Kitsune Moonstar (kitsunemoonstar) wrote,
Kitsune Moonstar

Breaking Wave

Title: Breaking Wave
Rating: PG-13
Fandom: Final Fantasy VIII
Spoilers/Warnings: AU Pairing: Seiftis
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VIII or its characters.
Summery: A lost princess, a knight without a lady, intrigue, and a quest to return home.

Breaking Wave

There was silence for exactly one moment, and then the noise in the room was deafening. Seifer used the moment of confusion to link his fingers with Quistis'. As long as they were in physical contact, he shouldn't have to worry about her power breaking out and causing problems. Because was the last thing they needed right now.

"Silence!" King Caraway's command had some effect, though there were still murmurs throughout the hall.

Seifer squeezed his Cariad's hand gently as the king turned his gaze on her.

"That is a very serious claim you are making."

"I wouldn't make it if it was not true," she replied. Seifer could hear the unspoken 'Uncle' at the end of her sentence.

"I see." Caraway seemed to be mulling this over for several moments. "I believe that the truth of this claim must be settled before any thing else about this situation can be. If the inner court, Countess Oriana, Lady Aurelia, and the sorceress will join me in my study."

Seifer smiled grimly. On the one hand, he knew that having less of an audience would make Quistis much more comfortable. She did not like being on display. But if they were in private, Oriana could be much nastier than she could in a public theater. And Seifer didn't know how much Quistis could take right now. This was already a stressful situation, and there was the fact that she really didn't have any training with her powers. With Seifer there, nothing too catastrophic could happen, but he doubted that it would make the coming confrontation any easier.

He kept her hand in his as they entered the study. Seifer wanted to make it perfectly clear where he stood in this mess. His place was at Quistis' side, even if it set him against Caraway and his court. Seifer didn't think that would end up being the case, but one never really knew. He led her over to one of the more comfortable chairs and seated her there before taking up a position standing at her right hand. He left their fingers twined together.

King Caraway took this in with a raised eyebrow as he settled behind his desk. The others took up positions around the room, and it was fairly easy for Seifer to read where they stood. Rinoa had taken a seat close to her father's desk but on the same side of the room as Quistis and Seifer. Squall had taken up a position that mirrored Seifer's own, standing beside Rinoa. Selphie sat down on the rug at Rinoa's feet while Irvine stood on the other side of Rinoa's chair. Zell stood beside Irvine. Edea had seated herself within arm's reach of Quistis, and between her and Oriana. Oriana and Aurelia stood alone on the other side of the room with two of Oriana's personal retainers.

Quistis' nervousness was clear through their bond, but Seifer was pleased to see that she looked calm to the outward eye. Caraway steepled his fingers together, looking at the pair of them.

"As I see it, there are several issues that need to be addressed here. You have made two claims about you identity, young lady, that are both highly controversial. First, there is your claim of being a member of the Llewellyn Clan. My understanding was that the last member of that particular clan disappeared years before your birth."

It was Matron who responded to that. "I would say with certainty that she is a Llewellyn. As you know, I was raised by part of the family, and my foster sister was the only remaining member after the Sorceress War. This young woman is identical to Idalia save for the color of her eyes and the fact that her hair is a darker blond. I can hardly think that a sorceress who looks identical to a Llewellyn Clan member appearing is mere coincidence."

"And you are absolutely sure that this young woman is a sorceress?" the king asked.

Matron just nodded. "Yes. More powerful than Rinoa actually. She's just not been trained, and her magic has been suppressed since adolescence. Quite frankly, we're lucky nothing untoward has happened."

That made Caraway arch an eyebrow. He was well aware of just what could happen when a sorceress was untrained. Rinoa's powers had caused all sorts of trouble when they had first surfaced. And Matron was right. They had been extremely lucky that Quistis' own magic hadn't burst out in a way that had harmed any one. That was probably the only good thing about the gaes she had been under.

"I see. That brings us to your second claim."

Seifer could feel Quistis' fear as she started to speak. "I can tell you the names of all of Selphie's dolls. I can tell you where Rinoa used to hide all of her hair ribbons that she didn't like. I can name every horse that I ever had. What do you need me to answer that will prove to you who I am, Uncle?"

