Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to the Final Fantasy series. They belong to Squaresoft.
Let Me Make It Alright
Chapter 43: "The Awakening"
By Angry Angel
Hours had passed since Seifer's morning shower, some more quietly than others. Still, in the end, Seifer had been surprised at how smoothly his rather self-destructive plan had progressed. Of course, people always listened to you and your needs when you really did not want them to, but he was strengthened in his resolve and the faith into his ultimate arrangement. Sure, nobody had told him that he was right, but they hadn't told him that he was wrong, either.
Overall, he could have been satisfied.
And yet, the stale taste of bitterness and doubt was still lingering on, making him question things that he had believed to be facts. Maybe it would simply take a while. After all, he had grown seriously attached to that frigid SeeD mercenary. He tried not to think of his feelings as "love" so much anymore, bearing in mind that love actually had to be reciprocated to last longer than a mere summer night's dream. On top of that, he had just grown tired of pinning tags to every little one of his feelings and relationships, firmly upholding the belief that the stiffness of definitions would only make his emotional failure more likely.
As long as there was no love to be found, there was none to be lost, either.
The whole concept of things found and lost was very much dominating Seifer's thoughts, as he could currently be found roaming the school grounds for a person he was missing: his favorite stubborn SeeD warrior. He wasn't entirely sure how he felt about facing Squall, so he tried to ignore the notion altogether. Granted, he didn't necessarily have to talk to the brunette, but his already nicked manhood wouldn't let him pull through with his plan without giving at least a marginal form of explanation. After all, he had always highly disapproved of that certain trait of stubborn secretiveness when Squall was concerned, hence he could impossibly be found making the same lapsed mistakes.
Most importantly, there was still something that he had to do.
As he had almost been expecting, he found the brunette SeeD at the orchard, training with his weapon of choice against invisible foes as he so often did when he was trying to disperse his thoughts. For the sake of old times, Seifer allowed himself to marvel over Squall's fine stature just briefly, trying to burn the ethereal image of the brunette clad in a long, white t-shirt and tight black jeans into his head, before clipping his own gunblade from his belt and stepping up to the scene.
Apparently, Squall had been very much engrossed in his own little world of monologues and musings, as he whirled around rather sharply when Seifer was already very close behind him. More subconsciously than not, Squall's sword was still raised in a high and dangerous arch, but Seifer had known better than to approach a practicing gunblader unprepared. Nonchalantly, he caught the brunette's blade with his own, not even blinking once at the strident sound produced by metal scraping its strangely azure kin.
They stood motionless, swords crossed and held elevated while slate blue eyes bore blankly into green ones. Seifer reciprocated the shorter boy's glare, meticulously studying Squall's reaction to his approach. Usually, he would have been disappointed when the younger finally lowered his blade and took a half-step backwards, but Seifer had calloused his feelings successfully.
Or so he liked to think, anyway.
Disbelief was only too evident in Squall's commonly monotone voice, which was now undoubtedly shadowed by emotions that were still raw from the previous night's events. He felt awkward, maybe uncomfortable, and he didn't know whether he was relieved or troubled to see Seifer again. The surface of his arcane blue eyes was like broken glass, twisted in color and reflection of the afternoon sunlight. In his lowered right hand, LionHeart was shifting hues from brightest cyan to obscure, dull violet.
Seifer didn't quite know what to make of it.
Squall was obviously struggling for words, and Seifer's not-so-subtle look over apparently wasn't aiding his frantic search any. Thus, he cast down his eyes, staring bleakly at the softly treaded grass to his feet while a pale crimson blush crept to his high cheek bones before he could help it. Seifer's presence made him tense, the way the blonde stood so self assured in front of him without moving a single muscle underneath his thin, tight blue shirt with the familiar white cross on the chest and the loose fitting grey pants.
Where was his trench coat, anyway?
'Don't you have more important things to think about? Idiot.'
'Right, smooth move. So much to that.'
Why would minds never shut up?
