Rating: T

Disclaimer: FF8, FF10, and all related characters/places belong to Square Enix. No infringement intended!

A/N: This is a FFVIII & FFX crossover written for malena_sama as part of a gift exchange on the seiferxquistis community on Live Journal. I give her credit for the premise, which proved so fruitful for me that instead of the one-shot I expected to write, I began this full-length fic instead! This takes place in the FFX world and will have many FFX cameo appearances. But it deals primarily with FFVIII characters.

The Summoner's Knight

Chapter 1: Kilika

Sin came to Kilika when Quistis was eight years old, only a few short months before Lord Braska defeated the monster in Zanarkand. She'd been rushed inland along with all the other school children when the alarms first sounded. And from the crowded, high courtyard of the temple she watched as Sin's back breached from the water, creating a massive wave the washed over the city.

Both of her parents drowned.

Now, more than ten years later, she stood in the same spot looking out to sea, her hands clenched nervously together under her long sleeves. Ever since she'd walked into the temple, consumed with grief, and committed herself to Yevon, she'd known exactly who she wanted to be at her side the moment she defeated Sin. So she'd asked him to meet her here where it had all begun.

"I'm not going to be an apprentice much longer," she told him.

He shifted beside her but didn't respond.

"Tomorrow I'm going to face the Cloister of Trials. I'm going to become a full-fledged summoner and start on my pilgrimage." It made her shiver to say aloud and she couldn't help but turn and look at him, eager to see that he shared her passion for the quest. He had to, she thought, since he'd also lost family that fateful day—his mother, Raine.

But with his long brown hair hanging in his eyes and his arms crossed, Squall Leonhart didn't so much as blink. And after a long pause, he said, "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I want you to come with me." She fought back the urge to grab his arm. She'd been dreaming about their journey together for a long time. About how they'd be unstoppable. How they'd bring about a calm longer than Braska's—longer than anyone's. And how along the way they'd see the far reaches of the world together, from the Thunder Plains to Macalania Woods. Her heart warmed just to think of it.

"You're asking me to be your guardian?"


One hand propped on his hip, Squall turned away from her. "I can't."

"What? Why?" Quistis's voice sounded small.

"I joined the Crusaders."

"Well..." She bit her lip. "Come with me anyway. As a Crusader you can protect a few people. But with me, you could save everyone." Unlike her, he still had family in Kilika to consider, his father and sister, neither of whom would ever truly be safe so long as Sin roamed Spira's oceans. He had to see that he could do far more for them at her side than anywhere else.

He rested one hand on the hilt of his sword. "There are other ways to fight. I've already committed to an operation up north."

"What kind of operation?" The Crusaders spent the majority of their time defending cities, tracking Sin across the globe, and mopping up behind it. Important work. But not half as prestigious or meaningful as being a guardian.

"I just know where to report," he told her, "not what will happen when I get there."

"I'm sure your superiors will understand if you explain. I'll be ready to go by the time you have to leave. So I could even explain to them myself." The idea gave her added steam. "You'd make a magnificent guardian. I've already talked to the priests about it, and they agree."

Squall blew out a breath. "Are you almost done?"

Almost done? She didn't even know what to say to that.

"I've made my decision," he said, the context clear that he wouldn't he swayed from it.

She could hardly believe that during the hours she'd spent communing with Yevon, imagining their future together, he'd picked up his sword and left her behind. The shock of his dismissal didn't fully sink in until Quistis arrived back home.

The woman who had adopted her, Edea Kramer, waited inside, her legs crossed at the ankle under her long, black dress as she sat mending a tear in one of her husband's shirts. Together Cid and Edea ran the school. Quisits supposed that he was still there, wrapping up administrative odds and ends, since Edea sat alone. Two plates rested on the kitchen table with a scrap piece of cloth thrown over them to keep the food underneath warm.

"How'd it go?" Edea asked.

A torrent of emotion hit Quistis as she explained what Squall had said. In her moment of weakness, she flopped down in front of her dinner and dashed stray tears from her eyes. The floor creaked as Edea got up and walked across the room. Her small hand rested on Quistis's shoulder.

"I always thought he'd be here...waiting," Quistis said.

"You and Squall each have your own paths. You'll see," Edea said. She pulled out a chair and sat down at the table, too. "Don't fret too much over this, darling. Your knight will show up soon. I'm certain."

Quistis nodded though she found it hard to believe anyone could be so great a guardian as Squall.

But in the morning she'd go to the temple anyway and pray to the fayth. Perhaps Yevon would give her some guidance.

