Hemoglobin

Chapter One

By Scarlet Fever

I rubbed my eyes wearily, trying to wake myself up. The dim lights of the library were making me sleepier. I shook my head, resisting the urge to slap myself.

Come on, Squall, snap out of it.

No matter how hard I tried to stay awake, I couldnít. What would anyone care if I took a catnap? Unless I started snoring, of course. I must have only been asleep for a few minutes when a finger gently poked my shoulder.

"You do have a room to sleep in, you know?"

I looked up, my eyes meeting Rinoaís. "Oh, hi."

"Why are you sleeping in here?" Her brown eyes danced happily as she sat across from me.

"Why are you so happy?" I asked, rubbing my eyes. "New boyfriend?"

She sighed. We had broken up. Already. I guess we werenít as compatible as we first had figured. We were still good friends, though. "Maybe." There was an odd look in her eyes. It was sort of predatory.

I looked around the library, wondering if anyone else had seen me fall asleep. Zell was at the desk, talking to Ashla, his girlfriend, and the head librarian. They made such an odd pair, but complimented each other well. He noticed me looking at him and waved cheerfully.

"..Squall?"

I snapped my attention back to Rinoa. "Huh?"

"Whatís with you lately? All you seem to do is get lost in your head and sleep."

I just shrugged. I knew that I was always tired. Probably because I never got a good nightís sleep. My eyes scanned the room further. There were a few people I didnít know, that snotty SeeD guy, and a familiar figure sitting in the back corner, by himself, as usual.

"ÖSquall?" Rinoa poked my chest in order to get my attention.

"Quit poking me."

"Sorry. What are you thinking about?" There was a concerned look in her eyes.

"Just stuff." I didnít really feel like discussing what I was thinking with her right now.

"Fine. Look, Iíll see you later, right?"

I nodded absently, feeling tired again.

"Maybe you should see a doctor or somethingÖ" she trailed off, getting up. "Later, sweetie."

I waved, my eyes wandering to the man in the back corner again. He was tapping a pen against his chin as he read, completely absorbed in the book. He occasionally made a few notes in a pad in his lap. I found myself staring at him, just studying his movements. He then reached his arms up, stretching his long body. He must have sensed me looking at him, because his head turned in my general direction. I looked away, not wanting to be caught staring at him like a weirdo. I looked down at a book that Quistis had recommended to me.

"Screw this.." I muttered to myself, getting up. If I was going to fall asleep, I may as well do it in my own room. I got up, lightly punching Zell in the shoulder as I passed him. I took one last look at Seifer before I left.

I sat in my room, staring at the ceiling. Maybe Rinoa was right. Maybe I should go see the doctor. At least she could give me some sleeping pills. I sighed, frustrated. What was wrong with me? I let my mind wander aimlessly. It began to fixate itself on Seifer. I snorted, trying to clear my mind. But it didnít work that well. Seiferís behavior was intriguing to me, he was intriguing to me.

After the whole Ultimecia thing, Seifer had planned not to return to Garden at all. At the time, it had bothered me slightly, and I had chalked it up to wanting to one-up my childhood rival. After a bunch of cajoling from Rinoa, Quistis, Selphie and myself he agreed to take one last shot at becoming a SeeD. When he came back, though, he was different. He was still as cold-hearted as ever, but more quiet, introverted. I guess more like I used to be like. It was actually sort of fascinating to watch him crawl into a shell. This is what it must have been like for everyone around me. All he did now was study. I couldnít even recall when I had heard him speak last.

I sighed again. I couldnít understand why I was having sleeping problems. Whenever I did sleep, my dreams were plagued with strange images. I could never remember them, but sometimes Seifer would be there. I felt my eyelids getting heavy, and I curled up, falling asleep.

