Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to the Final Fantasy series. They belong to Squaresoft.
Let Me Make It Alright
Chapter 39: Should Have Known Better
By Angry Angel
"5:35pm. I told you we'd be early."
Calmly, Squall was pulling the car into the city of Balamb. He was slowing down distinctly, which surprised Seifer to a certain extent. Then again, Squall had never been one to take uncalculated risks. The last thing he would do was to howl ass through a town buzzing with pedestrians. Needless to say, they received very curious and envy-struck looks from the latter, as Squall was focusing on steering their sleek black ride through the narrow streets.
Seifer grew slightly uncomfortable. He had thus far done well at avoiding Balamb and the people there that knew him so much better than he liked, and now the familiarity of the place was clogging up his throat. He had spent so many years roaming those streets with Fujin and Raijin - hitting on girls, picking fights, dancing at the local club and shopping for useless gadgets. Those memories now followed his trail like the scent of the ocean that he could almost hear booming in the distance, an ocean so vast and untamed that even Seifer held it in great respect.
He had almost forgotten that he wasn't alone.
Blinking, Seifer looked around. Drunk in his memories, he hadn't even noticed how Squall had pulled into a parking lot near the harbour. From afar, he could see the piers that were lined with ships, some of which Garden property, and along the promenade there were salesmen pushing trolleys with food and souvenirs for the numerous tourists that visited Balamb during the summer.
A fresh, salty breeze caught in his hair, gently carrying tiny wisps of golden tresses into his face that he only reluctantly brushed away with a quick flick of his hand. Somehow dazed, he turned his head to Squall, who had taken off his sunglasses and was staring quietly upon the ocean. The way his fathomless eyes perfectly mirrored the color of the sea was only too fascinating, but before Seifer could wholly drown himself in the sight, the brunette had already diverted his attention.
"We should get out of the car."
His simple pragmatism could have been amusing, but Seifer was in no mood for laughter. He strangely felt like he had entered a completely different world, so far away and shut off from everything that was reality. Even Squall, who was already ethereal by nature, seemed so hypnotically surreal that Seifer almost wanted to reach out and touch his ivory frame to make sure that he was really there, sitting next to him like an ancient dream from a carefree youth so long forgotten.
Semiconsciously, Seifer took off his sunglasses and stared at the boy at his side without the barrier of tinted glass.
Squall's brows had converged at the engrossed look in Seifer's eyes. Tilting his head to the side and back slightly, he watched how Seifer's upper body incrementally leaned towards his, and he crinkled his pale nose in confusion and apprehension at the gesture.
"Seifer, what are you doing?"
Quickly, he extended one arm and connected it with the shoulder of the guy who was still gazing at him with wide emerald eyes that were completely out of focus. Fortunately, halting his friend's body in that position wasn't too difficult, since Seifer appeared to be totally detached from reality.
"Seifer," Squall frowned, "Hey! Wake up!"
Like a rubber band, something inside Seifer snapped sharply at the urge in Squall's voice. He ricocheted back when he realized that he had been leaning half-way across the brunette's seat, and his mind finally cleared from heavy clouds and brooding mists that had apparently emerged out of nowhere.
"Squall..." he stuttered blankly.
The other was still frowning, but there was concern in his eyes as well. Zoning out like that was by no means typical for his blonde companion, and for a moment, Squall wondered whether he had done the right thing by bringing Seifer to Balamb; The place just had to be laden with unpleasant memories. It hadn't been his intention at all to remind Seifer of the painful past, and now he was feeling extremely foolish, if not guilty.
"We don't have to stay here," he offered quickly.
Seifer had to ponder that remark for a moment, not having been able to follow the path of thoughts inside Squall's mind, before he understood what the younger was implying.
"No, I want to stay."
"Yeah. Let's get out already."
Forcing himself to smile assuringly, Seifer pushed out of the car. Squall hesitated briefly, not at all fooled by the blonde's happy-go-lucky impression. Maybe he had become so good at picking up other people's emotional dilemmas, because he himself was so very experienced with dark moods and haunting memories. Either way, Seifer couldn't trick him.
"Didn't think you'd make me wait, Squall."
The fact that Seifer was trying to conceal his discomfort almost managed to rise just a little bit of angry heat in Squall's frozen body. Maybe it wasn't so much anger as it was disappointment, but the former seemed a lot less complicated than the latter.