Caraway looked stricken. It was clear that he really hadn't held any hope that his niece was still alive. Or that he might ever find her again. Finally he spoke again.

"What happened when Lord Martine's son cut Selphie's hair?"

Seifer's eyebrows raised. This was a story he hadn't heard before. But he could feel Quistis' smug satisfaction through their bond and his lady's lips had curved in to a grin.

"I broke the little bastard's nose, and you fired the nanny who let it happen. Selphie wouldn't come out of her room for nearly a week, and she ended up wearing her hair short ever since."

He didn't know how to read the look on Caraway's face. At least, until he turned his gaze on Oriana and Aurelia. That was an expression that Seifer had only seen a few times before. All of them had been when some one had put Rinoa or Selphie's lives in danger. Someone had threatened one of his girls, and they were not going to get away with it.

"Countess Oriana, I believe that you informed me that her highness never arrived at your estate. And yet you clearly know this young woman. Don't bother to deny it. You may have leaved some nasty accusations at her, but you have never acted surprised at her existence."

Seifer had to give the woman credit. There was barely a flicker in Oriana's expression as she replied.

"Your Majesty, this is ridiculous. The girl is a servant by the name of Quisty Trepe. She is simply trying to take advantage of you."

"I see. I thank you for your opinion. If you will be so kind as to wait in the antechamber." It was clear from the king's tone that this was not a request, and Seifer was not at all surprised to see that they were escorted out by quite a few guards.

Once they were gone, Caraway turned his attention back to Quistis.

Caraway's voice was gentle when he spoke again. "Quistis, my dear, I need you to tell us what happened to you and where you've been."

All of the relief of establishing who she really was vanished at the idea of having to explain every thing. She didn't want them to know what she'd been through. She didn't want Rinoa and Selphie to the details of the whole ordeal. It was partly her older sister instinct wanting to protect the two younger girls. And it was partly fear. She didn't know how they would react. She didn't know if they changed over the years. If they would blame her for not being able to escape or not realizing just how much trouble she was in. It was one thing to have Seifer know. He hadn't known her before. Her past hadn't mattered to him except in that she had become trapped by Oriana during it. Seifer had no expectations of her based on her past. Rinoa and Selphie and everyone else she had known before might have expected more from her.

She hadn't realized that she was shaking until Seifer's hands came around her and his voice was soft in her ears.

"It's all right, Cariad. The gaes is broken. It won't hurt you to speak."

She hadn't even thought of that aspect. Seifer was kneeling in front of her, blocking out everyone else in the room.

"You're not going to get in trouble for telling us. It doesn't matter what happened. We just need to know so Oriana can be charged with the full extent of her crimes. We're noting going to let her hurt anyone again."

Quistis gripped his hands tightly, trying to let the comfort he was projecting through their bond wash over her. She met Seifer's eyes. Focusing on them, she started to speak, pretending it was just the two of them. It was easier that way. She had known that sooner or later she would have ended up telling him the whole story. Seifer could be persistent when he wanted something as she well knew, and she needed to tell someone.

Slowly, the story began to spill out. Quistis glossed over a few of the details, mostly because she didn't think that her daily routines at the Carrente estate were that important and didn't exactly want to share all the private moments she and Seifer shared. Seifer actually helped tell his side of things since meeting her which was some thing of a relief. Even so, it seemed like ages before she could finally stop talking. For a moment there was silence in the room. Then Quistis found herself nearly knocked over by the force of Rinoa's hug.

Her cousin's embrace seemed to cut the tension in the room. The next thing Quistis knew she'd been pulled out of her chair, so that Selphie and Rinoa could both hug her at the same time. A quick glance around the room showed her Seifer talking softly with Sir Leonhart. Before she could really take in more than that, the young woman found herself wrapped in her uncle's arms. She could hear his voice, though she was rather sure that he hadn't intended to.

"I'm so sorry, dear heart. I'd though we'd lost you. I thought you were gone. If I'd known. We would have come for you. I never would have let them keep you if we had known…"

It took several minutes for everyone to calm down and the emotion in the room to dissipate some what. Quistis' uncle let out a sigh.

