Nobody says it’s pretty here,
nobody says it’s easy either.
What it is is decisive,
and if you pay attention to the street plans,
all laid out, the City can’t hurt you.
“Dear Passengers, your attention please!”
“Our next stop will be: …”
“Shopping Concourse B–Eastern Mall–Sector 07”
“Have a nice day!”
A tall and slender blonde woman, indifferent or most likely unaware of her fellow passenger’s admiring stares, steps out of the public airtram. She looks preoccupied, but her walk is brisk, and she seems to know where she’s going. She’s not dressed in a flashy or provocative fashion, rather her attire is a serviceable one. Although on a body such as hers, even a plain shirt worn over a pair of faded jeans have the power to draw a lot of appreciative stares, and unfortunately quite a few leering ones too. Her hair is simply pulled back from her face into a pony tail, but again, the simplicity of the hairstyle only serves to emphasize the stark beauty of her features. She stops in front of one the many informational holographic displays available in the mall, and reaches inside her slouch bag in search of something.
Quistis finally found her new Portable Device… It was so tiny! She wanted to check again the instructions Ellone had given her, just to make sure that she was in the right place! Used to Balamb City’s more humane proportions, she was trying real hard not to feel overwhelmed by the vastness of the huge shopping concourse; indeed, by the very vastness of the city itself. The last time she was here, almost two years ago, she’d been too busy feeling sorry for Squall, and too worried about Rinoa being unconscious to actually notice the immensity that was Esthar City… ‘In any case, I was only here for a very short period… I went with Squall and Rinoa to the Lunar Base. Now, that was a breathtaking experience!’ She gazed enviously at the people going about their business in the huge mall. They seemed so self-assured of where they were, and where they were going…
Ever since her arrival here… Was it almost two months ago? She felt like such a country bumpkin, desperately trying to fit in, trying to get used to the sheer size of Esthar City. Its sheer verticality… Had it not been for the fact that she was kept so busy at work, she would be feeling quite lonely and homesick. ‘Poor Sis tries her best to cheer me up, but she has so many social obligations!’ Her thoughts strayed automatically to her difficult roommate, ‘And Seifer… I truly don’t understand him at all!’
She knew that the last time they’ve seen each other had been less than propitious, but their meeting in Esthar couldn’t have been worse!… She had only just arrived a few hours ago, and had been rather tired… not to mention feeling a bit apprehensive when she’d been literally deposited at Seifer’s doorstep by Laguna. She knew that Seifer hadn’t been expecting her, because of the short notice…
She hadn’t been expecting this particular post when she had gone to the Headmaster’s office in answer to his summons. She’d just returned to B-Garden after procuring some very lucrative contracts with FRT on Garden’s behalf. She’d even gotten used to all the media attention whenever she was spotted with Zone, although she was far from liking it. As far as she’d been concerned, the paparazzi in Timber were an inescapable evil. Zone was after all, their President and he was unattached… ‘I hope he took my advice and moved on. Even if Rinoa were to leave Squall, she would not go to Zone. For her, he’s like the big brother she never had…’
Her initial assumption on being summoned to Cid’s office, had been that the Headmaster needed some clarification on the contracts she’d brokered at Timber on their behalf. Of course, upon spotting Laguna seated next to a very tense looking Squall, that supposition flew out the window… She should’ve suspected something when she noticed Matron’s presence there as well. That should’ve alerted her of what was to come! If not that, the fact that Matron had been the first one in that silent group to speak up…
“Quistis, child, we have a very great favour to ask of you…” Edea’s gaze, full of entreaty, stared directly into Quistis’s eyes.
“Uh, yeah, well…” Laguna was fumbling as usual for words. Hard to believe in such a man who had penned some of the best articles ever published by Timber Maniacs. It was obvious he was feeling supremely uncomfortable, in a typical Laguna gesture, he scratched the back of his neck before mumbling, “I’d like to invite you to Esthar…”
Quistis just stared at everyone feeling thoroughly confused. Squall, nearing the end of his patience, interjected in his usual succinct way.
“Quistis, you’re needed to act as Seifer’s aid in Esthar. They want to make him E-Garden’s Commander, but he needs your guidance.”
