Author's Notes: Thanks for the comments on the first two chapters! I'm glad you like it. Seifer/Squall isn't really my thing, so it may seem a little OC in parts. Bear with me... nervous laughter
I think this is fate.
The whole idea of fate and destiny isn't one I particularly like. If some things are predetermined, aren't all things? But I don't really want to talk philosophy right now. Any talking between us would inevitably end up in a fight of some sort. I'll just say it was chance that brought me here, a chance that took me to Winhill. To you.
It's pretty damn ironic that fate came in the form of one Rinoa Heartilly. And a little bit of Laguna Loire. All that talk of Raine, of my childhood. I'd been to Winhill before, but never once after I'd learned about my past. But the real reason I'd left at all was because they had all banded up against me. I was 'working too hard'. Quistis locked me out of my office, Zell and Irvine guarded the entrance to the Training Center, and Selphie cheerfully informed me that I was to 'take a vacation or die'. All orchestrated, of course, by our resident Sorceress.
I took the Ragnarok to Winhill. I don't know why. Figured I'd have a little peace and quiet, at least. Everyone in Timber knew me, thanks to Rinoa, and the noise of the big cities annoyed me. And I wasn't going anywhere near Esthar. So, why not Winhill? I figured I'd stay at the hotel for a few days, see if the draw points I remembered were still around.
And I ran into you.
Is it chance that you're here too? What could possibly keep you in Winhill? There aren't even any decent monsters around here. Aren't you bored out of your mind yet? "Why are you here?" Why here, Seifer?
"In Winhill? I live here. I work at the bar up the road."
"Why are you here? Doesn't the Commander of Balamb-G have anything better to do?"
"I used to live here. When I was little."
Seifer, like always, manages to read between the lines. "Squall? You getting nostalgic on me?" He begins to chuckle. And you know, I haven't heard him laugh like that in almost a year. Forever. Longer than forever, considering I used to spend hours of every day with him. "Sentimental? I suppose stranger things have happened, right?"
Stranger things have happened. Yes. And are likely to happen again. The world is still reeling. Trabia Garden will certainly never be the same. And us... the Orphanage Gang? Lots of things... maybe even everything we ever thought was totally wrong. We've all lost what innocence we had. Which wasn't much to begin with.
You took a lot of my innocence from me. And I mean that in the best way possible. You opened my eyes to lust, to love, to sex. You didn't shake me either, didn't force me in any way. You didn't slap me upside the head with it. It was actually... pretty slow going. I'm admittedly dense about that sort of thing. Still am. Though in Rinoa's case I play dense, because let's face it, nothing about that girl is subtle.
"Well, here it is."
It is Raine's bar. A fresh coat of paint, a new sign over the door. But still... the place I was born. Maybe the only real home I ever had.
"Coming in?" Seifer stands in the doorway, eyebrow raised and a smirk firmly in place.He hasn't changed it very much. New paint, new pool table. Everything fixed up a bit, but still the same place, more or less.
"Something to drink?"
I nod absently.
Even my thoughts are confused. I... don't know. Seifer and I are circling each other wearily. He isn't sure if I'm the enemy or not. And I don't know... I don't know what I'm doing. If he's my Seifer or not. If he ever will be again.
I watch as Seifer warily sits down on the other side of the table.
"Here. On the house."
A ghost of a smile crosses my lips. "Thanks." I grab hold of the glass, although I have no intention of actually drinking it.
Seifer looks... different. I'm not quite sure how. His hair is a little longer. The scar seems a little lighter, his eyes a little darker. Still. Something's different. Something's missing...
"Where's Hyperion?" He isn't wearing his gunblade.
"Room upstairs," he says quietly, jerking his head towards the stairs. "There's a coupla monsters that run around town, but you can usually knock 'em out with your fists. Or a spell if they're a bit on the tough side."
"It doesn't feel strange without it? Don't you miss it?" I feel naked without Lionheart. Gunblades are pretty heavy, and you have to learn to walk with the weight on one side of you. Seems odd to be without it. I mean, I don't go so far as to sleep with my gunblade, or wear it all the time, but I have it with me even now. On my 'vacation'. And I don't remember Seifer going much of anywhere without Hyperion.
"Felt strange at first. But I don't need it here."
So you still miss it then. You just won't let yourself admit it. If there's one thing Seifer hates, it's weakness. Whether real or perceived. In his mind, he's weak without his gunblade but he's weaker still if he misses it.