I dreamed that I was sitting in the quad of the Garden, letting the smell of the plants and fresh water settle around me. The noise was actually very calming. I kept my eyes closed, but I knew that I wasnít alone. I didnít know who it was, but I didnít feel afraid. I felt more comfortable than I had in a long time. I felt a hand reach up and gently caress my cheek. It was barely a touch, but it felt wonderful. The hands that were moving against my face were warm and soft. I couldnít help but sigh, nuzzling into the palm, kissing the fingertips. The person responded by gently kissing my now parted lips. The mouth was hot, almost burning me. I responded eagerly, but for some reason I couldnít seem to move my hands. I just kind of sat there. The mouth tasted somewhat familiar, which I found odd.

I opened my eyes, the curiosity of who was doing these wonderful things to me getting the better of me. I lazily lifted my lids and found myself staring into a swirling pool of blue and green. The pair of eyes that I looked into were more beautiful than any precious gem, and the colours seemed to be moving in the irises. The pupils were spiraling down to pinpoints, lost in the wonderful sea. I just stared, losing myself in the bliss I felt when I looked in those eyes. The blue then became separated from the green, which seemed to be crystallizing. I was totally fascinated. I let out a slight moan of disappointment when the owner of those eyes lowered their head, obscuring my view. I closed my eyes again, but instead of seeing black, I saw the blue green heaven I knew was behind those lush lashes. The otherís head moved towards my neck, kissing a slow, hot trail along my now quivering flesh. I was too dazed to even cry out as I felt my throat being pricked by a pair of razor sharp fangs. The feeling of my blood leaving the wounds and entering anotherís mouth filled me with a lustful urge I had never felt before. I grabbed the other by the hair, wanting it more, deeper. I let out a strangled cry as I felt my blood being deliciously drained. The hands that held me close now traveled over my body, lovingly exploring me.

"Oh God.." I whispered, breathing into their hair, which smelled like peaches.

The response was to suckle further. I began to feel dizzy, the loss of blood compounded with an endless desire making my head spin. I gripped the body in front of me, pitching forward into unconsciousness.

I woke up again, with a start. I found myself reaching up to touch my neck. I was almost sad that there was no mark. I looked at the red digits of my alarm clock. I had only been asleep for ten minutes. That seemed to be a pattern for me lately. I made a mental note to see the doctor. My stumbling mental notes were interrupted by a soft knock at my door. I grumbled and got up. I was about to snarl at whoever it was, expecting Zell or Selphie.

I swung open the door, finding myself staring into a steel collar. I craned my neck, looking Seifer in the eyes.

"SeiferÖ?"

"Hello, Squall." He crossed his arms across his broad chest, the fabric of his black shirt stretching across his muscles. "I was told that you have the book on Trabia terrainÖ." He trailed off.

I just kind of stared at him. Hearing his voice was actually strange. It sounded the same as it always had: even and commanding, but also very sensual, a slight accent making it sound regal and erotic.

"Well?" Seifer raised an eyebrow.

"Oh, sureÖ" I ushered him into my room, not wanting to be rude. As he walked by, I got a whiff of his shampoo. Peaches. My eyes narrowed.

He walked in, holding his torso. His arms were tightly locked around himself, a pose that made him look insecure and frightened. I almost wanted to tell him that I wasnít going to bite him, but I would if he wanted me to. This thought caused me to smirk to myself.

I began to rummage under my bed. When I had found the book, I stood, handing it to Seifer.

"Thanks." He took it from my hand gently. A beam of sunlight shone through my curtains, hitting his face. I watched as his pupils constricted to pinpoints, making his icy aquamarine eyes seem drowning. I was suddenly hit by the feeling of a hot mouth against mine. Butterflies began in my stomach as I just stared at him, flashing back to my wonderful dream again.

"What?"

I looked up, noticing that Seifer was staring at me funny. "Huh?"

"Youíre staring at me."

"Am I? Sorry."

Seifer narrowed those eyes that seemed to be haunting me. "OkayÖ. See ya around."

He was almost out the door when I called out. "Seifer!"

He turned, only facing me with his profile. "Yes?"

"If you need help, ask me."

He paused for a few moments, mulling over what I had said. His response was to leave, his shoulders slumped wearily. I had a sudden urge to wrap my arms around his broad frame, feel lost in his arms, the dizzying lust in my dreamÖ.