0 0 0

The long boat trip from Luca to Kilika left Seifer Almasy feeling queasy. Even as he walked along the dock and watched the steady wooden planks pass underneath his feet, he could feel the imprint of the waves on his body. Up and down. Side to side. He stopped, covered his mouth, and breathed through his nose for a long moment until the rolling surge of nausea abated.

"OKAY?" Fujin asked.

"Fine," Seifer grunted and dragged his sleeve across his mouth.

Raijin followed behind Fujin, carrying a huge pack strapped to his back that contained all of their traveling supplies. While the sea had sucked the life out of Seifer, it had bolstered Raijin, adding color to his already tawny complexion and filling him with an annoyingly ecstatic verve for life. Raijin took a deep breath of the fresh sea air, hiked the pack higher on his shoulders and said, "I hope I get the chance to check out the Beasts before the big tourney in Luca. I hear they're supposed to be good this year, ya know?"

"We've got bigger things to do here than check out blitzball stats," Seifer replied.

Raijin looked doubtful that anything could be more important than blitzball. Until recently, the sport had consumed Raijin's entire life. He'd played for the Luca Goers the past five years with Fujin as his ball-busting coach. They both loved the game and never would have left Luca had Seifer not dragged them south in an effort to fulfill his own dream: to become a guardian, vanquish Sin, and save the world.

He'd been thinking about it for the past ten years, ever since Lord Braska's Calm began. But any real chances for valor were few and far between in Luca, home of merchandising shops, sports stadiums, and far too many Crusaders spending all their time and effort watching over a giant ball filled with water.

But Kilika had produced a high summoner before. He felt certain he'd find his destiny here.

"We gonna at least have time to stop and eat?" Raijin asked. He rubbed his belly. "I could use a refill."

The mere thought of stopping in a restaurant and watching Raijin eat had Seifer moving to the edge of the dock again, ready to hurl. Had he consumed anything in the past twenty four hours, he might have. But as it was, he had only a single dry heave to give the ocean. He swept his gloved hand through his short, blond hair and came to a quick decision.

"You two go eat and then get a room. I'll head up to the temple by myself." And get a little peace and quiet in which to recover, he thought with a scowl.

"Sounds like a great plan to me, ya know!"


The two headed into downtown Kilika while Seifer took the road leading further inland. The city had high wooden walls to hold back the fiend infested forest that made up the island's interior. Past that, he could see the mountain on top of which sat the temple. Its sacred flames flickered visibly even from the waterfront.

"Heading out of the city?" one of the men at the wall asked as Seifer made to pass through the gate.

"Trying to," Seifer replied.

"You armed? It's dangerous out there."

With one hand, Seifer swept back his gray trench coat to reveal the long, glimmering edge of his blade, Hyperion. "I'm prepared," he snapped, irritated at being held up by these two guards in the heat of the day, which only aggravated his seasickness.

"Hey." One of the men held up his hands. "I'm just doing my job."

The city of Kilika sat balanced between twin threats: wilderness on one side and the deadly sea on the other. As Seifer stepped through the gate and onto the open grass leading up to the tree line, he thought that he'd take the threat from fiends over Sin any day. But he could see why so many people chose to live along the coast instead. Ragoras and ochus represented a constant danger, one that couldn't be avoided even during calms, whereas Sin might pass up the city all together for years at a time. They drew comfort from the possibility of safety. Seifer preferred control.

He shrugged out of his coat before entering the trees, wrapping it around his waist, and kept Hyperion at the ready.

A narrow trail led through the trees. He followed it until a killer bee flew out of the bushes at him—an insect the size of a pony, its stinger already bulging out of its bulbous abdomen. Seifer made short work of it. He drove Hyperion straight through its thorax, pinning it to the dirt until it finally dissolved into a cloud of pyreflies.

"Ooh. Very nice work," said a low, feminine voice behind him.

He turned to find a woman, dark skinned and barely dressed standing behind him. She had one hand propped on her hip and on her other side stood a man who looked to have fallen out of the trees only a generation ago.

"I'm Dona," the woman said. "Haven't seen you around here before."

From the look of her, Seifer guessed she took note of every man who passed through Kilika. Her dress resembled a half-peeled corn husk, loosely laced across the front and the back so that the cleft between her breasts and the dark V of her underwear showed through.

"I just arrived from Luca," Seifer replied.

"Really? Looking for something in particular?"

Not that she'd be much help, but... "Yes. A summoner."

