Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to the Final Fantasy series. They belong to Squaresoft.
Let Me Make It Alright
Chapter 37: Of Debt and Redemption
By Angry Angel
Squall had spent the rest of that night, as well as the following five nights safe and sheltered in Seifer's arms, untroubled by nightmares and finally able to recover from his wounds, his cold and the sickness in his heart. All the while, Seifer had done a tremendous job at fighting off unwanted visitors, talking Squall into keeping appointments with Doc Kadowaki and just overall nursing the brunette back to health by cooking him wholesome meals, keeping him spirited and taking care of the occasional errand. By the morning of the sixth day, Squall was feeling considerably better.
He awoke lazily, once again wrapped up in Seifer's strong arms. They had simply stuck with the ritual of falling asleep in the same bed, not minding at all whether any of their scarce visitors would notice that Squall's own bed had remained untouched all that time. Seifer had wondered, naturally, why Squall was so easily submitting into the physical proximity that he had thus far so frantically avoided, but he knew better than to ask. When it concerned his grumpy brunette roommate, it was always better to enjoy than to enquire.
As Squall freed himself from the embrace, he sat quietly for a moment, silently admiring Seifer in his sleep. Whenever he watched the blonde mumbling and drooling into the pillow, he couldn't help but find the scene adorable. At first, it had been awkward to wake up next to the other guy, and often enough he had been startled by the closeness of their bodies, but very slowly, he had grown used to it and started to realize that really, he didn't want to miss it. Not that he knew what it was all about, frankly he had no clue, but it felt too good to be evil in nature. He allowed himself to trust his instincts just that far: Seifer meant no harm, and without him, he would most likely not be alive anymore. Whatever it was that the blonde was giving him, it was just what his fragile, tormented soul had needed.
Sighing, he peeled himself out of the covers. It was shortly after nine o'clock in the morning; they had slept in, as usual. Another thing that Squall had never done in the past; there had rarely been a day when he would have been found in bed after seven. It wasn't like sleep had meant any sort of recovery or comfort back then though, of course.
As Squall dragged himself through the living room and into the bathroom with an armful of fresh clothes from his dresser, he found himself to be unable to focus his muddled, sleep-drunk psyche on anything but that dozing blonde in the bed he had just left. Before closing the door behind himself, he threw another glance over his shoulder to the slumbering figure, and his heart leapt longingly inside his chest.
He paused at the feeling, placing his right hand flat-palmed against his heart as he leaned with his back against the shut door.
'What am I doing... What is this? Why do I feel so jumpy? Because of him? I'm not like this. There's no fucking way. I mean... I don't think...'
Thoughtful, he raised both of his hands to his face, studying the thin scars that had remained after a thorough treatment with potions and antiseptics. He had always watched Seifer carefully when the blonde had changed his bandages, and the touch, simple as it had been, had fascinated him. Hyne, there was nothing about Seifer that didn't fascinate him. As he dreamily pivoted his hands in front of himself, that thought cut through his daze only too harshly.
Squall frowned and dropped his arms almost hastily.
'What are you, a lovesick puppy? Get a grip.'
Pushing himself off the door, he tried his best not to think about Seifer, and instead focused on his morning toilet ritual. That worked great for a while, but as soon as his distant grey gaze flitted by his own image in the mirror, he couldn't help but wonder what he would have done without Seifer. The dark shadows underneath his eyes had disappeared, his skin was by far not as ghostly pale as it had once been, and his eyes carried a healthy glow. All those changes were definitely Seifer's achievement, and nobody else's. The blonde had so selflessly taken care of him... taken care of the SeeD commander that should have been so much stronger.
'Yeah, a fine commander you are. You've done nothing but lie around and let Seifer take care of your pathetic butt. Did you even thank him for it?'
He stopped. No, really, he hadn't thanked Seifer. Not that merely grinding out the words would be near enough to begin with. The older gunblader probably had no idea what his actions had really meant for Squall and his health, but fact was that he had saved Squall's miserable life from going down the drain. A simple "thank you" just wouldn't do.
