Chapter Seven

By Twig

“Squall kissed me.  About a week ago.”

The benefit to expressing herself with so few words, he thinks, is that Fuujin can always manage to hide when he shocks her speechless.  It is also easier for her, with only the one eye and all, although she is blinking more than usual at the moment.


Monotone, not even curious.  Good old Fuujin.


Seifer sighs, tipping his head back against the wall.  He doesn’t know why any of them bother with having furniture, as it never seems to get much use.  He is fine on the ground, Fuujin leaning against her bed with her arms propped up by her knees.  It is funny, really, they’ve been given a near-identical setup to when they’d been here as students, three rooms with doors in-between.  Traditionally not student rooms, but there had been repair work done to some of the other rooms one year long ago, and they’d been shuffled off together at random...

//... and thus the great story of the disciplinary committee began... and now we’re all here again.//

Seifer supposes it is a little depressing, sort of, to end up back where they’d begun, but Squall has made a rather impressive chaos of the rest of his life.  He needs something to stay the same.

“About a week ago, outside... and then again, in the library, and in one of the empty classrooms - and in that little alcove on the third floor, the one no one can see into?” 

It had always been the most popular space for young cadets to engage in breaking Garden rule thirty... thirty something, subsection whatever, he’d said.  He had broken so many of them, an impressive amount, most of the time just to break them, but Squall already knew all that and it was a little hard to say it anyway with the other man’s tongue halfway down his throat. 

Squall pulled away after a moment, and his smile was wry and broken and glorious.  Yeah, yeah he knew about this place.  Never got around to using it before, but he knew.


“Oh Fuu, don’t ask me.  Hyne, just don’t ask.”  Seifer chuckles, shaking his head.  He feels, just for a moment, very very old.  “Shit, I have no idea what’s going on.”

It isn’t as if they talk much, and even if they did Seifer doubted they would talk about whatever the hell was happening between them.  If Squall even thinks something is happening.  If Squall thinks anything at all.  Hard to tell, he is as silent as ever and Seifer just keeps trying not to make the parallels between dueling and this new activity that seem so painfully obvious.


Fuujin does this a lot, one little word to get him to explain everything, to let him say it all aloud and he always takes advantage of it.  It is easier than trying to sort it out in his own head, and she already has enough embarrassing stories of his youth to bury him tenfold.  Fuujin rarely junctions, and she has a memory like an elephant, even compared to someone who’s never used a GF.

“Fuck me if I know.”  He smirks a little at the word choice, sees the corner of Fuujin’s mouth twist, though she tries to stop herself.  “It isn’t... I mean...”  His hands rise and fall, as if they have any hope of grasping what the words can’t.  “I never... it isn’t supposed to happen like this.”

It sobers him up for a minute, ‘truer words’ and all, and he knows Fuujin can tell what he is thinking.  By all rights he should be dead, it’s part of the romantic dream and all, what happens to the knight if he is too weak to reign victorious at his lady’s side.  Every now and again Fuujin will touch him, squeeze his arm a little, something small in passing, as if she knows it too and wants to make sure he’s still among the living.  Raijin too, his voice strikes Seifer as louder than usual, every now and then, as if still trying to fill up the void left behind when he was Edea’s knight and gone.

“The knight vanquishes the enemy, kills him - kills me, and rescues the lady, and they live happily ever after.”  He glances up at Fuujin, but her gray half-gaze reveals absolutely nothing.  “Fuu, this is not going to be anything like ‘happily ever after,’ no matter what happens, no matter what I try to do.  Knights do not end up with other knights.”

He doesn’t realize he’s drawn one hand up under his chin, leaning against his knee and frowning until he realizes Fuujin is watching him in something like concern.


He tries not to let it show, how hard that thought has hit him, right between the eyes.

“No.  I don’t think... just worried.  Not that he isn’t a good kisser, Fuu.  Really good.  Who’d have thought, such a cold fish and all.  I mean, first time it happened I thought my lips would get stuck... like when Raijin licked that pole in Galbaldia garden after I dared him to.”

