Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VIII belongs to me only in the sense that I own the game. And a guidebook because I suck. Similarly, the song "Insensitive", sung by Jann Arden, also belongs to me only in that I own a CD that has it. *sighs* Life is sucky sometimes. ;_;
Warnings: Foul language, songfic-ness gone horribly wrong.
By Balinese no Neko
Seifer shifted uncomfortably as he glared up at the gates to Balamb Garden. He called himself fifty times a fool for even thinking about coming back, for not keeping his distance, for not . . . . He shook his head. He really should have known better. And maybe that was why he was here, to try to learn how.
How do you cool your lips after a summer's kiss?
Amazingly, he hadn't been attacked on sight. Instead he had been ushered—quite politely, given recent events—into Cid's new office and was even now being read a list of rules and regulations he would have to follow if he wished to enroll again in the SeeD program. What a joke. He had come back for one thing and one thing only. Making SeeD . . . didn't matter as much as it once had. He would count himself lucky if he could make it through the few weeks he figured he'd need to be able to move on with his life.
"For some rather obvious, but still extremely regrettable, reasons, you will not be housed with the other students." Seifer repressed the urge to roll his eyes; Cid was still as longwinded as ever and he was feeling itchy, impatient, and definitely not inclined to waste his time cutting through what the Headmaster said to what he meant. "Still, we don't have the resources to offer you a single. Fortunately, there is a solution; one of our SeeD has expressed a wish to be roomed with you should you ever return to us and seems to truly bear you no grudge." Just great. Now he'd have to watch for subtle attempts on his life by his own roommate as well as the more overt ones he'd be sure to encounter. No grudge against him? What, had Cid been hit by Blind or something? He caught the room number he'd been assigned and stalked out the door. He didn't fall down on his knees and kissing Cid's feet for letting him stay, something he knew he should have done. It was just Cid. Headmaster he might be, but he was still a pushover.
Oh, I really should have known
It was almost amusing the way no one was ever in his path. He supposed his expression—just this side of seething—might have something to do with it, but most of it was because of what he had done. It didn't really matter to him; if people stayed out of his way, he wouldn't have to waste time talking to them. It was once people got close that he seemed to have problems, wasn't it?
It wasn't hard to find the double he was going to be staying in, despite never exploring that particular section of the dormitories. He swiped his keycard and stepped inside. He blinked at the small sliver of what was presumable sunlight peeking under the bedroom doors. He'd been given a room with windows? Not enough singles going around for him, but there seemed to be plenty of other high-demand housing if a lowlife like him rated an outside room.
He slapped the wall to his right for the light switch and took in the layout and furnishings. He nodded approvingly. Not too shabby. This obviously wasn't a dorm reserved for students, not with the quality of the stuff in there. It kind of made him wonder who he was rooming with, to receive such treatment. He swiped his finger on the counter and rubbed the thin layer of dust that had come from it. That, and the unnatural neatness of the place, told him his roommate probably wasn't moved in yet. Unless he locked himself up in his room for days at a time. Seifer snorted. Unlikely, even with a window in the rooms. He stepped further into the shared area and dropped the small rucksack that held everything he owned. Hyperion, he kept with him. He didn't know who his roommate was or when he'd be showing up and he'd be damned if he was caught without a proper weapon.
He glanced into the two bedrooms disinterestedly, discovering that yes, he had been right, both of them had windows. There wasn't enough of a difference between the two of them to push him towards being deliberately obnoxious, so he backtracked to his bag to sling it through to the room he'd been assigned. Noticing an inconspicuous doorway behind the counter, he wandered over to peer through it.
"Sweet. Place has a kitchen, even." Definitely not a student's dorm. The Faculty would rather trust students with deadly weapons and magic than with cooking utensils, something he had always found moderately amusing. Then again, he remembered the fumbling attempts of students in the basic cooking course.
Someone knocked on the door, breaking his train of thought. "Yeah!" He crossed back to the door, pushing the key to open it. He stared down at the short brunet standing outside it. "Who're you and whaddya want?"
"Nida, sir. I'm Garden's pilot." Pilot? Right, that was it. If Garden could fly, it needed a pilot to maneuver it.
