Chapter 3 - Unmei no Deai
The erratic bass thump of Squall's heart obscured his hearing. His head was spinning, eyes unwilling to focus on what they saw. Refusing to believe it, mind truly attempting to make this some sort of bizarre mirage formed by heat and delusion. One tentative step closer. The image didn't waver. Eyes searching, secretly pleading behind the mask he wore constantly anymore, even when he was alone. It was if his mind had been read and the most secret thoughts stripped out and brought to life before his eyes. Dreams and nightmares colliding with daydreams until he wasn't sure of anything anymore.
That voice no more than a whisper, the brow furrowed, the barest hint of confusion in those blue eyes. So unreadable anymore. He'd changed. They had both changed. Seifer gazed at him steadily, willing his thoughts to order. Now was not the time to show weakness. He summoned his long disused mask of pride and found that while the edges didn't exactly line up anymore, the fit was close enough to hide his feelings. He gazed down, the old mask slipping more firmly into place.
Neither one spoke. They regarded each other steadily, blue eyes to green, gazes turning mirrored scars to focal points for concentration.
Seifer was first to recover his voice. "Thanks for stopping. My truck broke down about eight miles back and I've been trying to get to town for over an hour."
"That's all he's going to say?" Squall thought. "I can't believe it. Eight years and 'thanks for stopping' is what I get? Where have you been Seifer? Do you know how long it's been? Do you even care?" Squall struggled to find his voice and took a steady breath. "So that was your truck? What happened?"
"Way to go, Almasy," he berated himself inwardly. "You don't even manage a decent hello." He turned to face back toward the direction the truck was abandoned in. "I'm not really sure. Mechanics never really were my thing you know. All I know is it involved grinding, revving, the smell of fuel, and an inability to accelerate. It doesn't sound cheap and the truck's not worth all that much to begin with, but," he sighed, "it's my only way to and from town. I live too far away to walk."
Squall nodded, running an hand across the back of his neck and rolling his head forward to relieve the tension. "Sounds like the transmission went. Especially if it's still running but not accelerating. And yeah, that's expensive."
Squall's mask rose briefly at the unexpected show of emotion from Seifer, and he smiled in that enigmatic way of his. Seifer noticed and chuckled.
"It just goes to show that no matter what you do, you just can't get ahead in life once it's all gone to hell Squall," Seifer smirked.
Squall rolled his eyes and motioned Seifer towards the car. "Come on. It's hot out here. We'll head into town and see what we can do about the truck."
Seifer took more time to look at the vehicle that had nearly run him over a few minutes ago. It was deep blue and not at all sporty like Seifer might have expected. Instead it had classic lines, an inherent style to it that gave the impression that the owner had a definite sense of the finer things. It looked like a newer model too. One of those redesigns they were doing off the older models. Seifer wondered vaguely if it was a custom job. He'd never seen one like it on the road... not that he got out all that much and not that his area was exactly into the height of vehicular style. Squall popped the door lock. Seifer removed his gunblade and placed Hyperion across the back seat before he sat down in the passenger's seat. The cushions were soft and felt wonderful against his straining back muscles. He heard rustling on the seat beside him and he cracked open his left eye and gazed over at Squall. His features had matured, face broader but still on the slender side. Profile well defined and hair still as unruly as ever. He looked like he'd put on a bit more bulk, but Seifer couldn't be sure if it was real, or just the fact that memory made things hazy. The ignition turned over easily and Seifer felt the car accelerate as he closed his eyes again.
"So..." Squall began hesitantly. He looked over quickly enough to catch Seifer opening his eyes. "How have... things... been?"
"Quiet really. It's been a long time, Squall. I don't even know how to begin or where to begin."
"Yeah, I suppose so. You left so quickly when it was all over with."
"I had to. I couldn't... there was no way. I changed Squall. My life will never be what it was, ever." Seifer's jaw tensed, raw frustration in his voice.
"Hey, it's OK. I'm sorry, I just..." he trailed off. "I don't know what to say, Seifer. Some things haven't changed, I guess." Squall sighed and readjusted his grip on the wheel.
"Yeah," Seifer agreed.
They drove on in silence for a bit, the flat landscape broken in the distance by rising hills. Occasionally Seifer saw an animal or two but for the most part, it was just monotonous.
"Thanks. I mean that." Seifer's voice took on an odd tone. One that Squall had only heard a couple times before, and not in the past decade at all. Maturity? Remorse? Squall couldn't pinpoint it exactly.
"Don't mention it. We grew up together Seifer. It's been a while, but, still... Say, you wouldn't want to maybe grab lunch in town, would you? It's getting toward that time and I forgot to grab breakfast earlier."
Seifer thought about the lack of money, and then about just how much the truck repairs were going to cost. He might as well just go have lunch. Spending seven extra gil was probably going to be the least of his problems for a while. "Sure. I've got a couple errands to attend to, but they can wait."
"Well I can run you around town. It's not a problem you know," Squall cringed inwardly. He sounded too eager, even to his own ears. What was he thinking? Just his luck, Seifer probably thought Squall was treating him like a charity case.
"I'd appreciate it."
An almost comfortable silence settled between them as they headed the rest of the way into town. Something orchestral played softly in the background, and Seifer found himself surprised that Squall was into something so cultured. It had been a long time, indeed.
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