The Devil's Own
Chapter 6: Between Hope And Fear
By Angry Angel
"And how can the world want me to change?
They're the ones that stay the same.
They don't know me
Cause I'm not here."
Squall Leonhart had left the bar early that night. He had finished neither his food nor the article he had been working on; his mind had wandered off ceaselessly and solely on its own, leaving him without a means to focus. It had been downright impossible to accomplish anything at all. Thus, he had surrendered at last, paid his meal and walked out the door without acknowledging that dumb ogre of a SeeD with another glance or thought.
After all, he had decided, returning home early was probably a fairly intelligent idea. He still had a lot to prepare for the coming days, and he was bound to get little sleep that night.
Then again, he never got much sleep to begin with.
Seifer Almasy's mind had turned out to be almost as intractable as Squall's. The blonde had apologized to Quistis for his rudeness and then eaten dinner with his friends, though all three of them had spent their meal mostly in silence. The thought of getting wasted on cheap wine had become almost too tempting for Seifer, but the SeeD successfully restrained himself. Honestly, the last thing he felt inclined to was another train ride with a headache, or worse, a hang-over.
All in all, the evening had passed quickly, and soon enough Seifer found himself in his bed in their hotel room, trying to fall asleep against Irvine's incessant snoring and the terrible mess that was his thoughts. Brooding was of course sleep's natural enemy, and the blonde had been laying awake and staring at the ceiling for a long, long time already. His thoughts would constantly return to Squall; to those cold blue eyes that seemed to see right through him, and the raw, directionless anger that they always managed to erect deep within his soul.
Quite frankly, Seifer knew nothing about the brunette except for his profession and his name, and he also had no idea why he even cared to know more about him in the first place, but he did, and he found that realization rather troublesome.
This wasn't a crush or something puberal like that, was it?
Snorting into his chocobo feather pillow as he flipped onto his stomach, he mentally affirmed himself that he did not care at all, not even the tiniest bit. What was there to care about, anyway? Leonhart was just some random journalist chump that he'd most likely never see again once he'd leave this town. Granted, the kid was hot and all, but there were tons of other guys like him, and girls too for that matter.
... Or were there?
'For Hyne's sake, YES! Fuck yes, there are! Now shut the fuck up already and lemme sleep! Goddamned good for nothing brain.'
And indeed, after brute forcing any thought or memory related to Squall into the dim shadows of his mind, Seifer soon dozed off into a light slumber. He had never been one to sleep very deeply, which was a rather healthy habit for someone of his trade.
Meanwhile, at the other end of town, a lone figure was leaning out of a window and into the night, allowing the cool breeze to catch in the silky strands of his chocolate brown hair and ruffle them in a silent waltz. He rested his head in the crook of his arms, dark blue eyes screening the indigo skies for nothing at all as he listened to the quiet of his breathing.
He didn't know what was going on. He didn't understand. Three hours of preparing for their trip to Deling City, and all the while he had found himself incapable of ruling his encounters with the SeeD Seifer Almasy out of his head.
Oh yes, Squall knew perfectly well whom he had been faced with twice that day. The tall blonde SeeD had been on the news countless times; him and his father, Galbadian General Erick Almasy, were something along the lines of "celebrities".
Sighing, Squall closed his eyes and suppressed a fit of shivers that threatened to ripple through his muscles at the chill of the air.
'Why am I even thinking about him? And why am I feeling so... lonely? I don't like this. I don't like this at all. Stop.'
This wasn't the first night that the brunette youth was overcome by a feeling of incompleteness, a feeling that he just didn't belong - to nothing, or nobody. However, he could not remember that the impression had ever been so forceful and crushing in nature. Squall Leonhart wasn't one to pity himself; perhaps he wasn't happy, but his life could have been much worse. After all, he had a purpose, loyal friends and a sister that loved him dearly.
Something was missing.
This time, his body did shake. Bristling against the wind, Squall retreated into his room and closed the window, almost hoping that that act would aid him in shutting out his memories and feelings, too.
"Squall? Sweetie? What are you doing?"
He turned quickly, surprise echoing from the fathomless blue depths of his eyes. It was unusual that someone would be able to step up to him unnoticed, yet he was faced with the slender figure of his sister, Ellone, who was unsurely standing in the middle of his bedroom. To her right and left piled magazines, books and a strange array of wires and electronic devices, neatly sorted in an order that she would never understand.
She did understand what the grey duffel bag at the foot of Squall's bed meant, though.
"So... you're really going," she observed quietly.
The brunette shifted uneasily. Cold hearted and careless as he might have seemed or been, seeing the sadness swirl in his older sister's kind eyes always made him crumple inwardly. There was no accusation to be read from the fine lines of her beautiful face, but all the same, there was regret.
Regret for the person that he had become.