And as Squall pondered that concept, he realized that he had absolutely no idea how to thank someone, let alone thank someone that saved his life. What should he do or say? Should he buy Seifer a gift? Then again, he didn't know what Seifer liked, except for swords and well, swords. Money really wasn't an issue for Squall, as he never spent any of his pay and usually ended up saving it. Hence of course, he naturally wasn't very versed at all in the art of shopping and spending gil on anything but bullets or weapon magazines or the occasional belt.
'Yeah, great idea Squall, buy him a belt and a stack of bullets, he'll love you forever. Dumbass.'
Groaning, he lowered his head into his right hand. There was no way that he would find the right gift for Seifer. It was probably better to forget the idea altogether, but that of course would have been wimpy. And rest assured that Squall Leonhart was a lot of things, but 'wimpy' did not count amongst them.
Ultimately, he decided to set the thought aside for the time being, and settled for taking a long, hot shower instead.
When Squall left the bathroom again approximately thirty minutes later wearing socks, a faded pair of dark blue jeans and a tight, long-sleeved white shirt, he found Seifer already up and fussing around in the kitchen in the attempt of preparing an extensive breakfast. Enthralled by the sight of a tanned, sleep tousled blonde gunblader in red shorts and a white tank top balancing an arm full of plates, glasses and bowls, Squall found himself rendered both motion- and breathless.
Stirred by the movements from the bathroom, Seifer glanced at Squall out of bright, cat-like green eyes. He didn't find Squall's look any less enticing than the brunette found his, but he had become distinctly better at masking his excitement. Sleeping next to Squall for six nights without trying anything had turned him into a semi-professional at seeming completely unperturbed.
"Yo, Squall. Morning."
"How'd ya sleep?"
Seifer merely nodded and shifted his attention back to the stack of dishes in his hands. Thoughtfully, he arranged them on the table across from each other, before winking at Squall playfully and disappearing back into the kitchen.
"Sit down, breakfast is almost done."
Squall followed the mumbled order from behind the counters sheepishly, a slight blush creeping across his high cheekbones. It'd really, really fucking help if his heart wouldn't always do flips at the mere sound of Seifer's baritone voice. Scowling, he sat down and tried to glare his spoon to pieces until a deep chuckle caught his attention.
"What are ya trying to murder the spoon for? I swear, if looks could kill..."
Seifer smirked and ran his finger along his throat, obviously mimicking a slicing gesture. Of course, Squall's blush only deepened, which didn't help his situation any.
'Stop acting like a giddy school girl and pull yourself together! Say something smart or something!'
"I... uh... I... I like your pants."
'Good job... if he didn't know before that you were a dumbass, he definitely knows now.'
Literally smacking his head, Squall couldn't see how Seifer first arched an eyebrow, then grinned lopsidedly at the unusual comment. The older almost had to keep himself from bursting out laughing at the contrite and utterly embarrassed look on Squall's face. He managed, somehow, to keep a vaguely straight face as he retrieved pancakes, juice and fruit from the kitchen.
"Why, thanks. Had 'em for a while."
The pained expression on Squall's ethereal features almost made him loose his cool, but he knew better than to break out into open laughter. Squall would probably have been terribly insulted. As he lowered himself into a chair, he decided that the smartest thing to do would be to change the subject.
"So, you were up early. You sure you slept okay and shit?"
"Huh? Oh... yeah, I'm fine."
As Squall desperately focused onto the stack of pancakes that Seifer had dumped onto his plate, he suddenly remembered that he had been wanting to display his gratitude over Seifer's help a little more openly. Sighing, he raised his head and tried to force his lips into a quirky smile that almost made Seifer choke on the bite of food in his mouth.
Now it was the blonde's turn to be at loss for words. Chewing and flailing his fork through the air, he shook his head eagerly until he had swallowed enough to trust himself to speak without spitting a staccato of food all over the table.
"You don't need to thank me. I mean... it's fun, you know. Eating with you... and stuff."
That comment left both of them speechless, and even Seifer, who had never once blushed in his entire life, felt his face grow slightly warmer.
