“...and nothing fuels a great flirtation, like need and anger and desperation.”
~Aimee Mann, “The Moth”
Seifer shrugs, a terrible job of feigning indifference, outdone only by Squall’s apathy. If it were possible to be disdainfully terrified, he has no doubt the other man would have discovered it by now.
Squall follows without hesitation, and Seifer tries not to be too pissed off about it. The train ride out of town is as quiet as before, this time Squall has brought some paperwork along with him while Seifer has quite enough to do with Gilgamesh in his head, drumming out the extent of the plan, the detail of each step taken.
It has to be done soon, and it is up to him to choose the timing and the means. Ellone and Matron are up to /something/, from the moment he chose this as his day to act. He didn’t ask for particulars, fairly certain he wouldn’t understand them. Whatever they’re doing will keep Rinoa’s attentions elsewhere, hopefully for as long as he needs to finish this.
He’d gotten his final warning glances from most of them on the way out the door, Zell staring at him for a few moments longer than necessary. Seifer grins slightly at the thought that he’s freaked Zell out as much as he’s ever going to, but it vanishes as even the short-term reminiscing nudges up against the unwanted passenger in his head.
//You understand what you’re supposed to do?//
Seifer has never, ever worked well with Guardian Forces, unlike Squall, who took to them with the same lack of concern as everything else in life. Just another reason for every glance to turn into a push to become a fist fight. They really were great adversaries.
The voice that responds is like wind on sand, the voice of darkness and timeless, sealed away spaces. If Seifer closes his eyes he can see the glint of steel mirrored in the glittering sliver of a smile, and so he doesn’t.
Amusement, this is nothing but intriguing and amusing for Gilgamesh, and it is taking Seifer a lot of effort to keep his worry to himself, for fear of giving the Guardian Force any ideas on how to make things perhaps even more amusing. So many ways for this to go wrong, and he does not trust that inhuman confidence at all.
No conversation on the train, his talks with Squall have been reduced to six words or less, in fragments that float along like unconnected islands, until he can’t remember the last thing either of them has said. Usually it’s about the weather, so it doesn’t really matter.
//You’re certain you can do it. You can tell what she’s done?//
//I can sense it. The Sorceress is not subtle.//
He is looking out through the GF’s eyes, just for a moment, and can see what Matron and Ellone must have seen or at least sensed. The places inside Squall that no longer belong to him, the ties Rinoa has made.
If it were possible, Seifer would cut more than what was necessary, would break all the things that bind Squall to her. Everything... and he hates himself for the thought.
/You could shut up, is what you could do./
Gilgamesh chuckles, a choking sort of hiss, and retracts the offer, growing silent once more in his mind. Even silent, though, its presence is impossible to ignore. Seifer can’t stare at Squall so he looks out the window instead, refusing to turn the sight of the landscape blurring by, smooth and anonymous, into anything more poetic than grass and trees.
The first place they stop in Deling is the hotel, not low-class or high-class but again, just the one bed. A test, a chance to see where things stand and what has changed, but once again Squall says nothing and tosses the papers he was reading on the bed. Seifer nods, more for himself than anything.
“Come on, then. Let’s go for a walk.”
Bar-hopping is hardly his weapon of choice, but as Squall will down shots of drain cleaner if Seifer puts them in front of him, it works. He doubts Quistis could have come up with a better plan. A more reasonable plan, yes, but that’s not really up for debate.
Amazing that Seifer has never actually seen Squall drunk. No surprise, the Garden commander handles it with the same utter lack of expression as everything else. It takes three bars before he even wobbles on his feet, and Seifer catches him just before he can take a header into the street.
He tries not to think about how fantastic Squall smells, even with the night air and the alcohol, his body a warm, mostly limp weight leaning against him from knees up. He is very jealous of Squall right now. It would be so much easier to do all of this if he were drunk too, but he doesn’t trust the Guardian Force that much, doesn’t trust it at all. Gilgamesh purrs a chuckle in his mind, agreement, and continuing amusement at his annoyance.
“You have to notice I’ve been nursing one drink per bar, you idiot.”
Figure it out, Squall. Get angry, Squall. Get anything but this self-defeating sorrow. It’s too easy, he’d thought this would be difficult but it’s all too easy, and disturbs him in ways he already knows he can’t name. The not-naming irritates him, his hands tighten as Squall sways.
“I noticed.” He murmurs, voice surprisingly clear. “You didn’t have to do this, Seifer. I won’t stop you.”