He leans back in his chair and surveys me cautiously. "You never answered my question. About what you're going to do with me."
He stares at me for a long moment before smirking. "Appreciate it."
Funny. I even missed that smirk. The good-natured one, the one that he'd smile every time I beat him. That 'even still, I'm better than you'. Always made me feel like maybe he'd let me win. Always made me feel confused, made my stomach start to flutter. And I have definitely missed that feeling.
I hastily take a gulp from the small glass. My eyebrows draw forward into a small frown. Brevis. A brand of Balamb beer.
"My favorite," I say softly, watching the amber colored liquid swirl in the glass. Maybe he remembers more than I think.
So he's leaving me here. Letting me be. Well. That was unexpected. But Squall's never really been the type to follow a pattern. At least not one anyone could follow.
Without another word he stands, ready to leave. That's typical Squall too. Never one for chitchat. Never one for any kind of chatting at all.
"Bar's open tonight. You come by, I'll be sure to beat your ass at pool."
I don't know why I said it. Maybe because I miss him. Why? Fuck, I don't know that either. I know I miss the way my blood used to sing in my veins whenever we fought. I miss the twin razor-sharp feelings of guilt and satisfaction every time I beat him. I even miss him beating me, miss the quick flash of lion's pride that would flare in his eyes before he forced it away. Maybe I just miss a challenge. I fight monsters, I fight Fu and Rai, but it's not the same. Not against a gunblader. Not against Squall.
Even when we were kids we used to fight. Over the last piece of toast, over who was taller, who was faster, who was the better 'hider' when we played hide and seek. Now that I think about it, we probably drove Matron up a tree. Then came Garden, where the cycle began anew. We must have spent every other night in detention. And we'd usually end up fighting there too. And even when we weren't fighting, we were competing, you know? Who had the highest test scores. Verbal sparring, me seeing which of my quips would pull a remark from him. We couldn't help but grate on each other. On the surface we were polar opposites in everything. I went on instinct, he was intelligence. I was fire, he was ice. But deep, deep down, we were exactly the same. All we ever wanted was to be the best.
Now he is. The best gunblade specialist, the highest-ranking SeeD in the world, the Commander of the most powerful Garden, Balamb-G. And I'm here, running a bar in Winhill.
But I'm not bitter. Not really. I know for a fact that my life could be a hell of a lot worse. I've got a home, a job, and my best friends. Still have my gunblade; still have my head on my shoulders and only a few more scars to show for it. And the world didn't end, that's also a plus. I'm not a SeeD, sure. And my life is a bit on the fucked up side, yeah. But has that beaten me? No fucking way. Not Seifer Almasy. If I can handle a coupla Sorceress fucking with my head, I can handle everything else.
"All right." He takes a few more steps towards the door, all ready deep in thought. "And Squall? I'm sorry. About what happened."
He shrugs. And I hear his acceptance as clear as day, as though he'd said 'no problem'. The playing field is level again. As level as it ever was.
As the door slams behind him I run quickly up the stairs and into my makeshift kitchen. I didn't have any time to order down at the diner and besides, I have a sudden craving for Ramen.
Back at the hotel I pull out my new 'link communicator, and dial up Garden.
"Thank you for calling Balamb Garden. If you know the extension of your desired party, please dia– "
Five four six oh oh.
There are a few moments of static before she appears on the screen, highly annoyed.
"I'm in the middle of a class – "
"Oh! Squall! How are you?"
Quistis is actually quite pretty when she smiles. Pretty as in 'softer'. At all times she's stunning, I suppose you could say, but in a calm, cool way that I know all too well. She has a tranquility that just can't be ruffled. Reserved, collected, and ruthlessly efficient.
"I'll be staying in Winhill for a few more days."
At that, a high pierced squeal scrapes it's way across the many miles between Winhill and Balamb-G. I'd probably be able to hear it even without the communicator. A second later a very enthusiastic brunette pops onto the screen.
"You're really taking a vacation? Wasn't it a good idea?"
"Yes. Fabulous." I'm sure Quistis has caught the sarcasm, but that usually goes straight over Rinoa's head.
