The Bloodcross Key: Arc 3: Knight's Return
by Lady Tempest

Part 2:

Squall strode into his office, the door clicking shut behind him. His leather pants creaked against his every quick step as he approached his desk. Although he had been months absent, the room hadn't changed. Still Spartan. Desk neat, flat computer monitor set at a corner. No clutter of files or papers. Okay, that was a change, one he doubted would last the day.

Once he reached his desk, he turned abruptly and sat on its edge where the lacquered finish was faintly faded. He folded his legs at his ankles and his arms loosely across his chest. The leather of his gloves rasped against his jacket as his fingers tapped impatiently. Then he lifted his grim gaze to the two figures sitting quietly before him on straight-backed chairs.

The chairs were rather uncomfortable, just as he wanted them to be. Dark wood and a simple, angular design, they drove the average person from relaxed to ass-numb squirm in less than five minutes. Meetings, visits, and whatever other interruptions would last longer if he had comfortable chairs. Or so was the theory.

More often than he cared to remember, Rinoa had proved the theory faulty. But hell, she had rarely used the chairs anyway, -- so maybe it wasn't faulty afterall -- preferring hovering and smothering over him from where-ever was closest to his personal space. Usually his lap or atop his desk. Atop the mission reports, requests, requisitions, and other papers, forms, and files. Atop his work. He dreaded to think how much longer she would have stayed if he had chairs as soft and comfortable as Cid's.

However, not all meetings were unwelcome. Some were even important. Very important and already too long in coming.

"Well?" he muttered, a flick of a hand brushing unruly, chestnut bangs from his face and his piercing eyes.

"Hiya, Squall." Raijin said with a smile and a wave, his elbow thumping against a cardboard box balanced on his lap. He quickly grabbed the sides before it fell to the floor. Rubbing the back of his head, he let out an embarrassed chuckle.

Squall shook his head. "Yeah."

The jittering static on his skin returned, twitching his fingers. He was anxious, impatient. Raijin and Fujin had already done so much he couldn't do. For him, and for Seifer. But as friendly as Raijin was, Squall needed him to be direct and to the point. And for Fujin too, although 'direct' was never a problem with her. It was finding the 'point' in her monosyllables.

As if sensing Squall's thoughts, Raijin stood, thick muscles tensing under the weight he carried carefully in his arms. He dropped the box on Squall's desk with a jarring thunk.

"Here's what we got so far, ya know."

Eyebrow arched and eyes slightly widened, Squall lifted the lid and peered inside: Stacks upon stacks of papers, files of various colors, and a few data-discs.

He glanced up at Raijin, meeting his dark, serious eyes. "This is everything?"

"So far. Could dig deeper, if ya want us to." Raijin shrugged his broad shoulders. "But Fuu thought this'd be more than enough for ya to start your plans. I agree, ya know."

Squall removed a few of the topmost files, glancing at the handwritten labels: A. W. Nolkint III, Edwin Deling, Arl Flent, and Eli Treah.

His teeth ground together, his jaw tightening, as his eyes grew narrow, steely, and dark. He flipped open the red folder, the growl trembling from his lips drowning the shuffle and snap of page against page against page.

Raijin poked at the file. "That guy was just the contact-man. Salesman, ya could say. But this guy..." He tugged at a black folder under the red one between Squall's tensed hands. "... Arl Flent. He was the scum behind the whole thing. Too bad ya killed the Hyne-fuckin bastard already."

Squall stared at the name on the label, his hands shaking. "Yeah..."

"Oh!" A smug grin curled Raijin's lips, his soft-brown eyes lit with a strange glint. He rummaged in the box and quickly pulled out a data-disc. "Ah, ha! Ya have to check this out, ya know."

"What is it?" Squall asked as he set the folders aside on his desk then snatched the disc from Raijin. The disc sparkled with thousands of tiny crystalline rainbows from the sunlight streaming in through the wall of windows.

"For Seifer." Fujin said, sitting calmly in her chair, her head cocked to the side and the same smug grin as Raijin's on her pale face. Until then she had been so perfectly silent and still, Squall had forgotten she was there at all.

For Seifer? "Huh?" He turned the disc over. In Raijin's fancy scrawl and black marker it was labeled: First Deling City Trust Bank. And underneath in emphatic, block-letters: For Seifer.

For Seifer? What had they found? Brow creased, Squall stared at the disc like all its knowledge could be found in its silver-rainbow surface.

Raijin's grin widened. "Well, when we blocked the bastards' money, like ya said to, we also... kinda... relocated it."

Relocated? A slow grin slid across Squall's lips. "Oh, really?"

With a devious laugh, Raijin nodded. "Yep. All 47.3 million gil of it."

Squall blinked. 47.3 million? Million? Gil? Fuck! "Fuck!"


He stared again at the disc shaking between his fingers. Such a small thing. A fragile thing. And yet it held so much. 47.3 million gil. 47.3 million. 47.3 million drops of Seifer's blood and pain and tears. 47.3 million pieces of a shattered young man. 47.3 million... for Seifer.

Raijin's thick arms crossed his chest. Triumph radiated off him like the rainbows reflected from the small great thing in Squall's hand and dancing along the white ceiling, wood-paneled walls, and steel-blue carpet,

"And ya know," Raijin's jovial tone grew dark. "I'll bet that's what that Treah asshole said when he found the money gone.. 'Fuck!'"