Seifer arched an eyebrow. He remembered Nida. Quiet, soft-spoken, but he was always watching. "You my roomie?" He hoped not. Nida was enough of a pain in the ass when they were both candidates with his ass-kissing.
"No, sir. Just here to deliver some boxes and stuff." He gestured behind him and Seifer straightened from his slouch against the side of the door to catch a glimpse at the few and battered boxes behind the other man. He narrowed his eyes a touch.
"What's in 'em?"
Nida consulted the slip of paper he held. "Apparently, your belongings from before the war. Says here they were put into storage the week after it ended. Took some fairly heavy clearance to get at them, too. Looks like someone didn't want anyone messing with them."
Seifer's eyes narrowed even more. Nida's reassurances aside—which he could be making up, a possibility Seifer could not discount—he didn't feel any less suspicious of the boxes waiting outside. "Before the war, huh? And stop calling me 'sir'. You outrank me, remember?" Yeah, it hurt his pride to say that, but his stomach hurt even more hearing that honorific come off the lips of a full SeeD.
Nida blinked slowly at that. "I'm sorry, sir, perhaps I was mistaken about your identity. You are Seifer Almasy, correct?" Seifer nodded slowly. "Well, then."
"Well, then what?"
"Then I wasn't mistaken, sir. Have a good day."
Seifer was left staring at the space Nida had occupied. How he'd become someone Nida respected enough to try out some of his ass-kissing skills was going to have to wait until he had a chance to get a good look at the situation he had pushed himself into. He lowered his eyes and gave the boxes a once-over. He gave up and went into the hall, toeing them roughly until they lay just inside the door.
He didn't want to open them. Oh, it didn't really matter if someone had booby-trapped them or not, but opening them meant coming face to face with his past in this place. He wasn't here to come to remember what had happened, he was here to learn how to forget it. Forget, and maybe move on.
How do you numb your skin after the warmest touch?
A pale face framed by dark hair was thrown back as a slim body moved over his. And then that instant when the expression had become so open Seifer had caught his breath at it, unable to resist the other's urgings to follow him into ecstasy.
Okay, so maybe it wasn't exactly the best way to start forgetting. But Seifer had nothing to do and the boxes—stacked somewhat neatly in the corner with his trench coat over them in a pitiful effort to hide them—seemed to breathe the memories at him until he brought them out in spite of the pain he knew lay in remembering them.
He rolled over onto his side, crossing his arms somewhat awkwardly over his chest as he glared at the wall. He reminded himself of what he was here for. Reliving dead memories in some sort of maudlin attempt at making them real was not in any part of his plans. Dead memories were dead. Not even the legendary Phoenix could make them live again.
He heard the beep that meant someone had swiped a keycard to open the door, but remained motionless. If it was someone hell-bent on revenge, well, he still had enough time to grab Hyperion should he need to defend himself. If it was his roommate, he'd just as soon ignore him until morning as not. He wasn't in the mood to deal with whoever was stupid enough to request to be roomed with a known traitor. There was only some quiet shuffling and Seifer breathed a sigh of relief that his door was not knocked on.
Then the dreaded knock came. The blond thought about staying silent and hoping his roommate would take the hint and leave him alone. Unfortunately for him, his roommate had other plans.
"What the hell d'you want?" he grunted as he heard his door slide closed behind the other person. He waited a few seconds for an answer, but when none was forthcoming, he readied himself to turn over and blast the person for disturbing his solitude and not even give a reason for it. "Well? Out with . . . it . . . ." As he'd turned over, he had caught sight of a thatch of glossy brown hair and a collar of white fur. His mouth dried. "Leonhart." Of course. Why wouldn't Squall be the one idiot to put up with him? After all, Seifer was no threat to him. He'd already taken what he'd wanted from the blond.
The brunet stared at him for a long moment. "Welcome back," was all he said before turning around and leaving again. As if Seifer meant nothing more to him than a brief acquaintance. As if, in fact, there had never been anything between them.
