Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to the Final Fantasy series. They belong to Squaresoft.

Let Me Make It Alright

Chapter 36: In the Shadows

By Angry Angel

It was dark.

It always was.

His steps were heavy on roughly chiselled obsidian grounds, the soft crunch of the leather of his boots the only sound around him.

So much darkness...

He stopped to cast a look around, but there was nothing for him to look at; only the distance of a black earth and a nocturnal horizon, far, far away. There were no lakes, no trees, no cities and no mountains, just cold and bare nothingness. Wrapping his arms around his body with the thin white shirt he was wearing, he continued pacing.

He knew where he was.

It was always the same. He had seen it far too many times already.

When he finally felt them, he stopped.

Them - two figures that were nothing but mere bodiless shadow, standing in front of him, one large and one small. They seemed so close, but he knew that it was impossible to reach them.

He knew, because he had tried.

Narrowing his eyes to moonstone colored slits, he uncrossed his arms from his chest. His wounds hurt underneath the stark bandages as he crushed his hands to fists. He knew only too well that there didn't lay much hope in defiance, but he was not going to give in.

Not this time.

Not again.

Soon thereafter, he could hear the familiar voice inside his head, hear it mock him as it was prying for his most sacred memories and feelings, the ones that he contained deep inside his frightened heart. They meant nothing to that voice, nothing but being the tool to hurt Squall, to tear him open and leave him suffering.

He knew the ritual, it was inevitable.

Warding his senses as much as he could, he slammed up feeble defenses against those onslaughts, again knowing only too well that they offered little to no protection, but trying all the same anyway.

He was still too strong to surrender.

The shadow knew that. It had but one goal.

To break Squall Leonhart. And while he wouldn't break, to torture him, for as long as it could.

Until he would wake.

"You are late, Squall."

There was no need for him to answer that voice. He barely ever opened his mouth anyway, as they usually talked inside his head. It was always one voice, the other shadow he had never heard. Maybe it couldn't speak. He had never spent much thought on it.

"You haven't visited us in a while. I'm disappointed. Where are your manners, SeeD?"

He ignored the insult in the way the voice gave sound to the word 'SeeD', even ignored the stabbing inside his head as it started that old rite of pain and incubation of fell thoughts.

"Resisting me again, aren't you? You should know that it's in vain. You have nothing to oppose."

"I am not afraid of you."

There was a soft laugh, a laugh so grotesque in nature that it sickened Squall to his very core.

"He was right. You really are a poor liar."

"Leave."

"Your struggles amuse me. You know that I am not going to leave. Not before I am finished with you."

"You have no right to be here!"

"Why, you invited me in, Squall. How impolite of you to chase away a guest."

"I didn't invite you!"

"I can see why you would lie to me, but why are you lieing to yourself?"

"Leave!"

"Why, so you can be with him? The one that calls himself sorceress knight? Preposterous."

"Don't you dare-"

"Oh, don't worry, Squall, I am not interested in him. You should spend more time worrying about yourself than you do about that man. Do you really think that he loves you? How very cute you are."

"Shut up!"

"You are so na´ve, Squall. Nobody loves you. Nobody even gives a damn about you."

Squall hissed as a blurry image slowly materialized a few feet in front of him, between those shadows and himself. It was Rinoa, how she leaned across a dark haired man sitting in a chair, kissing him. Once more, he felt that sharp pain inside his head, knowing only too well that that man wasn't him.

Groaning, he grasped his forehad.

"Yes, Squall. Yes."

The image faded as the pain grew stronger. Taking his hands back down and digging his fingers into the wounds in his palms, he forced himself to focus.

"You really are trying too hard. What are you so desperately fighting for? Rinoa and your father? Oh, they love each other, but neither of them could care any less about you. Or are you perhaps fighting for the sorceress knight?"

"Don't... Leave him out of this!"

"Aww, you know I wish I could, Squall, but he is interfering with my fun. I can't let that happen."

"Fun...?"

"Yes. Aren't you enjoying this, too?"

