Don't Let Me Wake

Chapter 2 - Breaking the Surface

By Balinese no Neko

Immediately, the strong features redrew themselves into a scowl. "Yeah, that's me. What's wrong with you?"

Squall ignored the question and slowly eased himself into a sitting position. He passed a hand over his face, rubbing at his eyes as if he had just woken up.

Seifer's scowl turned into a frown. "I asked you a question!" he barked, thoroughly fed up with being ignored. "What, were you asleep when I came in?" The brunet shook his head. "Well, then, why didn't you say anything?"

Squall sent a peeved look Seifer-wards. He wasn't exactly sure what had happened while he had been . . . away and Seifer wasn't really helping his grip on things.

The blond sighed exaggeratedly. "It's called talking, Leonhart, you should try it." Without waiting for a response, he strode over to the door and pounded on it. "Yo, Chicken-wuss, he's awake! Unlock the door and let me out!"

"Is he talking yet?" Zell yelled back through the door.

Seifer snorted in digust. "Hell, no! This is Puberty Boy we're talking about here. Now let me out!"

"No! Not until he's talking again!"

The blond groaned and pounded the locked door once more for good measure. "What the hell they mean, Leonhart?" he demanded aggressively, turning to glare at the brunet again.

Like I'm going to tell you, Squall thought, glaring right back. It might be his one last chance to apologize, but he was damned if he was going to take it when the other man was frothing at the mouth. Better to be silent. It would have been different if Seifer would just sit and listen—like a normal person, his mind whispered—but since the blond seemed intent on yelling, well, good luck to him!

Seifer moved to beside the bed again, staring down at Squall and trying to use his height to intimidate some answers out of the brunet. Squall stared back up fearlessly, clearly as unintimidated as they came. "What's. Going. On." Each word was enunciated seperately, no doubt to force emphasis on the question they made up. As the silence grew louder, the blond's fists grew tighter.

"If I find one hair out of place, Seifer . . . ," Quistis called warningly. Apparently, her experience as their Instructor had honed her instincts perfectly for this sort of situation.

Seifer turned away explosively. "Then maybe he should consider talking!"

Squall almost had to repress a smile. It was almost funny to watch Seifer Almasy lose his cool.

"That's what you're here for!" Zell yelled back.

"Wha—?" Seifer stood back a pace and glared at the door. "That has got to be the lamest excuse I could ever hear to get me back into Garden! Are you sure you didn't miss me, Chicken-wuss?"

A snort from Zell. "As if!"

"Sure, Chicken-wuss, we all know you can't live without me."

"Shut up!"

"I mean," Seifer continued, obviously enjoying himself, "who wouldn't want me teasing the hell out of them, eh, Chicken-wuss?"

"Stop calling me that!"

"But you didn't have to worry; you'll always have a special place in my heart." Seifer winked at Squall, his earlier ire forgotten in the joys of poultry baiting, and added, "Chicken-wuss." There was a thud, as if someone on the other side had punched the floor in anger. Seifer grinned triumphantly and Squall was hard put to not laugh with the mischievousness dancing in the aqua eyes."Seifer, you're back at Garden to talk to Squall, not to make Zell explode," Quistis said severely.

Seifer wasn't really paying attention. He was more involved in studying the brunet's almost expression, a few ideas shuffling in his mind. If I'm in here until he talks, then the first thing that has to go is that blank thing he calls a face, he thought, already taking one of the better ideas and forming it into a plan to break it to pieces. And if I can't rough him up a little, which is a pity, considering how well it's worked before, then maybe I can take the 'almost' out of his laugh . . . . "Why shouldn't I?" he asked, deliberately infusing his voice with all the care-free arrogance he could muster. "This's probably the most fun Puberty Boy's had in ages and it's certainly the most fun I've had since Fuu kicked Raijin off the dock!" He smirked at Squall and was pleased to see a small answering smirk. "So, Chicken-wuss, you been getting any lately?"

"Any what?" Zell asked warily through gritted teeth.

Seifer affected surprise. "Why, hot dogs, of course! Whatever else could I have meant?" Another thud and Squall suddenly found it necessary for his hand to casually cover his mouth. Hyne, he must've really loosened up if I can crack his mask this easily, the blond thought, somewhat bemused.

"Seifer . . . ." The warning tone was steadily rising. Seifer, of course, ignored it.

"Hey, Chicken-wuss, you swatted any flies lately?" And here Seifer began bouncing in a deliberately bad parody of Zell's shadow-boxing. Another insult, another thump.