It /hurts/, more than anything he’s expecting, to have Squall think that little of him, that he would force... Seifer retreats quickly into sarcasm for fear he might drop Squall on his face otherwise.
“I didn’t hear you complaining the last time.”
“It’s not...” Squall’s gaze, even this far in the bottle, is still the same piercing gray-blue, steady and so calm it borders on something inhuman. “It’s not you.”
“You think that makes me feel better, Leonhart?!”
The fierce kiss catches him completely off guard, Squall off-balance and pushing against him hard, knocking a trashcan over, sending it rolling down the alleyway as they hit the wall. Squall’s hands are extracting viciously delicious penalties for his question, until all Seifer can do is curse under his breath - curse when he isn’t moaning - and do his damndest to ignore that presence still in the back of his mind, its indifference and disinterest in his little human desires.
“It wasn’t supposed to be you... you weren’t... you were supposed to get angry, Seifer. I thought you would - why didn’t you get angry?”
Squall’s breath is hot and he is breathing hard, tickling Seifer’s ear with the rushed words and there will be bruises on his shoulders later, the memory of those fingerprints to study in the bathroom mirror
“It /is/ you... and it’s not. I wouldn’t... Hyne, you smell really good.”
So this was a drunk Squall, who smiled in that way that still never went further than his mouth, but talked too much and said nothing. Kissed him first and desperately, but it was still just escape, still a little less than the truth.
“I spent so long alone, it should have been easy. It should be easy but... she changed /everything/. It isn’t even about...” Squall shudders for summation of Rinoa’s current state of mind. “I can’t remember what I’m supposed to do, how to fill up the time with no one there. It feels wrong. I can’t... not now. I don’t want to be alone anymore.”
He steels himself for some reason, and his hand curls against Seifer’s collarbone.
“I just, I need to figure out... how to keep it all moving. How to stop expecting her hand on my shoulder. How to wake up and know no one’s going to be there, and make it not hurt. I swear I’ll let you go when she stops - you can move on, you don’t have to think about - but if you leave me before, I don’t know...”
He doesn’t expect Seifer to care. After all that’s changed between them, all they’ve /done/... and Squall acts as if this is some great hardship, being forced to try and keep his heart beating. A great burden, and Seifer’s only taken it up out of an immeasurable generosity. The thought makes him snort, far past ridiculous.
“Do I /look/ like a saint to you, Squall?”
Not so often he gets to see Squall this way, completely confused, half an apology already curving his mouth, trying to figure out just what Seifer means. He is firmly kissed before he gets the chance, but no matter how attentive Seifer is the confusion and worry is still plain on Squall’s face when he pulls away.
“You let me worry about that now. When I get tired of you, I promise, you’ll know.”
Squall nods and is still leaning against him when Seifer nudges him back toward the street. The city is very loud and very bright and he notices none of it. It’s not much of a walk to the room and the papers Squall left there, the binder making a satisfying thump as Seifer pushes it off the bed. He hates the way his muscles are tensed for fighting, and the taste in the back of his mouth is Gilgamesh, watching, just observing and he can’t forget for a moment why he’s there.
He’s being too rough, and Squall, pinned beneath him, finally makes a little sound of pain that is an instant razor in his memory, cutting back to another time when he had Squall pinned. Clamped to a wall because somewhere in his mind it had all been scripted well past reality. No one was being hurt, it was just the way things were supposed to progress. Squall was screaming because he it was all a part of the act, and certainly he could not die, no matter what was done, no matter how long it lasted.
“... what’s wrong?”
He doesn’t dare look.
Every touch seems wrong and clinical and too exposed. It doesn’t help that he can’t stop thinking about what will happen after, that this is more an endurance test than anything, all designed to wear Squall down. He’s surprised to find he has at least some rhythm with the other man now, but that actually makes things worse. At least gross awkwardness would keep his mind on the details and not let his thoughts run freely as his hands move of their own accord and -
He freezes. Measuring this in increments, his mind stupidly notices that he is perhaps halfway through, drawing things out as much as he can because he needs Squall to be as tired and drunk and fucked up as possible -
Squall is laying beneath him in a boneless heap, flushed from way too many Deling Barbers - six kinds of alcohol, layered and sucked from the bottom up with a coffee stirrer - and eyes gone unreadable in the shadows. He’s biting a little at his lower lip, Seifer shifts, not meaning anything by it but his hand slides low across sensitive flesh and Squall moans, softly and the sound shoots straight up his spine like one of those moments in bullshit dime novels read on exceedingly dull missions. Nothing like what happens in real life.
