Sorry, no smut warning this time :P Just wanted to clarify before you begin reading: this chapter follows Seifer, not Quistis.
Discovery: get knowledge of, learn of, find, or findout;
Seifer's life had never been perfect.
For Hyne's sake, his earliest memory consisted of his time at an orphanage. From the get go, he knew he'd been unwanted. With every consecutive birthday, as he witnessed his "siblings" leaving with their new families, elated smiles plastered on their innocent faces, he began to understand that he'd never be wanted.
It was a feeling he became all too familiar with when he was at Garden, years later. Aside from Fujin and Raijin, he'd never been able to really connect with anyone else, never managed to form a true friendship with anyone else. Even his former "siblings" didn't care to remember him. Granted, he knew now that it was because of their use of GFs. Back then though, that was beside the point. It hadn't mattered.
All that he knew was that he wasn't wanted.
Yet, at this particular moment in his life, he felt otherwise. For once, things were falling into place. Things felt...perfect. He wasn't a pussy so he'd never admit it aloud but frankly, that scared him. It terrified him.
The only relationship he'd ever been in had been with Rinoa. Sure, they'd parted ways amicably, but what it boiled down to was that they had parted ways. His longest relationship was a whole three months. Out of his entire twenty-one years on the planet.
He glanced down at the woman who was currently asleep in his arms. Her golden hair fanned out across his bicep, tickling his skin like the soft, downy edges of a feather. He ran his fingers through the fine strands, reveling in the way they drifted across his skin. She murmured a bit of incoherent nonsense before nuzzling her face into his chest again.
Seifer chuckled under his breath at how she could be so...adorable when asleep. This was a woman who, when she was awake, was one of the deadliest fighters he'd ever known; who, with a flick of her wrist could decapitate a man; whose icy glare could make even the toughest, most seasoned warriors feel like a child who'd done something egregiously wrong.
Hyne knew he'd been a victim of that glare more than once.
A knock interrupted his musing and he pulled his arm away, laying her head back down on the pillow as gently as possible, so as not to wake her. He trekked into the bathroom and grabbed his clothes from where he'd unceremoniously tossed them last night, quickly tugging them on before making his way to the door.
Whoever was on the other side of the door knocked again and he called out, "One sec, I'm comin'!"
He yanked it open and a woman in a long, white labcoat stood in front of him, her auburn hair pulled up into a loose ponytail. When she spotted him in the doorway, her eyes widened and she stammered, "O-Oh, I was...this is Miss Trepe's room, isn't it?"
Seifer ran his hand down his face and sighed. "Yeah, she's sleepin' right now." Recognition lit up his eyes and he continued on to say, "Oh hey, you're the doctor who did the surgery, right?"
The woman nodded and replied, "Yes, Doctor Mills. I just came to check up on her. If she's sleeping, I can—"
Quistis' voice called out from behind him. "Seifer? Who is it?"
He glanced over his shoulder and Quistis appeared, dressed in her tank top and leggings from the day before. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest when she saw Doctor Mills in the hallway.
"Good morning, Miss Trepe. I'm Doctor Mills, I performed the surgery on you a few days ago. I'm happy to see that you're up and about," Dr. Mills greeted as a small smile spread across her face.
Quistis returned the gesture and said, "I'm sorry, I can't say that I remember you."
Dr. Mills nodded and waved her hand in the air dismissively. "Of course, of course. I just came to check up on you." She lifted the rounded bag she was holding and finished with, "Do you mind if I take a peek under your bandage to see how your wound is healing?"
Quistis shook her head and headed back into the room. "No, that'd be fine. Please, come in. I'm sorry it's messy. Again, I've been asleep for a little while."
The two women brushed past Seifer and he shut the door before trailing after them. Quistis sat back down on the bed, against the headboard. After Dr. Mills placed her bag on the floor, she lifted Quistis' tank top and began to unravel the bandage from her abdomen.
