Operation Deling.

"It's Quistis" Edea started. "Something's happening in Deling."

Squall took a deep breath and allowed his hand to drop from Zell's gentle grip. Instinctively he crossed his arms, leaning against the cockpit door with his eyes closed and one foot pressed on the door behind him. It was Squall's brooding pose – it either meant to leave him alone, or that he was thinking. The other knew him well enough not to take this personally. Squall looking like he was ignoring them usually meant they had his undivided attention, it was when he stared right through you that you know his mind was on other matters.

"We got word from her just now, she's requested that we land north east of Deling City and wait for the boys to meet us there – apparently we shouldn't get within viewing distance of the city." Selphie explained. "Quistis is the only one still at Caraway's mansion; Irvine and Aeon have been out of the urban areas for a few days now."

"Out of the city?" Zell asked. "Why?"

Selphie and Edea exchanged a nervous glance. Well, Edea looked nervous. Selphie looked wired to the moon, tinged with panic.

"Hyne's craft has been circling the city for the last two weeks, making fly by's and occasionally dropping monsters onto the roof of the Arc de Triomphe. Nothing Quistis and the other's couldn't handle, but enough to incite a panic. General Caraway ordered an evacuation three days ago, and entry to the city is now forbidden." Edea sat in one of the co-pilot seats, head in hand. "The public have been relocated to Timber and Dollet whilst Quistis, Irvine, Aeon and Caraway's personal guard have remained in the city to fight off any monsters that are roaming around."

Squall smiled wryly. Seifer still had a knack for theatrics – he and Zell were his targets, so there was no point doing too much damage with them on the other side of the planet. But he still couldn't resist causing a stir – who cares if millions of people have to leave their homes? Seifer's gotta have his fun.

"So why doesn't she want us in the city helping?" Squall asked.

"The craft's been floating over the Arc constantly for the last twenty four hours, ever since the last main convey left the parameter of the City. Instead of pouring monsters into the streets, it spewing them into the air – we'd never get past all the circling Nova Dragon's and Garuda's. We're blocked off."

Zell began bouncing on the balls of his feet, fighting stance adopted. Now he was nervous, unsure of how to act but with too much energy building up inside to keep still. His mind whirred and reeled with this information, trying to think of a way to get to Quistis. He was sure she was fine; Quistis could handle anything, but even she would start to buckle under the pressure of fighting constantly without back up.

"So what's the plan? We can't just leave Quistis there."

"Well she's not sitting doing nothing." Edea answered. "She told us she was going to explore the sewers under Caraway's mansion to try and find a route out of the city. She's taken her phone but she won't be contactable till she's back above ground. Until we hear from her, one of us will need to stay in the Ragnorak at all times so when she calls we can answer."

"Poor Quistis..." Zell said, wrinkling his nose at the memory of their first foray into the sewers. At least she was moving though.

"So we have two objectives. One, clear the city of the monsters. Two, get rid of the airship." Edea stood, the assuming matron. She looked over the three SeeDs assembled before her and felt a swell of pride. "I'll remain at the airship. Two of the Estharian soldiers on detail of the Ragnorak will stay behind with me; you and the rest of the contingent will head for Deling." She looked towards Squall, whose face contorted between relief and confusion. "...If that's okay with our commander."

He pushed himself back from the door and assumed the SeeD salute. "Commander's below Matron, Matron."

Edea smiled. "Okay. You three get ready and be ready to leave as soon as we touch ground. I'm going to have the Ragnorak land halfway between Deling and the Tomb of the Unknown King –if Selphie can input the coordinates - and I want you guys to head directly for the City, straight line, and eyes forward. I'll organise the soldiers on board into teams of three and they'll follow after you team by team in fifteen minute intervals- the less attention we draw, they more complacent Seifer will be. Their primary objectives will be finding Quistis and defeating as many enemies as possible – yours will be reaching the airship and taking it out of the sky."

Squall nodded – he marvelled at her military mind. Sure, he'd seen her a vicious and ruthless dictator, but she'd always suited the soft spoken gentile manner she adopted most of the time. It was hard to remember that she had founded the largest mercenary force on the planet – even if it was after prompting from him. Or future him. Or past him. He wasn't really sure how time compression had worked.

They left Selphie with Edea whilst she input the landing coordinates into the ship's computer, headed back to their cabin to get their weapons and stock up on potions and ethers. He wasn't a hundred percent sure whether Zell would need ether's now – he practically pulsed magickal energy – but he would at least.

"Do you need to junction?" Squall asked, considering the pulsing aura for a moment. It was barely visible, like a heat wave emanating from him but with a faint purple tinge. He got the feeling that only he could see it, some benefit to his own magickal abilities, but he couldn't understand it. He caught the look in Zell's eye, the confused stare. "You are all powerful now, you know."

Zell rubbed his neck and pulled a face. He didn't know. He wasn't junctioned with anything at the moment so...

He flipped his wrist, imagining a shoot of pure water forming in his palm and shooting from in the direction he flipped. Barely a millisecond, and a jet of ice cold water splashed him in the face – caught off guard he panicked, knocking himself off balance as he swiped at his face, eventually tripping over his own feet.

"Apparently not..." He replied, barely audible over Squall's laughing.

He wiped himself down and hurried after Squall. He couldn't believe he'd just used magick without a GF junctioned. It wasn't the same water spell he'd cast with paramagic – there were no bubbles, no slow rise of condensation before the water formed. It was instant, exactly as he'd pictured, and freezing cold. The paramagic version had always been warm.

He'd just known what to do, known what he wanted to happen. And deep down, he'd known that it would happen. Looking back, he was actually confused as to why he was so surprised when he'd got soaked. There was just a confidence, a radiance within him now he'd never felt before. The realisation that the bursts of magick around him could be manipulated to his own ends stuck him like a lightning bolt – he really was a sorcerer. He really was powerful.

"Well at least me and Selphie can junction more than our usual four GFs. Might help us keep up with you when you're slinging spells left right and centre." Squall smirked, his voice reaching Zell again, snapping out of his reverie. "And maybe for once you can heal one of us instead charging on all guns blazing, oblivious."

Zell fleetingly imagined soaking Squall, to punish him for the teasing he was being subjected to. But then he considered the other possibilities of doing that – the more attractive possibilities - and filed the idea away for later use. Instead, he simply smiled, put his hands behind his heads and rejoined his lover on their way back to the cabin.

"Maybe I will." Was his simple reply.

Needed to cover a lot in this chapter to get to where I want to be faster. Let me know you're thoughts on where this is going if you have any. Apart from explaining Ultimeci's reappearancea, I don't really know what I'm wanting to happen before the ending – best suggestions may be included?:P