"Yes, I am," Squall finally replied, casting his gaze to the ground in unconcealed helplessness. "I have to."
"No," she objected bitterly, shaking her head even though she knew her younger brother could not see the gesture. "No you don't, and neither do Zell or Selphie. This is absolutely foolish, Squall!"
He sighed, subconsciously rubbing at the scar on his forehead like he always did when he was stressed and looking for some form of comfort. This right here was probably the most difficult part of his life and his destiny, and finally looking at Ell's face again surely didn't make him feel any better, either.
Ellone was suffering.
Though the young woman was six years older than Squall, she knew painfully well that she could not stop him, no matter how dearly she wished to be able to. She was sad and she was angry, but most of all, she was worried.
"Some day, someone will get hurt, Squall," she pressed. "Some day... you won't come back."
"I'll always come back," he tried to assure her, though the uncomfortable edge to his voice and the distant glow in his eyes openly belied those words.
He could not make her believe what he did not believe in himself.
"Liar," Ell whispered, hurt swaying the word, but she slowly walked up to him and drew him into her arms all the same.
She held him silently, brushing her long fingers through his hair much like she had done when Squall had still been a child - young, innocent and oblivious to the evil that surrounded him. There had been a time when the brunette had actually been careless. When he had been happy.
But Squall was no longer a child.
Maybe part of this was her fault, too. Maybe she should have known better, even if she herself had merely been a child back then, seeking to comfort a small brunette against the greatest of pains he had ever had to endure. She had made a choice back then, over ten years ago, and she could not simply take it back. She was reminded of it every day, painfully so, but today was worse than any date.
And he had no idea.
"Don't worry, Sis," Squall tried clumsily as he slowly backed away from her, trying to force his lips into a reassuring smile. "I'll be fine."
She measured the firmness in his voice silently, revealing it as yet another helpless attempt at telling her anything just to make her feel better. He was incredibly cute that way, especially since the habit of soothing her didn't fit his general attitude at all. Many would easily mistake Squall for a "cold hearted bastard", but Ell and Squall's friends knew better than that.
He was sensible, he was noble, and he was kind. But he would hide those desirable traits beneath a rigid shell of hard ice, untouchable and distant - always afraid to be moved by anything or anyone without really knowing why.
Hyne, how she blamed herself.
"Sorry I couldn't eat dinner with you tonight," she suddenly broke the silence between them. "Eddy told me you were looking for me."
She studied his handsome face very closely, searching it for something very particular, but as usual his arcane features would give away nothing.
"He also said you had a run-in with one of the guests."
Squall nodded reluctantly, and though a sharp glow came alight in his eyes for only a split second, Ellone caught on it all the same. Yes, there was definitely something, just as she had expected.
Just as she had feared.
"Is everything okay now?" she asked, her voice soft and tainted with only a slight trace of woe.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, he was just a dumb, cocky SeeD. An idiot. That Seifer Almasy guy. He doesn't know who I am."
"That's not what I meant, Squall."
He arched his eyebrows, confusion writhing his features to his usual frown as he tried to decipher the pregnant tone to his sister's words. His cover hadn't been blown, him and the "Predators" were safe - what else could possibly matter?
"Then what did you mean?" he inquired calmly.
She recognized the faint drizzle of curiosity to his question, but once again she was conquered by her fears and her shame. This was not the right time to be telling him.
The right time had come to pass years ago.
"I'm not so sure myself... I guess it's nothing. I'm sorry, Squall."
He nodded absent-mindedly, raking his fingers through his hair before placing his hand on his right hip and shifting his weight onto one foot.
"It's late. You should go to bed," he stated matter-of-factly.
Ellone giggled lightly at the brunette's typical seriousness, eventually suppressing the shadows that haunted her. Her seventeen year old brother was more grown-up than she would probably ever be, and though the sensation came adherent with a bitter aftertaste, she did think that Squall had turned out quite nicely.
"I'm fine, sweetie. I'm off work tomorrow, remember? But you have to get up early if your train is leaving at 9:00 in the morning. Wake me up and say good-bye before you leave, okay?"
"Okay," she approved with a nod, before placing a kiss on the brunette's forehead. "Be careful, please. I don't want anything to happen to you, Squall, you hear me? Don't take any unnecessary risks."
"Okay... well, good night, Squall."
"Night," he replied chastely.
And while Squall resumed staring into the now black and star strewn skies through the spotless glass of the window, Ellone left the room as quietly as she had entered it, silently praying to Hyne above that Squall would have to pay no further for her mistake.
Perhaps it was time. Time for him to finally find out what had happened. Time for him to understand.
Perhaps he would be alright, for the first time in ten long years.
Perhaps he would never forgive her for what she had done...
But with greatest certainty, it was way too late for her to turn back.
=To be continued!=
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