Author's Notes: My apologies for the shortness of the chapter, Chapter 5 is already half written so hopefully you won’t have as long a wait this time. My thanks to XIneko and Acid Rain for allowing me to steal and bit of their respective childhoods. Many praises for XIneko for beta-ing.
Warnings : dirty language and self inflicted wounds, although you’ve figured that out by now, right? Please remember that it is Squall passing judgment here, not me, and that not all is as it seems.
Chapter Four - Stay a While and Maybe
By Race Ulfson
"Sure about that, Squirt?"
Seifer sounded so normal that Squall was dumbfounded. Something inside him unclenched, and the ache that remained… had to be the reason Squall’s voice dried up.
Undeterred by Squall’s silence, Seifer struggled up on one elbow and continued, "A lot of the guys at the Garden think you’re nuts. Picking a fucking antique weapon like a gunblade… turning down Quis for the love of Hyne, you know her groupies thought you needed your head examined over that…" His eyes closed, his tone dropping low and tight, "agreeing to be Rinny’s Knight…"
"Asshole," Squall said, affront and affection combined in measure.
Seifer settled against the pillows and chuckled. "Aw, you’re not that bad. A little doofy, may-!"
Squall whapped Seifer with one of the myriad pillows on the bed, interrupting his teasing. He felt light, giddy. Seifer is ok, he thought. Everything is ok.
"Not very knightly to attack an unarmed man!" Seifer reached out to pull Squall down onto the bed.
Or he would have, had Seifer tried that maneuver a few months ago. Now he was too weak to muster more than a tug and a hint. Squall’s graceful tumble atop Seifer was more a feint to conceal and deny Seifer’s infirmity. They wrestled, if it could be called that, Squall alternating between the joy of having his friend and rival back and distress over how easy it would be to overpower him now. Squall reined his punches and permitted Seifer to get him in a headlock. He endured the gentle scobbing of Seifer’s knuckles with an internal smile.
Seifer released him and collapsed against the shoal of pillows. Squall looked up, concerned over how pale and drawn Seifer looked suddenly.
"What time is it?" Seifer spoke slowly: like a drunk, his tongue had grown thick and clumsy.
Guilt crept along the edge of Squall’s relief. "You only slept about three quarters of an hour."
"Ah." Part exhalation, part concession, part yawn. "Takes longer. Need more sleep. Sorry, thought I could throw it off…but…"
"No, it’s ok. Sleep." Squall knew he should get up but it felt safe, and right, lying next to Seifer. His own eyes slivered shut, as he was lulled by Seifer’s heartbeat and regular breaths.
Squall slept deeply, getting more rest than he had in along time. Vaguely aware of Seifer shifting against him and he snuggled closer, mumbling a sleepy denial.
"Now I know how – what was it you called that stuffed toy? Zoë? Now I know how it felt."
"Joey," Squall corrected, lifting his head off Seifer’s chest. As usual, his emotions were mixed, this time pleasure at remembering something muddled with the slow burn of being teased, added to the embarrassment of being caught cuddling.
"Yeah, Joey. What was it, some sort of mutant dog?"
"Joey," Squall said, with as much dignity as he could muster, "was a perfectly normal stuffed dog. Until Selphie fed him mud pies and Matron washed him and he shrank funny in the dryer."
Seifer laughed quietly, "You were so pissed. On the upside, I think you were the only toddler who knew what ‘hydrocephalic’ meant."
"Cid has such a weird sense of humor." As he sat up, his reluctance to leave the comfort of Seifer’s body surprised him. Squall swung his legs over the side of the bed and tried to focus. He hadn’t slept that hard in a long time.
Seifer rolled himself out on the other side of the bed, and with that inborn elegance all men possess, he yawned, scratched a bit, and ambled for the bathroom.
Squall almost smiled as he stretched a little, too, absently rubbing a welt where one of his buckles had gouged. Contrary to popular belief, he did not typically sleep in his belts, boots, or gloves; this was a reason why. The buckle was one of his favorites; one Seifer had given him, with a cheap little belt knife that was razor sharp even if it never did lay quite flat enough in the hidden sheath.
…a cheap little belt knife that wasn’t there.
He didn’t believe it, didn’t want believe it, and yet Squall knew the truth didn’t need his belief to be real. He found himself stalking silently to the bathroom door before his mind fully apprehended the implications. Another person might have hesitated, but Squall knew it was already too late for that. He shoved the door open.
Seifer flushed a little, but raised his chin defiantly. "Do you mind?" He said, as if he were any man who had been walked in on while in the rest room.
As if he weren’t standing there, shirtless and Hyne, covered with scars.
As if he weren’t adding more thin red lines to the underside of his arm with Squall’s belt knife.
"Give it back, Seifer." Squall said, marveling at how calm he sounded. He warmed up a cura spell.
"Come and get it." The quirked arch of red gold brow, the rakehell grin, that was every bit the Seifer he knew. How could that voice, that smile be with that ruined skin?
The fight was over sooner than either of them anticipated. Squall pinned Seifer against the wall, forearm thrust upward across his captive’s throat, and twisted the knife out of Seifer’s hand so viciously the little blade snapped. Some orderly segment of Squall’s mind marked its landing as he flung it aside; he’d have to find all the pieces before Seifer did. Squall cast cura twice, the second time purely to ease his mind.
Masked by the icy serenity of his face in battle, inside, Squall was anything but calm; inside, he was screaming. All he wanted to do was bang Seifer’s head against the wall until he told him "Why?"
Seifer twitched; Squall realized he must have spoken aloud. He released Seifer and stepped back, repeating the question.
The curve of Seifer’s lip was maddeningly casual; he leaned over and picked up his shirt. "Would you believe… I’m cursed?"
hopemia ::blushes:: Thank you so much! Squall cares deeply (as deeply as he can, anyway) about both Zell and Seifer. At this point, none of them are lovers, but… you know me.
Kursed SeeD Sorry about the slow updates, but the next chapter is almost ready for beta, so it should be arriving sooner. Maybe Squall’s insanity will help, who knows?
myeerah Thank you! I’m afraid the boys will drift OOC as the fic progresses (the nature of insanity) but I hope to stay true to the essence of the characters.
Pix Brat! Seriously, I’m glad you like them. I should update sooner in the future… I think I’m past the writer’s block and all.
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