I don't mean to slam her. But the truth of the matter is she isn't the brightest bulb in the box. She tends to cling, she tends to whine, and she can be quite annoying on occasion. But there are worse things, right? In no way is she a bad person. Just... not my kind of person, I guess. My contract under her expired a long time ago, luckily. The day she entered the SeeD program, because by doing so she forfeited all rights to SeeD contracts, whether signed in the past or ones of the future. Garden code, Article 5, Line 12. One of the few times I was very glad for having memorized the whole damn book of rules.
"How long are you staying in Winhill?"
"A few more days. Maybe more. I'm just... looking up the past."
"Like checking out your roots? Your mother? That's so cool!" Her happy smile almost undoes me. As sad as it sounds, I don't like lying to her. She's so innocent. Like Selphie is. I hate lying to either of them, because I know neither of them would ever lie to me. Even after everything that's happened, everything they've seen, the both of them refuse to become tainted. I don't know. Just makes me feel bad, I guess. Pinprickings of guilt.
"Yeah. Quistis? Are you still there?"
Rinoa is shoved unceremoniously out of the way. "This is still a class, Miss Heartilly."
"Sorry, Instructor Trepe..."
Quistis again appears on the screen, more than a little perturbed. "I heard everything Squall." Then she frowns. "As did the rest of the class."
... do I look like I care? "You're in charge until I come back. I'm sure you know what to do."
Quistis is fully capable of running the Garden by herself. For a few days, at least. In truth, it probably wouldn't matter if I go back at all. But I will go back. SeeD is my life. Garden is my home.
Shutting the 'link, I sit back in my chair, a little uneasy. Quistis...
I work with Quistis practically every day. I've known her for most of my life. I'd label her 'friend', easily. But I don't think she's satisfied with that. That bull about her sisterly feelings that she misinterpreted... I don't buy it. And of course that sounds completely arrogant, like I want her to be in love with me. I don't like her that way. I don't like Rinoa that way. While we're on the topic, I don't like Selphie, Irvine, or Zell that way either. And as incredibly arrogant as this next sentence sounds, I wish people would stop liking me. From cadets and their juvenile crushes, to my coworkers' flirtations. I don't like it. How can you say you love someone, and not know them? And no one knows me. Not that way they'd need to, to say something like that. I didn't just fall in love with Seifer, you know. It didn't just happen. It was so slow I never saw it coming. He wormed his way into my life, and then made me choose. Seifer or no Seifer. And by then he was so entwined into me, that if he left... what would I have had? An even more hollow shell?
Funny thing about that. He did leave. And I was hollow. Still am. Oh, I've got bits and pieces. We've been over this. But Seifer left a pretty big hole when he went. And that hasn't really changed. Not saying my life means nothing without him, or something so horribly melodramatic as that. I am saying... that I miss him.
One thing about Squall you can always count on is his inherent ability to stop conversation dead whenever he enters a room. At the Garden it was probably respect. Here it's curiosity and small town suspicion. On the part of a few of the woman it's also a 'hot damn!' thing. Heh. Stupid, wanting after something they could never have.
Which was a fucking strange thing to say, in retrospect, but I suppose it's true. As nice as all these girls are, they're small town innocent and small town naïve. And believe me, that's attractive to people like us at first. SeeD, I mean. Soldiers. Killers. These girls have never seen anyone or anything die, and if they have it certainly wasn't deliberate. Wasn't a murder. Hyne above, you can see the virtue floating around them. Not to say every country girl's a virgin. That's not what I meant at all. I just mean... they may have seen blood fresh off the cuts of meat they help their mothers prepare for dinner. Blood if their father slaughters a pig, or if they trip and scrape their knees up. But they've never really seen blood. They've never seen a man shot. Never seen an arm or a head cut clean off. Never seen a man half burnt to death, frozen to death, seen his insides outside. They're lucky. And for a while you want to be with them, want to touch their hand and know it's done nothing worse than pinch their little brother because he was listening to her phone call. That's why most SeeD don't date each other; not because there's a rule against it but because we sense the guilt floating around one other, sense the death and the pain. And we want as far away from it as possible.
That's why Rinoa was so enchanting to Squall. Totally enchanting. Enthralling, I guess. He didn't get out much, our Squally, and he didn't care to meet people in the first place. To hell with meeting people... he didn't like people period. But Rinny sends off enough innocence and bubbles and rainbows for a dozen girls. Of course, I doubt she's like that anymore. Not after being almost sealed, almost possessed by an evil sorceress, and very narrowly escaping death numerous times.