Both of her eyebrows raised. "Well, aren't you in luck. I'm Kilika's resident summoner. This is my guardian, Barthello."

Seifer cocked his head in disbelief.

"You're it? The only summoner in Kilika?"

Dona flinched but didn't lose her haughty stance. "The only one that matters," she replied. "In fact, I'm on my way to the temple right now. You're welcome to come along if you'd like. Safety in numbers and all." She smiled, malicious and cat-like. Seifer merely shrugged in response. They were already headed in the same direction, and if she possessed any skill as a summoner, he'd find out well before they got to the temple. Of course, if she proved better than she looked, he'd have to find some way of getting rid of her trained monkey.

As Seifer lowered Hyperion and waved the two past, meaning to bring up the rear, Bathello cast him a withering look. Maybe the lug wasn't as stupid as he looked, Seifer thought.

The entire way up to the temple, Dona allowed Seifer and Barthello to take care of the fiends while she stood well behind them and observed. As they climbed the temple steps, Seifer turned to her and asked, "Why haven't you left on your pilgrimage? Why are you still in Kilika?"

"Well...I'm technically still an apprentice. I'm waiting for my chance to pray to the fayth."

"What's the hold up? Can't you make it through the Cloister of Trials?"

Dona laughed. "No. There's another summoner already in there. Been there for hours and hours now."

When they got to the temple courtyard, Seifer could indeed see that the sacred flames burned blue, indicating that a summoner was now deep within the temple, praying to the fayth. A few priests milled about in their robes and some townspeople sat praying to statues. From among them emerged a young man with long brown hair and a scar across the bridge of his nose. Seifer recognized him immediately—Squall Leonhart. From the way his mouth fell into an immediate grimace, Seifer supposed that Squall remembered him, too. They'd traded scars in the blitzball pool, after all. Seifer first (not quite accidentally) catching Squall with his famous Fire Cross Shot. Later in the game, Squall got him back with a violent shot of his own. They'd been known all year for their intense rivalry. But that escalation of violence got them both kicked from the game and the sport.

"Imagine seeing you here, Puberty Boy," Seifer said, using the same nickname he'd had for Squall back in their blitz days. "Are you asking Yevon for balls, talent, or both?"

Squall ignored him and glanced at Dona instead. "You can't go in. Quistis isn't done yet."

Interesting development. Squall knew the summoner.

"I can see that," Dona replied. "But someone ought to go check on her since she's in there all alone, and I am the only one able to enter the cloister after her."

Taking a wild chance, Seifer pulled his coat back on and announced, "Actually, that's why I'm here."

Squall and Dona both looked at him, wide-eyed with surprise (and Barthello with evident relief). Seifer stepped around all three to make his way into the temple, jogging headlong through the doors and down the staircase leading into the cloister. Only a single, wizened priest tried to stop him.

"The precepts..." he began, waving a feeble hand.

"It's okay!" Seifer shouted over his shoulder. "I'm her guardian!"

0 0 0

Exhausted and trembling, Quistis pressed her palms flat against the the inlaid floor beneath her which showed the corded expanse of a man's back ringed by flame and blades. The fayth. She knew his name now—Ifrit—and could feel the man's soul light and airy like a cloud of invisible pyreflies. Having knelt for so long, her legs ached and barely managed to hold her weight as she stood up. Her head swam and her vision clouded with black. The long ordeal of prayer had pushed her close to the edge so that she now felt able to peer across the chasm separating life and death.

She smoothed her hair away from her face and moved toward the chamber door. It peeled open with a touch, letting in a cool breath of fresh air that whispered across her neck and belly where her shirt parted above her navel. She sucked in a grateful breath and, with one hand braced against the door frame, looked down the steps into the chamber beyond.

A man stood there. Tall. Blond. Wearing a long, gray trench coat. And he had a scar across the bridge of his nose nearly identical to Squall's.

"Who are you?" Quistis asked, her tone and manner sharpened by fatigue and surprise. "How did you get in here?"

He bowed. "I'm your guardian."

Not sure what to think, she stared. Had someone set this up? Edea or Cid?

"I'm sorry if someone told you—" she began, but he interrupted her.

"Did you do it? Are you a summoner?"

She crossed her arms and tried not to look wobbly. "Yes."

"Then you need a guardian." He glanced around the conspicuously empty room and smirked. "Lucky for you, I'm available."

Confounded, Quistis took her time walking down the steps toward him. She was accustomed to feeling tall, especially in her boots, but he towered over her, a commanding presence that both impressed and irritated her.

"What's your name?" she asked.

