It was a perfect night. Clear, and cool, the sky swept across his line of vision like a thick, black blanket with stars dotting the horizon like a crazy needlepoint. Seifer frowned as he stepped near the edge, narrowing his eyes. Nothing. Not a cloud in sight, and if he squinted, he could just make out the lights of Balamb glittering in the distance.
It should be raining, he thought darkly. It should be thundering and lightning, and hailing, and hell, why stop there? Throw in a major eruption and an earthquake. It is me, after all.
"Do you hear that?" he said out loud, "It's not every day an ex-Sorceress' knight kills himself. This is a major event. Can you see the headlines? 'Sorceress' Knight Takes Plunge: Throws his Worthless Ass off Roof of Balamb Garden. Clean-up Crew Furious'." Seifer laughed bitterly, "Students ecstatically happy upon the death of Seifer Almasy, 19 year old male, failed student, SeeD reject, and completely worthless except as a kick toy. Mr. Almasy, said piece of shit, left no friends and family." He thought a moment, and then snickered. "Headmaster Leonhart's response upon being reached for comment? 'Whatever'."
He gave the sky his most threatening glare, sighing when it ignored him.
"Fine, be that way," he murmured. Even the stars seemed to be laughing at him, twinkling with contempt. Mocking him. Following his every movement from the coldness of space like tiny, yellow-
He shivered, hugging his trench coat to his body. No more. It would end tonight just as soon as he finished getting good and drunk, and he would never have to see them again. Choking, Seifer rummaged through his coat pockets. A few swigs, just for fortification, of course, and if he could find the goddamned flask... Ah, there it was. His fumbling fingers closed around the cool metal container. Breathing a sigh of relief, he raised it skyward before tilting it up to his lips.
"It's been real."
Squall frowned as he reached the top of the stairwell, pausing to look behind him. It was an absolute deathtrap; he'd almost tripped at least twice. Two of the steps were rotted, and he'd seen another two that would be gone by the end of the month. Drainage from the roof had come in through holes in the ceiling, staining the floor with sludge and rotting vegetation. And he was sure the peeling paint, aside from being a fire hazard, contained enough lead to kill a T-Rexaur. He really would have to do something about it...
That's rich Leonhart, rich. You're gonna' die, remember? What are you gonna' do, land on a maintenance crew? Or pin a note to your chest that reads 'Goodbye cruel world, and oh, see what you can do about the level 4-B stairs leading to the roof. I almost broke my neck'?
He sighed and stepped onto the roof. It wasn't cold, it never really was in Balamb, but his teeth began to chatter almost as soon as the breeze hit him. God, his arm ached. Despite the chill, he took off his coat and looked down. The cut was definitely infected. Red and angry, the skin around it had puffed and swollen, and the slit itself oozed a clear, viscous liquid. He didn't need to touch it; just looking at it hurt.
Wincing despite himself, Squall tore his gaze away to look at his surroundings. He'd spent many hours up here as a child, coming up here to be alone when he didn't feel like dealing with the world. Whenever a teacher had become too much of a nag, Quistis too much of a pest, or Seifer...simply too much, he'd escaped. Up the stairs to his own private playground.
The place was dim in his memory, courtesy of GF use, but as his eyes traveled over the vents, fans and domes that were customary of Balamb Garden, he found flashes of recognition. To the left was a lookout perch where he could watch the students training below. In the back hid a small cranny where he could curl up with a good book. Near the center of the roof was the largest of the domes, perfect for stretching in the sun. It had been a good place. A happy place, one of the few he'd known.
And not a bad last memory, as far as they went.
Slowly, he walked over to the edge with his coat tucked under his arm. A light shone on the ground far below illuminating an empty courtyard. No one in sight. There wouldn't be anyone else out, he knew, it was too late at night, and curfew was in effect. He stared at his black bomber for a moment before placing it on the ground next to him. There was no sense in ruining it, it was a perfectly good jacket, had served him well. Someone else could use it. He stroked it lovingly for a moment, enjoying the feel of the soft leather under his fingers.
Stop putting off the inevitable and just do it.
Straightening, Squall squared his shoulders. Just one more step and it would be over and done with.
"Well," he murmured, "it's been real."
Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath in and-
"What the hell are you doing?!"
-spun around, letting it out in a startled whoosh.
This, Seifer thought to himself as he glared out from the dark, is not what I envisioned.
He had jerked at the noise of footsteps, looking around like a cornered rabbit before stumbling over to a steeple some distance from the edge. He'd barely had enough time. The door had opened not seconds after he'd darted into the shadows. After a long pause, a figure had emerged form the stairwell, slender and graceful and silhouetted by the light of the moon. He, Seifer decided it was a he, had stopped only to take off his coat, carrying it under his arm as he approached.
Whoever he was, Seifer thought, at least he was alone. It wasn't some disgustingly cute couple looking for a place to make out, and for that little mercy he was fervently grateful. The figure came closer, and Seifer frowned. It couldn't have been a maintenance worker, they were all old, fat and loud. This person was young, he could tell by the way he carried himself. And there was something naggingly familiar, achingly so, he felt like he knew this person, recognized something about him...
The light suddenly hit his face at the right angle and Seifer muffled a curse under his breath. Leonhart. For fuck's sake, of course, who else would it be?
Go away. Seifer sent the thought out silently. Just go away. Do whatever you came to do, see the moon, stare at the stars, contemplate the meaning of life, the platypus, your ass, whatever, and leave. Squall stepped nearer to the edge of the roof, very near to where Seifer was standing, seeming content to just look around. Seifer gritted his teeth. That's it, Leonhart. Take your time, I swear to God I'm gonna come back and haunt you for this.
Now what was he doing? Seifer squinted, but it was increasingly hard for him to make out anything. He'd gotten in a few good gulps before Leonhart had shown up, and his world was beginning to tilt on its axis... He was putting down his coat, stroking it. Stroking it, for crying out loud! Like it was a cat, or a loved one, almost like he was saying goodbye to it-
Saying goodbye to it.
