Author's Note: Wondering where I'm going with this. I've written so much for scenes later on but it's these in-betweeners that have me stumped. This flu is really not helping.

Feedback: As busy as my college life is, your feedback keeps me writing. For you I procrastinate ;)

DISCLAIMER: Characters of Final Fantasy VIII are the property of Square and I claim no rights to them. The lyrics to the song 'With You' aren't mine, they belong to Linkin Park. Not mine, donít sue; la la la...

Bitter Suite

Chapter Two

By Koorime

I woke up in a dream today
To the cold of the static
And put my cold feet on the floor
Forgot all about yesterday
Remembering I'm pretending to be where I'm not anymore
A little taste of hypocrisy
And I'm left in the wake of mistakes
Slow to react
Even though you're so close to me
You're still so distant
And I can't bring you back

It's true
The way I feel
Was promised by your face
The sound of your voice
Painted on my memories
Even if you're not with me
I'm with you

- "With You" - Linkin Park

 

The Den was too goddamn loud, even for his tastes. Those flashing lights were starting to get on his nerves and insinuate a dull siren at the back of his mind. And he had somehow lost Squall. Well, the nightclub was pretty crowded and the Commander was kind of short. Short enough to get lost in the crowd, anyway. He'd no sooner tell Squall that he was short than he'd propose to Rinoa. One scar was enough.

Seifer pushed through the throng of people, making his way towards the less populated area of the bar. Most people tonight were gravitating towards the dance floor and luckily for him, Seifer bartered that Squall would be anywhere but there. Approaching the semi-filled bar, a small grin brushed his features as he caught sight of the brunette, standing hunched with his elbows on the counter. Squall didn't see him or at least didn't acknowledge his presence, chin resting on the heel of his hand, eyes wandering aimlessly. Seifer cocked his head to one side as he came up beside him, quickly scanning the youth. Squall had discarded his bomber jacket, pale shirt glowing under the UV light, hitching up slightly over his hip. Somber expression, lax composure, general aura of fuzziness about him and lazy edge to his movements. The counter before him was clear but that didn't deter Seifer.

He couldn't resist a chuckle. "You're drunk."

Squall scoffed, not looking at him. The brunette pulled himself on to the bar stool, flicking mahogany locks from his vision. "Back off, bitch. 'M not drunk."

The many words of the loquacious iceberg were all the affirmation needed. "Whatever, man. At least you've still got your pants on."

Squall threw him a dirty look then, storm grey eyes glazed faintly. " ... "

Seifer knew that Squall loved alcohol as much as funguars in mating season; this must have been a special occasion. "Did things go that badly with Rinoa?"

A sudden laugh escaped Squall; the sound was bitter and premature. "Better, act'lly." He motioned the bartender over, the middle-aged man smiled wryly as he placed a shot of some clear, aquamarine liquid before him; Seifer had a feeling they had established a routine.

Seifer seated himself beside the brunette. "How's that?"

Squall downed the shot with practiced ease, flinging his head back in an almost elegant manner, neck arching to reveal the smooth expanse of pale skin. Seifer looked away as Squall slammed the empty glass down, coughing lightly.

"I survived," he replied with something of a maniacal grin.

Seifer's brows drew together as he regarded the odd display. "Not for long if you keep that up. Do you know how strong that stuff is? It's imported from Esthar!"

Squall's jaw tightened, head bowing as he looked at him, dark eyes narrowed. "That's why 'm taking it. 'N since you're th'one that dragged me here, I've decided to blame you."

Seifer rolled his eyes. "I'm honoured. Well since we've done what we came to do, I think we should leave before you end up as someone's carpet rug."

Squall snickered over the rim of another half-filled shotglass. "... Not really."

Seifer stopped short. "'Not really' what?"

Squall's tongue darted out to lick the remaining moisture on his lips, pushing the glass away. The bartender immediately took it back, murmuring something to himself, lips curving upwards in a small smile.

"I'm not done here yet," Squall replied in that 'matter-of-fact' tone.

Ah hell, Squall. "... You didn't break up with her."