To be fair, it wasn't as if there really had been all that much binding them together. Seifer had thought that one night had meant more to the other man, but he had, for once, read Squall wrong. That much had been certain when he'd tried to buddy up to him the morning after. Maybe he shouldn't have tried to be so open, but . . . it would have been nice to know beforehand what Squall had wanted to be to him.
Well, it was damned obvious now. Hindsight, ever-perfect. If he'd really meant something to the other man, he wouldn't ever have needed to follow the Sorceress out of the TV Station, it would all have been solved in the studio he'd burst into.
He faced the wall again. Tomorrow would be soon enough to start figuring out how Squall did it.
Oh, you probably don't remember me
"You haven't unpacked yet."
"The door was shut for a damn reason," Seifer said irritably, refusing to look up from his book to see the utter disregard he knew was in stormy grey eyes.
"That doesn't tell me why you haven't unpacked yet. It's been three weeks."
"Oh, look, someone's learnt to count. Gee, I'd give you a medal, Leonhart, but I'm plum out of blue ribbon. Maybe you could pick up some for me on your way out."
There were traces of confusion in the other's voice. "I wasn't going out."
"Sure you were. You were going out and leaving me alone in my room." Now he looked up, his mouth drawn in a tight line to control the pain he felt. "Isn't that what you do?" He had the momentary satisfaction of seeing Squall flinch. "Get out of my face, Squall, before I decide to do something about it." He deliberately turned his attention back to his studying, keeping his gaze on words he couldn't see until he heard a soft puff of air, as if Squall had sighed, before footsteps took the brunet away from him again.
It had taken him three weeks, but he thought he was starting to get a handle on what Squall did and how he did it. Squall kept everyone on the outside with his silence and a few well-placed comments. If a person didn't let anything in, that person couldn't be hurt. Wouldn't care about anything but themselves. Not care about anyone else they hurt in their pursuit of themselves. It was obviously too late for Seifer to keep the brunet out, for he had already made himself a place in his heart even before their night, but he thought if he could keep his guard up, it wouldn't happen again. And if he didn't show his pain, then Squall would stop shoving it in his face that he'd had the other man. Had him and lost him. And Seifer was still trying to figure out how that had happened.
Oh, I really should have known
It had been another two weeks and Seifer was beginning to find things that he could've sworn were his showing up around the rooms the two of them, theoretically, shared. Suspicious, he checked the boxes that still waited, unopened, but couldn't find any evidence of tampering. He let it go for the moment.
That picture of the two of them standing together, he was sure his frame, cheap though it had been, hadn't been cracked and painstakingly glued back together. He, for one, didn't have the patience to fix anything as expertly as that had been. Besides, it had been a cheap frame; if he'd broken it, he would've just bought a new one. The tin of the exact brand of gunblade polish that he used for Hyperion, well, maybe he'd just left it lying around. Or maybe Squall had finally decided to pick up some taste along the way. And the pillow at the end of the couch had seen far too much use to be his; why, it couldn't even cushion his head properly! And even if all of that was his, he hadn't taken them out and waved them around like a banner. No, Squall was looking for a reaction. Seifer's lip curled. The last time he had tried to get a reaction out of the blond, it had ended up with the two of them in bed one night and facing each other across flashing gunblades the next, something Seifer was far too cautious to fall for twice. He'd learnt his lesson the hard way and had he ever learnt it well. Squall took what he wanted when it was offered and gave nothing in return but heartbreak and anger.
Seifer found himself standing in front of the picture of the two of them standing together on the cliffs just above Balamb's beaches. He couldn't remember who had taken their picture or why Squall had agreed to it in the first place. But Seifer had kept it as a memory of the days when Squall wasn't quite as anti-social as usual and as something he could dream might happen again before his dreams were shattered beyond repair. He picked it up, running hesitant fingers over the wood of the frame, feeling the repaired areas catch just the smallest bit on his fingers. The picture looked like it had been bent somewhat and then carefully smoothed out. There were small scratches on his side of the picture, as if the glass over the photo had been broken at the same time as the frame. He took a deep breath and forced himself to set the picture down exactly where it had been. Turning, he was surprised to see Squall standing far too close behind him. How had the other man managed to sneak up on him? He had thought, rather bitterly, that his body had been attuned to Squall's presence for so long that he could tell the other's moods just by the sounds he made breathing, much less when he entered or left any room Seifer was in.