"I realize that we have much catching up to do. However, there is the matter of the rest of the court to deal with. We're going to have to go out there and deal with them before anything else can happen."

Rinoa made a face and shook out her skirts. "You're right unfortunately. It's a good thing that it's only Summer Court. Let's get this over with."

It took them a few moments to get organized, and Quistis was thankful that she remembered her etiquette lessons. She and Seifer took up their positions behind Rinoa and Sir Leonhard as the group returned to the main hall. That alone would speak volumes about what had happened behind closed doors. Seifer gently squeezed her arm, and she could feel reassurance and comfort flowing across their bond. He at least was used to this. Quistis was not, and she was nervous. But she had already faced these people once today, and they could not be worse than facing down Oriana.

It could, however, be far more boring. Her uncle had made a brief announcement verifying Quistis' identity and welcoming her home along with a mention of Oriana's arrest. And then he had gone on to conduct business as usual for a Court Session. Which as it turned out was immensely boring when you had to just sit there and listen to it. Quistis had quickly given up on understanding most of it. She was woefully out of date when it came to her political knowledge, and this was probably not the time to try and catch up.

Finally, they were finished, and the group headed back to the king's study. Rinoa sank into one of the chairs and kicked her shoes off.

"Well, that's done with. Now we just have to get Quistis settled and every thing sorted out. I think there's a suite of rooms we can set you up in near mine, and it shouldn't take long for the seamstresses to put together a wardrobe for you. We'll have to have some sort of formal event to reintroduce you to the court and catch you up on current politics."

Quistis blinked, beginning to feel more than a little overwhelmed. Rinoa just kept talking.

"We'll also have to figure out what to do about Seifer since he can't very well remain the Duke of Caledonia when the rightful claimant is alive. And of course there will need to be announcement and celebration of the two of yours betrothal."

"I haven't actually asked Cariad yet, Rinoa," Seifer grumbled. "Don't get ahead of yourself. Besides, I think that both magic lessons and catching up with current events takes precedents right now."

Quistis let out a soft sigh of relief. "He's right. I haven't really interacted with people in years. I'm afraid that I am not going to be up to dealing with more than a few people at once right now."

Rinoa blinked as if that hadn't occurred to her. Quistis didn't care. Facing the court when she did not have to interact with them was bad enough. The idea of being the center of attention and having to talk to all those people was more than a little intimidating right now. Quite honestly, just spending time alone with her cousins was a little intimidating to her. It felt like everything had changed so much that now her once closest companions seemed like strangers. But at least she had Seifer here with her. He was at least one thing that was proving constant.

There were several things that Seifer really hadn't thought about when he'd decided that he needed bring Quistis to the Royal Court's attention. One of those things was the fact that he would no longer be able to have Quistis to himself. In fact, he almost thought he was seeing less of her now than before.

It wasn't his Cariad's fault. In fact, she seemed to seek him out whenever possible. And Seifer was well aware that she frequently felt overwhelmed right now. It was very clear to him that Quistis was struggling to adjust to how things had change. It wasn't just the fact that she was returning to familiar places and people who had changed over the years she had been missing. There was also the fact that she was no longer bound by the gaes. After years of having to work around the restrictions on her and there being things that she just couldn't do, freedom was proving to be a bit of a challenge for her. Not that she didn't want her freedom, it was just that Quistis had the tendency to forget she had it at times.

Not that Seifer minded being her oasis of calm and safety amongst all of the chaos around her. And he really couldn't blame her for wanting to escape session with the seamstresses. It was not every day that a princess and a sorceress needed a complete wardrobe made for her, and the Royal Seamstresses were making the most of the opportunity. Which would explain why he and his lady were currently holed up in the library avoiding people.

Quistis did look far more relaxed than he had ever seen her before in a public place. Her nose was buried in a book and her feet were resting in his lap. Seifer himself was quite content to just sit there with his lady and not have to worry about anything.

"Do you think anyone will notice if we don't show up for lunch?"

Seifer chuckled. "Cariad, if we don't show up for lunch, they are going to send out search parties. I think you are going to have accept the fact that your uncle is at the point where he will call out the army is if you even appear to have gone missing."

She made a face. "It was not his fault."

