Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to the Final Fantasy series. They belong to Squaresoft.
This chapter is dedicated to my friend Kail, who is a wonderful person, a talented artist and writer, and who has been going through the roughest of times. Even though she had a "man to save the day", I know that things are not easy on her right now. My best wishes go out to you Kail, I hope that they will reach you :) May you always have a guardian angel watching over you, wherever your life may lead you, and may you never stop smiling.
Let Me Make It Alright
Chapter 49: "Unwilling To Leave, Unable To Stay"
By Angry Angel
"Is that truly what you want?"
"Are you sure?"
'I want him to live.'
"Even though you now know of the consequences?"
"... Then so be it."
When the flow of time rushed back into his body, Squall shuddered violently at the sensation. His lungs were wheezing under the strain as he sucked in a deep breath against the stiffness in his muscles, and he broke into a coughing fit.
Next to him, Seifer had been freed from Griever's temporary captivity, and the blonde startled as he felt Squall jerking in his arms.
A subdued, flat hiss escaped the gunblader's throat when he found Squall's lips spangled with the dark fluids of Ultimecia's venom. He knew nothing of the time lapse that he had been caught in, but he did know that his friend's condition had become worse. Gently, he raked his fingers through the brunette's hair, pulling it of out his face. Squall's skin was scarily stark, his eyes black with pain. Clamping his teeth down upon his lips as not to cry out in despair, Seifer used his thumb to wipe away the poison.
"Don't move," he murmured. "It'll get worse."
To his surprise, he noted that a new sensation had crept into the plain darkness and defeat that had been signing Squall's every feature. The darkness had meshed with a sort of fatal determination, immediately striking the blonde's instincts to recognize that something had changed without his awareness, and that, in any case, he needed to be alert.
"W-what's going on? Squall?"
Squall's eyes were mere slits of silverish blue, but he smiled grimly through the cage of his agony.
A Leonhart indeed.
He managed, with Seifer's very reluctant help, to lift himself into an upright seating position, but all the while he kept his gaze glued to his lover's worried reflection. For a moment, the blonde wondered whether Squall was trying to burn his image into his mind forever, his stare was that fierce. Something about it was very unsettling.
Had Seifer known how close his impression had come to the truth, Hyne only knew what he would have said, or what he would have done. Squall was indeed attempting to imprint his face into his memory – trying to keep at least an effigy of the person that he was so afraid to lose.
Merely looking at the blonde caused his heart to ache, though, and he also hadn't forgotten about the sorceress. Time was running out, as much as that perception pained him, and there was nothing that was left to do about it. Well, nothing except for going by the decision that he had made.
Thus, his gaze phased by Seifer's image at last, and he focused solely upon the ebony form of the lion spirit that stood motionless in the distance. Eyes of pure gold, bestowed with the wisdom of many ages, fixed him tacitly and questioningly. Squall's chest and his throat stung horribly at the sight, but as his twitching features went rigid, he forced himself to nod.
"The Child of the Lion has decided."
Seifer's head flung around at the sound of that voice, which had been chimed in a melody that was both ancient and newborn like history itself. He stared at its bearer, the Guardian Force Griever, in open bewilderment.
"... What? What do you mean?"
Seifer too was looked over by those serene amber eyes, but they offered him no answer to his question. Uneasy, Seifer shifted under the golden glare that seemed to pierce his soul, and he lowered his head almost nervously to concentrate on Squall instead. The brunette, however, would only add to his uneasiness, for he dropped his gaze to the ground like a stone, avoiding Seifer's gaze.
"Squall? What's going on?"
"Indeed," a cold voice suddenly caterwauled from afar. "What is this supposed to be? 'Child of the Lion'? I gave you an order, Griever! Kill them!"
The Guardian force, however, did not move a single of those strong muscles that glided beneath the surface of its sable furred skin. Silence echoed between the two men, the sorceress and the spirit for quite a while, until Seifer again perceived movement in his arms.