And Squall hated complications.
Seifer watched how the brunette finally tore himself out of his stupor and slid out of his seat. To his curiosity, Squall's suddenly rotated his body gently, and he bent back down to look for something on the floor of the car. While he was slipping his silver sunglasses into the pocket of his pants, his steel blue gaze was obviously tracking attentively across the bottom in front of the driver's seat.
"Did ya lose something?"
Squall's head jerked up again hastily, and Seifer couldn't shake off the feeling that the other was hiding something from him. Cocking one eyebrow and tilting his head, he witnessed how Squall stumbled upwards and around the front of the car, his view slightly inclined. Then the brunette stopped in one place and glanced at Seifer quickly, with a distinct edge of nervousness in his gestures.
He wasn't lying by any means, but he didn't go so far as to explain to Seifer what exactly he had been doing, either. A slight blush crept its way to his cheeks, but he fought down his embarrassment with the ferocity of a lion.
"Let's go," he said with unnatural cheerfulness.
'Ok... this is... weird? What was he doing?'
Squall didn't leave Seifer time to ponder the question any further, because he flashed a smile that, despite the fact that it had been rather calculating, rocked through every inch of the blonde's body. Stupefied, he let his legs carry him to Squall's side, which the shorter guy redeemed with another fragile grin, before pointing along the pier.
"Where are we going?"
"To the restaurant."
"Why walk from here?"
Squall remained the master of one-phrase answers. Whether or not he was annoying the living hell out of Seifer didn't seem to concern him too much. Casually, he walked a few steps, Seifer still at his side but distracted by his own nagging curiosity. Sure, he liked surprises, but once again he had to admit to himself that really, he did not possess a glimpse of the patience needed to sit through the length of one.
"You're gonna push me off a pier, aren't you?" he joked in the vain attempt of coaxing the truth out of his secretive companion.
"That wasn't my plan, but thanks for the suggestion, I might come back to that."
Seifer couldn't help but laugh and nudge Squall in the side, who almost reeled over at the force of the touch.
"You little prick."
Squall flicked some loose strands of chocolate hair from his eyes that were obviously bothering him. After that, he wasn't quite sure what to do with his hands, so he crossed his arms in front of his chest as they were slowly walking along the edge of the water. Seifer threw him a probing glance that was oozing with impertinence.
"Are you cold, ice princess?"
Squall had to unfold his arms to be able to flip Seifer off, and he gladly did so. Somehow, their little banters had lost their caustic passion, though. Neither of them was actually offended or hurt in their pride, it was just a fun way to communicate. Sure, it was childish by any means, but Squall didn't care so much anymore, and Seifer never had to begin with.
The brunette commander of Balamb Garden was enjoying their little stroll at the harbour that was crowded with other locals and tourists. He usually hated to be around people if he could in any way avoid it, but the fact that Seifer was next to him made all the difference in the world. Whenever he would risk to take a fleeting look at the blonde, he was greeted by a wide, reassuring smile that melted his insides to a mess of warm goo. It was like a playful tickling in his stomach, a feeling of pleasant prickles all over his skin that he had never experienced before.
Before he could help it, Squall was smiling silly.
"What you smiling about?"
Turning his head, he got entangled in orbs that were green like an enchanted forest, but a forest that was on fire and burning into him. Once more, the intensity brought warmth to spots of Squall's body that he didn't even know that he had.
His lips quirked as he whipped his stare aside again quickly, away from Seifer and to the sea. There was only a slight breeze billowing the Balamb crest flags that lined the pier, and the water was fairly tranquil. A sparkling surface of endless blue and grey, deep and mysterious like the eyes of the boy that carried the name of a perfect storm. Those eyes were still warding themselves against pain and disappointment, protecting so earnestly what feelings were hidden beyond them. The wards were gradually crumpling though, lucid blue winning over distant grey more and more often.
Mutely, Squall sighed.
Forsaking his fears was difficult, so very difficult, but there was hope also. Maybe he wouldn't have to be afraid this time, maybe Seifer really cared for him. Even though that shallow, nocturnal voice in his head was telling him different, he believed that Seifer would not abandon him. Maybe because he wanted to believe it with all his heart, hoping as desperately as he was able to permit. He owed so much to that guy, and he wanted to give something back, even if it was something as trivial as friendship or fragile teenage affection.
