Author's Notes: OK, a bit angsty, but it was cathartic to write.
My Own Worst Enemy
A thousand knives, a thousand needles, a thousand burning spears can't release me from what I've done.
~Blood drips on dank, rotting wooden floor~
Nothing I can do can cause enough pain for me to repent. No one can, no one should, ever forgive me.
~Knife raised again~
I don't deserve forgiveness.
~Knife rips through white flesh~
I used to revel in other's pain. Emotional. Physical. Compassion is a lesson hard learnt.
~Knife drops from limp hand~
Squall Leonhart sits alone in Balamb's dingy pub. A glass of whiskey half empty in front of him. The Barman shouts "Can you all make your way to the door." Before he finishes his shout the glass is drained and the seat is empty.
Morning, Sunlight beams through a crack in the curtain, causing squalls head to throb almost as much as the pounding on the door. He gropes for the bottle he knows is by the bed and takes a swig. The pounding continues. He gets up and opens the door. Still clothed from the night before he takes another swig as the raven haired girl strides in, her blue cardigan billowing behind her. "Squall you have to stop this." She demands in a superior manner. "I know it hurt when I didn't want anything more than a simple kiss at the dance, and I know it hurt even more when I started seeing Irvine, but you can't keep beating yourself up like this." He turned and looked at her, Grey eyes empty. "Go away."
"I know I can't understand your rejection but……" she is cut off by the sound of broken glass as the bottle smashes against the wall. Grey eyes filled with fury.
"But you started being like this the day I got with Irvine, just after the dance."
"You have to let go of your anger about me." She looks at him, false concern painted all over her face. Smack. He backhands her. She fly's back out the door. "The only way you make me angry is with your false personality, false concern and waking me up." He slams the door behind her and begins searching through the filthy floor for another bottle he hasn't finished.
Quistis sighed took off her glasses and rubbed her temples. "So you're telling me Squall hit you?" She looked back up, over a pile of exam papers, at the petite girl sat opposite her. "That's not like him. He doesn't strike out, he just ignores things"
"It's because he still loves me," Rinoa countered "He tried to say he didn't, but he wouldn't have got so upset if he didn't, right?"
"That could be true, but I think there are other reasons that are more likely."
"What's more important than love? It has to be that."
"Rinoa, life is not a fairy tale. Nor does it revolve solely around you. Have you considered the possibility that he has nothing to fight for now the war is over and he feels empty? Or that his father has suddenly reappeared having never tried to contact him? Or that his feelings may even have been for someone else? I suggest you leave him alone, he may well snap out of it on his own, but I have arranged for Dr Kadowaki to try and talk to him. We are all worried, but an ultimatum from you is not going to help."
"He doesn't need a doctor, he needs a friend."
"That may be as well Rinoa. But it's obvious that that isn't you, now I have to finish this marking." She looked back down at the paper in front of her, but still heard a grunt of irritation and Rinoa stamping out.
Late at night the corridors of the garden are empty, the only sound was of Quistis' footsteps on the hard floor. Peace, but all she could think of was bed. The peace was punctuated by the sound of her name being called, "Quistis, there you are!" A worn out Selphie ran up to her and bent over, breathing heavily from the exertion, worried eyes looked up at Quistis. "It's Squall, he's gone, taken nothing but his gun-blade and isn't anywhere on Balamb Island, reports are that he took a boat…."
Timber, where it all began, when I lost him, when I realised how I felt. It seems fitting here should be the place. I pull the car up next to the TV station. Where it all began. I pull the bottle out from under the seat run my finger over the embossed lion on my gunblade case. Slamming the car door, I climb the building. Lost in memory I reach the top and sit on the edge of the building, swigging and thinking, the alcohol doesn't numb the pain anymore, it intensifies it. Makes everything simpler, makes me realise it's my fault. I should have stopped her from taking him. All the fighting after that was only ever to get him back, away from her control. I thought I had done it; we didn't kill him, just injured. He must never have come back from time compression. I finish the last swig and drop the bottle off the building. Then I follow it, as I fall I know this was the only way. I smile that it's over.
"He has broken both legs in multiple places, both arms and several ribs!"
"That's impossible, he jumped off a building, he should at least have shattered his pelvis or broken his neck."
"He shouldn't even have made it into hospital, some people just don't die easily."
"Say, doesn't he look familiar?"
"You think everyone looks familiar. You were convinced that other one was the sorceress's knight…."
Bright lights should be banned. My head is throbbing again. Wait, oh Hyne, I'm still alive, why? I try and touch my throbbing head, but it I only manage to hit it with my plaster clad arm. I look down. Both legs are in plaster, my ribs are bandaged and my other arm is plastered past the shoulder. Shit, I can't even move to actually finish myself off. I let my head fall back down on the pillow, then loll to the side in exhaustion, as I open my eyes again I see a sight that makes all the pain evaporate. In the bed next to me is a tall blonde with a scar to match mine. A nurse walks in, starts fussing around him, looking at instruments.
"What happened to him?"
"Ah, you're awake." She turns towards the door "Doctor, one of our patients has woken up."
I repeat, "What happened to him?" The doctor walks in, I turn to him "What happened to him?"
"Please," the doctor says with an air of irritation, "you should be worrying about yourself. Now what is your name?"
"I am Squall Leonhart, that means I can give you enough money to retire on, so I'm asking you again, what happened to my friend?"
The nurse in the background is jumping up and down with glee; "I told you, didn't I tell you he looked familiar."