"You know that. I know that. I think that even he knows that. But that doesn't keep him from feeling guilty that it happened or change the fact that he feels like he could have prevented it from happening in the first place." Seifer sighed. "It will get better with time. But they've only just learned what happened to you. You've dealt with it for years, but they're just getting used to the idea of it all."

Closing her book, Quistis sighed again. "I know. It's just…they look at me differently now. It hurts some times to see them so sad when they look at me. And they don't know me any more. I mean love Rinoa and Selphie to bits, but there are times when they start talking to me and seem complete strangers. We've missed so much of each other over the years and I just don't know how to bridge that gap."

Seifer just shrugged. "I don't know what to tell you, Quistis. I think it just may take time. You two seem to do well enough during your magic lessons."

That made his lady smile. Seifer was well aware that Quistis' lessons with Matron and Rinoa were going very well. He wasn't at all surprised that Quistis was proving a natural when it came to magic or that she already had a lot of the ground work laid by her mother, even if Quistis hadn't realized it at the time. That was at least one place in all of this that Quistis felt on solid ground, and that was important. The more at home that Quistis felt right now, the better.

Because Seifer was well aware that they only had so much time. Summer Court was fairly relaxed and no one was pushing much. But when it was over, things would start getting far more serious. While Quistis' reappearance did have many benefits for the country, that did not mean that every one was happy about it. And she did not have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines. Sooner or later she would be forced to take part in Court politics and the more comfortable Quistis felt about being here the better. She was a power in more ways than one now, and Rinoa couldn't afford for her to become a pawn. But they weren't to that point yet, and Quistis had some time to readjust and prepare.

"There you are," Rinoa's voice disrupted their little oasis of calm. "I was looking for you two. Selphie and I figured it would be a good time catch Quistis up on the current politics."

Seifer groaned. Rinoa just frowned at him.

"Oh don't give me that. You've had her to yourself most of the summer. It's our turn now."

Seifer made a face. That was hardly fair. He and Quistis had spent most the summer stealing moments, and they deserved some time together that wasn't fraught when one of them looking over their shoulders. He understood that Rinoa wanted to reconnect with her cousin, but he rather doubted that politics was the best way to do that. And he knew for sure that Quistis certainly did not like people dictating what she should be doing. She'd had too much of that in her life. Now, if you gave her a choice or suggested something, she most often would go along with what the other party wanted.

And given the irritation he felt trickling through their bond, he would say that Rinoa had already started off on the wrong foot with this one.

"Do you think that we could wait until after lunch for that?" Quistis asked quietly. "I'd like to finish my reading."

Rinoa blinked slightly. "What are you reading?"

"A basic history of Centra. There is a lot about my heritage that I'm still learning."

Rinoa huffed. "That can wait. We need to get you caught up on current politics sooner rather than later. Summer Court won't last much longer, and I'd like to have you participating in it by the time we leave."

Quistis snapped her book shut. "I'm not sure that will be possible. I'm not up to dealing with more than a handful of people I do know most of the time. Quite frankly, attending a court event sounds like a recipe for giving me a panic attack, and I've been informed that at this point in my studies even with my knight present that would be a very bad thing. I am quite happy to talk about politics after lunch, but until then I'll be reading my book."

And with that Quistis stalked off. Seifer remained behind with a rather stunned looking Rinoa. He could feel his lady's anger and frustration through their bond, but he also knew that she needed some alone time to calm down.

"What was that?" Rinoa clearly didn't understand what had just happened.

"That is what happens when you push your cousin too far." Seifer gave the princess a stern look. "I know you mean well, Rinoa, but Quistis is struggling a great deal as it is. She doesn't need you pushing her. And giving her orders of any sort is going to make things even more awkward. It's a reminder she doesn't need, and I know you don't want to be compared to Oriana."

The Crown Princess looked horrified. "I didn't mean to…"

"I know," Seifer assured her. "And Quistis knows too. But you have to remember that she has spent years following order and being controlled. She's going to react badly to be given orders. And she's not the person you knew nor are you the girl she remembers. You both are going to have to get to know one another again, and I think it is going to have to be on her terms. You're going to have to be patient."

