The Redcrosse Knight

Part 1 - water

By fyre byrd

Squall falls. His knee strikes a rock. He cries out, but lifts his sword at the last moment to ward off a blow from his zealous opponent. It is a pale cold autumn day. The sky is an even cobalt blue without a cloud in it and yet the sun only shines feebly on the spray-washed rocks beside the ocean.

"You tripped me." Squall says through gritted teeth as they strain against one another, blade to blade. "I've been cast down. You're supposed to yield now. This is against the rules."

"And when have I ever followed the rules?" Seifer asks, laughing. His green eyes flash and the wind tousles his pale blond hair as he stares into Squall's eyes from arm's length. Squall manages somehow to force Seifer's weapon aside. He gasps with the effort and clambers quickly to his feet again. Seifer's eyes are wild, he looks angry and while he is still off-balance from the shove, Squall strikes at Seifer's chest solidly with his sword's edge.

"I win." Seifer breaks his sword across his knee and throws the pieces at Squall.

"You always win," he shouts. "It's stupid. I'm bigger than you and older. I hate this." He whirls away, running across the beach.

"You've ruined another perfectly good sword," Squall shouts after him lifting the pieces from the ground. When he picks one of them up he catches a splinter on his right index finger. "Fuck," he mutters, enjoying the shape of the word in his mouth. Annoyed, he throws the pieces into the surf, where they wash back and forth in the foam and seaweed tangle. Squall thrusts the finger in his mouth and bites the splinter out, ignoring the tang of blood on his tongue and the sudden sharp pain. He spits the small piece of wood onto the ground and then looks up, shading his eyes to see where Seifer has gone. The afternoon is ruined now. They won't be able to have another duel until Squall can convince Zell to make them another sword. Squall could do it himself, but Zell is better at it. Squall sees Seifer climbing the steps of the abandoned lighthouse. They aren't supposed to go there, so usually they are sneaky about it. Mrs. Kramer is nowhere in sight though and Zell isn't around to tattle on them like a big baby. Squall scuffs in the sand with the toe of one boot for a second, considering. Then he sets off at a run towards the lighthouse himself.

The pound of the surf echoes in his ears and drives out all the other sounds as he runs down the narrow spit of land towards the lighthouse. It's like the world is disappearing, when he goes into the lighthouse. The sand crunches under his feet as he climbs the first stone step. The building is ancient, from the days when ships needed to be warned of shallow waters with a light lit up in the top of the tower. The walls are gray stone, thick and cool to the touch on even the warmest day. The building acts like a sea-shell, making the sound of the waves seem louder as though the lighthouse were beneath the sea instead of beside it. Squall trails his hands along the wall as he climbs. He remembers, when he was a lot younger that it was an effort to climb every step, because they are built for the stride of a man, but he is almost a man now and so it is nothing for him to bound up the stairs. When he gets to the room where supplies were kept, Seifer is nowhere to be seen, but Squall knows where to find him. He walks around the room and pushes open a narrow door and Seifer is out on the walkway, sitting cross-legged with a length of white cloth in his lap and a book open at his feet.

"What're you doing?" Squall asks, walking over and sitting next to his friend.

"It's really none of your business," Seifer says, drawing a needle through the fabric.

"You're sewing?" Squall asks, choking.

"Listen, asshole," Seifer says calmly, pulling the needle through again. He is using a brilliant red thread, Squall notes through his hysteria. He presses his hands over his mouth to keep from screaming with laughter. "Knights need to have symbols and they need to wear cloaks. Now, I am going to make my own. I don't know what you're going to do."

Squall wipes tears from the corners of his eyes and sits up straighter.

"Okay, it sounds brilliant actually, but you have to admit - you - sewing," Squall grins broadly and Seifer punches his arm.

"If you shut the hell up I'll teach you. Mrs. Kramer gave me two pieces of fabric to work with." He reaches beneath his left knee and shoves a length of black cloth at Squall.

"Mrs. Kramer taught you?" Squall asks, running his hand over the cloth. It catches a bit on his fingers which are a little calloused from playing around outdoors and helping Mrs. Kramer with chores. It feels like sturdy cloth, but it isn't very thick.

"Yeah, she said that knights probably had to repair their own clothes a lot if they didn't have a squire to do it for them. So unless you want to be my squire I guess we're both gonna have to learn." Squall kicks Seifer in the shin and he yelps and sticks his thumb in his mouth and sucks on it.

"You dick. You made me poke myself with the needle."

"Well, fair's fair. I got a splinter from your sword," Squall says and turns the book around, pulling it towards himself across the floor. Seifer reaches out and grabs his arm.