Soon after that, she found herself quickly packing a suitcase, and being flown back to Esthar on the Ragnarok with Laguna! The President of Esthar himself, had escorted her to the very door of the apartment she would be sharing with Seifer. However, once there he’d only stayed long enough to wish her good luck, and to give her a quick peck on the cheek before taking a swift leave. She even remembered thinking at the time, ‘Laguna Loire! You big coward!’ She was left standing there, in front of Seifer’s doorstep next to her suitcase, hesitant herself to ring the bell…
Impatient with her own cowardice, she’d taken a deep breath, and had finally pressed the ringer. She could hear it resounding inside, but there was no answer. Frowning, she’d pressed it one more time. Again, no answer. Worried in spite of herself, she’d entered the apartment using the code Laguna had given her, and rushed inside, Save the Queen on the ready… Only to find the apartment empty of its occupant. Exhaling a suppressed breath, she’d been surprised to find the place in such a pristine condition. Somehow she’d expected it to look like a pigsty, and then had berated herself for falling victim to stereotypes, while remembering at the same time what Laguna told her, that the apartment came conveniently with housekeeping services…
Feeling more curious than exhausted, she’d explored the apartment. It was huge! It consisted of four large bedrooms, a living area and a completely separate dining room! The kitchen was immense, and it was extremely well-stocked. The large living area served to divide the bedrooms nicely. One set of two bedrooms were located on the corridor to the left of the living area, separated from it by a wall. The second set of rooms echoed that arrangement on the right side.
She quickly noticed that Seifer had appropriated the two rooms to the left, sleeping in one, and using the other to serve as office space by the amount of plans, and blueprints that were strewn all over. Making a quick decision, she’d chosen the larger of the two bedrooms on the right, not because of its size, but because it had a balcony, and the most spectacular view of Esthar City with the hovering Lunatic Pandora as backdrop…
Brought back to the present by the sound of her communicator, Quistis scrambled to answer it.
“Quistis Trepe, here.”
“Quisty! Where are you?”
“Sis, I’m so glad you called! I couldn’t figure out the store location! There are so many choices here!”
“Oh, Quisty! Why didn’t you use the convenience vehicle Uncle Laguna left for you!?”
She was rather thankful that Sis couldn’t see the expression on her face. For the sake of expediency, she hadn’t minded taking the pre-programmed car to and from the various work sites, but to have it cart her around the city like some helpless invalid?… No, thank you!
“It’s alright, Sis. The city’s public transport system is very good, and not really that hard to use. I’m at the Shopping Concourse in Sector Oh-Seven…”
“Good! Did you get off in Platform B?”
“…Yes… Let me verify my location… Yes, I did…”
“Good! Now you will see five areas marked each with a different colour, take the red…”
Inside Cheryl’s Style Emporium…
“Here’s the dress, my dear! All packaged and ready to go! It was very nice for you to pick it up on Miss Loire’s behalf!”
Quistis smiled a the kindly sales assistant, and took the fancy bag she was given before replying.
“It was no trouble. Ellone is extremely busy these days, and I had the day off!”
“If you don’t mind me saying so, young lady, you should come when Mme. Cheryl is in! I’m sure she would love to create a dress for you!”
“Oh, thank you, but I’m okay for the moment!”
Smiling again, she left the exclusive boutique where Sis got most of her dresses made. As she made her way to the nearest airtram stop, Quistis was thinking to herself, ‘There’s no way I’m paying that kind of money for a dress!’ There really was no occasion for her to wear anything as fancy as what she’d just picked up for Sis. She was kept too busy doing the run around from the Presidential Palace to E-Garden’s construction site! She understood now why they had asked her to come. Seifer couldn’t be in two places at once. Sometimes he could be away for more than a week when leading the teams around Lunatic Pandora, and the E-Garden Development needed constant attention as well!
It wasn’t that she had no social life whatsoever. To be quite fair, in spite of his busy schedule, Laguna would sometimes take time off to show her around the various different Sectors that conformed the City. Kiros and Ward had taken her out to dinner on various occasions, plus Sis would always make it a point to do something with her at least once a week!… Quistis stopped her musings to look around, just to make sure that she was going in the correct direction… Suddenly, she caught the glimpse of a very pretty face dominated by large blue eyes, and framed by long dark hair. The unmistakeable face of Sasha Tavares. Unfortunately, some passer-bys stepped right in front of her, and the face was gone. Vanished into the crowd.