Seifer crossed his arms and leaned against the opposite wall, observing with intense curiosity. He'd been waiting outside in the hall during the surgery and had helped transport Quistis back to her room. The wound had been bad—worse than it had seemed initially. He was anxious to see how it looked now.
Dr. Mills finally pulled the last layer away and both she and Seifer sucked in a breath at what was revealed. A puckered red line slashed across Quistis' lower stomach, from her right hip bone up to her navel. The skin around the wound was bright pink and looked extremely tender. Dark stitches criss-crossed over the wound, marring her otherwise perfect skin, and Seifer cringed at the disturbing sight.
"What in Hyne's name?" Dr. Mills muttered. She glanced up at Quistis, her brows furrowed. "I instructed Mr. Almasy to ensure that you took it easy for the next few days. This looks far too aggravated. You've been staying in bed, correct?"
Quistis blushed for a brief second before responding. "I—Yes, for the most part."
Seifer coughed into his hand and Dr. Mills glanced over at him, before doing a double take. "Mr. Almasy, you were in charge of her care. If you've been keeping an eye on her, how do you explain the fact that her wound is rubbed raw?"
He glanced down and mumbled, "Well I—we—shit." He threw his hands up in the air before coming clean. "I was in here last night."
Dr. Mills raised a slender eyebrow at him before asking, "Supervising only, I hope."
Seifer and Quistis glanced at each other before Seifer replied, "Not exactly, Doc. Sorry?"
Dr. Mills let out a long sigh before leaning over and lifting her bag into her lap. After she opened it and pulled out a small pile of medical supplies, she instructed Quistis to lay completely flat on the bed. Quistis obliged, her cheeks still slightly flushed from her embarrassment at getting caught.
"I understand that you two have been through a scare," Dr. Mills began, as her hands moved quickly across Quistis' stomach.
While she worked, she continued speaking. "Quistis, your condition was nowhere near as stable as I'd hoped after the surgery. I'm very happy to see that you've recovered quickly, and Mr. Almasy, I'm sure that you're happy to see that she's doing fine. However, I'd advise you both to avoid any...extraneous activities, until these stitches are ready to come out."
Quistis mumbled her agreement and a cocky grin spread across Seifer's face. When Dr. Mills didn't hear Seifer respond, she paused in her motions and glanced over at him. He immediately sobered his expression and nodded his consent, acting like the ever-innocent third party. Dr. Mills raised an eyebrow at him, but returned the gesture and looked back at Quistis, her hands moving once more.
"Mr. Almasy, I believe the President's son wished to speak with you. He should be in the board room, if you'd like to go and meet him," Dr. Mills called out, as her gaze remained focus on Quistis' scar.
"Puber—Leonhart, did? He's already back to working? Shit, he needs a life. Did he say when he wanted to see me? A shower would be nice first," Seifer responded.
Dr. Mills shook her head. "I'm not sure when. I passed him in the hall on my way here. I'd assume he's waiting there for you already."
"Fuck, he's impatient. All right, I'll go now. You gonna be okay, Quis?" Seifer called out.
At his new nickname for her, Quistis started and Dr. Mills exhaled sharply at the sudden motion. After muttering an apology to the doctor, she looked up at Seifer and replied, "U-Uh, yes, I will be. I'll see you later."
Quistis averted her gaze afterwards and Seifer grabbed his boots from the bathroom, before heading out into the hallway. He made his way to the other end of the Palace and when he reached the board room, he shoved the door open unceremoniously and stomped as he walked in, announcing his arrival.
Damn Puberty Boy. Summoning me like I'm his own personal GF.
Squall glanced up from where he was standing by the white board, his hand poised in the air, a marker held tightly in his grasp.
That was when Seifer noticed Zell sitting beside the Commander. "Hyne-damnit. The hell you doin' here, Chicken-wuss?" Seifer demanded.
Zell shot to his feet, his fists clenched tightly. The martial artist opened his mouth to retort, but Squall placed his hand on Zell's shoulder, pushing him back down into the chair.
The Commander replied, "He's here to help you. Don't be an ass."