“... you really said my name, didn’t you.” He murmurs, pausing a bit to taste the sweat in the low hollow of Squall’s throat. Nothing like a girl, nothing soft or sweet but a different kind of delicate. The sort of thing he could come back to, more than one night, just to make sure he had the flavor fixed right in memory - the sort of commitment he should be jumping continents to avoid.
Squall pulls him closer - alive in this, making a move and he can pretend it isn’t just the alcohol, isn’t just another level of desperation - Seifer needs to believe his name means something, to know that Squall says it for a reason.
The rest is not so smooth, not so easy but it all happens rather quickly, a flurry of motion and sound and waiting for Squall to cry out but it is wordless and he gets no confirmation from it. He does answer back with Squall’s name, hissed between clenched teeth and hoping he doesn’t hear. He is shaking afterward, trembling as he drags himself up out of bed because there is still work to be done. Still too much, and he wants it all over with before Gilgamesh is tempted to steal this from him too.
//You’re being petty now, human. You know very well that isn’t how it works.//
Cold water on his face does wonders. Seifer looks into his reflection and can see the other presence behind his eyes, the tint of gold-and-amber not his own.
//If you hurt him - if you do anything more than what we told you to...//
/You’ll war with me, little knight?//
//If I could destroy Odin, I can find a way to take you down.//
Gilgamesh only chuckles, and Seifer hates blinking for the glimpse of so many strong arms, cloaks instead of armor and the flat, fearless eyes. The sort of creature that exists as last resort, because Rinoa is a worse threat and he can’t believe he would ever be saying /that/.
Squall is asleep when he returns, doesn’t even move when Seifer jostles the bed with his knee, testing.
//Are you ready? You know what you have to do?//
/You’re making too much of this./
No, he wasn’t. It only took one look at Squall to tell him that. If something happened to Squall now, Seifer knew he would lose a great deal of confusion, doubt and anger about the man - and those emotions were likely the best things to happen to him in a very long time.
Seifer kneels down, steadying himself with a slow, deep breath, and slides his hands beneath Squall’s hair, resting gently on his temples. It happens like lightning. One moment the GF is in his head and the next Squall has jerked out of his grasp, back arched and eyes wide, golden-brown and sightless as his fists clench and he tries to shout, but it is too much to fight, too strong and too sudden. He falls back against the bed without a sound, eyes closed and body slack, almost peaceful. Almost.
//When I apologize, he won’t understand why.//
Seifer knows he’ll slip it in to another apology somehow. Sorry for not catching the door, sorry for not taking a phone message. Sorry for betraying him in whatever ways Rinoa hadn’t managed yet.
Seifer finds he doesn’t have the strength to stand, and instead he just sits there by the bed, bad hotel carpet biting into his ass, one hand stroking Squall’s hair as if the other man can even feel it. Trying to tell himself he’s not hearing echoes, such a short gap between the junction that trace emotion is still carrying over. Gilgamesh, moving with a perfect precision through Squall’s thoughts, his actions swift and merciless as his swords are in this world, carving through spells and memory and consigning a great deal of the last month to oblivion.
Seifer tries very hard to tell himself he doesn’t hear anything in the distance, certainly not a furious, tortured scream that breaks off abruptly... and he knows for certain that Rinoa is sealed away forever.
//It is done.//
The Guardian Force, and Seifer can’t tell exactly where it is, only that he is too tired to take it back and it can’t stay in Squall’s mind. He won’t /let/ it stay there. They’d come up with a contingency, hadn’t they? Someone else was waiting and Gilgamesh would go... anywhere, he didn’t fucking care as long as he doesn’t have to hold onto it anymore.
//... don’t worry.//
He doesn’t worry, feeling that presence in his mind slip away, even though he’s less and less sure that there /is/ someone nearby waiting for Gilgamesh and he’s not going to wake up to find half of the city crumbling and the rest on fire. Seifer’s too tired to care - if they wanted someone to care, if they wanted a hero they should have given Zell this job, whiny crybaby chicken-headed...
He drags himself off the floor when he’s alone in his own head again. Pulls most of the sheets off the bed, it suddenly seems like it’s a million degrees in the small room, and Seifer actually manages to stagger over and turn the air conditioner to ‘Diamond Dust’ before collapsing again. Squall wakes up just a little when he hits the bed, and Seifer is suddenly sure he must know everything, must know Rinoa is gone and is never coming back, not even as the thing that wears her body.