He looked down upon the brunette, his face crumpled to a mask of confusion.
"What the fuck is going on here?"
There was helplessness in Seifer's voice, and slowly awakening panic. The air around them seemed to have changed – it was so tense with the foreboding of something severe that would happen in due time.
Squall still wouldn't look at him. The brunette was staring bleakly at the blood adorned white cross embroidered onto Seifer's dark blue shirt, until biting tears eventually blurred his vision.
Fiercely, he shook his head. It wasn't going to work like this. He couldn't allow himself to dwell, he would falter and he would fail if he did so. Wrenching his eyes shut against the blood that had been leaking out of countless lesions inflicted upon Seifer's flesh, Squall gathered his last residual bits of strength around himself and calmly pushed upwards onto his knees.
Next to him, Seifer gave a hoarse gasp, and the blonde almost careened to the side at his attempt of steadying Squall on the ground. The SeeD, however, was not willing to be steadied. He freed himself from Seifer's embrace, pushing away the arms that had been comforting him. His body was shivering convulsively, protesting at the movement, but the brunette ignored it with much effort. Of course, inwardly he was cringing in pain, but not a sound stole past his lips.
He was going to do this.
"What are you doing?! What's going on here?!"
Seifer's voice came high and hitched, and his hand lashed out to curl itself around the flat of Squall's wrist. The SeeD winced at the touch, the left side of his chest contracting with misery. He had to force himself to focus.
"You can't get up, you-"
"I have to."
His words were bleached of emotions, had to be. Grinding his teeth together, he uncoiled his legs beneath his body and fully rose to an all too fragile stance, swaying like a leaf in a hurricane. Seifer stared at him from his kneeling position with wide, peridot eyes that understood nothing. His fingers still dug into Squall's skin like ironclad vices.
"No," Seifer bristled, firming his grip as if to emphasize his point.
Squall sighed abjectly.
"I have to do this."
"What do you m-"
They flinched yet again, because Ultimecia's voice seemed to explode with strident wrath that was obviously hurled at her petulant guardian.
"What is this nonsense? Griever, I gave you an order, now fulfill it!!"
Griever's animalistic head flicked around, studying the sorceress calmly. Then, he growled.
"He is the last Child of the Lion, bearer of the Seals of the Leonhart family. The decision over his life is no longer your's, sorceress, for my loyalty to him lies beyond your reach. I am his servant, and I will fulfill his wish."
It was impossible to tell who was more confused and more shocked – Seifer or Ultimecia. The sorceress probably had a much better idea of the Guardian's revelations, even if something unknown also stirred inside Seifer at those words. The blonde traced his own arm with his eyes, connecting with Squall's face almost pleadingly. The brunette would barely acknowledge him, but the painful glare in storm blue depths was impossible to overlook.
Something about this was very wrong.
"Squall... you're what... you..." he halted abruptly, jade green eyes suddenly kindling with comprehension. "Hold on. What did you wish?"
The brunette smiled at him faintly, twirling slowly on the spot to face Seifer as well as to get better leverage. His breath came bubbling from his lungs, his insides shattered irreparably by Ultimecia's spell.
A child of the fate, perhaps or perhaps not, but without a doubt a child with determination. Screw destiny and its strange plans; he was going to live and die the way that he pleased and for whom he pleased.
"You'll see," he whispered quietly, his lips flickering in the warm light of a smile. "Just trust me."
He gave his captured arm a gentle tug, and this time, Seifer released him without putting up a fight. As soon as he saw that sorrowful shadow darkening the brunette's gaze, though, he realized that he had made a mistake by trusting Squall and giving in.
Squall took a few insecure steps backwards, quietly retreating towards the forms of Griever and Ultimecia without actually turning around to them. Seifer tried to lunge upon his feet immediately, but his legs caved beneath him in a final toll of his injuries and drained strength. He hissed sharply, and sudden fear laced his words as he ground them out to the brunette.
"Wait, don't!! Stop!"
"It'll be okay," the brunette sighed. "I promise."