"Well, it's been real." He heard Squall mutter.
The words left his lips even before he could even formulate the thought.
"What the hell are you doing?!"
Squall nearly jumped right off the edge in shock. He spun around on his heel to see a large figure bearing down on him from the shadows, tall and angry and moving very fast, albeit weaving slightly...
He caught a glimpse of white gold ruffled hair, soft gleam of moonshine falling over striking features, took in the purposeful gait and the glint of silver choker. It was Seifer. Squall scowled. Of course, who else would it be? The tall blond came nearer, trench coat billowing in the wind, and came to a stop less than a foot in front of him.
"What the hell," he ground out, "are you doing here, Leonhart?"
"What are you doing here?" he shot back. He blinked, wrinkling his nose as the fiery-sweet smell of alcohol tickled his nostrils.
Seifer crossed his arms, snorting in disgust. "I came up here for the view," he nodded curtly toward the ground, "wanted to see what it was like on the way down. How about you?"
Squall stared. Seifer was slurring his words...covering it well, but unmistakably doing so. "You're drunk."
Seifer tilted his head, pretending to consider. "Yeah, I am. What else is new? I've been drunk for the last few months, in case you haven't noticed...and I'm sure you haven't Headmaster." Lips tilting into a parody of a grin, he dragged out the syllables of the last word in a mocking hiss.
Being drunk hadn't dulled his edge, not one bit. "I hadn't," Squall replied coolly, "I have other things to worry about now besides you."
Seifer stumbled back, pressing a hand to his heart. "Oh Leonhart, I'm wounded. Incidentally, I heard about Rinoa. Walked out on you, huh? I'm so sorry, really I am-"
A direct hit, and Seifer knew it. "Shut up, Seifer." If anything, Seifer's smile grew wider.
"-but at least she was a good lay, right? I mean-"
Squall's fists clenched. "Shut up, Seifer."
"-you'll always have the memories. To tide you over till next time, anyway... Oh, that's right," he looked at Squall sidelong, "there's not gonna be a next time, is there? Cause you're gonna jump. That is what you came up here for, isn't it? What's the matter, Squall, are you sad?" Seifer's lip trembled.
"Seifer, shut the fuck up. Now."
"Are you lonely, Leonhart? Just couldn't take it anymore, huh? Wanna' make the pain go away, break some hearts?" He drew closer, fluttering his lashes, "Make all the girls cry for you?"
That did it. Squall took a step forward, shoving a finger into Seifer's chest. "You think that's it? You've got me pegged? You think you're the only one with real problems, Seifer? Look, see," he held his arms straight out for Seifer's inspection, "here's my problem." Squall took perverse pleasure in watching him look downward, watching his eyes narrow, then widen.
He'd actually managed to shock Seifer for once.
"Hmm," Seifer pursed his lips as his eyes traveled down the length of one arm, over, and up the other, "you're more fucked up than I thought. Congratulations."
Squall wondered briefly at the small thrill of victory that ran through him. God, he really was fucked up. "There, are you satisfied? Now if you'll just excuse me..."
"Like hell I will!" Seifer's eyes flashed fire.
"Damn it, Seifer. Just go away."
"Why?" Seifer clenched his fists. "So you can take a flying leap the minute I turn my back? Steal my thunder? Well, fuck you Leonhart, not again! You would come out here the one night I finally do this, you would try to ruin it for me, even now. You screwed me then and you're doing it now, and I am not gonna let that happen. I am gonna die tonight, and you are gonna go down those stairs and go back to playing Headmaster."
"The hell I am," Squall replied heatedly, feeling his own fingers clench. "You couldn't stop me before while you were busy being Ultimecia's lap dog, what makes you think you can do it now?"
"Ok," Seifer took a step forward, "first I'm gonna' hurt you, and then you are going back down those stairs."
"Not a chance. And even if there was, I'd just find a different roof," Squall replied, standing his ground.
"Fine," Seifer snarled, pulling back his arm, "I'll just have to hurt you and put you in a coma."
And then he was dodging, and letting his own fists fly.
The fight consisted of just three blows.
One, the initial punch Seifer threw that missed. Two, the jab that caught Seifer in the mouth, bloodying his upper lip and sending him sprawling. And three, as Seifer went down cursing and blindly swinging his fists, the blow to Squall's injured arm, the blow that made countless points of light dance in front of his eyes, made his knees buckle and laid him out flat on his back.
It may have been the shortest fight in history. Their shortest fight, without a doubt.
At least they hadn't scarred each other this time, Squall thought dazedly as he clutched at his arm. Although that was awfully hard to do without a sharp, pointy object, and he'd left his gunblade back in his quarters; Seifer had apparently done the same. Squall sighed. He certainly hadn't come expecting a fight...momentary pain, perhaps, a flash of agony, oblivion yes. But not this, 'this' being decidedly still in a state of existence.
Lying on the roof.
Next to Seifer.
Seifer. Remember him? The guy you've known forever, who's been trying to beat you to a pulp your whole life and almost succeeded the last time, the guy who just tried to beat the crap out of you again? The reason for those shooting pains in your arm, the ones that are making you nauseous? Yeah, that Seifer. Pushy, overbearing-
It was funny how these things worked out.
Squall fought the insane urge to laugh, biting his lip to keep quiet. Control. Control yourself, Leonhart. This was not the time for hysterics, he had to focus, to remain calm...but it was so hard for him to think with his arm aching dully, throbbing in time with the beating of his heart. He sighed, closing his eyes wearily. What the hell was he going to do?
Well fuck, Seifer thought as he heard Squall let out his breath in a long hiss.
He hadn't meant to hit him...well, he had, but not in the arm. The gut, sure, the head, preferably, but vowing to avoid what even drunk he could see was a nasty wound he'd swung with the best of intentions, planning to be honorable. And he had been...all of the two seconds it took for Leonhart to give him a fat lip, after which his intentions had flown straight out the window. The next thing he'd known, he was on his way down and Leonhart was down with him. A direct hit.
