Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to the Final Fantasy series. They belong to Squaresoft.
Let Me Make It Alright
Chapter 29: Nothing Else Matters
By Angry Angel
His mind and heart were racing as he steered the Garden Jeep across the plains of Balamb at life threatening speed. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered, nothing except for Squall. He had to find him, find him before anything happened to him. Never in his life had his entire being been filled with such fear. His conscience was screaming out at him, urging him to drive faster. He was trusting his instincts, laying his life into the hands of fate as he cut through the rain and mud, knowing that at this speed, any second could be his last.
Everything was a void of grey and thunder, he didn't even know where he was going. He didn't even know where to look.
He floored the gas pedal all the same.
His heart was beating so hard against his chest that it hurt, but even the harshest of pains didn't matter. He knew what stakes were at risk; there was only so much pain that a spirit could take before it would crack, and Hyne, Squall's had taken far too much already.
:::"He ran outside. He was really pale. He was crying.":::
Those words were burning in his head, throbbing in hot fire. He didn't even feel the tears pooling in the corners his eyes. His fear was consuming his all as his hands wrenched tighter around the steering wheel.
'I. won't. lose. you.'
Suddenly, a new feeling sliced through his panic. Something was calling him, crying out for his aid. He couldn't hear it, but the presence filled him until his breath hitched. He knew that feeling. The familiar sensation of something slipping into his mind, finding a quiet corner to rest and unfold.
'A Guardian Force...?'
~Help him... help him... please... stop him...~
Every muscle contracted, he let the high crying, clear ringing whistle of words take control over him. His foot slammed the brake with all of his might, and he was out of his seat and in the menacing mud grey night before his car had even come to a perfect halt. His gunblade was thudding against the side of his thigh as he dashed through the darkness, rain pouring down on him in endless fury. There was no wonder, no question. He knew exactly where to go.
The fire grotto forest arose before him in the distance, dark and brooding and foreboding. Whatever Guardian Force had led him there, it had been right. It had known. The pale blue light shining away in the darkness like a beacon in the blackest of seas left no room for doubts.
And Seifer ran. Ran for the life of the person that he loved and wanted nothing more than to protect. Faster than his feet had ever carried him before, he was closing in on the light.
'Be alright, Hyne, just fucking be alive.'
He opened his mouth to scream, to scream out Squall's name with all his soul.
He stood frozen in the moment, staring at the picture that had unfolded before him in the rain.
The picture of a nightmare.
A slender boy's body, dressed in thin rain soaked black clothes, who was nothing but a quivering wreck, was slumped down in the mud with his back against a tree; a familiar scene, yet so sickly twisted. Between his sprawled out legs he held LionHeart, which shed a soft azure light that cut through the dark veil of the night. Blood dripping gloved hands were curled around the naked blade, and LionHeart's mortal tip was directed right at Squall's very heart.
Lightning cut the sky, tearing into the ground mere feet away from Seifer. He didn't flinch a single muscle. His eyes were fixed on Squall.
"Don't. Don't, that's not worth it!!"
Squall's head lowered, a wet curtain of brown hair obscuring his face from vision.
His voice was barely more than a whisper, but Seifer heard it nonetheless.
That didn't change anything.
"I am not going to leave," he breathed tediously, but full of determination.
A quiet laugh suddenly rung from the bottom of the tree, drenched in bitterness that was infinitely fueled by years of rejection and loneliness.
"She showed you the way... didn't she... Shiva... she left me... just like everyone else... they all betray me..."
"No. She called me to protect you."
"I... don't need..."
"You do. More than anything."
Had Seifer Almasy ever experienced time compression, he would have mistaken the moment for it. The raving nature around them didn't touch his conscience; they had been drawn out of time, out of place, out of existence. All he saw was Squall. All he heard was Squall. All he felt... was a flurry of excruciating fear.
The fear of losing the only person he had ever truly cared for.
"As if... you even care...you're just like... everybody else..."
All that time, he had understood nothing.
"I care more than I have ever cared about anything else in my life."
The blonde stepped closer with all truth spilling from his lips, while semi-consciously trying to get within a leap's range of Squall's body. He would try to make the younger brunette understand, try to make him see that he did indeed care, that all of his life he had never cared about anything but Squall; but even if he couldn't make him see, he would save his life all the same.