Sighing and knowing nothing of Squall's inward struggle, Seifer returned Hyperion to his belt. For a second, his attention was caught by the light breaking in glares on the silver of Squall's Griever necklace, but then he shifted his weight onto his heels and flicked his head aside.
The brunette SeeD was startled at the unexpected command, and when he tore his sight from the ground, he saw Seifer already loping up the hill, back towards the school building.
Seifer didn't quite know why he suddenly heard Squall's shuffled footsteps behind him, but he blamed it on the boy being unable to suppress his innate curiosity. He couldn't possibly anticipate that Squall wanted to talk things over just about as badly as he did, and he never would have dared to hope so, anyway.
In his books, Squall had abandoned him for good.
Still, Squall was following his lead quietly, neither trying to pass him nor walk by his side. Seifer realized that and slowed just slightly in his pace, listening to the soft crunch of the brunette's biker boots on fresh grass with half-hearted attention. He didn't halt completely until the boy behind him finally raised his voice to a croaky, skeptical whisper.
"Where are we going?"
'Look at you, you're actually asking where we're going? Full of surprises, aren't you.'
Frowning, Squall continued to tail after the blonde, who had already resumed in his stride. The brunette's gloved hand was kneading LionHeart's hilt, and he was chewing on the rosy bottom of his lip quietly, turning over feelings and intentions. He had spent all day hiding from Seifer, and after everything that he had done, he really hadn't expected the other gunblader to actually come looking for him. Quite contrary, he wouldn't have been surprised if Seifer would have quit speaking to him altogether. The blonde's wrath on the previous night sure could have suggested such a dismissive behavior, but Squall had to admit that, apparently, he didn't know Seifer quite as well as he had thought.
Oh, how right he was.
Either way, Seifer Almasy was passing through the school grounds with stern determination, swiftly crossing the main hall to make a right turn into the hallway that led to the garage. Before Squall could have started into another tirade of careful protests, the older blonde had already charged past the vehicle department's office and opened the sturdy metal door to the underground parking facility. Reluctantly, the SeeD continued to follow Seifer down a brief flight of stairs and past a number of cars, until the blonde finally came to an abrupt stop before a bright blue overland jeep that, somehow, looked oddly familiar.
Blinking in mild surprise, Squall watched how Seifer retrieved a keychain from the pocket of his pants and motioned the brunette towards the passenger door with a quick flick of his hand.
"You'll find out soon enough. Get in already."
The younger boy didn't know how much he liked the rough edge to Seifer's voice, but he figured that he had thoroughly deserved it. He still wanted to kick himself over punching the man whom, really, he had very much enjoyed to kiss. Once again, Squall's pale skin generously changed hues to a faint shade of crimson, so he quickly circled the car to be able to vanish from Seifer's field of vision, if only for a moment.
As soon as he had sunk into his seat though, remembrance struck him.
"Isn't this Quistis' car?"
He wasn't entirely sure, as he had never spent much time outside Garden with neither Quistis nor Zell, but he vaguely recalled the blonde female to have taken them out for dinner once in said vehicle.
Before he could've helped it, Squall's right eyebrow had arched towards his hairline.
"Quistis gave you her car keys?"
Instead of bothering to give any further explanations, Seifer ignored Squall's dumbfounded face, started the engine and steered the jeep through the garage and out the gate into the warmly fading light of the afternoon. The blonde was reckless to a fault, but he had always been a good driver. Maybe his dislike for putting his life into the hands of a machine was to blame, but he had never spent much thought on it. Either way, he most definitely felt much safer knowing that Squall was sitting in the passenger and not the driver's seat.
They spent the rest of the journey in silence, Squall pondering their possible destination and Seifer dreading to give their situation a final touch. Yes, he had sworn to pull through with his plan, and everything had been arranged per se, but Squall's presence made him waver more than he had expected.
Narrowing his sight onto the road, he called himself to focus.
'This isn't going to change anything. Nothing has changed since last night, you better remember that. You're redundant, one way or another. Suck it up and get over it.'