Almost by reflex Quistis junctioned Shiva, and with her senses thus enhanced, she turned in the direction where she last saw Sasha. She searched for the familiar face in the sea of people around her, but Sasha was gone. ‘Maybe I’m just imagining things…’ The logical part of her mind told her that Sasha Tavares was in Centra under the careful scrutiny of her parents, and not here in the bustling city of Esthar, located on the other side of the world. But she still felt uneasy, ‘Maybe I ought to mention this to Seifer…’ She discarded the idea immediately. Their first meeting here had more or less defined their relationship in Esthar …
After exploring the apartment thoroughly, she foolishly decided to unpack. She knew it had been a bad decision when after a while she was ready to collapse from sheer exhaustion! She was about to rest on one of the sofas, when she heard someone slam something real hard outside, followed by some muted swearing. Knowing without looking who it was, she went to the door and unlocked it for him…
“Hyne, Seifer! Why do you always have to be so impatient!?”
To say that he was surprised would be an understatement.
“Trepe! What the fuck are you doin’ here!”
She hadn’t answered immediately… Maybe because he’d been close enough for her to catch a very feminine scent emanating from him. Maybe because she’d spotted a hickey or two on the side of his neck, as his jumpsuit had been partially unzipped…
“Uh… … … I was sent here by the Headmaster to act as your aide in E-Garden Development …”
Being neither slow-witted nor blind, he had immediately noticed the direction of her gaze, and arrived at the right conclusions. In typical Seifer style, he looked at her straight in the eye before saying with a slight smirk on his face.
“As you can see, I’ve kept myself very busy.”
She didn’t know why, what he did was none of her business, but she wanted to smack that taunting face of his. Badly. He’d known it too. It was in his gaze. He was daring her to do it. The challenge was there, written all over him, but she’d contained herself. The flicker of something smouldering in the back of those deep sea green eyes had stopped her. But as he raked those mocking eyes over her body, she’d wanted to slap that smirk off his face so badly. Unaware of what she was doing, her hands had been tightly balled into fists… But he –the arrogant jerk– had noticed… Determined to keep her cool, with iron resolve she turned around, and went into the room she’d chosen for herself.
He never asked her why she was sharing an apartment with him, and she never bothered telling him the reason.
After the initial awkwardness, mostly from her part, they’d settled into a routine of sorts. Quistis stirred her coffee and took a sip of her favourite brew, her eyes watching the hustle and bustle of the busy shopping concourse. Her foolish search for Sasha had made her miss the airtram, but it was her day off. She didn’t have to rush anywhere… The first day she’d had off ever, since her arrival here!
She decided to explore the area, and to try and familiarize herself with the city. Perhaps she could have dinner later in one of the many restaurants around here. Sector 07 was one of the busiest commercial districts in Esthar’s Capital. One good thing she did like about being here, was that people might stare at her sometimes, but she was mostly left alone. In that respect, being here was like being at home in Balamb. Estharians were a very polite and civilized people!
As she sipped her coffee, azure eyes unconsciously searched the crowd for another glimpse of Sasha Tavares. Seifer acted like a stranger these days… Still, part of her couldn’t help but worry about him anyway. She remembered Sasha’s strange obsession with him. Was it so farfetched an idea that she could’ve found out where Seifer was stationed, and made a move to stalk him? She snorted, ‘Quistis, just listen to yourself!… I must suffer from some sort of big-sister complex!’ In any case, none of it made any sense! If she were to go to Seifer with her rather crazy theory, he would jeer at her!
Quistis made a face, ‘No, the old Seifer would’ve jeered at me… This new one, this polite stranger she lived with…’ He would simply look at her with a blank face, and dismiss her concerns. She barely recognized this facet of him…
At work he was a slave driver, always watching her coldly like a hawk, making her report to him every single minute detail of any meeting he might have missed. As if she would make any important decisions without consulting him! When he was around, whether in the Presidential Palace or at E-Garden’s site he demanded she give him all of her attention. At least this Seifer she could understand, arrogant and annoyingly controlling. Whenever he was around, the others kept their distance for fear of being barked at… Or just out of sheer fear.
At home, however, they both went to incredible lengths to keep things civil. If, for example, they were to meet in the kitchen, they acted with an almost unnatural politeness toward each other. Had someone told her, they would end up like this two years ago, she would’ve laughed at the notion. And yet, she sensed somehow that the surface tranquillity of their home life was just a veneer, a thin cover over something that was simmering underneath… A something just waiting to be unleashed.