Even Squall, though, is only human, and he’s staring at nothing but a deep ocean in those eyes, fathomless and blank.
“... Seifer? What?” Squall swallows, and blinks, and it looks like everything hurts him. “... feel like... hell.”
“It’s all right... drank too much. We both did. Everything’s... gonna be fine. I’m here, go to sleep.”
Squall might want to argue with him, but he doesn’t have the strength for it, and either falls asleep or passes out without another word.
There is something very pleasant about being exhausted well beyond reason. If he wasn’t too tired to think, Seifer knew his thoughts would come clinical and cold, that he could play back all of this and not feel a thing.
The morning felt like an eternity away - and in a way it was, as he and Squall slept out the rest of the night, and most of the next day. Seifer woke long enough to grab the blanket from the floor, the room so cold he swore he saw his breath in the air, Squall clutching him close and shivering but just with the cold this time. No more nightmares, no more fading into Rinoa’s world, not ever again.
He will have to remember this for the both of them, what the end was like.
“You don’t regret it.”
Seifer was not so surprised Squall spoke to him first, after the initial exchange of short, tense words with everyone else, explanations for whatever details Ellone wasn’t able to supply. Seifer cracked his knuckles, knowing full well he was staring at his hands like an idiot.
//Should have told me, Ellone should have told me she was going to show him what happened.//
The others had given them a little space after everyone had run out of things to say, Zell still tossing glances at them from across the room, Quistis and Ellone in some quiet, serious discussion with Xu, diagramming out their words as they spoke. He didn’t care, knew Squall didn’t either - but he wasn’t going to fill in what Ellone hadn’t. No reason to, when Squall seemed pissed off enough to have connected his own dots just fine.
“No. I don’t regret it. You did lose most of the week, but afterward... you never asked. Whatever you thought, we never told you different.”
“You let me forget all that. You knew, all this time, and you just let me...”
It wasn’t altogether angry, though Squall had every right.
“Is that why I loved you, Seifer?”
Squall wasn’t angry, but it didn’t matter, the words still struck him like a gunblade right to the gut. Seifer wasn’t sure what the look on his face was, but Squall must have noticed how badly that had wounded. He frowned, leaning forward a little, his voice soft and maybe even penitent.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No. No, you really shouldn’t have.” Seifer let out a long breath, as quietly as he could, trying to force some of the pain away. “I thought about telling you, every day. Every day, for a very long time. You knew the most important parts, though. Rinoa was gone, she was never coming back. Hell, right after we returned to Balamb, I took off. I didn’t see you for six months, maybe more...”
Not even a relationship. Not for years. Even when he finally comes back, with Rinoa really gone for good, and Squall still needs him, wants him. Asking him without words just where things stand, making tentative gestures that Seifer never brushes aside.
He still expects to come back, each time, and find himself introduced to a new blushing bride wearing a diamond on her hand and Squall’s ring against her heart. A sweaty fling every time he strolls back into town is no basis for deluding himself, and he has no doubt Squall feels the same - never thinking that the fact that they’ve never actually talked might lead to a skewed perspective.
It doesn’t even hit him after a particularly bad mission near Fisherman’s Horizon, when he wakes up in an infirmary bed with several bad gashes on his chest and arms, a bandage over his right eye - and Squall asleep in a chair at his bedside. Doesn’t sink in the way it should, when Quistis says he’d been there as soon as he’d heard of the battle, and hadn’t cared to leave the entire time Seifer has been unconscious.
“You’re up.” Squall murmurs, when Seifer has finally pulled himself together enough to make some noise.
Squall answers with the usual, noncommittal ‘god-forbid-you-think-I’m-human’ grunt. “Too stubborn to die, I suppose. Hungry?”
The extent of the first conversation - so who could blame him for assuming Squall’s interests had never really gone past an easy-to-measure point? Convenience, companionship, and little more. Even when Squall suggests he recover in Balamb. Even when he puts a lot of thought into rearranging the room so Seifer won’t have to work too hard to get wherever he needs to go.
... and he tosses pillows at Seifer’s head much less often than the man knows he deserves. Neither of them is a particularly good patient, but Seifer has the immaturity /still/ to take it to a gleefully manic extreme. Fuujin had thrown him, wheelchair and all, into a lake after an accident at fourteen - and it is impressive to think Squall could possibly be the most tolerant of him, even during the worst of his moods.