Squall was far from stupid. He knew what those feelings inside his stomach and his heart meant whenever he laid eyes on Seifer. Those feelings went beyond the mere platonic companionship he felt towards Zell and the others, he understood that much. Seifer was different. It was more than he had ever felt for Rinoa, but he wasn't sure whether it was powerful enough to qualify as 'love', either. By all means, he couldn't know. He had never been in love, and those emotions that quelled from his heart at the memory of his sis or the faded image of his mother weren't exactly identical with the ones momentarily unsettling him, either.
Well, whatever those feelings were, they sure had their way with him.
He hadn't noticed how Seifer had moved up next to him and was now gazing upon the ocean as well. Squall raised his head, looking at the profile of his friend with barely hidden interest. When Seifer turned to look down at him, eyes deeply colored with blue locked with his.
"Is that why you took me here?"
Squall spared another thoughtful look at the vastness of the ocean and the seagulls soaring in a reddening sky, before he allowed himself to nod. Seifer's luminous features eased into a smile immediately, the kind of smile that raised the pressure in Squall's chest and throat another notch. Somehow, he felt that he should elaborate on his actions, which was definitely a first for the eighteen year old.
"I thought you might enjoy it," he remarked insecurely, "You always did like the ocean."
"Yeah. As did you."
"I still do."
Seifer had expected nothing else.
"You always sat on the beach as a kid. I remember. You'd just stare at the water for hours."
Thin dark brows arched in surprise at the comment.
"How do you know about that?"
"I watched you."
It was a simple statement, but it carried infinite meaning. All those times, Squall had thought that he had been alone. Alone on the beach at the shores of the orphanage, crying because he missed his sis, a family, a home. Those were intimate memories that he had never meant to share with anyone, and he could feel his defenses rise at the face of shame and betrayal.
"I always wished I could make your pain go away, but it wasn't in my place to do so, I guess. We were so young back then, too. I was an ass and you were impossible to reach," the blonde stated calmly. "Things are different now, I think. You aren't as tough and untouchable as you always pretend to be, and that's alright. You don't have to sit alone anymore, Squall."
And once again, Seifer had walked through Squall's mental walls as if they meant nothing. As uncomfortable as this unexpected cognition of hurt privacy was, the words from Seifer's mouth were exactly the ones that the younger brunette had always been needing to hear. So often, he had wished that the ocean could just wash away his pain and his past, but maybe one man could do what the greatest force of nature could not.
Squall's chest was heaving softly underneath silky blue fabric as he was standing motionless in the heart of the increasing winds. His lips tasted faintly of salt, and his hair was brushing into his face with feathery gentleness. Seifer was holding him captured simply by a look and a smile, clearing his mind from anything that had never deserved to be there. The gradually setting sun caressed Seifer's golden complexion and reflected in his hair like liquid gold, a sight that robbed Squall from both breath and reason.
Very slowly, Seifer's large hand travelled forward to brush away the stray hair from Squall's forehead, caringly smoothing it behind his ear. His smile firmed and relaxed again, as did Squall's body at the touch.
Squall blinked languidly with lids that hardly remembered how to perform the movement. For once, Seifer could read the shorter boy like an open book. His confusion was only too obvious, and adorable at that.
"First of all, for not hurling me off the edge of the pier because you found out I was watching ya when we were kids," he answered with an amused smirk, "And second because you took me here with you."
The younger teen was obviously not used to reacting to thank you's, least of all when he had done everything in the intention of thanking Seifer - not the other way around. Either way, he understood that he had picked wisely enough, but the evening had of course only started. There was still a thing or two that he had planned...
'Damn, which reminds me...'
"We need to get going."
It wasn't quite the reaction that Seifer had been hoping for, but wasn't so much different from what he had expected, either. Squall looked flustered, but he didn't necessarily seem unhappy, which was an achievement of sorts. Still, the blonde was starting to wonder how long he would be able to retain himself and his forward temper. The slow pace at which he was making progress was beginning to eat away on his already thinning patience.
Nevertheless, he forced himself to hold a neutral expression and he nodded.
"Yeah, guess so."