For the most part, they avoided each other. It wasn’t really very hard as he was rarely home at night when she was, choosing to spend his nights –at least partially– with his girlfriend. She knew. No matter how quiet he would be when returning home, she always knew he was back. And he always returned. Then, the strangest thing would happen, once she knew he was home, she would sleep like the dead until morning…
As to commuting together to work… She’d been going to work by herself, using the pre-programmed transport Laguna had provided for her. She’d been horrified that first morning, when Seifer had taken her to the Presidential Palace in his bike…
“I’m not riding on that thing with you!”
He’d tossed her a helmet and said (ordered), “Get on.”
“No!” She’d caught the helmet by pure reflex, and clutching the thing to her breast she’d stubbornly repeated, “I’m not getting on that thing!”
He hadn’t bothered replying. He just walked to where she was standing on the curb, scooped her up ignoring her surprised cry, and placed her roughly on the bike.
“We’re going to be fucking late! Either you ride in the back, or I fucking scoop you up again and you ride seated on my lap!” He smirked evilly at her, “And believe me, Trepe, I’ll enjoy it much more than you.”
After giving him a killing glare, she adjusted the helmet on her head, and waited for him to mount the bike. After placing Hyperion securely in the holster specially designed for it, he mounted the bike. Awkwardly, she placed her arms around his lean waist, trying stiffly to avoid having as much contact as possible with the taut muscles of his back.
“Where’s your helmet, Seifer?”
Briefly looking back at her, he’d smiled wickedly, “You’re wearing it. Hang on tight… Instructor!”
After saying that he powered-up the bike, and they were on their way to work.
She remembered tossing propriety to the wind, and trying to hang on to him for dear life! He was a damned speed maniac! After that little incident, she’d demanded to have her own transport! At first, Laguna had kindly provided her with her own vehicle, but after getting hopelessly lost in Esthar’s vast network of skyways, he’s offered her the pre-programmed vehicle… Quistis grimaced, it was ironic that she could face the largest Behemoth unfazed, but the very thought of driving through Esthar’s early morning traffic scared the hell out of her…
Her first few weeks in the job had been pretty eventful, but nothing she hadn’t been able to handle. She’d been pleasantly surprised at how well the nine SeeDs that formed Seifer’s squad were doing. They had learned to work in synch with the Estharian forces assigned to the two projects. Even Darryl Stevenson who had always though too much of himself, behaved like he was part of a well-oiled machine… They had all become very effective and proficient in what they were doing. Of course, with Seifer as their leader, they really had no choice… He himself thought nothing about breaking rules, but if anyone dared to deviate even slightly from his directive… She felt very sorry for that poor person!
Even though she was not assigned to work on the Lunatic Pandora Project, but she still got to know the group of scientists and engineers involved in the Project, simply because the personnel from that project shared the same facilities with the E-Garden Development team. They were all a very nice lot, but she truly wished they’d called her Quistis, and not ‘Instructor Trepe’! Hyne, a lot of them were top rank professionals! Unfortunately, they had all taken their cue from Seifer…
On Quistis’s second day in Esthar, Seifer assembled everyone present at the Tears’ Point Compound, and placing a heavy hand on her shoulder announced.
“Listen up, everyone! This is Instructor Trepe, she’s been assigned by Garden to act as my aide.”
Quistis smiled, all the time wishing she could shake that controlling hand from her shoulder, and said, “Hi, everyone! Please, call me Quistis.” She tried to bow, but that hand on her shoulder was like a manacle.
If she felt his hand tighten it’s grip on her, she didn’t show it, but she did frown slightly when he continued glibly, “Instructor Trepe is to work mainly in the development of Esthar Garden, but she will also be acting as my second-in-command…”
In spite of all her overtures to be addressed as simply ‘Quistis’, she’d remained ‘Instructor Trepe’ forever in everyone’s mind. Whether she liked it or not. In any case, everyone was pretty nice and friendly in a very polite way. A few days after she’d been introduced to the group, she was having lunch with some of them when their conversation was interrupted by the intrusion of a gorgeous dark haired girl who introduced herself as Kiara Dessu, one of the engineers in the LP project…
“Hi! Someone here pointed out to me that you’re Seifer’s instructor!?” She’d stared at Quistis dubiously, “You don’t look much like an instructor to me…”
“Hey, Kiara! That’s so rude!”
“Well, I was Seifer’s instructor,” Quistis smiled ruefully at the girl, ignoring her rather hostile stare, “But as you can see, he has more than graduated.” She shrugged her shoulders, “So I’m really his ex-instructor…”
“Oh, I see! So why does he still call you ‘instructor’ then? You cannot be that much older than he is…!”
