The snow fell like bones, heavy and dull. Trabia was trapped in a thick, stormy overcast, casting down frigid, damaging wind and frozen water that stung each time it cut across Quistis' skin. Trabia's powerful cold fronts, infused with the surrounding magical energy fields, made for dangerous storms and loss of communication, especially for the unequipped. Ahead of her, a blurred figure marched on. He was a familiar gray, tall and arrogant. He learned well from his time at Garden. Had it not been for the fire stones he had on his person, the snowstorm would have robbed him clean of his life and energy.
The two were silent now, had been for a while. But she remembered him to be talking when they first met up, about himself, about his dreams, about reaching the top, always. His fall was hard, much more than he'd like to admit, but he'd been chewed up by Galbadia, by the world. Seifer Almasy, enemy to all established governments, wanted for crimes against the world, an accomplice to a conspiracy that promised world domination. He'd been running in the past few years, from the World Court, from the underbelly of different governments who sought to use him for their own deeds.
A few weeks ago, Quistis had found him with secret operatives, seeking to keep Galbadia's political interests in Dollet in tact. She'd been commissioned by the Dollet Dukedom to protect their newest asset who really had no place in the world Galbadia wished to create. Seifer had been a hired hand for Galbadia, taking up missions that guaranteed occasional run-ins with SeeD. Quistis wanted to ask him then what his reasoning was because he'd never let himself be willingly used for free before.
And now, here they were, thrown together again, and Quistis was silent, following behind his figure that slid through the angled wind and snow. The assassination attempt he'd been hired to perform on Dollet's newest heir had been thwarted by Quistis and her team, and he'd slipped out of his failure, returning again to a forgotten shadow. Somehow, their meeting together in Trabia hadn't been by coincidence. She was in these brutal mountains simply for reconnaissance, a task best suited for lesser SeeD, but Quistis volunteered because of its close connection with her last Dollet mission.
Seifer had found her lodged in one of the newly erected hotels, en route to Trabia Garden, and from there, they'd been traveling the same path, their ultimate destination separate. The surprise of seeing him was always the same. For some reason, Quistis could never predict nor anticipate his presence, even when it seemed obvious. He'd grown up a little, blonde stubble dotting his jaw, his green eyes a little more humble. She was glad to see some measure of peace within her former student, that he'd thrown down any childhood insecurities and began living for the person he'd become, rather than the one he wished to become.
Sorceress Ultimecia had cruelly played on his aspirations. He couldn't become a SeeD so he had to fulfill some other grandeur just to hold on to himself, to all of the things that made up Almasy. She hadn't understood then. After all, he'd been a troublemaker, and troublemakers were always supposed be one-dimensional. Each one of the members of the "orphanage gang" had their own inner complexes that needed to be worked out, and the 6 month journey she'd gone on with Squall and the rest gave her time to learn about herself, to grow into someone completely new. After saving the world, a cliché she laughed at occasionally, Quistis confronted her failed relationships, including her's with Seifer. At the age of 18, she couldn't help anyone. All she could do was relay facts and figures, and historical names to her pupils. Sure, Quistis could heal physical injuries, but she didn't know the first thing about healing emotional scars because she had refused to open herself to her own problems. At least Seifer had actively sought to lick his wounds, even if he went about it the wrong way.
Perhaps what she needed to ask him for was advice on his lacking fear of self.
Suddenly, Seifer stopped his pace and Quistis quickly caught herself from bumping into him. She'd never been so spacey. The monotonous whistling of the wind and the continuity of walking and walking had taken her to the issue of Seifer Almasy, the person she'd thought she was okay with not helping in the past.
"I see a shack up ahead, we'll rest there," he said, leading the charge again.
Quistis was relieved because she thought Seifer could go on forever, without rest.
When they reached the hovel, heaps of blue, used stones lay scattered, the larger ones toppling the entrance. Most likely, military personnel had built shelter there months ago for whatever reason. The stones were reusable, and the barricade in front of the entrance could be easily moved with a little junctioned magic. Seifer went to work kicking away the smaller stones, sending snow flying against the tide. Together, they moved the boulders, calling upon the strength of their GFs. The collaboration felt different for Quistis. She'd never worked harmoniously with Seifer like this, not even in the simplest of tasks.
"You've changed, Seifer." At least she liked to think so. Seifer could have very well been putting up a front the whole time.
"Because I'm moving rocks with you?" he jested.