Seifer had a promise to keep...
"Liar...," he heard Squall hiss rancorously through clenched teeth.
... and no matter what, he was going to keep it.
It wasn't until that gentle word left his lips before Seifer finally received a physical reaction. The SeeD's rain soaked body twitched forcefully, breath hitching in his chest. Squall hadn't heard the blonde gunblader say his first name for a very, very long time. He had been Leonhart, puberty boy, ice prince... he had been so many things. He hadn't been Squall to that man for what seemed like an eternity.
"Squall," Seifer repeated softly, loving the way the beautiful name rolled off his tongue.
He couldn't see the wide storm blue eyes that were hidden behind trails of cold brown hair, couldn't see the tears washing down snowy cheeks. Couldn't see how those same eyes clenched shut again, not wanting to trust, not wanting to give.
Not wanting to take.
"No..." Squall choked bitterly, shaking his head in a miserable daze.
With that simple plea, Seifer crashed onto his knees next to Squall's broken figure. Desperate, he witnessed how Squall's gloved and blood dripping hands wrenched deeper into his sword, tearing open the delicate flesh of his palms. LionHeart's hilt was plunged shallowly into the mud covering the ground. The blade was shaking, matching the tremors of Squall's legs.
"Stop," he begged croakily. "Stop hurting yourself."
Finally, Squall raised his head and lifted his gaze to meet Seifer's. The sight shattered the blonde man's heart. There was so much agony, so much pain and desolation. All those emotions that Squall had locked away for so long had finally emerged to the surface.
And they were going to break him.
"I can't... I can't do this anymore..." he pressed under the strain of tears, eyes faltering with strident glares of purest despair.
"Of course you can't," Seifer whispered urgently, his hands clenched to fists as they were resting on his thighs, "you've gone through so much, Squall, all by yourself. I'm here to help you, you hear me? I've always been here."
Squall's lips locked together as his blurred gaze was being held by Seifer's dancing green pools of emerald and jade. Green so rich and sanguine that in the depths of his tortured mind, he recalled the color green to be the color of hope.
He wanted to cry out.
He had lost hope so long ago.
"I can't..." he whispered again, tears choking his words.
"I know it's hard, I know, believe me. I don't expect you to say anything, Squall. Just... don't stop me."
With those words, Seifer gently leaned forward and let his hands travel towards Squall's, which still held the dangerous blade firmly in place. The blonde gunblader never let the SeeD's broken face out of sight as he slowly moved in. His golden features phased into a reassuring smile that reached his eyes, and radiated warmth like the sun even in the coldest of nights.
"Trust me," he whispered.
He saw the doubt lighting up in Squall's eyes, fear of betrayal flaring like a powerful flame that had been fed by years of hurt and disappointment. Afraid of what the younger man would do, Seifer abandoned all careful restraint and lunged forward into Squall's body to seize the blue blade tightly, wrenching it out of the brunette's hands and his reach with the speed of a man that had everything to lose.
At the feeling of his sword being violently torn from his grasp, Squall cried out angrily and rocked forward in the vain attempt to reclaim his weapon, but his body crashed against Seifer's like the sea against the shores. The blonde didn't falter or edge backwards as far as an inch. He kneeled firmly, tossing the gunblade a distance behind himself. Without hesitating but a second, he jerked his own Hyperion from his belt and disposed of it with a strong flick of his arm as well, thus leaving Squall with no weapon at reach.
"I hate you, Almasy!!" Squall spat, hurt and desperate anger branding each word as he thrust them out with all the wrath his violated soul could gather.
Seifer's face gave away the torment in his heart at those words, but still he managed to remain calm against Squall's attempts to violently struggle out of his bodily capture. Both of his hands seized the dark haired SeeD's shoulders, pinning them securely against the tree. Squall kicked and fought for every inch of ground he could gain, but his moves were too emotional and didn't have the source of energy they needed to back them up. Whatever he tried, it was in vain. Eventually, his body merely tensed once more, last residual shreds of anger ground together... then he went limp in Seifer's grasp.
