By Scarlet Fever
Squall yawned, stretching in his cocoon of sheets. The sun was streaming into the room. The clock read 8:30. He had fallen asleep around four, after Rinoa had stormed out, calling him ‘insensitive’. So, maybe he was being a little bit insensitive, but who wouldn’t be? His girlfriend wouldn’t touch him, and he was having sex dreams about his lifetime rival.
“Well, well, good morning. Did you sleep well?”
Squall looked over to see Zell lounging on his bed, flipping through the channels. He was dressed in dark brown cords, which were very baggy. Black suspenders hung from the belt, swimming around his hips. On top, he was wearing a light blue T-shirt, worn with wear. On the front was a silk-screening of a geisha with a large parasol.
“Look, Zell, I’m sorry.”
He just shrugged. He seemed out of it.
“What’s wrong? Did Seifer make you sleep in the hallway?”
He looked up, a sad look in his eyes. “No.”
Squall reached for his watch. “So, what’s wrong?”
He paused. “How would you feel if Seifer were dead?”
Squall raised his eyebrows. “You didn’t kill him, did you?”
“Then what are you talking about?”
“I don’t know.”
Squall just sighed. “Where’s Quistis?”
“She went to breakfast with Selphie and Irvine.”
“Ah. That reminds me. I gotta meet Seifer…”
Zell looked at him, that sad look playing in his blue eyes, eyes that now reminded Squall of Seifer’s.
“Look, hold out all you want on me, but do it fast. I need to have a shower.”
“I guess I’m just tired…”
“Did you have to sleep with one eye open in case Seifer smothered you in your sleep?” Squall said this with a grin.
“We fell asleep together.”
Squall paused, an image of Zell and Seifer fucking briefly entering his mind.
“You don’t have to get so jealous. It wasn’t sexual.”
He hadn’t realized jealousy had passed across his face. “Then what was it?”
“I just realized that we don’t know Seifer at all…. He’s in pain.”
“Emotionally. But ask him yourself.”
Squall walked like a zombie to the bathroom. The shower water was warm and felt good against his flesh, massaging away the cricks of sleep in his muscles. He can’t remember a night like last night, so emotionally draining. He had gone from the dizzying high of his false encounter with Seifer to the low of sensing that it was the beginning of the end for he and Rinoa. Maybe there was a new beginning on the horizon…
He pushed that thought out of his head as he got out of the shower. He felt a tightness go through his body as he thought of Seifer, despite his attempt at mentally blocking him out. He sighed as he realized that he didn’t bring in any clean clothes to wear. He opened the door slowly, checking to see if Zell was still around. He wasn’t. Squall leaned out, not really wanting to stroll out stark naked in case someone came in. He grabbed his bag and quickly went back into the now steamy bathroom. He mulled over what to wear, surprised that he cared so much about what he looked like. He chose a tight white T-shirt, a pair of red plaid bondage pants, and his Griever necklace. He made sure that the straps on the pants were loose enough for him to walk, not wanting to fall on his face. Squall covered his sensual mouth, stifling a yawn. He was tired. He hadn’t gotten much sleep, what with his hauntingly wonderful dream about Seifer, his fight with Rinoa, and another disturbing dream about a Garth Brooks concert. Squall checked his watch as he dried his hair, not really bothering to style it. He looked sexier when it was messy. A small smile flitted across his features. He left his room, almost breaking into a run as he went to Seifer’s room. Man, he was getting fucked up.
Squall knocked on Seifer’s door. It swung open a crack. “Seifer?” He could hear the television. He went into the room. “Seifer?”
He was laying on the bed, his back to Squall. “Hey.”
“Are you okay?” Squall moved around the bed so he could see Seifer’s face.
“I’m just tired….” He looked up. Squall could tell it was more than that. Seifer’s eyes looked dead, vacant, but still beautiful. He was wearing a bright green golf shirt that brought out his eyes, making them hypnotic looking, somewhat inhuman. He also wore chocolate brown dress pants, and his steel collar shone at his lily-white throat.
“Didn’t sleep well, either, eh?” Squall sat on the bed beside him.
“Only about an hour.”
Squall looked down at him, having to put his hands between his knees to keep from reaching out to touch Seifer. “If you want to sleep, I’ll understand.”
“No, no, it’s fine. I never get much sleep anyway.”
Squall heard Zell’s words in his head “…. He’s in pain.”
“You seem to feel at ease with me…why?”
Squall shrugged. “What do you mean?”
“We never were the best of friends, you know….”
Squall smirked. “Yeah, I know.”
“So what’s changed?” Seifer sat up, seeming to look right through Squall.
“I don’t know…”
“If you say you feel sorry for me, I’ll smack you, I swear it.”
“No, that’s not it. I guess I just feel this bond with you. We have know each other practically our entire lives.”
Seifer shrugged, putting on his coat.
“Tell me what’s wrong with you. Zell wouldn’t tell me. He just talked in code.”
“He found out that I’ve tried to kill myself a few times.”
Squall said nothing. He should have been surprised, but he wasn’t.
