Chapter 2 - Bois De Merveilles

<morning thoughts>

By YuriNigasa

Light streamed in through the cracks in the curtain, painting the room in splashes of bright against gray. He rolled over, his head seeking the darkness under the pillow. One arm splayed out against the emptiness beside him and a toe nudged the wall. It was too early for this, and he'd been up far too late. Too many thoughts to sleep last night. He'd stared out at the breaking waves for what seemed like hours, or had it been hours? When he had sought the solace of dreams, it had been denied. All night the same thoughts. Over and over and over, repetitive and chaotic, a warped record. He gave up the struggle against daylight and pushed up on his arms, swinging his legs to the floor. The shock of the chill stone sent conflicting signals to his body, forcing his eyes fully open. He looked around the utilitarian room, gaze sweeping over the minimal decor. When had he decided to come here? On which one of those desperate nights had he run here and neglected to return? Gazing out at the beach, he decided the whole of the ocean wasn't enough room between himself and his past.

Flowers? Why was he suddenly thinking of flowers? They had become part of the backdrop, not the picture itself. Why then, were flowers suddenly the picture? "I'll be here..." an echo of a promise, forced into prominence by his bastard subconscious. Promises were worthless. Had it really been that long ago? So much changed, discarded, warped. Where did the reality begin when the fantasy ended? She had been more right than she knew when she told him that the past couldn't be changed. You couldn't unmake those mistakes that haunted you, the words you couldn't say and the words that should have never left your mouth. He shook his head roughly. Why these thoughts now? Why? Why! There wasn't anything he could do to change the past now! Regret flooded his mind and he violently pushed it aside as the wall came down around his emotions in an embrace familiar as a lover's caress. He grabbed his bag and headed for the door. It'd be a long day if he spent it in contemplation. Those days of perpetual brooding were over.

Seifer pulled the baggy gray pants up around his hips and put on a white cotton shirt. He walked slowly into the kitchen where the remainder of yesterday's coffee still sat in the pot. Picking it up and removing the lid he tossed the bitter liquid down the drain and decided to brew a new batch. The pungent scent soon filled the small room, and his stomach gave a slight rumble. He rummaged around for a small pan and set about making some breakfast. It was going to be a long day and he didn't really have the money to be eating in town while he ran errands. He poured a cup of the steaming coffee and added sugar, taking the cup over to the small table before hurrying back to pull the pan off the heat before it burned the food. Grabbing a plate from the cupboard, he scraped the eggs and bacon from the pan, then set the pan in the sink. He walked back over to the table and set the plate down, picking up the book he'd been reading the past couple days. As he sat and ate breakfast, his mind continued to wander, unable to focus on the action in the book. He shut the cover in disgust, his frown accented by the scar between his eyes. It had been so long since he'd thought about this. Thought about any of them. About him. He stood, leaving the empty plate on the table. He'd deal with it when he got back. Right now he just wanted to get going and get his mind off things.

The area where Seifer had taken up residence was still relatively empty of human population. He'd taken up living near the beach because in some ways it reminded him of when he was young, when they had all been together, and he'd been happier. In fact, he could still see the old lighthouse on the cliffs from his home. It wasn't that he was alone by choice, rather that when things had ended, Seifer felt that some things had been decided for him. He'd always been horribly proud, not given to begging or apologies, and now was no exception. Better that they all wonder what had happened to him, than to know the truth. Or worse yet, that they demand atonement for his sins or seek to bring him back as if nothing had occurred. Even if they had forgiven him, he had yet to forgive himself. His thoughts were interrupted as he sensed something go wrong with the truck. The entire frame shook and there was a horrible grinding noise accompanied by the scent of fuel. No matter how much he coaxed the vehicle to accelerate, it refused. Once it was pulled safely off onto the shoulder of the road Seifer let loose a flood of profanity. He didn't have the money to go fixing whatever was wrong. Vehicles didn't make that kind of noise unless it was going to be a very expensive problem. To top it off, the old truck was his only transportation to and from town. Which, he mentally noted, he still happened to be ten miles from. Yet another stream of cursing came from Seifer's lips.

Sweat pasted Seifer's tee-shirt to his chest and he could feel the muscles aching in his calves after an hour of walking. The added weight of Hyperion hung comfortably across his back but the strap was beginning to dig into his shoulder. Gone was the overzealous youth who could have run the ten miles to town in that damnable old trenchcoat of his. This Seifer was older, and life away from everyone had softened him a bit. He was more toned now than just raw muscle. His head jerked up as he thought he heard something in the distance. He turned his eyes skyward as if asking for intervention, then turned around so that he was walking backward.

Yes! It was indeed a car. Seifer silently hoped they had passed the truck and would associate him with it. He stuck his arm out to the side, his other hand clutching the strap that bound the massive gunblade to his back. The dark pavement shimmered in the heat, making the car appear to waver as if caught in some strange sorcery. He motioned with his hand when the car got closer, hoping the driver was feeling charitable. The vehicle suddenly swerved, catching Seifer off guard. He ran to the side, dread a heavy feeling in his chest. All the fear of the past few years of living in solitude caught up with him. Apparently not everyone had forgotten the face of the Sorceress' Knight. The tires squealed and the air was scented with burning rubber as the driver brought the car under control. Seifer stood his ground, his hand snaking over his back to touch the handle of Hyperion. If they wanted him, he wouldn't go quietly.

The sound of the car being put into park made him wary. His eyes narrowed in a way he hadn't done in ages. The door opened silently and at first all he could see was a pair of legs moving out of he car and boots being placed on the pavement. What he saw next made him doubt his eyes and his sanity. A thin pale hand came to rest on the door's frame, and in an instant he saw tousled brown hair, pale blue eyes, and... a scar.

"Seifer?" came a voice like a ghost. Seifer found himself silently wishing this was all a dream. Not like this, not now. He wasn't ready to face...

"Squall." It was a statement. Squall had uttered a question, not even sure that it was Seifer standing before him. But there was Seifer's strong voice, undeniable, and Squall knew.

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