A/N: Many thanks to those of you who reviewed. This is my first attempt at a crossover and the first time I've written in the FFX world. So it is reassuring to see that I'm apparently doing something right! I hope you continue to enjoy the story. I've had a lot of fun working on it.
Chapter 2: Luca
With the waves lapping against the jetty under her feet, Quistis embraced Cid and Edea Kramer. The reality that this might be the last moment she'd ever see her adopted parents again had struck home the night before as she'd climbed into bed and laid there in the darkness, able to hear their hushed voices in the next room. They'd all known this day would come, so they kept strong faces, although Quistis thought she could see the gloss of unshed tears in in Edea's hazel eyes.
"Yevon be with you," Cid said and bowed to her. "Good luck."
Edea handed her a paper bag in which she'd packed breakfast and lunch. "I packed one for Seifer as well," she said and handed over a second one. "Where is he?"
Hopefully in a ditch somewhere, Quistis thought. "I'm sure he'll be along soon."
They waited there, Cid's arm around his wife's shoulders, as Quistis climbed on board the ship. The captain greeted her and told her to make herself comfortable below deck where a few rooms were available for the course of the journey if she required one. She thanked him and, for the moment, walked around to the side of the ship facing out to sea.
"Squall," she said, surprised to find him there. "What are you doing here?"
He had been leaning against the railing but now he stood up straight. "I'm on business."
"For the Crusaders?"
She looked around and noticed several other Crusaders on board the ship as well. Perhaps half a dozen. Whatever they had planned, it obviously required significant manpower if they were pulling this many people from vulnerable seaside cities like Kilika. It gave her a bad feeling. However, on the bright side, they might be able to travel together along the Mi'ihen Highroad, and in that time Squall might still come around to her way of thinking.
"THERE?" someone shouted from behind her.
"Must be. She matches the boss's description, ya know? And, hey! It's Squall!"
A silver haired woman wearing an eye patch and a bear of a man carrying a wooden staff approached. The latter pushed right past Quistis to grab and shake Squall's gloved hand. Squall jostled back and forth with the man's eagerness.
"Good to see you again, ya know? You're still a legend in Luca. The game hasn't been the same without you. Just...uh...don't tell the boss I said that."
The woman kicked him hard in the back of the leg, making his knee buckle. "QUIET."
A second later, Seifer appeared—following the commotion, apparently. "Good. You found her!" He smirked at Quistis. "Was starting to think you'd left without me."
If only. She glanced between him and the other two. "Are these friends of yours?"
"The posse," he replied. "Fujin and Raijin."
They both bowed to her, their arms sweeping out and back in with Yevon's prayer.
Squall propped one hand on his hip. "These are your guardians?"
"No," Quistis said at the same time as Seifer replied, "Of course! Who else do you think she'd pick? You? She'd be lucky to get out of Luca without getting beat up under your care, Pubes. I know. Cuz I'd be the one doing the beating."
"WIMP!" Fujin agreed.
Their insult didn't appear to bother Squall who merely tsked under his breath. Quistis knew he had to be judging her, wondering why she'd chose this brute and his rag-tag posse. The conclusion he'd inevitably draw—that she'd been driven to deep, dark desperation after he'd turned her down—made her want to curl up in a ball and hide.
"It's going to be a long trip. Why don't we all just settle in?" she suggested. Then, remembering the bagged lunches in her hand, she held one of them out to Seifer. "This is yours."
He took it with a frown.
"From Edea," she explained quickly, a blush working up her cheeks at the odd look Squall gave her.
Seifer opened the bag and peered down into it with a boyish grumble of excitement. The distraction gave her a moment in which to escape. She hurried below deck, picked an open cabin, and slammed the door closed behind her. It didn't provide much in the way of amenities: just a bed, a sink, a toilet, a wicker basket with a few local candies inside, and a high window. She had to stand on the mattress to pry the window open and it screamed as if it hadn't been used in years. With clean, clear air drifting in and relative seclusion, she sat down cross-legged on the bed and ate her breakfast. As she licked her fingers clean, she felt the engines kick in. Full and soothed by the constant hum, she pulled off her boots and settled back against the sheets for a nap.
Sometime later (she had no idea how long) she woke. Hungry again, she ate her lunch before stretching, pulling her boots back on and heading back out of her cabin to stretch her legs.
Up on deck, she found that it was now mid-afternoon. Squall had vanished—probably below deck sleeping as well. A group of three children chased a ball past her and a gull squawked at them from where it sat perched among the sails. Refreshed, she took a deep breath of the clear sea air and walked along the rail of the ship looking for dolphins following in their wake. As she came around to the starboard side, she noticed Seifer bent over the rail, retching. She'd never been seasick a day in her life. But Cid got it bad whenever they traveled. So she felt a flash of pity.