"Help me? Leonhart, I don't know if you've noticed or not but you paired me with Quis—Trepe, and raised up a huge fuckin' stink about us stickin' together. Now you're pairin' me with him?" Seifer exclaimed, pointing at Zell.
He'd almost slipped up and called Quistis by name. Sure, he called her by her given name to her face, but referring to her as anything other than 'Instructor' or 'Trepe' to everyone else would indicate that he actually gave two shits. He did, but he didn't think he was ready to admit that just yet.
Zell scoffed and Squall just stared at Seifer, his expression completely devoid of any emotions. Turning back to face the board, he continued copying information from the sheet in his other hand onto the erasable white surface. Without looking at Seifer, he said, "Sit, Almasy. We've got stuff to talk about."
"Not a fuckin' dog, Leonhart," Seifer spat, before slamming the door shut behind him and sitting on the opposite side of the table from Zell.
"You know, I'm not happy to see you either," Zell sniped.
"Yeah, whatever Chicken-wuss. Just shut up," Seifer snapped.
"Both of you shut up," Squall instructed as he popped the lid back onto the marker with a snap. He set it down on the board and turned around, eyeing both of them as he continued, "Quistis is obviously out for a little longer, Almasy. So in the meantime, Zell's the only available SeeD I trust to replace her."
"Why are you even up and walking around? Shouldn't you be bedridden or something? With your little princess bringin' you food and your mid-morning tea?" Seifer quipped at Squall.
At the mention of his condition, Squall rolled his shoulder and responded with, "I'm fine. I'm sore, but it's not like I can't walk." He then mumbled, "I'm not an invalid."
Seifer snickered and Zell narrowed his eyes at the blond gunbladist before saying, "Do you always have to be such a douche?"
"Bite me," Seifer deadpanned.
Squall sighed before talking over them, his voice rising in volume until the two other men stopped bickering. "The plan is...to find the guy who shot me. At this point, we don't know whether he was aiming for Laguna and missed, or whether he was intentionally aiming for me."
"From my vantage point, sure as hell looked like he was aimin' for you," Seifer piped up. "Plus, I went toe-to-toe with the guy. Didn't seem like the type to miss."
Squall crossed his arms, his head lowering onto his chest as he thought.
The seconds ticked by in silence, and Zell waved his hand in front of Squall. "Yo, Squall! I know you like to think to yourself a lot but, keep us in the loop, yeah?"
The stoic brunet shook his head. "Sorry. Habit. So," he began, before looking at Seifer, "you think he's trained?"
Seifer nodded and kicked his feet up onto the table, propping his hands behind his head. "Oh yeah. Ex-military maybe?"
"It's possible. You said you'd seen him before?" Squall asked as he shoved Seifer's feet off of the lacquered surface.
"Yeah. Trepe and I went to check out some condo down the street and this guy popped up outta nowhere. Said the guy we were lookin' for had moved," Seifer replied.
Zell sputtered and interrupted with, "W-Wait, you and Quisty were looking at condos?"
"Not to like, move into, or whatever the hell it is you're thinkin'. If you'd been listening, you woulda caught the part where I said 'the guy we were lookin' for'. One of the leads from the call log was a Marcus Bywater," Seifer explained.
"And the man who interrupted you at Marcus' condo, was the man who shot me?" Squall clarified.
"Seems that way."
Squall nodded, processing the information. He turned back to the board and scribbled 'Marcus Bywater' across it, then commanded, "You two are heading back to that condo. I want you to get inside and tear it apart. Try to find anything that would relate him to the case, or might give you a clue as to who the shooter was."
"Guy claimed to live two doors down from Marcus. Trepe got the names off their doors before we hightailed it outta there. I can check them out, too," Seifer offered.
"Do it. I want this guy found," Squall stated.
Seifer nodded and he and Zell rose, making their way over to the door. Zell walked out into the hallway and Seifer caught the door before it closed, propping it open. He looked back at Squall and asked, "You headin' back to Garden, then?"