There was another hot wave of pain, surging from his chest up along his spine to his head. Again, Squall clasped his forehead as his stance swayed, but not a sound escaped his lips.

"Hm, not so much, are you? Maybe I need to try harder."

Another cloud of desolate colors swirled into an image in front of him, and Squall flinched at the sight of Seifer Almasy. The Seifer that had been the sorceress knight, pinning Squall to a wall and torturing him with electronic shock waves in a cell of the desert prison. The joy and satisfaction over Squall's torment was clearly written in his grinning face.

Squall cast his eyes down.

"That's not him. It's not him."

"Aww, but it is. Don't you remember? Don't you remember how much he enjoyed seeing you suffer? He is much like me."

"He is nothing like you!"

"Oh, so that was all just a figment of your imagination, then? The imagination that you don't have? Who do you think you are fooling, Squall."

"That was... it wasn't him."

Squall's face was carved into a frown as the pain grew stronger. It was always like that. Whenever he wouldn't falter at false words or painful images, the voice would rake through his mind, stirring sensitive nerves and cells to cause him as much physical pain as possible without actually touching him.

And he knew that it would get worse.

"You mean nothing, Squall, nothing! Are you really trying to talk yourself into believing that somebody cares about you? You, the guy that doesn't even have a heart? You are cold as ice, Squall. How could anyone love you?"

"I..."

"You hurt them, Squall, and they have hurt you without hesitation. Why? Because your feelings mean nothing. They are as superfluous as your entire existence."

"Seifer..."

"Seifer? Are you really calling out to the man that has tried to kill you? The man that savored tormenting you? You are pathetic, Squall."

Squall remained silent, his features rigid and wide-eyed while his mind was being smitten. His jaw tightened as a convulsive shiver rocked his body, but still he was soundless. No matter how horrible the pain would become, he would not grant the shadow the satisfaction of hearing him cry, of hearing him beg. He was stronger than that.

"You are so beautiful in your pitiful insurgency, Squall. Beautiful, fragile and breakable. I will break you, Squall. You will be screaming for death before long, my miserable little SeeD."

"You... you know... nothing..."

"Oh, but I know everything, Squall. Everything about you and your pathetic little being. You are so frightened of your own reality, you run like the little boy that you are from everything that could possibly touch you. Nobody could love you, even if they wanted to."

"That's... not true..."

"Did you not push everybody away who was ever trying to reach out for you? You banished them all. Now, they don't want to try any more. They have their own lives and their own love. Squall Leonhart means nothing to anybody."

"Sei..."

"Seifer only stays around because he likes watching you suffer. He is a rather fascinating man, so easily enthralled by pain and bloodshed. Maybe I should grant him a bigger part in our play."

"No, no... you..."

But it was too late. The image of Seifer in the desert prison changed to that of Seifer standing across the body of a slain brunette boy... the lifeless, helplessly coiled blood-spotted form of Squall Leonhart. That Seifer was smirking in satisfaction, the blade Hyperion still in his hand as his victim's blood was already drenching its stainless steel. The Squall below him had died unarmed and with his eyes open, an inapprehensive look still resting in their grey depths long after life had already left them.

The real Squall cringed, finally snapped by the rising agony that had taken possession of every fibre in his body. He collapsed to his knees, his bandaged hands desperately clasped around his head, trying to block everything out, but to no avail. He could still see Seifer's cold, amused face. Amused by the sight of a broken rival and a slaughtered friend.

Squall wrenched his eyes shut.

"The sorceress knight Seifer Alexander Almasy hates you, and before long, he is going to kill you."

"NO!"

Screaming out, Squall's head lashed upwards, his lungs burning with strain from the cry and the torture. And as his eyes fluttered open, they stared blindly into the face he had just seen in his dreams. The stare was as intoxicatingly green, the features as edgy and luminously enticing, but the expression had changed.

Seifer was leaning over him, his eyes throbbing with concern and his lips forming words that just then managed to cut through to Squall's pained conscience.

"... okay, I'm here! It was a nightmare! Squall!"