There was sadness in Squall's eyes, but there was resolve also. Yes, this really hurt; it always had, but for the very first time, he was not afraid. He had realized that it was worth going blind for just a glimpse of the one thing that really, truly had a meaning, the one thing he had always thought himself unworthy of – the thing that was love. For Seifer's sake and for the rest of the world, he was going to make this sacrifice, because every second of loving the blonde and knowing that he was safe meant more to him than an entire decade of his lifespan.
..::: 'Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.' :::..
He turned with a mute snarl, abandoning Seifer with his body and his gaze. The blonde called out to him, but he tried to will Seifer's shouting into the background. It wasn't working very well.
Despite his lack of information, Seifer had come to understand that whatever Squall was planning, it was nothing to take lightly. More so, the darkness in the brunette's eyes had seemed oddly final, and the simple fact alone that Squall was walking towards Ultimecia and the Guardian Force that had claimed to be his servant was enough to make Seifer's breath hitch with panic.
"No!! Stop right there!!"
Seifer was shouting at the top of his lungs, desperately trying to stand and grab another hold of Squall, but the brunette had staggered out of his reach for good.
"Squall, stop!! I won't let you do this!! STOP!!"
But Squall didn't stop. Each of his steps took him closer to the motionless form of Griever, and he left a trail of blood dripping from his left arm. He could barely see or hear through the effort that it took to place one foot before another, but Seifer's voice was burning in his mind all the same.
'I'm so... sorry. I have to... You'll understand... someday.'
Squall shuddered, even more so at the sickeningly high pitched sound of Ultimecia's voice.
"What do you think you're doing, SeeD?! Thinking you can defy me?! Griever, kill him or you will die right along with that human scum!!"
Ultimecia was still raging, standing in front of her throne and only at a short distance from the lion spirit, watching how the SeeD she had tried to kill so many times was slowly pacing to their both end.
"The true bearer of the Seals has been found," Griever declared without emotion. "I do not answer to your requests anymore, witch queen."
"You will answer to me, you useless creature!!"
Empowered by her fury, the dark sorceress suddenly coiled her hands to the air like gruesome black snakes, threateningly preparing for another obsidian limit break attack. As Seifer saw her launching the deadly onyx missiles, his body went rigid, his gaze flying towards Squall who was standing feeble, open and vulnerable. There was nowhere near enough strength left in either of them to protect themselves, let alone the other.
The name of his love died clean on Seifer's tongue, silenced by the image of Griever pulling up a flawless magic barrier as if it was nothing, guarding both humans as well as himself against the onyx that shattered meaninglessly against the powerful spell, leaving not so much as a scratch on either of them.
Still, Squall's stance was swaying violently, if only because his body had been hurt beyond tolerance. He was near the Guardian Force now, and the lion spirit finally closed the space between them, shielding Squall from the enfuriated sorceress' view with its great wings.
Seifer could merely stare.
"I'm here. Are you ready?"
'I can't... hold on... much longer.'
"I know. It will all be over soon."
'I'm ready... then...'
"Do you wish to say good-bye?"
'I can't. I can't do... both...'
"The barrier will hold until you are ready to strike. She is focused on you, she will not harm him. She senses the danger. I will grant you the power to kill her, just like I promised. To set an end... to everything."
Squall nodded painstakingly, responding to the deep voice that only he could hear. In front of him, the lion spirit roared majestically, truly king and leader of all life and all spirits.
"Child of the Lion, at the end of all hope, you have chosen life for the world and the Child of the Hunter, while taking nothing for yourself. You shall use the heavenly powers I was bestowed with to make your final wish — reality."
Before the last word had tumbled low and guttural from the Guardian Force's chest, the lion Griever had burst into a shining vortex of red and black light - a sphere of light so dazzling that it stung Seifer's tear-reddened eyes. All that he saw were blurry images of the spiritual light surrounding Squall's body like a cloud of sparkling fog that soaked into him, lifting his right arm and materializing at his fingertips into the long, straight perfection of the sword that had thus far been resting dead on the ground - LionHeart. But it was dead no longer, for the spirit had filled it with a fathomless crimson glow that could only hint at its new power.
