Authorís Notes:

I donít own the characters or the world or the game storyline. I do, however, own this particular storyline, and the others Iíve written, but that doesnít amount to very much. Maybe a few rusty bottlecaps or clamshells, depending on the local currency. And believe you me, the people at 7-Eleven get pretty mad and start yelling insults in Hindi at me if I try to barter twisty-ties for a Slurpee. ~Kaerith

Tainted Memories

Chapter 5

By Kaerith

***Squall***

"Seifer?" I stood in the doorway and Seifer turned from his seat at the small kitchen table.

"Yes?"

"I found something..." I pulled a wadded bundle of stained and torn cloth from behind my back. If I hadnít been watching him carefully I may have missed the quick widening of his eyes as he recognized it as his trenchcoat. I waited apprehensively for him to say something.

He finally grunted and turned back to the book he had been reading. "Didnít know I still had that. Feel free to get rid of it." The last sentence, so impassively phrased, I took to be an order. Even from the distance of a couple yards away I could see tendons in his neck bunch up.

Silently taking a deep breath for courage, I tossed it over his head where it sprawled over the pages of his book.

***Seifer***

I stared at the grey material. Unwillingly, I saw my hand move to finger the frayed hem.

"What are you thinking about?" Squall asked tentatively from his place in the doorway.

"...When you came to Lunatic Pandora to rescue Ellone." I whispered.

~~~flashback~~~

Fujin ran in, followed closely by Raijin. After a sketchy salute, the girl said, "SQUALL HERE."

I heard, but didnít immediately answer. This is going too far, I thought. I had known that being a Sorceressí Knight would put me right on the top of the Public Enemy list, knew that it would require killing and marauding, but this was going too far. Compressing time? Even I didnít want to be responsible for killing everyone from the past and future as well as the present. Assisting Sorceress Edea (at the time I had had no knowledge that it was Ultimecia in control) with the taking over of Galbadia was something I could live with. But not the senseless destruction of billions of lives.

My thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of Squallís arrival. "We've come to take back Ellone," he demanded.

Outwardly I scowled, but inwardly wished that I didnít have any pride so I could surrender. Too late, Almasy. Youíre in too deep. "Looks like we got company," I spoke to Rai and Fu. "Show 'em your hospitality." Raijin began to follow orders, but halted at Fujinís command.

"RAIJIN, STOP!"

"What's up?" I was mildly surprised.

"We had enough, ya know..." Rai answered. Fujin released Ellone with the word "GO."

"Hey, hey... Come on people," I said to my friends.

"Seifer, we're quittin' ya know? Don't know what's right anymore, ya know..."

"Exactly my thoughts," I muttered. Hell, I donít know whatís right anymore! "I thought we were a posse."

"POSSE," Fujin confirmed. She continued in one of her rare polysyllabic speeches: "We are. We always will be. Because we're a posse, we want to help you. Whatever it takes to fulfill your dreams, we're willing to do. But... You're being manipulated, Seifer. You've lost yourself and your dream. You're just eating out of someone's hand. We want the old you back!" God, Fu, I thought, so do I. So do I. She went on. "Since we can't get through to you, all we have now to rely on is Squall! It's sad... Sad that we only have Squall to rely on..."

I looked at Squall. He was there with two friends at his side as always. Good olí Squall. Heíll never be the villain. Fujin has it wrong. Squall is a much, much better person to rely on than me. Nothing short of un-resurrectable death would cause him to break a promise or fail to protect a friend. I had completely failed in protecting my only two friends. I had let them both join me in Ultimeciaís task of virtually ending the world. The only chance for them to survive is to follow Squall. Even if Ultimecia isnít defeated, I will die. By my own hand, if no otherís.

"Seifer!" Fujinís voice brought me back to reality. "Are you still gonna keep goin'?"

I didnít need to answer. I didnít need to think. Iím in too deep. Every hero needs an antihero. At least Iíve gotten to play a part. Though my fate was immutable, I still felt a deep agony of depression, failure, sadness, and denial. "Raijin, Fujin! It's been fun!" I watched them leave with relief. Itís all that I can give them now. Too bad I didnít do it sooner. But with luck on Squallís side, it wonít be too late.

"Are you going to continue with this knight thing?" Squall asked, not unkindly.

I didnít believe in Ultimeciaís ends nor her means but, like I said, I was in too deep. "The knight has retired. I guess you could call me a young revolutionary."

"What do you think you're doing?" Squall challenged. He had picked up on the hint that I had lost faith in the Sorceress.

I shrugged. Iíve never known what I was doing. Just always been too damn impulsive. "I've always gotta be doing somethin' BIG! I don't wanna stop. I'm gonna keep running!" Until the end, my death, which hopefully will be soon. If Squall does win I donít deserve to continue living. "I've come this far... I'm gonna make it to the end, to the goal! There's no way I'm sharing it with you!"

The fight began.

