie added.
Squall nodded. "Quistis and Zell didn't say anything either."
Rinoa's face lit up and she smiled widely. "Oh my, I forgot!"
"What?" Squall and Selphie asked together.
Rinoa blushed a little. "You'll never guess who I saw kissing in the halls last night!"
Squall just rolled his eyes, uninterested. But Selphie got excited. "Ooohh! Who!?"
"Quisty and Zell!"
Squall suddenly became interested. "What!?"
"You're kidding!" Selphie asked.
Rinoa shook her head. "Nope. I saw them kissing by her dorm."
Selphie's mouth was dropped open. "Quisty and Zell…kissing!?"
"Yup. And I mean really kissing!"
"Oh my gosh! That's sooooo cute!" Selphie chirped loudly.
Squall was still shocked. "But…he's like a foot shorter than her!"
Selphie and Rinoa scowled at Squall. "That's so mean!" Selphie scolded him.
"Let's go, Rinoa. We've got packing to do." Squall said.
He'd been staring at him for hours. Just staring. Raijin had been waiting for Seifer to start yelling at him. Scolding him. Beating the shit out of him. But Seifer didn't move. He occasionally spoke, mostly incoherently. Dr. Kadowaki said that it was the drugs. They were making Seifer weird. Seifer wasn't himself. But Raijin knew that Seifer hadn't been himself for a long time. It was hard to remember what Seifer's real self was anymore.
Raijin could hear noises outside of the door. Students coming to see the doctor.
"You know," Seifer spoke quietly, dryly, "if I yelled right now, we'd all die. We'd get caught and they'd kill all of us."
Raijin noticed Seifer's body twitching again. It seemed to occur randomly as he sat there. Seifer was also fidgeting, his fingers needing to occupy themselves. The doctor said it was the drugs.
"That's why we gotta stay quiet, ya know."
Seifer didn't seem to like his response. He growled at Raijin, then went back to fidgeting. A few moments had passed, and they both heard the students leave. Raijin felt relieved.
"Raijin." Seifer spoke quietly.
"We… we need to get out of here." Seifer said, unsteadily.
Raijin shook his head. "No, Seifer. We gotta stay till you and Fujin get better, ya know."
Seifer's body began to shake more. "The only…w-w-way we can… get better is to…get o-out of h-here."
"No. You can't have anymore of that bad stuff, ya know. It could kill you!" Raijin objected.
"S-s-so could being here!" Seifer shot back.
Raijin bit his lip. "Seifer, you should get more sleep, ya know."
Both men looked over at the door when Dr. Kadowaki opened it. "Everything okay, Raijin?"
Raijin shook his head. "Seifer wants to leave, ya know."
Dr. Kadowaki sat down next to Seifer. "How do you feel right now?"
Seifer smirked at her. "Perfectly fine!"
Tayle's eyes narrowed. "Seifer, I've got news for you. You are going to be fine. There's no reason I can't restrain you to this bed and put a gag in your mouth! That way, we wouldn't have to worry about you getting us caught!" She told him firmly, making Seifer's smirk disappear. "But I'm not restraining you because I would like you to have some comfort during this hard time. I'm trying to be nice. So please, let me help you."
Seifer's demeanor softened. "Cold."
Tayle smiled. "Would you like you're coat?"
He looked at her. "You guys brought it?"
"Yeah, we brought everything, ya know." Raijin added, "I didn't want people stealing our stuff while we're gone, ya know!"
Seifer looked at Raijin. "My gunblade?"
Raijin nodded. "Brought that too."
"But," Dr. Kadowaki said quickly, "you can't have that."
Seifer chuckled slightly. "Didn't think so."
Tayle put her hand on Seifer's arm, he tried to pull away, but she stopped him. "Let me see your arms." He complied and held his arm out. She turned it over and examined the track marks. "I should probably bandage those up. Anything else? Are you feeling sick?"
Seifer shook his head. "No, but my whole body hurts like I just worked out for three hours."
"Muscle cramps are very normal in withdrawal. Lay down and try to relax. You need more sleep. I'll bring you something to help that." She said. "Raijin, where's his coat?"
"Okay, I'll be back in a minute." The doctor told them, leaving the room.
A few moments later, Irvine walked in the room, carrying Seifer coat. "Here you go." He said, handing the coat to Seifer.
Seifer looked at his coat with disgust. "Damn, I need to wash this."
"You need to wash you too." Irvine said, chuckling.
"And a haircut, ya know."
Seifer sneered at them, putting on his coat. "Yeah, yeah…"
"Hey Raijin," Irvine turned to him, "You wanna switch till the next shift?"
"Sure." Raijin said, taking his magazine and walking out of the room.
"How's Fujin?" Seifer asked.
"The same. She hasn't woke up yet." Irvine told him sadly. "Doc says if she doesn't wake up by tonight, she probably never will." Seifer didn't respond, he only stared at the floor.
Dr. Kadowaki came back with Seifer's medicine. "Here, take these." She held out two pills and a cup of water. He took them and washed them down. "Those will take about an hour to kick in. Then, you'll get some sleep. Zell should be in here by the time you wake up."
"Chicken-wuss!?" Seifer exclaimed. "He's watching me?"
Tayle put her hands on her hips. "You got a problem with that?"
"I'd rather have Quistis in here. She's much nicer to look at!" Seifer told them, adding a smirk at the end.
I hope he doesn't say that to Zell! Irvine thought. "Hey doc, Seifer here needs a shower and shave badly."
"Well, if he sleeps and doesn't have anymore outbursts until tonight, I'll allow it. But no sharp objects go near him."
"I got an electric razor." Irvine told her.
Seifer smirked again. "We can use that on my hair too." He said, trying to smooth back the long strands. "I look like Puberty-boy."
Irvine couldn't help but laugh, even if it was a shot against his friend.
"Alright, enough of that." Tayle said, exiting the room again.
Irvine sat down in the chair placed across from Seifer. "It's been a while, Seifer."
Seifer looked at him oddly. "What?"