There was no motion coming from the blonde gunblader who still steadied Squall by his shoulders. His head hung low, rain soaked golden hair glued against his skin. At his hands, he could feel Squall's body shudder under tears. The inside of his bent left knee was touching the boy's thigh, and his right foot was firmly planted between Squall legs. Beneath them, even the earth seemed to be echoing Squall's wretched shivers.
"Why..." finally came a cracked whisper, throbbing with anguish.
Seifer raised his head sadly and met a pair of storm cloud eyes that were shadowed with tears. He knew that Squall couldn't understand his feelings. How could he? Seifer himself didn't even fully comprehend. Yet, somewhere deep inside his heart, he had hoped that Squall would grasp the meaning of his actions, the importance of his own life to Seifer. But maybe neither of them was meant to experience such happiness.
"Because I don't want you to die."
It was the truth, yet the most blatant lie he had ever told. His answer didn't even come close to explaining his true feelings. He just wanted to spare Squall any more trouble, any more hurt, as well as he wanted to spare himself cold rejection.
Seifer swallowed hard, jade green welding to the eyes that danced with tears and looked at him full of confusion, loss and incomprehension.
So innocent. He had no clue.
The corners of his mouth lifted to a sad smile and he reached for Squall's face, gently thumbing away the wetness beneath his long eyelashes. A single tear trailed down Seifer's finger slowly, and he watched it losing itself in the rain and the creases of his hand.
At last, all of Squall's dams broke lose. Storm torn eyes wrenched shut tightly as he dug his battered, blood adorned hands into his hair and his mouth let out long contained sounds of erratic, uncontrolled sobs.
Seifer's eyes widened in horror, absolutely overwhelmed by the sight, and he simply let his protective instincts take over. Without wasting time on hesitation, his hands found the back of Squall's head and his shoulders, and in the burning wish to do something, anything, to ease Squall's suffering, Seifer drew the boy into a tight hug, enfolding him into his arms with all the strength he could muster. He didn't know what else to do or say; all he could do was be there and crush Squall against him to cry into his chest.
His chin resting on top of the younger SeeD's wet hair, Seifer himself started to tear up at the force of his emotions. He loved that guy with all his heart, loved him so much that all of his frantic sadness felt like it was just as much his very own.
"Sshh... it's alright," he muttered, "it's alright, Squall."
Clenching his eyes shut, his hands curling to fists at the brunette's skin and hair, the pain grew so unbearable that he wanted to scream. It wasn't right that either of them had to endure such mind numbing agony. It wasn't fair. He wanted it to stop, no matter at what price. No matter what he would have to do.
"I'll make it alright... I swear... I promise..." he ground out shakily.
Soft and soothing murmurs gushed from his lips and vanished into the muss of Squall's hair. He would have gladly given his life that night if it would have just made Squall's pain go away, but his wish was not granted. Squall's strength, pride and dignity, it all had been snapped so cruelly by the hurt he had buried inside his heart for too long. Seifer hated the world for leaving him with nothing to do but cover the man he loved in his embrace and hope that he could make a difference.
They stayed that way, Seifer whispering gentle words of reassurance, Squall sobbing heartbreakingly and uncontrollably in his arms, shivers wrecking his body in raging agony. Rain and blood was quickly soaking both of them until they became one with the coiling nature around them. Eternity seemed to melt into nothingness. Their pain, born by one but shared by heartfelt empathy, was everything.
Finally, Squall's croaky cries subsided, if only because they had drained his last frail reserves of energy. Limbs tired and heavy, he unclenched his muscles one by one and went slack in Seifer's comforting embrace.
Suddenly, the only sound audible was the rain tearing into the ground and their bodies, and Seifer sucking in air rhythmically through thick strands of wet hair.
Very slowly, reason returned to Seifer's fogged mind. He knew that they couldn't linger out in the cold any longer. The thunder and lightning had stopped, but rain was still beating down on them incessantly. Slowly, he curled his hands around Squall's neck and eased the boy away from himself, closely watching for any possible reaction.
There was nothing.
Squall submitted into being drawn away from Seifer's body just as he had submitted into being drawn against it. It was as if the crucial difference did not matter at all.
Squall's head hung low, eyes empty and out of focus. Ever so gently, Seifer placed a hand underneath the SeeD's chin and tilted it upwards.
