Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VIII is property of Square Enix.
Betareader: Angel of Enigma
Warnings: Yaoi (boy love with the pairings Seifer x Squall), language, non-con (rape), self-abuse, angst, violence, fluff, AU (Alternate Universe).
Chapter Eight - Facets Of Love
"Guess it’s really no surprise that everybody is so fucking sick of you."
By Angry Angel
Circles. Squares. Rectangles. Ellipses. Triangles.
Any figure ever captured on a piece of canvas could be reduced to such simple shapes. It was so easy, really. There was nothing insubstantial or magical about it. All it took was focus and a keen eye. Squall Leonhart was capable of spotting the simplest of shapes in the most complex of pictures. He could strip them down, stroke by stroke, layer by layer, until he would see and understand their very scaffold, essence and heart.
Humans and their intricate emotions on the other hand did not seem to function that way.
He had tried to understand once... a long time ago, when he hadn’t yet been pawned against everything that he had once readily believed with childish innocence. He had put honest efforts into trying to comprehend why humans did the things they did, why they made certain choices – stepping across certain boundaries and recoiling from others.
He had tried to understand.
Their reasons. Their excuses.
There were things, however, that would never make sense to him, no matter how much he raked his mind for common arguments that sounded nothing short of selfish, false and hypocritical in his ears. They were arguments that some people would make up – arguments that only served as excuses for wrong-doing that was worthy of imprisonment.
He came to ask himself whether certain, gruesome actions had been torn from the lines of reason and morality altogether. Perhaps, he thought, some people simply didn’t care about the damage and pain that they caused others. Perhaps they only cared about themselves and their own, quick-lived pleasure.
He didn’t really know.
Maybe he didn’t even want to know.
Either way, it didn’t matter the slightest bit. They were questions that he had asked himself many, many times, but he knew that he would never understand, and he knew that nobody would ever care.
Slowly, Squall ran his index finger across the coarse, coal-dusted surface of his sketch pad, smudging some patches of carefully placed graphite that still looked too edgy to him. He was sitting at the desk in his room, his legs resting perfectly parallel to each other on the black, cushioned seat of his chair; their muscles weren’t moving at all, unlike Squall’s slate blue eyes that scanned lethargically over the drawing before them.
Squall was so tired. His legs and eyes were burning from the day’s strain; it had been rough to say the least, and it wasn’t bound to get any easier, either. It was barely 7:00 p.m, but he had been running and driving around aimlessly for the greater part of the past twelve hours. He wasn’t one to skip school for no good reason, but he had found himself incapable of facing Seifer again right after their nasty fight. Admitting that truth to himself had been difficult enough, anyway.
In the end, he had paced pointless patterns all over town and hadn’t returned home until the late afternoon. He had told his mother some random story about a make-up track practice, which she had believed without question.
She didn’t know that he had quit track almost a year ago.
Sighing, he adjusted the tilt of his head, turning it aside just slightly. The evening sun was settling low on the horizon and dancing in streaks through the spotless glass of his windows, etching into his narrowed blue eyes. It was making it difficult for him to continue drawing. He could have drawn down the blinds, of course, but... he didn’t really want to.
He hated the dark.
As he languidly contemplated the perfect position for the ears of his current drawing’s main subject, he suddenly heard the door to his room being pulled open and a pair of small feet tripling across the fluffy, light grey carpet.
He reeled around in his chair, rotating the seat as he went so he’d be able to face his beloved younger sister who was standing in the middle of the room before him. Her name was Ellone, Ell for short, and she was very proud of the fact that she had just recently turned five. She was a downright cutie pie, the pride of the family and Squall’s dearest person in the world – closely followed by his mother.
Anyone who ever met the two siblings would emphasize how very much they looked alike: they had the same sleek, dark brown hair which always fell straight and soft into their finely cut faces, and their skin was the same, pale shade of unblemished ivory. Ellone’s eyes were darker than Squall’s, however – a marginal difference that could have given away the fact that they were not full blood relatives.
Squall couldn’t help but smile at her adorable outfit – a white and blue summer cotton dress, embroidered with a large, green ribbon at the small of her back. Their mother had woven her chin length hair into two braids that bounced from her head like pigtails would, pulled together by narrow ribbons of the same kind and color as her dress’ pretty accessory. She was beaming up at her big brother fondly, her favorite doll clutched in one tiny hand.
