By Scarlet Fever
Seifer sighed, his whole body echoing the motion. He shouldn’t have agreed to come. He hadn’t the slightest clue why the President would give a shit about him. He was a nobody and never had gone to a fancy university. He had gotten his high school, but he was just a research clerk, and this left him feeling out of place among the men and women in their power suits. He was just too tired for all of this. At least he wouldn’t have to be at the press conference. Seifer didn’t think he’d be able to handle all those people right now. He pulled his sunglasses out from his pocket, black rectangular frames with red lenses. It made everything look like it was covered in blood. When he got outside, a gust of wind ripped through his body, chilling him to the bone. The other members of the entourage didn’t notice. He wrapped his slender arms around his equally slender body, looking back at the warm hotel as they waited for stragglers. It invited him back in to it’s wooden warm embrace. His surrogate bed seemed to be such a good idea right now. ‘God’, he mentally whispered, ‘when did you become so antisocial?’ He squinted his eyes as he looked skyward, the clouds bleeding crimson, like fluffy blood floating lazily past. His eye caught a movement in a window on the fourth floor. Movement he knew as if it were himself he was staring at. The figure moved away from the window, leaving Seifer feeling silly for seeing things that weren’t there.
He looked down, seeing Mrs. Hsiao’s concerned brown eyes looking up at him, her small neck craning to look him in the face. “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Just my mind playing tricks on me, that’s all….” He trailed off, hoping with all he had that’s all it had been.
“Come on,” she motioned with a bejeweled hand. “Let’s go.”
Seifer shrugged. He was still bothered by the fact that he didn’t know why he was on this trip in the first place. Maybe he would find out from this little get together. If that were true, he could handle being around a lot of people right now. He followed the pack like the good little omega wolf that he was, the chilling wind cutting through him again, kissing his coat, causing it to flow out behind him, a train of night.
They arrived at the Aphrora pub just as the sun was beginning to fade, tinting the sky in delicate pinks and mauves. However, to Seifer, the sky was pouring blood onto the ground, coating everything. He enjoyed these glasses. They gave him a filtered view of the world, making it feel unreal, false. He felt like he was watching a world that he wasn’t part of, a feeling that he felt every day of his life. They also hid the dark circles under his eyes, from lack of sleep, stress, depression, lack of nourishment.
The pub looked the same as it always had. Clean, yet comfortable. They all sat at a corner table, round and large enough to accommodate all of them. Seifer removed his glasses, his vision going black and white for a moment as his eyes readjusted to seeing full colour again. A tired looking waitress approached the table. She may have been quite beautiful once, but her features looked tired, as if years of working hard and taking care of people had taken their pound of flesh from her. Her outward appearance mirrored Seifer’s internal lack of energy, his tiredness.
“What’ll you have?”
“Um, how about a couple of pitchers of beer?”
The waitress, “Carmel” nodded and scurried off to the bar.
The guy who ordered, some dude named Jackson who worked in accounting turned to Seifer. “You are old enough to drink, right?”
Seifer raised an eyebrow. “The legal age in Timber is 19, so yes. But I won’t be drinking.”
“Oh?” Jackson looked at Seifer, his small green eyes looking beady behind his glasses, being buried under his massive eyebrows. He acted as though Seifer had admitted to molesting little girls.
“I don’t feel like it.” This was all the explanation Seifer was planning to give. He never cared for Jackson, a guy too obsessed with kissing ass.
When the drinks came, Seifer quietly asked for water. The waitress smiled at him knowingly, seeing her weariness in the endless ocean of Seifer’s eyes.
He looked as Jackson said his name. “Yes?”
“You have this look on your face that says you don’t know what you’re doing here.”
Seifer repressed the urge to roll his eyes and say something smart. Rather, he smiled, sickly sweet. He would have to hit himself afterwards. “Actually, yes. I was wondering.”
“Well, the President wants to free Timber, but also to keep a close eye on it. We need you to do some research as to ways to urge capital growth.”
The light went on in Seifer’s brain. He was only asked because the flunkies didn’t want to do all the boring work. Oh, well. This would give Seifer the chance to remove himself from this sycophantic atmosphere and do research on his own. Things were starting to look up.