I paused in the doorway after he had left, watching him go. Whatís wrong with you, Squall? He moved with a cat-like grace down the hall. A pair of female students shied away as he passed them, which Seifer didnít seem to notice.

I rubbed my temples and decided to do something productive. I walked down the hall leisurely, heading for Zellís room. I knocked loudly, hearing blaring techno music. He opened the door quickly, creating a breeze between us. He smiled warmly, ushering me in.

"Whatís up?" He flopped down on his bed.

"Not much. I need to do something productive. And I canít sleep."

"Why, whatís wrong?"

I just shrugged, not really knowing.

"Donít give me that." Zell raised an eyebrow knowingly. "You arenít that stupid. You know whatís bothering you. You just donít want to admit it, whatever it is."

I tried to reply with something snide, but something about what Zell had said hit home. I looked down.

"Tell me." The tattooed blonde urged, looking up at me with a concerned look on his face.

I sighed, sitting down. "I donít know. Even if Iím super fucking tired, I can only seem to fall asleep for ten minutes at a time or so. Itís highly rare that I get over four."

"What, do you have nightmares or something?"

I shrugged. "Not really. Just dreams that I canít explain."

Zell shrugged, patting my back. "Well, buddy. Just dope yourself up real good. That always works."

"Thatís your suggestion for everything!"

He scoffed. "It works!"

I grinned. "That actually might not be a bad idea, though."

"See. Why canít you take my advice at face value?"

I paused, mockingly placing a finger to my chin. "Hmm, I wonder whyÖ? Could it be that you give the worst advice out of anyone I know. And that includes my father!"

"Bastard."

"Itís the truth. Name one instance when your advice worked."

Zell paused, thinking. "I can name ten. What about when I told Irvine that rubbing his fingers with meat would lure that cat back?"

"A huge fucking dog attacked him!"

"Ooooh yeah. I forgot." He smiled wickedly, which caused me to make a rude noise.

"You laugh now, but if it happened to you, youíd be bitching and moaning if we made fun of you."

"But Iím more lovable than Irvine."

I just rolled my eyes, getting up. "Iíll be the first to take your advice after that incident, and go dope myself up really good. This is driving me retarded."

"Thatís the spirit!" Zell winked at me, making a gun motion with his hand.

"What, are you a used car salesman now?"

"Huh?" He looked at his hand. "Nah. I figured this as a skanky barfly motion."

"ÖWhatever." I waved absently and went to the infirmary, oblivious to my surroundings.

When I arrived, Doctor Kadowaki was nowhere in sight. Instead, there was a young girl sitting at her desk, mulling over something.

"Can I help you?" She asked. There was a slight annoyance in her voice.

"Uh, whereís the doctor?"

"Sheíll be back. You can wait here." She went back to what she was reading, snottily ignoring me.

I just shrugged, biting back a rude comment. I sat on one of the beds, deciding to lay down. I bet myself that I would have the best nightís sleep I ever got on this bed, and the doctor wouldnít give me medicine because I was "fine". I sighed, closing my eyes. After a few minutes, I heard that bitchy chick again.

"Can I help you?"

I was about to open my eyes, thinking that she was addressing me, but tuned out when I heard someone elseís footsteps. The next noise was a rustle of paper.

"Is this all?" The bitch asked.

"Yes."

I opened one eye quickly. The voice belonged to Seifer. I opened the other eye, careful not to move. I didnít want him to know that I was there, watching him. The bitchy girl had disappeared into a supply room. Seifer waited patiently, standing completely still, looking like a statue. His entire self seemed like a statue: chiseled features, which looked like they belonged on a statue of Apollo, for both were statuesquely beautiful and golden with powerful radiance. His cold heart also seemed marble, as stony as his current expression. I became fascinated by the fact that he didnít shift his weight, like most people did while they stood, waiting. He was motionless, holding the book I gave him tightly to his chest.

"OkayÖ" The girl came back out, a vial in her hands. She inspected it. "Almasy, SeiferÖ.. 150 tablets of Lithium. Correct?"