His lips curled involuntarily in a curt display of irritation, but the brunette at his side had been too preoccupied to notice.
Indeed, Squall was busy watching the landscape change from fields of sanguine green to steppes of sandy dust and, finally, to the rough-edged rocky outlines of the Alclad plain mountain range. Both Squall and Seifer knew that terrain only too well, considering that they had been sneaking out there on a daily basis at some point, all to be able to practice untroubled by the watchful eyes of their overly protective instructors.
The brunette stared upon the steep cliffs of stone quietly, his mind reverently pacing the way that Seifer was currently driving at moderate speed. In former days, they had spent many hours bickering and ignoring each other on that same stony path, while dragging their heavy swords to a secluded ledge higher up on the hill. It was a long way to be walking, but they had crossed the distance more times than he could really remember.
Suddenly, Squall found himself longing for those carefree days with a painful strain in his heart. So much had happened since then, so much had changed. A year ago, Seifer had left him to the fate of a hero that he had never wanted to be, and to a world that he had been unable to deal with on his own.
Without being in any way aware of it, Seifer had left Squall to die.
He didn't even quite know why, but Squall suddenly felt certain that Seifer had never been meant to return.
Squall's head snapped around at the sound of Seifer's voice, and he was violently surprised to find the blonde sitting next to him, looking at him with a certain air of equal indifference and interest.
Seifer had returned.
An avalanche of feelings and impressions threatened to break loose upon the brunette, burying him beneath the woes of the past, but he was once again saved by Seifer, who was opening the door and snaring his attention.
"Get out, I want to show you something."
..::: 'Don't leave me.' :::..
Squall flinched at the force of the sensation, the power of the thought. He gasped in surprise, his eyes narrowing and widening synchronous to the hectic rhythm of the beating of his heart.
The word escaped Squall's lips without his own volition, a vain attempt at keeping himself from drowning in the wallow of his fears. Of course, he should have known that suppressing his angst all night and all day, and really, all of his life, would bounce back to him eventually.
He was so afraid of losing Seifer again that the fear laced up his throat, jarring his breath and blurring his vision.
"I said I wanted to show you something."
Vaguely, Squall registered that Seifer had probably mistaken his outburst for an encouragement to repeat his order. He knew he had to pull himself together, before the blonde would think him a complete nutcase or worse. This was neither the time, nor the place to be whacking out.
Mumbling something under his breath, Squall opened his door and pushed out of the car while mentally calling himself to focus. The fierce breeze whipping from the ocean across the lands tore into his hair and his much too thin shirt, causing him to shudder involuntarily. At the same time though, he was thankful, because the cool air helped to chase away the shadows hovering over his mind like hungry vultures.
Seifer stood only a few feet away from him, his jade green gaze fixed upon the slope that lead up to their familiar mountain ledge.
The blonde's voice was rough and low, making it difficult for Squall to pick it up against the swoosh of the wind. As Seifer slowly started to ascend the rock-sewn hill, Squall followed his lead mechanically.
The brunette cast a look or two at his darkened gunblade while he was staggering behind his friend, repeatedly wondering at his sword's unnatural color. There was a certain part of him that seemed to know the reason behind the blade's frequent change in hues, but that knowledge was fickle in nature, escaping far out of reach as soon as he tried to sprawl imaginary fingers for it.
At the top of the hill, a wave of memories rushed over Squall at the sight of the vast, flat rock spur against the goldening horizon. One year ago, him and Seifer had scarred each other for life in that same spot, marking their invisible bond in a night that had been torn by thunder, rain and lightning. He had been angry back then, furious over Seifer's dire recklessness, and injured to such an extent that it had caused him temporary unconsciousness. Those memories in particular, however, were quite blurry.
He looked up at Seifer's question, carefully studying the blonde who was propping one leg up on one of the rounded rocks that lined the steep drop-off to the ocean. The older gunblader turned around to him, his luminous face oddly obscured by a mental barrier of fog and static that seemed to exist only in Squall's mind.