//Impressive, until Zell finally hit you with the clue brick.//
Zell. Of /all/ the people Seifer never wants to take advice from, his is not only the first and last name on the list but most of the ones in between. The other man corners him as he is leaving, the three-month convalescence that, surprisingly, hasn’t left Seifer with much hunger for the road. Fuujin and Raiijin are waiting, of course, and there is always work for any SeeDs as talented as they have proven themselves, ‘interesting’ history be damned. Still, the road seems surprisingly empty, and bleak, though Seifer is willing to chalk it up to the weak morning light and not enough time with his gunblade in his hand.
“It isn’t fair, for you to keep doing this to him.”
He doesn’t actually hear the words before reacting. The sight of Zell is Pavlovian, and the comments come without much forethought.
“Ah, chicken wuss. Shouldn’t you be pecking at the cafeteria about now? Little bookworm girlfriend all read up on the best ways to handle hot dogs?”
It is light taunting, nothing more than the usual noise he threw at Zell, because he only has to stop doing the nasty things he’d done /after/ he’d become the Sorceress’ Knight. Zell went past that statute of limitations by many, many years. Interesting, though, the way Zell doesn’t react, nothing more than a flicker in his eyes and a small grimace as he holds back whatever his first reaction was going to be.
“You’re just going to go, then?”
“Want to come along? Maybe I can fill you in as a mascot.”
Zell sighed, though strangely, his discomfort doesn’t seem to come from Seifer’s words.
“You’re breaking his heart, you know. Are you really that much of an asshole, that you’re doing it on purpose?”
“What the hell are you babbling about?”
Zell loses his temper then, hands coming up but surprisingly not clenching into fists.
“Do you really think Squall wants you to go? What do you think he does when you’re gone? We can barely get him to come out of his damn office anymore. He was out more in the first week you were back than in the last few months combined.”
“He never said-” Seifer stops, because Zell’s stare seems likely to disembowel him otherwise. “All right, all right, of course he wouldn’t say. Why the hell are you telling me this?”
Zell shifts where he stands, this is not his usual position on the team and Seifer’s finally called him on it... but he can’t back down.
“Everyone else is too worried to break in on things and tell you you’re being a jackass. I’d tell Squall, but he already knows and he never does anything about it anyway.”
“Zell told me when you wouldn’t, things I should have seen without anyone having to tell me. I should have figured it out, months before... I didn’t think you were smiling over /me/, though. I didn’t really think I had any part in that.”
Seifer grinned a little, shrugging, eyes glinting fondly at some distant remembrance.
“You smiled. It’s the reason I did all of it, the reason I didn’t tell you, the reason I don’t regret. I don’t even remember why... but it was the first time you smiled since Rinoa vanished. Really smiled.”
He could love this man, if Seifer had done it all, if all that effort and fear and time came down to a difference in smiles.
Squall didn’t really want to have the thought, but if there was a way to look back at someone who was watching him the way Seifer was now, and not feel a thing, he didn’t know it.
//A smile so important, that he’d do anything to see it again.//
Squall felt the familiar coil of foreboding in his stomach, curling back around the bottom of his spine. He wasn’t the only one who knew it, not the only one who knew - memory or not - that Seifer’s place in his heart had not waned so very far at all.
“We’re going to have to kill her now, aren’t we. Kill Rinoa.”
“It’s... I know it’s not her.”
//Know it, not that the knowledge does anything...//
Squall looked up. “She wants you dead, you know. She told me so, that she wants me to kill you, before anyone else.”
Seifer’s lips quirked, though he managed to suppress the full smile.
“Jealousy, or she thinks you’ll kill me before you’d go after Ellone. She’s the greater threat, not me. Funny, I always wondered if she’d be jealous.”
Rinoa, watching Seifer try to keep Squall from dying in that very first nightmare of a night, the tears running down her face, the softly mocking voice that didn’t match the look on her face, not at all.
“Silly, silly boy, do you think I’m the reason she’s crying?”
Squall nodded, and stood, turning away from Seifer, away from them all, more than two consecutive sentences about Rinoa just too much for him to handle. His feet ached, he leaned back slightly against his shoes to shift his weight. He was nearly thrown off balance, then, when her voice cut the air.
“He’s right, you know. It’s not tactical, it’s jealousy.”
The only thing worse than when the world froze was when he didn’t even notice, couldn’t tell until he opened his eyes to the strange dull-gray glaze over everything, and Rinoa’s voice sending pins and needles up his spine.
“Only I can love you like you deserve to be loved.”
Author’s Notes -
1. Wow, more pointless and vague sex. Stupid Seifer. Stupid Squall. Stuuuuupid fic.
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