"Yes."

Lithium?

"Do you want to wait for the doctor?"

Seifer shook his head. He seemed to look right through the girl. "Iíll come back later."

She shrugged, heading back into the supply room. Seifer slowly turned his long body, heading out. As he turned, his eyes stopped on me. I barely caught the surprise that flitted through his aqua irises. He regained his composure too quickly for me to really see it.

"SquallÖ.?" His voice cut through me. I had to look away. When I mustered the courage to meet his eyes, they were on me like lasers. There seemed to be something behind the internal wall that he had built. I had never noticed it, but I could now see something dying in those eyes, a deep unending sadness. It was then gone. So many emotions seemed to lurk behind his eyes, but he killed them before they were ever revealed.

"I didnít mean to listen inÖ" I trailed off, feeling foolish.

"Itís fine." He turned on his heel, leaving me sitting there in a cloud of confusion. I could slightly smell the faint, sweet smell of peaches.

I sighed, walking into the computer lab. I was actually thankful that it was nearly empty. I noticed Selphie sitting in the back corner. She waved in exuberance, motioning me over. I made my way through the maze of PCís, slumping at the terminal next to her. I logged in, waiting patiently.

"What is it?" She asked, looking at her screen as she did. She was in a Sailor Moon chat room.

"Just tired."

"I heard that youíve been having sleeping problems. Why donít you get something?"

"I did. But itís too early to go to sleep. I donít want to mess up my internal clock."

She just shrugged, going back to what she was doing. After I checked my email, I narrowed my eyes. They roamed the screen, stopping on search. I found myself typing in Lithium. I narrowed my eyes as I went on a medical website. It stated that Lithium was used to cure Bipolar Disorder.

Bipolar? Manic Depression? Is Seifer manic-depressant?

I suddenly felt very sorry for him, but not in a pitying way, which was odd. How could you feel sorry for someone and not pity them?

"Whatís that youíre looking up?" Selphie asked, leaning over to peer at my screen. "Lithium?"

I shrugged. "So, whereís Irvine?" I so desperately wanted to change the subject.

She sighed. "I made him study. If heís not careful, heíll fail, and he wonít be able to become a SeeD. And this is his only chance."

I wasnít really paying attention to her. My mind had begun to wander again. I decided to get some sleep.

"You wonít mind if I take off, will you? I want to get some sleep."

"No, no, go ahead. I donít mind." She wasnít looking at me as she said this.

I sighed and went to my room, finding that I was walking very slowly. When I arrived at my room, I was about ready to pass out from exhaustion. I removed my clothes hurriedly, the fabric feeling more than heavy, like I had been swimming in lead. I popped a couple of sleeping pills, hoping that they wouldnít take too long to kick in. I let my body sink into the mattress, marveling at how comfortable it was at this very moment. I closed my eyes, relaxing pleasantly. However, my mind began to wander again. I began to think of the crystallizing ocean and the delicious smell of peaches that had assaulted my senses earlier. All of this began to dim away, slowly fading from my mind, aided by the drugs which now seemed to make my system slow to a crawl.

I began to feel a rosy light playing against my eyelids, which were closed. It felt like I was sitting in a sunbeam. When I opened my eyes, I was in a beautiful garden. There were climbing plants covering the arch that served as an entryway. The air hung with the smell of clean air and lush foliage. My ears pricked up at the gentle noises of birds chirping, which were answered by a small waterfall, the cascade of clear liquid falling out of an urn being held by a stone goddess, lily pads at her feet. The pond that she stood in was home to small frogs and golden coy, whose fiery scales shone in the beams of buttery sun filtering through the canopy of green. The trees were so large and surrounded by ferns and flowers, the bright, cheery petals standing out against the lush emerald of the leaves. I had never seen a garden that was so well maintained. Its atmosphere reminded me of the entry to the Tomb of the Nameless King: calm and peaceful, the water running making soothing music. Ahead of me was a gate. It was wrought iron and looking very old. On the other side was a courtyard. I followed the cobblestone path, wanting to see the statues that were on the other side of the gate. I stopped when I noticed a figure standing against the poles of the ancient gate.

