Chapter 8 - Chikasui Myaku no Meiro

<breaking silence>

By YuriNigasa

In the deepening twilight, Seifer glanced at Squall's face. All he could see was horror and repulsion mixed with pity in Squall's eyes. He hadn't wanted to tell Squall anything, but once he had started, it was as if he lost control. His voice continued of its own volition, heedless of the fact that he didn't want to speak. Every syllable had been like a razor, the cut unnoticed at first, but when the blood started to flow the pain came. Silence wrapped like a shroud around the room, suffocating and intolerable.

Squall lifted a hand as if to reach for Seifer, then dropped it, wincing in pain. Squall desperately wanted to call Seifer over to him and through some force of sheer willpower and physical contact wipe away every trace of the horror that terrorized Seifer's mind. The wind picked up as if sensing the distress, seeking to add its own voice to fill the silence. He could hear Seifer's breath coming in fluttering waves, hear the soft hitch as he swallowed, the rough sound as Seifer's hands pushed away the tears in his eyes. He'd never imagined Seifer this vulnerable, ever. Seifer had always been the confidant one, the strong-willed one, the proud one. He had been so many things Squall was not. Now, Squall couldn't reconcile this image with the last images he had of Seifer. He couldn't abandon Seifer now. But what could Squall do? He was powerless to break Ultimecia's true spell - her hold on Seifer's soul.

Forcing himself to stand, Squall made his way to Seifer. More collapsing than sitting, he came to rest at Seifer's feet. Tentatively he reached a hand up and placed it on Seifer's arm. Seifer recoiled as if shocked. Again, Squall reached up, this time grasping Seifer's hand as best he could. He could feel the tension in Seifer's muscles. Gently he pulled Seifer's hand, silently asking Seifer to join him on the floor. Seifer hesitated, then slowly fell to his knees. Squall's other hand pressed against the back of Seifer's head, bruised fingertips running through Seifer's hair. Slowly, Squall lowered Seifer's head to his chest, tucking it just below the crook of his neck. Squall rocked back and forth, cradling Seifer as best he could. For a long time he simply held Seifer in silence. Better to simply not speak, rather than voice meaningless platitudes. Squall wasn't experienced at being there for people, even after all these years. He had opened up, superficially. Now, dealing with something of this magnitude, he realized how he had missed Seifer. Not the illusory mask that Seifer had crafted his image into, but the Seifer that Squall had forgotten he remembered.

They had been inseparable as children. Seifer was the adventurous one, and Squall the curious one. Constantly into mischief, the grand plans of backyard adventures, exploring on the beach, they had done everything together. Seifer had always been the brave one, protecting the younger Squall. And Squall had been Seifer's loyal companion. The only one that had meant more to Squall than Seifer was Ellone. Squall had been devastated after Ellone had left the orphanage. The once bright and happy child became cold and withdrawn. He had been abandoned again. Everyone seemed to leave him. Everyone would leave him. It was as good as fact in his young mind. It was easy enough to fix, though. If you pushed everyone away, it wouldn't hurt when they left. So Squall pushed everyone away. He would make it alone. He didn't need anyone. Not Sis, not any stupid parents, not even a best friend. Seifer had probably never understood why Squall pushed him away. They had been the best of friends. Now, Squall never talked to him anymore. Seifer probably wondered what he had done. What he had done to make Squall hate him. The only time Squall would even acknowledge Seifer at that point was when Seifer had made him furious. Ever since then, that was how it had been. Squall, refusing to recognize anyone, and Seifer, forcing Squall to see him.

Squall understood now. He knew why Seifer had done it all. Even after all these years, Seifer had still sought to protect Squall. As he had done so many times in childhood, Seifer had put himself between Squall and whatever threatened him. Seifer had sacrificed himself for Squall. He pulled Seifer tighter to him, tears falling unashamedly down his cheeks, and coming to rest in Seifer's golden hair. "I'm so sorry I wasn't there. All those years I pushed you away, refused to see. I didn't want to be close to anyone, because they all left. And then, we forgot. I forgot the truth. All that time you were just trying to make me see. Even after you'd forgotten too. And when you needed someone most, I still pushed you away. I blamed you, never seeing it any other way."

"I should have stood by you, against her. You shouldn't have faced that alone, and even when we went against you, still you protected me. Yet we were all too willing to blame you. Far too willing to see only what we wanted to see. Even when we remembered, we forgot. Forgive me, Seifer."

Seifer wrapped his arms around Squall, sobbing unashamedly. For now, there was no bitter past. At that moment they were, once again, only boys.

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