Authors Notes: Set after the game. According to this story, Irvine acts and dresses like a cowboy because he was adopted by a ranch owner. I can't remember whether he said he was adopted or not, so this might be AU. Squall is a poor widdle depwessed boy, don't you just want to huggle him and make it better?
Chapter 1 - Of Whiskey and Rings
The ballroom of Balamb Garden was a literal work of art. The floors, made of rose marble from the mines of Centra, were polished until the shine was nearly blinding. Glorious columns of brilliant blue lazuli stone from Esthar and white snowslate from Dollet, adorned with lush vegetation, rich and exotic plants from deep in the jungles that seemed to be tiny rainbows when their flowers were in bloom, towered gracefully above graceful dancers, and the silent song played on.
There was no dance this night, no whirling and spinning to the steps of the latest popular waltz. No blooming fireworks to be had, no laughter and chatter bouncing off the walls, no Rinoa with her simple smile beckoning him to join her.
The sun had set some time ago, the light fading from the barren room much as it had from his life. Because we all know how much Squall Leonhart's life sucks, just like him. Me.. I suck, you suck, we suck, thou shalt sucketh.
You're babbling again, whispered a winter wind through his mind, icy tendrils stroking his veins.
Sorry. He groped for the nearest non-empty bottle and, finding one, sloshed it down, wincing as it stung at the back of his throat. He didn't know what kind of alcohol it was, but judging that he got it from Irvine's room, it was probably whiskey. But it's true. I'm a miserable excuse for a human being. Why else would she leave me?
The ice and bitter chill stirred in his thoughts. It's not your fault that she left. Personally, I always thought she was a bitch.
He laughed bitterly, but anyone who might have been listening wouldn't have been able to recognize the coughing wheeze as a laugh. Then you should have told me that before I went and gave my heart to her.
You wouldn't have listened anyways. You give your heart away too easily.
The bottle was now completely empty, offering no further relief from the thoughts that ripped him up inside. He chucked it aside in frustration, gaining some small solace from the satisfying crash it made as it shattered. Is it so wrong for me to want somebody to care?
Of course not, love. They're fools for not seeing what you have inside you.
He smirked at the irony. I have you inside me.
Oh do stop that. You know exactly what I mean. You're not as dumb as you often make yourself out to be. You're such a wonderful person, and you deserve everything you want. Bahamut stirred at his name, but once he was sure there was no battle occurring, he returned to slumber.
He sighed at that, bumping his head against the wall and ignoring the pain from the act. All I want is...
I know, dear.
But you're wrong. There's got to be something screwed up with me, or they wouldn't have left. Is it because I don't talk much? Is that so bad?
They? Who... oh Squall, don't tell me you're adding her to the list.
It was getting to be too much, and he forced his eyes shut. Of course I'm adding her to the list. She left, didn't she?
Just when he thought the misery couldn't get much worse, his demented subconscious decided that it was time to recite The List. He was too deep in the depressive moment to care, so he began. My mother left first... not her fault, of course...
Of course. Squall, please don't.
He ignored her, some part of him delighting in the emotional agony. I remember my father, the first time I met him. They say you can't remember things from that young an age, but I guess that when I got all my memories back after Time Compression, I really got ALL of them back. I remember the look on his face...
He had such pain in his eyes. As if it hurt him to even look at me. Losing Raine had been too much for him, and he couldn't stand anything that reminded him of her. Even me.
Squall, you're going to make yourself sick again...
So he gave me to Kiros. I remember Kiros, he was such a nice guy. Always smiled whenever I made a mess, and just cleaned it up. Never got mad at me. Ellone was there too; she was so gentle when she rocked me. I remember, when I learned to talk I called them "Kios" and "Wone".
Shiva knew where this was heading, and stroked his mind faintly.
Then they took me to the orphanage. I remember the boat that took us there. I thought it was so wonderful to be on a boat, with the foaming water and the whipping wind, and the sun in your eyes as the horizon flies closer. I've loved them ever since. And the orphanage, it was so pretty, with flowers everywhere, in every color I never knew existed. The air smelled like them all the time...
He could still smell them, if he closed his eyes and imagined.
...and Kiros set me down on the ground, and Laguna talked to a fat man and a slim lady in black who smiled at me with pity in her eyes. Ellone was crying, and I didn't know why. I picked a flower and gave it to her, thinking it might make her feel better, but she just cried more. Then Kiros picked me up and hugged me, and set me down again, and Laguna looked at me with those sad eyes and said nothing, and Ward patted me gently on the head, and they went back to the boat and left us on the shore.
When I realized they were leaving, I ran after them, tried to stop them. That was the first time I got this pain in my chest. It hurt so much, but all I was thinking at the time was that they couldn't leave Ellone; they loved Ellone, right? I chased after them, and almost made it to the boat before Matron scooped me up, all the`time screaming for "Kios" to come back.
The goddess of the frost gave him the equivalent of a mental hug, and said nothing. She had heard this all before, and knew that her boy wasn't going to stop until the end.