Fuujin snorts, she remembers.  It was truly amazing any of them had survived to adulthood, to have the chance to fail the SeeD exams over and over.

Seifer reminds himself, yet again, that Fuujin would have passed them the first time, or the second or anytime after very easily, if not for him.  Getting them in the Garden now is only part of his apology, after all they’d given up for him.  He has to be forgiven now as much by his friends as his enemies.


He grins again, she knows him too well.

“It isn’t just that, Fuu.  I’m not sure... I think something else is wrong.  Really wrong.  Squall isn’t acting right.”

So damn hard to tell, when the only thing he can measure are the tiny fractures in the usual, cold mask.  Squall is paler, thinner than someone so lean can really afford to be, even though Seifer has heard Quistis threaten him with a Pandemona wind attack, a vat of mashed potatoes and something about a moogle army to hold him down, so he knows Squall has to be eating all right. 

Stress, then.  A familiar enough demon in the Garden, the sort of perpetual tension and worry that tears at a person until there is little left of them.  The sort of thing that never relents, never holds back from striking even the smallest blow.  It is the worst sort of emotion, and he can see it in Squall’s eyes whenever they are close, reaching out to him for anything that might blunt it, take it away.  The sort of desperate fear that leaves him wondering if Squall needs /him/ at all or just someone, anyone to be an anchor, to hold him down through whatever storm is trying to blast him apart.

Seifer doesn’t want the thought to hurt, thinks it really has no right to, but it does and there isn’t much he can do to change that.

“I don’t know if he’s just grieving for Rinoa, or if...  He seems distracted sometimes, and damn, almost /frightened/.  Jumping at shadows, on edge, even for /him/ - that sort of thing.  You know he’d never say anything, even if something was wrong.” 

He shrugs.  Squall kissing him in the first place has blown all other judgments out of his mind, he still can’t match it up to anything he knows to be true of his adversary. 

“Any idea what I should do?”

Seifer can see she is thinking, carefully studying the situation, the whole.  She is very good at this.

“... LUBE.”

Fuujin is quick to scramble to her feet, and very nearly makes the door before he tackles her.  She goes down with a startled yelp, though her hand grabs for a pillow and immediately he is under attack.  They end up rolling around on the floor, smashing into furniture and rumpling the floor rug into a wrinkled ball that is quickly kicked to a corner. 

The battle is heated but undecided, until Raijin walks into the room and immediately trips over their tangled legs, falling hard into the pressboard coffee table.  It easily shatters under his weight.  Seifer quietly surveys the damage, squirming as he tries to keep Fuujin’s hands from poking into the ticklish spots she’s known since he was nine.

“I think we should ask Quistis for a raise.”

It was stupid, to think a walk on the beach was going to make anything any better.  The ocean sounded too distant, the horizon painfully far.  Instead of clouds, Squall had been given a gray, ceiling sky as companion to his thoughts.  It was a mistake, to have yelled at Ellone as he did.  Any attempt to talk to her now would require apologizing first, and Squall knew he was sorry - damn sorry - but trying to apologize, trying to explain... just thinking about it left him feeling exhausted.

//What the hell happened?//  It frustrated him, because Squall knew it had been clearer, had been glaringly obvious just after it had happened, only to fade like a bad dream in the span of a night and a day. 

//Just too bad the rest can’t fade...// 

Rinoa crying.  Rinoa leaving him.  Over twenty years gone and it /literally/ felt like yesterday, with no memories in between to cushion the shock.  He wanted... anyone, someone, /anyone/ with him now.  It was so stupid, so useless to push Ellone away as he had.  He wanted to be this man they were all expecting him to be, he /wanted/ to trust his friends.

//... wanted to let Seifer hold you, and tell you it’s going to be all right.//

Squall laughed bitterly, letting the rock in his hand fly far into the surf, though the crest of a wave kept it from skipping.  Had he really, had they /really/...?  Twenty-five years?