"Can I do something for you?" she asked as she joined him at the rail.
Tentatively, she reached out and touched his back. "I've found that a little white magic can help," she offered.
He didn't respond. So, without his consent, she funneled a spell into him. The warm magic running down her arm tingled. When it hit him, she saw gooseflesh rise across the back of his neck.
"Thanks," he said after a moment and stood up straight again. "I do feel a little better."
"Works every time," she said. "Have you been sick since we left port?"
"No," he replied, too quickly. In another person, she would have seen the denial as a way to shut down conversation, to politely hint to a stranger to drop the issue. But with Seifer she thought it stemmed more from an inherent unwillingness to show vulnerability—even over something trivial. It bothered her that (just like Squall) he intended to close off the fallible, human parts of himself from her.
"Why do you want to be my guardian anyway?" she asked him.
"Because I want to fight Sin."
"Being a guardian is about much more. Why not join the Crusaders if that's all you want?"
He scoffed. "Like your little friend, Puberty Boy? No thanks. Any organization that would let him in isn't something I want to be a part of."
"Why not become a summoner yourself, then?"
"I'm not much good at magic. And I doubt Yevon would want me. I don't have the patience for prayer."
"Okay. Why me?" she asked, getting to the heart of her original question. "Why sail all the way to Kilika to find a summoner when obviously it makes you sick as a dog. And then, when you get there, throw in your lot with a woman you've never even met? Why pick me?"
He shrugged as if he hadn't much considered the reasons behind his actions. "I guess because I know I can get anyone to Zanarkand, provided they've got a shred of talent."
"Insulting me isn't helping your cause any. And don't think just because Martron packed you a lunch that—"
"I know. I know," he said, cutting her off with a wave of his hand. "You haven't accepted me as your guardian yet. But, you know what, Summoner? Maybe it's destiny. I know that I'm meant to do something big and be famous all over Spira. I'm going to bring the next calm. Which means you must be person I need. Otherwise, it wouldn't have worked out this way."
"You don't strike me as the sort of person who does whatever the universe demands."
"I'm not. But, being religious and all, maybe you should be." He leaned into the railing to stretch out his back, content now that her magic had taken full effect. "Besides, you're not going to find anyone better."
"I don't know you. Or trust you. The relationship between a summoner and a guardian is very...intimate."
He smirked. "I swear, I'll be just as great once you get to know me intimately."
Oh for Yevon's sake. The cocky, incorrigible bastard.
"I'll have to take your word for it, because that will never happen," she said. "Find yourself another summoner. Because when we get to Luca, I'm going to be moving on with Squall."
0 0 0
Like a cat stalking its prey, Seifer laid in wait until Squall Leonhart appeared on the deck of the ship once again. Then, he pounced,
"Hey, Pubes!" He punched Squall hard in the middle of the back, right between his shoulder blades. The blow rang up his arm, so he knew it had to hurt. "Stay away from my summoner. Understand?"
Squall winced and spun around, his sword somehow unsheathed in the maneuver so that it pointed straight at Seifer's heart. "What are you talking about?"
"Quistis. Stay away from her. I'm taking her on her pilgrimage and you're going to stay the hell out of my way."
Squall's blue eyes narrowed. "I'm not in your way."
"Yeah? Then why is she saying that you're traveling together?"
"I don't know. Ask her."
"There's no reason for you to even be on this ship aside from her." Seifer knew that they'd grown up together and suspected that they might have a history beyond even that, judging from the way Quistis fawned over him.
"I'm following orders," Squall replied. "Reporting to the northern edge of the Mi'ihen Highroad."
"Crusader orders? That's a lame excuse. There aren't any towns near there. No one who needs protecting."
"It's a big operation," Squall replied. He shifted his hips in that sissy I'm-about-to-make-a-point way that he had and continued, "And I won't have to worry about Quistis when we're done."
"So, what? You jerks are going to defeat Sin all by yourselves?"
Squall lifted his eyebrows and his sword didn't waver from its continued position over Seifer's vital organs.
"Listen, I'm sure whatever you Crusaders have planned is spectacularly stupid. And I don't care much about the details," Seifer said and prodded Squall's blade aside with his index finger. "You do whatever floats your sissy little boat. Just make yourself scarce in Luca. Got it? If I so much as see you talking to Quistis..."
Squall sighed. "Yeah. Whatever."