They didn't talk at all on the rest of their way. Squall led him to the small, but exclusive restaurant "Harbour Seal" that was located right at the water. Seifer himself had never been to that corner of Balamb, and he wondered if Squall had eaten at the place with somebody else before. He felt a bitter twinge inside his heart at the thought, something that was much closer to jealousy than he liked. It wasn't like he had much reason to be jealous, either, since he had been infinitely more of a playboy than his brunette companion. He would have needed his own two hands and somebody else's to tick off all his lovers and amorous acquaintances.
Still... the feeling was there, and before the two guys entered the "Harbour Seal" through the wide double doors, he couldn't help but ask.
"You've been here with Rinoa, haven't ya?"
Squall froze with the door knob in his hand, his eyes suddenly pinned to some indefinable spot on the colorfully stained glass windows. Very slowly, he managed to turn his head, and there was such disbelief in pools of thunderous grey that Seifer immediately regretted the question.
'Fuck, what's my problem? Dumbass me.'
The brunette was still staring at him with an air that Seifer could not describe, and as a matter of fact Squall seemed to be looking through and beyond him rather than at him, really. Maybe he was simply upset, but maybe he knew what deeper reasons were laying trapped inside that inconsiderate question. Either way, the young commander impressively succeeded at swallowing down the lump in his throat.
"No reason to be."
Stepping backwards, he pulled the door to a full open, a mute invitation for Seifer to enter. The older gunblader complied with the offer and finally set foot into the small foyer of the beautifully designed restaurant. It was furnished with gorgeous dark woods and navy blue fabrics, decorated with all sorts of marine equipment on the walls and at the bar that they could make out a little further inside the main eating space. Waiters and waitresses in neat black and white uniforms were taking orders and delivering food, while one of them was working at a small reception desk. Squall assertively approached the middle aged man with the fashionably blasé facial expression.
"Good evening, Sir, how may I be of assistance?" the clerk drawled languidly.
Seifer found the false politeness rather emetic, but for Squall's sake he didn't do or say anything obscene, as tempting as the opportunity was. His younger friend seemed entirely unimpressed as he placed one hand on his hip.
"I have a reservation for a table for two at six o'clock tonight."
"Ah, yes," the clerk said while casting a wry, snobbish glance at Seifer, who promptly stared back intimidatingly, "And the name is?"
Seifer's urge to vomit was evicted by the urge to remove a tooth or a dozen from the man's sudden mucilaginous smile. Of course the clerk had heard of Squall Leonhart, hero of the sorceress war, son of the president of Esthar and commander of the most influential military installation on the continent. The way everybody fell into a bootlicking pattern at the very sound of Squall's name did not only make Seifer sick, but Squall had apparently learned to deal with it months ago.
"I sincerely apologize for making you wait, Mister Leonhart. Your table is of course ready, and the most favored in our house too, if I might add."
With interest, Seifer studied how Squall merely nodded patiently. He really didn't seem the least bit impressed.
"If you and..." the man cast another skewed look at the blonde and continued to smile unctuously, "... your guest would please follow me."
'And if you look at me again like that you'll be collecting those teeth off the floor here in a minute, sleaze.'
Seifer resisted the temptation of treating the man to a free amateur dentist therapy and instead followed his lead and Squall's enticing rear view to their table. He wondered whether the brunette had insisted on its rather secluded location, but he had nothing to object. The restaurant was fairly crowded, and more than one not so subtle curious or lusting look followed their tails. It was satisfying to know that nobody would get to overly ogle Squall, or Seifer himself for that matter.
This was their evening, and theirs alone.
The table was nice, located right at the window and decorated with a beautiful seashell and candle arrangement. When he cast a look at the sunset over the ocean beyond their panoramic view, Seifer almost wished that they could sit outside, but he knew that the shores tended to get very cold after sundown, even during summer time. So this was quite alright.
The waiter had apparently snatched a pair of menus from somewhere, and when the two guys sat down across from each other, he laid them out before them with a slight bow.
"If you would like to have a look at our menu, your waitress will be right with you and inform you of today's special."
Squall dismissed the man with a curt nod that teased Seifer to a provocative smirk. Trying not to embarrass his date was certainly more difficult than he had expected, but he was going to make this work. If this was Squall's world, then he would try to be a part of it.
"I thought he'd never leave," Squall growled silently.
Seifer took that as a sign that it was alright to chuckle in amusement.