Squall's fingers were wrapped around yet another glass, swirling its contents languidly. "Well, no. And yes. Technic'lly yeah." He shrugged. "Or at least I tried."

"Did she latch on to you?"

A small cough as another glass was pushed aside. "Nah, for once." Squall giggled half-heartedly, slumping over the counter in the next moment. Seifer sighed heavily, arms winding round the Commander's waist as he pulled him to his feet, one hand snatching Squall's jacket.

"That's enough for tonight. You're downing that stuff like oxygen. I don't even understand why you're doing this, it's not as if you loved her," Seifer muttered, slinging Squall's arm over his neck when the brunette sagged, head bowing sluggishly.

"She hates drunks." Well, that explained everything. Seifer groaned in exasperation as Squall's feet gave out beneath him once again and he drooped precariously. Squall's eyes were already shut as Seifer swiftly collected him in his arms, a small grunt escaping him.

"Damn, you're heavy," he snarled. Seifer couldn't remember Squall weighing this much even when having to drag him to the infirmary; must have been the alcohol. He trudged past the scattered crowds. The air was thick with smoke and dizzying in its temperature; he had a hard time seeing where he was going.

"Bitch," Squall retorted sleepily, head lolling against his shoulder.

"Hey! Don't go to sleep now," Seifer urged, rocking him slightly. "Last thing we need is for Garden's Seed Commander t'O.D. because of his girlfriend."

Squall jerked awake at that, wild blue eyes locking with Seifer's. "She is not my girlfriend."

Sure, say that now. Seifer whirled about, eyes scanning for the exit. "Yer a shitty role model."

"Never asked t'be one."

"With rank comes power, with power..." Seifer began, Squall clamped a hand over his mouth.

"Please. Shut up."

"Stay awake then," Seifer retorted, blue-green eyes serious. They remained locked like that for a while until Squall shrugged, settling back into the cradle of Seifer's arms.

Where in the hell was that door? "'N don't get too comfortable. I'm dumping you on the first bed I find."

Squall smiled languidly; all this smiling was getting damned creepy. "Bed. Nice," he purred. The sound sent a shiver through Seifer's frame, the blond grit his teeth, frowning as a triumphant grin found Squall's smile.

"See! I told you that you'd be cold!" he exclaimed, warm hand pressing to his skin through the black fishnet shirt. Seifer wished he wouldn't do that.

"Y'did not. An' I ain't cold."

Squall blinked, scowl returning in the odd form of a pout as he looked away. His thoughts were all getting mixed up, this wasn't good. The noise level wasn't helping, especially with Seifer jabbering in his ear and constantly swinging about the way he currently was.

"Would y'be careful?" he snapped, his boot knocking the underside of the staircase to the upper level as they passed. Seifer's expression was near-exasperated.

"Do you wanna walk?" he hissed, glaring down at the brunette. "In your condition I don't think you'd get real far."

Squall pushed against him, cursing the blond under his breath. Seifer obliged, setting him down none-too-gently. The hard motion set his world in a spin, Squall's vision tipped dangerously and he couldn't find his center of balance. Ah, shit. The drainpipe swirl of colours before him sent a sickening tug to his belly.

Seifer folded his arms. "See you later, then." He turned away just as Squall's nausea found his throat, he moaned audibly, eyes squeezing shut as a hand clapped over his mouth in an effort to fight down the rising bile. His free hand shot out, catching Seifer's wrist guard. Seifer watched dispassionately as the brunette nearly sank to his knees.

"I'm... sorry," Squall managed, eyes still clenched shut to block out the spinning lights. His stomach seemed to find its way to the back of his throat, he drew in a breathful of heavy, smoke-filled air. His knees touched down on smooth stone. Seifer was his only hope at this point, his fingers tightened around the hard armour; he needed fresh air.

Seifer squatted beside his former rival, not removing the grip on his arm. "Next time somebody tries to help you, show a little gratitude."

Squall didn't reply, didn't even move in fear that the smallest movement would set his stomach in motion. A ragged breath made it past his lips, all his thoughts centered on keeping his last meal down. Hell if he couldn't hold his liquor. The arm under his hand moved, bracing gently under his back and inviting him to lean his weight upon it. Seifer's other hand rested on his knee reassuringly.

