He knocked sharply on the impersonal door. They'd chosen him to do this but, this time, he had wanted to be chosen.
"What?!" a voice snapped from the other side. An impatient sound also tinged with, what? Apprehension?
He took a deep breath - for some reason he was nervous - and called through the door, resting his fist lightly against it for support:
"It's Squall, Seifer. Can I talk to you for a minute?"
There was silent pause then the door opened a little. Enough for Seifer Almasy to show a sliver of his finely sculpted face. The hurt in his eyes countered with the disdain set in his jaw.
"What do you want, Squall? I'm leaving in a few days - expelled. I'll be gone from all of you. Happy?" He was speaking too hurriedly, obviously not wanting a confrontation. Strange for him. Usually he provoked it.
"Can I come in for a second?" Squall asked. "I don't want to speak in the hall."
Seifer shrugged in a gesture both defensive and resigned and left the door ajar. Squall entered hesitantly. Now that he was here he felt even more nervous. He closed the door carefully and looked at Seifer. The blond was standing, ill at ease, not even looking at Squall, waiting to be told off and left alone. It struck Squall suddenly how regally handsome Seifer was, and he felt a pain in his heart that his rivals dreams had come to such a catastrophic conclusion. The only thing that had spared Seifer further punishment apart from expulsion from Garden, was the understanding that he had been controlled - he hadn't been entirely at fault - and there hadn't been as much damage as there could have been.
This was why Squall was here. He was sent with a message from the small group who had defeated the Sorceress and her Knight, that they had forgiven him. It sounded kind of weak now that Squall was actually here. He had not seen Seifer to talk to since the fateful incident ended, which, granted, was only two days ago but seemed a lifetime. Seeing Seifer in person was a little shocking after all they'd been through. The look on the tall blond's face was one of humiliation and the dejected light in his eyes was terrible. Seifer had always been so cocky; so confident. He had always appeared to be the strong one. Squall was seeing things in a completely different way and he actually felt sorry for the disgraced Knight. He'd never actually blamed Seifer before - the Sorceress could have perhaps chosen any of them - but it felt worse now.
"So," Seifer said, finally turning to him. He sounded both tired and impatient. "Say what you've got to say and leave. It's late. I need to get to sleep."
"We - Zell; Selphie; Irvine; Quistis and I - wanted to say that... it was all right. We know it wasn't all your fault. You were under the control of the Sorceress."
"And Rinoa...?" Seifer asked, sadly.
"Oh, and Rinoa too. It's just us SeeDs got together and...," he trailed off.
"Us SeeDs," Seifer echoed with a sarcastic laugh. He shook his head in bitter amusement, came closer to Squall. His movements were menacing. "You all think you're better than me, don't you."
"Seifer, I -."
"No. Come on. Let's prove who's better."
This sounded so much like the old Seifer that Squall studied him quizzically for a second. The flame of rivalry was in Seifer's eyes; he meant it.
"My weapon is in my room...," Squall argued.
"Screw the gunblades. Hand to hand. Don't say I'm not even as good as Zell. If he can do it that way... If I can't take you down with bare hands..."
"Seifer, I don't want to fight you."
"You're not turning into a coward on me are you, Squall? Just like that chicken wuss?"
"Seifer, please - "
Seifer tapped his shoulder lightly; playfully; not a real punch but enough to startle Squall to action.
"Okay, okay, that's what you want - "
Seifer grabbed Squall's arm, locking it behind him. Squall managed to twist free. The hold hadn't been that tight. He put up his fists. There was a mischievous sparkle in the blond's eyes - was he serious or not? He didn't seem to be trying very hard. What did he want - to be beaten up or something? Squall wasn't in the mood for that kind of payback. Zell would have been. Of them all, he was the unhappiest that Seifer wasn't getting worse punishment. The long standing grudge, mainly jealousy on Zell's account that he didn't receive as much attention as Seifer.
Half-heartedly, Squall went to punch Seifer's chest. It was easily dodged. Seifer snatched at Squall again and they wrestled, trying to get out of each others grips until they bumped into something, tripped and fell heavily onto Seifer's bed. Squall was in the position of power, having landed on top of his rival. Seifer suddenly started laughing and, strangely, it sounded genuinely happy for once, almost relieved.
"Okay, you win," he choked out.
Squall looked at his face, lit up with a smile not natural on Seifer's face. He looked so beautiful suddenly that Squall couldn't help himself. He leaned down impulsively and Seifer flinched slightly, expecting a blow perhaps, but instead Squall kissed him on the lips, then hurriedly and abruptly climbed off him.
Stunned, Seifer didn't move. The smile had disappeared; his anger was gone. He was merely shocked. He rose up on his elbows to stare at Squall, who now appeared both embarrassed and fearful.
"Why did you do that?" Seifer sounded incredulous however, inside his heart was pounding. Not from fear or anger but from excitement.
"I don't know, "Squall replied, eyeing him carefully. "I have to go. We all forgive you - even Rinoa - don't worry. I'm leaving." He made to reach for the door but was stopped by Seifer's hand as the blond leapt from the bed and halted Squall's escape. "Seifer, look, I...," Squall stuttered, not looking at the harshly beautiful eyes gazing at him now in stunned suspicious realisation - one that Seifer was not sure how to voice.
Seifer's hand and arm blocked Squall's way out. He leaned on the door and over the smaller brunette in a way Squall found both intimidating and alluring. Seifer was so close to him he could smell his freshly showered skin and the underlying masculine scent of him. He knew he shouldn't think that way but lately, just lately, he had started to feel differently towards his rival - things he couldn't explain.
"What - was - that?" Seifer asked, his voice almost pleading; hopeful; but there was a wry challenge there as well.