"Squall," he started. "Look at me."
More pain pooled in those shadowed blue orbs as they slowly ascended to meet pleading emerald glaring with arduously restrained tears. It was difficult for Seifer to hold Squall's tormented gaze, but even so, he managed to smile softly.
"I'm going to take you out of here."
For a second, Seifer feared his heart would give out from the strain when he saw how Squall merely lowered his eyes again; eyes that were so devoid of any will or emotion. He bit his lip sharply at the sight, causing the delicate flesh to rupture and a thin trail of blood to run down his chin and fuse with the rain. He didn't even notice.
He rested Squall's back against the tree and rose to full height to gather their swords. All the while, his watchful gaze never left Squall's petrified features. He strapped both LionHeart and Hyperion to his belt, neither minding their weight or their blades etching into his legs, nor realizing the strange, disturbing blackish blue tint to Squall Leonhart's sword. He really did have more important things to worry about.
Seifer returned to Squall's body and lowered himself into a squatting position.
His blood adorned and bruised lips drew into a sad smile full of bitterness, as he slid both of his arms underneath Squall's legs and his back.
"Just this once..."
Unfolding his legs beneath his body, he managed to rise, Squall cradled safely in his arms. He adjusted his grasp, gently tilting Squall's head to rest against his chest instead of merely slumping backwards carelessly. The SeeD's muscles were making no attempt at holding out any longer. If he wouldn't have known any better, Seifer would have thought that Squall had drifted off into unconsciousness.
'Maybe part of him has.'
Green eyes roamed the fathomless space surrounding their position, trying to locate the car's general direction. He had sprinted so fast without paying any heed to where he was going, he wasn't sure that he would be able to find his jeep again.
Finally, his sight narrowed when he spotted two cones of dim yellow against bottomless grey. The car's headlights.
It was quite a distance to be walking with two long swords at his waist and the dead weight body in his arms, but he didn't care. He had carried Squall further than that before, and he would have carried him all the way to Esthar, too, if that was where they would have had to go.
While he slowly walked through the rain and mud, his greenstone gaze kept glueing itself to the boy in his arms. Squall's right hand was laying in his lap, while his left arm hung slack towards the ground, leaving a few drops of blood every now and then to spill to the earth and melt into the mud. Seifer knew he had to look at those wounds, but he didn't want to do it in the dirt. He'd have to take Squall back to Balamb Garden first.
Balamb Garden... he had no idea what awaited him there. He had charged after Squall abandoning all promises he had made of not leaving the school's grounds, and he had even gone so far as threatening and hurting people in the process.
A cold, humorless smirk curled his lips.
'Guess I wasn't made to obey rules... I'm definitely done for.'
What worried him the most, though, was the idea of Squall being seen in his current condition. His friends would not understand. And after all, Laguna and Rinoa were still there, too. His face darkened at the thought. They were the last people Squall should have to lay eyes on again. No wonder Squall felt betrayed to the very core. His own father...
His body wanted to jolt in anger, but he restrained himself. He didn't want to scare or disturb Squall. Not if he could help it.
Quietly, he carried him all the way to the car. With impressive motor skills, Seifer managed to open the passenger door using just the tips of his fingers and his leg. The smoothness of his movements had never compared to Squall's, but was extraordinary nonetheless. Years of training had rendered him much stronger and more dexterous than most.
Gently, he slipped the drooping body into the seats, making sure that it came to rest in a position that was both comfortable and safe. Squall's gaze was still empty and bare of any direction or focus. He looked as if his soul had just shut itself off and retreated to a place where nobody would hurt it.
Seifer closed the door with a careful thud and circled the car to the driver's seat. In his flight to the forest he had even forgotten slam the door shut, hence his seat was reminding him very much of a wet sponge. He sat down and ignored it, then closed the door to the storm and glanced once more at the brunette who had drowned himself wholly in his painful catatonic stupor. Squall's body was slumped into the back of his seats, his eyes half-closed and staring dully at the glove box like a pair of broken mirrors, devoid of life and volition and love.
Seifer slowly rested his head against the steering wheel and finally allowed himself to cry.
=To be continued!=
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