Now here he was tasting copper, and Squall... Seifer groaned, squeezing his eyes shut. Instead of yellow eyes, he could see scars. Row upon row of them, some faint and faded, some fresh and a vivid shade of red, long thin lines overlapping in cross-hatch. He'd got a good look at his arms, hell, had practically had them shoved in his face.
Squall Leonhart. Hero, headmaster and human tic-tac-toe board.
He couldn't find it in himself to laugh. Instead, reaching into his trench coat, he pulled out the small flask and with a flick of the wrist sent it flying. It hit Squall in the chest with a THUD.
Seifer sighed, and opening his eyes, turned his head to meet Squall's stare. "Funny, I didn't think I hit you in the head-"
Seifer shrugged. "I don't know... Why not?" Hmm. Not really an answer, but the best he could come up with under the circumstances, and all in all not bad for someone as inebriated as he was. Squall seemed not to appreciate that fact, because after a moment his features settled into a displeased scowl.
"Seifer, tell me why-"
Damn it all, he'd said he didn't know, what more did Leonhart want from him? Seifer growled softly. He couldn't remember a time when they hadn't been fighting about something or other. Hell...he was usually eager for it, but not tonight. Tonight he was simply too tired and too drunk. "Look, are you planning to Cure yourself?" Squall remained conspicuously quiet. "Well?" he demanded.
"Didn't think so," Seifer sighed. "Then drink. It'll help the pain..."
He paused, eyes traveling to Squall's injured arm. From where he was lying, he had a clear view of what Seifer thought to himself grimly as Squall's latest 'acquisition'. Fuck, Leonhart needed more than a drink; that cut was so infected he was liable to get blood poisoning without treatment... Seifer brought his hands up to his face, massaging his forehead lightly. And just who was gonna treat the stubborn ass? He didn't exactly plan to stick around to carry him to a doctor. In fact if he had his way, he'd be painting the pretty little courtyard below a new shade of red before too long.
Seifer blew out his breath noisily. What the fuck was he gonna' do?
A sudden warm current of air blew across the rooftop. He leaned into it, breathing in the sweet, soothing scent of flowering trees carried by the wind from the forests. It felt like fingers on his skin. Gentle and firm like a lover's, they brushed his face and ruffled his hair, touching him...and touching Squall too. Tiny ripples appeared in the light material of Squall's T-shirt. Seifer frowned as he began to shiver; Leonhart had to have a fever, the night was simply too languid for the shakes. He looked around briefly for Squall's black bomber jacket, but in the dark it was impossible to see, and he wasn't inclined to get up to search for it.
"Go on," he said, pushing himself up onto his elbows, "it'll heat you up, I can hear your teeth chattering from here."
-Drink? He wants you to drink with him, as if you were buddies out for a beer, as if you're not at each other's throats all the time-
But his arm hurt.
-But, his inner voice continued, he's Seifer, you hate him, you-
He didn't hate him. Not really.
-You're going to trust him after all he's done, tried to do? For all you know, he could have poisoned it! He could have slipped something into the flask, in the dark, while you weren't looking...-
In which the worse case scenario was that he died...which was exactly, as he reminded himself, what he'd set out to do in the first place.
And there really was no answer for that.
Throwing caution to the wind, Squall unscrewed the cap and, tilting his head back, poured a stream of the fiery liquid down his throat. He'd expected it to be strong; he wasn't disappointed. The liquor fairly sizzled as it burnt a trail straight to his gut, sending tendrils of warmth through his limbs and heating his blood.
"Ack," he sputtered, "it tastes like paint thinner. How high is the proof on this?"
"High," Seifer smiled a surprisingly genuine smile, "keep knocking that back and you'll be warm in no time...or so drunk you won't care."
"Thanks," Squall remarked dryly. He took another few gulps, managing to keep his reaction to a grimace, and by the fourth and fifth could keep a straight face. By the sixth and seventh, he knew it was working. The pain in his arm was lessening, it no longer hurt to move it as much, and he slowly moved himself into sitting position. Lowering the flask, he looked at it for a moment. He turned his gaze to Seifer, whose blue eyes were steady on his own, glanced back at the flask, and stared at Seifer once more.
"Seifer," Squall began seriously, bringing the liquor up for another swig, "when exactly did you start drinking like a fish?"
Seifer rolled his eyes. "Probably," the blond retorted, "around the same time you started carving yourself up like a Thanksgiving turkey."
Squall choked, barely managing to swallow. "Oh my God!" Leave it to Seifer to say what he couldn't even admit out loud when he was alone, and say it oh-so charmingly. Damn it all. It wasn't funny, tried to tell himself it wasn't, but it was, and the liquor had gone flush to his head.
A sound broke through the silence of the night sky, clear and bright as a bell, and echoed across the steel, sloped rooftops of Garden. Pushing himself slowly upright, Seifer stared in amazement. Squall was laughing.
God, when was the last time he'd heard that sound coming from those lips? A sound so honest and bittersweet...and so damn infectious that he couldn't hold back an answering grin. Seifer closed his eyes, thinking as far back as his muddied brain would allow. Not for a while. Not since they were all kids at least, running around looking for shells and picking through the flotsam and jetsam that washed up on the beach near the orphanage. Or sneaking out at night to set off fireworks that they never should have been able to get their hands on. It seemed like such a damned shame, now hearing it again after all these years, that it'd been so long. That he'd actually forgotten such a sound existed.
Gallows humor. That thought was almost enough to knock him sober. He shook his head slightly, smile faltering as he watched Squall wipe absently at his eyes.
"What a pair, eh Leonhart?" Seifer murmured as Squall's chuckles began to die down, "What a pair."
"Seifer," Squall sighed finally, catching his breath, "you have absolutely no tact."
Seifer snorted. "No, and neither do you when you're drunk."
"I'm not drunk," Squall scoffed, knowing it was a lie. He was too warm now, brain buzzing too loud and too fast for his mouth to keep up. And smiling, laughing. Damn, he'd actually been laughing...which only went to prove how drunk he was. His thoughts were echoed by Seifer's reply.