Squall turned back around and crossed his arms. "I'm not heading back to Garden now, no way in hell. We're finding this guy."
Seifer chuckled once and replied, "Never thought we'd be working together on this—hell, on anything. Figured your baby momma would send ya back to Balamb by now."
Squall narrowed his eyes at Seifer. They stared each other down in silence for a few seconds until Squall spoke again, his voice low.
"No. I'm not going back to Balamb. Now? This is personal."
The heavy wooden door slammed into the wall, rattling on its hinges from the sheer force that it'd been hit with.
Zell lowered his leg, his stance poised and refined. Seifer slow-clapped as he begrudgingly admitted, "That was...impressive, Chicken-wuss."
"Tch, it was no big deal," Zell replied as he brushed his fist across his nose.
"Yeah alright, forget I said anything. Get inside," Seifer prompted, grabbing the sleeve of Zell's shirt and swinging him through the open doorway.
Once he'd followed after the martial artist, he shut the door and locked it to buy them a bit more time—though hopefully, they wouldn't need it.
When he turned back around, he swore under his breath at the sight that greeted him. Marcus Bywater's condo was...a downright warzone. Papers covered every inch of every surface and were piled so high, Seifer wondered how any of the stacks hadn't fallen over yet. Then again, maybe some had, because the floor was impossible to see. Before he'd left, Marcus had drawn the curtains, cloaking the entire living room in darkness, which didn't help visibility in the slightest.
Seifer stepped farther into the room, documents crunching under his boots. As he swept his gaze from right to left, Zell piped up from the window on the opposite side of the room.
"Where the heck are we supposed to start?" the martial artist asked, his voice tainted with discouragement.
"I have no fuckin' clue," Seifer exhaled. After a second, he pointed to the left and instructed, "You take that side. I'll start over here."
"Gotcha," Zell confirmed, pulling the curtains open before he hopped over a document-covered ottoman, and headed to the opposite end of the room.
Seifer wandered to his right, making his way down the hallway towards what he assumed was the bedroom. Hesitantly, he grabbed the doorknob, placing his opposite hand on the handle of his gunblade. As he turned the knob, his fingers tightened around Hyperion's leather-wrapped hilt and he shoved the door open, bracing himself for any sudden movements.
When nothing moved and he didn't hear any noises beyond Zell shuffling through papers down the hall, he straightened and flipped on the light switch, blinking rapidly as the overhead fluorescent lights flickered on.
"Shit, does this guy ever clean?" he muttered.
This room wasn't any better than the last.
A metal desk sat against the wall to Seifer's left. Beneath the paper-strewn surface lay a desk chair, tossed over onto its side, its wheels completely still. On the wall in front of Seifer stood a bookshelf that stretched from floor to ceiling. Oddly enough, its shelves were nearly bare. A few volumes were propped up against the edges, but for the most part, it was the only object in the room that wasn't completely buried under documents.
Seifer drifted into the room, making his way over to the desk. He brushed some of the uppermost sheets aside, his eyes quickly scanning over their contents for any pertinent information. When it looked like most of the papers were just bills or useless junk, he scoffed under his breath and crossed his arms over his chest, looking over at the other side of the room.
A green, leather-bound tome caught his eye, and he lowered his eyebrows as he stalked over to the bookshelf. Running his finger down the book's spine, he muttered the title under his breath.
"Estharian Presidents...Do people here actually give a shit about their own history?" he mumbled as he pulled the volume off of the shelf.
With a casual turn of his wrist, the book flopped open in his hand and he quickly flipped through the pages, until he reached the current era. A black and white, grainy photograph of Laguna sat in the uppermost corner along the edge of the left page. A goofy, lopsided grin was plastered on Laguna's face and Seifer rolled his eyes at the sight.
"Some dad Leonhart's got," he quipped.
His bright eyes flitted left and right as he read the blurb about Laguna's past in the Galbadian army, his time in Esthar before he'd become President, and how he'd managed to imprison Adel. A wave of reluctant admiration flowed through him.