"Do you even remember us? Before the war, before the Garden?" He asked.
"What are you talking about?"
"The orphanage? I was there with you guys."
Seifer shook his head. "I'm not exactly clear-headed right now."
"I understand." Irvine said. "But you remember being there, don't you?"
Irvine smiled. "You use to play 'Knights' with him, before Sis left."
"Yeah. Ellone was the Queen. Quistis and Selphie were the princesses. You and Squall were the knights."
Seifer smiled a little. "We would save them from the evil Warlord and a troll."
"Yeah, me and Zell."
"Tell me more." Seifer requested.
"About the orphanage?"
Seifer looked away, like he was looking off in the distance somewhere. "About the happy part of my past that I don't remember."
"Damn it all to hell!" Irvine said loudly, stomping his foot on the ground. Just a minute ago, he was fine. Normal, even! "Dammit!" He cursed again.
"I'll get the doc." Zell told him, backing away from the man sitting in the corner. Seifer sat amongst the broken shards of the mirror, having another outburst. His jade eyes glossed over and distant. One hand clutched his now shorter hair, while the other pounded the broken mirror pieces on the floor. The glass made cracking noises under his bare hands. Blood was dripping from the new cuts on his hands.
This can't be right. It can't be just the drugs doing this! Irvine thought to himself. On the other side of the door, he could hear Zell and Dr. Kadowaki approaching.
"…and that's when he knocked the mirror outta my hand!" Zell had finished his tale as they entered the room.
Tayle peered over at Seifer with concern. "How long has he been like this?"
Irvine rubbed the back of his neck roughly. "About five minutes."
"Non-stop? He didn't try and talk to you, ask for help?"
"Nope." Zell replied.
Irvine let his exasperation out. "Is the withdrawal really doing this to him?"
The doctor shook her head. "No. This…is something else. And I think I've pinpointed it now."
"What?" Zell asked curiously.
She motioned them to wait and left the room. Irvine and Zell watched Seifer closely until she returned. When she did, she brought back with her a bottle of pills and another sedation syringe. "Hold him."
Irvine took off his hat and looked towards Zell, who signaled his readiness. They both began cautiously approaching Seifer. Their advance had begun quietly, but was ceased by the crunching sounds of broken glass under their feet. Both SeeD's stopped dead in their tracks, looking down at Seifer. His fist had stopped pounding the shards. Slowly his head rose to glare up at them. His wicked smirk appeared on his face.
"Now!" Irvine cried, taking a dive towards Seifer. Zell immediately sprung into action with him. Seifer had seen this coming, and tried to push past them. But both of them had proven to be too much for him, having him pinned against the wall.
"Get the hell off! I'll kill you! All of you!" Seifer yelled madly.
Dr. Kadowaki quickly dashed over to him, injecting the sedation into his arm. Seifer's thrashing hastily died down as he passed out.
Zell and Irvine shove Seifer back onto the bed. Irvine sat back down in the chair. "Gee, that was fun!" Irvine stated with sarcastic venom.
"Chill out, Irvine." Zell said, exasperated.
"No! I won't chill out." Irvine yelled back, then turning to the doctor. "Now, could you please tell us what the hell is wrong with that lunatic!"
The doctor shook her head. "Schizophrenic."
"Schizophrenic, not lunatic. There's a difference."
Irvine slapped his forehead. "Is this a joke?"
"No, I'm very serious. Ever since Quistis and I brought him back here, he's been showing signs of serious mental breakdown."
"Duh." Irvine said, unimpressed.
"It's more than just the outbursts. It's how normal he acts before them." Tayle told them. "One minute, he's acting normal. Talking, laughing, even joking with us. Then, in a blink of an eye, he's violent, hearing voices. Those are actions of a schizophrenic."
Zell shook his head. "So, he really is nuts?"
"Basically, yes. Now, I'm no psychologist, but I believe he has paranoid-delusional schizophrenia with homicidal tendencies, which is the result of brain-washing by Sorceress Ultimecia."
"But Matron and Rinoa were possessed. Wouldn't that have an affect on them as well?" Irvine noted.
"Not really. Edea and Rinoa were also sorceresses. Seifer was just a normal man." She said to the boys, then held up the bottle of pills. "I think these will help him. As soon as he regains consciousness, give him one of these pills. Give him one every four hours." Tayle directed them.
"Those will stop the outbursts?" Zell asked.
"Yes, and be sure to tell Seifer that. Tell him that these will stop the voices."
Later in the evening, Quistis sat in the soundless room that held Fujin. She was engrossed in a book, occasionally glancing up at the monitors. Well, at least I'll be able to catch up on my reading. Only a moment later, the heart monitor started beeping a little faster. Quistis looked up from the novel to see her patient moving slightly. Oh thank Hyne, she thought, She's coming around! She quickly rose from the chair and went to the door.
"Edea!" She whispered loudly.
Matron hurried inside the room. "What is it?"
"I think she's waking!" Quistis told her.
"Raijin should be the first one she sees."
Quistis smiled and went to retrieve him. She bent over Raijin's sleeping form and shook his shoulder gently. "Raijin!"
"W-what?" He said, sleepily.
"Fujin's waking up." Quistis told him.
The large man jumped off his cot and ran straight to the room. Quistis and Matron stood next to the door.
Raijin brought the chair next to her side. "Fujin?" Her body responded to her name being called. "Can you hear me, Fu?" A soft groan escaped from her still pale lips. Her good eye slid open slowly. "Fu! It's me! Raijin, ya know!" He exclaimed.
Fujin's eye found him. "R-rai-jin?" Her voice was harsh and raspy, as Seifer's had been.
"Hey, Fujin! I was worried 'bout you, ya know!" He cried happily.
"H-happened?" She asked.
"…You almost died, Fujin."
Raijin shook his head. "That stuff was very bad, ya know!"
"Oh, he's okay. He's in the next room."
Fujin blinked a few times. "Where?"
Raijin bit his lip hard. "I…I brought you both here. Don't be mad at me, ya know!"