Squall finally lost the last of his grip on his composure and began chuckling. Seifer grinned for a moment, before realizing that something was wrong. The expression, the actions, everything was there, all indicating that Seifer Almasy had made Squall Leonhart laugh. Everything except the sound.

The blond reacted first. "You okay, Leonhart?" he asked, frowning.

Squall was less restrained in his own reaction, although considerably less vocal. He opened his mouth to say something suitably sarcastic to make up for the momentary panic he knew had shown on his face and . . . paused.

Seifer's frown deepened. "You trying to say something? Spit it out, then!"

The brunet shut his mouth with a snap and just glared at the other man for a moment.

Seifer sighed, exasperated. "Not this again," he half-groaned. "What's the matter, cat got your tongue?" He snorted when Squall nodded slowly. "Oh, come on. You trying to say you can't talk? Not buying, Leonhart." He was treated to the trademarked glare of death before Squall motioned him closer to the bed. The blond sauntered over, still snickering.

Squall grabbed the collar of his trench coat, tugged sharply downwards, and introduced his fist to the smirk that seemed to be a permanent part of Seifer's face.

"What the?" Seifer stumbled backwards, his expression momentarily registering surprise before he managed to rein it in with a scowl. "The hell was that for, Leonhart?"

Squall crossed his arms, somehow managing to not look like a petulant child. Instead, as clearly as if he had spoken it aloud, his anger shouted from every line of his body.

Seifer's scowl deepened. "You still not answering me?" he asked belligerently.

Squall sighed and silently asked for patience. Maybe he had hit Seifer harder than he'd thought. He shook his head.

"You mean . . . you really can't talk?" A nod, accompanied by a look that suggesting Seifer was only barely reaching a level of intelligence comparable to the average human. Seifer ignored it for the moment. "Why not? Someone cast Silence on you?" Another glare. "Well, then what d'you want me to do about it?"

Squall let his head fall into his upraised hand and he absently massaged his forehead. This was not exactly the best situation to wake up to, he concluded.

Seifer decided he'd waited long enough for an answer that didn't look to be forthcoming and walked back over to the door. Pounding on it, he yelled, "Open up already!"

"Is he talking?"

"Dammit, Chicken-wuss, he isn't! Open the door!"

"Not until he's talking!"

"Chicken-wuss!" Growling, he pounded on it once more before turning around and falling back against it. "They're not opening the door," he announced, getting a look for stating the obvious. "Hyne, Squall, don't look at me like it's my fault. I'm not the idiot who made your talking the condition to open the door." A thump he could feel through his soles.

"I can hear you!"

"Good!" the blond shot back. "You know, Chicken-wuss, Squall ain't too happy with you; you should see the look he's giving you. You know, the 'I'm gonna Shiva your ass' look." There was silence for a moment from the world beyond the door.

"Nice try, Seifer. You're still stuck in there until he starts responding."

"Hyne, Zell," Seifer said, sighing in irritation, "I walk in here and he starts responding! Hell, he's already punched me!" He cast a glare of his own at the brunet.

More silence from the other side. "He . . . punched you? You're not joking about it?"

Seifer rolled his eyes. Had Zell been using his head on the floor and not his fist? "No, of course I'm joking. He really glomped me as soon as I came in the door. Yes, Chicken-wuss, he punched me. Why would I lie about that? It's bad enough that my dear Instructor says I can't hit him back."

"Squall? Is what Seifer said true?" Quistis called hesitantly.

The blond snorted angrily. Lying had never been one of his strong points before the whole Sorceress thing. Why did everyone think it was now? "He says he can't talk, you know," he said conversationally.

"'Says' he can't talk?" He rolled his eyes again, this time at the sharp skeptism evident in the blonde's voice.

"You know what I mean!" He shifted slightly. "Look, just open the door. If I'm lying, you'll kick my ass. If I'm right, then you can get me out of your life and back to my own and we'll all be much, much happier. Just . . . open the door, okay?" He leaned his head back and just caught the edges of a whispered argument. "Look, it's not like I'm going to burst out of here when you open the door, wreaking havok with my bare hands." A startled silence met his words and he smiled bitterly.

"Okay, we're opening the door," Quistis' calm voice said finally.

Seifer scrubbed at his face with both hands, trying to somehow assimilate the information the hyperactive brunette had given him. "I don't suppose you could run that all by me again?" he asked. "Maybe not at lightspeed this time?"