Pres is an idiot, but he's done some good shit. More than I can say for myself, he thought bitterly.
Irritated at his train of thought, he tossed the book back onto the shelf and reached for the next one: 'Laguna Loire: President by Day, Journalist by Night'.
Is this guy obsessed with Pres? For fuck's sake…
Seifer thumbed through the second book, pausing to read pages here and there. There was a long section about Laguna's time with the Galbadian army—everyone seemed to like to write about his soldier days—as well as the events leading up to his presidency. This book seemed to delve deeper than most, as it mentioned his brief marriage to a woman named Raine, as well as focusing on his relationship with Ellone, Ward and Kiros for the majority of a chapter.
He reached up and placed the book back on its shelf and turned, intent on heading back to the living room to see how Zell was faring. When he swiveled on his heel, a slight breeze tickled against his cheek and he whirled back around, his eyes wide.
Standing stock-still, his eyes darted back and forth as he tried to find the source of the unexpected draft. There wasn't a fan on the desk and even if there had been, nothing had been turned on when he'd walked into the room a few minutes ago. In his mind, he went back over his actions from the past five minutes and repeated the motions as he remembered doing them. Once he set the book down once more, like he had earlier, he turned towards the door again.
Just like the first time, a slight puff of wind hit his cheek and he exclaimed, "What the hell?"
Seifer stood in front of the bookshelf, his hands on his hips as he glared at the offending piece of furniture. Rapid footsteps traveled down the hall and Zell screeched to a halt in the doorway, his chest heaving.
"What? What's going on?" he breathed.
"This fuckin' bookshelf keeps huffin' air at me!" Seifer yelled.
"Uh, the bookshelf? Dude, are you high?" Zell questioned as he walked farther into the room.
"Fuck you, Chicken-wuss, I ain't high. Every time I set this book down and turn around, I feel a fuckin' draft," Seifer replied, gesturing to the bookshelf.
"Hmm," Zell responding, tapping his finger against his chin as he stared at the piece of furniture in question. "Here, let me try."
Seifer moved back to let Zell step forward, and the other blond grabbed the same book Seifer had been holding earlier. He chuckled shortly at the title before setting it back down on the shelf. Slowly, Zell turned to the right and Seifer piped up.
"No, I turned the other way, dumbass," he commented.
"Well, how the heck was I supposed to know that?" Zell retorted. He faced the bookshelf again and this time, pivoted the other way.
Mid-turn, Zell's eyes widened and he twisted back around, staring up at the bookcase in confusion. "Seriously! What the heck?!"
"I told you I wasn't fuckin' crazy," Seifer muttered as he sidled up to Zell. "You felt it too, right?"
"Yeah, I did. On my right cheek," Zell replied.
Seifer nodded and crossed his arms over his chest as he glared at the bookshelf. "Same. There's gotta be something here. You don't just get breezes in an enclosed room."
"Maybe there's something behind the shelf?"
"...C'mere. Help me move this damn thing," Seifer instructed as he stood beside the bookshelf. He wrapped his fingers around the edge of the shelf and tugged, grunting at the effort. "This thing is...fuckin' heavy...as fuck."
Zell rolled his eyes and walked over to the other end of the shelf, waiting until Seifer had inched out the tall piece of furniture before he braced his palm against the opposite edge. When Seifer pulled, Zell pushed, and in no time, the massive bookshelf was out of the way.
"Wow, look at this," Zell called over to Seifer, waving his hand at the blond gunbladist.
Seifer grumbled at being beckoned to like a dog, but acquiesced with a glare. When he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Zell, he said, "Well, I'll be damned. It's a fuckin' hidden door. Doesn't this only happen in books or some shit?"
Zell glanced at Seifer out of the corner of his eye and snidely replied, "Bro, do you even read? And actually, you'd be surprised. A lot of people have hidden doors."
Seifer scoffed and nudged Zell out of the way, making his way over to the door. He tried to turn the handle but it was locked and he exhaled in frustration. Of-fuckin'-course it's locked.