He looked up, his eyes the colour of the water flowing out of the goddessís ornate urn.

"Seifer?" I called, my footsteps echoing against the crumbling path.

He smiled, wrapping his long fingers around the bars. "Squall." He mouthed it. I couldnít hear him say my name, which disappointed me. I wanted to hear ĎSquallí whispered breathlessly from his lips.

I was surprised to see him smiling. It wasnít something that he did very often, but he should have. He looked absolutely beautiful. His eyes lit up, the blue becoming dominant over the green. The irises danced, the sunlight enhancing the internal light, making his eyes move, the colours swirling hypnotically. His teeth were straight and brilliant, like an add for toothpaste. I had never really seen his teeth bared in a smile, and now that I had, it seemed like such a shame. The simple gesture was melting my body to the core.

I walked to the gate, pressing my chest to its bars, which were chilly, causing my nipples to become erect. Maybe it wasnít all the gates doing, though. I wrapped my own fingers around the bars, the inner skin of my wrist brushing against Seiferís hands. I slightly tilted my head up, meeting his glorious eyes. As I did, his fingers ran up the bars, entwining with mine. His hands were so warm and the tips of his fingers gently massaged the backs of my hands. They worked their way into my closed palm, touching my skin softly. I rested my cheek against the iron poles, feeling hot and light-headed.

"What is this place?" I asked.

He smiled, but said nothing.

I disentangled my fingers from his so I could reach my arms through the gate. I pulled him close, only the iron coming between us.

"I donít know whatís going on with me," I mused into his chest, running my cheek across the hard plains of his muscles, nuzzling against him. "But I think I want you. I donít know if I love you, but I know I want you."

Seiferís hands moved into my hair, running through the locks as he pulled me tighter against his chest. He breathed into my ear, wordless. His breath was so cold in my ear, sending chills throughout my body, both from the cold and from desire. Suddenly, Seifer pulled away from me, leaving me feeling exposed. I reached for him again, wanting to crush myself against him again, regain that feeling of wholeness, completeness. I needed to feel his hands in my hair again, his breath in my ear, his heart against my chest. All my hands caught was air. I reached out further, painfully stretching my fingers. At that point, I didnít care if my arm popped out of its socket; all I needed was to touch him again. I caught the soft fabric of his shirt. I tightly gripped in my hands, desperate to bring him back to me. My grip broke as he continued to walk away from me. He turned, looking at me.

"SeiferÖ" I broke off, knowing that my voice sounded desperate. I used my eyes to plead with him to return to my arms.

He looked over his shoulder at me, his eyes sweeping across my body. He made a motion with his head, urging me to follow him. There was a suggestive look in his eyes that urged me forward. My hands blindly grappled for the gate handle, my gaze not moving from Seiferís form. As soon as the gate swung open, the atmosphere seemed to change. I felt a chill crawl across my bare arms, and it engulfed me as I stepped across the iron barrier. The wonderful rays of sun that played in Seiferís eyes and on his golden hair were now gone. It was dark and rainy, the total opposite of what it was like a second ago.

"SeiferÖ?" I turned around, looking for him. He had disappeared. The gate was also gone. I looked around me frantically, feeling wary of the sudden changes around me. There was an ominous feel in the air, and it began to frighten me.

"SeiferÖ?" I called again, now spinning around, searching for him. My eyes stopped on a tree, gnarled and weathered with age. It didnít have any leaves and it looked like it never had. It was perpetually dead. Seifer was standing under it, his arms crossed over his chest, his eyes watching me. I could feel them from across the field that now separated me from the salvation that waited in Seiferís embrace. I ran towards him, kind of feeling silly. However, at that point, I didnít care. By the time I reached him, he was already walking away from me, urging me to follow him. I suddenly felt very uneasy, and tailed behind him at a safe distance. He was now wearing all black, standing out against the pale gray skies. His coat looked old fashioned, sweeping against his knees. The collar was stiff and framed his jaw perfectly. I began walking closer to him, my body telling me that he looked too good to feel wary around. I noticed the buttons on his coat. They were antique pewter, hand-carved with intricate dragons enclosed within their circular borders. I wanted to reach out and run my fingertips across their ornate surface, but felt that it was wise that I didnít.