Only a few years ago, such an attack would have prompted a bare-knuckles fistfight between them. Seifer had been anticipating receiving at least one glancing blow (a reasonable price to pay for ensuring Quistis left Luca with him and not his rival). As he watched Squall sheath his sword and walk away, he wondered if Squall had mellowed that much or if he'd misjudged the man's relationship with Quistis. Now, puzzled, he re-evaluated and came to the twin, satisfying conclusions that Squall was obviously both gay and an asshole.
The ship slowed a fraction as Luca came into view along the horizon. Even from a distance, Seifer could make out the familiar shape of the blitzball stadium. In just a few days time, the tournament would begin—the biggest annual event in all Spira. A few other ships could be seen heading toward shore as well, probably full of players and passengers eager to forget their woes for a few glorious days.
"Hey! Almost home!" Raijin shouted. A cheer rose up spontaneously among the other passengers.
The captain reefed the sails and dropped a sea anchor as they drifted into Luca's busy harbor. Everyone came up from below to crowd the deck, eager to disembark. Seifer easily found Quistis among the throng, her height and her blond hair making her stand out. With Fujin and Raijin flanking him, he came right up behind her, laid a hand on her shoulder and said, "I took care of Squall for you. Nothing to come between us now, Summoner."
"Took care of him? What's that supposed to mean?" she said and ducked out of his grip.
"What do you think? I threw him overboard."
She rolled her eyes and let out an adorably exasperated sigh. "You're a bully. And a lair."
Already, he knew that pressing her buttons was going to become one of his favorite past times.
They disembarked together and Seifer felt a rush of relief the moment his feet touched the dock. No more open water between Luca and Zanarkand meant that, Yevon willing, he'd never set foot on a boat again.
As usual, Luca buzzed with tourists. Over the next twenty four hours, the drone would turn to a roar. A man selling balloons and another selling tickets to the opening match of the tournament shouted at them as they walked down the dock toward the stadium. Seifer swung around, stepping backwards a few paces, to try an get eyes on Squall. But he'd done as Seifer had asked and was nowhere to be found. Quistis too craned her pretty blond head around looking for him. The sad, wistful little breath she let out both irritated and pleased Seifer—one because she still obviously preferred Squall's company and two because now she no longer had the option. She had to pick him.
"Aren't we going to stop and get tickets?" Raijin asked as they passed the stadium. "They go quick, especially the good seats, ya know?"
"We're not going to the game," Seifer told him.
"What do you mean? Like...we're skipping the first to go to the finals?"
"No. I mean we're not going at all."
"What? But...you said..."
Raijin's eyes bugged out and his mouth dropped open.
"You can go to all the games you want during the calm," Seifer told him.
"But I've got bets on this one! I even made some for you an Fu, ya know? Being a guardian can wait for blitzball. Can't it?"
Right now, with Quistis cutting a path through Luca at top speed, her boots barely touching the ground, being a guardian couldn't so much as wait for a pit stop. She paid no attention to the huge billboards playing videos of last year's tournament and walked right past the other docks bustling with Ronso and Hypello and heavily robed people fresh from Bevelle. Seifer had to focus just to keep up with her.
As they entered the town square, Quistis shouldered her way through the tight crowd gathered around the fountain. It quickly closed up behind her. For a second, Seifer could only see a bunch of blitzball players, a group of girls following tight on their heels, and a couple of Al Bhed, their faces covered by goggles and headgear. Seifer wedged his way through them in time to spot Quistis jogging past the fountain, the little fishtail she'd pinned her hair into bobbing with every step.
She glanced over her shoulder with a wicked grin. Then, with a flick of her fingers, she waved and vanished through an opening in the crowd.
"Fujin! Raijin! Come on! Our summoner's escaping!"
0 0 0
Quistis took the stairs two at a time leading up into Luca's airy Dollet District—the area of the city high up on the hill, at the entrance to the Mi'ihen Highroad. She knew Seifer and his posse wouldn't be far behind. So once she reached the top of the steps, she took a quick glance around, noticed a shop swarming with tourists, and pushed her way inside. A riot of color met her. Shirts and hats and big, plastic noise-making tubes hung from every rack and covered every wall, team logos and ironed on renditions of famous player's faces meeting her at every turn.
A little boy several steps in front of her drew in a deep, shuddering breath and began wailing while clinging to a pair of Luca Goers sandals, which his mother yanked away and set back on the shelf.
The shop had a cafe attached with a window overlooking the street outside. She ducked inside, nearly running into a man dressed in a long, red coat and a pair of dark glasses.
"Excuse me," she said, not paying him much attention.