"I'm sorry, Seifer. I have to go," Squall said, so quietly he could barely hear himself.
"No. You don't," Seifer uttered softly and, leaned in, pressing his lips to Squall's.
Squall surprised himself by responding to the kiss and Seifer reciprocated further by making the kiss more passionate and placing a hand on Squall's shoulder in a possessive way. Squall jerked his head away to break their kiss. Seifer looked at the brunette's pretty grey-blue eyes with hopeful longing. Squall looked back at him, seeing the emotion in his heart mirrored there and felt both relief and terror. He didn't think that Seifer would attack him. In a way he wished he would. This was not easy for him. He had not planned this at all.
Seifer had not moved either hand from the door or Squall's shoulder. The warm pressure there made the brunette's concentration slip.
"How long have you wanted to do that?" Seifer asked very quietly.
Squall couldn't meet Seifer's probing eyes.
"Just now," he said.
Seifer chuckled and pulled away. Squall felt disappointment as the blond's hand left his shoulder. He closed his eyes.
"Just now?" Seifer repeated, a low, humourless chuckle coming from him again. He shook his head. "Oh, Squall... Maybe you'd better go..."
Squall dared to look at the blond then. He might have had a smile on his perfect lips but Seifer's eyes were hurting worse than before.
"Seifer," Squall breathed, pushing himself off the wall.
"I don't want to be led on, Squall, okay. Just go, okay?"
"No," Squall said, a note of command returning to his voice.
"No, I'm not leading you on. I came here to say everyone forgives you, and I saw you and... I know we've never been friends but we've always been close and now I look at you and..."
"And?" Seifer asked, appearing hopeful, yet pained. For a long time he'd wanted his rival to touch him in just this way, but he'd been hiding it deeply while acting both the fool and the villain to save himself from embarrassment and rejection. Better to be hated for an act then for his true self. Now Squall had made a move - no matter how spontaneous - Seifer couldn't let it lie, he wanted to know the truth.
"When you were gone - I missed you... I realised I...," he couldn't say it, couldn't express what he realised. He wasn't certain of himself.
"Realised?" Seifer was close to him again. He felt a warm hand lift his chin. Seifer's eyes were softer and looked amazing to him. He didn't pull away when Seifer's lips met his again. Squall opened his mouth to the kiss, tasting Seifer's lips and savouring the gentle kiss from them. Seifer sighed softly as he pulled back. Squall's eyes had closed but they opened now to look at his rival.
"I've wanted to do that for over a year," the blond stated quietly.
Squall was startled.
"I never knew," he whispered, watching Seifer's face.
"I could ask you that."
Squall blushed slightly.
"We've become close but I don't feel that way towards her. You got the wrong impression - along with everyone else. I was sworn to protect everyone. So I did."
"A SeeD duty, eh?"
"I thought you and her..."
"No. Well, almost," Seifer looked slightly embarrassed. "I kissed her and I knew it was wrong. Felt wrong. She understood that I didn't want her 'that way' either. She knew I was confused. Up till then I was unsure. After I kissed her I knew I... preferred men," his eyes shot into Squall's as he said this. "One in particular... It took her kiss to realise I wanted yours."
Squall inhaled sharply, stunned in a way even though they'd already kissed and it was obvious. Seifer had been hiding his feelings this long?
"Why didn't you say something?" Squall asked, already knowing what the answer would be.
"And have you laugh in my face? What would you have done, Squall, if I'd said a year ago that I want to ravage you on my bed?"
"Is that what you want to do?" Squall asked quietly, turning his eyes up to Seifer.
Seifer looked into the brunette's innocently enquiring eyes. So lovely - like a calm sea on a cool overcast day. He blushed at his own words and looked away.
"I don't know what... yes, I do know what I want. I'm just too... fucking insecure in myself to tell you."
"See? It's like you wouldn't believe me anyway."
"I believe you," Squall pressed his body close to Seifer's, barely touching.
Seifer's breath quickened.
"Tell me the truth," Squall continued.
Seifer looked down into Squall's eyes again and he melted from their gaze.
"Even before I met Rinoa I wanted you. I... I just didn't really know it. I suspected... something... I just thought it was our rivalry, that spark... but... I want to be with you, Squall. I... don't know if I'm in love with you. I tried to avoid being that close to you to find out, but... you must know I challenged you so often so I would be near you..."
He was silenced by Squall's mouth kissing him again. Seifer let his arms slip comfortably around the brunette. He was happily content when he felt Squall's arm embrace him similarly. When their prolonged kiss broke, he didn't release his hold, instead pulling Squall closer to him, as close as they could get. Squall didn't try to escape or loosen his own embrace. His head leaned against Seifer's strong shoulder as if it belonged there. Seifer felt that it did, it felt so comfortable. He kissed Squall's hair tenderly; hugging him warmly.
"I'm sorry for all I did to you," Seifer said. "And the others... Do you believe me?"
"I believe you," Squall replied. "I told you, you're already forgiven."
"And for before that? I know I've been.... terrible, at times."
"Ha, yes. Do unto others.... I'm sorry... You know I don't know how you can forgive me. I can't forgive myself. These last couple of days... I've been so... I just..."
"It's over now."
"It's never really over."
Squall pulled back enough to see Seifer's mournful face. The pain and hurt was back in his beautiful eyes. It hurt Squall to see it. He touched Seifer's cheek.
"Do you want me now? Squall whispered simply.
The brunette saw the blond's eyes brighten slightly with a hint of hope and happiness and, contented with that answer, Squall reached for Seifer's lips again. Within that embrace they gradually undressed each other and sunk down onto the bed.
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