'Fuck, I didn't just say that. "It's fun eating with you... and stuff"? Oh man, that's just great, now he probably thinks I'm the biggest fucking dork in fucking Balamb.'
Squall, however, had something completely different on his mind than Seifer was anticipating.
'He likes to eat with me? Bullshit, how could anyone like that, it's gotta be so fucking boring... Wait a minute... does he really? I mean... it's ridiculous, really, but if he does, then maybe...'
Seifer saw that glint sparking up in Squall's gale grey eyes, but he had no idea what it meant. When Squall suddenly dropped his fork and jumped up from his chair, he understood even less.
"I gotta go to my office."
"I... yeah, I gotta take care of something... important... I'll be back... later."
Falling witness to Squall's puzzling haste, Seifer was actually impressed that the brunette remembered to put on his boots and grabbed his key card before bolting out of their apartment in a mad frenzy. It also surprised him that for once, Squall hadn't tried to sneak his way into the kitchen to do his dishes, and instead, had left them dirty on the table. As a matter of fact, he hadn't even had more than two mouthfuls of fruit topped pancake and a sip of juice.
'What the hell is so important? He hasn't been to his office in weeks, Trepe probably already assimilated the damn thing anyway. This doesn't make any sense.'
Never having been one to brood, Seifer quickly decided that it was useless to ponder the question for too long. Sooner or later, Squall would be back, and even if the chance of receiving an explanation for the abrupt flurry was slim, it could never hurt to ask.
Indeed, four pancakes, one shower, one cycle of dishwashing and about twenty minutes later, Squall was back. His face was unusually flushed, and for a moment, Seifer wondered whether the brunette had developed another fever. Squall was shifting from one foot to another after he had dropped his key card onto the table, and he was chewing quietly on his bottom lip as his blonde roommate set himself up in front of him.
"Well, what was so damn important?"
When Seifer crossed his arms in front of his chest while they were standing in the middle of the living room, Squall did open his mouth as if to say something, if only to change his mind a mere second later and shut it again quickly.
'Oh fucking Hyne, not the silent game again.'
Sighing, Seifer stepped closer to his opposite and folded one finger against Squall's closed lips, which the younger acknowledged with a startled hiss. Seifer smirked.
"This is what us earthlings call 'mouth'. We use it to talk, amongst other things. Give it a try, oh strange friend from a faraway planet, it works really well," he said in a deep, mockingly lecturing voice.
Frowning, Squall snapped his head to the right, thus losing contact with Seifer's hand. He mirrored the blonde's former stance, with his arms defensively folded across his chest while his eyes darkened threateningly. Talking to the older gunblader was already difficult enough without being made fun of, this really wasn't helping him any. Of course, Seifer had meant nothing bad by it, but he was once again reminded of Squall's recurrent sensitivity.
"Okay, okay, sorry," he sighed in defeat, "Anyway, what was so important that you ditched my breakfast for it?"
If there was one thing that Squall hated, it was to be put on the spot. Seifer expected an answer, and he didn't look willing to settle for any less than the truth. Unfortunately, the truth was somewhat embarrassing...
"Well..." Squall started carefully, his eyes darting unsettled looks in every possible direction of the room that didn't line up with Seifer's face.
Oh yes, Seifer's patience was starting to run thin. Having to pry for every little word and piece of information definitely did not rate high on his list of favorite things to do. The only good part about it was that his chances of actually receiving an answer in the end had increased considerably over the previous weeks.
"Uh... do you..."
Squall appeared to be in terrible distress. It would have been comic in a way, hadn't it been for that frightened egde to Squall's voice and behavior. He started to resemble a cornered animal to such an extent that Seifer was moved enough to tell him to simply forget about giving any explanations at all.
"Do you like food?"
There was a long pause.
..:::"Do you like food?:::..
It was a rather odd question, to say the least. Accordingly confused, Seifer scratched the back of his head, mussing up his still slightly damp hair.
"Eh... yeah I do, what kinda question is that supposed to be?"