“Instructor Trepe, you don’t have to answer Kia’s questions!”
“It’s okay… Some relationships are hard to shake off, and I am older than Seifer…” She tried to speak reassuringly at an sceptical looking Kiara, “He and I grew up together, you see… We were raised together…”
Kiara’s brow cleared, “Oh, I see, so you’re sort of like an older sister to him?”
Quistis hesitated slightly before nodding, “Yeah, you could call our relationship that…” Inside she thought to herself, ‘Just don’t mention it to Seifer…’
With hindsight, Quistis smiled wryly to herself, ‘Of course she would be curious about me… It’s her perfume I smelled on Seifer the night of my arrival…’. She sighed, all things being considered, Kiara Dessu was not such a bad person after all, but somehow she was finding it very hard to relate to her. There was nothing to dislike about Kiara, but she couldn’t bring herself to like her either… ‘Oh, well… In the long run it doesn’t matter if we cannot like each other. We don’t have to work together anyways…’ Seifer never brought Kiara home, and she had never asked…
Even after Kiara found out that she was Seifer’s roommate, and ‘offered’ to trade places with her, Seifer never invited her to their apartment. He had also vetoed Kiara’s suggestion of trading places. In his typical arrogant style, he just issued a categorical, “No” to Kiara’s idea. To Quistis’s utter surprise, Kiara did not bother to argue with him. Perhaps because he spent most of his free time with her. It also helped that Kiara believed her relationship with Seifer to be that of siblings…
After those initial weeks … Their life settled into some sort of pattern. He spent a lot of time inside Lunatic Pandora clearing up a path to the core –sometimes he would be gone for an entire week– and she would spend most of hers conferring with E-Garden’s design team. She always made sure Seifer was present when the most crucial aspects of the design were being decided. She had been pleasantly surprised at some of his suggestions, like for example the creation of a Field Exam Holographic Simulation, but they only served to confirm something she’d known all along. He was extremely intelligent. If only he hadn’t been such an unmanageable firebrand, he would’ve made SeeD long time ago, and perhaps changed history…
–Nautilus Weapon’s Parts–
She stopped in front of the store. Irvine’s birthday would be soon, and she still hadn’t found anything appropriate for him…
An few hours later…
She’d added an extra bag to her load, and her purse was much lighter, but she was sure Irv would love her present. He was forever tweaking and remodelling his Exeter. Quistis was sure he would like the special set of Pulse Ammo she’d just bought him… ‘He better! I didn’t know the ammo he uses is sooo heavy!’ Thinking about her sniper friend made her homesick. With a pang she realized that she and Seifer would be missing Irv’s birthday party… ‘I wonder how everyone is doing?’ She knew they would be busy, if not with their own thing, for sure with Selphie’s! Hyne! How could someone so small be such a tyrant!?
The last time she spoke with her, Selph had told her cheerfully that she was in charge of organizing the various Festival of Lights celebrations, as well as New Year’s Eve! ‘As if she would allow anyone else to be in charge!… I can’t wait to see everyone! We’ve been so busy around here that we’re not due back until close to the Festival of Lights, and then we’ll only be home for a couple of weeks…’
She darted a glance at her new chrono, a surprising present from Seifer on the occasion of birthday. She hadn’t expected him to remember her birthday, let alone get her a present…
It was a rare occasion… Seifer was home at dinnertime, and not over at Kiara’s. She was about to sit down, and have her usual solitary dinner at the kitchen table, when he sauntered in and tossed her a small package. Out of pure reflex her hands came out, and caught the flying object.
She just stood there in the middle of the kitchen, staring at him in utter surprise, with her mouth hanging open. She heard the impatience in his voice.
“Open it, Trepe! It doesn’t bite.”
Obediently, as if she had no will of her own, she ripped the wrapping and lifted the small box’s lid. Inside was nestled a very delicate, and feminine looking chrono-watch. Confused, she lifted uncomprehending eyes to stare into his rather enigmatic face.
“Well, Trepe? What d’you think? Like it?”
“This… This is for me?”
“Yeah, I remembered yours got trashed at Centra. Happy birthday, Trepe.”
She was left completely speechless and confused. Ever since her arrival he’d been acting like such a stranger and now suddenly this…
“Seifer… I don’t know what to say…”
“How ‘bout a ‘thank you very much, Seifer’… For starters.”