'What's wrong with me? Why can't I see his face?'
Squall shook his head quickly from side to side, opening his eyes to find Seifer staring at him with an edge of curiosity. The blonde's good-looking features were suddenly as clear as ever.
"You okay?" Seifer asked calmly, feigning disinterest.
Impatient with himself, the brunette nodded and stepped up to the other man, mirroring Seifer's posture as he gazed upon the sea far below them. The water was capped with white foam, stirred by the afternoon gusts and sparkling in the orange glow of the descending sun. It was a peaceful scenery despite the cold of the puffing wind, and the simple fact that two men were both broken in spirit and heart.
"I remember," Squall breathed quietly.
The SeeD knew that Seifer hadn't taken him out there simply to show him the beauty of the nature or to relish precious memories. All in all, Seifer had never struck him as the kind of guy that would enjoy doing such things. Then again, of course, Squall had never thought himself sentimental enough to experience similar notions either, yet he found himself wishing that the moment would never end.
It was simple, and it was good.
Like all good things, though, it was of short duration.
"We spent a lot of time out here."
Seifer had spoken more to the sea below him than to the boy at his side, but for some strange reason, Squall felt obliged to softly nod his head nonetheless. Next to him, the blonde suddenly turned around, fixing him with an intent green stare that had always managed to root Squall incapable of moving. They didn't speak a word, and the brunette felt guiltier than ever. Seifer was so distant, so far away from him even if he could have touched the other's chest had he only extended his arm.
Why did nice things always have to go ill?
Just as Squall had almost wrestled up enough courage to apologize once more for his fatal slip-up in the Garden hallway, Seifer had retreated from the edge of the mountain and moved towards the center of the spur. The younger boy followed his every step out of the corner of his eyes, unsure of whether he should go after the blonde or not.
"You were laying right here."
A thin, brown eyebrow rose at that peculiar comment, and Squall's legs slowly started pacing towards the spot that Seifer had pointed out. The taller man looked down upon him languidly, a strange blend of pity and lust lighting up in his shadowed orbs of emerald.
"What do you mean?" Squall finally brought himself to ask.
"How did you end up in the infirmary that day?"
Slowly, Squall started to understand. Of course, Seifer was referring to their very last training session on that mountain. He really did have no clue concerning how he had miraculously appeared in the Garden infirmary after his head injury, but all along, he had never spent much thought on it.
Ignoring questions was so ridiculously easy.
"Why are you asking?" Squall demanded softly.
"I'm not." Seifer shrugged.
"I carried you."
The wailing howl of the wind was the only sound audible after that simple sentence was spoken, and though simple it was indeed, Squall had no idea how to react to it.
Seifer had carried him? His worst rival had carried his unconscious body all the way to Balamb?
That didn't make sense.
"You really had me worried back then... I thought I had seriously hurt you. When you passed out, I just sat by your side for like... forever, trying to shake you awake. I even used a couple of potions on you. When that didn't work, I scooped you up and carried you back... praying to Hyne that you were okay."
Still, Squall remained silent. He was struggling to figure out the exact meaning behind Seifer's words and hide his own embarrassment at the same time. Both proved to be rather difficult.
Being far more sensible than his reputation suggested, Seifer had picked up on Squall's dread with ease.
"Don't get me wrong, Squall. I didn't take you out here so you would thank me or anything. There's no need, I was the one who hurt you, after all," he observed. "If you would have been seriously injured, I probably would have killed myself or something."
Suddenly, Seifer paused, running his hands through the golden tresses of his hair in distress. This was turning out to be much harder than he had feared. Something about the revelation of having carried an unconscious Squall for a good two hours was very intimate, and an unquestionable blow against the brunette's idea of privacy. And after all that had happened, the least smartest of things to do was probably to violate Squall's private space once more.
Then again, it didn't matter anymore, did it?
