In the Shadows
Chapter 5 - La Morte
By Kursed SeeD
Light can shine in even the darkest of depths.
Out of all of my memories concerning Squall and Seifer, one stands above them all.
The day that we buried him.
We had stood by his side through the months that he withered away, as the pain grew almost unbearable at times. But, even after the rest of us had left, Seifer had remained. I had never understood why Rinoa had allowed him to spend so much time with her dying husband, but she did. I knew both Squall and Seifer were eternally grateful to her for that. His time was short and everyone was aware of it.
He had succumbed to his disease on a rainy day. Quite fitting, really.
The heavy footsteps that echoed throughout the corridor will ring forever in my mind.
I had expected to see him crying, but he wasn't. He just looked void of emotion, drained, empty, hollow... almost as if he was dead himself.
He hadn't even finished the sentence before he collapsed himself. While we were quick to reach him, there would be no magickal prince to catch him before his fall.
Oh, but how I wished there were.
Laguna had been the one to see to all of the arrangements. It was a beautiful service. Squall looked as angelic in death as he had life. So innocent yet so... jaded, I suppose.
We had all made our speeches, our toasts, to him, but, of course... there was one in particular that I paid attention to, devouring each word like they would disappear in a puff of smoke.
"I don't... I don't really know what to say... I had everything planned out, but now my plans seemed to have just vanished... Squall... Squall was my best friend... he was there for me... when no one else was... the first one to stand up and say 'It wasn't his fault... he isn't to blame'... the first one to defend me against the masses of people who screamed for my blood... he was.... he meant a lot to me... I guess... he always has... I know I used to tease him a lot... I used to make his life a living hell... and I guess that was just my way of dealing with my frustrations and disappointments in life... but... he knew that.... he knew that... and he let me belittle him and mock him... because... he... he knew..."
I was the first one beside him, as he struggled to catch his breath.
"I can't... I can't do it, Quisty... he wouldn't... no! He'd never allow anyone to talk about him in the past tense! I won't do it! ... I can't..."
All I could do was hold him while he sobbed, not caring who saw us or what they made of it. I knew he had seemed at peace with Squall's impending death, but I also knew most of it was for Squall's sake.
Saying something and actually going through it is two entirely different things.
"Seifer? Are you okay?"
I couldn't understand why he wrenched himself from my arms at the sound of Rinoa's voice. He stared up her, an almost bewildered look upon his face.
"I... I have to get out of here..."
No one stopped him as he bolted from the room.
I didn't see Seifer again until later on that afternoon, after Squall had already been buried and everyone had left the cemetery. I had walked everyone to their cars. I hadn't wanted to leave just yet myself. Leaving would mean closing a chapter of my life that I wasn't ready to close.
I had been mildly surprised to find Seifer crouching on Squall's grave when I returned.
I opened my mouth to say something to me, but he cut me off.
"I didn't think I'd ever tell this to a single soul, but Squall thought you deserved to know." His voice was hoarse, raw from all of his grief.
I remember tilting my head in confusion, but not speaking in fear of stopping him.
"We weren't blind, Quistis... we knew you were there, watching us... mourning for us, I suppose you could say."
So I hadn't been so invisible after all...
"But there were things you didn't see... things no one saw or knew besides me and him..."
Of course, I had suspected as much, but didn't consider it my business to find out.
"It started in Dollet... about three or four months after he married Rinoa... it was an accident, really... we met there by complete coincidence... and well..."
He lowered his head. "He felt terrible about it afterwards... he said never again... never again, Seifer..." He looked up at me, his eyes pleading with me to understand. "I couldn't lose him, Quisty. I couldn't have a taste and then just back away... He was too important to me and I had waited too long for it..."
I remained silent.
He sighed. "We met whenever I could talk him into it... he was always so reluctant... but I'd always bully him or plead with him until he gave in... I talked him into it every single time and he let me... he fucking let me..."
I stepped closer to him and laid a hand upon his shoulder as his body began to shake. "I know I shouldn't have done it. I should have just let him be happy with his own life, but I couldn't... I couldn't! I was too selfish and wrapped up in my own needs... but he never blamed me... he never yelled at me for it... he'd just sort of give me this sad smile, like he understood..."
