Chapter 10 - Madrigal

<strange bedfellows>

By YuriNigasa

Squall's back was warm. Instinctively he burrowed back against the source of the heat, sighing in contentment when he found the source to be quite solid and comfortable. His movement was somewhat hindered as if something was pinning him down, but it wasn't enough to rouse him. Suddenly, it dawned on him that he wasn't at home and that he'd fallen asleep next to Seifer, which by process of elimination meant... His eyes flew open and he froze. The weight around his waist turned out to be Seifer's arm, which had nestled around him and Seifer's warm breath was tickling the back of his neck. Squall was extremely confused. It was too early for his poor mind to have to deal with this. The only thing he could hope to do would be to extract himself without waking Seifer. If Seifer woke up now, they'd just be horribly uncomfortable around each other all day. As if that was turning out to be anything new.

Squall moved as softly as he could, rolling his legs to the side of the bed. Seifer had some sort of death grip on Squall's shirt so he had to slide out of it and slithered his body to the cool floor. He fought the urge to scream as his back brushed against the side of the bed and sent waves of pain over his body. Somehow this whole idea had come off sounding much better in theory. He got to his knees and managed to stand without exerting pressure on his tender hands. He gazed out the picture window to the ocean, which seemed to be nothing more than a thin blue ribbon in the distance. His eye was caught by dozens of small figurines that lined the workbench in the corner. They were impossibly small and intricate to Squall's eye. Paints and brushes, a small saw, glue, pins and other items were scattered across the surface, and in one corner there were some figures that appeared half finished. These must have been what Seifer was talking to the shop owner about, because the box Seifer had picked up was on the corner.

Squall tried to move closer to see the detail, amazed at the time and patience that each figure must have taken. Seifer had apparently picked this up after leaving Garden. Squall couldn't ever remember him having the patience to do anything like this before. The figure of Shiva soon caught his attention and he took a deep breath. She was standing, one arm outstretched and hand beckoning, her facial expression somewhere between a mischievous look and the look of a predator. One leg was raised slightly and bent at the knee, while around the base ice crystals were forming into a wall behind her. Her hair flared out behind her as if caught in a breeze. She was perfectly formed and breathtaking. It was amazing that something like this could ever be formed by human hands. By Seifer's hands. Hands that had once seen so much destruction and chaos, now used to create something of unspeakable beauty.

He decided to let Seifer rest while he sought out the beach. He was getting back in that old habit of contemplation, and the beach seemed to be as good a place as any to do it. Opening the front door wasn't easy, so he left it propped open to he wouldn't have the same problem going in. The sand and gravel felt warm on his bare feet as he walked around to the back of the house. A few hundred feet away he could see the dunes, a reddish cast on them from the rising sun. Carefully watching his step, he made his way over the ridge, toes and feet digging deep into the sand, leaving uneven pits in his wake.

Seifer stirred, a deep rumbling moan coming from his chest. Why was he so cold? He hadn't been cold when he'd fallen asleep against.... Squall?! Oh shit. Seifer brought his hand to his face, and sputtered when his face made contact with fabric instead of flesh. He recognized it as the shirt he had given Squall to wear the day before. If the shirt was here and Squall was not, how had he gotten a hold of it? Seifer didn't remember anything suspicious. Unless... Squall had obviously woken up first. Had he...? Seifer was bewildered. He could think of too many possibilities and the majority of them weren't good. In fact, most of them bordered on the damnably embarrassing. His subconscious sent a flurry of images that made Seifer blush and his body react. He groaned and willed his mind to order.

"Squall?" he called hesitantly. Seifer heard no reply. Again, louder. Still, no reply. He got up and walked to the hallway. The bathroom was empty and so was the living room. The front door was open slightly. Seifer's heart was pounding. Had Squall left? Seifer wouldn't be surprised if he had. Disappointed, frustrated, and heartbroken maybe, but not surprised. Opening the door, he saw Squall's car sitting in the same place it had been parked. Relief washed over him. Squall hadn't left. Walking around to the back, Seifer headed toward the beach. He slowly made his way over the dunes, scanning the shore for Squall's figure. In the distance he saw him, sitting deep in thought, staring at the breaking waves. Seifer would have given anything to know what was on his mind at that point. Seifer walked slowly toward Squall, eyes raking over the well-defined muscles of his arms and shoulders. His back was still hideously bruised. Seifer wished he could just make the damage go away.

More than anything he wanted to wrap his arms around Squall and hold him close. Find out all the things about him that time and memory had made hazy. Stare into those eyes and somehow recapture that feeling of contentment he'd had when Squall had held him for hours. Time hadn't dimmed that feeling Seifer got when he looked at Squall. Not at all. He still felt that nervous flutter that he'd learned to cover up with anger and resentment and taunts. That charge that ran up his spine and made him alert to the smallest details. Seifer growled under his breath at his mind's traitorous thoughts and cut them off hastily. The last thing he needed to be contemplating was putting the moves on Squall.

Squall couldn't believe he'd finally found Seifer. Somehow, the events of the past two days had unlocked feelings he'd suppressed as a child. He couldn't remember being so relieved or in as much pain as he was in now. They'd always had a knack for hurting each other worse than anyone else could. Squall felt so guilty for all the things he'd done. For pushing Seifer away. He'd always come back, too, a small voice chided from his subconscious. Seifer had never given up, even when Squall had locked himself away from everyone, Seifer had still broken through to Squall in his own stubborn way. Squall wondered how much he had missed out on, shutting out his best friend that way. So many years he couldn't ever get back. He wondered how things would have turned out differently. His mind wandered back to this morning, to the feel of his back against Seifer's chest, of Seifer's arm wrapped possessively around him, Seifer's warm breath against his neck. Squall blushed and lowered his gaze. He'd felt safe, content. He was going to have to leave as soon as he could. Seifer had gone through enough. He didn't need Squall making advances on him.

Squall heard Seifer's approach, and stood to meet him.

"You're awake," Squall noted.

"Brilliant observation," Seifer smirked.

"Shut up."

Seifer tilted back his head and laughed, deep notes carrying across the beach. It felt almost foreign, his laughing like that. Squall couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Seifer in a genuinely good humor. Squall liked it.

"Come on, it's time to eat. I'd offer to race you back but it'd be a shame to beat you while you weren't feeling well," Seifer grinned roguishly.

"You might want to go ahead and beat me while you can. You need all the handicaps you can get just to win," Squall grinned slyly.

"Oh really now? I consider that a challenge."

"I don't," replied Squall.

"Are you implying I'm not a challenge anymore? I'm wounded deeply. Really, you have no idea how much," Seifer's body posture echoed the melodramatic tone in his voice.

"I'm sure. Don't worry. There will be plenty of time for me to show you up later. Right now I'm thinking of food."

"A weakness I can exploit?" Seifer asked.

"No, no exploitation while I'm in pain. You can attempt to exploit my weaknesses after I feel better," Squall remarked.

Seifer's eyes grew wide at that remark and Squall assumed he'd crossed some hidden line. He'd sworn that he'd watch himself, and yet not even five minutes later he was starting to flirt with Seifer. Seifer, on the other hand, was in near shock because of the images Squall's innocuous comment had brought to his mind. Squall hadn't meant it that way, he assured himself. It was just his own wishful thinking. Recovering as quickly as he could Seifer replied, "Well then, maybe I will."

Squall chuckled, and quickly dropped the subject. That had been too close. He sat in the kitchen while Seifer cooked breakfast, chatting idly. They both enjoyed the companionship and conversation, and the morning passed easily.

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