Rinoa sighed. "I don't want to be patient. We got her back. I want things to be like they used to between us."

Seifer sighed and shook his head. "Rinoa, it's never going to be the same as it was. Quistis isn't the same person as when she was younger, and neither are you. And you aren't going to be able to move on and have a relationship with her again unless you accept that."

And that was the real challenge that they really faced. For all that Quistis was home now, everything had changed, and if they couldn't figure out how to put things back together in a way that worked for everyone, it was going to splinter Rinoa's court.

Quistis sat crossed legged on the floor as she brushed out her long hair. Rinoa was perched on her bed, idly twisting the rings on her necklace while Selphie braided her hair. She was really only half listening as her cousin traded the latest court gossip with Selphie. Quistis really didn't care all that much. Admittedly, there were some important tidbits that were rather fascinating like how just about any nobles connected to military has thrown their support behind herself and Seifer. While no one exactly was on Oriana's side of things now that her crimes had become clear, that didn't exactly mean that everyone supported Quistis' return. Her reappearance changed court dynamics quite a bit as did the fact that she was a sorceress and Seifer was her knight.

Quistis was still easing herself into life as a part of the Royal Court. She was not really attending Court events yet, but Seifer had started a small campaign for her to get to know the other members of the Royal Court who weren't part of Rinoa's inner circle. Actually, he seemed to think that it was more important for her to get to know the outsiders. She could understand that actually. She would have time to get to know the new additions to Rinoa's court as well as to reforge her relationships with Rinoa and Selphie; they would be spending a lot of time together. But the rest of the Royal Court was another story.

She was very out of touch with court politics these days, and to be honest, she had just barely begun to participate in court events when she'd been gaesed. She hadn't really known the political lay of the land even then, so she had a lot to catch up on, and knowing both who she could trust and to what extent that she could trust them outside of Rinoa's inner circle was important. For one thing, it would keep her from making the all too easy mistake of saying too much to the wrong person. Quistis wasn't going to be able to keep to herself any more. Like it or not (and right now it was really too overwhelming to like), she was going to be a part of this community, and navigating court politics and relationships was something she was going to have to deal with.

And it wasn't all bad. Seifer had introduced her to a number of the younger nobles who were actually quite pleasant and that Quistis wouldn't mind getting to know better. Seifer seemed to have a knack for choosing people who weren't going to ask questions she didn't want to answer. It still felt like she had entered some sort of foreign country at times, but Quistis was beginning to feel like she understood the lay of the land.

She didn't quite know where she fit in any more. At least with Rinoa's court. She was a part of it, but her role really hadn't been defined. Rinoa and Selphie clearly had already established a system and were used to working together. Selphie was the one who did most of the intelligence gathering, picking up useful bits of gossip and other tidbits of information that might prove valuable. Selphie was the one to go to if you wanted to know who was courting who and how that effected the political situation. Quistis could easily see how that was useful, and it definitely gave Rinoa an edge at times.

What she didn't know was what sort of niche that she could fill. Rinoa didn't need another information gatherer, and anyway, Quistis knew she couldn't fill that role as effectively as Selphie. Rinoa herself was a sorceress and so did not really need Quistis in that capacity, plus Rinoa had more training in magic at this point than Quistis did. There really was not something unique that Quistis could contribute to her cousin's personal court at this point, and other than their blood connection, there was no real reason for her inclusion. While they might have been close once, that wasn't the case any more. And not being able to figure out how she might fit in, what role she might be able to play was bothering her. She didn't like feeling useless.

Quistis knew that she wasn't exactly useless, but she was finding much harder to adjust than she'd expected. Well, to be honest, she hadn't really thought about anything beyond getting home. That alone had seemed like an impossibility, so she hadn't even thought beyond it. But now that she was back where she belonged, Quistis found herself struggling to remember that she did belong here. The only things that really made her feel at home were in her magic lessons and when she was with Seifer. Even the palace had changed enough that it no longer felt like her home. More often than not she felt lost and out of place here.

"Quistis? Are you paying attention?" Rinoa's voice pulled her away from her thoughts. "What do you think about having another Centran style party to close out the Summer Court?"