"I mean, do you like sea food?"
Now, that was making a little more sense.
"Sea food... sure I do."
For some reason, Squall suddenly exhaled sharply and his eyes bore into Seifer's, who was still slightly taken aback. The younger gunblader looked like he was about to burst from the pressure of something that weighed on his heart like a stone. The blush had actually faded from his face and left it looking pale and sickly.
'Is he about to vomit...?'
As Seifer was seriously pondering that question with peaking interest, Squall quickly continued.
"O-okay... and, you aren't busy tonight... right?"
There was an unusual shade to Squall's voice, something that almost resembled a plea. Very slowly, Seifer started to understand which direction Squall's questions were taking.
"Uh... no, I'm not, actually. Totally free," he answered curiously.
"Oh... okay. I... well... I have reservations for tonight... in Balamb, at the Harbour Seal... they got pretty good food... I... I guess I was wondering... whether, you know, you'd wanna come along. With me."
The shorter brunette gasped as 'the' question finally rolled off his tongue. He had to resist the urge to pinch his eyes shut, because looking at Seifer was about enough to make his stomach coil. He had never, ever, asked anyone to go out for dinner with him, he just couldn't possibly understand why people did those sort of things on a day-to-day basis. He quickly decided that asking someone on a 'date' was worse than battling a flock of crackpot sorceress queens.
"Are you asking me on a date?"
As much as he tried, Seifer could not help it. Squall, who was Mister Anti-Social himself, asking him to go out for dinner? His golden eyebrows were about arched to his hairline at the absurd idea. The brunette in front of him almost took a half-step backwards, his eyes wide in shame and discomfort as he waved his hands through the air frantically.
"No... No! I mean, it's not a date, it's more like..." Squall was wrestling for words helplessly.
'Whoever invented the idea of dating was either a fucking nut case or morbidly masochistic!'
Grinding his teeth painfully, Squall took a deep breath and subconsciously smoothed the stray strands of chocolate brown hair from his face with pale, faintly quivering fingers.
"I just thought that it'd be... nice... you know... I really just... ah, fuck, it was a stupid idea, I'm sorry, nevermi-"
It was pointless, really, it was. What in Hyne's name had he been thinking? Seifer probably thought he had lost his sanity completely, how couldn't he? Being asked by another guy to go out for dinner, of course it sounded like a date. Hell, it was a date more than anything else. At best, the blonde was probably grossed out.
But once again, Squall found himself silenced in voice and thought by Seifer placing a finger against his lips. When the blonde's hand brushed his cheek, he shuddered weakly, even more so at the intent jade green gaze that had him hypnotized and petrified from head to toe.
"Will you shut up? Of course I wanna go out for dinner with ya," Seifer cut him off softly.
For once, Squall Leonhart's mind was a complete blank. Fortunately, his body still remembered how to stand and stare, not that that was doing him a whole lot of good, of course. He didn't even notice that his jaw had dropped slightly, until Seifer placed one hand against it and gently popped it back into place, all the while smiling from ear to ear like a child on Christmas Eve.
"You can breathe again, you know."
Despite the generous offer, it still took Squall quite a few moments before his brain became operative again and he allowed himself to draw a careful breath. Seifer wanted to go out to dinner? With him? Despite his pathetically failed display of manliness?
Seifer removed his hand from Squall's jaw at the brunette's adorable attempt to talk, and his smile deepened.
"Really what, Squall?"
"You really... you don't mind?"
"No, silly. I'd love to. For when did you reserve the table?"
"Uh... for 6pm. I-If that's okay with you."
"Sounds good to me."
They spent the following minute in silence, both drowning in the other's image, neither of them daring to speak in fear of breaking the magic that seemed to flow between them. It was Squall who eventually inclined his head and drew a rasp breath after having broken the eye contact.
"O-okay, well I... I have an appointment with Doc Kadowaki... so, I better get going, I guess."