//You can feel it, can’t you?  Desperation.  It started there, Hyne only knows why you reached for /him/ but you did, and he didn’t push you away.// 

It must have confused the hell out of the both of them, the first time, and Squall already knew it was coming, and soon... he needed to lean on someone, and it was Seifer’s place, in this strange new world where he still didn’t really belong...

It took him a moment to notice the change, lost in his thoughts, but Squall shivered, felt the hair rising on the back of his neck as he realized he could no longer hear the waves breaking against the shore. 

The sky was still burnished, motionless, but now the ocean was a match, waves frozen in mid-crest.  The dark spot in the sky was a bird, and he wanted it to be soaring, needed to think it was just too high, that his eyes were fooling him...

//No, no please, no...//

He might not remember this later, but he understood it all right now.


He didn’t turn.  His hands clenched so tight but it still felt like nothing, no protest, no hope.  Her touch was cold against his shoulder, he shivered but she didn’t seem to notice.

An icy kiss pressed against his neck, the kind that only came from creatures of night and shadow and childhood stories.  He didn’t open his eyes.

“I missed you, Squall.  It’s been so very long.”

A soft rustle.

“Aren’t I beautiful?  Won’t you look at me?  I’m just how you remembered.”

He turned and looked then, because it was too much to bear, because eventually he would have to look.  It was too much, either way, as Rinoa smiled back at him with Edea’s marble eyes, amused and bored and cruel.  The eyes of something that had forgotten how to die, now determined to make the world suffer for it.

Squall tried to swallow but he couldn’t, his throat had frozen along with the rest of him and this entire world, everything but her.  It amused her, she tipped her head back and studied him.  He imagined the damage the long, dark-blue fingernails could do against his skin, but she turned away instead, and for the moment he was safe.

The edge of her dress dipped low off her shoulders.  Squall could see the wings spread starkly against her bare back, etched there, or carved.  Curved and bleeding shadows, and he could imagine the broken feathers scattered at her feet even though all he could see was the sand, lifeless like bleached, stretched skin.

He wanted her to turn back, shocked at the thought even as he let out the slightest, desperate sound - he needed to see her, needed, needed even as he hated himself for it.  He was her knight and without her, without her attentions he was even less than the pale grains beneath her feet.  He still shuddered, when she turned to face him again.

“I know it wasn’t you who did it.  I’m not angry.  I know you could never turn away from me.”

Rinoa’s eyes were hollow but the smile was real and he couldn’t help himself, drank it down like liquid silver, a poison that cut off breath and voice.  He would have given anything to let go, into that magic that was reaching for him but could not quite touch, coaxing him to relent with invisible fingers.  It would absolve him of some of the pain, of having to hate and to love at the same time and know both were real.

“Do you love me still?”

He hurried to nod, hating himself but this was all a dream and yes, yes he still loved her, there had never been anything else.

“Yes.  Yes, always.”

He was shaking as she crossed the distance between them.  Whatever happened to Seifer, whatever Ultimecia did could not touch him then, but that had been the Sorceress, easy to ignore.  He had never been immune to Rinoa herself, not to her skin or her scent or the sway of her hair as she moved - and maybe she knew she didn’t need to force him into this, because he belonged to her already.

//Even if you end up as the world's enemy, I'll be your knight.//

“I’m sorry, Squall.  I made a mistake, before.  With you.  With us.” 

He knew what she meant, what the sorceress meant, but if he closed his eyes tight enough, so tight, he could pretend otherwise.

Twenty years as if it were a heartbeat, a passing instant, and he knew Rinoa would never love him again, that she had forgotten how.  The kiss stole the rest of his thoughts and he was falling against her, falling apart, and there was no passion in it but the feel of slow drowning, everything going numb and distant until there was only her, only the empty, empty feel of her breath inside his mouth.


He didn’t have the strength to fight against her.  He never wanted that strength, and she smiled, hands twining in his hair and pulling him closer.  It was all that kept him from falling, but she was the cause as well as the cure.  The weakness, the reason the world was filling up with water, wavering and empty and he closed his eyes. 

It was a mistake, losing all reference but her.

