The Redcrosse Knight

Part 3 - sleep

By fyre byrd

The sunlight pools in through the window, waking Squall from a sound sleep in which he dreams about being a knight with Seifer. He squints through his eyelashes at the brilliant gleam of the window, causing the lashes to bar his vision like rainbow coloured streamers. Squall groans softly and closes his eyes again, but the sun blazes through them as if they are red stained glass. Squall throws an arm across his face, but itís no use. Heís awake now. He glares accusingly over at Seifer who is sleeping deeply. There is no light hitting his bed. This is because he is a bastard Squall decides as he shuffles out of bed and into the bathroom to take a piss and run his fingers through his shaggy brown hair sleepily.

Squall heads into the kitchen. The kitchen and living room are connected so that Squall can see Selphie and Quistis playing some complicated game involving tangling string through their hands while they sit on the couch, and also Irvine and Zell and Mrs. Kramer sitting at the long oak kitchen table. Well, Squall canít so much see Mrs. Kramer as he can see the newspaper propped up by two pale hands at the end of the table. He fetches a box of cereal from the cupboard and opens the fridge to get out the milk. Squall pours in a very small exact amount of milk, just enough to wet the cereal without causing it to become too soggy too quickly. Zell eats his cereal dry, which is disgusting, but not nearly as disgusting as the way Seifer eats his, which is to douse it liberally in milk and then to drink the remainder out of the bowl. Just thinking about it makes Squall shudder. He sits down beside Zell at the other end of the table.

Irvine, who has finished his Fastilocan Flakes already, makes shooting sounds and cocks his fingers at Zellís head in the shape of a gun. Zell sniffles, forgetting to chew on his handful of dry cereal.

"Cut it out, idiot," Squall hisses, kicking Irvine beneath the table. He does this not so much out of loyalty to Zell as he does it to avoid the scene it is liable to cause with Zell crying and Mrs. Kramer having to intervene. Irvine listens of course. He is a bit in awe of Squall really and will always do whatever Squall says. Seifer teases Squall about it all the time. Squall exhales Ė a sigh of supreme suffering Ė and meticulously spoons small portions of cereal into his mouth. Squall pauses.

"Hey Irvine," he says, resting his spoon in his bowl for a minute. "Seifer and I could use your help with something later on today."

"Sure thing," Irvine replies eagerly. The paper rustles at the end of the table and descends to reveal Mrs. Kramer with her customary morning cup of coffee in one hand.

"Squall you and Seifer are to be in charge this afternoon. The girls are coming shopping with me. Make lunch for everyone please."

"Yes Maíam," Squall nods and spoons up more cereal. It is usually the girls who want to go grocery shopping with Mrs. Kramer. She does this once a week and only ever takes two children with her at a time.

Seifer wanders into the kitchen like a zombie just as Mrs. Kramer is stepping out the front door with Quistis and Selphie.

"Behave yourself while Iím gone Seifer," she shoots over her shoulder as she closes the door behind her firmly.

Seifer, as he is barely human for at least fifteen minutes after he has awoken makes no discernable reply although some inarticulate noises do issue from his mouth while he is busy inundating his cereal with milk. Squall wisely does not attempt to speak to Seifer when he hurls himself into the seat beside Squall which has been recently vacated by Zell. Seifer shovels heaping spoonfuls of soggy cereal flakes between his lips. Squall just continues eating calmly, bringing his dishes over to the sink to wash. Squall looks over and sees Seifer lift his bowl to his lips and drink down the nasty milk and cereal mixture. Squall winces and puts his dishes in the drying rack.

"Mornin," Seifer says as he brushes by Squall at the sink.

"I told Irvine weíd need his help later on this morning," Squall says, feeling it is now safe to speak to his disgruntled blonde friend.

"Good," Seifer replies succinctly, scrubbing at his dishes half-heartedly, giving both the bowl and spoon a few desultory swipes with the dishcloth each before dropping them into the drying rack. Squall leans against the table with his arms folded. Seifer collapses back into his chair like a wilting plant.

"Help with what?" he asks finally, chin in his hands.

"The story you insisted that we needed to be proper knights," Squall says, wanting to wring Seiferís drowsy neck.

"Oh, yeah."

Squall mutters inarticulately and marches away, throwing over his shoulder as he goes, "Iíll go ask him myself. You can come find me when youíre ready." Squall knows that Seifer hates mornings, but this is ridiculous.

