*standard I don't own FFVIII, Squaresoft, characters, etc. applies from now until whenever I decide I'm done*
By Yuri Nigasa
I don't cry. Not since I was a kid who didn't know any better. So why am I laying here in the dark with tears running down my face? I hadn't expected him to do that, use his body against me. That's the cheapest blow he could have struck. It hurt. It hurt more deeply than I want to admit to him, or to myself. He wants to keep things from me? Fine. I know he doesn't tell me everything, but I know this is different. Whatever he's keeping locked away is big enough that he'd take what we have between us and cheapen it into some distractive ploy. The last place I want to be tonight is in this bed, but I'm trapped. Trapped between the wall at my back and the wall between us.
I want to curl up against him and sob out my frustrations. It's not easy being the strong one. I feel like I've always got to be on for him. I've got to make sure things stay a certain way. That whatever gets thrown at us, I stand between it and him. I guess I'm insecure about losing him. When the hell did I get terminally attached like this? All I know is that if I ever lose him... I wouldn't die, but I'd never be the same. I like being in control of things. It's the only way to make the outcome as sure as possible. I don't feel in control of anything right now. Is this what fear feels like? I've never known fear before. Dammit, I'm having a fucking conversation with myself. What's up with this? This isn't my department; this is Squall's thing. Come on, Almasy. Pull it together.
I force myself to collect my thoughts, to pull up that barrier that separates my mind from my emotions. It's not easy to remember how to construct it. It's been down for so long. But, some things you commit to memory and never forget, no matter how much time passes. For me, this was one of them. I felt my composure returning as I felt the emotional connection to the situation ebbing away, being held back by that barricade I built to separate my feelings from the rest of me.
Eerie. Settling down into that area inside that is completely devoid of emotion, I'm able to look at the situation in a clinical light. I bite back a remaining impulse to crawl over him and sleep on the floor. I stop, considering the situation for a moment. Fuck it. I sat up, not drawing the slightest response from Squall. I know he's awake. What I don't know is what's going on inside his head. At this exact moment I don't precisely care. I don't care about the situation, myself, him... any of it. I'm so detached that it barely registers when he puts a hand up against my back. I don't say anything, adopting a mode of silence I've learned to copy from watching the master. Let him make the first move, let him say the first word; let him be the first across the breach. I continue getting out of bed and make my way to the floor. His hand falls to the sheets. I feel him holding the end as I pull the blanket off the bed, but it slides through his fingers with little resistance.
"What do you want from me?" He is the first to break the silence.
I stop, and for a moment I don't know if I have the voice to answer him. I don't trust my voice. It's as if opening my mouth will break the seal I put over my emotions. I take a couple deep breaths, removing any trace of sarcasm and bitterness from my tone. In a tone of clinical detachment that echoes the one I've heard Squall use on many occasions, I say, "I want to know what's so wrong that you'd resort to using sex to avoid me?"
I hear him inhale sharply, as if I slapped him. "Is that what you think?" he responds coldly.
"That's what I know. You can spin it however you'd like to if it will make you feel better."
He is silent. "You aren't my keeper." I hear that edge slip into his tone.
"Never claimed to be. I don't want a pet, Squall."
"Then what do you want?"
"After all this time, you still need to ask me that? You think I've gone through all this for what, the sex? The prestige of fucking the Commander?" Ahh, hell. I'm losing my composure rapidly, and I hate it. "Maybe, just maybe, I know you're keeping something from me, something that's eating you from the inside out. Maybe it hurts like hell knowing that you'd rather evade the subject and lie to me than trust me with the truth."
"Maybe you just need to trust me more."
"This isn't about trust, dammit. This is about me watching you lose it and you denying anything's going wrong." I had an urge to grab him by the shoulders and shake him, but I knew that would just lead to further trouble.
Silence. It stretched out indefinitely, warping all sense of time. Amazing how when deprived of sound, time seems to lose meaning.