"Seifer Almasy." He paused as if she may have heard of him before, then asked, "Yours?"

"Quistis...Lady Quistis Trepe," she quickly amended. Now that she had earned that title, she found some comfort in requiring him to use it. It was the least he could do, anyway, after barging in on this raw, private moment.

"Lady Summoner it is, then," he said and bowed. "Did you have some trouble in there? With the fayth, I mean. From what I heard outside, you've been in there a while. And you look like shit."

Already, she didn't like him.

"It's not an instantaneous process. Even High Summoner Ohalland prayed here for more than five hours."

"Really?" Seifer sounded doubtful. His green eyes looked her up and down and she withered with humiliation, thinking that he was about to comment on her appearance again. Instead, he said, "You're not carrying a weapon. You're not another one of those summoners who thinks killing fiends is beneath them. Are you? 'Cuz I've already had my fill of that upstairs with Dona."

"Dona's upstairs?"

"Yeah. With Ape-Man and Pubes."

The former clearly referred to Barthello. But... "Pubes?"


Quistis felt as if she'd somehow fallen into another universe. This day couldn't get any weirder.

"You know Squall?"

One corner of Seifer's mouth quirked upward and he gestured to his scar. "We've met."

Since returning home to Kilika with his scar, Squall had refused to talk about it. And when Squall decided he didn't want to talk, a herd of wild chocobos couldn't convince him otherwise. So for a moment, wanting to know more about the man she loved and thereby understand him better, Quistis considered asking Seifer what had happened. The certainty that Seifer would see straight through her question and seek to manipulate the weakness he found underneath stopped her. Above all with this man, she sensed that she shouldn't show weakness.

And to that end...

She reached down and uncoiled her weapon from where it lay looped at her side, nestled just under the black silk bow she wore off the side of her hip, signifying her status as a summoner. The whip had once belonged to her father and he'd called it Save the Queen, saying that he'd once used it to rescue Quistis's mother from a fiend. Since acquiring it, she'd become much more proficient than her father had ever been and had even made several improvements to the weapon's design. Made from the fibers of a dried malboro tentacle, it slipped golden and sinuous through her fingers, the vicious, magic filled barbs lying flat.

"As a summoner without a guardian, I have no choice but to be well armed," she said.

Seifer looked down at her whip with the sort of the disdain she'd gotten used to (no one properly respected a whip until they saw it in action). "Better than nothing, I suppose," he said. "Come on, then. Let's get back up there and spread the good news."

He grabbed her, the leather of his gloves cool against the hot skin of her arm, and pulled her in the direction of the cloister.

"Listen," she said, tugging free, "I appreciate your offer, but I don't need or want your services as a guardian."

"You're going to go on your pilgrimage all alone? Fight Sin by yourself?"

She hardened. "I'll manage."

"So you're going to go up there and face the whole town, Pubes and Dona and everyone, as a summoner without a guardian?" His tone made that sound like the most embarrassing thing that could ever befall her. It gave her pause.

"I could have any guardian I want. There are plenty in Kilika who would love to travel to Zanarkand with me." A partial truth. While Kilika did have plenty of men (and women) eager to take their place at her side, the only one she wanted to had already refused.

"Well, if you don't want me, Dona sure does. Though I think in that case I might continue on to Besaid. I've heard that High Summoner Braska's daughter lives there. And she'll probably be the one to defeat Sin anyway. Family tradition and all."

What an asshole. Quistis felt like slugging him. Instead, she rolled her eyes and pushed past him through the sanctum door and into the cloister beyond. All of this could be straightened out once she had a meal, a nap, and a bath. At the moment, she didn't feel like she had the wherewithal to work out where this man had come from or why he seemed so determined to make her life more difficult. At least he stopped talking as they walked through the cloister and up to the temple door beyond.

"Lady Quistis!" One of the priests assailed her the moment she reached the top of the temple stairs. The man, flanked by two acolytes, pointed at Seifer and demanded, "Please, explain! This man broke precepts, rushing into the temple against our commands. It's sacrilege!"

"No it's not," Seifer replied. "I'm her guardian. I'm allowed."

All eyes turned to Quistis.

"Is this true?" The priest's eyebrows raised expectantly. Everyone in Kilika knew she'd yet to name a guardian. Unfortunately, Quistis could still be held responsible for Seifer's actions. For his flagrant disregard for the precepts, she could be excommunicated, ending her quest to defeat Sin here and now.

Gritting her teeth, she bowed. "Yes. Of course he is my guardian. I apologize for his late arrival and the confusion."