“You don’t seem shocked.”
“Wanna go now?” Seifer stood patiently by the door.
“You sure did change the subject fast.”
“I don’t want to talk about it, that’s why.”
“Fine.” Squall followed Seifer into the hallway. “Just as long as you agree not to mention Rinoa.”
“Deal.” Seifer and Squall walked at a leisurely pace, not in any particular rush. They didn’t say anything, but there was a comfort level present that didn’t need conversation to keep it intact. Squall felt warm as his arm brushed against Seifer’s, as their fingers brushed. Squall’s entire arm radiated with warmth. It shot up his arm like a cannon, melting his bones. When they stopped at the elevator, Squall noticed a gentle tug at his arm. He looked down to see that he and Seifer were holding hands. He looked up to meet Seifer’s gaze, both noticing for the first time. They must have linked fingers when their hands brushed together, without even realizing it. The connection felt so comfortable, so right, that neither had thought about it.
“Oh, I’m sorry…” Seifer trailed off, a blush coming to his cheeks. “I didn’t even notice….” He pulled his hand away gently.
Squall equally blushed. “It’s okay. I didn’t notice, either…”
They stood in front of the elevator, awkward and unsure of what to say. The comfort level had disappeared. Now they were like two teenagers on a first date.
“Wow, this is uncomfortable.” Seifer said as the elevator opened. They walked in, facing each other awkwardly as the door swung shut.
“Yeah….look, I probably was just thinking about Rinoa…”
“No need to explain. But I don’t really look like Rinoa, dude.”
Squall laughed, feeling the tension melt away. “So, how was sleeping with Zell? Was he an animal?”
Seifer snorted. “What did he tell you?!”
Squall smirked. “Oh, I don’t know…. This and that. That you’ve got “hidden” talents.” Squall made quotation marks in the air.
“Man, if that gets out, my rep as a sexually void zombie will go down the toilet….”
The elevator stopped. “So, where are we going, zombie?”
“Um, I don’t know. We could just wander around until we find some place good.”
“Sounds like a plan. A really crappy plan, but a plan nonetheless…”
Seifer smiled and put on his red lensed sunglasses. Squall felt like he was melting. They made him look sexier than usual, if that was possible.
Squall looked at Seifer again. “No. I just like your glasses.”
“Thanks. So, what else did Zell say about me?”
“What, other than that you were in pain?”
Seifer rolled his eyes. “Yeah. Did he mention that I can still beat him up?”
“I doubt he would see it that way.”
“He can see it any way that he wants to. But I wouldn’t trust the word of a guy who thought that Esthar was a constellation.”
Squall laughed. “He was twelve! I can’t believe you still remember that.”
Seifer smiled. “Oh, I’ll never forget. And it kills him because it makes him sound like such a retard.”
“I don’t even remember what teacher that was.”
Seifer shrugged. “Neither do I, but it doesn’t matter. The teacher said “Who can tell me what Esthar is?” and Zell answered “A star is a ball of gas in space”, I thought I was going to piss my pants.”
“Ah, now I remember. Then Quistis got all pissed because she had to be in his group for the presentation. We got an A, if I remember correctly.”
Seifer nodded. “We could work well together when we weren’t fighting. And Zell and Quistis got a C because Zell broke their model.”
Squall just laughed. “I had forgotten all of this stuff because of the GF use.”
“So, how long has Zell been in love with Quistis?”
“Figured it out, did you?”
“Wasn’t that hard.” Seifer smiled. “Zell’s not the slyest fox in the hole.”
“Ha, ha, ha, ha.” Squall laughed. “Um, I’d say around four months.”
“What happened to that chick in the library?”
“They broke up like six months ago.”
“Man, you avoid contact with people for a year, and everything turns to shit. She liked him for years. What happened?”
“They weren’t….compatible. How come I didn’t know that she liked him?”
“I guess I have a gift or something….” Seifer trailed off, looking at Squall. There was more meaning in Seifer’s stare than Squall cared to admit. Did Seifer know how Squall felt?
“You’re the gangster of love, right?” Squall wanted desperately to change the subject.
“Some people also call me Maurice.”
“What about this place?” Squall pointed.
Seifer shrugged. “Whatever. I’m not really that hungry anyway.”
“You should eat you know. Dammit, now you got that fucking song in my head!”
Seifer just smiled, letting Squall go in ahead of him. They were both hit by the smell of fresh coffee and bacon. Seifer wrinkled his nose. “Ugh. I hate bacon.”
“I am not letting you just get coffee.”
“Yes, mother.” They sat in an empty booth, Squall facing the door and Seifer across from him. Squall looked at the little menu that sat on the table, while Seifer just watched him, studied him.
Squall looked up, feeling Seifer’s stare on him like a spotlight. “What?”
“You’re kinda creeping me out, dude.”
“Sorry. Guess I was just thinking.”
“About what?” Squall handed Seifer the menu. He waved it away, which got him a glare from Squall.
“That after today, I’ll probably never see you again, or if I do, not for a long time.”