It almost broke Squall’s heart.
"Hey, Ell," he said softly, angling himself down to her so that they were at about the same eye level. "What’s up?"
"Nii-chan," she giggled, tip-toeing past him with a bright, almost cheeky smile, "Are you painting again? What is it?"
Curiously, Ellone pushed herself up along the table as far as she could, trying to catch a better view of the drawing her older brother had been working on. She was hardly taller than his desk, but compensated for that handicap with fierce determination.
With his lips steadily curving into a kind smile, Squall lifted his sister upon his lap and allowed her to bend over his sketch pad, touching it with her small and still quite clumsy hands. Ellone looked at the picture in awe, tracing some coal smeared edges with her short, curious fingers. Squall chuckled at her hands that were now dirty with charcoal, and he carefully rubbed the black residue from her soft skin.
She hardly even noticed.
"It’s pretty, nii-chan," Ell finally said, turning around to him and fixing him with her dark brown eyes. "Is it a lion?"
Smiling, she settled back into his lap and nuzzled against his chest. She knew how much her big brother liked lions. Most of the stuff scattered about neatly in Squall’s room was either related to school, lions or his artwork. There was also a pendant in the shape of a lion’s head that Raine and Ellone had given the brunette for his seventeenth birthday, and Squall actually wore it every day, though he usually chose to conceal it beneath the collar of his shirts.
"Oh, there you are, sweetie. Mm... I should have known."
Again, Squall turned his head around to look at the door, and he could feel Ellone mirroring the motion in his arms. In the middle of the doorway stood their mother, Raine, a large briefcase clamped loosely beneath her left arm. She was dressed casually, wearing plain dark blue jeans and a white, lace-trimmed shirt. Her long, oak brown hair was pushed out of her face with a simple white silk bandana that Squall had given her for her anniversary.
Her son always thought that she looked beautiful that way.
"We need to get going, Ell," Raine playfully chided her daughter, her voice ringing softly like the sound of tiny Christmas bells. "We’ll be late."
"I just wanted to see Squall’s painting," the girl declared as her lips jutted into a pout and she reluctantly slid off her brother’s lap. "It’s pretty, Mommy."
Squall absent-mindedly smoothed out the wrinkles that had been etched into Ell’s dress from sitting curled up on his legs, while glancing at his mother as she stepped up to his desk. She looked over his shoulder keenly, placing a hand upon it gently as she did so.
"Oh, you’re right, Ell! That’s so beautiful, Squall. You’ll definitely have to let me frame it once it’s finished."
"We don’t have any more room for stupid sketches of mine," Squall objected immediately, trying and yet failing to sound gruff.
"Oh, I’m sure I’ll find a spot somewhere, don’t you worry," she replied light-heartedly, giggling at his wry grimace. "And your sketches are not stupid! I love them, Squall, you have a lot of talent. You really have no reason to be so modest, honey."
Shrugging, Squall glared at the piece of paper in front of him. He really saw nothing special or praiseworthy about his work. He didn’t draw to please or impress anyone, anyway, so he couldn’t have cared less. For some reason, however, his mother thought his artwork needy of exhibition, and she didn’t mind at all that their home started to resemble a lion clan’s den more than the picturesque suburban house that it was.
Oh yes - Raine loved her son from the very bottom of her heart, and there was nothing that she wouldn’t have done for him.
"Well, Ell and I need to be going, dear. If you and your Dad get hungry, there’s lasagna in the fridge. Okay?"
The dark haired teenager nodded quietly, carefully refusing to meet his mother’s cobalt hued eyes. Instead, his gaze strayed to the pair of earrings she was wearing – expensive diamonds in the smooth shape of teardrops, given to her by her dear husband as one of his random gifts.
Squall could barely restrain a snort of disgust.
"Okay," he finally replied, his voice blanched of any emotions.
"Just put it in the oven for about a half hour, that should do," Raine continued. "And put some garlic salt on it before you do, sweetie. You can handle it, right?"
‘Of course I can. I’ve been handling it for years.’
