Chapter 11 - Au Revior
The week passed quickly. Squall was healing well, with no sign of infection or embedded glass in his hands. His back was still sore, but the bruising had faded to a pale green. He knew he had to leave soon.
Their collective past dealt with, Squall and Seifer started to build a solid friendship, much like the one they had as boys. Seifer was curious about what had happened with everyone. Squall told him that Quistis had been named headmaster to Galbadia six months ago. Zell had been convinced to take a full time teaching position at Balamb. Selphie and Irvine had returned to Trabia after their marriage five years ago, and two years ago had their first child - a little girl named Lia. Seifer inquired about what had happened with Rinoa. Squall gave him the highlights of their three year marriage and subsequent separation. Seifer offered condolences, but Squall refused them. Smiling wryly he'd told Seifer that he certainly wasn't sorry it happened. The divorce that is. If he was offering condolences on the marriage, Squall would take those. Seifer had found that immensely amusing. In lowered tones, Squall shared with him how he was coping with having a father in his life once again and the difficulties with learning to relate to people.
Squall asked what had happened to Raijin and Fuujin, and Seifer spoke of them fondly. They kept in touch often, usually through electronic messaging. Squall learned they had actually settled in Stassen, a thriving town that was north of Balamb Harbor. Twice a year they got together, although it had been a while because money was tight for everyone this year. Squall was surprised to learn that Seifer supported himself by painting miniatures, and he would intently watch Seifer work as he made the small figurines come to life. Squall had discovered that Seifer wore handsome gold framed glasses when he worked, to ease eye strain. Once, Seifer had persuaded Squall to pick up a brush and try his hand at the intricate craft. All had been well until Squall's tenuous grasp had faltered and the Inquisitor he had so laboriously worked on upended itself into a pot of black paint. Seifer had found it extremely humorous, while Squall had simply glowered at him. He hadn't picked up a brush since and Seifer would often tease him about it just to watch his face cloud over in aggravation.
Seifer made arrangements to borrow money for repairs to his truck from Tescha, the shop owner. Tescha hadn't wanted to charge Seifer interest, but Seifer insisted and wouldn't take the money until Tescha agreed. Squall drove Seifer in to town to deliver a shipment to the shop, and they spent some time chatting with Mira, Tescha's wife, who was minding the store that day. She quirked an eyebrow at Seifer when she noted the still visible bruises on both men, but didn't say anything. They made arrangements with the repair shop to deliver the truck when it was ready, and spent the day in town, relaxing.
While they ate dinner, Squall told Seifer he'd be leaving soon.
Seifer gave himself credit for keeping his composure. He'd been preparing himself for the day he knew would come. Squall had a life to return to. Seifer couldn't and wouldn't expect Squall to stay indefinitely. He immensely enjoyed Squall's companionship, but he was going to keep to that vow he had made. He would in no way force his affections on Squall. He was content with the fact that they were rebuilding their relationship. It would be far more enjoyable to have Squall as a friend than to risk potentially damaging it again. Seifer hadn't felt this normal in years. It was unsettling, but good. Seifer would be lonely when Squall left, but he'd cope with it. He'd done it before, he could manage again. He just never realized that this time would hurt so much more.
Seifer almost found himself wishing the shop would delay the repairs on the truck or find something else wrong. Okay, not almost, he was wishing they would. He toyed with the idea of calling them and asking them to delay it, but then decided that would be unbelievably stupid. Seifer was a grown man, not some vapid schoolgirl. A devious chuckle escaped his lips as his mind associated an image of Rinoa with the phrase. He wasn't going to go pine after Squall like some lovesick fool. He respected Squall too much for such mindless idiocy.
Squall was amazed that he'd maintained his composure so well. He hated the thought that he might be an imposition to Seifer, even though Seifer had assured him he was not. Squall felt a growing attachment to Seifer, and he didn't want to risk making a fool of himself and scaring Seifer away if he said the wrong thing. Seifer was worth more to him as a friend and didn't deserve for Squall to go after him like some weekend conquest. Squall felt that he was behaving like a coward, running away, but that was the only way he felt he could maintain the friendship. He'd visit when he was in the area, but he could never, ever, let it get out of hand.
The day arrived all too soon.
Squall packed his bag and set it on the couch. Seifer was in his room, getting dressed. Squall headed to the bathroom to give Seifer time to change.
Seifer heard the door to the bathroom close. Pulling his shirt quickly over his head, he dashed over to his work shelf and took something down, wrapping it in a shirt. He went out to the living room and opened Squall's bag, shoving the bundle inside and had just finished zipping it when he heard the bathroom door open.
"I'm going to head out. I'm catching the train out at the station in an hour." Squall was perplexed. That hadn't been even remotely what he'd planned to say. He sounded like a callow asshole. "Shit, that sounded so rude. I want to thank you. I've really enjoyed myself, Seifer."
Seifer smiled warmly. "Old habits... It was nothing. I appreciate all you did. Keep in touch, will you?"
Squall returned the smile, his eyes focused on Seifer's. "You know it. You'll have to come visit eventually, when you're ready. We all try to get together once a year, and I know they'd like to see you. Matron and Cid as well."
"Give Matron my love, will you? She and I never had a chance to talk anything out. I'd like to try to do that now."
"She knows. She thought it was better to wait for you to be ready to talk. She understands us all fairly well."
"Yeah, well, you'd better get going. You've got my number, call sometime."
They hugged each other close, each silently enjoying the moment of closeness without any external indication. No further words were spoken after they separated. Squall picked up his bag and headed for the door. Seifer walked silently behind him and watched him get in his car. Squall waved before he got in, and Seifer waved back. The car started up and pulled out of the driveway, heading back down the dusty road.
Seifer stood in the doorway until the tail lights disappeared. Then he closed the door and went inside with a heavy heart.
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