Disclaimer - If FF8 were a fish, it would not live in my fishtank.
A/N - So, the end has arrived. The first little section is just for those curious about the Sorceress from Time Compression. It fills in one or two questions you may have had about her and gives you so many more. So if you don't care about her or her connection to Ultimecia, then just skip on down to where Seifer and Squall are dancing on the balcony. ^_^ As mentioned on the previous chapter, the first two chapters of the story have been redone as the 'director's cut' versions of themselves with added content and the smoothing over of issues that have been bugging us for a while.
Epilogue – Loose Threads
There were many choices to be made in the world and there were points in time many people would give anything to go back to. They would love to have second chances.
Anise was one of them.
She watched through the darkness as Seifer danced with Squall on the balcony, away from prying eyes during Garden's celebratory party. She watched Irvine and Selphie announce their wedding, set for the day after the first anniversary of Ultimecia's defeat. She watched Quistis and Cadell's first kiss, sweet and lingering and a reminder of everything that Anise could never again experience.
Smiling bitterly, Anise was relieved to see that at least some of the heroes responsible for Ultimecia's defeat were moving towards happiness. She had changed what she could and now it was time to return to that which she could not change: her death and Ultimecia's rise.
Once Anise's beautiful Knight, Freya would fall. The renegade SeeD responsible would damn all SeeD for all of time in Ultimecia's eyes. But everything had been set to rights. Instead of a world where Seifer's death spurred Squall into depression and a life filled with on-again, off-again suicide watches while Rinoa deteriorated back into her 'little princess' persona, Seifer and Squall would live long lives together while the girl who might have been Sorceress would lead a better life as the first Vice President of Timber after it's liberation. Though Selphie becoming the Sorceress surprised Anise, she could see through the darkness that it changed nothing. Eventually the line of Sorceresses would lead to her and then to Freya, trapping her in madness.
Tears silently falling, Anise opened her eyes and awoke in the moment she left.
"I like this," Seifer admitted, tightening his arms around Squall's waist slightly as they swayed to the music.
"It is nice," Squall agreed, leaning his cheek against Seifer's shoulder and letting his eyes drift shut. "Did all of this really happen in a matter of weeks? Ultimecia... us?"
"Seems like it should have taken longer," Seifer mused. "Like we should have gone on some epic quest hunting down GFs and hidden draw points filled with high level magic. But in the end she was just one Sorceress and she couldn't really fight all of us and maintain Time Compression all at the same time."
"Obviously I'm just too sexy for you to resist," Seifer declared, nuzzling Squall's hair. It was just so soft... the brunet's smell assaulted Seifer's senses and he reveled in it.
"Here I thought it was the reverse," Squall mused.
"Mmm..." Seifer nipped Squall's ear lightly. "How about it's both."
"Who do you think the Sorceress was?"
"No... the one who helped you change time."
Seifer shrugged. "Someone who knew Ultimecia's real name. She almost slipped up and said it. Whoever she was... I don't think she could make any changes to her own life. She had a more powerful version of Ellone's power, which let her connect herself to Time Compression somehow, but... like Ellone, she only sent other people back in time."
"Well, just you at any rate," Squall agreed. "I don't think she could have stopped Ultimecia," he mused. "She saved you from death and made all our lives better." He paused and then slid his hand up to hush the objections that were on the tip of Seifer's tongue. "In that other life, I'd have wound up with Rinoa and we'd be miserable together because I'm gay. Quistis would never have met Cadell, who makes her happy. Irvine wouldn't have proposed to Selphie yet. Fujin probably wouldn't be going to the university at the end of the summer. And you..." his voice choked off for a moment. "You'd be dead.
"Our lives are better this way." Squall moved his hand away from Seifer's mouth and he kissed him chastely. "Anyway... whoever she was, she obviously wanted to help us, whatever her intentions may have been. If she could have saved everyone by stopping Ultimecia... then I think she would have."
"You're probably right," Seifer agreed. "She seemed... sad about Ultimecia. Maybe she knew her before she went nuts."
"I guess that's just another thing we'll never have answers for. Ultimecia... the Sorceress..." Squall sighed and leaned his head back against Seifer's shoulder. "I'd rather have you than answers," he mumbled.
There was a flash and a click, causing the dancing couple to pull away slightly and turn towards the door. Selphie stood there with a camera in hand and a smirk on her face. "I'll make a copy for the two of you later. Just be glad the camcorder died before I got out here."
Squall huffed and glared at the camera, but Seifer grinned. "Thanks, Selphie. It'll be nice to have a picture of us." Squall's glare turned on the blonde. "What?" Seifer laughed. "I'm an incurable romantic at heart, remember? I like the idea of having photographic evidence that we can have normal couple-y moments."
"Idiot," Squall grumbled even as the corners of his lips lifted in a suppressed smile.
"Come on inside, you two. Irvine and I have a few things to tell everyone, okay?"
They followed the excited girl into the ballroom and moved to stand with their friends, Seifer's arms sliding around Squall's shoulders as the brunet leaned back against his chest. They ignored the amused smirk on Fujin's face as she watched them from where she sat with Raijin.
"Selphie and I have decided when we want our wedding to be," Irvine declared. "A year from yesterday."
"We want it to be on the anniversary of Ultimecia's defeat," Selphie agreed. "So, obviously, we're gonna put off planning until we get a lot closer to the actual date, but... we have a few things to ask you guys, first." Turning to Quistis, she said, "you're my sister, Quisty. So I want you to be my Maid of Honor."
