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Back to Balamb
Chapter 4 - Arrival at Balamb
I slowly woke as the train pulled into the station at Balamb. No dreams. I never have dreams. I got up to look for Selphie. She was in her usual spot, mindlessly stroking a sleepy Juil, and humming her little train song. I rolled my eyes. As amazing as it is that a trained killer can be so child-like, I thought, it sure can get on your nerves. "Hey, Selph, we're here." She broke out of her trance.
"Goody!" she chirped, and began jumping up and down. I smiled tolerantly and held her down with one hand.
"C'mon, girlie, let's get out bags." Quistis had arranged for us to have the SeeD room on the train when she bought the tickets. Not that Selphie cared; she spent the whole time standing in the aisle looking out the window.
We entered the compartment. Selphie tucked the chocobo into the front chest pocket of her jumper, and picked up two bags. I grabbed my single duffel. We walked down the aisle to the nearest door and stepped down onto the platform. "QUISTY!" Selphie shrieked, and ran toward the Balamb headmistress. I looked to where she was running and saw Quistis, Zell, and Squall waiting. I hung back until Selphie had given everyone hugs. I took a deep breathe to steady my nerves, and casually sauntered over.
"Um… hi, everyone." I said. "Oomph!" I looked down to see that Quistis had wrapped her arms around me tightly. I squeezed her back, blinking back tears. I hadn't expected such a welcome from her. Damn, I've really missed her. I guess she's really missed me, too. At least I knew she was alive. Guilt. "I'm sorry I didn't let you know I was alive." Quistis pulled back and looked up at me. She had tears on her cheeks. "I'm sorry, Quis," I repeated softly. I pulled her back to my chest as more tears started falling.
"It's so good to see you, Seifer. I've missed you." I rubbed her back. "I've missed you too." After a moment she stood back, wiping her cheeks but beaming happily. Zell stepped up.
"Hey, man, welcome back." He started to do his little pre-handshake dance, blowing on his gloved hand and all that, but I stopped him with a hug. "Thanks, chicken." He bounced back, playfully raising his fists. I pretended to give him a cuff to his head. Selphie and Quistis rolled their eyes. My grin faded when I turned to Squall.
Squall was standing back in the shadows, looking like a shadow himself with all his dark clothing. So pale and so skinny. "Hey, Squall," I said, holding out my hand. He can make the first move.
"Seifer." He stepped forward, wincing a little as the sun hit his eyes. I was surprised when he gripped my hand tightly. "It's nice to see you again." He sounded sincere. My eyebrows raised a bit, but I just said, "You too." We stood there a moment, looking each other in the eye. Finally I dropped his hand and turned toward Quistis, Selph, and Zell. "Are we ready to go?"
Quistis nodded. We started walking through Balamb toward the edge of town. Quistis dropped back to walk next to me, while Selphie skipped between Squall and Zell, each carrying a bag, ahead. I put an arm around Quistis' shoulders. "You alright?"
She nodded. "Yes." We were silent for awhile, then she said, "I had heard about Sorceress' Knight sightings. Balamb, Deling City, Esthar…" she trailed off.
"I spent some time in Balamb after time compression," I said. "With Raij and Fu. Then I spent some time just traveling. You'd never guess where I spent the next year." I grinned. "The Shumi village. They actually welcomed me and promised to keep my presence there a secret. Of course, I had to help with some mining and gardening and stuff. I liked it there; always calm and quiet. The only thing I didn't like was not seeing the actual sky."
"Why did you leave?"
I shrugged, dropped my grin. "A tourist came and recognized me. I left before he could make a big ruckus." She nodded. "Then I stayed in Esthar for awhile. Ten days ago I arrived in FH and Selphie spotted me."
"Are you glad that she did?" Quistis asked.
I looked down at her, "Yeah," then I looked ahead at Squall. The trio had reached the car. "It may not be the best time, though."
Quistis shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not," she said ambiguously. "Come on, Cousin Kevin." She smiled and walked over to the driver's side of the vehicle.
Zell, Seifer, and I sat in the back of the car. Selphie rode shotgun. Luckily, this car had two back seats facing each other, so we didn't have to cram the three of us into one seat. Zell and Seifer sat facing forward while I rode backward. With the rest of the luggage, I thought dryly. Quistis and the others were right; my self-confidence reached a new low with every breakup. I knew it, but didn't really care. I made myself go numb. The nickname "ice prince" applied to more than my aloofness.
As the two men across from me talked, I thought about my latest lover, Rian. Tall, blond, wide-shouldered. He was from Galbadia Garden; a pole fighter. His favorite weapon was a lance he had dubbed "Ripper." That's the kind of guy he was under his sensitive act; forceful and self-assured. Not the perfect guy for me, I'll admit. I just wanted to feel something from someone. I sighed. The two blondes looked up at me.
