By Scarlet Fever
It was totally dark. The blackness was staggering, and seemed to be false in its thickness. He couldn't see but centimeters ahead of himself, the ink of the surroundings swallowing him, draping heavily over all his senses. The air felt thick and cold, and moving seemed to tax his energy. The air also felt unbreathable, sucking the pressure out of his lungs rather than entering. There was no noise. It was deafening, the silence. The sound of his own breath startled him, and the jagged intake of the thick air was now mixed with the frightened beating of his heart. He suddenly felt very exposed as he wrapped his arms around his shivering frame to keep some of the heat in. He knew his pale flesh was like a surrender flag, glowing against the blackness. He dared not move, fearful of disturbing anything.
As his breathing began to normalize, his ears heard a noise. Something he couldn't identify. He held his breath to better hear it. It was exhaling, just like his own, ragged and whispery. He tried to call out, tried to use his voice, but it failed him, the thick air clogging his throat. The breathing was coming from all around him now, and he could feel its breeze in his hair, tickling his ears. There were no voices, but he knew what they were saying. Their words were the ones that played in his head when he was alone or his mind wandered, the same accusations that he berated himself with in the back of his mind, night after sleepless night. His betrayal, his weak mind, his cruelty, his heartlessness. He shook his head, trying to shake away the words. He wanted to scream out, defending his innocence, but he knew it was true. All of his body knew it was true, his flesh crawling, trying to escape the shackles of being connected to him. He felt overpowered and slowly sank to his knees, using all his strength trying not to totally collapse.
The whispers continued, reverberating around him, within him, making his weary bones rattle. He wanted it to end, knowing that even death would feel better than this utter helplessness. He closed his eyes, knowing that he was about to lose consciousness, but snapped them back open when a hand touched the side of his cheek. The touch was soft, but not gentle. It was a light poking to check for life. He slowly opened his eyes. The fog like dark thinned out, creating an eerie haze. His eyes began to blur, his vision becoming marred. The whispers collected, creating a solitary voice; a voice that he knew, knew almost as well as his own, always longing to hear it, even now.
"It's all your fault.."
He couldn't stop the tears from spilling from his eyes as he looked upon the face of his accuser, of his executioner. He opened his mouth to defend himself, but knew no words that would ring true in his own heart. He closed his eyes, not wanting it to end this way, all his sins unforgiven, all his apologies unsaid, but knowing this is what he deserved. He cried out as the cold metal swiftly made a channel through his body, his penance running red from the wound..............................
It was the same every night. Every night, Seifer would have the same dream, and wake up from it feeling sorry for being alive, like it should have come true. He curled up in fetal position, letting his blankets shield him from the sun, burying him away from the rest of the world, a world he felt alienated from. He sighed wearily, almost a whimper as his alarm went off, signaling it was time to get out of bed and pretend to be a functional member of society. He slowly got out of bed, uncoiling his long body like the snake he knew he was. Looking out the window, he was saddened that it was so sunny and all the people were bustling and being alive while he wished he had died.
He sighed, resolving not to feel sorry for himself today, but knowing this was a resolve that he wouldn't be able to keep. He shook the sleep away, blinking his aqua eyes repeatedly, waking himself. He didn't want to be late for work. He had already been late twice this week, and didn't want to get fired. He chose to dress all in black today, wanting to be in mourning for his life. His usual pale gray trenchcoat was replaced with a floor sweeping black wool that made him feel safe. Seifer knew he should eat, but all food seemed to taste like ashes in his mouth. He sighed, eating an apple anyway, knowing that he was losing weight, becoming far too slender. His muscle mass was beginning to disappear, and his hip and collarbones were beginning to protrude, causing even himself to be shocked when he saw his de-robed frame.
He left quickly, being swallowed by the Deling City crowd as he stepped out of his apartment building. He liked living in Deling. He felt very anonymous, and the large city atmosphere suited him. Seifer had come here after the Ultimecia situation, looking for something to do. He knew he could never go back to the garden. He felt too much guilt, and he also knew that he would never make it as a SeeD. Fujin and Raijin had accompanied him, thankfully. They were his only true friends. He had chosen to live on his own however, knowing that taking on those two as roommates would be biting off more than he could chew. After a month or so of living without heat, he found a job at Deling City Hall. He worked as a researcher. It was a very quiet job, something Seifer enjoyed. He didn't get hassled by his bosses, and it was so unlike him, something that made the job all that more appealing. He knew he was a glorified librarian, but he didn't really care. It was better than living in an alley somewhere. His job was a promising one, due to the fact that the old President was now history, and his son, Vinzier Deling II was in charge and ready to make up for his father's mistakes.
He walked into the airy building, nodding politely at the people who said 'hi' to him. It looked the same as any other day; people busying themselves with menial tasks, talking about sports and their kids at the water cooler, all the everyday chatter.