"No shit. Is it always like this when you go out?"
"I don't go out," Squall stated plainly.
Of course. Squall had never been the party animal of Garden, unlike his blonde companion or some of his friends, so the fact that the brunette had taken him out for a date really warmed Seifer's insides, and his earlier frustration was almost forgotten.
Devoid of anything else to say, Seifer decided to emerge himself into the stunningly artsy menu. When his eyes found the numbers next to the various items, though, he hissed loudly.
"What?! A hundred gil for a stinking piece of fish?!"
Squall was watching him out of orbs half-hidden behind thick dark lashes as he had inclined his gaze, and he smiled.
"That's quite alright."
"Hell no, it's not! For a hundred gil I can go and catch us a fish and send it off to fucking college!"
The brunette chuckled low at Seifer's outrage. He was aware of the sky rocketing prices, but it wasn't like he couldn't afford it. On top of that, it wasn't like Seifer wasn't worth it, either...
"Don't worry about it and pick something you want."
"Damn, Squall, this is gonna cost a fortune."
"I'll give myself a raise tomorrow okay, so pick something already."
Before Seifer could object any further, a highly surprised voice suddenly interrupted them.
Still clutching their menus, both of them looked up in irritation. Squall didn't recognize the platinum haired figure in the waitress uniform right away, but when his eyes locked with pools that had the color of expensive crimson wine, he vaguely remembered. Not that he really needed to, as the blonde across from him bellowed the girl's name louder than was really appropriate for the establishment.
She glanced back and forth between both of them, if only with one eye. The other was mostly hidden by a curtain of silvery-white bangs that trailed into her face. Didn't she use to wear an eye patch? Squall could not remember. Either way, her hands almost dropped the notepad she had been holding, and the usually stone faced expression that Squall had thus far associated her with had been shattered.
"What are you doing here?" Seifer called out in surprise.
"Work," she stuttered blankly.
Squall studied her narrow figure with interest. He hadn't seen Fujin in a long time, and she had changed dramatically. Her appearance was softer somehow, and the delicate shirt she was wearing left no room to doubt that she was indeed female. For a while there, he had seriously been debating her gender. She was still staring at both of them in shock, but her former strength and self-assurance quickly returned.
And with it came curiosity.
"Seifer. Balamb? Why?"
Obviously, she still hadn't learned to talk in full sentences.
"We were worried."
Then again, maybe she had.
"I was at Garden," Seifer explained, "I had no idea you were here! Where's Raijin?"
"Kitchen. Not today. He's sick."
"Oh. Why are you working here of all places?"
"Need. They took us. We were hoping you'd come to Balamb."
"Well, I was already here. Shit, I had no clue."
Seifer shot a quick glance at Squall, who had been watching the scene with subtle interest. He figured that Squall was not familiar with the details of the arrangement that Seifer had originally made with Cid, and he thought it better to keep it that way.
"Ah, just wanted to see my old school again and shit. I had no idea where you guys were."
They were interrupted by somebody clearing their throat next to them rather loudly. It was the clerk that had led Squall and Seifer to their table, and he looked more than just slightly displeased.
"Excuse me, but is there a problem?"
Before Squall was able to reply, Fujin had shaken her head.
"Right. If you would continue with your work then, Miss Takaira."
Again, the platinum blonde nodded. Seifer threw the disappearing figure of the man a lethal scowl, before focusing on his female friend again. She had uncapped a pen and was looking at them with an air of profession.
"We talk later. Order."
She looked at Squall, who reciprocated the gaze quietly. It was strange for her to see those two men together at one table without hurling food at each other like they had done as kids. The brunette had matured a little more over the months, she thought, his face still soft but without any traces of childhood in either his eyes or his posture. There was something else different about him, too, though she couldn't quite put her finger on it. Being a woman, she had always been aware of Seifer's fascination with the young SeeD, and she understood her friend well. Squall had always been quite the sight to behold, ever since his childhood. And a look at Seifer told her that the blonde was extremely relaxed and comfortable in his SeeD friend's company. The former, after-war traces of faint darkness had yielded from the depths of his eyes, leaving them bright and green like shiny gems of emerald.
Overall, she decided, it was a good thing to see them together.
He returned to the menu and neutrally ordered a glass of water, a salad and a fish with a name that Seifer couldn't even pronounce. She took notes and diverted her attention towards her friend.