“When are you leaving?”
Squall said nothing, suddenly sullen. “Oh.”
“You sound disappointed.” Seifer had a mischievous grin on his face, some of his old self showing through.
“What do you want today?” The waitress seemed to appear from nowhere.
“Dammit, you scared me.” Squall said jokingly. “I’ll have a large black coffee, and some scrambled eggs.”
“I’ll have a large black coffee as well, and two plain croissants.”
“Please.” Seifer flashed her a smile, which caused her to blush as pink as her uniform.
“You were flirting with that woman, weren’t you?”
Seifer raised his eyebrow. “Huh? It doesn’t hurt to be friendly. They have a hard job.”
“God, you are so different.”
“Actually, I’m more myself than I’ve ever been.” Seifer paused, a sad look passing his statuesque features.
“Are you actually going to eat what you ordered, or did you just do it to humour me?”
Seifer cupped his chin in his hand, propping his head up, staring at Squall. “You sound just like Raijin.”
“Well, Raijin’s right.”
Seifer just kind of smiled.
“Did I just say Raijin was right? Man, I’m slipping.”
The waitress brought their coffee, smiling at both of them as she left.
Seifer blew on his to cool it down, a motion that Squall found endearing. He took a sip. “You know, I don’t understand all those flavoured coffees. If you want something that tastes like chocolate, order chocolate milk.”
“Sounds like a pet peeve.”
Seifer just shrugged, stirring his coffee. He looked around the restaurant, but he didn’t seem to see anything. He was just sweeping the room with his dead eyes.
Squall just watched him, like an exotic, erotic animal in a zoo.
“Well, what does life have in store when you get back to the garden?” Seifer was trying to be cheerful, but it was forced, fake.
“Not much. I’m in a horribly repetitive rut, but that’s okay. It’s my rut, and I’m glad to be in it.”
“Are you trying to convince me, or yourself?”
Squall raised his eyebrows, caught off guard.
He raised his hand. “I shouldn’t judge. My life isn’t all sex and international espionage.”
As Seifer put his hand back, Squall got a glimpse of Seifer’s scars as his watch slid down his arm. He reached out and stroked the scars.
Seifer looked at him, not saying anything.
“Sorry.” Squall pulled away.
“It’s okay. You can’t help but look. It’s only natural.” He looked at his own scars. “It’s kind of alien looking, actually.”
Conversation stopped there. They just looked at each other across the table, over the rims of their coffee cups. Squall, wanting to brush away all of the pain that hung around Seifer, consumed his air. Seifer, willing to cut his arm off with a butter knife if Squall wished it.
“Hi, guys. What’s going on? You look all spaced out.”
They both looked up with a start, shocked by the interruption. Rinoa was standing beside the table, a confused smile on his face. She looked sprightly in a small butter yellow T-shirt with a picture of a cherubic angel on it, well worn hip hugger jeans, and satin covered wedge shoes, which made her taller, but more teetering.
“Oh, Rinoa.” Squall sounded somewhat guilty as he said it, like he had been caught with Seifer’s dick in his mouth.
“Hello, Rinoa.” Seifer said this with all politeness, but there was a chilling note in his voice that Squall only seemed to hear.
“May I join you?” She sat as Squall motioned her to sit beside him.
“How did you know where I was?” Squall took a long swig of coffee.
“I’m going to… Hey, look at that!” Seifer got up, feeling badly like a third wheel. He went to the counter, finding the napkin dispenser to be most interesting.
“I think I scared him off.” She shook her head. “Frankly, I was expecting worse, from the way Selphie described him.”
Squall just shrugged. “I think he thought we were going to talk. I mean, that’s why you came looking for me, right?”
She nodded reluctantly. “We need to, don’t you think?”
She nodded again, her raven hair swinging around her face.
“Well, all we do is argue when we talk, and I’m not in the mood.”
“Neither am I. Squall, I’m tired of fighting with you…”
Squall bit his tongue to hold back a snide remark. Was he looking to start another fight?
“Look, Squall,” she took his hand in her own. “I love you, you know. And, well, I feel like you’re slipping away from me. You’re getting farther and farther away, and if I don’t reach out soon, I won’t be able to touch you.”
“You sound like a movie of the week.”
“Squall, I’m trying to be serious here…”
“Um, I don’t mean to interrupt, but it’s obvious that things are uncomfortable between you two.” Seifer approached the table, taking some money out of his wallet. “One piece of advice: don’t throw away a chance at happiness. You’ll regret it if you do.” He put the money on the table, turning to leave.
Squall almost begged him not to, wanting to spend more time with him, even just to look. He could hear the truth ringing in Seifer’s parting words, a truth that hit very close to home, too close. Seifer’s current existence seemed to be based on the loss of happiness.
…”He was hurt. At least he didn’t suffer.”
The words from Squall’s childhood flashback slapped him across the face. He felt like that for the first time in their lives, he was beginning to understand Seifer. Understand that this depression wasn’t a new phenomenon, that it had always been there. Squall sighed, knowing Seifer was leaving, going back into his shell.
