|Some become strangers
Author: Regann PM
Quistis and Seifer, on the morning of the fateful duel. Set at the beginning of the game. Quistis, Seifer main. Character piece.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Quistis T. & Seifer A. - Words: 2,135 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 1 - Published: 04-20-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2904043
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Some become strangers
I knew it'd be either you or Seifer!
The sun was bright over the Alcauld Plains but the morning air was still cool, almost frosty to Quistis's exposed skin. Quistis liked it that way -- the nip of the northerly breeze against her skin contrasted with the warmth she'd worked into her muscles from a invigorating training session. It was one of the reasons that she preferred to train in the mornings instead of the late afternoon when most of her Garden students would be clogging the Training Center, trying to get in some much-needed exercise before curfew.
Not that Quistis limited herself to the Training Center; she preferred the outdoors, the open plains and the forests that surrounded the Garden to the synthetic wilderness offered inside it. There was a kind of tranquility to be found in her morning training routines, during which she left the Garden at dawn and worked her way around the terrain from plains to forest to the coast and back again.
Although she rarely admitted it, she missed the excitement and activity of missions; sometimes she felt trapped inside the walls of her classroom.
That was why Quistis had started her early morning routine and why they had become sacrosanct to her. Quistis had a standing appointment with the early dawn, the mountains and the plains that not even Headmaster Kramer could break.
After having finished one of her sessions, Quistis was feeling the pleasant ache in her muscles that came from a thorough workout. The perspiration that had beaded on her forehead was cooled by the breeze and she pushed a sweaty tendril of hair out of her eyes as she glanced off toward the distance where Balamb Garden sat, a shining patch of metal and color against the snowy mountains. She headed toward her home at a slowed, measure pace, her return a chance for her body to unwind and cool down after the series of battles she'd fought single-handedly. Waiting for her in her quarters was a hot shower and a small breakfast. After that, she'd don her SeeD uniform and head up to the second floor classroom to teach her first class of the day.
When she reached the Garden gates, Quistis tucked away her weapon and leisurely passed through the front courtyard, enjoying the silence and emptiness of the morning. Soon the area would be full of people -- cadets, junior classmen, SeeDs and others -- and she loved these times when she could soak up the peace and quiet.
It made her feel so old to even think like that.
Since Quistis rarely saw anyone during her early-mornings outings, she was extremely surprised to see what was undeniably a person huddled on the steps that led to the front gate. She moved closer, her steps slowing as she made out the trademark gray trench coat and a familiar blond head. His head was bowed, resting against his hands, his elbows balanced on his bent knees.
Before she realized it, she'd spoken. "Seifer?"
"...Instructor." His voice was quiet, muffled by his hands. He'd said her title the way he always did -- a slight hesitation before he muttered it, followed by a rumble of something in his voice, an inflection at the end as if he were amused by, not respectful of, its use.
And, as it always did, it immediately annoyed Quistis. She stood just a few steps away from him, frowning down at the top of his head. "What are you doing out here?" she asked, her voice a bit sharp as she tried to force some authority into it, even if her try at being commanding would only make Seifer more amused.
He shrugged, a slow movement of his gray-clad shoulders, not even bothering to raise his head to look at her. She rolled her eyes and shifted her weight impatiently on her feet. "Seifer, what's ---"
Whatever else she was going to ask was lost in a gasp as she finally noticed the dark red droplets that were pooling between his feet, drop after drop falling to form spiraling, grotesque pattern on the smooth, white stone of the Garden steps. "Seifer, look at me this instant!" she ordered, her voice so sharp with worry that Seifer snapped to obey it.
She bit back another gasp when she finally saw his face: drawn, pale and blood-spattered, a large cut slashing across his proud forehead and dribbling blood down his cheeks and chin. Before she knew what she was doing, Quistis was on her knees in front of him, gloved hands gentle as she touched his injured skin, blue eyes intent and worried. It was her mouth, drawn tight and frowning, that displayed her displeasure even as she spoke.
"What happened to you?" she demanded to know, her voice soft but forceful as she eyed the cut. Still frowning, she peeled off her gloves and tossed them down next to her feet so she could move her bare fingers across his skin and better gauge his injury.
"Just a little training accident," he grumbled in answer, minute movements of his face trying to invade Quistis's cold, probing hands. "Nothing that needs your concern...Instructor."
She gritted her teeth against the mocking way he used her title, most of her attention still focused on his wound. "This is a serious wound, especially if you didn't receive it in actual battle," she told him. "What were you training with? A T-Rex? Please tell you weren't out fighting T-Rexes by yourself. You know that's against Garden rules."
"It wasn't a T-Rex," he answered tightly as Quistis's ministrations pulled a long hiss of discomfort from him. "Stop that!"
"I need to examine it," she replied evenly, still frowning. "If it wasn't a T-Rex, what did this to you, then?"
Seifer snorted. "Not what. Who."
Quistis stilled, eyebrows raising. "Who? You mean another student did this...?"
"A brilliant deduction...Instructor," he muttered sarcastically, an ugly twist to his mouth.