"Yeah, you are. And," Seifer held up a hand to forestall further protest, "if anyone would know, it'd be me."
"You cover it well though."
He nodded, "I've had a lot of practice." Seifer eyed him for a moment. "So now what?"
"Hell if I know." Squall's mouth tightened mutinously. "I'm not leaving."
"Then we seem to be at an impasse, huh? Cause neither am I...if you keep goin' that fast," he began as Squall went to take another drink, "you're gonna' pass out." Seifer blinked in disbelief. What did he just say? His mouth gaped open nearly the second the words left his mouth.
The hand with the container hovered for a moment in the air before it slowly sank to rest on one knee. "Wouldn't want that to happen," Squall murmured carefully, eyes glinting in the dark, "you might decide to jump while I was, hmm, indisposed."
Which is exactly what wouldn't happen now that he'd opened his big mouth, of course. Seifer closed his eyes.
You fool. You should get up right now and kick yourself in the ass.
It was strange though, he thought. Strange he wasn't that upset, and certainly nowhere near as upset as he should have been. He couldn't for the life of him (which, he reminded himself, was going to be over soon, he'd find another way to knock him out) figure out why. Seifer frowned. Squall's laugh. It was the laugh, he decided. Such a lovely sound, he wanted to hear it again before he jumped. It was that simple.
At least he hoped it was.
"Why did you come here to do it, Seifer?"
"The roof, you mean?" The blond tilted his head at Squall's nod. "I don't know. Seemed like the place to do it. It's isolated...at least," he sighed, "I thought it was. And then there's the damage factor. It's awfully hard to Phoenix Down a man who's spread over several feet."
Squall shook his head once. That particular thought had also occurred to him. Phoenix Down was an item having the distinct ability to revive the expired, and although obviously useful in battle, it proved to be somewhat of a complication to someone (like himself) who wished to die and stay dead.
"Besides," Seifer added after a pause, "I used to come up here sometimes when I was a kid."
At this, Squall's mouth fell gracelessly open in shock. Seifer had come up here? To the rooftop? Obviously he'd known about Squall's secret hideout, Seifer was here after all, but he'd thought he was the only one who'd ever-
Seifer eyed the brunette as he gaped. Apparently they were taking turns tonight. "What?"
"You," Squall began, blinking rapidly, "used to come up here?"
"I just said that didn't I?" Seifer frowned. What was wrong with him? Aside from the fact that he was drunk as a lord, cut to hell and gonna' jump off the roof, of course. "Yeah, I used to hang out here when I was, oh, I don't know...8, 9? Used to read," he pointed to the same cranny in the eave where Squall had spent his time, "over there."
It was all so faint, but still... If he thought hard, really concentrated through the haze in his brain, he could almost see himself again as a young boy ripping through the pages of books with dragons and demons, brave looking knights and demure young maidens on the covers. Or... Seifer's eyes grew distant, narrowed in concentration. "You could nail teachers with spit balls from that edge. And when it was really sunny out, I used to cut class and go right over there," he pointed again, toward the large, central dome, "and sunbathe. It was so good, you know? That damn school uniform was so itchy and tight, I'd just say 'Fuck it!' and take it off. Lie in the sun."
"You used to...sunbathe in the nude up here?"
Seifer jerked slightly as he came back to himself, trying to decipher the look on Squall's face. His features had become remarkably blank; that space between his finely arched eyebrows usually so knit with worry was completely smooth, his generous mouth slack, doe eyes wide. What exactly did he think of this little revelation, he wondered.
Seifer sighed silently. As if there was any question about it... He disapproved, no doubt. Once a headmaster, always a headmaster. Seifer sighed again, audibly this time, trying to ignore the feeling of disappointment that flared in his gut. "Oh come on! I was a kid. It wasn't like anyone was gonna' see-"
"So did I," came the reply, almost too quiet to hear.
"-cause no one even knew I was there..." Seifer trailed off, blinking. "What did you say?"
"So," Squall returned slowly, lips twitching upward into a conspiratorial grin, "did I."
Seifer stared for a moment. This was too much in one night. Simply too much, first with Squall's long-suppressed, addictive laughter and now, this... Squall Leonhart, cold as ice, cool as a cucumber, Mr. Whatever himself, sunbathing in the nude on the dome.
So much for disapproval. A beautiful smile spread across Seifer's face. "Well hell."
"I thought I was the only one who knew about this place," Squall replied, chuckling softly, "I spent a lot of my childhood here. I can't believe I never saw you."
"Me too," Seifer shook his head, laughter rumbling from his chest, "Although God knows what you would have done if you'd seen me lyin' there naked... Probably run screaming."
"Oh, I don't know," Squall turned his head, looking down. Long, roughly cut hair fell into his face, covering eyes and nose so that all Seifer could make out was a shy smile. "Maybe I would have stayed."
The reply echoed in his brain, rippling through every fiber of his consciousness. Maybe I would have stayed.
For one wild instant, Seifer wished nothing more than to be that boy of 8 years old again. Lying there, lean and long, innocent and naked on a rooftop, eager for the world and naively believing that the world was just as eager for him, what if Squall had found him? Or if he'd come across Squall, fragile and sylph-like, stretched out in the sun? If they had found each other then would they be on the rooftop now? The thought was too painful to bear.
"Maybe," he murmured quietly, closing his eyes.
He looked so...sad.
So? Remember what you came up here for...what you both came up here for.
But it was wrong, somehow, after they had just been laughing.
"Seifer," Squall stared at Seifer through the soft fall of hair on his forehead. No longer a rival, and not a friend...but something. He wasn't sure whether it was because it was his last night alive, or he was drunk. Or perhaps it was only because he knew very well that there was no sense in regretting a past that hadn't happened. Squall didn't analyze the impulse when it came, simply crawled over the few feet to where Seifer sat and took his hand. "Best not to think about it." Seifer's hand squeezed back. Fingers tightened around his own briefly, loosening to a comfortable clasp, and remained.