His gaze nearly took my breath away. His face was streaked with tears, distorted with pain. "As selfish as it sounds, I wanted to take him away from everything and everyone... I used to tell him... let's do it... let's grab Raine and go... but he'd... he'd never..."
I nearly lost my balance as Seifer collapsed against me, sobbing heavily. I awkwardly lowered us both down to the ground and wrapped my arms around him. If Seifer needed someone to let it all out to, I'd be more than happy to be that person.
I don't know how long we sat there, me rocking and holding him while he cried. It seemed he would never stop. Perhaps he would drown us both in his tears... Not that I'd mind...
Such revelations from him today. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry for them. Seifer shouldn't have felt as bad as he did for taking what he could get. While it was true that Seifer should have never put Squall in that situation in the first place, it wasn't very hard to understand why he had. Of course, it also didn't help that Squall let him. I knew the guilt had probably nearly destroyed them both, but it was like a drug, they just kept coming back for more. A few seconds of bliss was well worth years of agony, I suppose.
At least now I understood why Squall was so tolerant of Rinoa's assorted tantrums and fits over silly things.
Seifer's slight sniffing brought me back from my thoughts. "Yes?"
"I think we need to go back now... it's getting late..."
I looked up at the sky, surprised to see the sun disappearing into the hills. Had it really been that long already?
I nodded slightly and helped him up to his feet. I knew he was probably still woozy from all of his crying. Such grief can destroy a person like that.
He started to walk off, but stopped when he realised I wasn't following him. "Aren't you..."
"In a little bit."
Seifer nodded and began to walk again.
I turned back to Squall's grave.
I tilted my head.
"Thank you..." Seifer whispered.
I smiled softly to myself as I heard him walk away.
It was probably the hardest thing he had ever had to do.
I stared at the grave for a moment and then leaned over, running my fingers over the smooth marble.
"Good-bye, Squall..." I whispered as I placed a small beaded rosary on the tombstone.
I took a deep breath, strangely feeling as if I could breathe for the first time in ages.
Smiling to myself, I turned around and began to walk away. No, I wasn't closing a chapter of my life, but I was moving on. Squall would always be a part of my life, and his tragic romance with Seifer would be one that I would die recalling perfectly.
"I knew, you know..."
I jumped backwards, peering into the darkness. "Rinoa? Where are you?"
The small dark-haired girl stepped forward, allowing herself to be illuminated in the moonlight. "I knew all along."
She gestured towards Squalls' grave. "About those two."
I bit my lip, not really knowing what to say or do.
"I'm not as stupid as some would like to write me off as. Nor am I blind, Quistis. A child could have told what was between those two. When they were together, you could almost see the sparks flying..."
Where was she going with this?
"I knew that he loved Seifer more than he could ever love me. I knew that when he closed his eyes at night, it wasn't me he dreamt of, but Seifer. I knew of their little repeated 'meetings'... And I didn't want to step in between that... I love... I loved Squall too much to do that to him... But you see, Quistis... they might have had their selfishness, but mine outweighed theirs a million times..."
I looked at her curiously.
She looked down at the ground and continued. "I knew I could have let him go at anytime. I could have let him be happy... with Seifer. But I didn't." She looked up at me, the tears glistening in her eyes. "I loved him, Quistis. I wasn't willing to give him up. Hell, I don't even know if I could have gave him up. I wanted him for myself, and so I kept him tied to me. I kept him from being truly happy." She bit her lip, her voice growing shaky. "That was my mistake. That's something I will have to live with for the rest of my life."
I took a step towards her, ready to offer her comfort, but she turned away suddenly, wiping at her eyes. "I just... I don't blame them for it, Quistis... you can't help who you fall in love with... and I guess it's kind of ironic that that's the only way I can explain my actions as well..."
I opened my mouth to speak, but she shook her head wildly and took off running before I could even get a word out.
I wrapped my arms around myself. It was getting cold out.
Such twisted webs we weave...
I knew that wherever he was, he knew.
Tonight, when Seifer closed his eyes, he'd finally get to be with his angel, without any worries or pressures.
And Rinoa... well... I'd be there to offer my support for her... I knew it was going to be hard, but with friends... anything's possible.
I smiled to myself as the wind picked up, dancing through my hair, and began my way back towards the Garden.
Yes, Squall Leonhart and Seifer Almasy were indeed complex people.
But, then again... aren't we all?
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