"I'd love to," Quistis responded, grinning at her.
"Fuu, would you be a bridesmaid?"
Selphie breathed a sigh of relief. "One last question from me... Seifer... would you walk me down the aisle and give me away?"
Seifer's breath caught in his throat for a second and then he released Squall. Taking a few steps around the brunet and up to the copper-haired girl, he pulled Selphie into a tight hug. "Of course. If you're sure you want him," Seifer teased, shooting Irvine a smirk as he let go of the tiny Sorceress.
"He's weird, but I love him," Selphie told Seifer seriously. "So, yeah, I want him."
Seifer was more than a little shocked as he returned to his place and latched onto Squall again. He'd have thought that Selphie would want her adoptive father to give her away, but he certainly wasn't going to turn down a chance to walk his little sister down the aisle at her wedding. There was a story there, but he doubted it was something he should bring up at the moment.
"My turn," Irvine said with a nervous laugh. "Squall, I'd like you to be my Best Man."
"Okay," Squall responded, to the cowboy's obvious relief.
"Zell, would you be a groomsman?"
"Yeah, of course, Irvine." Zell beamed and squeezed the hand of his date to the party, the quiet library girl he'd been crushing on all year. Her name was Melina or Melia or something, though Seifer wasn't really sure which it was. He'd only ever heard anyone call her Mel while she was actually present. She was pretty and she was beaming at the happy couple and at Zell, clearly pleased by their happiness.
"Uh, Seifer, you'll have to help plan my bachelor party, okay? 'Cause Squall doesn't know the first thing about partying," Irvine teased, causing Squall to roll his eyes.
"There has to be a stripper," Selphie declared. When everyone stared at her, she shrugged. "What? I'm not saying he should sleep with the stripper, because he shouldn't. But it's... traditional to have a sexy stripper at bachelor parties, right? Bachelorette parties, too, 'cause I totally want to stuff dollar bills in some sexy Fabio or Chad's briefs."
"My fiance, ladies and gentlemen." Irvine laughed, kissing Selphie's cheek.
"Awww... you two are so cute," Mel sighed. "Confidant too."
"I'd have gone with crazy, personally," Zell joked, "but you two look really happy right now." He grew serious. "I'm glad everything seems to be going our way for a change. No psycho Sorceresses and no weird surprises. Just a few trials and then we'll be taking missions to fight monsters."
"I hope you haven't just jinxed us," Quistis said, only half-teasing. "I'm worried about Cadell's trial."
"Your girlfriend will be fine," Seifer promised. "Speaking of Minion, where is she?"
"She didn't want to be around a crowd," Quistis told him, giving him a look that conveyed the unspoken message that Cadell wasn't her girlfriend yet and that he should stop saying she was unless he wanted to be brutally murdered for putting a hex on things so that they never started dating.
Seifer was impressed that all of that could be communicated by a single glare and a raised eyebrow. Quistis was taking lessons.
"I told her I'd only stay an hour or so," Quistis continued. "So I'm going to go find Matron and He... Cid," she shook her head, still unused to Kramer's change in status, "and then head off to keep Cadell company."
Squall snorted quietly and shook his head. "Just ask her on a date already," he muttered. "Seifer will stop trying to goad you into it if you just get it over with."
Quistis gave Squall a surprised look. "Relationship advice from Squall Leonhart... I really must need help. Alright... I'll ask her out to dinner."
"Huh, Quistis must have done really well with your advice," Seifer joked, having spotted Quistis ahead of them in the hallway, her lips locked with Cadell's.
"Do you think we can sneak passed them without them noticing?" Squall asked. "We've got to get up early tomorrow so that we can head back to Esthar and start dealing with everything Loire throws our way."
"Like him finally admitting that he's your father?" Seifer mused. Seeing the uncertain expression on Squall's face, Seifer kissed Squall's temple. "I think they're in their own world right now." He paused and studied them for a moment. "I wasn't really sure whether I'm gay or bi. It didn't matter once we started dating... but I'm gonna have to go with gay. Not only did I date Rinoa without ever feeling inclined to kiss her, but we're standing here watching two really hot women make out and it does nothing for me."
"You're an idiot," Squall told him fondly, walking down the hall.
"If idiot becomes your pet name for me, I'm gonna get a complex, Kitten." Seifer laughed at the affronted expression on Squall's face.
"Stop calling me that."
"I can't help it... you can be so kittenish sometimes..." Seifer's eyes glazed lustfully at the memories of some of Squall's more kittenish moments. Shaking his head, he hurried after the brunet. "At least I'm not calling you something ridiculous like Hunny Bunny. I could, you know."
"If you wanted to die painfully, then yes, you could," Squall agreed evenly, his hand briefly flitting over the knife he kept belted to his left thigh.
"Or there's Baby, but you'd probably gut me for that one too," Seifer mused. They left the blissfully unaware couple behind as he continued to think of amusing terms of endearment. "There's always Sugar. That one is a classic. Sugarlips has a certain ring to it..."
"Keep it up and I'll make you sleep in your dorm tonight."
Seifer just laughed.
A/N - And that's a wrap! Time for us to start work on Happy Endings. :) Keep an eye on this story for further 'director's cut' chapters and The Cutting Room Floor Presents for information on why sniping people with pink paintballs is equivalent to training missions and much, much more.