He snapped back into reality.
“Seifer’s right. We can’t give up. All relationships hit bumps. We can get past it.”
“Now who sounds like the movie of the week?” Rinoa placed a small kiss on his cheek. She then rest her head on his shoulder.
“Are you hungry?”
Rinoa looked up at him, smiling. “You bet.”
Seifer packed the last of his clothes in his bag. He was surprised that everyone was leaving so quickly, but things had gone so well, that the President thought it was best to head back to Deling City so he could get back to business. Seifer was genuinely surprised at the smoothness of the whole thing. No anti-government rallies, nothing.
Seifer sighed. His advice to Squall had hit a little too close to home. It had made him realize what his own life was based on: misery. Why did he keep doing this to himself? Why did he seem to enjoy reveling in unhappiness? He couldn’t get out of this funk, out of the hole that he had dug for himself. But the main problem was, he didn’t want to climb out, didn’t want to forget about what was making him so unhappy, who was making him so unhappy…..
He had this sinking feeling that he had crossed a line with Squall that they could never back up over again. Now that they had crossed it, would this brief time of comfort and ease with him be thrown out the window? Seifer didn’t want to come between Squall and Rinoa. If Squall truly loved her, he was happy. But, a part of him said that Squall wasn’t happy.
“And you can make him happy, right?” Seifer whispered to himself sarcastically. What could he offer to anyone, let alone the one person whom he could ever love?
He zipped up his bag. It sounded so final. In a way, it was. He was locking away something that he hadn’t experienced in a long time: happiness. He had actually had fun being around his former “friends”, felt somewhat alive, if only for a moment. He looked at his watch, the seconds ticking away, ticking him away from a joy and happiness he had sorely been missing. He felt very foolish to have shut himself away from everything for so long. Being here like this made him feel alive again. Maybe it was just being around Squall. He had stirred what Seifer had so been trying to kill.
Seifer massaged his temples, trying to knead out the thoughts that were now buzzing in his head. One day of contentment was more than enough for him, more than he… He stopped his thoughts, but knew he was about to tell himself it was more than he deserved. He picked up his bags, checking one last time to make sure he hadn’t left anything behind. He sighed, spotting his glasses on the nightstand. He was always forgetting them. He put them on.
“There! This way, you can’t forget them.” He went out in the hallway, closing the door behind him.
As Seifer walked down the hall, he got the feeling again that people were watching, staring at him. He could feel their eyes. At this moment, he wanted to be eradicated, blown away under their scrutinizing gazes.
He looked up as his name was being called. Selphie was jumping up and down in place, like an exuberant pogo stick. She was in a chartreuse sundress that would have looked silly on any one other than her.
“Were you just going to leave without saying goodbye?”
Seifer cocked his head at her.
“Don’t do that. I invented that!” She studied his face, noticing the eyeglasses. He looked very sophisticated, attractive, sexy, all those other adjectives that described physical beauty. “You look nice in glasses.”
“Thanks. Why would you care if I didn’t say goodbye?”
“Because you’re one of us, whether you like it or not!” She grabbed his hand, dragging him towards Squall’s room. Seifer tried to keep his luggage balanced as he followed her, not all by choice. For a little girl, she was surprisingly strong. He just wanted to leave, because the joy of seeing Squall was more painful than what he usually felt.
“I found him!” Selphie cried, entering the room, Seifer a mere train behind her. “He was almost at the elevator.”
“Look, this is very sweet, Selphie, but I have to catch the train. I don’t feel like walking back to Deling…” He looked up to see all of them sitting, staring at him. He felt on display.
“You’re not going to miss your train! We’re going to the station with you!”
Seifer said nothing. Selphie’s energy tired him.
Quistis smiled at him sadly, her eyes concerned behind her own glasses. She looked like a teacher again, wearing her hair in the usual style. She was dressed in a calf-length black linen skirt and a bright crimson satin tailored blouse.
“Fine, fine. Whatever.”
Zell snorted. “You sound like Squall.”
Both Seifer and Squall just stared at him.
“Can we just go?” Seifer just wanted to be alone, to wallow. It was what he did best. He couldn’t socialize anymore.
Selphie picked up one of his bags. “Let’s go!” She walked on ahead. Seifer noticed the terse look she shot Irvine, telling him not to walk with her. It seemed like everyone was unhappy. Was it Seifer doing it, rubbing off on everyone around him?
The group decided to take the stairs, rather than waiting for the elevator, which was going painfully slow. Selphie clambered down first, making as much noise as humanly possible. Irvine walked behind her, chatting lightly to Rinoa. Rinoa chatted back, occasionally looking back at Seifer, eyeing him strangely. Quistis walked beside Seifer, not bothering to make small talk. Squall was on his other side, saying nothing as well. Zell brought up the rear.
“Would you stop?” Seifer muttered as Zell purposely stepped on his heels.
“What? I’m walking.”
Seifer just groaned. “You’re fucking walking on my heels, chicken-wuss!”
Zell kicked Seifer in the calf.
“Ow!! Pussy boy.”