Quistis hated the way he called her that, so mean and mocking. It was the very same way that he always called her "SeeD" after she'd passed the same field exam that he'd failed when they were fifteen years old.
If she'd been asked to explain the animosity that existed between herself and Seifer, that was the moment to which she'd first point: the day Quistis Trepe became a SeeD when her classmate and friend Seifer Almasy didn't. Any chance for their friendship had died a year later when he failed again and she'd started the arduous study that would make her a SeeD instructor.
"Who?" she wanted to know. "Who did this to you?" In some other time and place -- and if Seifer were anybody else -- Quistis might have said what really crossed her mind: who actually had the skill to do it? But she'd long ago given up on positive reinforcement where he was concerned. She'd learned that lesson the hard way.
Seifer snorted, shaking his head a little, a drop of blood sliding down his cheek. "Oh, I'm sure you can figure it out. Who here has a sharp, pointy weapon that could do this to somebody?"
She gave him a look; he snorted again. "Who other than me?"
It wasn't a difficult question, although she found the answer unbelievable. "Squall?"
"Got it in one, Trepe." The tone was cutting but the crisp way he used "Trepe" rang more true to her ears than "...Instructor" ever did when he said it.
"I find that hard to believe," she told him bluntly, still inspecting the cut with her eyes.
"Well, get over it," he told her just as bluntly. "Because he did."
He lifted his head a little and looked at her, searching for something in her face. When he didn't find it, he rolled his eyes. "Of course, I always give as good as I get."
"What does that mean?"
"It means just what you think it does. If I've got this," he waved a gloved hand at his face, "he's got one, too."
Quistis studied him for a moment -- the proud lines of his face, the wild patterns of blood and sweat on his skin, the stubborn tilt of his chin. Then there was his eyes -- pale, cold, grim -- daring her to say what they both knew rested heavy on her tongue.
She didn't disappoint.
"Why did you do it, Seifer?"
There was no denial from him, not with the way his eyes were bright with a strange kind of victory. "Because I could."
She'd seen that look from him before, years before. They'd been fifteen years old and he'd been so angry at her after that first field exam and he'd been so cruel in his derision -- crueler than she'd expected, even of him -- and he'd that same look in his eyes when she'd glanced back at him after they'd had a shouting match in the quad. Something in her suddenly ached, just as it had all those years ago.
Those words still echoed faintly in her ears.
Quistis shook her head sadly. Seifer's expression became defiant, daring her to show him the compassion that softened her eyes. It was useless, though; Quistis had more determination than he had defiance -- at that moment, anyway.
Her hands were gentle on his face, just as they'd been earlier, but now there was a warmth in her ministrations that hadn't been there before.
Seifer flinched away from it but she ignored him. When she leaned in close and gently pushed back some of his sweaty hair, he recoiled -- his hand shot up and clamped around her wrist, yanking her hand away from his face.
Suddenly, she was fifteen again and one of the best days of her life had turned into one of the worst.
"What are you doing, Trepe?" I thought I'd told you not to talk to me.
"I'm trying to heal you." I'm just trying to help.
"It's fine." What do I need you for?
"No, it's not!" Seifer!
"It'd feel better if you'd just leave it alone." Get the hell away from me, okay?
Quistis let out a ragged breath in frustration. "Let me go so I can heal you," she said slowly, pointedly.
Seifer looked surprised that his hand was still wrapped around her wrist. He let go as if she was burning him. "Whatever you say...Instructor."
"Stop fighting me," she warned.
"Let's get this over with, shall we?"
Quistis nodded. Leaning forward, her fingers against his damaged skin, she whispered the Cura spell, the blue sparks of magic tendrilling from her hands into his injury. Under her hands, it felt like he was forcing himself to remain still, as if each brush of her hands on his face brought him pain and the whisper of her words against his skin bruised it.
She pulled back, still frowning. "I've stopped the bleeding," she noted. "But you still need to go see Dr. Kadowaki. Even with her treatment, you're going to have a scar."
"Like I hadn't figured that one out on my own."
"You need to do to the infirmary," she repeated as she wearily rose to her feet. She stuffed her forgotten gloves into one of her pockets.
Seifer lowered his head again so all she saw only his bowed blond head and the gray-clad line of his back. "Save the concern for Squall, Trepe. I don't need it or want it."
How many times had their difficulties followed this same path? Somehow, it always seemed to come back to Squall.
"Go to the infirmary, Seifer," she said once again, steel creeping into her voice.
He glanced up for a second, a cold, cutting look. "We're done here." He left no room for argument.
Quistis sighed, another deep breath born of frustration -- and sadness, and something that made her feel hollow at the sound of Seifer's voice.
She strode past him but stopped just before she entered the school, casting one long look at him when he couldn't see her and react to whatever it was that sometimes shone on her face. It was a strange mixture of softness, sadness and steel; she couldn't name it and Seifer, it seemed, couldn't stand it.
But she couldn't help it anymore than she'd ever been able to help him.
Quistis finally turned away, Seifer's blood drying on her hands.