"I guess I just want you to know that I care for you deeply. I always have, Squall. I realize that you don't want me and you don't need me, but I had to tell you, anyway."
As chocolate brown hair washed against navy blue eyes, a breath was stolen from Squall's chilly lips in the length of a heartbeat when Seifer's mouth closed softly over the brunette's once more. The touch was so fleeting that Squall would have probably missed it had he allowed himself to blink just once, since the radiant face was already pulling away from his before he had barely registered its skin against his own. He was still too lost in the after sound of Seifer's words, too startled to give just the slightest form of answer to that osculation, be it either physical or vocal in nature.
In a bitter sort of way, Seifer was satisfied. He hadn't originally planned to actually dare and kiss Squall again, and really that shadow of a bodily contact could hardly be called much more than a second of hazy sensations, but maybe he owed it to his own pride and Squall's frigidness all the same. It was a small victory, and a sour one at that, but it was better than the previous memory of having wholly surrendered and ended up broken on the ground.
Either way, Seifer wasn't going to apologize for this, no matter how upset the ice prince might have been.
Little did he know that Squall had been thunderstruck by the revelation of his thoughts, his oh so false impression of being neither needed nor wanted, rather than by the fresh taste of a kiss on his lips.
Did Seifer really think that he was that redundant?
Did he really not know?
"I'm leaving tomorrow."
If Seifer's earlier revelation had shaken Squall's heart, his last had torn it apart. It took a second or two for the meaning of those brutal words to sink in, but when they eventually did, panic seized the entity of Squall's soul. Within the chill of the air, all blood was drained from his face, leaving it pale and blank with the raw serration of fright.
"What??" he finally managed to choke.
"I talked to Cid and Edea. They weren't pleased, but I'm free to go, if I want. So I'm going to meet up with Fujin and Raijin and leave Balamb."
Though he tried to appear unperturbed, there was a painful glare to Seifer's eyes, but it was marginal compared to the bare shock echoing from Squall's ethereal features. The SeeD's worst demon had conquered reality, taking him away from the only person that had ever truly been of meaning to him for long, long years. He wanted to speak, voice his emotions, but the words would only stake in his throat, which was burning under the strain.
"So, there won't be any more problems. You'll be rid of me for good," Seifer joked cynically.
The entire absurdity of those words made Squall want to cry out, to shatter free from that cruel dream he was obviously stuck in. How could Seifer possibly think that he was meaningless? How could he possibly think that Squall wanted to be rid of him?
Didn't he see?
Wasn't it obvious?
Something had gone horribly wrong.
"Well, that was all, really," Seifer shrugged helplessly, oblivious to Squall's dismay. "I guess I just wanted to reminisce and stuff... sorry. I'll take you back."
He turned on the spot, a predator in the fluidity and elegance of his movements as he walked away from the center of the spur, but he hadn't expected Squall to call out to him.
He halted on the spot, curiously turning his head, inwardly hardening himself against the cold, emotionless tirade that would probably follow. In his own misery, he had missed the raw edge to Squall's voice, thoroughly missed the open hurt in his deep blue eyes that shone with the fear of loss.
"'Sup?" he grunted.
"W... why? Why are you leaving? I... I'm sorry, I mean, I know it's my fault, but..."
After an initial moment of surprise at the helpless words and the way that Squall was raising his shoulders like a chided child, Seifer smiled pitifully, gently shaking his head from side to side.
"It's not your fault, don't worry about it. You did what you had to do."
"No!" Squall almost shouted. "That... I... Seifer, I'm sorry! I'm sorry for hitting you, I'm sorry for being an ass, I'm sorry for... for everything... I... I'm sorry... really... I'm sorry..."
"You apologize too much," the blonde remarked softly.
Again, Seifer smiled, and he could feel tears welling up in his eyes.
He had to get out of there.
"Look, Squall, I respect your feelings, you don't have to be sorry at all. I just can't stay here... it wouldn't work."