"Come on, I'll get you out of here," Seifer whispered softly in his ear. And that was all it took.

Seifer was close enough that Squall only had to turn slightly to lean against him, letting Seifer take the brunt of his weight. Those arms wound around him once again and ever so slowly, Seifer rose to his feet, Squall rigid in his arms with a fist clenched to his stomach. Seifer's eyes flitted around the vast club, searching earnestly for the glowing exit sign.

"You look lost, puppy."

Seifer froze, heart freezing over. His prayers that he had not heard that voice were for naught, a slender woman entering his vision, her step deliberate and confident. She wore black with the occasional dash of garnet, streaks of it ran through her dark hair, it painted her lips with a glossy shine, it branded her arm in a proud cross sword. His symbol. She smiled at his look of ill-masked horror, hands planting on leather-clad hips.

"We've missed you, didn't know if you were coming back," she said softly, yet he heard her through the general crowd ruckus.

"I'm not coming back, Vael." Seifer's grip on Squall tightened unconsciously, the smaller man moaned in pain. Vael's cat-green eyes fell to Squall, lips curving upwards and she reached out a hand to stroke the brunette's hair from his face. When Squall didn't respond, Seifer realised that he had passed out.

"He's gorgeous," she murmured, head canting to one side. "Kitty. You've found us a kitty."

Seifer's heart sped up at this, but he stood his ground. "He's not for you."

She laughed lightly, the sound was musical yet ominous. "So selfish, puppy. You always used to share."

"Listen to me cos I’m only saying this once. I’m not coming back," he said forcefully.

"You were our life. And you still are. You founded us. You can't leave now," she replied, withdrawing her hand.

His eyes narrowed at her. "It's over, you idiot. I didn't found anything."

She returned the hard look. "You made us believe."

"You let yourself be fooled, ‘n yeah, I could have stopped you but I didn’t. I'm sorry, alright?"

"We won't be dismissed so easily."

He'd had enough. "Wake up, Vael. You're falling for what I did under Her, I can't offer you anything."

She shook her head, a dark grin spreading over her features. "But you did, that's why we loved you. That's why we followed you. We had so much fun, puppy." She stepped forward, raising a hand to brush his cheek gently. "I know you remember. We entertained the shadow She cast in you because none other would." She looked down at Squall. "And they never will. There are some things that people unlike ourselves will never accept or understand."

He jerked away from her touch; deathly cold. "They'll never know."

"Yes they will. You know that things like these can never remain hidden for long. People always change their minds when they become emotionally involved. And I see your feelings as clearly as I see you." She motioned behind her, at what, he couldn't see. "Your friends are also harbouring a secret relationship that will soon be discovered. You know as well as I do that when you're in love, nothing else matters. Your friends are callous."

Seifer's brow marred in a frown and he searched over her shoulder, curiosity getting the better of him. She stood before a secluded area of the club, drapes hung from the high ceiling to conceal others' activities. Something in the shadow moved, Seifer peered closer. The fleeting glimmer of copper caught a flash of disco lights; Seifer blinked in confusion. Suddenly, Selphie stormed past him and she seemed not to notice that he was there. She disappeared among the mass of shadows, Seifer glanced back at Vael who watched him patiently. Cautiously he moved past her, following Selphie's trail.

He hadn't gone far when Selphie charged out as suddenly as she had entered. Her face was drawn, silent tears ran their course and she wiped at them hastily, quickening her pace. Seifer wasn't surprised when Irvine appeared at her heels. The cowboy looked flushed, his clothes were mildly ruffled and he held his hat in one hand. Neither of them had seemed to notice that Seifer was there.

"Sefie, baby. Wait, please..." he began, voice earnest and he reached for her.

She started as his hand brushed her arm, she turned back slowly. "You..." her voice choked and she cleared her throat, trying again. "You should have just told me," she stammered with great effort, voice trembling. Seifer looked back from whence they had come, biting his tongue as Zell emerged from the shadows.

Oh, hell.