Her eye narrowed. "R-RAIJIN, W-WH-ERE?" She said, trying to use her usual loud tone, but only ended up making herself cough.
"You're at the Garden." Quistis spoke up from the door. She came next to them and kneeled next to Raijin.
"Raijin," Quistis spoke softly, "you should go back to sleep."
"Raijin, please." Edea said.
"Who?" Fujin asked when she heard the other voice.
Matron walked over to the bed. "I'm Edea Kramer, the headmaster's wife." She told her. "Raijin, you'll be able to see her tomorrow."
"Okay." Raijin agreed half-heartedly. "I'll see you tomorrow, Fujin."
Quistis waited until after Raijin left the room. "Fujin, we didn't want to talk about your condition in front of him."
Fujin nodded. "Worry much."
"Yes. I'll explain everything, but you must not get excited. We are going to help you. You must trust us. You have to stay calm, for your own health." Quistis told her. Fujin stopped trying to move and relaxed back in her bed. Heart rate down slightly. "Good. Yes, you are in the Garden. Seifer is here as well. You all have been here since last night. Raijin came to Dr. Kadowaki because he was worried about both of you. The doctor and I brought you here."
"They…let us back?" Fujin asked. Heart rate up.
Quistis shook her head. "No, the only people who know that you're all here is Dr. Kadowaki, Edea, Headmaster Cid, Zell, Irvine, and myself."
Quistis hesitated. "Because we want to."
Edea folded her arms across her chest. "You'll be going through heroin withdrawal. It's going to be very hard on you." She paused. "There's a chance that you could…"
"…yes. That's why you must stay calm." Edea continued.
Fujin looked away for a moment, then sharply looked back. "Seifer?"
"He'll be fine." Heart rate down.
Fujin didn't seem to think so. "Know ab-bout voices?"
Quistis nodded. "Yes, we know about the voices. The doctor diagnosed him as a schizophrenic."
"What!?" Heart rate way up.
"Calm down." Quistis ordered. "It's because of Ultimecia, she brain-washed him. But you knew that didn't you?"
"Yes." Heart rate down.
Quistis paused for a moment. "How come you didn't tell us then?"
Fujin shook her head. "F-figured out too l-late."
"I understand." She replied. "But the doctor gave him medicine for it."
"He's been very normal since then, no outbursts yet." Edea added.
"Normal?" Fujin asked.
"Seems so. He's worried about you." Quistis said, and grinned as she saw the small smile appear on her lips. She turned to Edea. "Can we let him come in here?"
Edea nodded. "I don't see why not. You and Zell will have to stay in here with him."
"Would you like to see him?" Quistis asked. Fujin nodded in response. "I'll be right back."
"Ha! I'm putting down a Ruby Dragon." Zell exclaimed, feeling pretty good about his Triple Triad playing. "It's 6-4 now."
Seifer just smirked. "Well, all I got is this damn Quezacotl card." He laid the card down on the table. "That takes your dragon, and I get a combo for 'plus'."
Zell punched the table. "Dammit! You won again!"
Seifer shrugged. "Doesn't matter, they're all your cards anyway. It's not like I get to keep 'em, Chicken-wuss."
"It's the principle of the thing, Lapdog." Zell responded.
"It's good to see you boys are getting along." Quistis said, just entering the room.
"Hey, Quisty!" Zell exclaimed.
"What's the score?" She asked.
Zell sneered at Seifer. "He's kicking my ass, eight games to two."
Quistis laughed slightly. "How are you feeling, Seifer?"
"A little sick to my stomach, but otherwise fine."
"I've got some good news for you."
Seifer looked at her hopefully. "Fujin?"
"She's awake." Quistis told them. "Matron said it's okay to see her."
Seifer looked away. "I can't."
Quistis sighed. "She wants to see you. You should go see her… just in case she doesn't make it."
Seifer got up slowly. "Yeah…" He looked down at Zell. "Come on, Chicken-wuss. You have to make sure I don't try something."
Zell rose from his chair. "Okay Lapdog."
"Alright, enough of that!" Quistis scolded. "Let's go."
Edea was getting another blanket for Fujin when the three walked in the room. Seifer grinned and sat down in the chair next to her bed. "Hey, Fu."
Fujin smiled a little. "Seifer."
"How you doin'?"
"Yeah, I was really cold when I first woke up too. It'll get better."
Fujin lifted her arm to touch his head. "Hair?"
"They wouldn't let me have scissors, so I had them shave it." Seifer told her. "Heard the almost bald look is in these days."
Fujin chuckled slightly. "Look good."
"Of course!" Seifer stated, smiling.
"Haircut too." Fujin said, playing with a strand of her silver locks.
Seifer shook his head. "No way! I was pissed when you cut it short the first time."
Fujin blushed barely. "Remember. Very pissed."
"It looks better long." He told her.
Fujin blinked her eye, holding back some tears. "Seifer?"
"Missed you." She said, curling her lip slightly to smile.
Seifer gazed into her ruby eye. "…Yeah, I missed me too."
She rolled her eye. "Rage."
He laughed a little. "Can't kick me just yet. Wait till you're stronger, then you can kick me all you want." He told her, touching her face lightly. It had been a while since he'd seen her while he was sober. Fujin was the strongest, toughest woman he knew. Now, she seemed so frail. "Looks like I fucked up again, huh Fu?"
Fujin disagreed vigorously. "No."
"Yeah I did." He objected. "This is my fault."
"No! I chose!"
"But you never would have even let me do drugs if you hadn't been…" He stopped.
Fujin swallowed back her tears. "Didn't do it." She said slowly.
Seifer's face was grim. "Might as well have."
"Didn't! Not fault!" Fujin declared.
Seifer groaned. "Why do you still…" He stopped again, remembering there were others in the room. "I've done nothing but hurt you." He said quietly.
Fujin grabbed his hand, squeezing it slightly. "Chose friend." She told him, looking in his eyes. She cleared her throat. "I…chose to…follow. I chose to…" She started to say, then shook her head. "I…chose you."