"Wine. Salad. Bass."
Seifer exchanged looks with his companion, and the brunette smiled ever so slightly.
"Sure, sounds good."
He watched her quickly scribbling some more notes onto her pad before she returned it to her long white apron with a snap. He just could not believe that his friend Fujin was working as a waitress. However had she managed to get that job with her extensive vocabulary?
"Back soon. Fun, you two."
Squall guessed that she meant 'have fun', and he blushed slightly as he watched her take the menus and return to the front of the restaurant. What had she been thinking when she saw the two of them together, he wondered? He really hadn't expected to meet anyone he knew at that place. He didn't necessarily mind so much, as he had never cared what everyone else thought about him, but it was weird nonetheless.
"Wow. Really didn't expect to be running into her!" Seifer vocalized his companion's thoughts.
"No. Me either."
"It has only been a few weeks, but she looks so different. She actually looks like a woman for once."
Squall chuckled lightly.
"She has a crush on Raijin, for whatever reason. Too bad he ain't here."
"How do you know?"
"That she likes him? I have an eye for those kind of things."
Squall swallowed dryly and quickly darted his gaze to the flickering flame of the candle on their table as he felt Seifer's eyes on himself. The heat that rushed through his body at the attentive look over was both uncomfortable and pleasant at the same time. Of course, he knew perfectly well that Seifer had only been kidding, but what if not? What if he was aware of Squall's feelings and the turmoil in his heart?
Would that be good or bad?
"You seem like you're afraid I'm gonna suck your brain through your eyes if you look at me."
The typical Seifer smirk was firmly in place when Squall finally did pierce him with a blank stare, if only out of defiance. That amused the blonde even more, and he laughed good-naturedly.
"No worries. It's not your brain I'm interested in."
Squall lowered his brows at the seductive comment. What was that supposed to mean again?
'Okay, Almasy, tone it down a notch. Being a little obvious. Your fault if he jumps and runs screaming if you keep going like this.'
Quickly, Seifer cleared his throat.
"Anyway, thanks for taking me here. I'm not really sure how I deserved this, but I appreciate it."
If there was a perfect moment for vocalizing his gratitude, Squall realized that this had to be the one. Biting his lips, he desperately roamed the back of his head for the right things to say, but all he could do was admire Seifer's figure in the dim light of the candle and the waning sunshine from the horizon. Gathering his last residual bits of courage around him, he took a deep breath.
"I... you... I should thank you."
"Me? Why?" Seifer asked with surprise.
"I owe you a lot."
"Why would you owe me anything?"
The lack of understanding in Seifer's voice was sincere. He really didn't feel like he had done anything out of the ordinary. Squall had been in trouble. Seifer loved Squall. So he had helped him, what was so unusual about that?
What Seifer did not realize was the fact that Squall had never received unconditional comfort and support like he had from the blonde. A feeling of safety and trust, consisting of an open ear that always listened to every little thing Squall had to say, eyes that shone with sincerity and a pair of strong arms he could drown himself in if need be.
There were those as well as a billion other things that Squall wanted to thank Seifer for, but where were those damned words when you needed them?
"You... you helped me... through the past weeks... I don't know how you did it, but you did. Without you, I... I..."
At the sight of raw emotion swirling turbulently in Squall's eyes, every part of Seifer's body came to a perfect still. The last time he had seen Squall so helpless and frantic, the boy had flung himself into his arms, and this time he looked like he was about to break out in tears.
Had his feelings really run that deep?
Had he really made that much of a difference?
The answer was right there in the corners of those azure blue depths, pooling like liquid crystals against a surface of bare sentiment. The wards had crumpled away, and Squall was finally letting him see the world that had been hidden beyond them; A world so fragile and vulnerable that it would shatter irreparably at the faintest onslaught. Squall had had every reason to mistrust people. He was so infinitely more delicate behind his stubborn defenses than Seifer had ever anticipated.
Somehow, that realization scared him.
Would he be able to protect something that could break so easily?
Would he be able to protect Squall against all the things that meant to harm him?
And again, he only needed to keep losing himself in those eyes. If there was anything worth fighting for, it was what he found right there. He had never been a man to give up, and he wasn't planning on breaking that habit. This was what he wanted, and this was what he was going to get.