Well that was... not so surprising. Seifer had pegged Zell as smitten with Quistis but that presumption had obviously been wrong. The martial artist looked apprehensive, eyes darting between Irvine and Selphie while one hand combed his fallen hair back from his eyes. Trust his friends to strike up something like this.

Irvine shook his head, grasping her hands between his and wincing as she shrank back. "Sefie, it's nothing. It didn't mean anything..."

She shook her head, eyes moving past him to rest on Zell. Seifer did likewise, unheeding of the dull ache in his arms from carrying Squall for so long. The gunblader took one look at the martial artist's eyes and silently cursed Irvine. Zell blinked, his gaze fell and he struggled to swallow the lump in his throat. Seifer could feel the agony roll off him in waves; at his side Vael smiled, eyes sliding shut as she basked in it. Zell bit his lip to keep it from trembling, his steps were quick as he rushed past them, head down so that they wouldn't see the tears in his eyes.

Fuck you, Irvine.

Selphie couldn't look at Zell as he passed her, but once he was gone she managed to free herself from Irvine's grasp. "I think you've done enough for one night," she told him in a low voice, eyes shining painfully. She disappeared into the crowd, taking a similar path as Zell had.

Irvine said nothing, Seifer glowered at him, having forgotten the person at his side until she spoke, motioning in the direction of the departed.

"There's your exit. If you would take such a similar road. There are always other doors. But if they ever shut on you, your true home will always welcome you," she told him in a soothing voice. Seifer blinked, turning only to find her gone. How the hell did she always manage to do that?

Irvine seemed to shake himself from whatever stupor he'd fallen into, finally seeing Seifer at his side.

"How long were you standing there?" he asked quietly, Seifer had to come closer to hear him.

"Saw everything," the blond replied curtly. "And I gotta say you're the world's worst liar, Kinneas. That or you're just fucking stupid... Yeah, I'd say that's it."

Irvine's voice shook but Seifer felt no sympathy for the cowboy. "What are you talking...?" he began, Seifer cut him off with a death glare.

"You can't love them both. It's not fair t'either of them. 'Specially when you bullshit like that to their faces," Seifer hissed, eyes flashing. Irvine looked away, loose locks of hair shielding his expression from view. Seifer looked down as Squall stirred with a groan of discomfort, he adjusted his hold to accommodate the brunette.

"C'mon," Seifer nodded in the direction their friends had fled, hoping it led to an exit. "We gotta get Squall home."

Fuck, what time is it?

It took a couple of minutes before I could utilize my motor skills, my body felt like a lead weight. My internal clock estimated that I’d achieved at least twelve hours of sleep; that’s impossible. Ever since I’ve been on active duty I haven’t had more than eight. Moaning pitifully, I coughed when my voice cracked. The white ceiling slowly came into focus above me, from the way the sunlight streamed in I judged it was around noon.

Hyne, I was in for it now.

Struggling into a sitting position I ran my hands through my thick hair, sighing into my hands as I leaned elbows on my knees. The sheet bunched at my waist as I gnawed at an itch through my shirt. Frowning, I looked down at myself; I didn’t remember owning clothes that hung like this…

What the fuck?! This isn’t my shirt! Where in the hell are my pants? This isn’t even my fucking room!

Scanning the Garden dorm room quickly (at least I’d somehow made it back), I spotted an open gunblade case by the closet; Hyperion glittered proudly.

Oh, fuck…

Come on, I’ll get you out of here.

Sneaky, lying bastard… Seifer, I fucking hate you. I threw aside the sheet, already searching for my clothes so that I could go out and kick his sorry ass, wherever he was. Thankfully, I couldn’t remember anything after he’d said those words, don’t think I could face the others if I did remember. I slipped a bit as my feet touched down, turning around I saw that there were towels on the floor. I spun as the door hissed open and the soon-to-be object of my wrath entered, holding a paper bag in one hand, coffee cup in the other. Seifer saw me and paused. I gritted my teeth as those sea-blue eyes looked me up and down and at that moment I really wanted my pants.

“Oh good, you’re awake,” he said simply, setting his things down on his desk. “Brought you breakfast.”

“What the hell am I doing here?” I snapped, not bothering to mask my irritation. “And where the fuck are my clothes?”