Zell couldn't help but feel sorry for Seifer as he watched him sitting up, shaking, and seemingly freezing to death even though the room was warm. But he wouldn't say anything. Seifer, after all, did still hate being felt sorry for.
"Umm…you want anything? Another blanket?" Zell suggested.
"W-w-warm d-d-drink-k." Seifer said through clenched teeth.
Zell stood instantly. "I'll see what I can get ya! I'll be right back." He told him, leaving the room. In the office, Matron was sitting at the doctor's desk writing in her journal. Quistis was brushing her hair, having just got out of the infirmary shower. Wow…
Quistis had noticed Zell stand there, staring, for a few moments. Feeling the blush coming to her face, she smiled at him. "Yes?"
Zell snapped out of his gawking. "Sorry, it's just…that," he stuttered, "You should wear it down more often."
"Everyone says that, but it's such a pain to manage." Quistis said. Then she realized she'd completely ignored his compliment. "But thanks Zell. That's very sweet."
Edea looked up from her writings. "How's Seifer?"
"He's still shakin' real bad. I came to get him something warm to drink."
Matron frowned. "All we have is coffee and tea, but it all has caffeine in it."
"Raijin said he didn't sleep more than an hour today." Quistis added.
"Oh yeah!" Zell exclaimed, rushing over to his gym bag he'd brought with him. "I got some decaf tea."
Quistis's eyes widened in surprise. "You do!?"
Zell rubbed the back of his neck, nervously. "Well…I brought it for you, Quisty. I knew you liked tea and stuff, so I bought you some a week ago. But I accidentally bought decaf, and I didn't know if you liked that stuff."
Quistis rose from her chair and looked down at the box of tea. Decaf, but it was her favorite brand. "I love this brand."
"I know. I saw the label on the teabag at lunch a couple times."
Quistis took the tea from his hand. "You're very observant."
"Well…" He said, blushing. "I'm not just stuffing my face with hotdogs the whole time."
She giggled a little and began preparing to make the tea. "Thank you, Zell."
Zell smiled back. "No prob…um," He started backing toward Seifer's door, "I'm just gonna go…tell him it'll be…a minute."
"Actually, about ten minutes." Quistis replied.
Zell huffed out his breath. "Um, bye."
Quistis looked back at him again. "Bye."
Zell finally went back inside the room with Seifer. Quistis watched as he shut the door behind him and her face turned red. She heard Matron laughing softly from the desk.
"Oh my!" Matron whispered. "He certainly hasn't grown out of that crush on you!"
Quistis gazed at her. "What?"
Edea smiled, her eyes sparkling in the soft light from the desk lamp. "He's been in love with you since the orphanage."
"Why do you think he kept telling on everyone when they did something wrong? He wasn't a…how did Seifer use to put it?"
"Ah, yes. He wasn't a crybaby, he just wanted everyone to be good. So Quisty wouldn't have to work so hard keeping everyone in line, and have more time to play." Matron told her.
Quistis blushed even harder. "That's so sweet."
Edea raised her brow. "And it seems you've finally begun to return the affection."
Quistis smiled wider. "…Maybe."
Matron put her hand to her chest. "That's so wonderful! You don't know how happy it makes me to see two of my little orphans find love together."
Quistis quirked her mouth at her. "You make it sound like we're getting married!" She cried out, almost laughing. "It's a little too soon for that kind of thing."
Matron shook her head. "Would you like to know how long I'd been dating Cid before we got married?"
Quistis' jaw dropped again. "That soon!?"
"Yes, and we didn't know each other almost all of our lives like you and Zell have."
"How did you know he was the right one?"
Matron shrugged. "You just know. Your instincts, your heart, your soul tell you. All you have to do is listen."
After Zell had relayed the message of a ten-minute wait for tea, they both sat there silently. It's gonna be a long ten minutes! Zell tried to think of something to do, something to distract Seifer from his physical affliction.
"How did you guys become a posse?" He asked finally.
Seifer smirked, seemingly in the mood to talk. "I m-met Fujin right after I c-came to Garden. W-we were in the s-s-same magic class. You know, the one w-where you first learn all the d-d-different kinds." Zell acknowledged him. "Well, w-w-we were partnered to-g-gether for a project. I don't remember what it was though…Anyway, I t-though fire magic was the b-best. So that's what I was special-izing in. Fujin was specializing in wind m-magic. I kept tellin' her t-that wind magic was wussy magic." He chuckled slightly during his tale. Zell also noticed that as he talked, he shivered and stuttered less. This is good. "She just smiled at me and t-told me to use fire. So I did, holding a little fire in my palm. She used Aero and b-blew out the fire, but she also knocked me on my ass!" He paused chuckling a little louder. Even Zell began laughing. "She kept trying to say she was sorry, but she was laughing too hard!"
"So I guess you could say when you first met her, she blew you away!" Zell told him.
Seifer chuckled harder. "That's p-pretty lame Zell!"
Zell pointed at him. "Hey! You didn't call me Chicken-wuss!"
Seifer blinked a few times. "No, I guess I didn't." He smirked at Zell's shocked expression. "Maybe I don't f-feel like callin' you Chicken-wuss anymore."
Zell smirked back. "Damn, just as I was getting use to it."
Seifer grinned wider. "Yeah, I'm a prick like that!"
He shook his head, then lifted it and looked toward the door. He could hear Quistis laughing softly with Matron. "Hey, Seifer."
"Back…before all that stuff, you know…" Zell started. Seifer nodded, understanding the meaning. "Were you and Fujin, umm, dating?"
Seifer shook his head. "That's top secret information, it'll cost ya!"
"Just trade me a secret, long the same lines."
Zell rubbed the back of his neck. "Well… I really like…"
"'I really like' means 'madly in love with' when you say it like that!"
"Fine! I'm madly in love with…Quisty."
Seifer groaned and rolled his eyes. "That's no secret!"