"Rinoa broke the frame," Squall said quietly, surprising Seifer yet again when he volunteered the information.
The blond raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Was the princess clumsier than usual when she dusted?" He looked around as if, absurdly, he thought Rinoa might materialize to lay her claim in Squall. "Where is she, anyway?"
Squall shrugged. "We had a fight. Then we broke up." It was the brunet's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Thought you'd know all the gory details already."
Nettled, Seifer snapped back, "Well, excuse me for being a social pariah!" He glared at the wall over Squall's shoulder. "Hope you let her down easier than . . . ." He choked back the rest of what he was going to say as he turned to head into his room.
Suddenly, Squall was beside him again, catching at his arm and holding him in place. "'Easier than . . . ?'" he prompted.
"Easier than some I've heard of," Seifer flung back. All bluff and Squall had to know that. If Squall's break up with Rinoa was as well-known as he'd implied, Seifer should have no way of knowing of other, if any, relationships that had gone sour. Excepting his own. He shook off the arm and grabbed Hyperion from its case. He stopped abruptly to avoid running into Squall. "Hyne damn it, Squall, get the hell outta my way!"
"Who else have you heard of?" Squall wasn't moving and Seifer resisted the urge to just shove him out of the way. That was a last-ditch move, to be saved until his frustration was high enough that any reaction he had to the brunet would be concealed.
"I won't name any names, Leonhart, I'm no gossip-monger."
"Maybe you won't repeat it, but you'll certainly listen to it. Who else?"
Seifer glared at him. "Why don't you ask someone who cares?" he asked mockingly, throwing back in Squall's face the very words he had said when Seifer had asked him what had happened to them. "Get the hell outta my way, Leonhart, before I cut you down!"
Finally Squall moved away from him, giving him the room he needed to escape. It took entirely too long for him to reach the Training Center, and, more than once, he had to fight down the urge to snarl at the people in his way. Apparently, the fear he inspired had died down after more than a month of him being back at Garden. Once inside, he went hunting for something to vent his frustrations on. The few Grats he encountered didn't do much more than increase his hunger for a better fight. A T-Rexaur roared behind him and his lips curled up into a vicious smirk. Just what he was looking for.
He had been fighting the giant reptile for a while, using magic only when he needed to heal himself, when he became aware of another's presence. His eyes hardened. What would it take for Squall to leave him alone? He pointedly ignored the other man, focussing solely on the battle before him. So focussed, in fact, that he hadn't noticed Squall step up beside him, hand held before his face. So he was rather taken aback when the world faded around him as he was pulled into the space a GF occupied when it wasn't summoned. Through the hazy grey fog protecting him, he saw Shiva take down the monster he had worked very hard to wear down. Anger flared within him, that Squall would again take away something he had worked so hard for.
"What the hell're you playing at, Leonhart?" he spat out when they were both returned to the Training Center in front of a pile of rapidly melting T-Rexaur shards.
Squall shrugged. Then, surprisingly, he expanded on that answer verbally. "You looked like you could use some help." Okay, so there wasn't much expansion.
"The day I need your help, I'll ask for it," Seifer muttered, turning his head to the side. If he didn't get away from Squall in some way, one of them was going to be sporting a brand new scar.
The sound of a gunblade leaving its sheath startled him, but he figured he still knew enough about Squall to be certain the other man wouldn't just cut him down. "Fight?" came the other's voice, sounding as bored as if he really had nothing better to brighten his day then exchange potentially fatal blows with a life-long rival and one-time lover.
Seifer turned back to stare at him in disbelief. "You take my kill away from me just like that," with a snap of his fingers, "and you think I'll want to fight you?"
Seifer snarled at the unbelievable arrogance of the man and brought his gunblade into a ready position. "Bring it on, then." And he lunged forward with a thrust. He wouldn't really spear the man where he stood, as irritating as he was being. But there was nothing that said he couldn't try . . . .