Quistis groaned. “You sound like children.”
“Talk to pussy boy,” Seifer jerked his thumb behind him as they reached the train station.
“Ow! Goddammit!” Squall, Quistis and Seifer turned to see Zell holding his eye. “You poked me in the eye!”
“Well, that’s what you get for stepping on my heels.”
Zell glared at him with the eye that wasn’t covered. “Fucker. And my thigh still hurts, you know?”
Seifer shrugged and stopped in front of the door to the train. “Well, it’s been….fun.”
“You’ll come to Balamb sometime, right?” Selphie asked, placing the bag she was carrying on the ground at Seifer’s feet.
“I don’t know.”
“Promise me, or I’ll call you every day.”
“You don’t know my number.”
“I will after you tell us.”
Seifer smirked. “I better go.”
Irvine shook his hand. “Eat something, man.”
Squall watched as Seifer narrowed his eyes slightly, probably sick of hearing that little gem of advice.
Selphie grabbed him in one of her vice hugs. “Bye!”
He was flustered. Seifer only patted her head, not able to think of any other way to respond.
Rinoa stood in front of him, not making any motion toward or away from him. “Seifer…”
Seifer looked at her, waiting for her to make a move. He could sense her discomfort around him. It was as if she inwardly knew somehow that Seifer posed a threat to her relationship with Squall. That there were residual feelings from their failed relationship, but also resentment. She was telling him to leave, glad that he was. That way, Squall would be hers again. Or maybe it was just Seifer seeing what he wanted. Did he want an excuse never to see any of them again, never to bring up his inner pain?
“You’ll write or something, right?”
“Yeah.” Seifer’s response sounded hollow, even to him.
Quistis then planted a soft kiss on his cheek, leaning in to whisper “It can’t be that bad..” Her message was cryptic, but Seifer knew what it meant. The look in her eyes said it all. Like she was looking at a corpse. She turned and followed Selphie, Irvine and Rinoa in the direction of the pub. She looked back once more, having a flitting feeling that the next time she saw Seifer, he could be in a coffin. She pushed it out of her mind, following behind Irvine.
“Well, with you gone, I won’t have to put up with persecution.” Zell grimaced as he rubbed his eye.
“Oh, you don’t need me around to be persecuted. I’m sure you do many stupid things which get you ridicule.”
Zell frowned. “Screw you.”
“Hmm, this is how you treat people who share their bed with you?” Seifer laughed, winking at Zell.
Zell frowned further.
“You’ll get wrinkles if you keep doing that.”
Zell punched him in the stomach, but it was light, playful. “See ya around, eh?”
Zell rolled his eyes, turning on his heel. “I’ll leave you two to chat.” He gave Squall a meaningful look as he walked in the direction of the others.
“What was that about?”
Squall shrugged. “Brain damage.”
Seifer laughed, but there was a nervous edge to it.
Squall could feel Seifer’s feverishly hot body in front of him. “Will you give me a number or address or something?”
“Oh…sure. Do you have a pen?”
Squall searched his pockets, coming out with one. Seifer scribbled some stuff on a piece of scrap paper.
“Here.” He handed both to Squall, their fingers lingering together. This caused Seifer to blush.
Squall just watched him as his cheeks became tinted with the pink of his embarrassment. It was new to see Seifer in his glasses. He was truly beautiful, without being pretty. Squall had always been almost pretty, and envied the fact that Seifer could be beautiful and masculine. The glasses made him look sophisticated, older, more distinguished. Squall slowly pulled his hand away, putting the paper in his pocket.
“I’ll write you when I get back to Balamb.”
Seifer smirked. “Yeah, I bet you will.”
“You don’t believe me?”
He just shrugged. “Why should you? I’ve never acted like your friend before. Why are you acting like mine?”
“I don’t know…” Squall trailed off. “I guess, I.. you were always a big part of my life…. It wasn’t all bad, was it?”
He smiled, a hidden meaning behind it. “I suppose not.” The smile disappeared. “But why the sudden change of heart?”
Squall didn’t answer. He honestly didn’t know how to. After a few moments, he responded. “People change.”
“No they don’t. They just change masks.”
Squall was stunned by this remark. It sounded so cynical, yet truthful.
“The train’s leaving…” Seifer turned to get on.
“Wait…” Squall reached out and gently grabbed Seifer’s wrist.
He said nothing, but looked at Squall quizzically.
Squall didn’t know what to say. He just knew that he had to get Seifer to stay, just for one more moment. He pulled his body closer to Seifer’s, needing to feel the heat it gave off, needing it like a drug. He wrapped his arms around Seifer’s waist, holding him. He rested a cheek to his chest, listening to the heartbeat beneath the hot skin. He felt that Seifer’s entire body was rigid with surprise. Squall had thrown him off guard. He breathed in the smell of Seifer’s shampoo, his soap, the way his clothes smelled. He sighed, feeling more comfort than he had in a long time. His whole body relaxed as Seifer reciprocated the embrace. It wasn’t a hug. It was more than that. Squall couldn’t describe what exactly it was, but he knew he didn’t want it to end. He also realized that he wanted more, that this wasn’t enough, wasn’t close enough. Squall wanted to feel Seifer all around him, within him, within his blood.