“So, when do you want me to start?” He addressed this to Mrs. Hsiao, not wanting to give Jackson the feeling of superiority over him.
“I can give you a starting point before the press conference, and you can start then.”
Seifer couldn’t keep a wide smile off his face. He wouldn’t have to be at the press conference. Things were really starting to look up. He looked across the table at a young woman whom he had never seen before. She was staring at him, a predatory look in her eyes. When Seifer caught her glance, she looked away, embarrassed. ‘What was she looking at?’ he asked himself, feeling uncomfortable under her gaze. He just looked away as she smiled at him. There wasn’t anything about this woman that interested Seifer in the least.
Seifer heard Raijin’s voice swirling in his head. “She’s a babe, ya know. Why’d ya just reject her, ya know. If I were ya, I would’ve fucked her, ya know? But don’t tell Fujin. She’d so kill me, ya know?”
This made him smirk. He knew that it was sort of rare for a nineteen year old man to have suck a lack of interest in sex, but he wasn’t ordinary, and his interest would be replenished if only….. Seifer stopped himself there. He didn’t want to play the ‘what if’ game, especially when the ‘what if’ was so farfetched, so impossible. It tortured Seifer everyday; wanting something so badly he could taste it, but knowing that he never would.
The rest of the “meeting” went by like a blur. They didn’t really discuss business. Seifer just watched everyone drink. They couldn’t get stinking drunk due to the press conference. Could they say ‘embarrassment’? Seifer was sure that some would show up pissed. It was only natural.
“I’m telling you, the trees are taller in Esthar….”
Seifer tuned out again, not caring which drunk was right. He thought back to the figure he saw in the hotel window, that beautiful face, the face he wished his looked like, that mouth. He sighed heavily, just wanting to curl up in a corner and forget he could feel. He just wanted this to go away, but how did he make something disappear that had been with him almost his entire existence?
Squall sighed as he sat at the long bar that stretched across the wall farthest from the window in the new lounge that the Timber Hotel put in. It was in order to give an urban feel, compete for traveler’s business. There was an alcove surrounded by high stained glass windows, hugging a space where an obscenely shiny Grand Piano sat, unused for now. There were round and square wooded tables stained the colour of cherries scattered around the room, mostly centralized around the piano. The bar was against the far wall, in the shadows. Drunks always seemed to hate the light. Squall just sat there, sullen and miserable while Zell ordered yet another White Russian. It was his third. He wasn’t yet drunk, and he could still speak coherently, but he was getting fuzzy around the edges. Squall knew that he should stop Zell, but he didn’t really care. Maybe he would conk out on his bed, but knowing Squall’s luck, Zell would puke all over himself, and they would have to sleep in what would be called “The Vomit Room”.
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough?”
Zell shrugged. “I’m not thinking.”
Squall sighed. “You don’t want to pass out in a pool of puke, do you?”
Zell pondered this for a moment. “I’d be like Hendrix. People would flock to my grave in Paris and wonder why I was plucked from this world all too soon….”
“That was Jim Morrison, you fuckwad.”
He shrugged. “Dead celebrities get faceless after a while.”
The press conference was still going on, wrapping up. Squall and Zell were becoming antsy and impatient and decided to wait at the bar. Right now, it was just press asking questions that they all knew the answers to. Now, Squall just idly twirled the straw in his Sprite, looking around at the people passing by, looking bored, but secretly hoping, secretly disappointed when his face didn’t emerge from the crowd. Squall hated to admit that it saddened him when all the faces were unfamiliar, didn’t know how to handle the sense of loss, urgency.
“Looking for someone?”
Squall turned back to Zell, whose voice was becoming slightly slurred.
“You’ve had enough.”
“Huh? You aren’t my mother.”
“No, but she’s not here, and Quistis and I are the ones that have to share a room with you.”
He pushed his drink away dramatically. Squall just rolled his eyes. “…Whatever.”
“So, who are you looking for?”
Squall hadn’t even realized he was searching the room again. “Huh? Oh, nobody. Just seeing if Rinoa and them are done yet…”
“Dude, you are such a bad liar.”