So maybe I didn't have a right to get upset, that didn't keep me from doing it. I just felt cornered, a sensation that brought panic and fear crawling in counterpoint up my spine until they were a dull haze of warning at the base of my skull. Why couldn't I just open my mouth and tell him what was wrong? Because if anything happened, it would be your fault, that tiny voice echoed in my mind. "What gives you the right to question your Commander?" I spat. I tensed, knowing the words would set him off.
"I'm not questioning my Commander, I'm asking my..." He stopped. “You know what? Forget it." His voice went dead calm. He stood up and walked to the door. I didn't say anything as he stepped out, not knowing if he'd return. I knew he couldn't very well leave, but I doubted he'd be back to our room tonight. Silently, I curled up on the bed and wept.
I resisted the urge to leave dents in the hallway. It would have taken a lot of explaining that I didn't care to do. Reaching the weapons storage locker, I went to take Hyperion out, and was stopped cold by the sight of Lionheart. I didn't need to be reminded of Squall. It wasn't as if I could ever forget him. Every time I looked in a mirror for the rest of my life I was only going to see his reflection in my own. I rubbed a hand absentmindedly across my eyes. Maybe if I killed a few things I'd feel better. Probably not, but my first instinct whenever I got upset was to go kill something.
I disarmed the outer perimeter sensors and wandered around aimlessly for a while, taking out whatever was unlucky enough to get in my path. With each successive blow I felt the tension easing from my shoulders. My mind calmed down as my base instincts took over for my higher thinking processes. It was nothing but an endless parade of walk, hack, slash, walk.
He had left a few hours ago. I knew he hadn't returned because the sensors were still unarmed. I felt sick. I felt guilty. I only wanted to take back what I had said, only wanted to erase any pain I had caused him. I wanted to tell him I was sorry, that I was stupid, and that I loved him.
"Pitiful. Sniveling over your precious Knight, Catalyst? He cannot save you. I have your bond, and you have seen my power. As the gateway weakens, my powers only grow. Not even she could stop me, and you even think you can stand in my path? Foolish."
"Who the fuck are you?" I screamed. "What the hell do you want with me?" I could make out the dim form I had seen before.
The thing laughed as if amused. "You don't remember? I'm saddened, really. Oh, that's right, you destroyed your own mind rather than deal with the memory of me. I'm not as ignorant as she is, you see. I have methods she does not."
I felt the name slip from my lips, unbidden. "Immamiel," I whispered.
"Ahh, very good, Catalyst. It is always good to remember the name of your Master. Just do not forget who wields the power when the time comes." A formless hand lifted and I felt that dull aching in my chest again, felt the seeping blood run down my chest and over my fingers, soaking the mattress. "He returns. I'll let you handle him, shall I?"
The form disappeared as the door slid open, showing Seifer's imposing shadow silhouetted against the hallway light. My heart was pounding as I saw the look of shock on his face. I opened my mouth to speak, but couldn't find my voice.
"Squall!" He crossed the space between us and I felt his hand on my cheek, sliding down to my chest to pull my blood-slicked fingers away from my body. "What the hell happened?"
I stared at him, feeling scared and small.
"Why are you bleeding? Dammit, answer me. Why were you screaming? I heard you all the way down the hall."
I fell against him, clutching him to me desperately. "Please, don't ask," I pleaded with him, "I don't want to lose you and I don't want you to die."
"Damn you. I have no plans to do either, thank you very much. But you will tell me, and you will tell me now, or so help me, I will fucking walk to Esthar and force Elle to pry her way into your rock-solid head and if your bastard father even looks at me cross-eyed I'll lay him flat." He held me, fiercely, protectively. "Squall," his tone softened, that loving tone of voice that I had heard so often, and that I deserved so little. "I don't care what it is, I swear to you that nothing will ever take me from you. Not Guardians, not Sorceresses, nothing."
