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Back to Balamb
Chapter 11 - New Plans
"Hey, there's Selphie and Seifer."
I looked up, relieved, at Zell's words. The couple mentioned walked towards the table and sat. I noticed Seifer was deliberately avoiding my gaze.
"Hey, guys," Nida paused by our table, holding a loaded tray. "How was the beach yesterday?" he asked Selphie.
"Eh, change of plans," the perky brunette replied. "I decided that four people weren't enough for a beach party, so we'll go when the whole gang's free." I noticed Seifer looked relieved at her response. "Taking a tray up to Quistis?"
Nida nodded. "Yeah, she's been skipping meals. Again." He rolled his eyes. "Work-a-holic. Try to get her out more while you're here, Selphie."
"A'course." Her hair bounced as she nodded.
"Thanks. See you guys later!" He started walking toward the cafeteria exit.
I picked at my salad. I wasn't hungry.
"So, anyone want to come with me to Balamb right after lunch?" Zell looked around expectantly.
"Sure, I'll go." I was surprised that I said that. *What the hell. I need some more shampoo and razor blades.*
"Alright, man!" Zell raised his hand for a high-five. I raised an eyebrow at his upheld hand before he lowered it, rubbing his palms together briskly. Selphie giggled. Seifer picked at his salad.
*He looks better,* I noted, looking at the blond man. *Maybe he took some of his own advice and talked to Selphie.*
I noticed that the hot dogs Zell had managed to get had been inhaled rather rapidly. "Ready to go?" I asked, standing.
"One sec." I shifted my weight to one foot, quietly tapping the other. I was even more nervous in Seifer's presence after this morning. "Seifer. You okay, man?" Zell looked at the other blonde.
Seifer shrugged. "Actually, I do feel better." *Whoa. I guess he is taking his own advice.* "It's just… weird. Being back here after all the shit that's happened." He met Zell's gaze. I could see that the muscles under his eyes were tense. *It's hard for him to admit that. Even harder than it is for me.*
If Zell was surprised, he didn't show it. "Yeah, I was thinking about that. But listen. You can always talk to Sel, here, or me. Even Squall will prob'ly lend an ear. You are one of us. We all know it. Nothing you can do or ever did can change that. Orphanage Gang, remember?" His amazingly deep and sincere speech lost some of it's eloquence with the punches Zell threw at the end. Seifer actually smiled.
"Thanks, Zell. That… that means a lot." He stood and held out his hand for a shake. They shook, then Zell pulled him into a hug. They slapped backs and parted.
I was awestruck at the bonds between us that this conversation began to reveal. *Zell was right; we are all connected. Connected by deep, hidden bonds that linked our pasts, present, and futures. We cared deeply, strongly about each other, unconditionally. Unconditionally.* That rocked me back on my heels. Everything Seifer said clicked. My expectations and fears were greatly exaggerated. *We are family. None of us is alone. Me, Seifer, Selphie, Zell, Quistis, Irvine…. Somehow, we all balance each other out. Complete each other.* I was beyond awestruck. My old fears were still there, but I was on my way to working past them. I had a headache. I felt like going out and getting a drink.
"Huh?" I shook my head and found Zell staring at me.
"Whoa, you, like, totally spaced out. I said, ready to go?"
"Uh, yeah. Gotta stop by the room really quick." Zell nodded. With waves to Selphie and Seifer, we left the cafeteria.
"C'mon, man!" I bounced from foot to foot in my living room. Squall was in his bedroom. I could hear stuff clunking around. "Geez, what's he doin'?" I muttered to myself. I heard a loud "CLUMPF!"
"Yo, Squall, you okay?!" I was about to open his bedroom door when it opened. Squall stood there. "Whoa, dude…"
Squall was wearing these dark gray pants, prob'ly made out of vinyl or leather. He wore a sleeveless dark blue shirt that accentuated his chest muscles and clung with every movement. He wore black steel-toed boots. Two silver necklaces hung from his neck, one a ball choker and the other a chain. His usual discreet earrings were replaced with noticeable silver hoops, with a matching ear cuff on one ear. Another, thinker, steel chain ran from a belt loop to his wallet in a back pocket. *Man, if I went for guys… he would have to watch out!*
I whistled. "Dude, where are you going?" *Prob'ly clubbin' again. Shit.* I knew the routine: Squall would go to a club in the early evening, be screwing a guy at around midnight, then hit a rave or two with some 'new friends.' He'll finally come home totally shit-faced around oh-four-hundred, pass out on the sofa, and sleep until dinnertime. This happened maybe every four months or so.
My roommate shrugged. "You're taking me to Balamb, I'll pop in to say hi to your mother, then I'm going shopping before hitting a club." I sighed. *Do I know him or what?*
"Squall, you shouldn't do this, y'know? When was the last time you got checked for STDs, hmm? Man, abusing your body and mind won't make you feel better. It only makes you feel worse." These words aren't gonna have an effect on him today. We've all tried before. *Shit, I hate these 'lessons' people have to learn on their own. This is one lesson that will really fuck him over before he learns it.*
The brunette just sighed. "I know, Zell. I promise I'll be back before two, 'kay?"
*This is new. Usually he completely blows me off. Not literally. Haha.* "Just remember, man. You promised. Let's go. I got my bike in the garage.
I watched two men, one blond and one brown-haired, depart on a motorcycle headed for Balamb.
She looked up from her desk. "Hmm? Yes, S-Kevin?"
I grinned. *Here's the Balamb Garden headmistress slipping up on an alias.* "Do you mind if I borrow a car for a few hours?"
She tucked a few strands of hair back into place. "No, go ahead. I'll finally be able to work without you peering over my shoulder," she teased, dramatically rolling her eyes behind her glasses. "Here." She tossed a key ring to me. "Take my car."
"I am deeply honored with your level of trust for me," I said facetiously while I bowed. Her car was a piece of crud, bought cheap off a guy in Dollet after the radio tower incident. She doesn't need to buy a fancy car when she can borrow the Garden's.
She laughed. "Okay, shoo!" She motioned me out the door. "Have fun."
"I will." I winked at her before closing the door.
On my way to the garage I made a detour to my room to change. Nothing fancy, just a clean long-sleeved shirt and slightly baggy jeans, and slung a jacket over my arm. I unlocked Quistis' car and climbed in, fiddling with the radio till I found a good station. I rolled down the one working window and started cruising toward Balamb.
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