Chapter 13 - Uruwashiki Kamen
<feelings and phone calls>
Seifer woke up in a bad mood. The empty house that he had once found reassuring now just felt horribly lonely. He missed Squall, which made the frown on his face deepen into a vicious scowl. He chided himself for letting his guard down so much. Seifer had been a fool to think that he'd ever get any semblance of what he considered to be a normal life. He didn't want to spend the day at home. There were too many fresh memories here now.
Seifer got ready quickly, putting on clean clothes and brushing his hair before he was out the door in an instant. Hopping in the truck the engine turned over smoothly, sounding better than it had in years. He backed out of the driveway and sent gravel flying in his haste to head away from the house. As he headed toward the main road a solitary string of rings came from the phone in his kitchen before the answering machine picked up.
"If you're calling you obviously know who this is, and you're smart enough to know what to do about it." Seifer's recorded voice sounded cynical to Squall's ears.
"Seifer, it's me... um... Squall. Listen, give me a call when you get home. Call collect. I'll talk to you then." Squall left the number that dialed directly up to Quistis' rooms. There was a click as the call was terminated.
Seifer's truck stopped in front of the hobby shop. Throwing the vehicle into park, he stepped out and headed in the door. Mira smiled at him warmly as she watched him come in.
"I didn't expect to see you today. What brings you in and where's that friend of yours?" she asked.
Seifer glowered. "He left yesterday morning. I just had some time to kill and thought I'd come to town for a bit."
Mira nodded skeptically. "So who was he? Wasn't exactly social."
"That, Mira, was Squall."
Mira frowned in thought. "You mean that was...?"
Seifer nodded affirmatively.
"I didn't think you two were on speaking terms."
"We weren't. We haven't seen each other in almost a decade but, if you can believe this, he was the one who picked me up when the truck broke down."
"So, what's with this here?" Mira traced her finger along her jaw line to indicate Seifer's fading bruises. "I noticed he had a matching set."
Seifer blushed noticeably and turned his gaze to the carpet. "Old habits die hard?" he replied hesitantly.
Mira looked at him intently.
"It's hard to explain, Mira. I haven't exactly told you guys anything, even though you've always treated me well. There's just a lot that you don't know." Seifer looked stressed.
"Past is past, Seifer. A lot of people have said a lot of things about you, but Tescha and I believe that everyone needs a second chance. You've never treated us ill or been untoward. Your actions speak better about you than anything else we might hear," Mira spoke in a tone that quelled any argument from Seifer. Truth was that she and Tescha saw him like a son. He didn't have anyone, and they felt bad for him. Who he may have been in his youth was not the man he had become. "So, I take it you two worked through some things in your own way then?"
"Good. You can't keep running away from it sweetie. Growing up, that was your family. Just because they aren't blood doesn't make a difference. Family needs to stick together and work things out."
Seifer laughed, "Cut it out Mira, you sound like a public service announcement."
"I can't help it!" she chuckled, "You make me feel all maternal. Just look at you. You need someone, I think. Then maybe I wouldn't worry so much."
Seifer turned crimson and Mira's mouth dropped open.
"Ohh." Mira nodded. "Really now?"
Seifer looked mortified. He didn't know it was that transparent. "No, no, no." He said hurriedly.
Mira gave him the eye. "Fine, say what you want but I don't think I'm wrong. That's not why he left is it?"
"Mira, he's got a life of his own. That's why he left."
"Well then, there's hope," she said. "Not seeing anyone is he?"
"Not that he said."
Mira crowed in triumph, "I knew it. No wonder you were in such a bad mood when you walked in."
"What? You want me to say I miss him? Fine. I miss him. That's not going to change anything. I'm not about to go putting the moves on him. We've only been at each other's throats for the better part of twenty years. I'm not an idiot."
"I never said that. Nothing worth having was ever gotten easy, Seifer. You know that. Just don't let your fear of the past hold you there."
"Yes, Mom," he replied sarcastically.
Mira stuck her tongue out at him. "Such a brat you are."
Leaning over the counter, Seifer kissed her on the cheek. "I get it from you," he said.
Mira blushed and smiled at him. "Since you're here, want to help get this week's shipment ready? They've got to go out in two days."
Seifer headed around the counter and into the back room. "Sure," he replied and set to work.