//You’re not Rinoa.//  The soft laugh almost proved him wrong, and it wasn’t right, none of it was right.  It wasn’t love, but it could fill him.

It could fill him.

//Please... don’t, Rinoa... love you... please.//

Her hand caressed his throat, and tightened, and he could not breathe, but he hadn’t been able to breathe before, and even as he choked, Squall couldn’t see why it should have made such a difference.

“I’ll make them pay, for what they tried to do to me.  You will help me.  My message will be your sword through their pathetic bodies, each and every one of them... and we’ll start with /him/.”

He shuddered, back arching, trying desperately to pull out of her inhumanly strong grip, but Rinoa didn’t even seem to notice she was holding on.

“... you will kill him for me, first among them... the fallen knight.”


It came from far, far off, but Rinoa let go of him, stepped away immediately, murmuring something he couldn’t make out.  There was a sudden, sharp jerk at his waist, and Squall nearly fell, still trying to pull any air into his lungs.  It felt like he was at the other end of a rubber band pulled taut, near to breaking, and he was being dragged out and away.  Away from her.

He fought it.  He couldn’t imagine why.


The world rushed by in a blur, growing louder and faster all the time.  He could hear the roar of the ocean again, so loud that he wondered if he hadn’t fallen into the sea.  Squall did feel himself falling then, staring up into a sky all one color, bleached out white by the sun, terrible feeling of vertigo and panic as he had no control over anything.

Arms were around him, soft and familiar, someone pressing their face into his hair, calling his name softly.  Graying hair, hands more fragile-looking than he remembered but she was still a slender reed, still graceful and gentle and he let out a long sigh, pressing further into her arms.

//Ellone.  Safe now, you’re safe.//

“Squall?  Squall?!” 

He wanted to answer her, he really did, but his eyes wouldn’t work right and his mouth wouldn’t open and he could only just lay there, try to let the roar of the ocean fill him, and try to forget the terrible eternity that there had been no sound at all.


Seifer stands at the elevator today because he’s got a free hour, because he /can/ go up to the control room even if he knows no one wants to see him up there.  Which is the perfect reason to go, really.  Maybe just to watch Quistis’ amused disdain - their relationship is better than it ever was, more playful - and he really should get her and Fuujin properly acquainted.

He hears a scream, inside the shaft, just before the car sets down.  Seifer reaches for his gunblade as the door opens, but it isn’t necessary.  Squall is alone, and pale, very pale, pressed against the back wall of the elevator, frozen in place.  Seifer shifts from foot to foot, but the gray-blue eyes do not follow him at all.  Squall’s voice is a shattered whisper, before he can say a word.

“Can you see me?  Am I here?”

Seifer can’t get the words out past his confusion, and just nods instead.  He watches as Squall’s legs crumple, and he slides very slowly to the floor of the elevator, hiding his eyes behind the heels of his palms.  It is easy to see him shaking.  It is not easy to stand and watch, and Seifer finds himself rocking back and forth slightly on his heels, hovering at the line already drawn out where the elevator car meets the floor.

//If you hadn’t kissed him, you could walk away, right now.// 

He wondered how Squall knew enough to pardon him, knew enough to see that his pride and arrogance and loyalty were all tied together, so that no decisions were taken lightly and he would have been a soldier even if he hadn’t come to Garden and that he will not walk away now.  Can not walk away.  Fuujin had mentioned love but he can’t tell, can’t pin down what that means.  Love is loyalty and honor and he had never known the difference between them and doesn’t now.

“Squall.”  It takes a lot to step over the line.  Being SeeD meant going in with a plan, always.  He hadn’t graduated but he’d learned that lesson well enough and now, here, with a hand on Squall’s shoulder he has nothing to offer, no strategy.  He doesn’t even know what is wrong.


It is alarming when there is no answer, steel-blue eyes half open and staring somewhere at the floor past where he’s standing - not seeing him at all, and Seifer shakes him slightly.  “Hey.  Hey, look at me.”