Seifer lowered his head, pressing his cheek to the top of Squall’s head, nuzzling him gently. Squall felt himself go boneless, and he was sure that if Seifer hadn’t been holding him, he would have sank to the cold concrete. When he felt Seifer’s breath against the curl of his ear, he felt a tingling throughout his entire body, making him aware of every inch of flesh. It also made him aware that this wasn’t a new feeling. When he had dreamed about Seifer on the train, he had been confused. Squall didn’t know why he would dream of Seifer out of the blue, but the truth was that it hadn’t been out of the blue. Zell had been right. There was always something there, always an unexplained spark, a connection between the two of them. Squall had always tried to ignore it, push it away, mainly for the fact that he couldn’t comprehend such a feeling when he was younger. Now, he was totally aware of it, truly knowledgeable of what he was feeling.
The conductor’s bellowing voice broke the moment. And that’s all it had been. The time had seemed to stop, but really, it had only been about a minute.
“I have to go.” Squall wouldn’t have heard what Seifer had said if he weren’t standing so close to him.
“I know.” Squall wanted to say ‘I don’t want you to’, but held it back. He watched Seifer get on the train, then turned and left. He couldn’t bear to watch him leave.
As he turned, he saw a figure, standing solitary against the sunset. The figure had been watching him and Seifer.
Rinoa said nothing. She just turned on her heel and walked calmly towards the pub.
“Rinoa…” Squall called after her, but she didn’t acknowledge him. She turned slightly, looking at him over one shoulder. She wasn’t pleased.
Squall sighed and followed her.
Zell fiddled with the stir stick in his coffee. He had learned his lesson about drinking for the day. Quistis sat across from him, playing with her napkin. She ripped it at the corners absently. They both had other things on their minds. Zell looked over at her, meeting her sapphire eyes. She smiled sadly, then looked behind Zell’s shoulder.
“Rinoa came back…” she trailed off as Squall followed behind.
“She doesn’t look happy.”
Quistis shook her head. “Neither does Squall.”
Both pairs of eyes followed him as he moved to their table. He sat down slowly, his whole body seeming liquid, moving slowly, non-skeletal.
“What’s going on?”
“Rinoa’s being retarded.”
“How so?” Zell stirred his water again.
“She won’t talk to me, so how the hell should I know.” He held his head in his hands, slumping forward. “And she wanted to work things out…”
“Well, did you do anything to make her mad?” Quistis asked. She didn’t mean it as an accusation, and Squall knew that.
“Isn’t it always my fault. I hugged Seifer. Big deal.”
Zell and Quistis both remained silent.
“What? It was just a hug.”
Zell took a drink. “You just keep convincing yourself of that.”
Squall glared at him. “It was a goodbye hug! Nothing more.”
“Oh, come on!” Quistis cried, causing some people at a nearby table to turn to her. After they went back to their own business, she continued. “We know it was more than that.”
“Rinoa doesn’t know that, though.”
“Maybe she does.”
Quistis nodded. “Zell is right. Man, you sure are on a roll. Maybe you should move to Timber. It’s doing wonders for your brain power.”
He shook his head. “Why does everyone have to shit on me?”
“Maybe Rinoa senses the threat that Seifer poses to your relationship.”
“Damn, Quistis, you make it sound like tactical warfare. There was a threat to our relationship long before this.”
“It’s just a rocky period.” Zell said. He didn’t sound very convincing.
“…Whatever. Look, I’m going back to the hotel. I’ll see you later.”
Quistis began to protest, but Squall left in a hurry.
“Yes, fuck indeed.” Quistis tossed the napkin down on the table. “Squall has a lovely way of bringing down our moods.”
“Yeah, like we were bouncing off the ceilings to begin with.” Zell smiled at her.
“It’s the principle of it.”
“What, the principle of not depressing your already depressed friends?”
“You shut up! Well, he can be depressing in the hotel room.”
“I don’t think that’s what he plans on doing…” Zell raised his eyebrow.
She laughed. “I suppose you’re right. I’ll just be seriously pissed if we have to hose down the ceiling.”
Zell snorted, not expecting Quistis to say something like that. “Oh my God!”
“What, you were thinking it, too.”
“Perhaps, but people expect me to say sexually boorish things. Coming from you, it sounds alien.”
Quistis giggled. “…Coming from me..”
“Oh, man, that’s not cool.”
She continued to laugh. It sounded like bells to Zell. She was truly a remarkable woman.
“I can’t believe you’re still laughing at that, but you give me disapproving looks when I laugh and order clam chowder.”
“Not disapproving, just…”
“Ahh, it is disapproving. You’re just being a hypocrite.”
“I am not! I’m disapproving of you because you’re an idiot.”
“Not lately, from what I hear.”
“Oh, that is it!” Zell flung a few drops of water at her.
She laughed. “It’s funny ‘cause it’s true!”