"So far, you're the only one who ever figured it out. Well, at least the first person to tell me about it."
Seifer waved his hand. "I'm not sayin' it was obvious to everyone. Just to me."
"And why is that?"
"The way you stare at her d-during lunch from across the room, but unlike those retarded 'Trepies', you actually t-tried to cover it up. You follow her around like a dog!" Zell's brow creased deep. Seifer backed up a little. "I'm not insulting you. But you do have that lovesick puppy thing going! I know, I've been there."
"You!? A love sick puppy!?" Zell exclaimed.
Seifer nodded. "You know how everybody thinks of Fujin, right? She follows me around like a love sick puppy, does whatever I tell her to, right?"
Seifer smirked. "C-couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, the rolls are switched. I'm the one following her. And when I wasn't, she was there just to make sure I didn't get into trouble and get k-kicked out of the Garden."
Zell shook his head. "Well, then what about Rin…" He stopped fast, thinking he might have gone too far.
Seifer nodded solemnly. "It's alright. Rinoa?" Zell nodded. "Me and Fu were fighting a lot that month before I went to Deling. I failed the test, again. She was pissed, said I needed to get my head out of the clouds. I went to Deling, met Rinoa. She was just g-getting started on her 'rebel against daddy' faze. She needed a hero. Well, you've probably got a pretty good idea of what the whole stupid Romantic Dream was."
Zell nodded. "Yeah, but I don't think it was stupid."
Seifer huffed. "You don't?"
"No, I think you just wanted it too much. You didn't want to wait until the right time." Zell spoke, looking down at the floor. "I guess I've had that romantic dream for a long time. I can't remember when I wasn't in love with Quistis. But she didn't love me. She didn't even notice me unless I was making an ass of myself. But I didn't give up. Instead of going after her, I waited. For the right time." He laughed a little, looked back up at Seifer, who seemed to be listening attentively. "Took a long time, but…she's worth it. She's finally noticed all the things I try to do for her. And…I think she finally likes me back. Hyne, it was so worth the wait!"
Seifer smirked. "Maybe if I hadn't been so impatient…things would have been different."
"Don't feel too bad! There were times when I just felt I had to run up to her screaming my love for her at the top of my lungs. It's frustrating."
"Why do you think I always took you callin' me a Chicken-wuss so hard? Half of me knew I should wait. But the other half was thinkin' I was just a chicken."
"I was just callin' you Chicken-wuss to impress Fujin!"
"Tch! Women!" Zell said, in mock exasperation.
"What about them?" Quistis asked from the door.
Both men jumped in their seats. "You need to stop doin' that!" Seifer said, slightly scowling.
Quistis just laughed softly. "Tea is served." She told them, then left the room.
Seifer stopped Zell from following after. "Thanks for lettin' me talk, it helped out a lot."
Zell shrugged. "Thanks for lettin' me listen."
Seifer smirked. "And if you ever w-wanna borrow this room for a little while in the future, so you and Quisty can have some private time, don't hesitate to ask."
Quistis finally sat up in her cot. Stretching as she stood, she gazed down at Zell, who was still snoring lightly. He looks so adorable when he's sleeping, she thought to herself. Gently patting his shoulder, she tried to wake him. "Zell. It's time to get up."
Zell stirred and slowly opened his eyes. "Evening Quisty."
"You want the shower first tonight?" she asked.
"Nah, go ahead." He said, yawing. "I'll make some coffee."
"Alright." She replied and began gathering her shower essentials.
Zell stood, rubbing his back. "Man, I can't wait till I can sleep in my own bed again!"
"Me too!" Quistis agreed wholeheartedly.
Just as Zell was about to open the door for her, Irvine came crashing though it.
"Whoa!" Zell exclaimed, backing away.
"Sorry guys," Irvine uttered quickly, "but we've got a problem!"
"It's Fujin. She's not doing too good." He answered.
Quistis hurriedly put her things down and rushed to the room. Edea and Dr. Kadowaki were talking to each other in hushed voices. Both women turned to Quistis with worried eyes. Fujin lay on her bed barely conscious, drenched in sweat and shaking.
"What's wrong with her?" Quistis voiced with concern for her new friend.
"Alot," the doctor spoke frankly, "For one, she has pneumonia."
"Well…pneumonia isn't deadly, is it?" She asked.
"Not usually. But she also has AIDS."
"What!?" Quistis cried, eyes darting from the doctor to Fujin. "How?"
Edea went to her. "She was raped, remember?" Quistis buried her face in her hands and wept.
"Even though it's only been a few months," Tayle said, "The virus, the heroin, and the lack of nutrition has weakened her immune system."
Quistis' head shot up from her hands, her mouth agape. "Seifer…they shared the needle!"
Dr. Kadowaki bowed her head. "Yes, I know. He…he more than likely has AIDS as well."
Quistis shook her head. "They'll both…? No! That's not fair!"
The doctor agreed. "Fujin has, at the most, a week to live. Probably less. Seifer…who knows. It could be a couple months to a couple years."
Edea wiped her own tears from her eyes. "Is there any chance that he wasn't infected?"
"There is always that chance, but six months of sharing the same needle…" She told them doubtfully. "I also want to test Raijin, and the four of you."
"Why?" Quistis asked uncertainly.
"I'm pretty sure that I was the only one to handle any open sores on them, but I would like to be sure." Quistis could only nod. Tayle looked sadly down at Fujin. "Now, who's going to tell Seifer and Raijin?"
Quistis sighed heavily. "I will."
"And I shall come with you." Edea said.
Outside of Fujin's room, Quistis told Zell and Irvine the news. Both were in shock along with her. Dr. Kadowaki began testing Zell and Irvine as Quistis and Edea went to Seifer's room. Raijin had been telling Seifer a dirty joke he heard from Irvine when they entered.
Raijin looked up at her cheerfully. "Hey instructor! What's…" He stopped, noticing her red puffy eyes. "What's wrong?" He asked, drawing Seifer's attention to her.
"It's Fujin…" she started to say.
