Chapter 9 - Seraph

<and then>

By YuriNigasa

Midnight fell and they still sat on the floor in each other's arms. Neither one wanted to break the hold of comfort and reassurance. Finally, they had made peace with each other and their past together. The subdued sound of their steady breathing was broken by a strange noise. Seifer laughed as he realized it was the sound of Squall's stomach rumbling. It had been nearly thirty-six hours since they'd stopped in the diner. Seifer felt dazed. How much things had changed in just a day and a half. He sat up slowly, his already sore muscles cramped from lack of movement. He'd go cook after he'd stretched out and been to the bathroom.

Returning to the living room, he caught Squall's glance as he made his way over to where Squall was. "Come on, up!" Seifer said gently as he helped Squall to stand as best he could. It wasn't quite as easy getting him off the floor as it had been helping him off the couch.

"Ow, careful," Squall muttered. "There's not a thing in my body that doesn't hurt right now you know."

"I wonder why?" Seifer quirked an eyebrow.

"You never used to hit that hard you know. If you had, I have a feeling this would have been the least of my injuries," he flicked his gaze in the direction of the scar.

"Oh come on, it gave you that dangerous, stoic look. All you did to me was mar my flawless countenance." Seifer tried to look serious, and failed. Seifer helped Squall into the rest room. "I'm going to go start some... er... dinner?" he shrugged. "Just yell when you're ready."

Seifer put some water on to boil and decided to clean up the breakfast dishes while he waited. The pan refused to come clean, so he filled it with scalding water and set it to soak. He had just put some pasta on to boil when Squall called him, so he walked back to the bathroom. "Couch or bed?" Seifer asked him. "If you want to watch television there's one in the bedroom. Otherwise, you can just be bored on the couch."

"Either or, doesn't matter to me. Never was much for television anyway."

"Your choice."

"Whatever's closer."

"That makes it the bedroom then. I use part of it as my work space because the lighting is good. Don't mind the mess." Seifer made sure Squall was propped up comfortably and went back to check on the food.

Squall looked around. The light was low in the room but it was still very open feeling, mainly due to the fact that aside from the bed, dresser, television, and work table, there wasn't anything in the room. A few framed prints were scattered around the walls, but the main focus was the large picture window across the room. He could see a light come and go in the distance, and it took him a moment to figure out what it was. The lighthouse. Squall's eyes widened as it dawned on him that the other night, when he'd been lost in contemplation, he'd been a bit more right than he knew. He had no doubts that Seifer had known the lighthouse could be seen from here when he moved in. All this time, Seifer had been so close and Squall had never even realized. Once he and the others had agreed to renovate the old orphanage, he'd taken to using it when he needed to get away. Recently though, he'd been getting away more and staying around less.

Things just hadn't turned out like he'd expected. Not that he'd admit he'd had expectations to begin with. It was just that he was certain this wasn't how life was supposed to be. Granted, he didn't quite know how he should expect it to be, he just had generally classified it in the 'well certainly not like this' category. He had just been a kid really, when it all happened. Amazing that he'd ever thought that at seventeen he'd been an adult by any stretch of the imagination. He'd discovered the rude wake-up when he found himself married at twenty and divorced by the time he was twenty-three. He'd figured out fast just how little anyone is prepared for the 'real' world. It had been as amicable a split as those things ever were, but the truth was, they had been young. More than three years had passed since they'd seen each other or even spoken. He'd heard she'd sucked the life out of the next hapless male victim about six months after they split. Yeah, she'd been so torn up over him. He'd been too busy with his own life to even act like he cared. Actually, he missed her dog more than her. Truth was, he held no true ill will, they just hadn't been compatible. They were mutually guilty of going through with it even though neither one really wanted it or was ready. It had been just another thing Squall had done because everyone expected him to.

Now, Squall was the master of getting by. He'd never really felt driven to much of anything. He wasn't stupid, unfortunately it was much the opposite. Squall had a sneaking suspicion that whoever had coined the phrase that ignorance was bliss had left off the rest of it. If ignorance was bliss, it was no wonder he was so miserable. Nothing challenged him anymore. Twenty-six years old and already out of things to do with his life. Everyone else had something that seemed to drive them, something that made it worthwhile to them. Quistis had her teaching, and Zell his martial arts. Selphie and Irvine had a family. He had... nothing.

The sound of Seifer's footsteps heading down the hall broke off his thoughts. His stomach rumbled at the smell of the fresh pasta. Seifer set down a tray and handed Squall a plate of the steaming food.

"Wow, this looks great," Squall offered.

"It's nothing really, but thanks. So, what's on?" Seifer asked.

"I wasn't paying much attention really. This time of night, is anything ever on?"

Seifer leaned back against the bed's headboard. "Point taken."

"This is a nice little house. I noticed I can see the lighthouse."

"Yeah, the view in the day's really nice from that window. Of course, the view out by the beach is better. You can't tell how close it really is because of the dunes. They're so high that it just makes it look farther. Night before last it was just beautiful out. There was a nice wind and it had cooled off well enough, stars everywhere, and just the sound of the waves. It's comforting." Seifer's mind wandered back to that night. Never had he thought he'd actually be sitting here with Squall then. They had reached some sort of unspoken balance tonight. Why was it that being curled next to Squall had been so comforting? Seifer couldn't shake the feeling, but he knew better than to get used to it. He was lucky enough as it was. He shouldn't go pushing for more than that.

Squall set his plate down, half unfinished. The medicine had done a number on his system, and he still felt rather fuzzy around the edges. He ran a hand subconsciously against his jaw and realized he really needed a shave. He leaned back in the bed, slouched against the headboard, his head resting half against the pillow and half against Seifer's arm. Squall couldn't shake the feeling of comfort he had felt earlier. He'd forgotten how inviting simple human contact was. Why is it that the only time in his life he'd ever felt he had purpose it had involved Seifer? Seifer had always given him something to strive against. Seifer had given Squall purpose. Hardly a startling revelation, really. Squall just never had admitted it to himself before.

Seifer looked down in bewilderment at the top of Squall's tousled head. Had Squall just settled down against him? The drugs must be better than Seifer remembered. Of course, last time he'd taken them, there had been nobody to snuggle up against. If there had been, maybe he'd have tried, too. Seifer was nearly afraid to move. He didn't want to disturb Squall. A strange, protective feeling lodged itself in Seifer's chest and refused to move. Squall had always seemed so delicate to him, so fragile. It was deceptive though. There was an undeniable strength inherent in Squall. Seifer had tested it often enough, and every time Squall had been more than enough a match for him.

The television blared a mindless stream of images and noise at the oblivious men. Even though it had been a night for revelation, there were still many, many things they preferred to hold in. Some silent, unbroken barriers were still far too immense to even begin to deal with. Nearly two decades of misunderstanding and mistrust were not going to disappear overnight. As the hour grew late, somewhere between contemplation and contentment, they both fell asleep.

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