Behind her, she knew Seifer had to be grinning.

"I hope you'll give the priests at the rest of Yevon's temples more consideration," the priest scolded, his tone too much like a parent's for Quistis's liking. She'd worked too hard to get dressed down like this. Especially when the mistake hadn't been her own. When the priest finished with them, he offered Quistis a small bow, congratulated her on successfully becoming a summoner, and allowed them to pass.

Outside, the gathered crowd hushed and turned to look at her when she stepped through the door. The sun blinded her and she had to shade her eyes with her arm. Among those gathered she sought out Squall, whose expression gave nothing away, and Dona, whose expression told Quistis just how much she resented not getting to the Chamber of the Fayth first. The gathered acolytes and town folk rushed to congratulate her.

Squall didn't stick around to say anything, just nodded in her direction, turned on his heel, and left. Dona grabbed hold of Barthello and marched into the temple, her expression determined and ugly.

"We should leave on the next boat," Seifer said once her well-wishers dispersed.

"There isn't any we," she replied under her breath.

"There was a minute ago."

"That's because you apparently broke the precepts to barge in there and harass me. Do you know how much trouble I could have gotten into because of you?"

"It all turned out fine. I don't see anything to be upset about."

Of course he didn't. It all had gone just how he'd wanted. What sort of guardian had no honor? She had to get away from this man or he'd doom her pilgrimage.

Sure of himself, he smiled, pulled his coat off, and tied it around his waist for the long walk down the temple steps to the forest below. He wore a blue vest underneath with a silver cross down the middle. Underneath he looked lean and fit, his arms and shoulders reminding her more of Ifrit's fayth than anything else she'd seen recently. The bright sunlight made his eyes appear strikingly green. Handsome, she thought. And he knew it.

"You're used to getting your way. Aren't you?" she said as they walked. "Used to charging through life without forethought or planning." She paused for a beat, taking his silence as confirmation and continued, "That's too bad. Because if you really want to become a guardian, that lack of discipline and control is going to prevent you from ever realizing your dream."

"I have plenty of control."

"None that I've seen."

"What about you?" he fired back, turning to glance at her as they crossed a landing to another set of stairs. "You're so focused on becoming a summoner you never bothered to make any friends to go on the journey with you."

"I have friends."

"Squall Leonhart? He doesn't count. You'd be better off with a pet rock."

His comment had struck close enough to home that it stung. Bitterly. "Don't act like you know me," she said.

"You're acting like you know me," he pointed out.

"Somehow, I don't think there's too much to know," she replied.

Quisits knew a shortcut through the forest, so when they reached the tree line she stepped off the beaten path, under a low hanging branch, and leaped over a small, rocky stream. Seifer followed and they immediately encountered a fiend. Forgetting that she now had an aeon to do battle for her, Quistis unfurled her whip and destroyed the beast with a single, punishing snap.

"Not bad," Seifer said. High praise coming from him, she figured.

Among those in Kilika who knew how to fight, she'd long been hailed as a prodigy. Competent at both magic and physical combat. She knew she was a force to be reckoned with.

As it happened, Seifer was, too.

The forest gave her plenty of time to watch him in action. And she had to admit to some begrudging admiration. He fought with fluid grace, using his sword one handed. It made him faster and more agile than Squall who always fought with both hands on his blade. They'd match each other one on one, she thought. Something she wouldn't have admitted as possible moments before. Clearly, she'd underestimated Seifer physically. But his skill against fiends didn't necessarily make him a good guardian. His attitude still got in the way. And she just plain didn't want to give him the satisfaction.

When they arrived back in town, the warm scent of food drifting on the air made Quistis's stomach rumble. Already the sun sat low in the sky. Dinner time. Edea would have something warm and wonderful waiting for her on the table. She picked up her pace.


She came to a stop so fast that Seifer nearly plowed into her. Ahead of them a man in a sea foam green shirt, worn lose and mostly unbuttoned waved and jogged to meet them. A dog darted out in front of him and he tossed both arms in the air to avoid tripping over it, losing a sandal in the process.

"Who the hell is that?" Seifer asked.

"Laguna," she replied. "Squall's dad."

Aside from their similar faces and long dark hair (Laguna's just now beginning to gray), father and son shared nothing in common. Laguna swept Quistis into hug. "I heard the good news! Congratulations!" he said into her hair. "Cid and Edea are going to be so proud. Well, they already are. But they're going to be...you know...more so." He grinned.

Seifer raised one gloved hand to hide the jaw-breaking grin spreading across his face.