He tried to squash the bitter thought immediately, but it was getting more and more difficult to banish his fears and feelings to the back of his mind. Though he liked to deny it, he was, after all, just a mere teenager and the things that he "handled" would have been enough to make grown men cry.
Well, if certain people didn’t care that he had barely transcended from childhood, why should he? In his eyes he was a man alright, responsible for the safety of the people that he loved.
No matter the price.
"Okay, well then... see you in an hour, Squall. Have fun painting!"
She gave him a small, loving peck on the cheek, eliciting a weak smile to spill from his pale, ruby colored lips and die clean again almost right away. Inwardly, Squall was flinching at the touch.
For some reason, this whole ordeal of seeing his mother and sister off for the night was more troubling than usual. He wondered if it had anything to do with his episode with Seifer that morning, but he tried to ignore the notion.
Suddenly, the youth noticed a flash of concern crossing the calm, brilliant blue surface of his mother’s eyes as she cocked her head aside, causing her hair to cascade down the right side of her shoulder like a waterfall. He realized right away that his face had given away just a little too much emotion.
"Is everything alright, sweetie?" she asked, acute worry kindling with her voice. "You look sad somehow. Did something happen at school?"
"No. I’m fine, Mom," he lied quickly, avoiding her meticulous gaze. "Just tired."
Of course, that statement only made too much sense to her. After all, she had been a high school senior once, too.
"I understand, dear. You should go to bed early tonight. Don’t overwork yourself, okay?"
Gently, she cupped the side of his face, smiling down upon him with a tenderness that only a mother’s heart could bear. For a very short moment, Squall allowed himself to lean into the warmth and comfort that her skin had to offer, but he withdrew again almost right away. She accepted him shying away as she always did, blaming it on puberty and his need to be treated like an adult.
Still, Raine missed the days when he had come and cuddled with her in bed, telling her stories of lions and dragons and all the other things that his childish imagination had come up with. Somehow, those days had glistened with a different kind of brightness; a sort of happiness that she no longer saw in his eyes. She didn’t quite understand; a few years ago, their life had been so much rougher.
Well, that time was over. Finally over.
"You’ll be late," Squall stated quietly, his elbows resting on his knees as he glanced at Ell who was twirling around his room like a ballerina. "You’d better go before she gets sick or something..."
"Oh. Yes, you’re right, honey," Raine replied, torn out of her reminiscences. "Come on, Ell, let’s get going. I’m sure Tiffany and the others are waiting already."
"Oooh. Okay... Bye-bye, nii-chan!"
"Have fun," Squall murmured, hoisting a false smile onto his face once more.
He watched the two women of his life exiting his room hand in hand and Raine pulling the door shut behind them carefully. Something inside the brunette’s chest was aching at the sight, but he shoved the feeling aside brutally. The smile had already faded from the surface of his lips when he turned to face his drawing again, gazing at the tiny fingerprints that Ell had left behind.
She was so cute.
He’d do anything to protect her and his mother.
His eyebrows slowly laced together and wrinkled his forehead in a dark scowl, but he restricted his thoughts from straying further to anything but the artistic task at hand; no little sister, no caring mother, no ornery blonde with fascinating emerald eyes, no looming shadows cast over his face, no unwelcome heat threatening to suffocate his soul.
He wanted to think only of his artwork and of nothing else.
He knew he would have gone mad otherwise.
Outside, there was a thudding noise of two car doors being thrown shut, and ultimately the sound of his mother starting the engine of their family van. He knew exactly when she’d be pulling out of the carport and onto the road to head downtown to her kindergarten council meeting. He knew, because he had counted down the precise amount of minutes and seconds that it took so many, many times.
His forehead was beginning to ache tautly and his muscles were snapping tight as he heard the sound of the car fading away, but he kept glaring at the drawing before him almost fiercely, not blinking even once. His right hand was clutching a stick of coal like an anchor, the opaque blackness of it smearing against the inside of his palm and his fingers. Eventually, the sketch begun to dance and blur before his weary eyes, which had begun to sting and tear from the strain of not being permitted to blink, as was their nature.