"R- r- right," the Doctor says over the top of her "Your friend was found in the only really nasty boarding house in town, it's amazing he was still alive, it looks like he went in for some serious self punishment, there are cuts and burns everywhere, he lost a lot of blood, the proprietor of the place found him. It's incredible either of you are alive; you can both take quite a beating. Now if you don't mind answering a few of my questions…"
I sat in a wheel chair, a pathetic sight I bet. Still, they're calling in a high level magic user from Esthar, I'll be up and about by tomorrow after a full-cure spell, I just hope it works for Seifer. There are some things magic can't do, brain damage is just one. Wishing I could touch him, but glad I can't reach out, takes the moral decision out of it. The fights, the friends, they taught me a lot about myself, how I felt. Everyone pestered me to ‘open up,' but I'd only just done that to myself. Seifer had always been there, sure an arsehole, but no worse than me. He was my beginning and end, even though neither of us knew that. When he was gone, controlled by the sorceress, I fought not for SeeD or Garden or the world even, but to get him back, to get my life back. After time compression ended I thought he'd be there in the cafeteria laughing and making loud, offensive comments to Rajin and Fuujin for me to hear. I was so naïve. Then when he wasn't there I didn't know what to do. I waited and he didn't come and I still had no life. I always hated him, but he was always the only person who made me feel alive and human, the only person who made me feel at all. I always assumed it was hate but somewhere in the battle for him I realised it was the exact opposite. I can't lose him now; I'll be finished too, selfish but true.
The magic user came in on the first train. I'm now standing, eager to try and scared to know. She casts, at first nothing, my heart sinks, then there's a twitch, a convulsion and he curls up into the foetal position, sobbing. What I wanted to do when I found I was still alive. As the covers have moved aside I can see a roadmap of scars on his body. Deep welts where cuts were untreated and scarred, indents from burns. Countless other miscellaneous marks which could have been poison or chemicals. He had very literally been beating himself up. But he was still magnificent, my heart very literally ached, not with pity or love, but with empathy and I did what used to seem so unnatural, and I put my arms around his shaking form. After a while, the shaking subsided and blue eyes looked up at me.
Two days and he says nothing. Doctors say there's nothing wrong with his brain activity, that the problem must be psychological. No shit. I could have told you that. He never looks anyone in the eye. He stares at walls for hours, seemingly inert, but at night I can hear him crying. How do you deal with this? He was the hardened one, all our lives he was the one who faced everything with a joke and a sneer. Hyne, he would have told himself to pull himself together! I was the weakling, the butt of the joke. I can't handle this, he is not my Seifer…. And to boot, the others have found out I‘m here, there coming tomorrow, no doubt a trial will be demanded. He may not be my Seifer, but he's the closest I've got and I intend to keep him.
Wait, he's not on the ward, or in his bed. I search the hospital, report it to the nurses. Worse than useless, they've worked out who he is and don't really seem to want to help anymore. I head out onto the streets and there's a figure, stood exactly where I was only a few nights ago. I cast float, on him and me. He jumps, but ends up suspended in mid air as I rise up and push him back onto the roof top. "Why are you doing this? You're strong, you can handle anything, why are you trying to escape?"
He looks at me as I speak, but then slumps against a wall, crumpled and defeated. Then he looks up. "Why are you here? I caused so much pain, I've tortured you, tried to invade the garden, allied with the sorceress. I deserve the same, I've got to be punished, just let me do it."
I sit down next to him and take one of his arms. "Is that why you've got these scars? You did this to punish yourself for what you did when you weren't making decisions for yourself? When your mind wasn't your own? I thought you were brighter than that."
"Just another one of my flaws: too weak to keep my own mind, too weak to finish off my own punishment and see justice done." A touch of the old Seifer enters into his voice as he angrily twists my words. But it's lost in a moment.
"And what about me, don't I get a say in this? I don't want to see this ‘justice done'."
"But I'm doing this for you, for what I did to you when you were in prison. Of all the things I did as the sorceress's knight," he spits the words, "that is the thing I am most ashamed of, that I hurt you with no chance of you fighting back. I had to suffer the same, then the world is better off without me, or do you want to punish me some more?"
"What do you take me for? You weren't in you right mind when you did those things to me, and now you think I want to do the same back, to get revenge. And if I don't your going to do it for me, then kill yourself?"
"Don't you realise that you being gone, that you not being in the garden has been more of a torture than anything you did to me in the sorceress war? I've been a mess without you. When you didn't come back, I thought you were dead, that I had failed. I couldn't face the rest of my life without you. That's why I was in hospital. I did what you just tried to do."
He just looks at me for a very long time, then says quietly, "But I tortured you, even before the war, before Edea, Adel, Ultimecia…. I made your life hell, in so many ways."
"But I did the same back, it's why we've got matching scars and….." I falter, I can't say it, he'll laugh at me, at least at the moment I can make out I need a rival.
He looks at me, blue eyes that I had never seen tears in, until two days ago, well up. "I only did it because I cared so much and was too much of a coward to say it. Then, I was too weak to keep her out of my mind and stop you from being tortured. That's why I have to do this. I can't live with what I've done."
"But if you go, I can't go on. I've barely made it through the last few months. I fought that war to save you. Not Balamb, not the Garden, not even the world for Hyne's sake." I reach out and move scraggly blonde hair, that is uncharacteristically long, from his eyes. "I love you, you make me more passionate than anything else, without you the world is dull. I need you, even if you just continue sneering at me and picking fights. You're what has kept me going all my life, and if you kill yourself your condemning me too." Oh, Hyne I sound like Rinoa, he's going to laugh at me, I knew there was a reason I didn't discuss feelings, it's because you sound like a winy…. My thought processes are cut off by the second and most thrilling kiss of my life. My heart explodes with joy.
"Where do we go from here?"
"Away from all this, just you and me. You've always been everything I've needed."
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