'I just hope it's quiet', Seifer thought to himself as he waited for the elevator, which always seemed to take forever. He wasn't in the mood for a lot of action today. He felt too bogged down by his own feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
"Hey, Seifer, I was just looking for you."
Seifer turned around and smiled. "Hi, Mrs. Hsiao. Why?" Seifer actually liked Mrs. Hsiao, she was very motherly and kind, and when he was around her, he felt that he was experiencing what he had always missed out on as a child, a motherly influence.
"Let's talk in my office." She smiled warmly, her coffee brown eyes lighting up. She patted Seifer's cold hand and bustled her stout body down the hall.
He sighed, smiling slightly as he followed her. He was highly curious as to what was going on. He was just a researcher, and Mrs. Hsiao was the President's secretary.
She motioned with a ringed hand for him to have a seat. Seifer almost collapsed, feeling very weak and lethargic all of a sudden. "So, what's going on?"
"Well, one of the first things that President Deling wants to do to rectify his father's actions is to free Timber.."
"That's excellent, but what does that have to do with me?"
"Well, the President knows about your earlier actions to free Timber, and thought that you might be interested in going there and helping with the negotiations."
"But that isn't my job, Mrs. Hsiao..."
She smiled. "I know, but you've done such an excellent job already, and the President is very impressed with both you and the suggestions that you have made on things that he can do to improve Galbadia's standing. You helped more than you know with the Esthar situation."
Seifer blushed, the pinking creating a ghastly contrast with his snow-white flesh. He was not used to receiving praise. He hadn't even known that the President knew who he was, he had only been working here for ten months.
"Don't be so modest. Both Deling and Esthar are benefiting greatly from the sister city project. Deling is earning back some respect, and Esthar is finally coming out of it's secrecy. Both President Deling and President Loire are very pleased."
"It was nothing. Just a suggestion. I didn't think it would do anything..."
Mrs. Hsiao waved her hand. "Never mind that. The President has made up his mind. We leave for Timber this afternoon."
He opened his mouth to respond, but Mrs. Hsiao waved one of her small hands again. "No buts. You're going. Now get out of here and pack and meet us at the train station at two this afternoon."
Seifer stood, still trying to protest, but Mrs. Hsiao was pushing him towards the door with a strength that gave her an advantage over the much taller Seifer. "Go, dear."
He stood in the hallway, not really sure what to make of things. He shrugged his wide shoulders and headed out the way he came in. Seifer sighed as he thought back to the last time that he was in Timber. That was where his life began to fall apart at the seams. Where he had barged in without thinking, again, and almost ruined everything. Where Edea used him, his weak mind against him. He shook his head. He didn't like thinking about what he used to be, what his life used to be. It was what was causing him so many problems. His former life at Balamb seemed so far away. Raijin and Fujin were all that really remained. He hadn't seen or heard from any of his past acquaintances since he had arrived at Deling. He couldn't call them friends. He felt lucky that they didn't send out a lynch mob to get rid of him forever.
Seifer was brought out of his mental lapse by the sound of his name. He turned to see Raijin waving frantically at him from behind a crowd of people. He motioned Raijin over. "What are you doing here?"
"Got the day off work, ya know. Something about termites, ya know. I guess that'll be bad for business. Nobody will want to eat at a restaurant with termites, ya know."
"Yes, I know."
"So, why aren't ya at work, ya know?"
"I have to go on a business trip." Seifer began walking in the direction of his apartment building.
"A trip. Sounds exciting, ya know. Where are ya going?" Raijin pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket, a habit he had recently picked up.
"You shouldn't smoke. It's bad for you, you moron." Seifer suddenly felt dizzy and put a hand to his forehead.
"Ya okay, man? Ya know, ya don't look so good. Are ya sick?"
"Don't worry about me. You should be more worried about Fujin killing you for smoking, ya know...Ē Seifer trailed off, rolling his eyes.
"So, ya didn't answer my question, ya know. Where are ya going?" Raijin took a long drag, waiting for Seifer to reply.
Raijin said nothing.
Seifer gave a sidelong glance to his friend. "What?"
Raijin paused. "Well, it's just that Timber is where...."
"I am well aware of what you're going to say, but I'm just going to put it out of my mind and do my job."
Raijin smirked. "Yeah, you've been doing a great job so far." Raijin looked Seifer up and down, telling Seifer what they both knew; he wasn't putting it behind him. Seifer could hide his body behind all the bulky trenchcoats he wanted, but his sunken cheekbones and dim eyes were dead giveaways.
"Shut the fuck up." Seifer tried to snap and be angry, but he just didn't have the strength.
"Do ya want me or Fujin to feed your fish and cat, ya know?"