Zell groaned. “Fuck, I’d swear that you and Seifer were related.”
“Why? Because we both have blonde hair and blue eyes? That would mean that you were related to us, too.”
Zell just rolled his eyes. “Are you sure you haven’t had anything to drink?”
“I’m sure. We could be like the Children of the Corn or something.”
“Don’t you mean the Village of the Damned?” Zell corrected.
“No, no, no. Not whatever. They are two totally different movies.”
“Fine, Roger Ebert. The Village of the Damned. Happy?” Quistis made a face.
“Why am I the fat one?”
Quistis just rolled her eyes.
“Could we change the outfits? I don’t think I could handle wearing that same Amish outfit every day.”
“But it wouldn’t be as scary if we had super mind powers and all wore skater shorts.”
“First you make fun of my sex life, or lack thereof, then you make fun of my raunchiness, and then my clothes. Next you’re going to be making gherkin and cocktail wiener references.”
“Cocktail wiener? I don’t get it…” she trailed off, a dopey grin on her lovely face.
“Dammit what, Zell?” She trailed off, looking into his eyes.
They were suddenly both silent, staring at each other.
Zell jumped, surprised. He whipped around, only to come face to face with Rinoa’s breasts. This caused Quistis to laugh further.
Rinoa smacked him. “What are you doing?”
“Ow! What the fuck did you hit me for?”
“Can I sit down?”
Zell rubbed his head. “No. Now go away.” He meant it as a joke, but he actually felt somewhat resentful that Rinoa came and ruined the mood between Quistis and himself.
“Can I ask you something?”
“About Squall, right?” There was a tired edge to Quistis’s throaty voice. She didn’t want to be dragged into this again.
“What about him?”
Rinoa sighed. “We’re having serious problems.”
Quistis looked away, not wanting Rinoa to see her rolling her eyes.
“Problems? Why, do you hit him whenever he puts his face in your chest, or is that just me?”
Rinoa glowered at him. “Can’t you be serious for once, Zell?”
“Look,” Zell tried to keep the anger out of his voice, but some seeped in. “I’m tired of being dragged into the middle of your spats.”
Rinoa looked down, ashamed. “I’m sorry. I guess this is affecting all of you, isn’t it?”
Quistis sighed. “We’re sorry, Rinoa. We didn’t mean to make it seem like we don’t care. We do, but you guys need to talk and sort this shit out for yourselves.”
Rinoa sighed again. “I know. But tonight, I actually realized that I’m losing Squall.”
“Why, because he hugged Seifer? Don’t tell me that you’re jealous of a hug, Rinoa!” Zell went back to stirring his water.
“It was more than that. You know, I can’t say I’m surprised, though.”
“What, that you and Squall are drifting apart? None of us are surprised.”
“Thank you for stating the obvious, Zell.” Rinoa rolled her dark eyes. “I’m talking about Seifer. I can tell.”
“That he’s…” she caused her wrist to go limp.
“What, got Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?” Quistis asked, a dead serious look on her face.
Zell laughed. Rinoa smiled, amused.
“No. He’s…well, gay.”
Zell cocked his head. “What, because he hugged Squall? That’s a pretty bold assessment, there, Rinoa.”
“It’s just observation. I’m not saying it’s bad or anything. I don’t have a problem with homosexuals…”
“You don’t have to defend yourself to us.” Quistis said.
“I know. Well, when we were together….there were signs.”
Zell sighed. “I think that you’re seeing what you want to. You want there to be a simple reason as to why you and Squall are having so many problems, and it’s easier to blame Seifer than it is to work through a vast amount of shit. Besides, Seifer hasn’t been around for a long time, and you and Squall were fighting far before he came into the picture.”
Quistis just gaped at him. “I’m telling you, move to Timber, buddy.”
“I see your point, Zell. But what about the fact that Seifer and Squall have known each other longer than I’ve known Squall, and I can’t compete with that bond that they share. I know that they constantly fought, but there’s a fine line between love and hate. And, although that may be a cliché, it’s the total truth in this case. Our problems may be intensifying because Seifer’s suddenly back in the picture, and it’s stirring up all sorts of feelings in Squall that he thought that he had buried forever. Maybe we were doomed to begin with…” she trailed off.
Zell and Quistis sat in silence, the accuracy of Rinoa’s words deafening.
“Maybe you should have said that to Squall.”
Quistis whistled. “I think we’ve got a new champion of sageness on our hands, here.”
“Does that mean I have to give up my crown?”
Zell’s words dripped with sarcasm. “Rinoa can gladly take it. I get nothing but shit.”
“What are you talking about?” Rinoa looked confused.
“Never mind.” Quistis waved her hand.
“I never know what’s going on.”
“Neither do we,” said Zell.
“No, I think we don’t know what’s going on because you never make any sense, Zell. And when you do, its throws us for a loop.”
“See, see. What did I tell you? Shitting on me again!!”
“You’re just such an easy target.” Rinoa giggled. “But you’ve raised my spirits considerably.”