She paused to consider the idea. "That might actually be a good idea. They are much more informal than our parties, and the one I attended seemed to go very well. Plus the relaxed atmosphere would probably be a good idea right now. Even if they aren't showing it much right now, with everything that has happened lately, people are pretty on edge. It also will show that we are not letting Oriana and her machinations aren't controlling us and our actions now."

Rinoa looked surprised. "That's not a bad point. Oriana certainly has put quite a damper on the Summer Court, and I was thinking that it might be a way of getting things up and rolling again. And if we can get at least the courting couples back to that, I'd count it as a success. This is supposed to be an opportunity for people to fall in love."

Quistis blinked at that. "Is that an issue now?"

Rinoa made a face. "Apparently, having plots to trap people in marriage going on puts a damper on romance."

She could certainly understand that. Oriana's plot had definitely affected her own romance, and she could easily imagine that others would be wary about their own romantic entanglements once Oriana's plot was revealed. Courtship was hard enough without having to second guess the motives of everyone involved.

"So," Selphie grinned, "if we are going to put romance back in the air, then we need to come up with quite a party."

The three of them quickly settled in to a discussion of the plans for the party, and Quistis felt herself relax. Maybe this would work out after all.

Seifer was trying not to feel nervous. Normally, he had no problems interacting with King Caraway. The two men got along just fine, especially since Seifer considered Rinoa to practically be his sister. But that was before Seifer got himself romantically involved with the man's only niece. Now Seifer wasn't sure what to expect.

"So, you're going to marry my niece." It was not a question.

"Yes, sir." Seifer didn't even have to think about his response. "Whenever she wants to."

"Interesting caveat," the king said.

Seifer shrugged. "Quistis has had enough decisions forced upon her or taken away from her. I'm not going to put her in a position where she feels like I'm making that decision for her. When we get married, it will be when we both feel ready to do so."

Caraway nodded. "Good. I am not fool enough to try and keep Quistis from something that she wants, and she has made it very clear that she wants you in her life. That said, I am not about to let anyone else hurt, so considered yourself warned. Understood?"

Seifer nodded. "Perfectly. I'd rather die myself than hurt her."

"I'll hold you to that."

With that settled, the atmosphere seemed to lighten. Most of the conversation revolved around what to do with Oriana. The punishment for her crimes was complicated by the fact that she was both a noble and the head of a noble family with ties to the royal family. Everything was going to have to be done exactly by the book if anything was going to stick. Seifer had no doubt that in the end, Oriana was going to get her comeuppance in the end, but he was frustrated with the amount of time it would take. At least they could make sure that the woman was kept locked up until she could be permanently dealt with.

Caraway also had some questions about just how Seifer had met Quistis and just what they had been up to before Seifer had brought her plight to Edea's attention. He had wanted to know everything that Seifer knew about Oriana and what she had done and any other suspicions about her that Seifer might have. It was very clear to Seifer that King Caraway planned to throw everything that he could at Countess Oriana.

"We do have a minor problem, you realize. Well at least until you marry Quistis."

Seifer blinked at the king. "What do you mean?"

"Well, I originally made you the Duke of Caledonia because we thought that Quistis was dead. Technically speaking, the duchy is still Quistis', which leaves you a duke without any lands."

"Do I need any until I marry Quistis?" Seifer asked. "I don't really need the land, and I have enough on my plate right now without adding the responsibility of running a duchy."

Caraway considered this. "You really should have lands of your own quite frankly before you marry Quistis, but we can worry about that later. I agree that you have bigger priorities right now. Some time after the Summer Court is over we can deal with that."

The man paused then gave Seifer a serious look. "How is Quistis really doing? She's too good at hiding what she feels, and I can't read her well any more."

Seifer sighed. "She's holding her own. It's taking time for her both to reestablish her former relationships, and she still struggling with being around crowds of people she doesn't know. She is happy though, and she is making progress even if it isn't as quickly as she'd like. I think that once Summer Court is over with and she can just be around Rinoa's court for awhile things will go a little smoother."

Sighing, Caraway nodded. "Good. Part of me still can't believe we got her back. She's so different than what I remember and yet at the same time, she's not. I am glad that you found her. I don't know what would have happened if you hadn't found her when you did. We could have been looking at a much bigger mess both for Quistis personally and for us politically."