"Shhh." He shook his head slowly, his face lighting up with a smile. "I know."
Carefully, he took one of Squall's hands that had been resting atop the table and was able to turn it over without receiving any resistance. With one finger, he gently traced the scar etched into the pale ivory palm, and his eyes connected with Squall's, who was staring at him out of wide, unaided blue lagoons that had kindled with understanding.
"This will heal with time," Seifer breathed softly, "And so will everything else."
Biting down the tears, Squall cast his gaze at his hand that was so gently cupped by Seifer's. Yes, he would heal. He had finally found a reason to. Scars faded with time, and memories that once were caustic with pain would dull like the pages of an aging book.
He just had to let them.
He smiled shyly, and Seifer could read the fear of rejection in that expression. He wanted to show Squall that there was nothing to be afraid of, but he couldn't use the moment to its full potential, because another waiter showed up next to them to deliver their ordered drinks and the salads. When his arduously exercised instincts kicked back in, Squall quickly retracted his hand. Seifer watched calmly how Squall choked down his disarrangement and replaced a somewhat neutral expression as he thanked the waiter.
'So easily distracted, aren't you. I know you are afraid. You should just trust me. I'm not going to hurt you.'
After the man had disappeared and they had quietly started to pick at their salads, Seifer realized that he had to ease the tension between them or Squall was not going to say a single word for the rest of the night. After studying the brunette for a few minutes through lowered lashes, he noticed something that had slipped his attention before.
"Hey, I thought you used to wear an earring?"
Thoughtfully, Squall touched his left earlobe before he shook his head, causing long tresses of chocolate hair to dance into his face.
"I did, but I took it out. Rinoa didn't like it, she said it looked..."
He broke off immediately, his expression glooming in the matter of an instant. Quickly, he reverted to stabbing his fork at the sliced tomatoes on his plate. Unfortunately for him, Seifer had understood only to well.
"She said it looked what? Gay?"
Squall twitched at the word, and his scowl only gained in strength. Of course, that was exactly what Rinoa had said. Squall wasn't one to change for others, but that comment back then had bothered him so much that he had taken the earring out.
"So that bothered you, I'm guessing."
The brunette didn't pick up on the probing under shadow to Seifer's voice. After all, he really hadn't thought far enough to give himself, or anyone else for that matter, the label 'gay'. The possibility that Seifer could be exactly that was totally beyond him. Squall merely hated to look like anything in particular, and certainly not gay or like a girl, as Seifer had called him often enough.
"No. Yes. No. I mean..."
He was shaking his head and nodding it at the same time, and Seifer found that confusion so adorable that he decided not to pry any further for the time being. There were other ways to find out the truth than to shadow and imply, and definitely more effective ways at that. Squall was too much on his guard to fall for simple traps like that, even if he did not sense them.
Very soon after that, Fujin reappeared with two plates of fish entrée that turned out to be absolutely fabulous. Unfortunately, Fujin couldn't stick around for more conversation, but Seifer enjoyed the meal without her company all the same. He definitely had to revoke his initial judgement of the restaurant; He had never tasted a better seafood dish.
Squall seemed to be enjoying his order, too, though he wasn't saying much. He did glance at Seifer occasionally, though, and asked whether he liked his food. Seifer made sure to thank him again for the invitation, which only resulted in an increase in Squall's embarrassment. Nonetheless, he was beaming with joy over Seifer's approval. Ice prince or not, the blonde's judgement meant a lot to him.
Overall, Squall decided after he had finished, the evening had been a success. Now he just had to give Seifer the surprise that he had picked up for him earlier during the day. Luckily he had managed to slip it inside his pocket at the car without Seifer noticing. Actually giving it to the blonde would be a whole different story, though.
Finally, he called Fujin for the check. She brought it promptly, and while Squall was roaming his wallet for an appropriate credit card, the platinum blonde girl fisted her hands on her hips and glared down at Seifer.
"Seifer. Balamb Garden, how much longer?"
Squall had to resist the urge to yank up his head at the question. While his fingers searched aimlessly through his wallet, his ears were perked up, waiting for Seifer's reply.
"Well," Seifer answered casually, "Don't really know."
"Nothing in particular. Just hanging out with our little commander here," he smirked, jabbing his thumb in Squall's direction.