He shrugged, not wanting to go over his feelings with Zell, especially while he was buzzing. He took a long drink, but didn’t taste it, he tasted the sweet metallic zing of blood, warm and inviting. He quickly put down his class, clattering it against the smooth bar surface. Zell, as well as a couple of other men at the bar cocked their heads in Squall’s direction.
Zell said nothing, slowly reaching for his drink again.
“That’s it. We’re going upstairs.”
“Now it’s not like you to take advantage of someone who’s inebriated.” Zell winked at Squall playfully, but it came across as skanky.
“Stop that. You’re making my skin crawl.”
Zell stood, following Squall. At least he could walk fine. They stepped into the elevator, relieved that it was unoccupied. When the brightly lit, golden trimmed elevator began to rise, Zell held his stomach. “Aw man!”
“Hold it in for a second. Please. Or you’ll have to pay for it.”
Zell just waved his hand weakly, looking a little green around the edges. The relief on his tattooed face was evident when they reached their floor. He leaned against a cream coloured wall to catch his bearings. “I think you were right…”
“See.” Squall crossed his arms over his lean chest.
“How could I think that Hendrix was buried in France?”
Squall made a rude noise. “Maybe it’s because you’re a fucking retard, compounded with the fact that you’re drunk.”
“I’m not drunk.”
“Come on,” Squall smirked as he used the card key to open their room. He hated those cards. Why couldn’t they have actual keys? “You cannot hold your liquor!” He pointed to Zell’s tattoo. “If you had been able to stay sober, you wouldn’t have bet Seifer you didn’t get it.”
“I like it, though, and it was a bet.”
“Which you lost.”
Zell snorted. “I got my fucking face tattooed. He got his back. Oooo…”
“Ah, you forget. You crossed the line at poking a whole in your dick. You lost.”
Zell practically collapsed on his bed, looking at Squall wearily. “That wasn’t part of the bet.”
“It was part of the bet, and I can’t believe that you’re still bitching about it….” Squall trailed off, suddenly exhausted.
“I don’t feel good.” He sounded like a little kid.
Squall smiled. After a few moments of silence, he asked. “How much longer is the thing?”
Zell had fallen asleep.
Squall sighed, a great heaving of his entire body. He closed his eyes, tired of looking at the off white ceiling that needed a cleaning. Instead of the ceiling, he saw lush green dappled with the pinks, yellows and blues of flowers, both delicate, muted, and bold and bright colours. They gently swayed in the balmy spring breeze. Squall could feel it caressing his skin, but he felt cold. He was kneeling among the daisies and roses, looking down at the bundle he had in his hands. His hands were so small. The wind dried his wet cheeks, and it was only then that Squall realized he was crying. And his hands were so small. The bright sun seemed silly, contrasting badly with the atmosphere. It was suddenly blacked out by a shadow, a silhouette. He raised his head wearily to see who stood behind him. He looked into a pair of large, sea blue eyes. There was a mischievous glint to them, but it faded. The little face fell.
“What’s wrong?” Seifer asked.
Squall looked down at what he held in his arms. A large orange tabby lay silent, curled up, still warm, but cooling quickly. “The cat died.”
“Oh.” Seifer just stood there, the look on his face saying that his four-year-old mind didn’t know how to process this.
The cat had been a stray that Squall had found injured by the large, white lighthouse. It’s leg had been broken, probably by a monster. He had brought it home, feeling sorry for it. Matron had tried to help, but now, even she couldn’t do anything.
“What are you going to do? We should tell Matron or Sis…” Seifer just stood there, not sure what to do. He had been so small. This was the only point in their lives where Squall had actually been taller.
“We should bury it here. It’s nice. He liked to eat the flowers.”
Seifer sat among the flowers beside Squall. “He was hurt. At least he didn’t suffer.”
At the time, Squall hadn’t thought anything of those words, but now they had an eerie ring to them.
Squall blinked. The pooling ocean of Seifer’s eyes was gone, leaving only the slightly dingy ceiling. The ring of Seifer’s words was now Zell’s even breathing. The alarm clock said nine. How long had he been asleep? He wondered if Rinoa was looking for him.