“I took ‘em off. You made a real mess last night.” He motioned at the towels by the bedside and my gaze narrowed, more questions rising that I had time to voice.

“Seifer.” He didn’t look up from his work, taking items out of the paper bag. “What happened last night?”

He turned to me then, frowning slightly. “What, you don’t remember?”

I was so not in the mood for games. “I got drunk, but what happened after that?”

He seemed to mull over something, eventually he just shrugged, coming towards me with the coffee and what turned out to be Balamb bagels. “Nothing important.”

I ignored the offering. “Tell me.”

Seifer shoved the food in my hands and walked back to the desk, taking off his jacket. He was only wearing his vest underneath and I caught sight of an odd bruise on his shoulder.

“What do you wanna know?”

I looked away from him, hoping I wasn’t going to regret this. “Everything.”

He turned on his computer then spun round in his chair. “It’s not as bad as you think.”

“And what am I thinking?”

I should have slapped that grin off his face. “You’re probably thinking I brought you back here and fucked you like a girl, right?”

My jaw tightened and his grin grew broader.

“An’ I think you’re mostly worried that you might’ve enjoyed it?”

My stomach did something short of wrenching itself from my body but the cold dread in my veins kept me stationed. Please tell me we didn’t…

The computer beeped cheerfully, as though affirming my fears. Fuck that shit, it was going to the scrap heap.

“Well I went by your terms, Leonhart. Ya didn’t wake with company.” He swiveled back to his computer, opening various programs and then there was only the tap of fingers on the keyboard.

Was there any oxygen in this room? Had my jaw hit the floor yet? Nope, that was the food. Did he realize what he’d just said? Was I hearing him correctly? Was I gonna beat the shit out of him?

Fuck yeah.

I spun that chair round violently, Seifer stared up at me indifferently and I then realized that he hadn’t bothered to gel his hair back this morning. It fell in his eyes all straight ‘n heavy and I wondered why I thought it looked so damn fine. Ah, shit. “You knew I was drunk and you still…” Hell, I couldn’t even say it. It was too horrific. I shook my head wishing I hadn’t woken up at all today. Wait a minute…

Seifer was still watching me patiently, hands on his knees as he leaned back in his chair.

“How drunk was I?”

“You passed out and I had to carry you.”

Come on, I’ll get you out of here.

I pushed back the memory of the cool whisper in my ear, the hands that held me as I fell. Well it sure as hell had been a desperate move to turn off Rinoa.

“So where’s my hangover?”

He gave me an incredulous look. “What, you wanted it? Shoulda told me last night before I made you drink all that water.”

I blinked. “… Water?”

He scowled then, arms crossing tightly over his chest. “Yeah. Was a bitch getting you to wake up, let alone swallow. Y’threw a fucking fit and spilled it all over the place.” He motioned at the shirt I wore, it really was pretty huge and nearly reached my knees. “And your clothes were soaked so I made you change.”

Oh. But still… “Why didn’t you take me back to my own room?”

Seifer scoffed. “Cos you changed your code right before we left yesterday, remember? And you didn’t have your card with you when we got back so I brought you here.”

“You couldn’t have given me to one of the others?”

Seifer frowned then. “What a fuckin’ selfish thing t’ask! You’re lucky I stayed with you at all! ‘Sides, I dunno where Quistis went, Rin was outta the question and the other guys ‘r havin’ their own little soap opera right now.” He turned back to his computer and I saw that he was in the Garden database.

“What do you mean? What’s happened to the others?”

He was typing rapidly, now on the Message Board. “Mm… Dunno if I should be th’one to tell you. S’kinda personal.”

I pursed my lips, wondering if he was somehow involved. “What, you induced them into some drunken affair?”

“No. And yes.” Now he was taking SeeD exams.

“What the hell do you mean by that? How did you get those tests?”

“Everyone has them, how the hell do you think they pass so well?”

I made a sound of disgust at the back of my throat. “Man, you’re cheap.”

“Watch your mouth, Leonhart.” He sounded low and menacing as though I’d taken a jab at something fragile. Well at least he was paying attention. “Besides, these are last year’s tests, they’re standard study material.”