The brunette still didn't raise up.
"We miss you," Fujin added reluctantly, "Stay in Garden?"
"Nah, not much longer, but we'll talk about that some other time, Fu."
Squall's eyes shattered wide.
..::: "Nah, not much longer." :::..
Had Seifer had any idea what those words were doing to Squall, he never would have given sound to them. When the brunette understood that Seifer had no plans of staying with him any longer than necessary, his chest constricted painfully.
.. He is going to leave. ..
.. Just like everyone else. ..
Seifer had never planned on staying with him. He was merely a pastime for the blonde, a feeble source of amusement, if even.
Who had he been trying to fool?
The pain was nothing compared to the anger he felt inside his heart at his own stupidity. He had been so blind, so gullible. Of course Seifer had no intentions of staying, why would he? There was nothing for him worth staying for. He had his friends and his quirk for travelling and adventures. The last thing he would want was to be strung down in his former school with his former rival.
Just how oblivious could one person be?
No wonder it hurt. Stupidity of that dimension deserved to be punished.
Forcing down the bitter tears, Squall roughly shoved his credit card and the check with the added gratuity into Fujin's hands without looking at her. He didn't see the surprise in her expression or Seifer's at the rude gesture, he merely nailed his gaze to the blackened sea outside the window.
"Back... in a moment," the girl stated almost insecurely before she left.
Seifer had his eyes fixed upon Squall, who had his face turned away from him as far as he could. The older blonde knew immediately that something was wrong. Cursing Squall's ability to change moods with the speed of the light, he tilted his head in concern and allowed his face to be darkened by a frown.
The brunette ignored him persistently.
Nothing at all.
"Squall, talk to me, okay? What's the matter?"
At loss for any other means of rooting Squall's attention, he leaned across the table and grasped the younger boy's shoulder. Instantly, he felt the lithe muscles tighten at the touch of his hand, but Squall had already slammed his arm to the side before he was able to do anything about it. Thunderstruck, he gaped at the brunette, whose temper was obviously flaring for a reason that Seifer did not understand.
"Don't touch me," Squall hissed venomously after he had lashed out at his opposite.
His eyes only shot a brief death glare at Seifer, but the blonde could identify their color and the emotion swaying within them nonetheless.
Grey like a void of oblivion.
Hate towards a person that Seifer could only guess to be him.
He understood nothing.
"What's gotten into you?"
"None of your business."
Seifer's eyebrows raised, particularly so when he witnessed how Squall shot up from his seat and coldly grasped his card from Fujin, who had barely returned. The girl and the blonde gunblader exchanged confused looks before Seifer scrambled to his feet quickly to follow his companion, who had already reached the door.
"Fuck, sorry Fu, talk to ya later okay, come visit at Garden or something. Gotta go."
She had no chance to give a reply, however curt it might have been. Seifer had bolted from the restaurant and out into the night at neck breaking speed. Only a few feet ahead of him was Squall, sharply walking towards the parking lot as only a fading shadow against the black distance. Seifer actually had to fall into a sprint to catch up with him, and he wasn't pleased.
"Will you fucking stop and tell me what's wrong? What did I do?"
He had almost forgotten how well Squall played the silent game, but he was once again painfully reminded of the boy's ability to wholly ignore anyone around him. Trying to physically slow him down didn't seem like a good idea when taking the fact that they were right next to the water into consideration. He'd have to make Squall submit to his questions by other means.
Yelling in frustration seemed like his only choice.
"Squall? Squall! Fuck, stop running away and talk to me!"
The brunette was persistently staring ahead, stone faced to such an extent that it angered Seifer more than anything else. For the life of him, he could not understand why the younger was suddenly so upset. The bill couldn't have been that high, could it? No, he hadn't snapped until Seifer had been talking to Fujin.
"For fuck's sake Squall, STOP!"
Squall's heart was screaming in pain at every of Seifer's words. He didn't want to stop. He just wanted to get away before he would lose the fight against his own body and collapse as a crying wreck. His soul was an abyss of disappointment and the bitter feeling that really, he should have known better.
Burying his head in his right hand, Squall continued his flight from his feelings and his agony, all the while blocking out Seifer's desperate attempts of breaking through to him and the darkness that enfolded his heart like a blanket of shadows.
He was so sick of it all.
=To be continued!=
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