The elevator doors close behind him and Seifer pulls his attention away just long enough to push the stop button, and hope no one on either end of the lift notices.  He turns back, and Squall is watching him.  He exhales, it stutters in his throat, and his voice sounds raw and rough and he is wary and afraid.  Very, very afraid.


“Yeah.  Yeah, I’m here.” 

Seifer doesn’t think, just does what seems right and what he thinks might work.  He kisses Squall on the forehead, and again on the lips - the first time he’s acted before Squall could, he thinks.  The thought runs stupidly through his mind - no going back now - and Squall does not let him pull away, and eventually Seifer is kneeling with much of his coat over the both of them, just holding on, waiting for the other man to come back from wherever he’s gone.

“What happened?”

Squall pushes him away slightly, struggling to his feet.  It looks like it takes him all his strength.

“Can we go somewhere?  Anywhere?  I don’t care...”


He is kidnapping the Commander of Balamb Garden, Seifer thinks, as he makes sure Squall can stand on his own before pressing the button to open the doors.  He hopes someone will see them leave together, and notice that he doesn’t have a gunblade to Squall’s back.  Hopes Fuujin won’t have to tell Quistis why it is unlikely he would make any hostile moves toward Squall.  Not that the man needs the help to look hurt, moving with a painfully awkward slowness, eyes never lifting from the ground.

“What happened?” 

He can’t help but ask again, though Squall only shakes his head and refuses to answer.  Before he knows it, they’re on the train to Timber, or maybe they’re going beyond Timber, and he’s not asking any questions because Squall won’t answer them and before he knows it Squall is asleep on his shoulder.  It is an /amazingly/ uncomfortable position but he doesn’t try to move for fear he’ll wake him.  Squall looks like he hasn’t slept since Rinoa...

It’s all connected, of course, whatever he’s been going through and Rinoa’s disappearance.  The way he looks more and more drained and more and more frightened and how he keeps drawing Seifer closer as some sort of human shield.  Seifer thinks the man must trust him because they’re /not/ friends, it’s the sort of incomprehensible Squall logic that allows him to go along with all of this without questioning much.  Nothing so stupid could possibly count against him in the future.

The trip is pretty, and smooth, and inconsequential.  They pass through Timber and continue on the rails into the early evening, and when the train stops in another town, Seifer barely catching the name or caring, he rouses Squall and they both find a place to eat and a room for the night.  When the hotel says they’re down to single beds Squall doesn’t shift or blink or even glance at him.

Seifer knows he can take the floor.  His footsteps sound very loud on the floor, and keep knocking the thought out of his head, but he knows he can take the floor, he has done it before.  Not that he hasn’t considered this, not that kissing doesn’t eventually lead somewhere but he always thought that if and when it came to this he would be much, much drunker and things would seem so much less quiet.  Deliberate.  Squall is still quiet and wavering a little on his feet but even before he opens the door Seifer knows neither of them is taking the floor.

Seifer is not afraid of facing what he doesn’t understand.  He is afraid of very little, and even less now that the worst has come and gone and apparently found no interest in crushing him on the way out.  He is ready to stop this at any moment, as soon as it isn’t something he wants to do, but Seifer quickly realizes that Squall is one of those incredibly few people who looks as good wearing nothing as he does in clothes and regardless of how awkward this is going to be, there is not going to be a point he won’t want to do this.

Squall’s skin is remarkably smooth and angled by expected planes of muscle, but detailed here and there with scars Seifer does not expect, from battles new and old, not worth the time or the effort to heal with a Curaga.  Squall is almost coltish, tangled up like this his limbs all seem just a bit too long.  All Seifer notices is pieces, never the whole.  Silky hair, trembling fingers, sharp eyes that turn away when he tries to meet them, and the scar from that infamous duel.  Seifer had been half-certain, even when he did it, that Squall would return the favor.

He touches it, very gently tracing the thin line, and feels Squall’s breath stutter against his wrist and palm.  No one except him can do that, will ever get the same reaction he does, and the thought makes him smile.