"Ellone knows, too. Squall told us."

"He did? I didn't think—"

"I know. I heard about that, too." Laguna shook his head, then seemed to notice Seifer for the first time. "Hello. You seem familiar."

"I'm Quistis's guardian," Seifer said.

"Really? Well...that's even better news." Laguna gave them both a thumbs up. "I'd better let you two kids get on your way. I'm sure Edea's waiting. I just wanted to be sure I had the chance to see you before...you know."

Many days worth of Quistis's life had been wasted trying to reconcile how someone as cold as Squall could possibly be related to someone so ruled by his emotions. Laguna pressed a cursory kiss to Quistis's cheek before smiling sadly and shooing her along her way. When Seifer sniggered, she socked him in the arm hard enough to make her knuckles sting.

"Why are you still here anyway?" she asked. "Don't you have a boat to Besaid to catch?"

"Thought I'd hang around a little longer."

Great. She didn't want to take him home, but Kilika wasn't a big enough town to lose him in. And as she rounded a corner, she spotted Edea standing out on the deck of their second story home, her black hair and dark dress moving in the sea breeze. She stood on her toes and waved.

"That another one of Squall's relatives?" Seifer asked.

"No. That's Matron." At his puzzled expression, she explained, "She adopted me when my parents died."

There was no avoiding it now. Edea came down the steps. When Seifer introduced himself, overflowing all of the sudden with good manners and charm, Edea's face lit up and Quistis's stomach sank.

"Her guardian? Oh! Praise be to Yevon." She took Seifer by the arm. "Please, come inside. I'm sure you're both famished after such a long day." Quistis trailed up to her house behind them.

Inside, Quistis found Cid home as well. Moreso than Edea who was ten years his junior, Cid looked the part of a school teacher with his round glasses, bushy hair, and stocky build. At the moment he sat at the table, already halfway through his meal. He put down his fork and stood up when they all came inside.

Cid and Edea invited Seifer to sit and Quistis watched from her place across the table as he consumed an astonishing amount of food, as if he hadn't eaten a full meal in days. All the while, Cid and Edea asked him questions and pushed second helpings onto his plate. Much to Quistis's surprise, Seifer got along famously with Edea, his boorishness magically erased in her presence. He seemed the prefect gentleman. A guardian par excellence.

There'd be no way after this to break it to Matron that she intended to abandon this man the first chance she got. And she figured from the way Seifer smiled at her through a mouthful of pie that he knew it.

She narrowed her eyes at him.

No matter what, she resolved that she'd never allow Seifer Almasy to stand by her side in Zanarkand. Not for all of Spira.

0 0 0

Kilika only had one place for visitors to the island to stay and Seifer walked in just after sundown to find Fujin and Raijin sitting in the building's tiny lobby eating dinner and playing a game of cards. Fujin looked up from hers. "HUNGRY?"

"Nope." He kicked out one of the chairs, sat in it, and rubbed his belly. "Goods news though. I think I found us a summoner."


"That was pretty fast, ya know. You sure ya got the right one?"

Seifer hitched one shoulder up in a casual shrug. Way he figured, this match was meant to be. Fate had delivered him into Quistis Trepe's life at the perfect moment, giving them both the chance to fulfill their deepest dreams. That she knew Squall, his longtime rival, only fueled his certainty.

"We're going to be heading back to Luca in the morning. So don't be late getting down to the docks or I'll leave your sorry asses behind."


"Hey! We gonna be there for the tournament?" Raijin asked.

Seifer saw no reason they'd stay in Luca that long, but he knew there was no point telling Raijin that so he assured him that they'd buy tickets first thing (all the better to ensure he ended up at the boat on time). With Raijin's cheers still ringing in his ears, he got up to go to bed. The room Fujin had rented for them had three beds that more resembled mats lying on the floor. After a long day, he didn't much mind—just kicked off his boots and tossed them into a pile along with his coat, vest, and socks.

This summoner, he thought as he stretched out to sleep, was an interesting case. Not what he'd expected.

Bossy. Stubborn.

And pretty.

The fact that he'd found her bereft of companionship led him to believe that she'd be difficult to get along with. But he didn't much care. He didn't place much value on social grace anyway and he didn't need her to be a kind and lovely person to summon the final aeon and help him defeat Sin. Plus, she'd shown herself to be competent with both magic and her whip. He respected that.

So in the morning, whether she wanted him there or not, he intended to be at her side on the ship to Luca. After tonight, he decided, he'd never be separated from her again. Not until they reached Zanarkand.