The two fell into a gentle silence, lost in shared warmth that had nothing to do with the liquor flowing through their veins. It was a lucky thing for them; the breeze suddenly carried the sound of footfalls in the courtyard below. The two exchanged curious glances, Squall raising a questioning eyebrow to Seifer's vague shrug.
Kids, he mouthed.
Curfew? Squall returned, brows knitting together in a small frown. Who on earth would be out this late? No one was officially allowed aside from teachers and certified faculty... As if reading his mind, Seifer flashed him a grin, wagging his eyebrows suggestively. Lovers, of course. Squall rolled his eyes, although he did not relinquish his grip on Seifer's hand. Some kids out for a forbidden stroll. He waited, listening, and sure enough after a moment the sound of giggles floated up to them.
"Stop, you're gonna get us caught by the DC!" A boy's voice.
"Then stop doing that," a girl's breathless voice, "it tickles!"
Squall bit back a laugh. It was highly unlikely that the Disciplinary Committee was going to catch them, since the head of that very committee was sitting on the roof holding his hand. Seifer made a face at him.
"I can't help it, it's so much fun to tickle you! You're so adorable."
"Oh...well, maybe I'll let you tickle me some more then."
Seifer made to gag, shoulders shaking all the while. This was going to be hard.
"Good...and maybe I'll do this too...and this..." The girl squealed, sending the boy into another paroxysm of shushing, "Ssssh! Honestly, I can't take you anywhere..."
"Oh really? That's not what you said last night... You said you'd take me around the world!"
Damn, Squall thought, exerting a little more pressure on the hand in his. He would not laugh, he would not laugh, he would not laugh...
"You said you liked it loud! You said you were into screamers!"
Oh my God! Squall gasped, ducking his head as Seifer dove for his shoulder, quickly burying his mouth in the warm flesh of Seifer's neck. Screamers! Into- He'd never make it off the roof, he was going to die laughing first. Seifer made muffled sounds into the fabric of his T-shirt.
"I am..." came the hushed reply, "I am. See?" There was a soft "mmph" and a sigh, and the rustle of fabric from bodies pressing together.
Like their bodies were pressed together.
He was so warm. Just kneeling there against him, lips a gentle pressure on his neck. Seifer lifted his head up slightly as his breathing began to even out, just reveling in the tactile sense. It'd been a while since someone had held him... That's what it was; it had to be with one of Squall's hands clasping his shoulder for balance and the other hot in his own, his weight a welcome burden.
If he didn't count the shoves in the hall that couldn't quite be taken for a stumbling misstep, or the legs that suddenly appeared to trip him and disappeared just as suddenly behind him, it had been a long time since someone had really touched him. Seifer sighed. So fucking long.
Squall pulled back to look at Seifer. Bright eyes met his, lips curved into a wistful smile; the blond turned briefly to nuzzle into Squall's collarbone. He looked so young when he smiled, Squall thought, leaning forward to bump him with his nose. A stray chuckle escaped him; he caught the flash of white teeth bared in a grin and Seifer's other hand came up to tap him once on the lips in rebuke.
Fingertips hovered lightly over his mouth in their plea for silence, but Seifer's thumb wandered to smooth over the line of his jaw...slid down and under to chuck his chin. Tentative fingers followed suit, cupping his face and tilting it up. Squall closed his eyes, caught in the fluidity of the movement and leaning into it, bodies shifted-
-lips gently brushed his own.
"I just don't want to be caught by that worthless drunk... I can't believe the headmaster lets him stay on."
"He's a drunk?"
"That's what I've heard... Heard you can smell it on him a mile away. "
"Well, then, we shouldn't have a problem with getting caught, should we?" Laughter. "And to think he's the head of the Disciplinary Committee. "
"Well, God knows he'll never be a SeeD."
"How many times did he try for it?"
"I don't know. I don't even know if they know. I'm sure they lost count ages ago, and it doesn't matter now. After what he's done, he's lucky they don't take him out back and shoot him."
"I had friends at Trabia."
"I heard he gave the order to fire. Bet the bastard enjoyed it. That's why he made Galbadia Garden crash into us, you know. He wanted to get payback for everyone giving him a hard time. Fucker didn't know the meaning of the word...bet he does now."
"He says that the sorceress made him do it. That's why they let him back in."
"You wanna' know something? What I think the cocksucker really did? I bet he gave blowjobs to the staff. Still does, so he gets to stay."
"Not the headmaster!?"
"Of course not! He's the one who stopped him in the first place! If it weren't for him, we'd all be dead, or slaves to her."
"Yeah...so just everyone else?" Laughter. "They all talk him into it in the end, right?"
"He's just too good, you know? Probably thinks he's being noble or something."
"Hey! Should I be jealous?"
"...hmm? Oh, no, of course not!"
"Huh. Anyway, he's just too good. I'd be worried about him, but from what I hear, Almasy's drinking himself into the grave. Probably couldn't even hold a gunblade anymore."
"Good... Hey, where'd the moon go?"
"Looks like clouds came in. Damn, it's dark isn't it?" Silence. "You know what they do in the dark, don't you?"
"Oooh, I don't know. It's kind of chilly all of a sudden. Let's go somewhere warm, where we can cuddle."
"All right! I mean, that sounds wonderful... I know just the place."
The warmth of his body gone, their kiss stillborn, the fragile sweetness between them had been broken with words; Seifer had pulled away from him and he couldn't see him in the dark. All that remained was the tenuous linking of hands, thin and fine as a spider's web. Squall tightened his hold on Seifer's hand.
It was all he could do.
Damn, damn and double damn. Squall appraised the situation. His eyes were open but he could have had them closed for all that it mattered. It was pitch black, thick midnight black without the moon, visibility near non-existent, and he was starting to feel the cold again. If Seifer made a break for it, he’d have, what? A second? Two? One lunge into the darkness in the direction of a handclasp, using one good arm attached to a very drunk body. Not good. If he had been a betting man, he would’ve placed the odds at a thousand to one.