"Oh no... no..."
Seifer couldn't believe what he was seeing, did not want to believe what he was seeing. All the same, he could not deny it. The Guardian Force Griever had dematerialized and turned into some sort of bodiless, energetic spirit that was enveloping Squall's lean frame, supporting his broken body and steadying his sword arm.
What Squall was planning on doing with that spirit's force was far too clear.
"Squall!! Don't!! You'll..."
..::: "You'll kill yourself." :::..
Seifer's jade green eyes snapped wide at that thought, and his breathing became very still. He was down on his knees, wounded and broken, and even the fear of losing the man that he loved could not mend the fatal cracks in his strength. His body would rock to the ground at the mere attempt of struggling onto his feet... at the mere attempt of stopping Squall from sacrificing himself.
If Squall would really attack the sorceress in his current state, there'd be no way of saving him.
There had been none to begin with.
Tears stung in Seifer's eyes as he screamed the SeeD's name, but Squall didn't listen... couldn't listen. The sorceress already had him in her lethal aim, and he was dead set on stopping her.
Angered by the sudden turn of the tides, Ultimecia was yet far from giving in. Even an enchantress as powerful as her, though, could not break the spirit barrier that protected Squall and gave him strength. Her missiles of piercing onyx deflagrated against the ward before they even came close to hurting the SeeD again. Swirling around Squall's figure and the new, lethal LionHeart like liquid ribbons, the spirit held more energy than anything the sorceress would ever be able to conjure up.
As that realization finally struck Ultimecia like a rush of ice, her face went pale.
At the sound of that soothing voice inside his head, Squall gazed calmly at the sword that he had grasped with his right hand. Glistening in all imaginable hues of red, it oddly reminded him of love and the one person that he connected with that feeling.
'What if I fail...?'
"You are Squall Leonhart. You will not fail."
This time, Squall did turn around to throw a last look at the blonde behind him. Seifer was still screaming his name, angry, afraid and agitated to the very core of his soul.
A sad smile stretched the SeeD Commander's lips.
Some things were of greater importance than even life itself.
'You're right. I won't.'
And as Squall whipped back around to face the sorceress and raise his sword before him, funneling all his energies and all his renegade strength in the dawning of a final limit break, he shattered Seifer's heart to pieces. The blonde yelled and cried out for the other to stop, but Squall would not hear it. Ever so slowly, the brunette SeeD adjusted the grasp of his hands around LionHeart's hilt, and as he aligned the blade in front of his face, his lucid blue eyes bore mercilessly into Ultimecia's struck amber ones.
"Your time is over. For once... and for all."
The burst of Griever's limit break, Shockwave Pulsar, hit Squall's body with impossible might, rocking through him with the force of thunder, the sear of fire, the chill of ice and the swiftness of water. When all elements and spirits that he had been blessed with united their powers in the greatest battlesome concord of all time, Squall Leonhart charged.
As both Seifer and the sorceress Ultimecia were rendered motionless as if caught in the eye of a storm, Squall channeled all his energy for one single, finishing blow. He was glowing with the burning wish to end this evil for all times, no longer leaving room for risks or trials – his will shone brighter than the sun, and it sought to banish everything in his path.
=== flashback ===
"... As you wish. I will tell you. There... is more than the one choice I already gave you."
'What's the other?'
"If you order it, I can protect you long enough for you to escape this dimension."
'But you cannot protect Seifer, or kill the sorceress at the same time?'
"No. I cannot. Even if you ordered me to, I am still bound to Ultimecia's orders in certain ways. However, you could run and recover, and you could call for help. I will not lie to you, young Leonhart, there is barely enough strength left in your body to run away, but if you set your heart on it, you could succeed."
'I will not set my heart on anything that doesn't involve Seifer's survival.'