Quistis knew he acknowledged what she was really saying because he looked at her when she finally chuckled. They never looked at each other before. He was always on the opposite end, and she was always fighting what he was becoming. In the snowstorm, desolate and cold, they were new people, with their own aspirations and goals. When Quistis thought of the relationship of these short meetings like that, fresh and without context, Seifer wasn't so bad. She could relate to him easier.
Inside the shack, the wind echoed, chilling every corner, occupying every space. Quistis sent fire to the mounds of wax and wick lining the four walls. Golden light spilled across the black, stone floor, to the flat ceiling, and over Quistis' and Seifer's rosy faces. A burned out fire in the middle of the shelter looked a few months old.
As Quistis began building a new fire, Seifer reached into his bag and pulled from it the remains of a Blue Dragon they'd brought down together. The bag he stored the meat in acted as a preservative, coupled with the cold climate. It would feed them for the night.
"You know, you still haven't told me why you're here," Quistis decided to say.
The two sat across from each other, the orange glint of fire heating up their faces. Quistis removed her gloves, boots, and jacket to stay dry. Seifer did the same, save for the cloth hat hugging his ears.
"Why do you want to know?" Seifer asked.
With the two branches he took from his other bag, he handed one to Quistis, having already punctured the meat. They hung it over the flame to cook.
"Well, how have you been?"
Quistis smiled to herself, never once believing she'd be having this conversation with Seifer after everything had been said and done.
"The same," Seifer answered.
"You think so?" Quistis huddled closer to the flame. "I mean look at you, you got stubble."
"It keeps the trackers away."
This man found sarcasm in his unfortunate circumstance. People hunted him for his misguided crimes. It was funny how the ones who were closer to him, but also hated him, were more willing to find some sort of sympathy. Even Zell had once wanted revenge when he thought Seifer had been executed.
"Are you still a hired hand for Galbadia?" she asked him.
When she was protecting the new heir to Dollet's political system, there was talk of Galbadia sending some assassin his way. She hadn't known it was Seifer, how could she have? It was as if her enemy had been Ultimecia again, placing Seifer in her direct line of fire. But he'd escaped and another SeeD had taken her commission.
"You know Galbadia's going to find another way to change Dollet's Dukedom to serve them," he answered instead.
Quistis nodded, succumbing. "Yes," she sighed, "which is why I need to investigate the northern mountains. It was believed to be the last place Dollet's Duke had been seen before he disappeared."
The Duke's son assumed his father's ruling responsibilities by proxy, until the patriarch was found. It was why SeeD protection needed to be amped up in the Duke's absence. Galbadia was likely to strike now, especially if they wanted control of Dollet so badly. But Quistis was unsure of what Galbadia's plans were with their hired hand so far in the Trabian mountains with her.
"Seifer," Quistis faltered, the change in her voice betraying her, "what you're doing is dangerous. You're a wanted criminal dancing with the very government that wouldn't think twice about your execution. Why? Why are you letting them use you like this?"
Was it because he wanted to be free without having to run or do errands for the interests of Galbadia, she wanted to add, but thought against it.
"Answering to their call, trapped in some master/servant paradigm, that's what you're thinking, huh?" he chuckled. "Everything's always logic with you, Quistis."
She was twenty-four, and even Seifer could see that she hadn't changed her instructor-like thinking patterns.
"You're right," she said, "I guess that's why I don't understand."
"I'm no criminal because the world doesn't really care anymore. Galbadia's election is over, the dummy president doesn't need my name to coerce his people into voting for his policies anymore. Truth is, there's a small thrill in wreaking havoc. I'm just waiting for the backfire, that's the real fun."
"You want your name in the headlines again?" Quistis asked, half-jokingly.
"That's an added bonus."
Quistis wondered if Seifer truly found a home in that kind of thrill. Was he really just searching for things to do, or was he trying to find the closest place to what he'd once been? She couldn't forget that years ago, he'd been the commander of an entire army, that he'd waged war on nations and on SeeD. But could Quistis point her finger at this man even if he'd been brainwashed? She asked herself that question because she knew Seifer found some good in what he did. At least he was aware of his capabilities and his own vulnerabilities.
"Then what do you really want? Glory can't be it."
"Who knows, maybe tomorrow I'll forget all this shit and go fishing."
Quistis then recalled something out of her past. She said, "Remember when we were fourteen, taking that survivalist class at Garden?"
