Author's Notes:Aright, my first attempt at a *serious* fic in this lovely fandom...Ok, so it doesn't seem all that serious in the first chapter, but trust me; it'll get serious later.
High 'n Low
Chapter One - Beginnings
"Come on, Squall. I'm just asking you to give the guy a chance."
"I'm not promising anything." The dark-haired youth crossed his arms across his chest and gazed coolly at his father. Laguna Loire sighed, shaking his head.
"At least, try not to chase him out of the house right away?" Laguna pleaded. Reluctantly, Squall nodded his assent. Laguna breathed a silent sigh of relief as Squall tilted his head to the side slightly. His dark blue-gray eyes narrowed and the corners of his pale lips turned down unhappily.
Before Laguna could ask Squall what he meant, the doorbell rang. The longhaired man threw a look of surprise at his recalcitrant son before dashing over to the door and throwing it open.
"Hi, is this apartment 1222?"*
Squall's scowl deepened at the sound of the unfamiliar voice. Today was October fourteenth, the day that the new renter moved into their apartment's extra room. Despite the fact that they were more than well off and could afford a mansion, Laguna had inexplicably decided to rent out their extra room and remain in the apartment, ignoring Squall's angry protests. Squall hated this. It wasn't as if he actually needed the room or that he had had to move his things out of there- because he hadn't- but the thought of a stranger living in the same apartment as them was…unsettling. There was another reason he hadn't wanted to rent out the room, but Laguna had blithely cut him off when he started to raise this particular objection by asking Squall whether he wanted tomato or Alfredo sauce with his pasta.
"Yes! Welcome! Come in, you must be tired." Laguna's cheery voice rang from the entrance. Squall heard the sound of heavy bags being moved and cloth rustling. "Here, let me help you with-oops!" There was a loud crash.
"Oh, Hyne, I'm sorry-" the new voice apologized. Squall rolled his eyes when he heard Laguna laugh.
"Don't worry about it. I'm a klutz- besides, it was only a vase." A priceless, Ming dynasty vase that Laguna had "picked up" on his last business trip, Squall thought.
"It's ok, I've got it." The renter said. His deep voice was clearly distinguishable from Laguna's light tenor, and there was a trace of an accent when he spoke, as if he had lived in the city for a long time. A large figure appeared in the doorway to the living room. Squall looked at the newcomer, noticing with a mental sigh that the man was almost half a foot taller than him, and had short blond hair that brushed against the top of the door. One golden eyebrow raised as green eyes beheld the sulking figure in black.
"Well, is it safe to assume that you're his son?" there was a hint of barely concealed amusement in the stranger's voice and his lips quirked up in a slight smirk.
Squall started to glare at the newcomer when he remembered his promise and smoothed out his face to what he hoped was a blank expression. Woodenly, he offered one black-gloved, slender hand to shake, absently tossing his head to get his long bangs out of his face. The man shook his hand firmly, his own hand almost engulfing Squall's. His eyes never left Squall's face.
"My name is Seifer Almasy, oh quiet one." The blond man said with a little mock bow, "May I have the pleasure of knowing yours, or am I to remain in the dark for the rest of my sojourn here?"
Squall scowled at Seifer's smirk. If he didn't tell him his name, Squall knew that he'd probably continue to refer to him as `quiet one'. Already, he disliked Seifer's easygoing, slightly arrogant attitude, although he realized that the man was unspeakably polite. He scowled even more at the thought that he'd be living with this man for Hyne knew how long.
A black-gloved hand waved in front of his face.
"Hello? Earth to Nameless Boy! Come in, Nameless Boy!"
Squall ungraciously knocked Seifer's hand away and dropped his scowl in favor of his blank, expressionless mask.
"Actually, the weather's quite fine…" Seifer said, glancing out the window. Indeed, the sky was extremely blue and the sun was shining brightly. The brunette rolled his eyes.
"No. My name is Squall. Squall Leonhart."
"And I'm Laguna Loire!" Squall's father chimed in from the doorway. He had carried Seifer's luggage into his room while they had been getting acquainted, and he now hoisted a large tray loaded with sweets and drinks onto the living room table. "Come in, I just bought these at the bakery today."
Squall threw himself into his favorite armchair, an overstuffed, worn piece of furniture that was more comfortable than the sofa. He almost blended into the black upholstery, but the white fur ruff of his bomber jacket, his white T-shirt, and the silver at his neck and waist stood out prominently. Seifer seated himself across from Squall on the sofa, leaving room for Laguna to sit as he slung an arm across the back.