Could have said that. “So what’s happened with the others? Selphie and Irvine having trouble?”

“Yeah. Not that you care.”

Not really. I cocked my head to one side, watching him work. “Did she find out about Zell?”

Seifer sounded delighted. “So you know?”

“Not much makes it past me.”

“Figures,” he murmured. “Irvine could never keep incognito when under alcohol’s influence anyway.”

For a little while he kept typing and I just watched over his shoulder; he was doing really well. Then again, it was never the theory that failed him, Seifer just couldn’t take orders. I look back at the bed, the towels on the floor, the coffee soaking into it and the scattered bagels. Whoops.

“So did we do anything last night?”

“Are you sore at all?” He stood up and flicked on the printer. It whirred busily before the files came through, sheet after sheet. Seifer picked one up, eyes scanning it critically.

I paused, assessing his question. He just had to be so dispassionate about it, bloody stoic. “… No.”

He collected the papers, winking at me slyly. “Well then.”

“You could have cured me,” I retorted stubbornly, wondering why I had responded at all. He put those sheets in a folder and tucked them under one arm before slipping on his gloves.

“Leonhart if I had my way with you, you wouldn’t even be able to get outta bed. Cure or no.” Arrogant as always.

I rolled my eyes. “Whatever.”

He tipped my chin up, smiling. “That’s better; all that smiling last night was gettin’ freaky. C’mon, growl for me.”

I pulled away, not in the mood for his games. At least the worst was over, so I was safe. Knowing Seifer, I was lucky he’d dressed me in his shirt and let me keep my boxers; the incident when we were SeeD candidates was still clear in my mind. It was remarkably similar to this only I had woken with a hangover in my room with full memory of the previous night; it would seem that amnesia has a twisted sense of humour. When I damn near broke down his door as I didn’t know the code, he answered wearing only a sheet. That was when I learned that Seifer liked to sleep in the buck, and thanked Hyne that he’d returned to his own room before the night was over. The last thing I needed was a naked Seifer Almasy in my sheets. That dark, knowing grin on his face just begged for punishment and it seemed only a moment later that we traded scars. We were never about discretion.

I don’t know if Seifer’s bi or gay, though after his experience with Rinoa I wouldn’t be surprised if he were now the latter. Hell, I was almost considering it. Almost.

I started cleaning up the breakfast he’d brought me, but really I wasn’t hungry.

“Don’t worry about it. Rinoa sent it down.”

My head shot up but he dismissed the look on my face.

“I told her you were indisposed and I’d bring it to ya. She wasn’t too happy but then again, she hasn’t been of late, huh?” He shrugged on his trenchcoat, picking up his folder again. “I mean, if you really wanted her gone I coulda just told her the truth, that I’d left you sleeping ‘n let her speculate.”

So she was still coming for me. Last night’s attempt with her had proven more futile than I’d originally thought. It seemed as though our roles had been reversed, I was the only one that spoke and she would cut me off. Not with an interruption of speech but that cold obsidian gaze that I hadn’t know she was capable of. And hell, she was a Sorceress. I realized then how much I didn’t know about her, let alone her powers. Her eyes assured me that if I wanted to stay in one piece I had better stop talking. So I did. Squall shut his trap and veered as far from his girlfriend as quickly as possible; the bar had appeared in no time.

“You shouldn’t have. I’m already behind on all my paperwork.” I didn’t mean to sound so ungrateful, but that droll tone comes reflexively nowadays.

“Yo, you should be thanking me. I gave you the best night’s sleep in months, I’m guessin’. Ya needed to rest properly or you’ll never catch up.”

I cleaned the remaining mess and balled the towels, throwing them into his laundry basket. “I’ll take that up later.”

“Don’t worry about it. Just rest.” I started as Seifer leaned down, pressing a kiss to my hair. I shot him a glare and he just laughed, already at the door. Fumbling around I hurled the first thing within reach, he caught the bagel easily, letting it drop into the trash.

“Later,” he called over his shoulder. The door hissed shut behind him and I grit my teeth, feeling the heat rise in my cheeks.

Idiot.

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