Instead of seeking out Irvine directly he stalks to his room to tug on socks and boots and then heads outside to the duelling rock. It is a long slab of rather flat rock which breaks off at the edges in flat brittle pieces of dark shingle, like a cliff in miniature. The beach stretches out in front of the rock and sitting here Squall can see the long horizon unfurled before him like the length of faded blue ribbon Mrs. Kramer sometimes wears in her liquid fall of shining dark hair.

Squall settles himself on the edge of the rock with his knees bent and his folded arms resting on his knees. The rock is gritty with sand beneath the heavy soles of his boots. Irvine and Zell are playing in the periphery of his vision. Theyíre digging a hole in the sand, using their hands to scoop sand and probably not noticing that for every handful they throw outside of their small pit a half a handful slides back in from the edges.

Seifer is an okay guy, but he is so stubborn and sometimes it makes Squall crazy. But Squall doesnít like to show heís angry and so he usually just walks away to think. He watches the water for awhile. The wash of the waves against the sand is a familiar soothing sight. Squall looks up to Seifer in a lot of ways because he is older. So it makes Squall especially angry when Seifer behaves stupidly. The idea of the story was Seiferís to start with. At first, Squall though it was a pretty dumb idea and then just as he started to get excited about it Seifer chose to behave like an idiot.

The water bubbles over the sand, toying with a piece of seaweed. The sun glints off of the waves in sharp little chips of light. Squall knows it is probably just that Seifer is still tired. He knows that Seifer respects him too and that he probably didnít mean to be such a dick this morning. He feels a bit better.

"Hey Irvine!" Squall calls loudly over the sound of the waves breaking and breaking on the sand and rocks. Irvine looks up from inside of the sand pit and waves. Squall motions him over, beckoning with his hand. Both Irvine and Zell come scrambling across the sand. They are covered in it. Squall will probably have to get them to take their clothes off at the back door or else Mrs. Kramer will kill him.

"Seifer and I want to come up with a story about ourselves - how we got to be knights and what adventures we have and stuff."

Irvine blinks at him, wide-eyed and scrubs a grimy hand against his nose. Even his hair is coated in sand, Squall observes.

"Well, I donít know a lot about knights. You and Seifer know more than me. I know more about guns and stuff."

Squall sighs and kicks at the edge of the rock causing small shards to crumble off. Everyone around him is incompetent. He will have to make up a story himself obviously. Maybe Seifer can help a bit once he is through with his sulk.

"Iím sorry Squall," Irvine says, scuffing his toe in the sand.

"Itís okay," Squall replies mildly. "You could help Zell make us another sword. Seifer broke his."

"All right," Zell nods solemnly. Sometimes Zell and Irvine get to be squires or spectators if Seifer is feeling generous so they get excited about the duels too.

"Címon Irvine, letís look for driftwood." Zell tugs at Irvineís arm. Irvine looks put upon and drags his feet, but follows Zell anyway.

"And make sure you donít get sand in the house!" Squall shouts after them, and they wave and grin. No doubt they will track sand all over inside and Squall will get a lecture.

Whenever the other kids do something Squall always gets blamed. Mrs. Kramer somehow seems to expect him to be able to keep control over the other kids. Except for Seifer. Squall supposes, as he gets up and dusts his hands off on his jeans, that it is a fair trade since whenever anything goes wrong and the culprit isnít readily apparent Seifer gets blamed.

When he turns around Squall nearly topples Seifer over running into him. As it is he is forced to grasp desperately at Seiferís arms to regain his balance. Seifer is barefoot and wearing his favourite pair of blue jeans which are no longer blue but nearly white and frayed at the bottom.

"Do you have to sneak up on me like that?" Squall asks pointedly, his nose inches from Seiferís.

"I like to keep you on your toes," Seifer responds with an infuriating smirk. He does these things with his lips that should be outlawed. Squall doubts he will ever again meet someone with such a disrespectful, mocking mouth.

"Irvine is no help. Youíre no help. I am going to have to make up a story myself. Oh and youíre not supposed to be outside."

"What Mrs. Kramer doesnít know wonít hurt me." Seifer taps Squallís lips thoughtfully with his right hand. "So shut up about it and it wonít matter. Iíll be back in the house by the time she comes home. Anyway, weíre going to be thinking up a story. It shouldnít tax my hand too much. No need to write it down. Weíll remember it."

Squall doesnít know what to say to that. He realizes he is still gripping Seiferís arms and lets go so abruptly they both rock back on their heels a little. Seifer sits down on the duelling rock and burrows his slim pale feet in the sand, wriggling his toes. Squall settles down beside him, still a little annoyed by his gruffness earlier that morning.

"Donít most stories begin with ĎOnce upon a timeí?" Seifer asks.

"Thatís stupid," Squall replies, kicking sand at him.

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