"What about her?" Seifer asked defensively.
Quistis bit her lip. "She's sick."
"Sick?" Both men asked in unison.
"She has pneumonia."
Raijin looked at his leader. "Didn't you have that once?"
Seifer nodded but didn't take his eyes off Quistis. "Yeah, but not when I was already sick from drugs."
"Well, there's a little more to it now." Quistis responded. Seifer and Raijin said nothing, just waited. She cleared her throat. "She's also got…AIDS."
While Raijin continued to stare in simple confusion, Seifer became horrified. His normal façade of emotionlessness could not be conjured to hide his shock, fear, and grief.
"What's that?" Raijin asked her after a long silence.
"It's a disease."
"How'd she get it?"
Quistis bit her lip again. Oh Hyne, this is so hard! He'll be heartbroken! Be strong, Quistis, be strong for them. "More than likely from whoever raped her."
Seifer looked at Raijin with extreme anger. "You told them about that!?"
"No." Quistis responded instantly. "She told me. That's why the doctor gave her a blood test." She lied. She hated lying, but she couldn't have Seifer pissed at Raijin. Not when Raijin would need him the most.
"So…what's gonna happen?" Raijin asked nervously. "How bad is it?"
"AIDS is a disease transmitted through the blood." Edea spoke, sensing that Quistis was having a hard time. "It weakens the immune system."
"Isn't that what fights off bein' sick?" he asked them.
"Yes, AIDS leaves you weak for other diseases to infect you."
Raijin absorbed this information slowly. "Is she gonna be okay?"
Quistis opened her mouth to speak, but Seifer beat her to it. "No," he spoke gravely, "she won't. She's gonna die." He turned to Quistis. "Right?"
Quistis could understand why Seifer had become so hostile, but it still made her angry. "She's got a week, at the most." She answered him.
Raijin just couldn't believe it. "But…but…she can't die! No!" He cried loudly.
Edea put her arms on the weeping Raijin. "Come with me, Raijin."
"Why?" He asked through choked sobs.
"We all have to get tested and make sure no one else has it."
"I might have it!?" Raijin cried in horror.
"Probably not, but we must be sure." Edea told him, using her most reassuring voice.
They left, leaving Seifer and Quistis alone. Quistis watched Seifer for a while before saying anything. He seemed to have aged years in a matter of seconds. His eyes brimming with the raw anger he was famous for, but also with the engulfing sadness he tried so hard to hide.
"We have to…test you as well." She said to him.
Seifer looked at her, smirking. "But there's no maybe with me, is there?"
"You both shared a needle." She said, trying her best not to breakdown. "But there is still a chance you don't have it."
Seifer snorted at her. He turned away from her, staring at the floor. "I hope not. I hope I do have it."
"Pardon?" Quistis questioned, not trusting her hearing.
Seifer seemed to ignore her. "But that would be my luck. For her to get sick and die and not me. My luck would be to live with the guilt of killing her."
Quistis shook her head. "You didn't give it to her!"
Seifer stood, getting right in her face. "She was raped because of ME! It's my fault, Trepe!" He yelled at her. "Dammit! Not only that, I also gave her the heroin to mess her up some more!"
Quistis was shaking from the anger Seifer was unleashing on her. "She choose. You didn't force her."
Seifer seemed disgusted with her answer. "But I knew she'd follow me! She'd follow me to death! I should have been more responsible! You don't understand…" He spoke more softly. Sadly he turned away from her. "I don't care if I die. I deserve to die! But she doesn't. She deserves better! Someone who won't hurt her constantly!"
Quistis approached him slowly. "None of that matters now." She said, speaking softly. "She loves you. And she needs you now." Seifer seemed to loosen a little. "Don't let the last thing she sees is you blaming yourself."
Behind them, the door opened slowly and Zell stuck his head in. "It's your turn, you two."
Dr. Kadowaki awaited them, with her latex gloves and syringe. Irvine stood against the wall along with Raijin, who was still crying. Edea sat patiently at the table. Quistis turned to Seifer. "You want me to go first?" she asked him. Seifer nodded to her.
Quistis sat down in the chair the doctor had pulled out, lifting the sleeves of her shirt. Tayle carefully plucked the needle into her arm and began drawing blood.
After Quistis was finished, Seifer took off his trenchcoat and sat down. "You wanna know something ironic," he asked, not smiling in the slightest, "I hate needles."
The doctor smiled. "I remember it being quiet a chore getting blood from you when you were younger, Mr. Almasy." Seifer looked up at the doctor, and smirked.
Edea smiled despondently. "You should have seen him when he was a baby, taking him to get his shots. I took you and Squall on the same day and both of you wailed all the way back to the orphanage." She said, leaving the others trying to picture it in their minds.
Tayle withdrew the needle with Seifer's blood. "The dear commander still gives me trouble during his physicals."
Zell put his hands on his hips, doing his impression of Squall. "'I don't see why we have to do these all the time.'"
Irvine followed along, being the doctor. "'It's mandatory for everyone, Squall.'"
All three SeeDs joined in for the last comment. "'Whatever.'"
Seifer actually started laughing.
Relief and Release
Three days. Three long, excruciating days of waiting. Zell both rejoiced and dreaded that the third day had finally arrived. The doctor would tell them the test results at four am, which was only an hour away. Zell was happy because the wait was over. They would finally know. But what if one of them tested positive? What if he, himself, did? Zell was almost certain that he hadn't touched any open sores on either Fujin or Seifer. Nor did he have any cuts on himself. But there was always that chance. What if Quistis has it, he thought. Zell shook his head, trying to dismiss those haunting thoughts.
Instead, Zell gazed at the beauty seated across from him, the object of his affection. Her long golden hair was up in its usual style. Her thin fingers twirled a strand as she read one of her books. The pale skin of her face was illuminated by the reading light next to her. Her azure eyes darted back and forth across the pages. Seifer is right, he told himself, I am a lovesick puppy.