"What was that, Squall?" Zell asked. "Nothing," I replied. They continued with their conversation.
I studied Seifer, my lifelong rival. Kinda funny that he's the closest thing to a best friend that I've had my whole life. If a best friend means someone who has known you for a long time and knows things about you that you didn't, then, yeah, that's Seifer.
Seifer was hot, really hot. His blond hair was longer than it had been the last time I saw him, an improvement, I noted. He was still muscular, and broad shouldered. His chest muscles were covered by a clinging black shirt. It was tight enough for me to see his nipples. I avoided looking at his crotch, letting my eyes wander down to his legs, noticing the gorgeous thighs. If he wasn't Seifer, I'd be all over him like… a… I can't think up a good analogy right now. Too distracted. I mentally laughed at myself. Instead, I strained to hear what Quistis and Selphie were saying. "… I found Juil being sold by a woman in FH. She had all sorts of other animals, but this little cutie caught my eye right away. Didn't you sweetie?" Juil… ah, yes, her white choco.
"I always wanted one, but the Garden doesn't allow pets. Oh, can Juil stay quiet in your room? I just don't want anyone to know I'm allowing you to keep your pet while you stay here."
"Quisty, you're actually breaking the rules!" Selphie squealed, "I am sooo proud of you! See, I'm loosening you up!"
"Actually, chocobos have higher intelligence than most animals, and were never specifically mentioned in the rule book. So I am just bending the rules."
"I still say that I'm rubbing off on you, Quisty!" I rolled my eyes and focused on what Zell and Seifer were saying.
"…In issue number five of Weapons Monthly…" I tuned out quickly. My thoughts have almost always been more interesting, anyway. I looked out the window. Almost back to the Garden. Unfortunately, I still had to share a room with Zell. He was pretty cool about it, actually. I just hated sharing a room. Especially with hyper gluttons. At least he can go to his girlfriend's room. So I get it to myself for a few hours every week. His girlfriend, Neria, was actually a really sweet, friendly girl. I just wonder how a mellow girl like that can be so compatible with a energetic guy like him. Life's full of mysteries. Like why do guys have nipples? That thought immediately reminded me of Seifer's, so I tried to distract myself with the scenery again.
Home, home, home! I sang to myself. Even though I had left Garden two years ago, and had lived in Trabia Garden longer, there was just something about Balamb. A friendliness and eagerness. Like you could just sit down with anyone and tell them your whole life story. If you can remember your whole life story, 'cuz of the GFs. Two years of not using any GFs had let some memories of my childhood resurface. Like my stuffed rabbit, 'Wabby.' I wonder what happened to her? I hung on Quisty's arm, carrying one of my suitcases. I had put poor little Juil inside it. She was good, though, staying quiet. Zell carried my other bag.
As we walked through the front gate I ran up to the booth where the same grouchy old man sat. "Hi!" I shmooshed my nose against the glass and waved excitedly. "Remember me?! I left two years ago! I'm Selphie Tilmitt!"
He glared at me. "I never could forget you," he muttered. I stuck my tongue out at him. "C'mon, Sel!" Zell tapped my shoulder. One grouchy old man couldn't spoil my mood. Home, home, home!
"Easy, Selph," Seifer pushed down on my shoulder, stopping my bouncing.
"Okay, okay!" I jogged ahead of everybody, stopping to wait at the directory. The basement had been converted into dorms, weapon research, and a mail room. "Weapon research? Cool!"
Quistis walked up behind me. "Nida's in charge of that." Her cheeks pinked. "They focus on adding an element to specific weapons to increase damage. Another unit studies battle magic techniques."
"Cool!" I said again. "Can I look around there sometime during my visit?"
"I'll ask Nida if he will show you around." I did my little happy-dance. Everyone teases me about it, but I can't help it! Quistis just smiled at me. I spontaneously gave her another hug as Zell and Seifer walked up.
"Where's Squall?" Seifer asked. I looked around. No sign of the brunette. I shrugged. "Can you take us to our rooms? I need to let you-know-who out."
Quisty nodded. "I'll check around for Squall before I head to my office. I'll meet you for dinner in the cafeteria."
"Yup, yup, yup!" I waved while she turned. "Okay, Zelly, where's my room?"
"Zelly?!" Seifer raised an eyebrow. He's so cute when he does that! Cuter than usual, anyway.
"Did you two want one together?" Zell asked, blushing a little.
I rolled my eyes, and made a face. "We're not together," I said, emphasizing.
"I feel so loved," Seifer said, and sniffed dramatically. "Drama queen," I shot back at him, and burst into giggles.
"Ohh-kaayy," Zell drawled, rolling his eyes and turning towards the dorm wing.
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