Indeed, Seifer could feel it "not working" every passing minute. Squall's presence and his stuttered apologies affected his heart at the very core. He didn't want Squall to feel guilty, that hadn't been his intention by any means. The brunette wasn't the type to randomly punch people, and the fact that he apologized for a legitimate reaction only fortified the impression of his noble nature. Really, Seifer thought, the boy had had all right to hit him, considering the way he had been cornered and taken by surprise that night.
No, Seifer decided, Squall surely didn't need to say that he was sorry.
Seifer had understood nothing.
"Forget the punch," he continued, "I'm not angry anymore. You had all right to hit me."
"Like I said before, I didn't take you out here to guilt-trip you for anything. I just wanted to tell you what was on my mind, and I did. So... thanks for coming, Squall."
Squall wanted to scream at the misunderstanding, but it seemed as if Seifer wasn't even listening to him. Why else would Seifer feel superfluous if it hadn't been for the punch? Why wouldn't the blonde understand that he hadn't intentionally tried to push him away? For Hyne's sake, Squall didn't even know why he had punched the blonde in the first place!
"Seifer, just... why... just listen to me!"
"No, you aren't, why don't you understand?! I'm sorry for punching you, I didn't mean to, I was just... I don't know, whatever. Whatever! It doesn't fucking matter! I was a fool!"
Seifer cocked an eyebrow at the sudden outburst of anger, but at first, he remained silent.
'What's this all about now? First he is sad, now he is angry?'
"I'm sorry for punching you, you hear?! I'm sorry! I wasn't trying to... I didn't mean to... It just..."
As Squall's voice ebbed away, so did his hot-tempered anger that had risen out of the depths of frustration and despair. After another moment of stillness, the blonde across from him shook his head yet again and let out a deep sigh.
"What do you want me to say, Squall?" Seifer finally replied wearily.
"I... I don't know." the brunette whispered hopelessly, ultimately burying his forehead in his hand.
In all truth, Squall knew only too well. He wanted to cry out, confess his feelings and beg Seifer to stay, but it was as if part of him wouldn't allow it. It was his only chance of stopping Seifer, and even though he was fully aware of that, he couldn't bring himself to tell the other that he was so very much in love. His apologies were useless, as they didn't even come close to touching the core of their problems. Seifer wasn't mad because he had been punched, but he had fatally misinterpreted the brunette's over-reaction, and Squall could do nothing to correct the blonde's mistake.
Something was stopping him.
"Seifer, I... I really... I..."
..::: You can't. :::..
And though Squall was struggling valiantly, he stood no chance against it.
Finally, he lowered his head in defeat.
The brunette flicked his gaze up sadly at the sound of Seifer's strangely astonished voice, and he was surprised to find the blonde staring alert at some point quite a ways above his eye level. Irritated, Squall cocked his head into his neck, staring up into the sky. It had darkened somehow and without his notice; warm, radiant orange had faded into dull, anthracite grey. The wind had stopped completely, as had all other sounds around him, and yet there was something drifting out of the blackened clouds, falling slowly and gently like...
Even Seifer's voice had hushed, and his words seemed to lose themselves on their journey to Squall's ears. The brunette exchanged disturbed glances with orbs of glaring green that had fixed him nervously, before he hesitantly extended an arm.
A coal black feather, swaying in a current of air that was nonexistent, was drawn towards the earth by an unknown force.
And when it came to rest in the open palm of Squall's gloved right hand, the High Commander of Balamb Garden didn't hear his blonde friend yelling when the brunette himself was enveloped by a shroud of darkness, emitted from the very blade of his sacred sword that was resting so innocently against his thigh.
He didn't see the world around him transcend into the exact, nocturnal mirror image of his nightmares; a world so vast and black and menacing that even Seifer Almasy was shaken in terror and chaos.
He didn't feel himself crushing the delicate feather from the depths of his clenched fist into the voids of oblivion.
There was none of that in Squall Leonhart's reality.
He was consumed solely by the storm inside his soul, and the bitter realization that all this time, he hadn't been alone.
=To be continued!=
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