In between sobs and heaving breaths I told him everything. I told him of the visits, the voice, the shadows. I told him of my fears, that somehow I had aligned myself with Immamiel. That somehow, I had bound myself to his service. I told Seifer that I feared I would end up fighting against him once more. Every doubt, every fear, came crawling out of my mouth. The blood on my chest, undeniable physical proof that I was out of control. That I could not be saved. None of my confessions eased my mind. In fact, they served only to cement the feeling of despair that gnawed at my gut.
"I don't think you heard me properly, you bureaucratic nimrod. You fucking put me through and you do it now, or I'll come up there and show you how the business end of a gunblade works. I don't care what time of night it is; I don't even care if she's in the middle of boffing some hapless Presidential aide. You ring Elle's room and tell her it's Seifer Almasy and it's an emergency."
I wasn't in the mood to dick around. I was in the middle of swallowing my pride, and my desire to do grievous bodily harm to the President of Esthar, all in hopes of saving the only person I loved. The screen went blank for a moment, and then I saw Elle's face appear as the transmission connected. She had the disheveled look of the newly awakened about her, and was blinking her eyes rapidly to clear the haze of sleep from them.
"Seifer?" she asked, yawning. "It's," another yawn, "five in the morning. What could you possibly need that couldn't have waited until nine?"
"I need a favor, Elle. Not for me, though. I need you to do something and above all, please don't get him involved in this," I said.
"Him? Oh," she fell silent, "I understand. Well not entirely, but I thought that maybe since they'd issued those apologies..."
Apologies? I hadn't exactly been keeping up on the news. Centra wasn't known for being a modern journalistic haven or a bustling center for information. "What do you mean, apologies?"
"Where have you been? Last week Esthar, well, more like Uncle Laguna, but you get what I mean... anyway, you've been cleared, Seifer. You're being hailed as an unsung hero of the Conflict. Didn't you know?"
I must have stood there in shock for several moments, because she cleared her throat loudly to get my attention. "Seifer?"
"Sorry," I said, "I didn't know. I've been... preoccupied recently. Listen, Elle, this is important. I need you to come to Balamb. Just you. Make up whatever excuse you need to but get here quick, and please," I pleaded, "don't tell Loire. I don't want him knowing about this or involved in it. I trust you."
"I... I'll see what I can do, but I can't make any promises, Seifer." She looked concerned, as well she should. I didn't want to hint at what the problem was. I wasn't stupid. Transmissions into the Palace were hardly confidential and I was taking an incredible risk as it stood.
"Thank you, I understand. Listen; leave word at Balamb if you need me. I can't promise that I'll be available or that I'll even be able to answer right away if you call, but I'll get the message. I'll let you get back to sleep."
The look on her face said that she probably wouldn't be sleeping much the rest of the night. She wasn't a worrier by nature, but I hadn't given her enough reason not to be concerned. "Thanks. I'll be in touch. Goodnight."
"G'nite Elle," I said, and cut the transmission. I'd had Balamb route the call through several channels, scrambling the hopes of determining the point of origin. I didn't need it being traced back to Centra. I clicked back to the main connection and asked to be transferred to Xu's extension. A moment later she came on the line, and I gave her a heads up to watch for Elle's call. I told her that when Elle arrived arrangements would be made to transport her here to Centra. Closing the connection I looked up into Quisty's concerned face.
"I can't Quisty... I wish like hell I could tell you but I can't. I don't even know what's broken but I'm trying to fix it anyway." My voice sounded defeated and tired, even to my own ears.
"Sorry, I couldn't help but overhear. I didn't know anyone else was up. She said he cleared you? Congratulations are in order, I suppose." She smiled weakly.
"Wish I felt more like celebrating, but there's just not time for it. I really didn't give a damn if he ever did. All that mattered to me was that Squall believed me. That's all that's ever mattered."
"I never really understood the two of you. It's like you operate at a different level than the rest of us. You make it seem effortless, the two of you, together. Two halves that don't work so well apart, but together, you've been formidable."