Finally, Squall lowered his lids halfway over a surface of blue that had dimmed to a thick grey, and he swallowed hard against the sour lump caught in his throat. He was forcing himself to focus and keep his mind from spinning out of orbit, but it was growing more and more toilsome as his time steadily ran out. The pooled up tears were threatening to glide down his cheeks like effigies of moon-kissed creeks, but he brushed them away with the back of his hand, leaving only a faint smudge of coal on his skin as he performed the edgy movement.
He couldn’t keep his arm from trembling, though.
‘Mom... It... I...’
Suppressing a startled sob, he realized that he couldn’t tell her – not even in the safe captivity of his mind. He didn’t know whether to feel brave or pathetic for it. Somehow, it was probably a little bit of both, and the absurdity of that feeling was the only thing that kept him going.
Kept him breathing.
Beneath half-lidded eyes, he looked upon the lion’s counterfeit on his sketchpad. The beast’s gaze was as piercing and hypnotic as a certain someone’s – only the color was entirely off.
Squall’s features twisted as he clenched his hands into desperate fists, chasing away the memory of Seifer’s hurtful words.
‘You know nothing about me. Nothing at all!’
He drew a wet breath through his nose, biting down hard upon his teeth. He sat quietly in his chair, his muscles entirely motionless as he was waiting, and only when he heard the door to his room being pushed open slowly once more, he finally allowed his aching eyes to shut completely.
He had looked so... hurt.
Seifer had spent almost the entire day looking for Squall. He had searched the school grounds during each and every one of his breaks, and he had even stopped by "Ward’s" after classes. Of course, that dumb fuck named Raijin hadn’t told him much of anything – only that Squall had called in sick and that he, Rai, could not hand the brunette’s phone number or address to Seifer as it was "against the law." And, go figure, Selphie hadn’t been at work to assist the blonde in any way.
Seifer had felt like breaking something at the absurdity of it all.
All the while, he had been scared that Squall would do something stupid, but he hadn’t known why he assumed such a thing, and he had ignored the reason why he cared in the first place. Admittedly, he did feel like a dick for accusing Squall of being jealous, but it was slightly difficult to apologize to someone who was nowhere to be found.
Of course, chances were that Squall was merely pissed out of his mind and pouting in some arctic cavern, but for some reason Seifer knew better than that. He didn’t believe in empathy or soul mates or any of that esoteric bullshit, but part of him sensed that Squall was hurting or in trouble.
Somehow. For something.
That was all that he knew.
Staring at the white ceiling hovering ominously above his bed, Seifer lay sprawled out on the covers of his bed in only a pair of black boxer shorts. His heart was tight in his chest, aching with the tautness of guilt and general numbness. He wondered just what he had been thinking that morning, teasing Squall the way he had. He should have known better than that, taking Squall’s withdrawn nature into account and all. Maybe it was to blame on the fact that Seifer always felt strangely detached from reality whenever he was in the brunette’s presence; a light, fluffy feeling that pushed him to make incredibly stupid mistakes.
It was something he had never experienced before.
Sighing, he flipped onto his stomach and buried his face in the squishy depths of his pillow. As he closed his eyes and focused on nothing but the dull sound of his breathing, he wondered where Squall was at that very moment – whether he was okay. He knew that he shouldn’t care so much, but at the same time, there wasn’t a damned thing that he could have done about it.
After all, he wasn’t used to falling in love.
Quietly, he wrapped his arms around his pillow and stared through his window at the crescent shape of the half moon in the black, star-strewn night sky.
‘Damn, Squall, just be alright, okay? Be pissed at me all you want, but don’t do anything stupid. That’s all I’m asking... I really don’t give a fuck about anything else at this point.’
And somehow, with love had come humility.
Grunting, Seifer turned around. He had barely slid out of the seat of his truck and planted his feet on the ground, his backpack in one hand, when Irvine’s best buddy Zell had already blurted out his name and stepped out of the crowd of students gathering in the parking lot of their school.
"What?" the taller blonde groaned rudely, too tired to say much else.
His sleep turn-out had been extremely lousy that night, and he was only glad that it was Friday. The last thing he felt like doing was conversing with this obnoxious martial artist wannabe.
Zell frowned at him accordingly, but there seemed to be something on his mind that prevented him from throwing a fit over Seifer’s not-so-friendly greeting. He was bouncing on the balls of his feet as usual, incapable of standing still for just one minute. If anything, it annoyed the fuck out of Seifer, and he wasn’t polite enough to conceal it.