"I see. Then, there really is only that one choice. And here is what you must know."
'What is it?'
"Your body is broken, young Leonhart. To defeat an enemy like Ultimecia, you will have to exercise a final limit break, using my bodiless spirit. I will perish in the process, and I also cannot promise you that it will work. It depends on your own, inner strength. As you see, there are no guarantees."
'I see... but... if you're willing to do it, then so am I.'
"I am. However, you too will perish. Your final limit break will claim your life, for the poison has spread far inside your body. It will also claim the lives of your Guardian Forces – Eden, Shiva and Bahamut. You will need all the power you can gather, and they are willing to assist you."
'I... I understand.'
"Now you know everything, Squall Leonhart."
'Yes. I do. And for that, I thank you.'
"Does that knowledge alter the decision that I read in your heart?"
"Bear in mind that this decision will save the Child of the Hunter and eradicate the sorceress, but it will not save you."
'I know... I understand that. But still, that's what I choose.'
"Then your decision is death."
'No. Life. Not for myself, but for the one I love. If one wish is all I can have fulfilled, then I wish for nothing else but that.'
=== ---------- ===
Nothing else but that.
And as he plunged the crimson blade into the nucleus of Ultimecia's heart, he knew that it was over.
But good, even so.
And as the spirits of Griever and all of Squall's Guardian Forces entered Ultimecia's body, tearing her apart in the pillar of an incandescent explosion of white light that turned the greatest sorceress of all times into nothing but shreds of dust, they left Squall's body, trading off the power to live for the power to kill.
Fulfilling Squall's wish.
Putting an end to everything that was, and ever had been, the sorceress Ultimecia.
And when the Guardian spirits dematerialized at the sight of a final fantasy fulfilled, they perished into oblivion as nothing but vague memories, and the SeeD Squall Leonhart was driven to his knees.
Then, everything fell silent.
Seifer did not see their environment slowly phasing back to choppy rocks and faded grass. He did not see the evening sun setting on the horizon of a peaceful ocean, and the seagulls soaring across the reddening sky as if nothing had happened.
As if Squall wasn't dying.
On his blood-strewn hands and knees, Seifer dragged his injured body over the ground to the crumpled heap that was the man that he loved. The man that had sacrificed himself to save his life, because he had seen no other way.
The tears pooling in his eyes did nothing to ease his pain.
As soon as his trembling hands touched Squall's body, the wrecked frame collapsed into his arms, robbed of all the powers that it had used to rid the world of the evil that had been the sorceress Ultimecia.
For once. For all.
Sobbing, he crushed the brunette against him, burying Squall's face against the crook of his neck as he desperately rocked his fragile body back and forth.
At the cracked sound of Squall's voice, Seifer eased them apart slowly, gazing into a pair of sapphire eyes that was narrow with pain, but all the same filled with love and contentment.
"Why? Why... why...?" Seifer was choking under sobs, all the while staring at the only person that he had ever loved in his entire life.
The broken brunette smiled sadly. Shaking, he tried to bring his left hand to Seifer's face where he gently traced the blonde's scar, the scar that mirrored his own, and he left a streak of blood amongst the others. At the feeling of Squall running his finger over his skin so very softly, Seifer's heart was screaming.
"There... there was no other..." Squall swallowed dry against the pain, but his smile would not fade. "No other... way... it's okay..."
Squall's features twitched, and his hand begun to shake more violently as he moved it along the blonde's cheek, a quiet touch like rain flowing down the sun kissed skin.
Seifer had never felt more helpless.
He had no potions, no phoenix downs. He started to roam the back of his mind for something, anything that he had that possessed healing powers... but there was nothing. He had no spells, and the only Guardian Force he had junctioned was Alexander, too feeble and too slow because he barely ever summoned him.
"Squall," he begged, while laying one hand against the side of Squall's head, "Squall, let me draw spells from you, I can heal you! Please!"
Tears pooled in the brunette's eyes, glazing them over like snow frosting on a blue mountain lake, and they fell silently as he slowly shook his head from side to side.