Seifer nodded. "Sure, whatever. I have to pack."
"Do ya wanna smoke up before ya go?"
Seifer smirked, his lip curling up sexily. "That's the only reason you came looking for me, right?"
"Naw, man...well, okay, yes."
Seifer chuckled, the closest thing to laughter he could muster. "I never could understand you. You're such a retard. If you hadn't come over, you could have had all the fucking stuff to yourself."
"I'm not a retard, ya know."
He just rolled his eyes in response as they entered his apartment building. It wasn't the fanciest joint in Deling, but it was nice. It at least had a doorman and no car parts in the hallway. Seifer had almost been disappointed. He wanted to have the amusement of living in a seedy dump where the neighbours had fifty children and got arrested for public intoxication and domestic violence. They rode up the elevator to the twelfth floor, close enough to thirteen. He unlocked the door and went straight to his closet, grabbing his overnight bags. He figured he better pack enough for a week, just in case. Seifer always liked to be prepared. He heard Raijin going through the cupboards, looking for food.
"I haven't gone grocery shopping yet this week, so all you'll find is some fucking mustard and soy sauce."
"Is fucking mustard a new brand?"
"Shut up." Seifer muttered as he smoothed out a couple of suit bags.
"And I'm surprised you even have to go grocery shopping. You don't eat anything."
"I'm not in the mood for that right now, Raijin,Ē Seifer shot him an evil look, which Raijin knew meant that he should stop right there.
He handed Seifer a joint and sat back on the couch. "So, how long are ya gonna be gone, ya know?"
"No, I don't know. Probably only a few days, but I'm prepared for a week." He looked at his watch, which now seemed grossly oversized in comparison to his slender wrist. "Listen, don't get too comfortable. I have to be there at two."
Raijin shrugged his massive shoulders. "Plenty of time. This may be a stupid question, ya know, but are ya hungry?"
"Actually, yes. I think it was your intention all along to make me hungry...Ē Seifer trailed off as he took another drag. "But no junk food."
Raijin held up a bag that Seifer hadn't even realized he had been carrying. "I know, man. I got you a salad from that deli you like."
Seifer smiled. "Thanks." He took it and began to devour it. He didn't realize how hungry he was until it was gone.
"Ya did remember to chew, right?"
"Yes. Man, I must have been hungry..."
Raijin furrowed his brow. "Well, that's what you get when you starve yourself, ya know."
"Oh, shut up!" Seifer glared at him through the remainder of the smoke.
"I think you've punished yourself enough without starving yourself, too."
Seifer remained silent, knowing that Raijin was right.
"Look, Iíve gotta go. You should probably shower. Ya don't want to go on the train with the President smelling like the seventies," he petted the sleeping cat on the chair beside him as he stood. "I've got the key, so Iíll feed the cat. Have fun."
Seifer smirked. "Fun? I doubt it'll be that fun."
Raijin shot Seifer one last concerned look before leaving.
Seifer went out to the balcony, needing some fresh air. He loved the balcony. It looked down upon the streets, and the side panels, roof and high panel made him feel inconspicuous as he watched people moving, living. He sat on the ratty couch that Raijin had pulled out of a Dumpster. At the time, Seifer had turned his nose up at it, but the couch was perfect out here. The wind suddenly picked up and bit through him coldly. He shivered and went back inside. He went to the bathroom, removing his clothes, catching a glimpse of himself.
"My god," he whispered to his reflection. He let Raijin's words come back to him as he looked at all the punishments he had given himself. The tattoo that crawled across the backs of his shoulders like ivy, the one encircling his upper left arm, the one that circled his right wrist, hiding the triple row of cuts; the failed suicide attempts. He hadn't bothered covering the other wrist due to his watch. His piercings: hoops and barbells dangling from his nipples, his penis. All of the jewelry and black ink lame attempts at bringing the pain he thought he deserved, but it didn't last. His angular body the latest attempt at punishment.
He sighed and turned on the shower, scalding hot, as usual. He let himself become completely soaked, the water running planes down his body, massaging his tired muscles. He was so tired all the time, both physically and emotionally. He picked up the razor from the little basket underneath the showerhead. He just looked at it, holding it in his long, skeletal fingers. He could just bleed out right here in the shower and nobody would know. He would be dead by the time anyone missed him. He sighed and pushed the thought out of his mind. Seifer knew he should get some professional help, but he didn't want to be helped, didn't want to be saved. He moved to place the razor back where he had picked it up from, but before Seifer knew what he was doing, the smooth blade cut through his inner forearm like butter, smoothly and painlessly. He looked down at the splayed trail of blood that ran down his arm, mingling with the steady stream of water, pink and clear, swirling away. He sighed, feeling nothing. He waited patiently for the blood to stop as if nothing had happened. Stepping out of the shower, he shivered. He was always so cold now.