‘Naw,’ he thought. ‘She would have figured it out.’
He never remembered what he dreamed happening, but it might have. The GF memory loss still affected them all. Maybe he was remembering because he hadn’t been relying on the power of the GFs as much. Squall wasn’t sure he really wanted to remember. He was happy the way he was. It might just bring up painful memories. Well, maybe all of them weren’t painful…..
He sat up quickly, Rinoa’s voice scaring him. “Oh, hi.”
She had been standing in the doorframe. “Awake, I see.”
“How long were you standing there?” He motioned her towards him with his hand, rubbing his eyes with the other.
“Not long. How long have you been asleep?” She sat beside him, the softness of her sweater tickling his bare arm.
“I don’t know. Zell sort of passed out, and I laid down.” He paused, “how was the thing?”
“The press conference?”
He nodded. “What else would I mean?” He suddenly noticed that Rinoa hadn’t taken his hand. Were they even beyond that stage?
“It was fine. Timber’s now free.”
“You don’t seem happy.”
She sighed. “I am, but, you know, Timber’s had lots of bad blood in the past. Maybe it isn’t over. It just seems too good to be true…”
“You’re being paranoid.” He reached out his hand for hers. She seemed tense. “Come on. Relax.”
She smiled. “Are you trying to get me in bed?”
He arched his eyebrows. “Maybe.” Squall kissed the side of her neck slowly, not wanting to scare her off.
Rinoa responded by pulling Squall’s face up to meet her own, kissing his lips lightly. “Nice try.”
“Well, we can still do other stuff, right?”
She shrugged her small shoulders casually. “Like what?”
He grinned wickedly, pulling her small body on top of him, his hands just underneath her breasts.
She giggled, but pulled away slightly as she looked over to the far bed. “Um, Zell’s in here.”
Squall looked over. “Shit. I forgot about him. He’s passed out, though.”
“Just as well.”
He pulled Rinoa down to him again, kissing her heavily, his hand moving up, tracing the seam of her bra cup. She gasped and tried to pull up, but Squall held her tighter.
“Squall…” Rinoa’s voice was muffled by his eager mouth.
Squall didn’t seem to hear her. He just wanted her. It.
She dug a bony elbow into his hip. “Stop!”
“What the hell is your problem?” He asked, holding in the urge to yell. He didn’t want to wake up Zell or have the other people on the floor banging on the door.
“I could ask the same of you.”
“What’s wrong with wanting to be with my girlfriend?”
“But I didn’t want to.” She stood, brushing the front of her sweater with her hands, as if brushing away any reminder of Squall’s touch.
“You never want to.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Rage began to seep into his voice, into his skin. His cheeks flushed. “What do you want out of this relationship, Rinoa?”
“What do you mean?”
“You don’t seem that interested in me anymore. Why?”
“What the hell is going on? I’m trying to sleep!” Zell shouted, startling them both. It had been like he was a corpse.
“Sorry to inconvenience you, Zell. You too, Rinoa.”
Rinoa opened her mouth to say something, but close it quickly when she looked in Squall’s eyes. The pale, pale blue turned stormy, almost gray. That meant he was really angry.
“This is my room, too, and I have a right to be here. Go fight in her room.” Zell sounded weary. He held the tips of his fingers to his temples.
The door opened, and the lights flicked on. All three groaned and closed their eyes.
“Sorry.” Quistis came in. “Why are you all in the dark?” The words died on her lips when she saw the expressions on Squall and Rinoa’s faces.
“I should come back.”
Zell snorted. “It’s our room. If they want to have a stupid lover’s quarrel, they should leave.”
“You’re right, Zell.” Squall whispered a harsh, razor sharp edge to it, creating a hiss. “I know when I’m not wanted.”
“Squall, wait…” Quistis protested, but moved out of the way as he stalked to the door.
“I’m going for a walk. You’ll miss me, won’t you,” Squall turned to Rinoa, who stood with her arms crossed, nose in the air, “darling.” The last word was spat like acid.
He slammed the door behind him, a gesture that seemed so final.
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