"You... can't... the barrier..."
But Seifer tried to dig into Squall's mind anyway, trying to find the pool that held his spells, but the mental barrier of pain and fatigue blocked him out. Squall's energy had run too thin for the brunette to tear it down on his own, and Seifer's injuries had drained his already little magical skills.
Squall was dying, and there was nothing that he could do.
"Squall, please... Hyne... don't give up," he whimpered, "I'll get you out of here, don't just give up, you hear? Please, Squall... just hold on... please..."
His hands roamed Squall's face, pushing away strands of chocolate brown hair that had been drenched in cold sweat. Squall's hand was still resting against his cheek, but had already stopped moving.
"Seifer... you can't... carry me... not... not this... time..."
"Don't say that!!" Seifer suddenly cried in frantic protest, bitter tears spilling down his cheeks as he wanted to punish himself and the world for what had happened to Squall. "I won't let you die, you hear me?! I won't! I won't let you!"
"It's... alright... don't cry."
Seifer shook his head violently, not wanting to hear it. Squall couldn't die, it just wasn't fair. He was so good-natured, so pure inside his heart. He had done so much for this world, and he had never asked for anything for himself. He was and always had been the selfless hero, the one that everyone relied on.
The one that everyone loved.
For as long as Seifer could remember, Squall was the only person that he had ever cared for, from their childhood on till that very day.
Squall was so stubborn, so frigid, so repulsive.
He was so beautiful, so brave, so proud.
There was nothing about the brunette that Seifer did not love, nothing that he did not want to protect. Ever since the first time he had set his eyes on Squall, he had wanted to be that fragile brunette's knight, his guardian, his friend. He had wanted to give his life to and for Squall, and Squall alone.
Frantically, he shook his head.
He wasn't going to give up. Not yet. Not like that.
"Squall," he drew a cracked breath, "I really love you... I love you, you hear? You can't leave me... I love you... Hyne... I love you more than anything in the world... please... please don't..."
Squall's lips twitched into a smile that was glowing endlessly warm and soft, despite all the pain that he was enduring with every fibre of his fading conscience. The beautiful power of Seifer's words, his frantic desire to hold on, they gave him just enough strength to whisper the one only sentence that all his life, he had always been too afraid to say.
"I love you... too..."
For as long as he could remember, Seifer had wished for nothing more than those words to be spoken from that man's lips. Trails of tears washed down his face, melting into the creases of Squall's hand, who was still smiling ethereally. Seifer's heart was bleeding, and he wanted to scream and rage in agony.
This wasn't right. This was so fucking unfair. There was so much that he wanted to say, so much that he wanted to do. But somewhere along the way, somebody had taken that power from him and left him with nothing to do but cradle Squall against his chest and cry tears of helplessness.
"... I... I always have."
At last, all strength left Squall. As his last words lingered in the air, etching themselves into Seifer's heart and soul with all their might, Squall looked up at his lover quietly, his last frayed breaths drawn arduously through crushed lungs. The silence echoed betweem them, a language of fear, love and misery, and Seifer tried desperately to hold on, to keep Squall alive by just the sheer power of his emotions...
... But though vigorous they were, it was still in vain.
As Squall's last breath danced between them like a snowflake in a gentle breeze, the tale of a hero came to an abrupt end. When a pale hand fell effortlessly to the ground, and the last spark of life faded from Squall Leonhart's eyes like the light of a dying candle that had been blown out much before its time had come, just what was Seifer to do but weep, and weep so very terribly as his lover died?
Just what could he do but cry out desperately for Squall to return, pleadingly gazing into empty pools of liquid sapphire, only to find darkness and shadow?
Just what could he do but rock the lifeless body back and forth, mourning the man that had been his everything ever since the beginning of their time?
Nothing at all.
=To be continued!=
So far away
Don't follow me tonight
And while I'm gone
Everything will be alright.
-"I Won't See You Tonight" by Avenged Sevenfold
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