"With pleasure, Lady Summoner," he replied, his voice deep and compelling. It bothered her sensibilities somehow and she turned to give him a second glance only to find him gone.
She shrugged off the feeling and waited there in the cafe until she saw Seifer top the stairs, his gray coat flaring out behind him. The sun hit him just so, making him appear luminous and glittering and handsome. In the privacy of the mob, she allowed herself to admire him-a fiend in an underwear model's body. As Fujin and Raijin joined him, he scanned past the shop and the cafe, then said something to them and gestured in the other direction. They jogged away toward the highroad.
Victory had never tasted so sweet.
She quickly pushed her way back out onto the street, meaning to backtrack, find Squall, and then lie low while Seifer tired himself out searching. He'd eventually abandon her as a lost cause and she'd be free to continue her pilgrimage.
As she sprinted toward the stairs, someone grabbed her by the arm. The force of the person's grip and her own momentum wrenched her shoulder and spun her around.
She expected Seifer but instead came face to face with a pair of shiny, impersonal goggles and a respirator mask that covered the man's mouth and nose. An Al Bhed. She could make out no personal features beneath it aside from a black tattoo tracing across the man's cheek and a spiky shock of white-blond hair.
"Please don't scream," he said and pressed a small machina device to her side.
She had no intention of screaming. Instead, she gathered her magic, a spell already on her tongue.
The Al Bhed didn't let her finish. The piece of machina clicked as he depressed a button on it and fired a split second of blinding pain through her ribs, straight to her heart.
Quistis saw a lightning flash and then...nothing but stormy black.
0 0 0
An eerie whomp stopped Seifer mid-stride. He swung to look back the direction he'd come from and saw a half-formed spell (something electrical, judging by the sizzle) evaporate into the air. Underneath it, a familiar blond form slumped into the arms of a short, spiky haired Al Bhed. The man pocketed something, hitched Quistis up over his shoulder and, with a glance around to see if anyone meant to follow him, began hauling her away.
How the hell had Quistis gotten back behind him? Seifer wondered. And what did this Al Bhed want with her?
No time to stand around and speculate.
"Hey! You!" Seifer shouted and drew Hyperion. "Stop!"
The Al Bhed ducked low and took off at a sprint, making for the stairs that would take him out of Dollet Heights and down into Luca proper. Seifer darted after him. Bystanders peeled out of his way, either his shouts of the furious look on his face driving them back. He raced down the stairs, taking them two at a time, but still the Al Bhed kept ahead of him all that way through the crowded town square and onto an empty back road leading toward the wharf. Here, Seifer finally caught up to the kidnapper, snagging a strap on the back of the man's clothes and hauling him up short.
"Don't move, or I swear to Yevon I'll take that chicken head right off your goddamned shoulders," Seifer commanded. To show he meant business, he settled Hyperion's edge on the man's shoulder.
The Al Bhed held up his free hand in surrender.
"Hand her over."
"I can't do that," the Al Bhed replied.
"I'm not giving you the choice." Behind him, Seifer heard Raijin and Fujin's footsteps approach.
If anything, the pressure only made the Al Bhed grip Quistis tighter. "No way! I'm taking her Home where she'll be safe."
Seifer had never killed anyone and he had no interest in starting with this joker. But with Quistis's safety, he wouldn't compromise. He'd do whatever it took to ensure she completed her pilgrimage.
"Come on. Don't be stupid. You're outnumbered three to one."
"Hud vun muhk," the Al Bhed replied.
It took Seifer's rusty language skills a long moment to work out the translation (Not for long) and by the time he did, it was already too late. A deafening bang sent a dozen of seagulls into the air off all the nearby buildings and startled Seifer into letting go of his man. He found himself looking down the barrel of a long, silver shotgun.
Two other Al Bhed stood up the street, a man and a woman. Her brown hair curled up dramatically on the ends, sticking out from underneath her headgear, and, unlike the other two who wore goggles, Seifer could see her distinctly green, swirled eyes.
"These guys giving you trouble, Zell?" she asked.
The first Al Bhed—Zell—scrambled over to them with Quistis still balanced on his shoulder. "They're her guardians!" he shouted and kept running.
"I see. Come on, Irvy!" She waved to the third who still had his gun leveled at Seifer's head. "BOOM!" she added with a giggle.
A blue whirl streaked by Seifer's right side then and connected with the Al Bhed's gun, knocking it upward long enough for Seifer to leap at the man and knock him off balance. The pinwheel, meanwhile, arced up over his head and back around, down into Fujin's outstretched palm.
"GO!" she shouted.