~~~end flashback~~~

"I wanted you to kill me."

"Why?" He made as if to move towards me, the action quickly aborted.

I looked at the worn fabric gripped in tense fistfuls in my hands. "I-I realized that I had never had control of my life. Especially then. I was born to be the bad guy; sometimes pitied, sometimes feared, but always hated. Fu and Rai left - which was for the best. I wanted them to get away from me and the death and destruction I was creating. But you still had your friends willingly following you, as well as the rest of the world cheering you on."

"You werenít born to be the bad guy, Seifer. Ultimecia was just using you!"

I shook my head, still studying the threadbare and bloodstained coat. "I could never have been anything but what I was."

...And what I am now: as worn-out and useless as my old trenchcoat.

The fabric was pulled roughly from my grasp and thrown aside as Squall took its place on my lap, straddling my thighs, grey eyes boring into mine not two inches from my own. "Listen to me, Seifer," he began, his arms creeping around my neck, "What you were was a confused abandoned kid. All of your confidence and arrogance was a way for you to try to protect yourself. That did not make you a Ďbad guy.í Ultimecia came along and took advantage of your childhood dreams of being a hero and protecting someone that you love and know that they love you back. She took advantage of that vulnerability! When she backed up her offer with surreptitious status attacks, you had no chance to say no. Being coerced into joining her side did not make you a Ďbad guy.í

"But what really convinces me that you are not a Ďbad guyí is that all this undeserved guilt you choose to wallow is killing you. And, worse, you seem to want it to kill you!" The expression in his eyes hardened momentarily, instantly softening as he took a breath and exhaled. "Seifer, your feelings are what prove who you really are. I saw you fighting her; when she first appeared, when she made you push Rinoa towards Adel, in the Lunatic Pandora when you let Fujin and Raijin leave. If Ultimecia wasnít using you then you wouldnít have done most of the things that you did! And you definitely wouldnít be killing yourself now with guilt!"

He was right. I had to admit that. Ultimecia would never feel guilt. She would never mourn over her victims. Even in the end her mind was consumed with the maniacal obsession of causing Time Compression just to get more power. Nevermind the catastrophic effect it would have on the millions of innocent people on the planet.

Squall mustíve understood that I was taking this in, for he remained quiet while I turned this over and over in my mind. Finally I responded. "Youíre right." I was completely unprepared for the flood of relief and joy that came over me when I admitted the fact and dropped the heavy burdens I had carried with me for three months.

"Youíre right," I repeated, and felt a smile grow. I triumphantly hugged Squall and stood up, my arms still wrapped loosely around his lithe frame. I looked down into his eyes. "Thank you," I said before kissing him. He relaxed against me and I relished in the feeling of closeness, even beginning to get a little hard. That too came as a shock; I hadnít gotten excited since Ultimecia began using my body for something other than killing. I had avoided sexual arousal like the plague since then, though it had always hurt me deeply to see Squallís hurt and frustrated reaction.

Abruptly, he pulled away. "Oh, I almost forgot. Look at this." He pulled a folded piece of paper from the inside pocket of his jacket and held it out. I took it warily and scanned the document. An official SeeD court ruling announcement? "I didnít know the court was debating a major issue," I said, confused. "What does this have to do with me?"

Squall crossed his arms, trying to give me a glare saying "Just read it, you dumbass!" but the effect was less than effective as to the trained eye (i.e. me) a smile was definitely creeping around his mouth. Sighing, I dropped my eyes to the paper. It is this Courtís Ruling that all Charges against the Accused, Seifer Almasy, former Balamb Garden SeeD Cadet, concerning the events of the recent Sorceress War are Hereby Dropped on the Grounds that he was an Unwilling Accomplice coerced by way of Mind Control by the Sorceress Ultimecia. A small sticky note from Headmaster Kramer was attached to the document saying "Seifer... You are no longer able to be blamed for what you caused under the influence of Ultimecia! Congratulations!"

"Yíknow, just showing me this wouldíve been easier," I said dryly. When I looked up I saw that the threatening smile on Squallís face had turned into a large grin.

"Would that alone have made you believe that it isnít your fault?" he asked.

"...No," I grumbled. I had to cede to the point. I still am a stubborn asshole. That is one thing I will never give up.

 

The End

 

 

 

Note:

Donedonedone!!! Yay! I think a bit of the "antihero angst" manifested itself in this story. If you want to read more about that, there's my ficcie "The Joke."

Sorry if the ending wasnít what you expected it to be. But I donít write lemons. Though I read them! Review or email me! Then go on and read juicier smut. Yummy! ~Kaerith

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