"Seifer?" I asked, wanting to know what was going on. But I found that my voice was carried away with the now howling wind. I noticed a fog across the rolling hills of the field. I went towards it, now alone. Seifer was gone. The thick mist parted, revealing an old brick building, crumbling with age. The gray light caught the rosy colours of the stained glass windows, adding the only feeling of life and brightness in this whole place, wherever it was.

When I passed through the doors, I felt like someone punched me in the gut. A searing pain shot through my veins, but it wasnít physical. It was a deep emotional pain. I didnít know where it came from, but I desperately wanted it to go away. I looked around for Seifer, hoping he could brush away the agony. I felt a gentle hand patting my forearm. I looked over, meeting the sad coffee brown eyes of Rinoa. The whites were bloodshot from crying. I looked at her with confusion, which caused her to bring a tissue to her mouth. She turned, running away from me. I folded my arms around myself, the confusion around me sending chills down my spine. I then noticed that I was wearing Seiferís trenchcoat, the long gray fabric brushing my ankles. I walked forward, noticing pews flanking me on both sides. This place must have been a church or something, but there were no religious relics at all. I made my way forward. When I turned, I noticed Zell sitting in the front row. He was sitting in a cold silence, staring forward, unseeing. Then I realized that everyone was in black. It was a funeral. That must have been why Seifer was dressed in black as well. I hoped that it wasnít for anyone I knew. I wished that Seifer were here. Where was he?

I walked to the coffin, which was black marble, veined by crimson. It was unique. The lid was partly open, the bottom half having a carving in it. I ran my fingers across the painted image. It was the bottom half of the cross sword. I ran my hand up the sides of my arms, knowing that I was touching the red crosses. A choked sob escaped my lips my eyes swept up the bodyís torso. I stopped, my vision resting on the beautiful pewter buttons, the dragons, carved lovingly, sitting up brightly against the black of the coat. I knew that tears were starting to fall from my eyes, tumbling down my cheeks. I didnít want to look at the face, but had to.

"Oh GodsÖ" I sobbed, looking at Seiferís face. He looked as lovely as he did in the garden when he had smiled at me, held me. His face was relaxed. He actually looked peaceful, a gentle smile just barely a whisper on his lips. The back of my hand shakily traced his cheekbone, ran through his hair, touched his throat. I saw that the stiff, high collar was hiding a scar. I moved the collar, revealing a thick scar across Seiferís throat. It was healed, but looked fresh. I cried openly, pressing my wet cheek to Seiferís now quiet chest. The hollow sound from his ribcage was deafening and caused me to cry harder.

"SeiferÖ" I repeated, thinking stupidly that if I called him, he would revive. When I straightened my body, I looked around with surprise. I was now alone. My face was soaked with tears, and I felt that the whole front of my body was wet as well. I looked down. I was covered in blood. I cried out, shocked at the sheer amount of crimson dripping from my clothes and hands. There was now a deep garnet flood coming from the wound on Seiferís neck, gurgling softly. It flowed across the red silk that lined his marble tomb, coated the small dragons. I closed my eyes, hoping that when I opened them, this whole thing would be over, that I would again be in the lush garden with Seiferís live arms around me. I screamed as I felt a hand roughly grab my wrist. I snapped my eyes open, seeing Seiferís too white fingers gripping my wrist in an iron grip, practically snapping my bones. I tried to struggle away, but Seifer held me too tightly. His eyes opened slowly, staring up, vacant. His irises were now the same garnet as the flow of blood spewing from his neck. Somehow, I broke the vice that was around my wrist, but felt the cold fingers splay around my throat. The last noise I heard was the sound of my vertebrae snapping under Seiferís palm.

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