Zell hesitantly tore his eyes from Quistis and looked at the table. What if she does have it? I…I wouldn't be able to do anything! I'd have to sit and watch her die, like Fujin. Zell recalled a scene from earlier that evening. Seifer, silently hunched over Fujin. His eyes distant and cold. Watching her struggle for air. Struggle for life. Zell shuddered and looked up from the table, only to find Quistis looking back at him.
"You okay?" she asked tenderly.
"Yeah, me too."
Zell shook his head shamefully. "I'm worried about you." He said, then pounded his fist on the table. "I should be worried about everybody! Especially me! But…" Quistis just smiled, stopping his rant dead in it's tracks. That smile could melt ice. "Quisty…I um…I…"
A door opened behind them and Irvine stepped out. Yawning and stretching with an unpleasant look on his face. "Damn…cots…" He mumbled loudly.
"Morning, Irvine." Quistis said, holding back a laugh. Irvine groaned a reply and grabbed a coffee cup. "Been up long?"
He rubbed his eye with a free hand. "An hour or so. Considering the situation, I'm amazed I got any sleep at all." He commented, pouring the hot liquid in his cup. "But at least the wait is over."
The three sat at the table, conversing to each other. Eventually, Dr. Kadowaki arrived at her office.
"Good morning." She greeted them. "I know you've all been very patient. Give me ten minutes and I'll let you all know."
Quistis turned to her friends. "Irvine, please wake Raijin up. I'll get Seifer and Edea."
Irvine went off to his destination and Quistis went to hers. Inside, Seifer was still sitting as he was earlier, gazing over Fujin. Edea stood in the corner, sorrowfully watching them both. Quistis went to Edea. "Matron. The doctor is here." Edea acknowledged her and left the room. Seifer did not move. "Seifer?"
"I heard." He said wearily. "But I don't wanna leave." Knowing it was pointless to argue, Quistis turned to go. "Quisty?" He called behind her.
Seifer turned to face her. "Find out for me. Come back and tell me straight. No mushy bullshit."
Quistis sighed. "Alright."
Quistis, Zell, Irvine, Raijin, and Edea sat together, awaiting the doctor. All were nervous, scared. Lives were in the balance. Even after three days, the last ten minutes of not knowing took forever.
Finally, Tayle arrived with the results. She stood, expressionless, having done this before. "Edea, you tested negative." She said. Edea merely nodded. "Irvine, you also tested negative." Irvine was visibly relieved. "Zell, also negative." Zell just balled his fists, awaiting the more important result for him. "Raijin, negative." Raijin nodded as well. "Quistis, you are negative as well." Zell gasped with relief along with Quistis. He smiled at her, embracing her tightly. To her surprise, she was holding him back just as tightly.
"I was so afraid that…" He whispered to her.
"Shh. It's okay now." She assured him.
Raijin ignored the two. "Seifer?" He asked, his question taking Quistis and Zell out of their embrace.
The doctor nodded. "I tested the results three times…all came up positive."
The first reaction came from Raijin, who hung his head and began to sob. One could almost hear his heart breaking again. Two of his best friends, his only friends, his brother and sister were dying. Edea wept for her 'son', hugging herself as the tears fell. Irvine put his arm around his surrogate mother, trying to comfort her. Zell, who had been expecting this, still silently mourned. Quistis simply swallowed hard, and got up.
She opened the door and shut it behind her. He hates pity, you know that! She lecture herself, fighting back her sorrow.
"Well?" he asked, not facing her.
"You tested positive." She said, her voice betraying her. Quistis watched his reaction.
Relief. Plain and simple relief.
"And the rest of you?"
"All negative." She responded.
Greater relief, followed by a smile. "I wanted it, you know that." Seifer told her.
Quistis nodded. "Yes," she uttered, "but I don't have to like it."
"You'll get over it." He told her flatly.
Quistis gave in and let a tear fall. "No, I won't." She said, the firmness she tried placing in her voice came out shaky. He looked at her, uncertainly. "You were my student." She continued, watching him rise and walk to her. "And my friend."
Seifer smirked, not his vicious smirk, but the amused one. "And your enemy." Quistis shook her head, more tears running down her face. "Didn't I say no mushy bullshit?"
Quistis laughed a little through her tears. "You always were a stubborn bastard!"
"I know." He replied with a smile.
Seifer's head snapped around quick. Fujin was awake. "Fujin!" He quickly knelt by her side. "Fu…"
Fujin moved her head around. "…off." Her hand lazily motioned to the oxygen mask that covered her mouth.
"No, you won't be able to breathe…"
"Off…" she repeated.
Seifer carefully removed the mask from her face. "Get the doctor!" He said to Quistis. She quickly opened the door and called for Dr. Kadowaki.
"Seifer…chest…fire…" She uttered though raspy coughs.
Seifer touched her face that burned with fever. "I know."
The doctor ran into the room, standing next to Seifer. "Quistis! Do you have revive magic?" She asked quickly.
But before Quistis could respond, Fujin held up her hand. "No…" She told them, in the harshest tone she could muster. "…no…revive…"
Seifer understood. "Fujin, you're gonna die! I can't let…"
"No r-revive…die…any-way…" She told him, bringing her hand to his face. The muscles in his jaw were clenched tightly. "Seifer…let…go."
"No!" Seifer cried, his voice filled with panic.
Fujin pressed a finger to his lips. "Let…me…go." She whispered to him. "Will…wait…for you."
Seifer smiled. "You won't have to wait long." He whispered back to her. "I know you hate it when I keep you waiting…" After holding back for so long, the barrier which held back his tears finally collapsed.
Fujin's eyes began to flutter. "……love…you………"
'Her last words were spoken and she was gone. She, the pillar of strength and of reason of the group, departed from this world. There were not enough tears to mourn her loss. The emptiness she left behind, never to be filled again. May Hyne have mercy and give the silent angel her wings.'
