Authors Notes: If you don't know, Cell Block Tango is a terrific song from Chicago, and is about female prisoners who killed their lovers.

Pleasantly Depressed

Chapter 9 - Of Rules and Digital Clocks

By Skandranon

"And this is my living room, and this is the couch where I'll be sleeping, and in there is the bed where you'll be sleeping and don't you dare say a word," Squall didn't. "The bathroom is through there, and here's my pathetic excuse for a kitchen. And that's pretty much it."

When the orphanage gang returned from Time Compression two years ago, Irvine had found himself roped into an honorary SeeD rank of captain. Along with it came a rank badge, a ceremony uniform which made his height much too obvious, a teaching role he was never cut out for, and his choice of any empty apartment in the Garden. He had spent three days doing nothing but going from room to room comparing specs, before choosing his current home, a comfy little bachelor pad on the far right wing of the dormitories. Smaller than some of the other options, it had one feature that had made the decision for him.

Directly outside the only window was a climbable tree in the training center.

"Rules." Squall gave him a glare, but only crossed his arms and listened. "No messing up the bathroom. You spill it, you clean it up. No touching my beer without permission. No touching the chocolates in the freezer. They're Selphie's." He didn't understand why that girl insisted on using his fridge when she had her own apartment, but her explanation had included the phrase 'furthering our relationship', so he had wisely shut up and let her invade his space.

"You break it, you replace it. Clothes go in the hamper. No wielding gunblade indoors. And rule number one." He lowered his head to gain a more threatening expression. Squall just looked annoyed. "You touch my music, you're a dead man."

The High Commander of the United Garden Forces snorted and slumped onto the couch.

Rubbing his forehead, Irvine stalked back to the kitchenette and leaned bodily against the counter. Squall hadn't said a word since he left the infirmary, and his funk was getting worse with every moment. He paid attention when Irvine spoke to him, but otherwise he drifted into his own head. Irvine was tempted to play Cell Block Tango at full volume to see if it had an effect. One thing he and the Lion shared was a good sense of morbid humor.

"You need to get some stuff from your room?"




"Mabye some pajamas, or are you going to just wear your clothes?

"I sleep nude."

Irvine blinked. "You don't sleepwalk, do you?"


This had been going on all day. Irvine asks question. Irvine doesn't get an answer. Irvine has to push to get any sort of response. Squall sinks deeper into the brooding. He had promised to look after the guy, but he wasn't a babysitter. What was he supposed to do, read him a bed time story? Tuck him in? Sleep tight, don't let the urge for suicide bite. He did want to help Squall with his issues, but if he spent too much time around the fellow, he'd catch the brooding disease, and then they'd both be miserable.

"Look, I'm supposed to watch you, but I know you'd rather I didn't. And I've got to go see Selphie," and apologize on bended knee for standing her up tonight... again... "so what say you swear to stay right here, avoid all hazardous items and death-based thoughts, and I'll be back in an hour or two?"

About fifteen seconds later he got a nod.

"I'm going to need more than just a head jiggle, Squall." He quirked an eyebrow expectantly.

He could hear and see the teeth grinding, but the word "swear" got past Squall's lips, and that was good enough for him. Grabbing his hat and a beer, he was out the door before either of them could change their minds.

It was probably for the best anyways. Squall always did best when he was alone.

Silence was a great thing, most of the time. You didn't get in trouble for saying stupid things, people would think you're deep and wise, and people would leave you alone. You had room to think.

Unfortunately, right now that last bit was a very bad thing.

The door slam rattled loose a jab in his chest, one he hadn't felt before.

It took exactly four seconds for the pervading silence to become unsettling. Thirteen more seconds, and the hum of the fridge was blaring in his ear. Twenty one seconds after Irvine walked out, the glow of the lights were giving him a headache. From there it slipped into a routine of pacing, rubbing his forehead, and wondering just how upset the cowboy would be if Squall played some of his music. Anything that he could concentrate on, other than the lights and the fridge and the whirring of the air ducts.

Thirty minutes had passed, and Squall was falling apart. He hadn't noticed until now that since the... incident... on the ledge, Irvine had been a constant in his routine. Hadn't left his side once. With someone so willing to distract him, it had been almost easy to ignore his own thoughts.

Irvine got tired of you too. Given the option of spending time with the local nutjob or his own fiancee, of course he's going to pick the girl.

He rifled through the magazines in the room for something to focus on, but guns, girls, and weightlifting magazines couldn't hold his interest for long. He searched the fridge for a snack, but nothing invoked an appetite.

It's your own fault, you know. You drove him away.

Irvine had a collection of philosophy and history books hidden under his bed, but the philosophy was too abstract to understand, and the history was too dry to endure.

You probably drove the others away too, you know.

One of Irvine's vests was missing a button. He located it in a sewing kit and repaired the damage.

Damned unlovable, that's what you are.

The clock was a digital, and showed seconds on the bottom right. He stared at it for three minutes and eighteen seconds.

Just do them all a favor and drop dead already.

No. I promised.

So? I promised Ellone I'd wait for her. Then I completely forgot she even existed. I promised Rinoa I'd always be with her, and now she's off somewhere in Deling.

Those musical soundtracks were looking pretty tempting right about now.

He lasted all of eight more minutes before caving, and putting on the first disc that came to hand. The music was soothing, light and vibrant with a lot of brass instruments.

By the time he came to track four, he'd figured out why Irvine didn't want him to play them. Who writes a song about murdering your lover? He picked out another disc.

The first two tracks were decent enough, but the third...was about dying. It listed all the horrible ways this group of people died. Clifford died of natural causes, caught a nasty virus? He jabbed the stop button.

Maybe life's trying to give you a hint?

The third disc included a song about suicide, the fourth disc had one about a school shooter. That one was even perky and upbeat. The fifth talked about an abusive husband.

The sixth was a musical about pirates, but by then he was in no mood to listen anymore.

The silence hummed again, louder than before. His heart started beating to the pattern of the clock, which made the tiniest of clicks, invisible until you notice it, then impossible to ignore.

Am I going to always feel like this? Does it ever get better?

He wandered his way back to the fridge to gaze at the contents again, locked in his own mind. He kept spinning in a cycle... pain, loneliness, silence, pensive, frustration, desparation, and back again. He rubbed his should again, just like he had the last fourty times. He dragged his nails along the bared skin at the collarbone, adding four more red lines to the collection there. Some of them were bleeding. He knew because it was crusting on his fingernails.

He wasn't sure what he tripped on, only that his hands landed on the cabinets to steady himself, and his fingers landed on a cold smoothness. Startled, he glanced down.

For a brief second of disorientation, he thought it was his gunblade. But it was just an ordinary kitchen knife, laying forgotten next to the empty cheese packet it had probably been used to open.

If it's not going to get better, then what's the point?

The knife wasn't humming or ticking or whirring. It just sat there, still and cold and sharp. Silent as the grave.

Parallel, not perpendicular. Follow the veins.

He picked it up.




Authors Note : Yep, Irvine's an idiot. On a side note, here's the songs Squall was listening to : Cell Block Tango (Chicago), Spices (Butthole Surfers), Where Did Johny Go (Hansen), I Don't Like Mondays, Two Beds and a Coffee Machine (Savage Garden), and the Pirates of Penzance soundtrack. I own all of these. Why Irvine owns them, I have no idea.

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