"That's because you're losing too much weight," he told his reflection. He actually smirked at himself. "Even though you're so thin, you're still hot." He shook his head, laughing at the ridiculousness of what he just said. He knew he wasn't ugly, but women never seemed to flock to him like they had to people like Squall. They just stared at him, watched him.
Squall. There was a person that Seifer had thought about a lot recently. He always felt horrible whenever he did. His petty jealousy is what caused everything. Seifer knew if he had just gotten past the resentful feelings he had for Squall, things would have been different. Squall had always had everything so easily. He had been smarter, stronger, more popular, more attractive. Seifer actually smiled at the childishness of his jealousy. The main thing he regretted in his wretched life was that he didn't make things right with the people whom he had hurt and disappointed most, the Balamb Garden students, particularly Quistis, Zell, Selphie, Irvine, Rinoa and Squall. Squall...
"Forget it, they'd never forgive you. Probably would spit on you if they saw you. But Iíll never see them again.." Seifer trailed off, thinking of the hatred he would see in their eyes. That thought filled him with true sorrow, more so than he had ever felt. He wouldn't be able to bear those eyes seeing him in hatred, the same eyes in his dream.
He shook his head, picking up his watch. Seifer didn't have time to wallow in dream world. He had to get ready. Quite frankly, Seifer wasn't really looking forward to this trip. He knew it would be a great opportunity, and he did like his job, but he couldn't handle the thought of being around so many people, and Timber would be even worse. However, he did feel good about the fact that this job allowed him to give back to the world which he had taken so much from, the world that he had caused so much pain to.
"Just put it out of your mind, asshole.." he muttered as he went to his room, choosing a black linen suit to wear. The coat was knee length and fit him perfectly. It was one of his favorites, and it hid his new ghastly figure. He chose a bright orange dress shirt and black tie to complete the outfit. Even if he wasn't really interested in this trip, he did want to make a good impression. After he was dressed, he checked himself.
"Not too shabby.." The bright orange contrasted nicely with the black and looked rather good on him. He pulled the sleeves out from the jacket slightly to hide his tattoos and scars, wincing as his sleeve brushed against his new penance. He looked at his watch again and began to hurry, for he knew traffic would be hell and the buses ran slow. Luckily a bus going to the train station stopped near his building. He scooped up his stuff, balancing it in his arms in order to reach for another apple, still feeling hungry.
By the time he got outside, the bus was just arriving. He counted his blessings that the elevator wasn't in high demand. Seifer boarded the bus and sat next to a window, pressing his forehead to the cool glass. He felt tired again. He just wanted to curl up in his bed and forget that the world existed, or he wanted to forget his past, which he knew he would have to face for the first time in a long time when they arrived in Timber. He hadn't been in contact with anybody, and he was afraid if anyone that knew him were there.....He stopped thinking about it, it only made him more tired. He massaged his neck, pausing as his palm ran over the chain to his silver choker, the only thing it seemed that connected this Seifer to the past Seifer. His sea blue eyes slowly looked across the aisle as he heard the delicate whispers and giggles of two teenage girls. He ran his hands through his still damp golden hair self-consciously. He had kept the same hairstyle he had always had, seeing as how it was easy to take care of.
Seifer looked over at the girls, who smiled broadly and began whispering to each other furiously. He looked away, feeling insecure and low, touching the scar on his face, probably the reason that they were looking at him. He looked back again, which caused the girls to giggle once more. One, a small girl with a blunt black bob, raised her eyebrows in a flirtatious manner. He just sighed and turned his attention back to the window. He hadn't been interested in sex for a very long time. But that didn't mean he hadn't. When he had first arrived in Deling, Raijin and Fujin had fixed him up with girls that they worked with. He had politely gone out with them, but had no interest in any of them, even though they were all nice and quite attractive. He had gone to bed with a few of them, but the sex had always been lackluster, for him anyway. There was no feeling in it, no passion, not what he was looking for. During that time, Seifer had begun to doubt his heterosexuality, and had agreed to a couple of dates with a guy from City Hall who had been very interested in him. He had been very nice and didn't want anything, or rather, didn't expect anything out of the experiment. It had ended up with them in Seiferís bed. Seifer had truly enjoyed it, but it left him questioning all that he had been before, a feeling that he didnít like. No matter how much he had liked it, he knew that he couldn't find what he was looking for in that man, couldn't settle for an imitation.......
He was snapped away from his murky daydream back into the garishly bright real world by the jerky stop of the bus. His vision was met by the train station, looming large and beckoning him to re-enter the past he so wanted to bury deep within his mind, so desperately wanted to die in the memories of the people who knew him...........................................
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