Seifer was able to make his escape soon after that. He very quickly set off in search of his lady. Where he found her surprised him to some extent. Well, Seifer was not at all surprised to find her on the beach. There was a reason he had gone looking for Quistis there. What did surprise him was to find that Quistis was in the middle of a group of young women. It took him a moment to process what he was looking at. Quistis was perched on a piece of driftwood with something held between her hands. Sitting right by her feet on the sand was Rinoa, who held her hands out about a foot apart from one another with something blue grey wrapped around them. Several of the other ladies, including Selphie, were either seated on other pieces of driftwood or on the sand.

After a moment of staring, Seifer finally realized that Quistis was knitting while Rinoa acted as a yarn holder. Seifer blinked. He hadn't known that Quistis could knit. And he wouldn't have expected her to have the supplies to knit at the moment. Then again, Rinoa had kept talking about taking her cousin shopping. What really did stand out to Seifer was the fact that Quistis was smiling and seemed fairly relaxed. And that hadn't happened when she was in a larger group of people in quite awhile.

"Learning to knit was one of the few benefits of being a servant," Quistis said, her fingers a constant blur of motion. "Though I've never gotten to work with materials as fine as these. Still, it is a useful skill."

"What are you making?" one of the younger ladies asked.

Quistis smiled. "A lace scarf. I'm not that talented compared to some of the women, but lace came naturally enough. Just don't ask me to knit a sweater. My attempts have been laughable to date."

"Is it hard to learn?" a dark haired girl asked.

"Not exactly. It does take quite a bit of practice though."

"Huh. I might want to try that," Lady Kara commented.

Quistis looked up and met his eyes. Her smile seemed to brighten. Kara followed the direction of her gaze and grinned.

"I can see we won't be having your full attention for the rest of the afternoon."

"Can you blame me?" Quistis carefully stowed her needles and the scarf so far in a little pouch. She carefully took the rest of the yarn from Rinoa. "Besides, watching me knit all afternoon can't be that interesting."

Nobody mentioned the fact that it was probably Quistis herself that was interesting to them as the group broke up. And as the others left, Seifer noted that while Quistis was a little more relaxed now, she hadn't been upset or unhappy before. In fact, he would say she had been enjoying herself. Once she'd put the yarn away, Seifer linked arms with her, and the two of them wandered their way down the beach.

In many ways, it was rather reminiscent of their earlier days, though really, that was only a few weeks, at most a month ago. It was rather hard to believe how quickly things had changed for them. But that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

Quistis leaned into Seifer and let her mind drift. She was more than happy to just wander along the shoreline with Seifer. It had been a good day so far, but she was feeling rather drained. First she had gone shopping down in the village with Selphie and Rinoa which had been an experience in itself. The best part of it had been being able to purchase a nice set of knitting needles of her own and some truly lovely yarn. That outing had been followed by the impromptu gathering of some of the court ladies on the beach. Thankfully, the group had mostly consisted of people Quistis already knew a little, and it had ended up being quite fun.

Even so, peace and quiet was nice now. Seifer didn't seem to care about making conversation, and she enjoyed the sound of the waves and his presence. While the two of them no longer had to sneak time together in order to see one another, they did not get to spend as much time alone together as Quistis would have liked. Of everyone, it was only Seifer and oddly enough Edea that she felt most comfortable around. With the two of them, she didn't feel the need to put on a good face if she was struggling.

Seifer wrapped his around her shoulders. "So, Cariad, have you made it home?"

She looked up at him startled, remembering that evening when he'd asked her what she wanted. Seifer smiled down at her. Quistis took a deep breath, considering his question.

"Yes. I think so."

"Good." He pressed a kiss to her temple. "Of course, you do know what that means."


"It means I have to ask you again. What do you want, Quistis?"

She didn't have an immediate reply. Quistis couldn't think of anything that she really wanted with the same burning passion that she'd had about going home. At least, nothing that she didn't already have.

"Besides, you? I don't know."

He smiled at that. "I can work with that."

Seifer leaned in and kissed her.

Tags: final fantasy viii, seiftis, the grey lady

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