The fight went on for longer than he had thought it would. Strictly speaking, he knew that Squall didn't need any of his friends to finish him off. Which meant that Squall was playing with him. Which meant that Seifer was really getting pissed off.
"What's the matter, Squall?" he snarled, ducking under the glowing blue blade and spinning back around just in time to be deflected. "Can't finish what you started?" He appeared to have startled the other man with his question by the frown on his face. "Oh, come on. You can't tell me you didn't notice!"
Squall brought his gunblade back up and settled into a defensive posture. "I noticed."
And that said so much to Seifer. If Squall had noticed . . . . And he hadn't done anything about it . . . . The blond turned abruptly and left. He stalked stiff-legged through the wild growth of the Training Center until he came to the Secret Area. It was with a vicious jab that he opened the door and he stepped inside, glaring at the couples scattered around. Pain tore at him again as the sight reminded him of what he had never had. "Get out!" he barked, in no mood to be reasonable. If he wanted to be alone, then he would be alone, dammit! He waited until everyone had sidled out before striding over to the railing. He gripped it tightly, eyes staring blankly into the flora he had just left. He thought, in a distant sort of way, if jumping over the rail would solve his problems for him. From a dispassionate point of view, it probably wouldn't. The leaves and branches of the trees would catch him long before he could do any serious damage for himself and it would be too much to ask for a T-Rexaur to happen by while he was unconscious and put him out of his misery in a different way.
He tightened his grip on the rail. Someone had just entered the Secret Area and he didn't need three guesses as to who it was. "Why don't you just get the hell out of here, Leonhart," he said almost conversationally. Instead, the brunet came to stand beside him, joining him in his survey of the wilderness Garden had created.
"You aren't thinking of jumping." That was said with a tone of finality that only just prevented it from being an order.
Seifer laughed mirthlessly. "And why the hell would you care if I did, anyway? I mean, whatever your misguided notions were when you volunteered to be my roommate, they couldn't've included keeping me from dying painlessly." Quieter, he added, "I've been dying slowly for a while now, Squall. What makes you think you could do anything more than hurry me along?" There was a sharp intake of breath and an unforgiving hand grasped his arm and damn near yanked him around. He closed his eyes against the look in Squall's. Oh, how he wanted it to be concern . . . . But he knew it was anger. Had to be anger. Couldn't be anything else if all was right with the world.
"Are you sick? Are you hurt?"
Seifer pulled his arm free and frowned. "You're fucking kidding me, Leonhart. Of course I'm not sick! It's not that kind of dying slowly, you idiot!" He watched, confused, as some of the tension disappeared from the other man. Squall half-turned away, watching as the glow from Garden's ring played over the Training Center.
"Then what kind of dying is it?"
Seifer snorted and started walking towards the exit. He wanted to be alone, dammit, not tormented by Squall's immense density. "Like hell I'm gonna tell you."
"Dying inside? Is that what it feels like?" The tone those words were said in stopped the blond dead in his tracks. Wistful, laced throughout with more than a trace of a long-carried agony. "Like you can't live another moment without that person. Like you can't live another moment with that person. Like you can't live without telling him how much he means to you, how sorry you are for what you've done . . . . Like you want to kill him for ignoring you, then kill him for noticing you. Kill him for tormenting you with what you held so briefly so long ago. Kill him for making him love you, for not loving you like you love him. For not loving you enough to stay." Squall turned his head to look at Seifer out of the corner of his eye. "Is that what it feels like?"
For a long moment, Seifer stood still, absorbing what Squall had just finished saying. Then anger galvanized him and he strode back the way he'd come, grabbing the front of Squall's shirt and yanking the shorter man around to face him. "How the hell do you know that?" he hissed into the brunet's face. "I never breathed a word of it to anyone, never! Not Raijin, not Fujin, not even that bitch Ultimecia could break me enough to tell her that! How do you know?!"
And suddenly Squall's eyes were snapping with the same fire as his and he shoved the blond away from him. "How do I know? I know because that's what I felt! I felt it for the longest time, Seifer! I felt that all through the war, fighting against you, do you hear me? I felt it after! And I felt it because of you!"