I stayed at the orphanage with Ellone after that. She would always tell me that one day they would come back and get us, but I knew it to be a lie. They might one day come back to get her, but I would get left behind. On the nights where Ellone would have me pray for them to return for us, I would pray that it never happen. She was all I had in the world now, and I didn't want to lose her too. She was the one who gave you to me, when she found you nestled inside of my griever necklace. She thought you could fight off the monsters in my nightmares. She was so good to me.
Yes, she was. I remember, and I loved her dearly.
Yeah. I grew to love her too, came to spend all my time with her. She was the sweetest, most perfect person in the world. I could never care about myself if I knew she was sad. One time we tried to climb a tree to get at some apples. We both fell and hurt our legs. She was in so much pain, that I didn't even notice my own leg until I had carried her back to the orphanage.
I remember when that happened. She sprained her ankle, and you broke yours. You had crutches for weeks.
Then one day I saw sails on the horizon, and I knew. Right then, I knew they were coming for her. And they did. And despite all the times she assured me we would always be together, despite all the times she promised that when they came, they would take me too, despite all that, they still left me on the shore, watching them sail away with her.
But you never gave up hope that she would come back.
No, she promised that she would. All her previous promises had been proven false, but I still clung to hope. The day they took her, it had been raining, so in the strange ways of a child I rationalized that the day she returned would be rainy too. Every thunderstorm I would sneak out and stand near the beach, watching the horizon and hoping that today would be the day she came back to me.
And she never did.
No, she couldn't. I know that now, and I never held it against her. I still loved her.
After that, I had no one. I tried to make friends with the other children, but they never wanted to play with the boy that didn't talk. You have to make sound effects if you want to play "War". You have to make car sounds if you want to play with cars, and you have to sing to your teddy mogs, and talk to your dolls. So I got left out, and they were too young to realize what that did to me, how much pain they innocently put me through.
They were brats anyway.
Shiva! I care about those brats. They could hate and despise me, and I would still care.
You could love your worst enemy. You did, for that matter.
We're not to that part yet. Let me finish. So I tried to love Matron. I guess I had this insane notion that if I loved someone, maybe they would love me too. But it never worked. Matron was too busy and had too many kids to look after to spare me the time I needed. And when she sent us all to the Gardens, I lost her too.
And you turned to Seifer.
Yes, despite all his insults and taunts, he was the only one that paid attention to me. I was desperate for that now, and I figured, since I couldn't be loved or cared about, at least I could be hated.
Not true. You thought you deserved it.
All right, I thought I deserved it. And it was still a step up from being ignored. At least Seifer took the time to notice my existence, to care that I was alive. His fingers unconsciously wrapped around the medallion dangling on his chest, stroking it absently. Zell sometimes tried to be my friend, but he would get bored and turn away. So I put up with Seifer's teasing and fighting, and as time passed I came to appreciate having him around. At least I had someone to not-talk to.
Ha ha. Hamlet has a sense of humor.
Stop interrupting me...where was I?
Right. So I hung out with him, even though it hurt that he didn't like me. I think I cracked for a moment the day he gave me my scar. I was furious, and kept thinking, How could he do this to me? If I hadn't been so angry, I would never have struck back. I think he's proud that he got me to.
Seifer the sadist.
Whatever. But that didn't last too long. Edea took him away from me too, and then I was really alone.
But you had Zell, Selphie, and Quistis then. And Irvine later.
Right, the Orphanage Gang back together. Big whoop. They got bored with me as easily as they did when they were little. "Tell us about your feelings, Squall", "What do you think, Squall?" But as soon as I tried to tell them, they stopped listening. They didn't want to hear about my problems, and why would they? It's not as if I'm important or anything.
The pain in his chest had been building all the time, and now was making it slightly hard to breathe. Squall, maybe you should stop. If you pass out again, Kadowaki's going to put you on mandatory vacation leave.
I'll be fine. I always am. He paused to muse on the pain, which tore within him as if his heart was a lion trying to claw its way out. You know, I always associated this pain with love. Or the lack thereof, rather. I always assumed that if I was ever loved, truly loved by somebody, the pain would go away.
...I love you, Squall.
He found himself blushing at that. I know you do, Shiva. I love you too. And I don't know why I can't be happy with that love. I'm too cruel to you. You deserve someone who can appreciate you.
I'm perfectly happy where I am, thank you. And if you even think about junctioning me to someone else, that person'll be a solid block of ice for months.
Thanks. I just... wish that it was enough. Why is it that I'm so desperate for love, and can't be content with yours?
I'm a Guardian Force, Squall. Your heart knows that, and tries to find love from one of your own kind. And I sincerely hope that you do find it. But you'll always have me at your side, no matter what.
...I know. Thank you.
Now let's move onto the Rinoa bitch so that we can get this misery fest over with.
Squall groaned and thumped his head against the wall. Thanks for reminding me. Rinoa Heartilly, the one who got me to hope again, then royally screwed me over. I suck.
Let's not start that again.
Fine. When Rinoa came along, I was pretty much through with love. I'd rather live my entire life without it, than find another person to fall in love with who wouldn't love me. But Rinoa kept pushing me. "Dance with me", "Talk to me", "Smile for me". I couldn't say no to her, and some part of me didn't want to say it. And I loved her, with all my heart.