"Yeah! We can handle these two, ya know?" Raijin added.
Sending a wave of acknowledgment over his shoulder, Seifer sprinted off in the direction Zell had gone with Quistis.
The road took him to a section of the docks used more for cargo than public transportation, a sloppy network of huge crates, loose rope, and bales of merchandise for the blitzball tournament. Only a couple of people milled about, mostly supervisors with white clipboards and workers wearing stiff, black belts supporting their lower backs. In amongst all this, Seifer's brightly dressed and utterly conspicuous quarry wasn't difficult to find. He spotted Zell ducking around a blue container with "Bevelle" painted on the side and ran hard to catch up.
Zell obviously intended to take Quistis back to his boat. Surely, he'd have machina there to back him up.
A surge of adrenaline at the thought of going head to head with some giant, mechanical monstrosity gave him a breathless burst of speed and he closed the distance fast. Only a few more pounding steps, his coat flying out behind him, and...there.
He tackled Zell, grabbing the other man's legs.
"Cred!" Zell swore and crashed down onto his knees. Quistis tumbled out of his arms and landed with a thud on the dock. She rolled once before coming to a stop on her back, one arm thrown out beside her and the other across her chest. Still unconscious but otherwise unharmed.
Seifer clambered back onto his feet, his fist clenched. But Zell proved quicker. He hopped gracefully back onto the balls of his feet, pirouetted around, and slugged Seifer with blinding speed. The air rushed out of Seifer's lungs. Gasping uselessly, he wavered, his eyes watering. And just as he got his wits about him, Zell hit him again.
The little bastard packed one hell of a punch.
A few hasty steps put distance between them. Enough for Seifer to draw his weapon and even the playing field.
"Don't make me kill you," Seifer warned and angled Hyperion menacingly.
"Way I see it, it's me or her," Zell said. "So go ahead and run me through!"
"What are you talking about?"
Zell crouched low, the muscles in his arms bulging through his suit in self-righteous rage. "You know what'll happen to her! What happens to all summoners who fight Sin! There are other ways besides sacrificing people!"
"Ways like what?"
Seifer laughed. "Are you serious? It's because of people like you that Sin's here to begin with."
"WHAT DID YOU SAY?"
So easily manipulated. Too bad. Seifer might have had some respect for this guy otherwise.
He used the opening to finally land his own blow, swinging Hyperion broad side to knock Zell off balance. Then, as the Al Bhed teetered, Seifer swept Zell's legs out from underneath him. He quickly pinned the other man to the dock with the steel toe of his boot, which pressed into the tender, exposed flesh under Zell's chin. Hyperion hovered delicately over his throat.
"Quistis is a big girl. She doesn't need you making decisions for her," Seifer said. "So don't ever mess with me or my summoner again."
Zell's hand's clenched at his sides.
"Got that, chicken wuss?" Seifer prompted, adding some additional pressure with his boot for good measure.
"Yes," Zell ground out.
"Yes, what? I'm a guardian. Don't be disrespectful."
If he hadn't had half his weight on the man's chest, he thought Zell might have leaped up off the dock and pummeled him to death right then. His face turned a shade of red Seifer had never seen on a human being before and the veins in his neck throbbed dangerously. Barely audible, Zell managed to hiss a hateful, "Yes, Sir."
Sir Seifer Almasy.
Sure had a ring to it.
Mindful of his opponent's strength, Seifer carefully eased his foot off Zell's chest and allowed him to get back to his feet.
"Okay then. Get going," he commanded with a flick of Hyperion to discourage any further acts of heroism. With evident misgivings, Zell turned to leave, casting a long look down at Quistis as he did so.
Seifer stood guard over her like a trained hound for some time, his hackles up, until he felt certain that Zell wouldn't be coming back. Behind him he saw no sign of Raijin, Fujin, or the other two Al Bhed so he sheathed Hyperion. Squatting down, he gathered Quistis up in his arms. One arm looped under her legs and the other around her shoulders. He gently shifted her until her head lolled against his chest and smiled to himself. Holding her like this made him feel just like a knight from one of the story books he'd read as a kid.
"Hey. Summoner." He shook her, but her eyelids didn't so much as flutter.
Apparently, she'd be out for a while.
"I sorta like you this way," he told her. "So quiet and obedient. No bitching or nagging or talking about Squall." She hung limp, her lips slightly parted, her chest rising and falling in silent intervals. Admittedly, he missed seeing the flush of anger in her cheeks and hearing her sharp retort.
Clutching her close, he walked back the way he'd come.
"Let's go pick up our posse and hit the Mi'ihen Highroad before you wake up."