Dumbstruck, Seifer staggered backwards. "Me?!" he whispered in disbelief. Squall followed him as he unconsciously retreated, jabbing his chest.
"You," Squall hissed bitterly. "You weren't supposed to give up, Seifer. You were supposed to be the one to save me. Not Quistis, not Rinoa, you." And he turned away, glaring at the wall.
"What?" It was a weak voice asking a weak question, but Squall turned back around anyway, looking far more tired than Seifer had ever seen him before.
"Hyne, Seifer, don't you get it? Not yet? Fine. I love you. I'm sorry I was such a bastard you felt you had to give up. I'm sorry I didn't realize you really meant what you couldn't say. I'm fucking sorry!"
Again, Seifer was thrown for a loop. "Why . . . ?"
"'Why' what? Why was I such a bastard?"
Seifer shook his head hesitantly. All he had now was confusion and . . . hope? Hope was painful and he should have killed it the moment it appeared. "Why . . . are you rooming with me? Why you telling me all this?"
It seemed that Squall calmed down a bit. At least he stopped glaring enough to mimic Quistis' Laser Eyes. "Because," came the soft reply, "I'd promised myself I'd make it all up to you. And . . . and if you didn't hate me, I'd promised to tell you all this."
"And why did you wait so long?" Although Seifer already had half an inkling why Squall had, he'd prefer to hear it from his mouth.
"I—I couldn't. I didn't know how you felt. I thought maybe you hated me, even if you didn't say anything about being roommates or . . . or anything."
"So why are you saying it now?" Seifer persisted.
Squall gave a strangled sort of laugh. "Hyne, Seifer, do you have to ask? You pissed me off."
"I don't . . . hate you," Seifer said awkwardly after a long bout of silence. He took a deep breath. "I—I still feel the same. When we were, you know, together."
A smile slowly grew on Squall's face and he took a step forward, then another one, and another one, until he was in front of the blond again. Then he hesitated. "You're . . . sure?"
"I wouldn't have said anything if I wasn't." There was still the doubt, the fear that all this was another trick of Squall's, something else to humiliate him with, but he ignored it and opened his arms to the brunet who had already crept into his open heart. Squall stepped forward and slowly, carefully, folded his arms around the taller man, able now to feel the minute shudders that coursed almost continuously through his body. He looked up in question, but Seifer shook his head and hugged Squall tightly. Slowly, so slowly, the shudders eased as he relaxed and began to believe that Squall truly meant what he'd said. Squall Leonhart, no matter how much he had changed, still did not like to be touched casually. If he was hugging Seifer and letting Seifer hug him back, there was less and less of a chance that fate would decide to belt him one upside the head again.
Later, much later, Seifer left the warmth of his bed. He paused to gaze at the trusting face of a sleeping lion and reached out to touch, hesitantly, a clump of hair hovering over Squall's nose. He carefully moved it away, reluctant to have him wake up and, perhaps, shatter his dream again. He glanced at the boxes in the corner and moved to kneel in front of them. Taking a deep breath, he dug his nail into the tape keeping one of them shut and opened it, looking inside at everything he'd thought he'd given up, lost for good.
The sound of skin sliding over fabric brought him out of his a memory-induced reverie. He barely had time to notice Squall standing behind him before the other man stooped and curled his arms over the blond's shoulders, covering both of them with the sheet he had brought from the bed.
"Hope you don't mind," Squall murmured into his ear, nibbling on it as the whim took him, "but not everything that should be in there is in there."
With an almost soundless sigh, Seifer tipped his head slightly, allowing Squall to do what he pleased. "What do you mean?" he whispered back.
"I needed to remind myself of you."
The blond twisted his head enough to be able to look at Squall. "I thought so. What the hell d'you do to my pillow, Leonhart? It's all . . . flat and squishy."
Squall shrugged. "I slept with it. It was a pretty poor substitute for the real thing, but I had to make do."
Seifer laughed softly. "Well, now that you have the real thing, you owe me a new pillow."
*sighs mournfully* And a perfectly good angsty songfic is ruined by my over-application of flufferoonie. *shrugs* Oh, well. I'm addicted to happy endings. ^^'
Merry Christmas! ^^
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