"So, tell us about yourself." Laguna said energetically, "I'm usually very busy, but I took the day off to get to know you better!"
Seifer coughed at Laguna's unwitting innuendo and plucked a sugar- covered confection from the tray. Looking at it curiously, he popped it into his mouth and chewed reflectively before swallowing.
"Well, let's see. Where to begin…?" Seifer mused, "I'm a first-year graduate student at Winhill University, as you might already know."
"What do you study?" Laguna asked curiously, picking up his fifth sugar puff. Squall shuddered inwardly as he watched the candy disappear into Laguna's mouth; all that sugar…ugh. Laguna noticed his shudder and childishly stuck his tongue out at him before eating two more sugar puffs. Squall visibly blanched, forgetting about Seifer. The blond man chuckled, drawing a glare from the quiet youth.
"I'm studying to be an English or Arts teacher in High school. I specialize in ceramics and literature." Seifer looked at Squall curiously when the brunette stared at him, lips parted slightly as if in surprise. "Why are you looking at me like that, Leonhart? You make it seem like I've grown another head or something."
Squall shook himself out of his daze. Did he hear Seifer right? He specialized in ceramics and literature? But that was what *Squall* liked to do best. It couldn't be right. He was just glad that Seifer didn't know about his new clay sculpture. Only Hyne knew what the annoying idiot would do if he knew.
"Does he do this a lot?" Seifer asked Laguna as Squall continued to stare at a spot above his head. The dark-haired man nodded with a sigh of mock sadness as he stared at his mentally absent son with doleful eyes.
"All too often."
"Welcome back to the land of the living." Seifer grinned. Squall didn't reply.
"Ceramics and literature, you said? Hey, what do you know, Squall likes those a lot, too!" Squall glared at his father, who was unfazed. Seifer raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"Really? Huh, how coincidental. Maybe we can help each other out."
"I don't need anyone's help." Squall gritted, getting to his feet. "I'm going to my room. Night."
Laguna blinked large, concerned eyes at his darkly scowling son, half- rising to his feet. Seifer watched Squall without comment, his narrowed green eyes unreadable. The dark-haired young man threw a casual half-salute and started to leave.
"Now wait, we haven't had dinner yet-"
"'m not hungry. G'night."
An uncomfortable silence fell after Squall's abrupt departure, during which Laguna turned towards Seifer, rubbing the back of his head ruefully. He sighed, letting his hand fall in his lap.
"I'm sorry about that, Seifer. It's just…Squall doesn't really like people."
"So I've noticed. Don't worry about it, Mr. Loire." Seifer said easily, rising gracefully to his feet. Laguna shook his head, glaring at Seifer in a way that reminded him of Squall.
"No 'Mr. Loire'-ing me. It's Laguna to you and any of your friends, got it?" the man stood up and raised his eyebrows at Seifer. "So, where do you want to go for dinner?"
"You don't cook?" Seifer asked in surprise. Laguna winced as they walked to the door.
"Er, only if I wanted to kill someone…"
Seifer threw back his head and laughed. After a moment of surprise, Laguna joined in, their easy laughter drifting down the hallway. When the laughter died down, Laguna looked at Seifer.
"You're much better company than my son." He said, his smile disappearing. He stared at the pavement before his feet. "Sometimes… I catch him looking at me with this expression on his face, and I can't help but wonder-does he hate me?"
A mental sigh went through Seifer's head, accompanied by a mental groan. He resisted the urge to smack himself on the forehead and instead hitched what he hoped looked like a reassuring smile on his face. Not a day in his new home, and he was already getting involved in the family problems.
"Uh, Mr. Loire- I mean, Laguna- I'm sure Squall doesn't hate you…" he began tiredly. Laguna cut him off suddenly by waving his hands crazily.
"Ahh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to burden you with my troubles." Seifer was stunned by the klutzy man's sharp perception. "So, lessee… this Thai restaurant is reputed to have excellent food. Why don't we eat here? My treat."
Seifer nodded dazedly, still off-balance from Laguna's sudden mood change. As he followed him into the brightly-lit restaurant, he shook his head. As nice as Laguna was, his erratic personality and moody son made Seifer wonder if he hadn't moved into a madhouse. He only hoped that Squall didn't keep a knife under his pillow. An image of a crazed Squall wielding a bloody knife and laughing maniacally ran through his mind. It was all he could do to keep from laughing out loud; after all, it just wouldn't do to have Laguna think he was crazy.
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