The last ditch effort of a drowning man.
I am not a drowning man. I'm just depressed.
Knock it off. I did love her. I still do, and that's the problem. She's another mark on the tally of people I love who don't love me. And it still hurts that she ran off with Zone. Is he cuter than me?
He's butt ugly. Whatever gave you the impression he was cuter?
...That's what Rinoa said. Maybe his personality?
Or maybe she's a bitch and doesn't know a wonderful man when she sees one.
Stop calling the woman I love a bitch.
Squall, she doesn't deserve you. And you deserve so much more than her. You deserve someone who sees your inner strength, who sees past the façade you put on for everyone. Someone who'll love you.
Squall sighed to the world, but the world wasn't listening. "Where am I supposed to find someone like that?"
Hyne, help me. I'm not sure I'm going to live through this.
It wasn't the expensiveness of the restaurant that did it. It wasn't the elegant diners, or the snooty matre d', or even the glamorous blue dress Selphie was wearing.
It was the folded napkins.
Trying to get a grip on his sanity, he politely pointed to the monsters. "Those do not need to be folded."
Selphie rolled her eyes and glanced around to make sure no one had heard him. "It's a fancy restaurant, Irvine, of course the napkins are going to be folded. Just don't order anything by the name of fois gras and you'll be fine."
Irvine nodded silently, pretending to accept her explanation. He took the napkin, unfolded it, placed it on his knee, and fidgeted with it. Within five minutes he had neatly shredded it into quarter-sized squares. Not knowing what to do with the scraps, he put them in the extra cup he seemed to have.
Selphie's eyes widened. "Um, Irvine honey, that was a cloth napkin."
Oh, so it was. "Um, sorry babe, I'll just... put those in my pocket. Nobody'll notice." He did so, trying to make it look natural and not as if he had made a huge social blunder. Light and thunder, he was so nervous he could spit bullets.
You know why you're doing this. You really care about her. She's not like other girls. She's sweet, and beautiful, and smart, and full of life and laughter, and she makes you feel all fuzzy inside, in a non-sex way. Not that the sex wasn't good. As good as it gets, anyways. Ah, bloody iguions, I'm just talking myself out of it.
Once upon a time he had had one of those "life changing monumental decision" things. There had been two paths before him, and he could only choose one. He had chosen, and had taken what he got, but sometimes he found himself wondering what life might have been like if he had chosen the other route. No, he would remind himself, you chose this life, and there's no going back.
Okay, here's the plan: buy her expensive champagne, let her eat and get a little tipsy, then I do it, and pray she doesn't squeal.
Supper went by quietly, and though Selphie refused to tell him what his "kalamahree" was made out of, he quite enjoyed it. As things were winding down, he started psyching himself up. You can do this. You're a lean, mean, smooth-talking machine. Just go through the steps you memorized, and you'll be fine. She's gonna say yes, you know she's gonna say yes.
So why did part of him hope she'd say no?
Finally he decided it was time. Right. Step one: Get down on one knee next to her chair. That proved to be easy, though the cloth squares fell out of his pocket when he did so. Ignore that, it's just a fluke. Step two: get the box out of your pocket. Um, why is it not in my pocket?! While Selphie looked at him strangely, he fumbled through all of his pockets, trying to remember where he put it. It's gotta be in... no, I checked that one already...maybe...oh right, it's in my bag. Reaching around behind him, he grabbed his satchel and rooted through it while Selphie hissed for him to get off the floor.
Aha! Box retrieved. Step three: Take her hand. This was a bit trying, since she kept dodging his attempts. Finally he decided to just skip to the next part. Step four: Say the speech...oh shit, don't tell me I forgot the speech. Come on, come on...oh yeah!
As the girl of his dreams gazed at him in horror as he made a mockery of himself in The Blue Dove, he cleared his throat. "Selphie, we've been together for two years now. We've had rough times, but we've also had lots of good times." His mental checklist had DON'T LIST EXAMPLES written in bold red ink and underlined, so he didn't. "You've been there for me no matter what, through all the tough times; you've been my guiding light in the darkness. I would be the proudest man alive if you would say that you will..." Um, there's another step. What's the step? Oh yeah, Step five: Open the box. He did so, and Selphie let out a little squeak as she saw the glittering band of gold and diamond, flashing brilliantly in the dim lights of the restaurant. "...If you would say that you will marry me, and be Mrs. Kinneas." Please say yes, please say yes, please say no... I mean yes! What the f*** is wrong with me?!
Selphie bounced in her seat, overcome with the thrill of the moment, a grin stretching to each ear and beaming like a billion watt bulb. "Oh Irvine! Oh, oh oh, oh yes, yes I do! I will! I'll marry you! I love you Irvine!" She launched off the red velvet chair and into his arms, bowling him over onto the luxurious Galbadian carpet and spilling wine everywhere.
Irvine was the happiest man alive. He was also feeling as if he had just made a huge mistake, and he had no idea why.
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