“And we’ve listened to your crazy theories.”
“They aren’t crazy!” Rinoa protested.
“Oh, yeah, Zell, and wanting the Village of the Damned to dress like skaters isn’t crazy…”
“You were the one who brought that up!” Zell pouted.
“What are you talking about?” Rinoa looked confused again. “There’s a confused look on my face, isn’t there?”
“Why is it that I’m always confused around you guys? You must think I’m an idiot or something.”
“Yes, we do.”
Quistis laughed. “Don’t worry. You’ll never be as dumb as Zell.”
“Shut up! Anyway, you should talk to Squall. Talking to us isn’t working. Unless you were dating us, which would make things more than uncomfortable at dinner parties.”
“How many dinner parties are we invited to?” Quistis asked.
“So, why is it uncomfortable, then?”
“I was just using it as an example.”
Rinoa held up a slender hand. “Look, this conversation is truly stimulating, but I think I’ll find Squall before it lowers to the level of dirt.”
“Hey, dirt is pretty smart.”
Rinoa groaned. “See you guys later.”
“Now look what you’ve done,” Quistis gave him a look. “You scared her off.”
“Maybe it was you who scared her off. Maybe we should have told her to wait. She might walk in the room and get an eyeful, if you know what I mean….”
“An eyeful of what?” Selphie asked, that being the only part of the conversation that she heard.
Quistis groaned again, a big smile on her face.
Selphie laughed. “I know what that means. Where’d Rinoa go?”
“To talk to Squall.”
“And to get an eyeful of protein glaze?” Selphie sat beside Quistis.
“Ah, well, you see, my dear Sefie, he needs to be here for you to do that.”
“Thank you, Mister Science.” Selphie made a face at him. “I think he’s spreading some protein glaze on those baked hams by the bar.”
Quistis just laughed.
“Okay, first of all, ha, ha. Second of all, stop saying protein glaze. It’s lost all meaning.”
“Fine. How about he’s giving scum to those bags.”
Quistis laughed again. She was almost in hysterics.
Zell made a jerking off motion.
“Fine, fine, but where?” Selphie frowned at him. A frown didn’t suit her childish face.
Quistis pointed. “He’s right over there.”
Selphie snorted. “Yeah, right. Jacking it in public isn’t Squall’s style. More like my boyfriend’s.”
“God, everyone’s relationships are going down the shitter. What’s that about?”
“Zell, I think our relationship started in the shitter. He never seemed that serious about us.”
“Don’t do this to us.” Zell begged.
“Get us in the middle.” Quistis finished. “We keep getting stuck in the middle of all these little foibles of life, and it leaves us depressed and disenchanted with things.”
“I love that word.”
Quistis raised her eyebrows at Zell. “What word? I said like…” she trailed off to count. “Twenty eight.”
“Foibles. Yeah, Quistis. I cream my pants over the word ‘in’.”
“You do?” Selphie asked, mockingly.
She shrugged her slight shoulders. “Nah. My word was always ‘the’.”
“Have you noticed that all of our threads of conversation today have ended up about creaming this and jerking that?”
“Sex is a funny topic. Not to mention endless. I can’t stop talking about it.”
“Maybe that’s because you never get it, eh?” Quistis winked at him.
“There you go, shitting on me again! I don’t have to take this, I’m going home.” Zell made no motion to leave.
“Um, you have to get up in order for that threat to have any meaning.”
“Screw both of ya’s.” Zell grinned as he said this.
Selphie giggled. “Well, if that were the case, we wouldn’t have to make fun of your lack of a sex life. Right, Quistis?”
She laughed. “Right, Selphie, dear.”
“Excuse me while my dignity curls up and dies.”
“Come on, Zell! You never had any dignity to begin with.”
“True, true. Maybe that’s why my loss isn’t very profound.”
Quistis pushed the torn napkin around the table. “I think you’d be more broken up if you lost your shoes.”
“I actually would be.”
“It’s good to see where your priorities lie, Zell.” Selphie remarked dryly.
“Oh, oh. This coming from a girl who would fuck Seifer to make her boyfriend jealous.”
“That’s not priority. That’s sexual drive.”
“No, it’s sour grapes.”
Selphie grinned. “It may be grapes, but I doubt it would be that sour.”
Quistis fanned herself. “Man, it’s getting hot in here.”
“Besides,” Selphie waved a napkin at Zell. “I bet he’s hung like a horse.”
Zell rolled his eyes. “I don’t want to hear this. And I think the most important thing is this: why wouldn’t you screw around with me to make Irvine jealous?” Zell leaned in. “By the way…he is. I saw him in the shower once.”
Selphie raised her eyebrows. “Man, I should be spending wayyy more time with Seifer..”
“You never answered my question. Why wouldn’t you fuck me to make Irvine jealous?!”
“Because Seifer doesn’t leave hot dogs in the bed.”
“That was once! Once!” Zell cried. “God, she’s got a big mouth.”
Selphie and Quistis both dissolved into giggles.
“God,” Zell took a drink of water. “You guys are soooo immature.”
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