"It's not effortless. Believe me, it's not. I suppose we just respect the fact that we're different. I don't try to change him. Never have. Never will. If I did that, he wouldn't be," my voice faltered and my final thought, 'the man I love,' went unspoken. I suppose I wasn't ready to voice that to them yet. Like it was something horribly personal and private between the two of us. Words I wanted him and only him to hear.
"I'm envious of that. I know I have the rest of my life to find what I want, that I'm not done becoming me yet, but all the same it's something I wish I had." She looked a little sad.
I had to lift the mood somehow. I didn't need to feel this heavy cloak of depression falling across my shoulders. "How about a certain Trabian doctor?" I wiggled my eyebrows up and down and shot her a lecherous look.
She blushed. "Hush, Seifer. He's old enough to..."
"And?" I interrupted. "He's cute, if you go for those geeky intellectual types. Come on Quis, I've seen him look at you and I've seen you look at him. Bang him and get it over with already."
Her face turned scarlet, and she looked at me, her blue eyes wide in mock horror. "You are an absolute pervert, I'll have you know."
"I thought that was one of my more endearing traits." I winked. "Don't tell me the thought hasn't crossed your mind, oh, forty or fifty times."
She hit me on the arm, feigning indignation. Then she lowered her head and put her lips next to my ear. "More like sixty to seventy," she whispered conspiratorially.
I had to clamp my hand over my mouth to keep my laughter from echoing down the halls. Guess that just goes to prove that I didn't know her as well as I thought. Who'd have ever thought I'd be sitting here in the Ragnarok's Com room discussing her fetish for older, geeky, men? Not I said the fly.
"Too bad he already knows I'm taken or we could make him jealous. I'd be like making out with my sister but hey, what is that they say about..."
She made a face of disgust. "Don't even say it... Ugh. I can't tell you how wrong that is on how many levels."
"You could always 'accidentally' head into the wrong quarters," I moved my vocal tone up in a falsetto imitation of Quisty. "Oh, pardon me, Mr. Uzuki, I didn't realize this wasn't my room." I batted my eyelashes and looked coy.
"Stop it! You're horrible. I think I can come up with a better plan than that on my own, thank you. You sound like one of those nauseating women from a dime store paperback."
"Read a lot of them, have you?"
"No," she fumed. "Have you?"
"I borrowed one of Zell's once, does that count?" I smirked.
"Zell? You're kidding, I hope."
"Go check his room if you don't believe me," I said with a straight face. Then I broke into a grin, "Yes, of course I'm kidding."
She rolled her eyes and shook her head slowly. Yawning, she put a hand to her mouth and stretched. "I think it's time to go to bed."
"I'll warn Doctor Uzuki you're on your way," I said.
"Shut up," she muttered, waving a hand in dismissal and began walking down the hall.
“Hey Quistis,” I said softly in parting. She turned and looked at me, her gaze soft and concerned.
“We should talk more often.”
“I’d like that, Seifer.” She smiled. “'Night.”
I missed her presence already. She had been a distraction, something that had kept my thoughts at bay with mindless banter. Now, I was faced with the task of returning to the room I shared with Squall. When I left he had been sleeping, courtesy of a couple sedatives I liberated from a med kit. Theoretically, they should keep him out all night, but with him, I never can tell.
I walked down the hall and opened the door. The light shone in, highlighting his curled form on the bed. His breathing was slow and regular. I sighed thankfully and walked in. I stripped down and climbed in with him. Instantly he turned and curled against me and I wrapped my arms around him protectively. It just seemed like every time we get one step ahead in this entire fucked up situation something comes along and knocks us two steps back. I hoped bringing Elle here was the right thing to do. I wasn't sure that Squall would be too pleased with what I had done, but this was out of my league. I was banking on her peculiar power being able to bring Squall's suppressed memories back to the forefront of his mind. I silently hoped that what we needed to know wasn't gone forever.
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