It was more play than anything, that duel, although he didn’t dare explain it that to Dr. Kadowaki.  A little hard to make it clear, how Squall and he playing ‘tag’ on each other with loaded gunblades was all in the spirit of good fun and very necessary, as necessary as becoming SeeD.  Just as much the usual teasing and taunting as the time he froze Squall’s entire room with a Blizzaga only to find nothing left in his own closet but a pile of fine gray ash.

It seems eventual, things ending up where they had but not here, not now, even with the scars and all the rest.  He should not be here, but he is, and he should not feel this way but he does.  Seifer runs his fingertips along Squall’s back and is just in awe of it, of himself, and everything.

It is quiet and very awkward and Squall does not look at him the entire time, which is more or less fine by Seifer as he’s busy trying to figure out exactly where and how his hands and feet and the rest of him are supposed to go.  He has not felt this clumsy since he mocked Quistis about her choice of weapon and then was forced to try and use the whip and ended up nearly taking his own eye out.

Squall does not speak, does not make any noise except to breathe, sometimes short and sometimes fast, or held very steady and controlled, only to shudder when Seifer moves the right way or puts his hands in certain places.  He whimpers a name against Seifer’s skin when he comes, and though Seifer doesn’t quite catch it he knows it isn’t his. 

It takes a while for positions to be found and fumbling attempts to work, but eventually they’re both exhausted and whatever tension has been tying knots in the air between them has been momentarily assuaged.  Many things are damp and sticky and not altogether comfortable around them and under them - he didn’t do this as well as he might have - but Seifer is just too tired at the moment to care and under the blankets it is relatively warm and not worth disturbing.  Squall is sprawled out beside him as if breathing is the most he can handle at the moment, with moving entirely out of the question.

He puts a hand around Squall’s waist because he wants to and it seems like the right thing to do and the other man leans back against him immediately and this is still too wrong, too unexpected to fit as seamlessly as it does.

“... now will you tell me what’s going on?”  He keeps his voice low and the words disinterested and hopes Squall is too tired and too relaxed to keep his guard up and there’s no answer.  Squall isn’t sleeping but he’s not answering, and Seifer has no idea what he’s supposed to try from here.  No reason Squall should trust him or anyone, anything else in this -

“Time.  Something’s... wrong with time.” 

He expects the admission to come out fast and quiet, but even so he barely catches it, and didn’t understand.  Seifer blinks, surprised as Squall shifts closer, already too near for someone so obsessed with keeping his distance.  It seems as if Squall would crawl inside of him if he could, so Seifer slides his other hand beneath the low curve of Squall’s neck and pulls until there is no distance between them.  Until he can barely tell that he isn’t the one shaking.

“What do you mean, there’s something wrong with time?”

“I... I don’t...”  It’s more than Squall can answer, the attempt alone appears to be crushing him.  “I’m sorry.  You shouldn’t have to be here.”

“Don’t be stupid.  I don’t go where I don’t want to go.  I’m a cat.  Fuujin said so.” 

Seifer absently lets his thumb find the edge of the pendant still around Squall’s neck, touching it because, like the rest of the body against his, he’s never seen it so close up.  Squall is silent, until he reaches down with his hand spread wide, taking Griever’s chain off with the edge of his fingertips, lifting it over his head and unceremoniously tossing it across the room.

“I needed to feel something that wasn’t her.  I hate... why is she haunting me?”  Squall won’t look at him, face buried against his hand. “ She wouldn’t let me love her and she won’t let me love her memory... I just needed to feel something else.  Anything...”

“Haunting you?”

Squall shudders, eyes closing, pressed against him as if saying the words aloud could be enough to tear him away, his voice a whisper against Seifer’s chest. 

“I loved her so much.”

It isn’t exactly at the top of his list for post-coital conversation, but Squall is stopping and stuttering through the words and this is one of those things Seifer knows he has been thinking about, all the time, but never taking further.  It hurts Squall, it takes so long because this may be the first time he’s actually said the words aloud.