"Just pick it, dude," Zell said from behind him.
"Shut up, will ya?" Seifer retorted, while he crouched down in front of the knob and pulled out his lock picking kit. It was the same one he'd used—or tried to use—the first time he'd been at this condo.
After a minute or two of attempted concentration—Zell kept tapping his foot against the carpet, much to Seifer's annoyance—they heard the successful click of the door unlocking, and Zell pumped his fist into the air.
"Oh yeah! Way to go!" he shouted.
"I think that's the first and only time I'll accept a compliment from you. Never again, got it?" Seifer replied, getting to his feet.
"Whatever, man. Open the door!" Zell pressed.
"Alright, alright! Shit, you're one impatient son of a bitch," Seifer retorted.
He grabbed the door handle and turned. The sound of the hinges creaking loudly in protest made both Seifer and Zell wince. Once the door had been opened all the way, Seifer crouched down and stepped into the hidden room, with Zell right on his heels. The room was pitch black, so they inched forward hesitantly, unsure of what they might bump into or set off.
They'd only gone far enough to allow both of them to crouch inside of the doorway, and Zell tapped Seifer's shoulder, indicating for him to stop. Then, Seifer reached out, blindly groping along the wall for a switch of some sort.
Zell mumbled "Ouch" before he let out a triumphant whoop and said, "Oh, here!"
Light flooded the room, blinding Seifer momentarily. He squeezed his eyes shut, covering his upper face with his hand while he tried to adjust to the sudden brightness. "Holy Hyne, Dincht. Warning, much?" he chided.
"Uh...you might wanna see this, Seifer," Zell muttered.
Seifer lowered his hand, blinking rapidly in an attempt to expedite the process. When he glanced back up, his mouth dropped open.
A/N: Ohohoho, what did Seifer and Zell find?! Sorry, I couldn't resist the cliffhanger.
Thanks to LaylaEvercrest, Ally Todd, KingRamses, AJ Maxima, Yadda Wadda BaddaBoom, enigmalace, IrishPrincess1987 and Strings805 for all of the wonderful reviews. Thanks to AJ Maxima, pichu missionary, ArtanisRose, Miss Anne Marie, Strings805 and AwesomeNinjaTaco for the favs. Last, thanks to Rasivel, ArtanisRose, Miss Anne Marie, Strings805 and IrishPrincess1987 for the follows. I received a wonderful influx of notifications just in this week alone, so I am so grateful to all of you!
To my guest reviewers:
Guest: I suspect that you are my usual guest reviewer, yes? I absolutely love your reviews, they make my day. If you ever do make an account here on FFN, let me know! I will gladly return the favor if you write anything of your own :) On to responding to your review...
I've always seen Seifer's awkward and abrasive teenage behavior as just pent up frustration and feelings for Quisty, hahah. I'm sure others have other interpretations of them but I'm a hardcore Seiftis fan now, so that's all I can see. Hope you liked this chapter, too!
SugarSpice: Super sexy, right? And thank you for the compliment! That means so much to me. I absolutely love writing Seifer and it's a huge compliment that you like him in comparison to other stories. There are a lot of authors who write Seifer that I look up to, so to hear that you think I can hold my own is incredibly flattering—thank you for that! I hope you liked this chapter as much as the previous ones :)
Next, thanks to Arenoptara and LaylaEvercrest for beta-reading for me!
Last bit of business, next week is my finals week for my summer class. I have two assignments and an exam to push through, and then I'll have two weeks of freedom before fall semester starts! Because of crunch time, I will more than likely not be updating any of my stories until the first or second week of August. I promise I'm not abandoning anything, just priorities :( Fear not, for I shall return!
Also, bit of shameless self-plugging...Many of you might know that I've been working on a submission piece for The Successor Challenge (special challenge just for our fandom) that will be going on in August. I'll be posting a new piece that I've been slaving away on since the beginning of June, titled Aftermath. I hope you guys check that out too, once it's posted. If you follow me, you'll get the notification :)
See you guys next time!