And damn was such an unsatisfying word. Damn them, damn the dark, damn it all ran like a litany in his head, but it didn’t seem to do any good. Hell? Definitely not. Bitch? As in life’s a? No, sounded too cliché. Shit, he had to admit, had potential, but still seemed too kind a word.
Now that fit the bill just right.
A hollow laugh echoed through the dark. "Now you’re getting the hang of it, Leonhart. Another disaster or two, and you’ll be cursing like a pro." The laugh fell flat. Too empty, he knew Seifer too well. Tensing his body, he gripped Seifer’s hand as if he were choking it.
"Ow! Damn it, any tighter and it’s gonna come off."
Then a tired sigh. "I’m not gonna take a flying leap, if that’s what you’re worried about. Not yet. Cross my heart."
Seifer’s hand lay still in his own, cool and limp like a dead thing. "And I’m supposed to believe this?" Squall asked, voice carefully neutral.
"You’re awfully fond of that question, you know that?" Seifer paused. "I don’t know. Maybe I just want to talk."
"Talk?" Squall’s voice conveyed his disbelief.
"Yeah, talk," Seifer emphasized the word. "I know it’s something you don’t do, but like it or not, Leonhart, you’re still the last conversation I’m ever gonna have. And all things considered we were doin’ pretty good…until…" he trailed off. "Anyway, I just wanna talk, alright?"
Not that he had much choice, Squall thought briefly, but still it was something to hold onto besides the hand in his. "Fine. We’ll talk." He loosened the death grip by half a degree.
"Not if I lose circulation in my hand we’re not. Look," Seifer’s voice growled at him, "I promise I’ll tell you first, ok? Paint it in neon if you want, big bright colors since it’s so damn dark. I promise." He blew out his breath as Squall’s fingers released to a semi-comfortable grasp.
Silence again stretched between them, heavy, dull-edged. Say something. Say anything, but don’t just sit there like a fool, because what if he decides he doesn’t want to stay? Squall closed his eyes, frantically searching his brain for subjects of conversation. What was he supposed to talk about? Their childhood? Not exactly a happy topic of conversation, and look where it had gotten them last time-
Their kiss. Something flared hot in Squall’s chest at the memory, the fleeting pressure of soft lips, warmth, and weight tugging painfully, bittersweet. The closeness of their bodies. Laughter and the feel of blessed relief, if only for a moment from the pain, he’d craved- he’d wanted-
"Do you want to know why I’m here tonight?" Seifer asked quietly. "Really here?"
Oh yes, he thought suddenly…achingly. Nothing more so than that. "Yes," Squall replied.
Seifer fell silent again, and for a moment Squall feared that he wouldn’t tell him after all. That he was afraid to. And it wasn’t fair, a part of his brain screamed, not fair because he wanted to know so badly…now he simply had to know. Squall opened his mouth, not quite sure what was going to come out of it when Seifer haltingly began to speak.
-You’re a fool Leonhart. Afraid? Seifer always did have more guts then any of them put together-
"I see eyes," Seifer muttered, and Squall could feel the tiniest shiver from Seifer’s body travel through his hand. "Golden eyes. Her eyes," he took a deep breath, "Ultimecia’s eyes. When it started it was just her, and I could drink a glass or four and it wouldn’t be so…sharp. The hate, I mean. She was so fucking filled with hate and she was in my mind, and I could see it all. She hated everything. She hated me but I couldn’t leave and I couldn’t stop it, so I didn’t try after a while. Just drank.
"But after it was over they didn’t go away. She was dead, but they…" his voice wavered ever so slightly, "stayed. Everywhere I looked I could see them, in the eye sockets of every person that passed me on the fuckin’ street. Everyone." The shudders were stronger now. Squall could hear him trying to catch his breath in tiny gasps.
"Fuujin? Raijin?" Squall asked.
Seifer laughed harshly, "Gone. Long gone. They couldn’t understand, ya know? Just wanted their old pal Seifer back just the way he was and couldn’t understand why he would spend his time getting drunker and drunker. I watched it happen. Watched them stare until they were looking at me with her eyes too. Finally woke up one morning on the doorstep with the locks changed. They’d left."
"You came back to Garden."
"I had nowhere left to go," he said simply, "and Cid could hardly say no when his own wife was taken back into the fold with open arms… Although I think Matron had an easier time of it. Gave a lot of nasty commands, but she didn’t carry them out."
Left unspoken was that Seifer had done most of the dirty work for her, and quite visibly within the public eye. Front stage and center… God, but she’d used him badly. Squall’s teeth clenched. "Oh, I don’t know about that," he murmured after a moment, keeping his voice light, "I seem to remember getting speared by a giant ice cube…"
Seifer gave a quick burst of choked laughter that made him flush with the accomplishment. "That she did do. Now, if you’d just let me beat you in the first place it woulda gone a lot easier."
"Whatever," Squall chuckled tentatively. "Where would the fun be in that?"
"Yeah," Seifer’s laughter died. "I’m sure when you were twitchin’ on the rack while I was torturing you you were havin’ loads of fun. Listen. Listen a moment, ok? For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. I know it’s too late and you hate me and you can do whatever you want with it, but it’s the truth." His voice faded to nothingness.
"I…don’t hate you."
"Of course you do," he said flatly. "Here’s a little story. Imagine a guy who looks kind of like me, going about his business. Not that he does much besides drink in his room. He can’t go for a walk, cause he can’t go two steps without fallin’ on his face. Clumsy, huh? At least, that’s what the people that trip him tell him. He can’t go eat cause every table is ‘taken’, and he can’t think with all the eyes on him, the whispers about him. When he reads, the words swim around the page and make it too hard to try. Can’t study. He doesn’t go to class. He doesn’t do anything, or go anywhere…except to Balamb occasionally to stock up on his liquor supply. Got it so far?
"Now here’s where the story gets interesting. One night when he’s starting to feel a little too sober for comfort, he discovers his supply is low. So, this guy decides it’s time to make a run to Balamb, brave the villagers’ eyes glarin’ hatred at him from every corner… He really wants his liquor. But he never even gets out the door because on the way he catches a glimpse of himself in the wall mirror, and you know what he sees? Golden eyes starin’ at him instead of his own blue-green.