"Man, cheerful greeting," Zell sighed sarcastically, but switched the subject almost right away. "Hey listen, weren’t ya looking for Leonhart yesterday?"
"Uh, yeah?" Seifer answered slowly, his interest piquing distinctly. "What of it?"
"Well, just thought I’d let ya know that he just pulled into the parking lot."
Emerald eyes slit at Zell’s words, and the smaller blonde gulped at the unsettling expression. He wasn’t sure how much he liked this Almasy character. He was weird.
"Where?" Seifer merely spat, his gaze already roaming around for a sight of Squall.
"Uh..." Zell started, then thrust his hand out to the right of them. "Over there. Hey, Seifer, what’s going--"
Seifer, however, had already sprinted off and left Zell clean in the dust to stare in confusion at the now empty spot before him.
Sighing, the youth turned around and crossed his arms in front of his chest, strutting towards the school building under scandalized, incoherent mumbling and sporting a terrible frown.
"Jerk. He could have at least said thanks. What is it with him and his fat head, anyway? No clue why Irvine even talks to him. If ya ask me, he’s just another dumb jock whose head has been hit by a football one too many times. I kinda feel sorry for Squall. What business do they have together, anyway? Giving each other lessons in how to become even bigger morons? Maybe it’s a competition. Must be. Not sure who’d win. Not like I care, anyway! Hah. Maybe-------"
Meanwhile, at the far end of the parking lot, Seifer had finally caught a glimpse of Squall’s scrawny figure and was fast closing in on it. The brunette was kind of bent over his bike and Seifer thought that he looked a bit odd from a distance, but that impression was quickly overrun by anger and nervousness which caused his pulse to soar. He suddenly felt very upset over something, but had no idea what it was.
By the time he had reached Squall, the brunette had squatted down next to his bike and was rumbling through his backpack. Strangely enough, the first thing that Seifer noticed about him was the unusual shirt that he was wearing – black, long-sleeved and embellished with long, slender white cross on each arm. Like himself, Squall was also dressed in long, dark blue jeans and heavy boots, but Seifer found his own shirt much more cheerful in nature than the brunette’s – red and white, with his favorite sports company’s logo stitched on the chest. Jock material alright.
While Seifer was still examining Squall’s attire, the brunette had grown quite aware of the other youth’s presence and slowly cocked his head into his neck. When his dark grey eyes clashed with Seifer’s, the blonde found himself strangely deprived of words. Squall’s face was a tad paler than the day before, his gaze cold and unkind. A bluish tint had crept into the usual ivory color of the tender skin beneath Squall’s eyes, giving away the fact that he had probably gotten even less sleep than Seifer had.
"What do you want?" the brunette finally growled, his hands tight around the strap of his book bag as he slowly stood up.
His movements were almost mechanical, bursting with unnatural strain. Somehow, the picture seemed familiar, but Seifer didn’t have enough time to contemplate on it any further, because Squall looked about ready to rip his heart out of his very chest - still beating or not. If he really wanted to apologize, he thought, his best bet was to do it quickly.
"I was looking for you," he started, carefully choosing his words. "Erh, yesterday."
The incredible coldness in Squall’s voice threw Seifer off balance. He had kind of expected the brunette to still be angry after their fight, but the hatred in his eyes came as a bit of a surprise. The little voice inside Seifer’s head told him to walk away from this conversation while he still could without causing too much damage, but...
"And I was worried," Seifer responded all the same, crossing his arms in front of his chest defensively. "I mean, you looked pretty upset and I had no idea where you went. I really--"
"Cry me a fucking river."
Blinking, Seifer stared down upon the shorter boy who now pushed past him without heeding him with so much as another look. Squall’s message had been clear enough, but something inside Seifer snapped at those heartless words and the repelling gesture of being left behind so bluntly.
Frowning, he decided that he wasn’t going to be stood up again – not after everything that had happened. Not after losing a fucking night of sleep over this.
"Hold on," he bit warningly, stepping in front of Squall before he could have walked away.
The brunette glared at him darkly, a scowl creasing his almost too pretty features. Inwardly though, Squall was shaking with hurt, anxiety and fear. He had no nerve for this encounter by any means, not right now - he needed to get away. Seifer, however, was unwilling to let him go; he was playing with fire and he didn’t even know it.