Selphie tried to look annoyed. As far as Seifer was concerned, it was like being frowned at by the cutest kitten in the world, and that despite knowing just how much of a punch she packed. "Honestly, Seifer, don't you pay attention?"

The blond held back a groan. "I pay attention just fine," he retorted. "You try catching up on three months of news in five minutes and then you can say anything you want."

"It's all right, Sefie," Irvine intervened, smiling at the active girl. "Why don't you go find Cid and let him know that Squall's awake? I'll tell Seifer what he needs to know."

The brunette's face brightened and she jumped on Irvine for a hug before tearing out of the Infirmary with a "Bye, Irvy!" trailing behind her.

Seifer just stared at her. Scratch the 'cute' part and insert 'high on catnip'.

"She is rather a handful," Irvine said all too blandly. The blond glanced over to see the Galbadian cowboy's slight smile. "So, what can I tell you?"

Seifer shook himself and brought his mind back to what was, theoretically, the purpose of the conversation. "Okay. What's up with Leonhart?"

Irvine pursed his lips thoughtfully. "I can't tell you that, exactly," he said slowly. He held up a hand, stopping Seifer's bitter comment before it started. "Don't get me wrong, I'd love nothing more, but honestly, none of us know."

"What do you mean, you don't know?" Seifer held up his own hand. "No, never mind. Tell me what you do know."

The other man sighed. "Long story," he warned.

"Yeah? And how long do you think they're going to be in there with Puberty Boy?" Seifer asked, jerking his thumb at the closed door.

"Point taken. Then . . . . I'd say this particular story began maybe two, two and a half months ago. After, well, you know, everything, Squall seemed to be doing fine. He'd opened up a bit and we actually got him to sort of smile at some of our jokes instead of hanging his head and acting as if he was ashamed of them."

Seifer raised an eyebrow. "And the point of telling me this is?"

Irvine shot him a look. "Background, of course." He leaned back slightly in his chair. "Now, where was I? Right. About two, maybe three weeks after we defeated Ultimecia, we started noticing the 'old' Squall coming back. Well, actually, Rinoa noticed it first, and then Quistis, but we all pretty much figured good things don't last and he still smiled and laughed almost as much as before. Not that it was very much, but it was better than before." Irvine sighed and took off his hat, running his hand over his hair before replacing it. "Then . . . things got worse. He started spending a lot of time 'talking' to himself, no one, not even Rin, could get through to him, and his smile, well, it's like it never was. He was slowly, but surely, shutting everyone out again. It got so bad even Selphie could barely get a reaction from him. Talking to him was like talking to a wall."

Seifer snorted dryly. "A wall's more communicative."

Irvine shared a small smile with him. "Yeah, especially if there's grafitti on it, right? Anyway, maybe two weeks ago, he basically gave up responding to anyone. He hadn't been particularly talkative before, but the sudden silence was unnerving, you know? We find out he's going into the Training Center late at night. Never anything to show for it in the morning, but we decide to, you know, keep an eye out for him, make sure he keeps coming out. Then, a week ago, he doesn't come out. Zell goes in to find him in the worst possible shape he could still be in and still be alive, brings him to the Infirmary, and . . . ."


Irvine grimaced. "And he doesn't wake up. Oh, technically he does, but you sure couldn't prove it sitting beside him. I think he totally retreated into himself and shut out everything else."

Seifer frowned. "And you guys thought that because of who I am, I could get through to him where you couldn't?" The cowboy nodded. "And I did, which makes everyone happy and we can all go our separate ways." The blond rubbed his hands together briskly. Yeah, that was a good plan.

"Actually . . . ." Irvine rubbed the bridge of his nose nervously.

Seifer looked warily at the other man. "Actually what?" he asked flatly.

"Never mind. We'll discuss it later, as a group."

"How about we discuss it now." Group? What group? Only 'group' I have left is Fuujin and Raijin. He can't seriously be including in the little 'Save the World' group he belongs to.

"C'mon, Seifer, I'd rather not get mauled by you. Let's wait for the ladies and everyone to join us, okay?" Irivne spread his hands out pleadingly.

"What makes you think I won't maul you for not telling me if you think I'll maul you for letting it slip?" He cracked his knuckles theatrically and thought about maybe getting up, looming threateningly over the sitting man for a little bit, see if a little intimidation could get him what he wanted to know.

Luckily for Irvine's peace of mind, the door to Squall's room slid open, revealing Quistis. "If both of you are finished your manly posturing, could you please join us?" she asked, only a hint of a smile on her face.

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