“Th-thank you! It’s a lovely present…”
But his attention was no longer on her; his gaze had settled on a extravagant vase of freshly cut blooms sitting on the kitchen table. At his questioning gaze, Quistis smiled and said,
“Aren’t they beautiful? They are a gift from Zone, you know we got to…”
She never finished what she was going to say. He had turned on his heel and left.
Quistis frowned when she recalled Seifer’s odd behaviour that day. ‘I wonder what got into him!?’ She stared at her chrono again, and realized that it was quite late, ‘Wait a minute, Quistis! What’s your rush? This is your day off, remember?’ In any case, there would be no one at home to share dinner with, anyway. Seifer was still in Lunatic Pandora, ‘Even if he were home, I can probably count with my hand the times we’ve had dinner together…’ And in any case, after the day of his surprise birthday present, he never returned home during dinnertime again. With that in mind, she went to one of the mall’s holo-directories and searched for the nearest restaurant that served her favourite: spicy food Roshfall style…
§ ~ § ~ §
“There are seven messages for Seifer from Kiara!”
“There are no messages for Quistis!”
Seifer ignored the cheerful prompts, and went directly to the shower. This particular little clean up session in Lunatic Pandora had been specially difficult and gruesome… He flexed tired muscles, and ignored the various abrasions and lacerations he’d sustained. It was all part of the job. Besides the compound medics had just finished patching him up. They were definitely not Dr. Kadowaki, but they were efficient enough.
He could’ve used Trepe’s help during this round of fighting, her whip was really good at striking down those annoying little Imps before they could cast their Confusion attack. He’d objected at first when she had asked to accompany him on the shorter excursions to LP, but she had made a very valid point when she’d complained that her whip was getting rusty as there were no training facilities around here like at B-Garden. He had grudgingly agreed to have her on some of the shorter LP runs… ‘Who am I kiddin’? Littl’ Miss Prim is a fucking good fighter! What she lacks in brawn, she more than makes up in skill…’ Which was more than could be said of Stevenson!
He’d had to knock the jackass down, because he had started attacking everyone! He had no resistance whatsoever when it came to status attacks! But that had not been the worse… They’d walked into an entire row of Iron Giants embedded into the walls of the Crystal Halls which Lukka, one of the other SeeDs, had thought out-of-service. He’d barely managed to grab her in the nick of time, to save her from being decapitated by a massive sword. To save time and energy, he’d been forced to summon Tiamat, who as usual had scared the shit out of everyone…
He really missed his posse sometimes! From his last chat with Raij, both him and Fuj were being kept quite busy… But if not them, he should send for more experienced SeeD support. On the other hand, the rookies were shaping up pretty well… They had become a good team. Seifer smirked, even that jackass Stevenson –apart from today’s performance– was showing signs of improvement!
He scowled, of course his hellish session in Lunatic Pandora had been nothing in comparison to the one he’d just endured with Kiara when he had told her that he would not be seeing her again. After he’d been released by the Compound medics, Kiara had been there waiting for him. No being the kind of person to postpone things, even unpleasant ones, he’d offered to take her home so he could tell her of his decision…
To say the least, she had not taken his announcement too well… She was just getting too demanding. Where the fuck did she get the idea that he was ready to commit to her? Sure, he took her out from time to time, because he enjoyed her company, and sex with her was pretty good… But from that to a fucking commitment!? Also, he didn’t like ultimatums. What was it about women!?…
“Seifer… Aren’t you coming up with me?” She gave him a very sultry look, but it was obvious his mind was miles away, “Seifer!… I asked you a question!”
“Uh, nah… Kiara… I think we should cool it off between us.”
“I think we should stop seeing each other…”
“But… Why, Seifer? Why?”
He looked her in the eye, and answered simply. “You need more than I can give you.”
She shook her head, and latched herself onto him, “Sex is good between us! Admit it!”
To prove her point, she drew his head down and kissed him deeply. Unwilling to let himself be distracted, he grabbed her arms, and gently untangled himself from her arms.
“Kia… I enjoyed what we had, but I think is better for both of us to move on.”
“Don’t give me that bullshit! It’s her, isn’t it?” There was no hiding the jealous undertones in her voice, “Ever since she arrived you’ve become more and more distant with me!”
“Kiara… It’s not about her.” He hadn’t even bothered pretending not to know who ‘her’ was, “It’s about us. It’s not working out…”
“You bastard! You were just using me for sex!”
She made to strike him, but he stopped her easily.
“It wasn’t only about sex! I did… I do care for you, but I can’t give you what you’re asking. Why can’t you understand that!?”