"It wasn't his. It's Seifer's." Fujin added matter-of-factly.

Squall glanced at the silver-haired girl, matching her cool and resolute expression quirk for quirk, intensity for intensity.

"Hell yeah, it's Seifer's! For him to do whatever he Hyne-be-damned wants with it. Even if it's to burn it all, down to the last fuckin bloody gil."

Fujin smiled.


He shivered, although warmth caressed his cheek and a faint red glowed before his closed eyes. A softness tickled his nose as he shifted in half-sleep. Batting a hand at his face, sleep fell further and further away, his fingers curling against something fluffy.

Seifer slowly cracked open one eye. Vague impressions of dreams and more dreams -- too real to be fantasy, yet too much a fantasy to be real -- drifted to his mind as reality drifted to his half-vision.

Warmth in his arms; a warmth he thought impossible to hold. Warmth enveloping him, holding him, like it would hold him forever. Like he was safe. Free. Whole. Like he mattered. To someone. To someone who mattered to him.

He hugged the softness in his arms tighter, closer, and breathed. The scent of spring, clean and fresh as the sea air. And a tinge of old things. Seifer opened his other eye and glanced down at the blur of yellow under his chin, wrapped in his arms.

He blinked. Chicken-wuss? Another blink. His vision focused and he gasped.

"Wark?" A faint smile unwittingly crept across his lips. "Where did you come from?"

Seifer slowly sat up, his smile widening, and held the stuffed toy chocobo in front of him. It had been years since he had seen it. Actually, since he had left for Garden when he was eight years old. And it was still the same, no matter how much he had changed. Same uneven fur from years of being held and hugged by child-hands. Same stitches made by caring and nimble fingers.

However, pinned across the toy's belly, -- covering the repairing stitches where a six year old Squall had stabbed it with a stick-turned-sword -- was a small note.

Seifer rubbed his eyes, turning Wark into the sliver of light peeking between thick curtains.

'Hey! You should be resting.
I'll be back soon.


His vision blurred again as he clutched the toy to his chest. It was true? Real? Squall cared? Really cared? About him? About a wretched excuse for a human being like him? About filth? A monster? No! He... he couldn't. Not... him. Not... not... anyone...

Seifer's hands clawed into the squishy fur in his arms, stitches knotted like scars under his fingertips. Fingers. Clawing. Scars knotted in his mind. His skin. Memories, nightmares, tangling and untangling through clawing hands. Sharp claws. Pain. Blood. Pain. Pain, pain, pain...

Seifer screamed. Yellow fur, a shade paler than his hair, hid his face and muffled gut-retching sobs; Much like Wark had done long years before, under dark of night and cool sheets, for hurts which, to a small parentless child, was no less pain.

A hand was on his shoulder. Fingertips. Hesitant. He jerked away, thrashing with his feet at the sheets, blanket, darkness, wrapped around him. Confining him. Shrouding him. Chaining him.

No! He had to get free. They would take him. His chest ached. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't escape. No. No. No.

"Shhh. Hush, Dear," a soft, gentle voice soothed. "It will be alright. You are safe now. Safe. No one will hurt you."

"Please!" he choked.

"Shhh. Dear One, you are safe. I promise."

The voice was familiar. Comforting. One from his childhood memories. Kind. Sweet. Warm...

...Yet, also from his nightmares. Nightmares he lived, for too too long, and where the voice had been cold and cruel.

He sobbed, trembling, and held Wark so tightly it hurt.

"Not again. Not again. Not again!" he chanted in his mind.

"No, Seifer. Not again. Not ever again..."

Another voice joined the first. Male. Also familiar. But he didn't understand the words spoken. He heard nothing more than the chanted words within. So loud. Echoing.

Suddenly, light washed over him. Bright and warm. Blinding, even through his clenched eyes. The chanting stopped.

"Seifer. Dear. Please open your eyes. Look at me." The voice continued. So sad. So warm. Crying. "Please."

He nuzzled Wark's soft fur. It was cold and damp against his cheek. Slowly, Seifer opened his eyes.

"M... Matron?" he sniffed, like he was four years old again waking from a nightmare.

"Yes, Dear." She stood beside the bed, dark, beautiful, and regal. Her gentle, honey-brown eyes were red-rimmed. Sad. Pained. And her pale cheeks were slightly flushed and shiny with tears.

Quick footsteps pattered on the carpet behind her. Over her graceful shoulder, Seifer glimpsed a tuft of yellow hair. Wark-like hair.

Seifer blinked, confused, hazed. His head hurt; a pounding ache behind his eyes. He felt small, young. So cold. Dizzy.

A short, blond boy stepped beside Matron, Edea, and gazed up at her. "He's on his way," Zell said breathlessly. Although serious and somber, the excitable squawk was unmistakable.

"Chicken?" Seifer rasped, trying to blink the haze from his eyes, and his mind.

Zell's gloved fists flexed instinctively at his sides, but his blue eyes twinkled with the smile on his lips. "I never thought I'd be so happy to hear that!"


Zell laughed, shaking his head. "Uhn uh, there's no way you're getting me to admit that again, so don't even try."


Author's Notes: Thank you very much to everyone who has reviewed. After such a very very long time since I had written and posted anything, it's a wonder to me that anyone still remembers or cares about my stories. Thank you.