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Chapter 15 - Dinner
I bit back my excitement until I was safely alone in the elevator. Then I hopped a little bit. "YES!!" *Squall flirted with me and I could feel him checking me out at the beach. I think he actually is interested in me!* My heart was beating wildly, and I let myself beam happily. *What a day.* I went from extreme sadness and depression to extreme happiness and elation! I had to swallow the urge to tee-hee like Selphie. It would not be good for a man of my appearance and reputation to giggle like a schoolgirl. *Selph may pull it off, but there's no way I can.*
I walked down the hall and unlocked my door. After closing it, I went into the bathroom and quickly jumped in and out of the shower. In my bedroom I rooted through my clothes, laying my small collection on my bed and going over possible combinations in my head. I decided on my favorite ass-flattering faded jeans and a dark red, short-sleeved T-shirt over a tight dark-gray long-sleeved shirt. I looked at myself from every angle in the mirror like a teenage girl going on her first date. *Okay. I think this is okay. Casual enough for watching a vid, but tight enough to show off my body. Alright.* My stomach felt a little jumpy. 8Chill, man. Hyne, I can't believe that he invited me to be alone with him! Maybe he does actually like me!* "Don't get your hopes up, Almasy," I growled to myself. *God! Squall can make me feel like a teenager with a crush.*
Mentally checking to see if I was missing anything, I walked out into the living room. *Nope, got everything.* I went into the hallway, locked the door, slid the card-key in my back pocket, and started toward the elevator.
I prowled the living room, straightening pillows and picking up fallen magazines. *Let's see… the vid's ready, the food's here, anything else?* I couldn't think of anything, so I paced back and forth; my pseudo-leather pants I was wearing earlier whispering softly. I had changed into one of my loose white T-shirts and replaced the hoop earrings with normal studs. I heard a knock. I spun around, waited a second, and opened the door. Seifer stood there. "Hey," he said.
"Hey, come in," Seifer entered the room. I inhaled his scent as he walked past me, then closed the door. *Man, he has a great ass.* The faded and frayed jeans he wore showed his butt to every advantage. "Um, dinner's right there on the coffee table. Do you want to watch the vid while we eat?"
"Nah. We can talk first."
"Okay." My heart was pounding. *Talk? About what?* I wasn't sure how long I could keep talking coherently. I sat on the sofa and Seifer followed my example. I pulled the coffee table a little closer. "What do you want to talk about?"
The blonde thought. "I just wanted to apologize, again, for being such a prick. The point to what I was saying didn't come out how I wanted it." He stabbed some teriyaki chicken with a fork and chewed for a bit.
"I managed to figure out that I should talk to the friends I have instead of cutting on myself, right? And that I'm a lucky bastard because I have the aforementioned friends, a family, hero-worship, and command of the Garden. Did I miss anything?" I said, curtly. *Okay, I am still a little pissed off at him.*
I winced at Squall's tone. Still a sensitive subject. Well, it did happen yesterday. "Nope, you got it." *Tell him now? Not while he's still annoyed at me.*
He nodded slightly. "Y'know, you should take your own advice."
"With what friends? I pretty much dropped all contact with Rai and Fu. I never made friends while I was moving around, hiding. The Shumi act superior all the time. I really didn't have a choice."
"What about your scars?"
"I tried to kill myself a few times. Once with a gun to my chest, a few times with a knife. The last time was a month ago in Esthar. I thought I was ready. But someone picked me up and took me to a clinic."
Squall looked at me in the eyes. He looked sad. "Shit. You've had such a rough time."
*He's really listening.* I guess, even after bawling to Selphie, that I needed to talk about the lowest points of the past three years. "Yeah. Mostly bad. I grew out my hair so that more people wouldn't recognize me. I dyed it sometimes. I kept traveling, getting odd jobs in the larger cities to get money. Lived off the land a lot. Not too many people wanted me in their village, nobody wanted me in their house. I was chased out of some towns." I looked down at my hands. "Everyone hates me." I wasn't crying, but tears did begin to flood my vision.
"Not everyone," Squall said quietly. I didn't look up. *Don't get your hopes up, Almasy.* "Look at me, Seifer," he gently pleaded. My blood seemed to sing when he spoke my name like that, but I shook my head, too ashamed to let him see me like this. To let him see me crying and weak again. I studied my hands, blinking rapidly to keep the tears in my eyes.
His hands came into my vision. Tentatively, Squall laid them on mine. I stiffened. *Don't tease me like this!* "Look at me." His tone was softly commanding. I did, staring at his gray, gray eyes. He looked into mine seriously. "I don't hate you."