“Fine! Go to that bitch! See if I care!”
She turned her back to him, and started walking towards the entrance of her apartment complex. With regret, Seifer waited until she was safely inside before he jumped back into his vehicle… Suddenly, Kiara turned midway, and ran back to hurl herself at him. Startled, he could only stare down into her face which had buried itself in his chest.
“Seifer…” She whispered, “I could make you happy…”
“I know, Kia, but you’re right. I’m a selfish bastard, I would make you miserable…”
“Come up for one last time…”
He gave her a brief peck on the forehead, and said gently, “The temptation is great, but no. It would only make it worse in the end for the both of us.”
He hated tears, and he’d had to stand there, in the middle of the street wiping Kiara’s, feeling a vague sense of regret… ‘She’s better off without me…’ He got out of his room, and went to the kitchen in search of something to drink. Apart from the soft light emanating from his room, the apartment was shrouded in darkness. Silent. It usually was. After living with her for two months, he’d come to realize that Trepe was a pretty quiet person, but for some reason the place felt empty…
When he’d come home, he’d assumed Trepe was in her room. She always was. No matter how late he’d get home, he always knew she was there, sleeping in her room… Changing direction midway, he went to her door, and knocked loudly.
No answer. Frowning, he knocked again, this time more forcefully.
Again, no answer. Suppressing an oath, he tried her door expecting resistance. But no, the door slid open easily. Her bed was neatly made. Everything was in its proper place, ‘Fuck if the room is not like the owner!’ Except the owner was nowhere to be found. Scowling ferociously now, he went to get his comm unit and keyed in some numbers…
… At Yum! Yum! Restaurant
Quistis was feeling a bit disappointed with the meal she’d just had. Of course, service had been excellent, her waiter couldn’t do enough for her, constantly coming back to check on her (to the point that he was starting to seriously annoy her!), but the food had been rather bland. In any case, her hunger was satisfied. She signalled her ever attentive waiter for the bill, and to ask him for the nearest airtram stop. She still had to make it back to Sector 37…
Startled, she searched her purse for her comm unit, ‘Who can it possibly be at this hour?’
“Quistis Trepe, here”
“Trepe! Where the hell are you!?”
She held the unit away from her ear, then tried desperately not to blush when she saw the look on the faces of the people seated next to her table.
“Seifer!” She hissed into the unit, “Can you pipe it down?”
“Fuck no. Where are you?”
“If you must know, I was having a very nice dinner in a restaurant on my day off, before you so rudely interrupted!”
“Who’s with you!?”
She was sorely tempted to name someone, anyone, but instead answered, “No one, though it’s really none of your bus…”
He interrupted her reply with a curt, “Stay there! I’m coming over to pick you up.”
“Now, wait a minute! It’s not nece…”
In typical Seifer fashion, he’d cut her off. Her comm unit was outfitted with a tracker, so of course he already knew where she was, but… Oooh! He was so irritating! ‘I wonder what’s got into him!?… Must’ve had a fight with his girlfriend!’ She thought sourly.
§ ~ § ~ §
“Welcome to Parking Lot B, Level 56”
“Please watch your step!”
The turbo lift doors slid open, and a young couple walked out of it. They seem to be in the midst of an argument. Apart from them, the lot appears to be deserted. The young man grabs one of the girl’s upper arms, and propels her in the direction of his waiting vehicle, a very sleek looking propulsion bike. She tries to resist. He bends down, and whispers something in her ear. She stiffens and allows herself to be led, but not before casting her tall escort a killing glance. In his other hand he’s holding two large bags.
“Hyne, Seifer! What’s got into you? Why were you so rude to that poor waiter?”
“I didn’t like his face.”
He said that because he knew it would annoy her. He was pissed enough himself. That asshole waiter should consider himself lucky. What he’d really wanted to do was to smash his fist into that fucker’s leering face. He looked down at Trepe. She was staring straight ahead, trying her best to ignore him. Except, he didn’t feel like being ignored this time.
“It’s all your fault, Trepe.”
That got a rise out of her, as he knew it would. He stared down into her lovely face, and wondered if she knew the ferocious temptation she presented to him by being so fucking prim and proper.
“How is it my fault that you behaved like a barbarian!?”
“Tch, tch… Knight, you should not make the Blue Witch angry…”
A new voice entered their conversation. Suddenly Quistis and Seifer found themselves surrounded by strange shadowy figures led by a masked person.