//... and he wants to tell me.//

Seifer tried to remind himself they’d already made a decent tour of everything that could be considered private or intimate, the evidence is still all around them.  It still seems dangerous to touch.  An invasion of privacy to let his hand linger in Squall’s hair or slide along the contours of his side.  He spends a long time just staring at the pale scars he can see here and there along the shoulders and back.  It makes sense, of course, Squall has fought many battles before and after Ultimecia, before and after the scars they gave each other, but it had taken him a long time to make that mark.  He could not imagine anyone else landing a strike against Squall without an equally concerted effort.

“Sometimes, I turn around... I turn around, and she’s right behind me.  She’s out there, somewhere, I can feel it.  When Rinoa comes back, she... the whole world, she makes it go away.  Everything stops, nothing will move.  I never told you, Rinoa knew... after Ultimecia... everyone was gone.  I didn’t, there was /no one/, nothing, for so long...”

“Time compression.” 

Seifer honestly didn’t remember much of the end, but there was enough in what he did remember to understand why Squall was suffering now.

“Everything is cold.  It’s just the two of us and she /smiles/ and laughs and she thinks it’s right but it’s not... it’s not.  It’s not even her, not anymore, and I can’t get away.”  His voice cracked, breaking under his own attempts not to lose it to a scream.  “Sometimes she isn’t even there... it’s just me...”

Oh, he is /definitely/ going to Quistis with this, as soon as he returns.  Seifer will be calling Ellone himself and talking to Matron until he gets the right answers, the ones that explain it all and tell him how to fix it.  His arms are tight around Squall and all his thoughts are humming, protective until he realizes it and stops, awed and confused by those feelings, as if they aren’t so obviously his own. 

//Knights do not protect knights.// 

He has no answers.

“You fought so hard because you loved Rinoa.  I didn’t love... it was just stupid.  Play-acting.” 

He wants to fill the silence with something, so Squall doesn’t have to deal with the roar of any more nothing in his ears.  He shouldn’t be making this confession now, but the words will not stop.

“I had every intention of rescuing all of you in Timber.  Capturing the President, saving the day... I thought some of it was for Rinoa, but... not really.  It was all for me.  You were the one... you’re the real thing, Squall.”

It is damned hard to admit, that he isn’t the one to fulfill his own ambitions.  The laugh that comes back to him is soft, but Squall can still barely get it out.

“... and look at what it’s brought me.”

He can’t imagine how Squall can sleep, buried so far in his arms, but the other man doesn’t move, and it isn’t so long before Seifer drifts off, only to jerk awake somewhere in the middle of the night, one hand already drawing back to where Hyperion would be, if he was at home, his other laying near Squall’s back.  He thought he would wake up instantly, if Squall moved at all, but the other man had rolled away during the night and he never noticed.

How easy will it be for Rinoa to destroy him?  At least, Seifer knows, Ultimecia had never held any love for him, but if whatever sorceress had possessed Rinoa, if she still holds that love for Squall?  What then?

“So...”  He breathes the word for himself.  Hopes the world will respond, somehow, though the only time he received an answer like that, it wasn’t one he ever wanted.

Squall doesn’t look so different when he sleeps, face set in something that would leave him with a furrowed brow with a little more effort.  Seifer very gently runs his hand from shoulder down, along the lean waist, rubbing knuckles gently across the slight raise of his thigh, and Squall sighs in his sleep and relaxes, moving closer to him, and Seifer knows he will fight Rinoa, now, when the time comes, for Squall’s life, for all the things no one told ever told him about knights.

He does not know if he can win, but he will fight.




Author’s Notes -


1. On Raijin’s tongue stuck to the pole:


ThorneScratch: Poor Raijin.  He's like their safety monkey.

TwigBrnch:  Quistis was there, lecturing him, as they waited for the hot water to show up

ThorneScratch: Raijin: Ai'm Oh-rry.

ThorneScratch: Quistis: Did they tell you it was flavored?

ThorneScratch: Raijin: Erry.

TwigBrnch: Xu:  The hot water will take too long.  We should just pull.

TwigBrnch: Raijin: eegh

ThorneScratch: Seifer: Suck it up.

ThorneScratch: Fuujin: FOR TEAM, TAKE.

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