After they closed up the shop that evening, Mira treated Seifer to dinner, and he took her home since Tescha was out of town. He didn't want her walking even though it was safe enough to do so.
As he walked in the door after arriving home, he noticed the message light flashing on the phone. He hoped it was Squall, but deliberately forced himself to expect otherwise. Whoever it was, they had called early. Seifer felt a nervous flutter at the sound of Squall's voice and he was secretly elated. Grabbing the marker from the message board he scribbled down the number and replayed the message to make sure he had it right. It wasn't the number that Squall had given him before. It looked like a Galbadian number. Seifer shrugged and picked up the phone.
It was awfully early for the phone to be ringing on a Saturday after she'd been drinking, Quistis thought as she picked the phone up off the cradle. "Hello?" she answered groggily.
An automated voice immediately annoyed her. "This is a collect call from 'Squall it's me.' Do you want to accept the charges?"
Quistis couldn't place the voice, but they knew Squall was here, which meant it must be Seifer. She immediately became more alert. "Yes, accept."
"Thank you, one moment. Connecting."
"Hey," Seifer's voice came through the line.
"Who's this?" asked Quistis, even though she knew perfectly well who it was.
"Who're you?" he retorted. "Do I have the wrong number?"
"No, I'm just curious about who's calling me so early in the morning," Quistis played dumb. Not an easy task, but she was curious and wanted to speak with Seifer before handing over the phone.
"This is Seifer."
Quistis grinned in silent victory. "Seifer, what a surprise. It's Quistis."
Quistis could have sworn she heard a teasing note in his voice. He sounded so unlike what she remembered.
"That's Headmistress to you now, you know!" she laughed.
"So Squall informed me. Congratulations."
"Thank you, thank you. So Squall told me you're living outside of Iba now?" she asked innocuously.
"I am indeed. Was very odd meeting Squall outside of town. It's been a while," he sounded uncomfortable.
"It has. I think Squall's still asleep actually. Let me go knock on the door and find out." Quistis got out of bed and walked down the hallway. Knocking gently on the door she heard a muffled voice on the other side complaining about loud noises and hangovers. "Ooh, I think I'll let you deal with him, Seifer. He's hung over."
Seifer laughed and Quistis was startled at the sound. "Put the phone up to his ear and I'll yell really loud," he said.
Quistis snorted in amusement. "I think not. Do you know how grumpy he is in the morning?"
"I kept him too drugged to be grumpy," he teased.
"Good idea, I'll try that next time," she said.
"Just give me the damn phone, Quisty!" Squall said crossly.
"Behave," she chided, "I'm talking to Seifer. You can have your turn when I'm done."
Squall glared at her.
"Fine," she said. "Seifer it was good hearing from you. I'll hand you over to the grump."
"Talk to you later Quistis," Seifer said as he heard the phone change hands.
"Hello," Squall sounded sleepy.
"Morning sunshine. You should have told me you were in Galbadia, I would have called later," Seifer said.
"No, it's fine. We just had too much to drink last night," Squall said.
"So I heard, but it sounds like Quistis can hold her liquor better."
"She didn't drink as much as I did."
"I see. So, what's up?"
Squall was direct, "I found Shiva."
"Oh," Seifer's voice was quiet.
"I wanted to thank you. She's beautiful."
"I wanted you to have her, but I just didn't know how to go about it," Seifer's voice sounded nervous.
"I understand," Squall said.
"So, what are you doing in Galbadia? Quistis didn't seem surprised to hear it was me."
"Yeah, I decided to come visit for a bit. I knew she'd want to know," Squall said without explanation. "And don't worry, she's the only one who knows."
"I'm not worried. I trust your judgment. It's just so damned awkward," Seifer said.
"Like you want to be comfortable but can't," Squall added.
"Seifer, I..." Squall said.
"Squall, I..." Seifer said simultaneously.
They sat in silence for a moment.
"I better let you get to bed," Squall said hesitantly, "I know it's late."
"Yeah, I'll talk to you later then, I guess," Seifer sounded almost disappointed.
"Sleep well," Squall said.
"I will," said Seifer, knowing full well it was a lie.
"Goodnight," said Seifer. He didn't hang up the phone until he heard Squall disconnect. Putting the phone down he grabbed a blanket off the couch and headed out to the beach. It was going to be a long night.
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