She took another bite of her kill, a fond smile spreading across her lips.
"You were bad at surviving," Seifer said.
"Fishing," she corrected. "I was bad at catching fish."
Seifer excelled in that class, and when he'd received the praise of the instructor, other students began seeing more than his rebellious nature. People liked him a little despite their fear. It was the first time Quistis thought she was in love with Seifer. She'd forgotten that they were something like siblings growing up in an orphanage.
"Anyway, you remember when I hated learning from you how to make a fire so I could get extra credit?" Seifer nodded. "For some reason, even with the GFs, I can't forget that you actually taught me something."
"And there you were, instructor, making me out to be the bad guy," he said.
"I guess that's where I went wrong with you. I was always trying to teach you things, but I never really listened to you."
"That's in the past, we're different now," Seifer said.
He finished his meal and stretched himself out over the length of the floor.
"It was a long, long time ago. . . ."
"When morning comes, I'll be headed north, and you'll be on your separate path. Not sure when we'll see each other again, but I think it's a good thing whenever we do meet up."
"Maybe," Seifer replied. ". . . You still haven't asked me about Fujin and Raijin."
"You three are close, do I really need to know anything else?"
Wherever those two were, they were still connected to Seifer, Quistis figured. Their friendship had evolved into one of long distance since Seifer had been knocked off the top. The last time she'd heard anything about them was a few months ago. According to intelligence reports, Raijin and Fujin had been involved in forming their own branch of resistance members to work against Galbadian oppression, receiving covert support from even Dollet.
"They're fine, I'm sure," Quistis answered.
She looked to Seifer, and he was staring at her. The flames swayed in his eyes, lighting his blonde hair, pushing shadows onto his face. He was so much more older now, not that skinny little boy teasing Zell and convincing the other children to do stuff that would get them all in trouble. She was amazed at what he'd become, who he'd been, and why he did the things he did. Seifer was all for putting unanswered questions in Quistis' head, so maybe she'd been in love with his mysteries when she was fourteen. Who knew?
"You're going to carry on with the SeeD gigs til you're old and saggy, huh?" Seifer asked.
"I believe so. What, that's too permanent for you?"
"How indecisive of you," Quistis joked.
For a while, the small talk stopped and Quistis was back into her own head again, closing her eyes. She felt the comfort of the flame's heat upon her skin, forgetting that there was a raging storm just outside the double doors of the shelter. She was hoping that none of her missions involved having to battle Seifer again. Her last mission had been the wake-up call. A man of Seifer's skill and talents could be used by anyone, including the opposition of any of her clients. When they had ended up on opposite ends again, enemies by association, they'd regarded each other mutually. Detachment was the first rule one learned in a militaristic academy of orphans, which was why, for them, it was easier to still get along despite the past.
Laying there with Seifer, as if they were old friends, was kind of stupid on Quistis' part. It wasn't professional as a SeeD to have any kind of relationship with a fugitive and traitor, especially if there were chances that they'd run into each other again. But she missed Seifer, his disobedience, the chaos he caused, it was apart of him, and now she was intrigued by this different man he was becoming.
"Are you asleep?" she whispered.
"Why are you whispering, there's no one here."
"Would you come back to Garden if you had the chance?"
His reply was quick, definite.
"Just wondering," she said.
Quistis turned over, smiling. She wouldn't want Seifer to come back to a place he'd move on from. He was too strong for that, had faced much more to make such a feat. She wanted to keep meeting Seifer in unlikely places, watch him grow in the moments of seeing each other. It was a wish from the past her, the one who couldn't fathom a change in him if it didn't come from her teachings. She watched him glow in the fire, sinking further into sleep. His eyebrows became lax and his breathing became deep and steady, all inner disturbances muted for the short night.
When morning came, the frigid air returning after the flame and candles died, Seifer and Quistis were already up, reviewing their junctions, and arming themselves for the outside.
"Well, Seifer, take care, okay?" Quistis said suddenly.
He came before her, tucked in a long, blonde lock behind her ear.
"There's probably another future with you in it again somewhere," Seifer replied.
Quistis smiled. "Very unlikely. But, then again, you are here so who knows?"
She allowed a brief embrace, then they parted, on opposite sides again.
The wind hit hard and fierce, but there was no blizzard waiting for them this time.
I don't know. I think this piece speaks for itself on my thoughts about Quistis and Seifer post game. Would there be hard feelings years later? Let me know what you think! I'd love to hear!