"That’s when he knows. He knows. And instead of going to Balamb, this guy waits until it’s dark. And he goes to the rooftop. End of story.
"So now that you’ve heard it all, tell me, Leonhart," Seifer whispered, "what do you see when you look at me? Cause I know what I see."
Squall didn’t speak, didn’t move, didn’t dare breathe. Unshed tears burned beneath his closed lids. He opened his eyes and the tears hovered, poised on his lashes before dripping slowly unhindered down his cheeks; he didn’t brush them away. What did he see? What he always saw when he looked at Seifer…strength and fire, brilliance and bite and beauty, and more.
The moon emerged from behind her shroud to cast her soft sheen over the rooftop and illuminate the glittering trails on Squall’s face, though Seifer’s eyes were closed and he did not notice. Golden in the light, with his lids shut, lips parted slightly with breath, he appeared to be living marble. His pale skin was radiant as if lit from within. Smooth and begging to be touched. He glowed.
Squall saw a vision.
He was hard pressed to say which had been more painful: the ripping, clawing urge in his gut to tell it all, or the skin-peeling flames of reliving it through the actual telling. But it was done, and it was almost over now. As soon as Leonhart gave him what he wanted to hear, he’d hurl himself off the nearest edge.
Please. Let it be quick.
Seifer could sense the faint pale moonshine emerge from behind the clouds through his closed lids, but found he didn’t have the nerve to open them. Simply couldn’t look. It was enough he had to hear the exclamation of disgust…the vile invectives of hatred and rejection coming from lips that just a little while ago he had been kissing. The thought of her golden eyes staring at him from Squall’s familiar face was inconceivable.
His hand was suddenly released.
Ah, it was coming then. Seifer steeled himself, shoulder stiffening as if to provide a physical buffer zone.
"Seifer," Squall’s voice, soft and very near, "what color are they?" Hands. Warm hands cupped his face, calloused thumbs gently stroking his cheekbones. Seifer’s eyes flew open.
Squall knelt in front of him, his face very close. "My eyes," Squall insisted quietly. "Look at them. What color are they?"
"I don’t…I…" Then came the feel of Squall’s lips suddenly on his and pressing hard, Squall’s tongue pushing for entry to his mouth, the moan low in his throat as he gave it. The wet, welcoming heat… The rich taste of him.
Squall pulled away. "What color are they?"
"Squall, I-" Again, Squall’s lips came crushing down.
Oh God yes. Seifer pushed back, tongue seeking out Squall’s warmth. Hungry for it, for contact and-
"What color?" Squall’s voice, breathless and beautiful. Hands gripped the sides of his face, forcing him to glance upward. Seifer stiffened. His own hands came up to grip Squall’s cheeks, holding him still as his eyes searched intently.
"Seifer? What color are they?"
Suddenly boneless, Seifer sobbed and slumped forward. "Blue. Blue."
It’s kind of funny, he thought.
Seifer Almasy was in Squall Leonhart’s arms, his face pressing urgently against the soft, damp, well-worn material of his t-shirt, breathing in the tangy scent of him; his mouth was filled with the sweet taste of him and his blood was currently singing a song that had nothing to do with the alcohol in his system. There was simply no place on earth that he’d rather be…and it was funny how priorities could change so completely from one moment to the next.
Because as far as he was concerned, the whole world could now simply go to hell.
It really was an amazing feeling… Seifer’s lips quirked upward slightly. So totally unexpected; he’d seen blue in the eyes of his fiercest rival. Seifer suddenly felt like screaming ‘Fuck them all!’ from the rooftop, and the scarred blond reflected upon this phenomenon as he muffled another sob in Squall’s chest. He’d seen blue, and not just a cheap as dirt, everyday common color blue of the sky or ocean either.
It was a blue so rarely seen in the past year of his life that it was easily the most precious, most beautiful in the world; it was a precious gem that he would never let go of. In fact, he knew with certainty that he could die and his stiff hands would still clutch the beloved boy before him. Seifer wouldn’t let go…not even if Squall wanted to go….
-And you know he does want to go-
Seifer growled fiercely through his sobs and wrapped his arms tightly enough around Squall’s slender waist to make him cry out in pain. Squall Leonhart wanted to die. The lovely boy that was currently showering kisses on the top of his golden head was hurting inside as surely as Seifer was hurting and wanted to leave, to jump off the roof and have his guts spread across half of Garden.
Well, Seifer sniffled. Fuck that too.
"Your turn," he muttered hoarsely into Squall’s chest. "I’ll save you. Just you wait." For a moment he simply concentrated on catching his breath. Then, straightening slowly to Squall’s eye level, Seifer spoke again.
Squall blinked as Seifer pulled back slightly, staring at him with eyes that before this night he’d only ever seen narrowed and mocking in challenge or in battle. They weren’t cold and mocking now; at this moment with Squall’s arms wrapped around him, Seifer’s eyes were brilliant-deep-wide with tears and warmth for him.
"My turn?" he managed, leaning forward to nuzzle at Seifer’s cheek.
"Talk to me, Squall," Seifer murmured. "You helped me. Let me help you now." Squall shuddered as Seifer ran a finger down the length of his injured arm. "Talk to me."
"Seifer…" Squall closed his eyes. He knew what it meant; Seifer was offering him a chance…and maybe his chance would fail and he’d find himself alone at the end of it. But while Seifer was still holding on to him tight enough to break him in half, like the blonde’s own arms would break off if anyone tried to take him away, Squall found he desperately, desperately wanted to try.
He had nothing left to lose.
"I…I don’t know how…where…"
Seifer laughed hoarsely. "Nothing to it. Just open your mouth and see what comes out of it."
