Author notes:
I don't own any of these characters. You can still send me money. Please? (j/k)
Send me an email if you liked/hated it. Just keep in mind that I am a person with feelings and pepper spray.

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Chapter 10 - A Change in Plans

By Kaerith


I ran down the hall and ducked into a lavatory. I stared at my face in the mirror. *Hyne, I look so pathetic. Tear-tracks and my eyes all red and puffy.* I ran cold water and splashed my face. The anger had faded, leaving exhaustion in it's wake. *Why do people say crying helps? Now I just feel sad, tired, and drained.*

I sat up on the counter, leaning my back against the mirror and hugging my legs. I rested my forehead on my raised knees. *I would do anything to make Squall feel better. I'd kill myself if that would make him stop hurting himself.* I sighed. *Fuck. I've got a serious crush on Squall. I've known it for years. Guess it just faded with time. But seeing him again….* My thoughts wandered; I was too tired to stay focused. "I should go back to bed." *With luck, I may wake up too late to go to the beach.* I really didn't want to see Squall for a long time.

I slid off the counter and started walking to the elevator. When I reached my room, I got in bed still wearing my clothes. It took me awhile to fall asleep. When I did, I had a dream, the first one in my whole life. The only thing I remembered was a blood-red rose, dried to an almost black color, that turned to dust in my hand..

I was woken up by the sound of my door being kicked. "C'mon! Sei- I mean, Kevin!" I groaned. Definitely Selphie.

"Go 'way," I mumbled into the pillow. I pulled the covers over my head. The thin SeeD-issue fabric did nothing to lessen the noise.

I heard them talking in the hall. "We're coming in!" said Selphie. I groaned. *Great. Just what I want at the moment. A wake-up party. My head hurts. Too much crying.*

The door opened. "Seifer?" A low voice questioned. Squall. I heard him stumble into a chair. "Seifer, you here?" Does he sound worried? I burrowed further under the covers as the light was turned on.

"Go 'way." My verbal skills aren't at top-notch when I'm tired.

I felt a weight settle on the end of the bed. "Are you going to the beach?"

I snorted. "Nope, sorry, changed my mind. Decided not to hang out with you losers." I winced. I knew how harsh that sounded. *Old habits come back hard when I get my feelings hurt.*

Squall sighed. "You can't stay in bed all day."

"Yes I can. Now go away! And turn the lights off when you leave." I felt him rise. A breath later, and he was opening the door. I heard some whispering in the hallway, then footsteps walking away. He didn't turn off the light. *Oh well.* I put an extra pillow over my head. *Ah, peace and quiet.* But I felt guilty for treating Squall and Selph like that. *Oh well,* I repeated, *Friends just cause more pain. I don't know which one of us began isolating first; Squall or me.*

I lay there, turning that thought over in my head. *Friends cause pain, but so does loneliness. The question is which is better?* I already knew the answer to that. *Loneliness is worse. If it wasn't for my damn pride and the fact that everyone hates me, I would make friends.* That thought increased my feeling of loneliness, and the tears started again. I stifled a sob, unsuccessfully. *Men don't cry! Aw, fuck it. I'm alone and everyone already thinks I'm in here bawling.* The sobs began in earnest.

My heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I felt a hand on my shoulder through the blankets. I shot up, blinking in the light. Selphie stood there. Through the splotches clouding my vision, I saw concern clouding her face. She sat on the edge of the bed and put her arms around me. Instantly my back stiffened. Stupid tears won't stop. Only the fact that she wasn't laughing or pitying me let me relax in her embrace and cry myself out.


*Poor Seifer.* I found myself blinking back tears. His sobs shook his entire body. I didn't know what he was all upset about, but I wasn't surprised. I had expected him to break down sometime during this visit. He was confronting his past; all his shattered and abandoned dreams, all the shit he put other people through, and all the worse shit he put himself through. Squall knows why he's upset. All he told me was that Seifer's upset and someone should stay with him. I just kept holding him, unconsciously rocking and rubbing his back, like I've done with young cadets at Trabia. I just waited out the tears.

When they finally stopped Seifer sat up. His face was all red, his eyes bloodshot. He looked around, and pulled a dirty shirt from a pile on the floor. As he blew his nose, I rolled my eyes. Guys.

"Better?" I asked.

He shrugged. "Kinda, not really. I'll know in a few hours." He glanced sideways at me. "Thanks, Selph." This was given softly, self-consciously. I had a sudden inspiration.

I held his hand, "It's okay, Seifer. I'm your friend. That's what friends do." The look on his face confirmed my suspicion. *He is so lonely. He doesn't think he can have friends.* I decided to loosen the mood up a bit. "Besides, you're more than a friend. Like a brother. I mean, you've been living with me for a week." He looked mildly surprised under all that exhaustion. I shifted so that I was sitting with my legs folded under me. "C'mon, can I be an honorary Almasy? Pleeeze?" I pulled my best innocent and lovable look.

"You want to be an 'honorary Almasy?' We kind of have a bad rep since the whole 'Evil Sorceress' Knight' thing." Seifer's face darkened. *Oops! I expected an opposite reaction. Hmm… should I stay cheerful or beg for forgiveness? Maybe both….*

"You know I didn't mean it like that, Seifer. You can be an honorary Tilmitt, big brother." I waited anxiously for his reaction; his face wasn't giving any hints.

A moment passed. "Thanks, Selphie. Maybe someday I'll take you up on that. But now I have to face what being Seifer Almasy deserves." I frowned. The thanks sounded sincere.

"I just don't want you being so hard on yourself." I snuggled up with him. He put an arm across my shoulders.

He sighed. "I know I shouldn't. But I've done so many shitty things. Even when I wasn't under Ultimecia's influence."

I knew disagreeing would piss him off, so I just said "Yeah, you have. And you should get what you deserve. But don't you think three years is enough punishment? I mean, there has to be an end to how long you should continue to suffer."

He thought about that for a while. I sat there, staring at the headboard. *Headboard. That would be a good name for a band. Squirrels!* I think my mind would scare most persons. I leap from random topic to random topic, quite quickly and frequently. *Hmm… squirrels, quarrels… pearls. Squirrels wearing pearls…Tee-hee!*

"What are you tee-hee-ing about?" Seifer asked.

*Oops. Gotta keep my thoughts in my head!* "Um… I was thinking of words rhyming with 'squirrel.'"

Seifer rolled his eyes. "I do not want to know what goes on in your head. Remind me never to ask again."

I giggled. The mood had been broken. "You better now?"

Seifer nodded. "Yeah, actually. Maybe this crying thing has something to it. Just… I wouldn't want to do it too often."

"Ready to go out and see people? It's almost lunchtime."

"I might be after a shower," he replied.

"Okay. Knock on my door when you're ready." He nodded. We both stood. "Promise me, Seifer, that you'll come and talk to me if you need to. I won't tell anyone, promise." He nodded. I gave him a hug. "Seifer, I care about you, you know that, right?"

"Yeah, Selph, I do. And… thanks." We pulled apart. I smiled up into his eyes. "No prob, Bro. Your end of the bargain is to beat up all the guys who bother me, 'kay?" He laughed. I felt relieved.

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