“How many badly dressed fuckers like you are out there, pops?”
Seifer recognized the mask, but not the voice behind the mask. He assumed it was the same kind of people that had accosted them in Centra, although this was a different masked guy. Sheer reflex made him push Quistis protectively behind him, but of course she was not the kind to cower behind anyone. She surged to the front with a flourish, whisking her utility whip off her pants, where she’d been wearing it like a belt. Poised to strike, she demanded.
“Who are you, and what do you want?”
Seifer shot Quistis an extremely irritated glance before he hurled the two bags he was holding straight into the masked figure’s face.
“RUN FOR IT!”
Grabbing one of her upper-arms, Seifer rushed with her through the opening he’d created, dashing straight to his waiting bike. Quistis had not been idle either, even as Seifer hurled the bags, she’d cracked her whip disabling one of the shadowy figures who were standing next to the fallen masked man.
Still running, Quistis held out her free hand, and managed to cast a volley of fire spells in an attempt to slow the shadowy figures down.
“Ouch! Seifer, be careful!”
Seifer had unceremoniously dumped her on his bike, while he swiftly withdrew Hyperion from its special sheath in the bike. With his trusted weapon in hand, he looked back at Quistis, and flashed her a cocky grin.
“Stand back and watch the Master, Trepe!”
She gasped when with an evil smile Seifer split Hyperion into two blades! And not a nano second too soon! The shadowy figures were moving with a dizzying speed toward them. One made a lunge at her which she evaded quickly enough. She cracked her whip down at two of the figures hoping to take them both down at the same time, but to her utter surprise and dismay, they jumped out of her weapon’s way! Not to be deterred, she attacked them with a volley of fire spells, and watched with satisfaction as they dissolved before her very eyes… Those same eyes widened again when they witnessed the figures recomposing themselves… Even as they coalesced, one of them lunged and tried to slice her into two, but her training kicked in, and not a moment too soon! However, the surprise had managed to slow down her timing a tad so that one of attackers managed to slip by her guard, and slash her upper arm, albeit superficially…
Recovering quickly, Quistis ignored the pain and swiftly cracked her whip at the strange shadow fighter, knowing this time that it would recompose…
A blade swooshed over her head cutting down another shadowy figure which had crept up behind her back. With his other blade, Seifer parried the downward swing of another sword, muscles straining with the effort, and knocked it off the attacker’s grasp. With a dangerous smile, he swung the other blade in a circular motion cutting down two more of the shadowy figures…
Another masked figure had been watching the fight with avid curiosity. After a while, it detached itself from the shadows, and left the scene.
(I have seen enough)
(As you wish, Doma)
With a practiced flick of her wrist, Quistis whipped Titania’s Wisp in a circular motion. The shadowy figures disassembled at the touch of her weapon, only to reassemble again. They seemed so immaterial, almost incorporeal, yet she knew their weapons to be sharp enough. She was sweating profusely, and her right upper arm was throbbing from the gash it had sustained. She dared not look at it, but knew she was quickly losing stamina… She would not allow herself to be defeated this way, especially in front of him! He would never let her live it down! With her back firmly pressed against Seifer’s, she muttered a quick incantation.
Seifer, who was wielding the split Hyperion with one hand parrying attacks and the other lunging at the enemy, felt the soothing aura of the healing magic…and frowned. ‘Why?’ He dared not deviate his gaze from the figures before him. They were fucking fast, and almost damned indestructible… However, the masked fucker standing behind the barrier formed by the almost shadowy like fighters, appeared to be human enough… ‘That’s it! The fucker is controlling them! I cut him down… end of story!’ He calculated his move…
“Trepe! Cover me!”
Seifer crossed Hyperion’s blades to parry another lunge from the enemy, and with all the strength he could muster he uncrossed his blades hurling one of their attackers against the wall and slashing the other apart, without stopping he made a lunge at the hooded figure…
Even as she yelled out the spell, Quistis evaded another attack; with her whip whirling in Seifer’s direction, she swiftly aimed a strike at another shadowy figure, who easily got out of her whip’s way. That had been her intention. Now, Seifer had a clear path to his intended target …
“WHAT THE FUCK?!?”
As Hyperion’s blades slashed at the leader, the figure had lost its solidity…
“Hah! Hah! Hah! Until the next encounter, Knight!”
With this parting words, the masked figured teleported itself out of sight. Once it was gone, the rest of the shadows dissolved completely.
§ ~ § ~ §