"…That day we flew into Galbadia Garden… It was so hard to think about anything that day, because every time I turned around, there was someone asking me what to do. ‘Where do I go, Sir?’ ‘How can I help, Sir?’ ‘What next, Sir?’ They made me the Commander…"
-Me. Squall Leonhart, giving orders. To people. I would have laughed my own ass off if I hadn’t been so damned furious-
"I don’t know why they chose me, Seifer. I…don’t see it. I don’t have the answers. I never pretended to. But someone had to do it, and they chose me. And I did it because it had to be done. I gave the orders-"
-‘Fellow students. Prepare for battle. Protect the underclassmen. Save the hot dogs’... It was a very moving speech, really it was-
"-and then it started. You know what it was like. Full speed ahead, ramming speed, and-"
"-there were students running, screaming… Galbadian soldiers everywhere on bikes, with guns shooting at anything that moved. I had no choice-"
"-I couldn’t be everywhere at once-"
"-I had to get to Rinoa, because she would have died otherwise-"
"I had no choice."
"There…there was this little boy with an older girl in one of the second floor classrooms, and there were Galbadians attacking, and I beat them. And then I told the kids to get the hell out of there."
-And I let them go alone-
"And the boy got shot in the chest. They were taking the elevator down and some Galbadians in the atrium opened fired. I didn’t find out till later-"
-when they showed me the bodies-
"-that he’d died. Seifer…Did you know a Commander has to notify the next of kin? I didn’t know. I had thought…"
-I hadn’t thought at all-
"I was just sitting there with Rinoa in the infirmary after I fought you, after Edea, and I kept thinking, ok. It’s done. I did it. She’s alive…she’s not conscious, but at least she’s alive. Everyone is still here. We made it. But then Doctor Kadowaki came in to tell me that the bodies were ready for inspection, and I couldn’t believe it. Bodies meant that students had died-"
-Does that sound stupid on my part? I guess it does... People die. SeeDs die. I always kind of expected to go in the line of duty, but somehow it’s different when it’s just you, isn’t it? You don’t care as much. You’re dead, after all-
"-but Doc said that I should be proud. She insisted that I did well since there were so few, and that I shouldn’t be sad or disturbed because they died fighting for a good cause. They were all at peace. Oh god, Seifer, I almost believed it until I saw that boy. He was 12 years old and he didn’t look peaceful. He looked scared and shot and bloody and dead-"
-and I had to tell his parents that he died for a good cause, when he really died cause I was too stupid to tell him to take the stairs-
"-so I vid-phoned them. He was from Balamb, and I couldn’t… There were other things that had to be done. I told them he was dead, and they asked me how. So I told them. They-"
-weren’t angry at you, they-
"-didn’t blame you, Seifer. I know you won’t believe it, but they didn’t. Not a doubt that you were under her spell. They…called you a lost boy. The Sorceress’ Knight, just a lost little boy who didn’t know what he was doing."
- just like their own little boy-
"Seifer…they blamed me. They said I was the leader, and that I knew what I was doing…or I should have. It was my fault their son was dead. I wasn’t under a spell. I wasn’t just a 12 year-old boy. I was a man and I had no excuse. They didn’t forgive me. They said they’d never forgive me no matter what I did or how many lives I saved, and as far as they were-"
-so calm when they said it. No hysterics. They never cried, just like I never cried. I just stood there and told them I was sorry for their loss and that the body would be shipped as soon as they-
"-were concerned I’d murdered a child. Seifer, I didn’t think about it. I didn’t think about it after the vid-phone went off, didn’t want to think about it because then Xu came in to ask about coordinates, and Rinoa was still out, and there were injured students… We needed to see Edea, talk to her. There was just too much to do."
-too busy to mourn the dead-
"I got my first cut that night. In the bathroom with a razorblade."
-feel it, yes, pain, yes, feel-
"And then I couldn’t not do it. As long as I did it I could think the next day, keep my head clear. I’d try to go without to see what would happen. I couldn’t do it. Seifer, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stand-"
-hearing the screaming in my head so I had to do-
"-it. Too many people were counting on me to be there and there was too much I had to do, Seifer, I couldn’t feel I couldn’t-"
-give in to it-
"because if I do-"
-I’ll fall and-
"-I won’t get up-"
-I have to do it because-
"-there’s too much-"
-why you cut yourself deeper, harder the other night than you ever have before, because-
"Seifer," Squall moaned softly. "My fault, mine-"
"No, it’s not-"
"It’s all right," fingers brushed through his hair, stroked his face, "Squall, it’s all right. It’s out. It’s all out in the open now and I know." Lips rained affection; it could only be Seifer dispensing kisses with such a complete lack of restraint. Cheeks and chin, eyelids and forehead, so many that he thought he would drown. "And I’m here."
"You’ll leave. There’s too much and you’ll leave and I’ll be alone." God, please, it hurt…something was broken. It had cracked, Squall realized, sometime in that first moment when Seifer had charged toward him demanding to know what he was doing, and that crack had grown steadily wider with each smart-ass remark that made him smile inwardly, if not outwardly. It had positively doubled in size when Seifer had made him laugh drunkenly. Webbed like a broken window as they’d held hands, split right down the middle when they’d kissed. Great chunks falling off, like a glass house gone to ruin as he’d listened to him describe what it was like for him, and now that Squall had emptied himself, it had shattered completely. He was left with no defense should he need it.
"I won’t leave," came the rough reply. Seifer leaned his forehead forward so that their scars touched, beautiful blue-green eyes actually shining. "I’ll stay." And then it Seifer’s turn to kiss him hard, Seifer’s tongue working its way past his lips until they were both open-mouthed, tangling and twisting until Squall was keening.
"Don’t leave me," he begged, falling backward and pulling Seifer with him, "don’t you ever fucking leave me."
"Never," Seifer hissed between kisses, "never."
Bodies arched; hips circled greedily against each other. They slid along the gritty surface of the rooftop, shedding clothing and groping for purchase until they at last reached the central dome with its fine, white scars sprawled over its girth. Years of handwriting carved into the glass testified that the rooftop had long since been found and exploited by Balamb Garden students.
But for the few hours remaining until dawn, it belonged only to Squall and Seifer…the dome theirs to lie naked against by moonlight if not by sun.
Return to Archive | next | previous