Seifer truly hated it when Squall kept his head low. For one, he couldn't see the other's eyes anymore, and second, he didn't think that the brunette had any reason not to stand up straight and confident. Squall had done the same thing frequently as a child, and apparently hadn't ridded himself of the habit ever since. His long bangs would hang into his face like a veil, cloaking it from anyone's curious view. Seifer, on the contrary, usually kept his gold blonde hair gelled back, and he most certainly was not going to incline his head to anyone.
On the other hand... to that particular short brunette brat perhaps he would... some day...
Sighing, Seifer shook off the thought. Going to dinner with Squall definitely would not end in a mad smooch fest, that much he was sure of. Still, it was something exciting to look forward to, and he knew exactly how often Squall indulged in such purely social activities.
'Yeah, like, never.'
He smiled, but of course, Squall couldn't see it since his gaze was still glued to the floor. It bugged Seifer in a way, but he wasn't going to cut into the younger for it. Squall had shown enough bravery for the day, wearing him out probably wasn't such a good idea.
"Sure. I'm gonna go to the library and train some in the center, too, I think," he answered. "By the way, that Harbour Seal place is pretty posh though, isn't it?"
"Uh... yeah, I guess so. Posh for Balamb standards, anyway."
"Hn. Hope I can find something appropriate to wear so I won't embarrass the living hell out of ya."
At that comment, Squall's eyes flicked upwards again, wide in surprise. Seifer was taken aback by their unusual navy blue tint, a color that rarely shone through those tight, smoky grey webs that so often glazed Squall's beautiful eyes.
"Why would you embarrass me?" Squall asked incredulously.
"Well, you are the commander of Balamb Garden after all, not to mention that you pretty much single-handedly saved the world and your father is the president of the most powerful nation in our history. You and I don't really play in the same league, superman."
Immediately, all of Squall's insecurity and embarrassment vanished into oblivion. Cocking one eyebrow, he shifted his weight onto his right foot and frowned as he placed one hand on his hip.
"Hey, I meant that in a good way and all, I-"
"I'm not any better than you are, understand?" Squall cut him off fiercely, "Scratch that thought out of your head right now."
Seifer was surprised at the upset look on his opposite's face and his sharp tone. He truly hadn't intended to sound like a big whiner or jerk. To him, the fact that Squall was way out of his league had never struck him as being unusual or wrong, it felt in fact rather natural. For whatever reason though, and Seifer decided to blame it on inappropriate modesty, the brunette SeeD seemed to disagree.
"We can go someplace else if you want, but don't give me that bullshit ever again."
Squall's eyes had darkened and were glittering dangerously. Apparently, he was dead serious, and his frigid temper was lethal once aroused.
"No," Seifer replied after he had finally caught himself, "No, the Harbour Seal is fine. I'll find something to wear."
"I don't care what you wear," the brunette shrugged.
"Yeah, but I do."
"... Whatever. You're so vain."
"I'll go naked if you want me to?"
"Tempting, but no thanks."
Squall slit his eyes in a playfully stern way, before eventually shaking his head and reaching past Seifer to grab his key card again. His breath stilled minutely as his body brushed against the taller blonde's, but he pulled away too quickly for Seifer to notice his awe.
"Well, I'm off. I'll see you later, Seifer," he said with the most nonchalant air he could muster.
"Aight. Later, Squall."
When Seifer watched his younger roommate leaving, he couldn't fathom the inner turmoil that was stirring inside Squall.
The one turmoil that was so very similar to his own.
Ever since their childhood, Squall had looked up to Seifer. He had found his rival to be so much stronger, wittier and braver than him, and he had been both angered and fascinated by that impression. Sure, Seifer was cocky and a jerk more often than not, but he had the skills and the looks to back his attitude up with ease. Seifer was radiating strength and vigor, a magnificent beacon of light when everything around him was but darkness. He was and always had been the center of attention, no matter where he went. Compared to him, Squall felt like a feeble and lame and very poor copy of the original.
The older blonde, however, knew nothing of Squall's abyssal self esteem as his eyes followed the lithe figure out and through the door.
Of course, he also had good reasons to be distracted.
..::: They were going to go on a date. :::..
=To be continued!=
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