The brunette was panting, hungering for oxygen and for his mind to clear. Fear was still seizing his heart, but the pain in his head had subsided. Only very slowly, he managed to somewhat still his breathing to where he wasn't gasping anymore.

"It's alright, shh, it's alright. I'm here."

Shivering, he twisted his gaze Seifer to again, almost expecting to find that painfully amused look there. But the other's face was stark with shock, and his large hands were supporting Squall's restless body by his back and the nape of his neck.

"It was just a dream. Nothing's going to hurt you. I'm here."

And the soothing calm in Seifer's voice finally had its effect on Squall. As the blonde saw the youth's face slowly relaxing, he lowered him back into the bed carefully. Seifer had awoken by Squall thrashing about next to him, and he had quickly sat up and moved over the brunette to try and shake him awake. Squall had certainly startled him by suddenly screaming and almost slamming his head into his own, but luckily, neither of them had been hurt.

The older gunblader settled back into the covers next to the other, never leaving Squall's face out of sight but always making sure not to restrain the brunette. Whatever he had been dreaming about, it must have been horrible. Squall's nightmares worried him, and he seriously considered telling someone about it, Doc Kadowaki being the first person he could think of.

The aftershock of the dream was still coating Squall's mind as he was staring wide-eyed at the ceiling, his face pale and tight. Seifer didn't like that look at all.

"Squall, are you okay?" he asked intently.

It took Squall a moment to realize that he was being talked to, and he turned his head. Seifer was struck by the hurt he read there, and abandoning all restraints, he scooted closer to the younger and pulled him into a comforting embrace. The SeeD was shivering breathlessly in his arms.

"You really got me worried, Squall. What were you dreaming about?"

Squall merely shook his head against his chest. Of course... had he really expected the withdrawn brunette to be laying out some of his most intimate experiences?

Hardly.

Sighing, he settled for simply crushing Squall against him until the brunette finally stopped shivering.

"Whatever it was, it's not going to come back. It was just a nightmare."

As he eased both of them into a more comfortable position, he wrapped his arms around the lithe frame and seriously wondered whether his words held much truth or hope. Obviously, Squall was having those dreams frequently, and they weren't getting any lighter in nature, either. Soon he'd have to do something about that.

He couldn't stand to watch Squall suffer.

"I'm here, Squall," he whispered, "Always remember, I won't let anyone hurt you. Anyone."

Squall swallowed dryly. If Seifer had seen what he had seen, if he had heard what he had heard, would he still say those words? Would he swear to protect Squall against himself, too?

..::: "The sorceress knight Seifer Alexander Almasy hates you, and before long, he is going to kill you." :::..

He couldn't help but flinch again in Seifer's embrace, which only resulted in the blonde firming his hold. The memory of the dream was slowly fading away, details becoming much too insubstantial for him to grasp, but that one sentence had carved itself into his mind by force. As ghastly as it was in its nature, there was also something strange about it.

"Seifer...?" he whispered almost inaudibly, and he could feel the other pushing closer against him.

"Yeah, Squall?"

"Is... your middle name Alexander?"

There was a pause, and Squall could almost feel Seifer pondering that unusual question.

"Why yeah, my full name's Seifer Alexander Almasy, you didn't know that?"

"No."

"Why are you asking this now?"

"No... reason."

The blonde shifted, trying to catch a glimpse of Squall's face, but the other hid it from him as best as he could. Just why exactly was Squall asking him about his middle name of all things, and even more so, why was he lying about it? Squall Leonhart never opened his mouth unless he had a good reason for it.

"What's your's?" Seifer finally asked.

"I don't have one."

"Hn, okay. Want me to give you one? You know how creative I am," he offered, quietly humming the tune that matched the chant he had once sung to Squall in the hospital room.

Squall shook his head, but a tiny smile spread across his face. As unnerving as Seifer's presence had been in his dream, it was even more so comforting now, in his wake existence. The younger sighed silently as he dared to close his eyes again and nuzzled deeper into the embrace.

It was all he could do but hope that the shadows of the night would never conquer the light of day.

 

 

=To be continued!=

Return to Archive | next | previous