"I need that," he begins, but then he sighs and says, "just give it back when you're done," and lays the needle carefully down on his lap. Squall closes the book with his finger in it and peruses the cover.

"Heraldic Symbols from the Sorceress Wars," he says aloud. He flips the book back open. "Which one did you pick?" he asks, looking at the page full of crosses of various kinds.

Seifer stabs the needle into the midst of his stitching and drapes the cloak over his shoulder then slides over on the gritty stone and leans over Squall's shoulder to look at the glossy pages of the book. He jabs his finger at the page, leaving a brief fuzzy fingerprint on it's surface.

"Fitchee cross," Squall reads. "It looks kind of cool, a sword-cross."

"Yeah. It's for unshakeable faith. And the red means . . ." Seifer stops and flips to the beginning of the book. "It stands for a warrior and for military strength. I think that suits, don't you?" he asks, breathing on Squall's neck. Squall feels the hairs raising along his skin and shivers. "Cold?" Seifer asks. "Maybe we should go in."

"Yeah, okay." Squall replies because it is cold, even if that is maybe not precisely why he shivered. Anyway, he doesn't know why he did so it seems as good a reason as any. He gathers up the book and his black cloak and Seifer follows him into the watch room, closing the door behind them. They sit down on wooden crates, side by side and flip through the book together.

"What are you going to choose?" Seifer asks, as Squall looks through the pictures.

"Hmm, a lion," he decides immediately, watching them rear and prance across the page majestically.

"That's bravery, strength, ferocity and valour." Seifer observes with admiration. "What colour?"

"I think silver will look best on the black," Squall says, fingering the cloth which lays across his lap beneath the book.

"It's a good book, don't you think?" Seifer asks.

"Yeah, gonna show me how to sew now?" Squall asks, fighting to keep all traces of sneering out of his voice.

"You can help me with my cross for now," Seifer replies. "A lion will be much harder. Here." He moves his crate in behind Squall's and lays the white cloak in Squall's lap so that he can see what Seifer's hands are doing.

"First, I had to draw the pattern on," Seifer says, fingering the cloth carefully. "I guess we'll need to do yours in chalk, so it'll show up. Then you make these little x's. Like this." Seifer demonstrates, drawing the thread in and out of the fabric, but Squall is watching his hands. Seifer has long slender fingers, but they widen slightly at the joints and there are blue veins just beneath the surface of the backs of his hands. The veins are surprisingly delicate considering how rough Seifer is most of the time with those hands. As if to demonstrate, Seifer reaches up and tousles Squall's hair.

"Here, you try, stupid," he says fondly. Squall takes the needle and thread hesitantly and tries to duplicate Seifer's neat little x. His turns out rather lopsided and wobbly. It is like a drunken x, Squall decides. An x that has gotten into Mrs. Kramer's cooking wine. He remembers what that was like, everything looked wobbly and he wobbled when he walked until he couldn't walk anymore and threw up in the sink.

"Dammit, you screwed it up. Now I'll have to get Mrs. Kramer to fix it for me. I don't know how to fix mistakes yet." Seifer squints at the offending stitches and drops the fabric on the ground. He stands up and casually pushes Squall off of his crate so that Squall's elbow strikes the floor, sending tingles all up his arm, which is now numb and hurts like an absolute bitch.

"What was that for, you bastard?" Squall asks indignantly, hooking the legs out from under Seifer who is grinning down at him triumphantly. Seifer lands on top of him, with a surprised noise.

"For messing up my cross," he replies, straddling one of Squall's legs as he picks himself up.

"For messing up your girly needlework, you mean," Squall snorts, as he sits up.

"Shut up!" Seifer cuffs Squall about the head, which leads to a tussle across the floor of epic proportions, that only ends when Seifer accidentally lands with his hand on the needle, which pierces nearly all the way through his left hand.

"Aw fuck," he says sharply, looking down at the welling blood in his palm. He pulls the needle out slowly and both boys watch in fascination as it comes out all gory and red.

"Hey, maybe needlework isn't so girly after all," Squall says, a little awestruck. "Time to go home," he observes. Seifer appears to be beyond words at the moment. "Here," Squall strips off his white t-shirt, which is a little too small for him anyway and wraps it around Seifer's hand, tying it in a knot. "I'll carry your stuff, so you don't bleed all over it."

"Thanks, jerk-off." Seifer says, swiping a few tears out of his eyes, which Squall graciously ignores.

"Do you think Mrs. Kramer will pitch a fit?" Squall asks, grinning.

"One of monumental proportions," Seifer predicts.

They walk back to the big stone house together, still speculating on Mrs. Kramer's likely reactions to Seifer's latest wound.

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