Excerpt from Edea Kramer's journal
Seifer and Raijin had decided, since their options were limited, to lay Fujin's body to rest in the Fire Cave. At midnight, Seifer, Raijin, Quistis, Zell, and Irvine set out for the cave, Seifer carrying Fujin's body. No words were spoken along the way, but the tragic noise of mourning hearts could be heard easily. The night seemed to swallow them up. No moon, no stars. Just dark, enveloping clouds. They made their way through the blistering cave to the threshold of Ifrit's pit. The five stood around the lava pit in a circle.
"Aren't people suppose to say stuff at funerals?" Raijin asked though the tears that hadn't stopped falling.
Seifer looked at the other posse member. "If you want to, go ahead." He said emotionlessly.
Raijin paused to reflect for a moment. "Fujin was more than a friend to me, ya know. She was my sister. She always kept other kids from pickin' on me cause I'm dumb, ya know." He said, frowning as he gazed on her corpse. "I'm really gonna miss her…"
Seifer looked at the others. "How about you guys?"
Quistis shook her head. "We don't deserve to say anything."
He nodded, looking down at Fujin's body. "I've said to her all I needed to." He replied, kissing her cold forehead. He knelt, feeling the heat from the lava, and pushed her body into her fiery grave. Her body became nothing, being consumed by the magma. There was silence again for a long time. Quite tears being shed. Seifer looked around at the people with him. "I…I don't plan on returning to the Garden with you all."
With the exception of Raijin, none were really surprised by his words. "What do ya mean?" Raijin asked.
Seifer looked at his friend with a stern expression. "I'm dying Raijin. It'll be a slow, horrible death, one that I deserve. But I don't want them to have to take care of me the whole time." He spoke, gesturing to the SeeDs. "I won't die fast, like Fujin did. It could take years."
Raijin shook his head. "I can take care of you, ya know!"
Seifer approached his friend. "I know. But I don't want to burden you either." He sighed, looking down at the ground. "It's better this way, Raijin."
Raijin bit back his tears. "But what am I gonna do without you and Fujin? I'll be alone, ya know!"
Seifer shook his head. "No you won't. You have Quistis, Zell, and Irvine. They could probably get you back into the Garden. You could become a SeeD, like them."
"But we were supposed to graduate together!"
"That ain't gonna happen now. But you can still do it!" Seifer objected. "Do it for me and Fujin. You're stronger than we were. You can do it!" He told him. "You can make us proud."
Raijin hesitantly nodded. "I will, ya know. I'll be a SeeD and make you and Fu proud of me!"
Seifer smiled. "That's right." He said, walking with Raijin over to the others. He stopped by Irvine and whispered to him. "Get him outside. I don't want him to have to see this."
Irvine nodded, putting his arm around Raijin's shoulder. "Hey Raijin, lets go outside."
"Alright." He agreed sadly, walking out of the cave with Irvine. He didn't look back.
Zell looked at Seifer nervously. "Funny isn't it?" he said, "A while ago I wanted to kill you. Now, I don't want you to die."
Seifer said nothing at first, then a crafty smirk appeared on his face. "Don't go getting mushy on me, Chicken-wuss."
Zell smirked back. "We're gonna miss you, Lapdog."
Seifer's smirk faded, the grim expression returned. "Take care of Raijin."
Quistis nodded. "He'll be a SeeD if I have to threaten Squall myself."
Seifer put his arm on Quistis shoulder. "I want you to teach him, Quisty. Only you." He told her firmly. "You're the best instructor in that whole damn Garden." Quistis lost her composure and threw her arms around Seifer, hugging him tightly. "If I had only listened to you, not been such an arrogant bastard."
Quistis pulled away, smiling up at him. "Then you wouldn't be Seifer Almasy."
Seifer kissed her on her tear soaked cheek. "Goodbye, instructor." He looked over at Zell. "You better take good care of her."
Zell blushed slightly. "Yeah, I will."
"If you don't, I'll come back and haunt you till you go crazy!" He warned him. "Zell, I also want you to have Hyperon." Seifer told him.
Zell's brow frowned in confusion. "Your gunblade? Why?"
Seifer stared at him in the eyes, his own in total seriousness. "So you'll remember." He replied. "Remember me. Remember everything that happened, good and bad. I know it's had quiet a shady past, but I don't want anyone else to have it. To anybody else, it would only be a trophy, or a piece of metal that means nothing. I don't want Hyperon to be a weapon anymore, only a reminder of the past. You understand?"
Zell nodded quickly. "I understand."
Seifer breathed out heavily. He walked back to where he had stood when he laid Fujin's body. He looked down at the lava, seeing only her face. Smiling, he looked back up at Zell and Quistis. "I'll see you guys around." He told them.
Quistis forced a smiled and Zell simply nodded. "Later, Seifer."
Seifer closed his eyes and put one foot forward…
Edea gazed up slowly from the infirmary desk. She went to the window and looked outside. Rain beat softly against the glass as she put her hands to it. "…Seifer?"
Squall rose from his bed in the Presidential Palace in Esthar to find his beloved standing next to the balcony window. Rinoa was watching the rain outside.
"What's wrong?" He asked her softly, putting his arms around her waist.
Rinoa shook her head slightly. "I…I don't know. Something's happened."
Rinoa shrugged, turning to smile at him. "It's okay. Go back to sleep, I'll be there in a minute." Squall obliged, returning to the bed. When she knew Squall was out of earshot, she whispered to the night. "Goodbye Seifer."
"I knew you'd wait for me."
"I told you I would."
"I'll never leave you again."
"Then let's go."
'No mother should outlive her own child. He left and never returned. Even though I had expected this, my sorrow was limitless. It rained that night. Would the heaven's weep for him? Would the sky grieve for a child of it's conception. The golden dreamer. A son he was to me. My beautiful, stubborn, dreamer. And I will always remember him as such. The boy sitting on the beach, looking up at the sky. The sky held no limits for him, every possibility available to him. His eyes always filled with fantasy. My bright little boy, who grew up to be a brighter man. I cannot picture his face without smiling and weeping. May Hyne have mercy and give the dreamer his endless sky.'
Excerpt from Edea Kramer's journal