Hyne, it was so tempting to just lean forward and capture his lips with mine. The tears spilled out, pushed over the edge by my hopeless desires. My shame was hidden beneath the other emotional anguish I was feeling. *I'm so fucked up. Nobody likes me, everyone hates me.* Mostly the thought that Squall would never love me ran through my head, blazing like a neon sign. Each imaginary flash burned in my chest. I cried harder, forgetting everything besides the breaking of my heart.
My chest constricted while I watched Seifer sob. *I want to comfort him. How? Besides… that. Get your mind out of the gutter Leonhart!* Instead, I just pulled his bowed head onto my shoulder. My sleeve was damp in seconds. I snaked my arm around his back and rested my cheek on his hair. A few tears of my own fell on his head.
Eventually his breath evened and the tears stopped. We sat there for a while holding each other. Despite the sympathy and pain I felt for him, and the cramping from sitting in one position too long, I felt peaceful and safe.
"Since I've embarrassed myself already," Seifer began, "I might as well tell you now." He sat up, wiping the dried salt from his face. *He still hates me. He's angry at me for holding him. He's going to take back his apologies.* A million bad things ran through my head. I shifted my position and looked back at his reddened eyes. "What?" I was almost afraid to ask.
"Squall, I…" he frowned thoughtfully, taking a deep breath. I waited. "I remember what made us stop being friends when we were little."
"I… I told you that I loved you and you shoved me onto the ground and we started fighting." The tops of his ears turned red.
I thought, closing my eyes and straining to remember. Slowly, like a developing photograph, it came back to me.
*The field. We were playing… soldier, I think. Seifer sat next to me with his eyebrows kinda scrunched together, which meant that he was thinking. "You're my best friend, Squall." I looked at him, "You're my best friend, too, Seifer." He ran his finger through a patch of dirt. "I think I love you."
I stared at him. Love. That was what Sis told me she did. That's what parents told their kids in books. That's what I felt when I dreamed that I had parents. That's what I felt for Seifer. But everyone who loved me had left. Seifer must be leaving too. I stood and he did too. I shoved him back down. "No you don't! No you don't!" I screamed that over and over, beating him with my fists and kicking with my feet. Seifer just lay there, trying to protect himself without hurting me. His wide-open eyes shone with hurt. Matron finally separated us and he had bruises for weeks. I avoided him, ignoring his apologies, turning away when he came close. I still saw his eyes anyway. The hurt in them hardened over time into something else…anger? Contempt?*
I kept my eyes closed for a moment, feeling barbed guilt run through me. *I made Seifer that way. I am responsible for him acting mean and arrogant and being a Sorceress' Knight.* I shuddered, afraid to open my eyes. When I did, he was peering up at me fearfully. *No words can change the past. But maybe it can make him feel better. What can I say, though?* I thought.
"Seifer… I am so sorry." I wiped tears from my eyes, recalling the puzzled hurt that little Seifer had held in his.
"What? You don't need to be sorry. It's my fault."
I shook my head, "No it isn't. When you told me you loved me I got scared that you were going to leave me. My parents and Sis-" I choked. *My turn to cry now. What a couple of babies we are. Oh, well, may as well tell him.* "I didn't want anyone else that I loved to leave."
I tried to control myself while Seifer turned that over in his mind. When he looked back up at me with understanding, I had stopped everything except the silent tears still dripping. "Seifer… I loved you, too. You were my best friend; even when I had forgotten that we had been friends, I still cared about you." I took a breath. "After time compression I got more depressed. Everyone thought you'd died. It was like… I would never be happy again. I know it's a sappy cliché, but some of me died when you never appeared." I glanced again at his face. He was still listening and thinking. "Seifer-" I paused. *I think my heart is shattering. And I haven't even told him yet!* "Seifer…" I was scared. My mouth felt dry and my palms felt damp. I wiped them on my pants before grasping one of his. "I still love you. Only just not as a friend, but…" I trailed off, blushing and feeling ashamed and stupid. Yet while my mind gave up all as lost, my heart hoped. *Hope, hope, hope, hope,* my pulse seemed to be saying, as I held my breath waiting for his anger.
Everything he said made sense. His fears about people leaving, and still caring for him after forgetting they had been friends once.* I always felt the same way. Not knowing why until the memories came back.* I felt a cold, steely stab of guilt when he told me about thinking I was dead. I nearly keeled over at what he did next.
"Seifer-" He swallowed nervously. "Seifer," I felt his hands clasping mine. My heart leapt. "I still love you. Only not just as a friend, but…" I nearly keeled over on the spot. *Hyne! Holy Hyne!* I watched the back of his neck turn red. My heart nearly beat itself out of my chest.
I put two fingers under his chin and raised his head. I studied his face as he sat silent. *Oh, God! He really does!* He sat there, motionless, fear and naked hope shining in his gray eyes. *…So beautiful.* I did the only thing I could do. I pulled him against my chest. Stroking his soft, brown hair, I answered his unspoken question. "I love you, too."
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