"At least listen to me," the blonde urged, his voice sharper now than before. "I mean I searched the whole fucking town for you, at least--"
"Look, I don’t give a rat’s ass about you or what you did," Squall cut him off carelessly, his jaw tight like a vice and his words colder than a glacier. "I don’t want anything to do with you, are you too fucking stupid to get that? Why don’t you just get the fuck lost?"
Seifer was robbed of all patience at the insult and Squall’s openly displayed hostility. The brunette had definitely struck a nerve. For fuck’s sake, the blonde snarled inwardly, he was trying to apologize but Squall was using the opportunity to make snide, smart-ass little comments like that. He was being a downright bitch. If Seifer had ever found the dark haired teen attractive or worthy of concern, he forgot about it that very moment.
"’The fuck is your problem, asshole?" Seifer growled and stepped up to Squall with his lips crushed to a hard, thin line. "Seriously, tell me, ‘cause I don’t fucking get it."
He could feel his reason slowly withering away, but at this point, he didn’t care too much anymore. All night, he had cudgeled his brain for a way to apologize to Squall, but the brunette had squashed his efforts ruthlessly. Maybe he really was a heartless bastard like everyone had claimed.
"You are, Almasy," Squall finally replied with a hiss that echoed in that swirl of colors in his stormy grey eyes. "You’re the most annoying motherfucker I’ve ever met. Do me a favor and go whine to someone who actually gives a fuck about what you have to say!"
If it hadn’t been for the fact that Seifer had suddenly noticed the crowd of students gathering behind Squall’s back, each of them curiously following the scene, he probably would have punched Squall to the ground. He couldn’t even describe how pissed and upset he felt at the brunette’s cold-hearted arrogance. Just what was that little punk thinking, talking to him like that? Granted, he had made some stupid mistakes, but hell, Squall wouldn’t even give him a whiff of chance to smooth any of them out. The bitch was less compassionate than a rock.
And then, he saw her – or rather, his perfect chance to punch Squall in the face without actually touching him. Rinoa and her friend Michelle were standing with the other students, witnessing everything that he said and did. She looked right at him, brown hair dancing into her face as she smiled weakly and turned her head to whisper to her friend. Seifer could tell that her and Squall had a history, and if anything, he’d use that knowledge to his advantage.
His jade green gaze snapped back to Squall, to the chill in his eyes and the darkness in his face, and finally, Seifer allowed his pride to take over completely.
"You know what, Leonhart," he cooed, leaning into the brunette and smirking nastily, "I think that’s exactly what I’m gonna do. I’m too old for your cranky, bitch-ass attitude anyway. I mean, there’s gotta be someone around here who doesn’t act like they just fucking hit puberty! See, here’s a newsflash for ya: you ain’t nothing but a stuck up, whiny little wanker with a whole fuck-load of issues! Guess it’s really no surprise that everybody is so fucking sick of you."
With that, he circled Squall’s frozen figure, still grinning smugly. When he walked up to Rinoa, wrapping one arm around her hips and ushering her to the school building, he couldn’t help but feel incredibly good about himself. The other kids congratulating him for "slapping the ice princess into place" only added to his satisfaction, and he didn’t even mind Rinoa giggling and talking him senseless about the plans for their club night.
Had he looked back just once, he probably would have seen the hurt rippling across dark grey eyes as they watched him disappearing into the crowd with the girl in his arm, but whether he would have cared or not was an entirely different story.
Squall, however, was slowly falling apart on the inside, knowing damn well that he had just bitched away the one person that had seemed genuinely interested in him and his feelings. The blonde’s words had stung, but his actions even more so.
But while he was fighting for composure and trying to keep his straight face from crumpling, he also found himself clawing for defiance. Almasy’s opinion didn’t matter. Him walking away didn’t matter. Nothing at this school really mattered. This solitude was what Squall had wanted all along. This was what he had decided on – his own little world that no one thus far had truly bothered to breach. It was just the way he preferred it, anyway. He was finally at peace again; alone with himself, his problems and his scary memories.
Calmly, he hooked his backpack onto his right shoulder.
This was what he wanted.
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