I shake my head ruefully. Then again, Rinny would be the type to just bounce back from that shit.
"Pool?" Squall's whispering voice almost seems to echo in the near silence of the room. All the regulars begin to goggle. Is he talking to Seifer? Yup. Congrats on coming up with that one all on your own.
Then I realize I still haven't answered him. Shit. I'm doing his thing. Spending more time in my head than out of it.
"Sure. Just give me a minute."
If I was a pervert (and, admittedly, I do have my moments), I would most definitely be commenting on the skillful way Squall handles the pool cue. One side of me says to go ahead and quip, but the smarter part says shut up because I still don't really know where I stand and that I'd better not press my luck.
One thing the whole Sorceress mess taught me? When in doubt, listen to the smarter side. It's not the most fun or the most daring and it won't get a reaction, but it tends to keep me alive. That's the part I do like.
Squall raises an eyebrow at the time on the clock and then looks around at the empty bar. "Empty all ready?"
"Small town. 'Sides. It's only Tuesday." Eleven o'clock and they all run home before their wives come looking for them. Funny quirk of the rustic area.
A flick of the wrist and the eight ball spins into the side pocket. I set the pool cue on the bar and take a drink of my beer. Silence. Squall's thinking something. But I don't know what it is.
"Come back to Garden."
"Are you crazy?" Seifer bursts out, slamming his drink down on top of the bar. "Are you fucking insane? I've always wondered about your mental balance but this – this, Squally boy, is pushing it."
"......" What do you mean?
"What do you mean what do I mean?! Half the world wants me drawn and quartered, and you want to bring me back to fucking Garden! You're insane. Fucking insane."
I feel my lips begin to curve upwards into a slight smirk. Nice to see he still has his mind reading ability. "Scared?"
"Shitless. Absolutely shitless." He looks a bit shell-shocked. He picks his beer back up, tosses the rest of it back, and runs a hand through his hair, making it stand on end. "Going back to Garden would be like facing down a firing squad in your skivvies. You'd be fucking nuts to do it."
"As I recall, a lot of people think you're crazy." Skivvies?
"Har de har. You don't change, do you, Squally boy? Still think you've got me figured out." He stands and strides back behind the bar, clearly dismissing me.
Thing is, I'm far too used to him doing it to have it faze me. "I'll tell Quistis to prepare for our arrival."
"Fujin and Raijin too!"
You never could ignore me. Ever.
But really, I should have known. About Raijin and Fujin, I mean. The only people Seifer will ever admit to needing. I don't know how they worked their way into his affections, or more importantly, why he let them stay there. I don't know the reasons. I don't know why he thought needing them was fine but he couldn't stand the thought of needing me.
The minute I'm back at the hotel I dial up Quistis. When her face appears on screen I plunge right in. There isn't really a gentle way to breach these kinds of things.
"I found Seifer."
"I guessed as much."
"Nothing else would have kept you away this long. And honestly Squall, 'getting in touch with your roots'? Rinoa might buy that bullshit, but not me." She tosses her head back elegantly, a move that makes her look even more attractive in that scholarly-sexy way she has. She knows it too. Why she does it so often.
I ignore her.
"He's coming back to Garden. Fujin and Raijin as well. Two days. Make sure there are rooms ready."
"Will Seifer be staying in yours?"
So. She knew. Or she'd guessed. Didn't matter.
"Fuck off, Quistis. Have three rooms. One for Raijin, one for Fujin. One for Seifer."
"Squall – "
I severed the link.
You'll never hear him say it, not the way he says it to me. Pleading and commanding at the same time. You'll never see his pupils dilate and his eyes darken, never feel his legs clamp around your waist, never move so together that you can't tell whose fucking whom. You'll never be able to tear words from him, make him forget that ineffectual policy of silence. And they'll never be anyone who could do the same to me. Not like this. For no one else do I have to fight a near constant urge to slam them up against the nearest surface. No one else has ever had me on my knees. There's no one else I consider equal to me, or – dare I say it? – better. No one but him. You could say I love him, sure. But words don't mean a lot to Squall. Come to think of it, they don't mean much to me either. But he is mine. Fuck me, Seifer."
He so rarely has to ask twice. He rarely has to ask me at all.
"Seifer," he gasps. "Please..."
So what do you think? Not my best work, but it'll do. The story should move along once Seifer gets his butt back to Garden...
Comments and concerns appreciated :)
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