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Storm Front

By Aphelion Orion

Gusts of wind swept across the beach, stirring the sand and piling it up in funny little heaps. The sky had been overcast all day, but recently, the clouds had become steadily darker, only a few shafts of golden sunlight piercing them every now and again.

The blond boy cowering at the edge of the beach frowned at the sky. It wasn't so much the storm he was worried about, unlike the other children. Well, okay, the thunder sometimes made Seifer want to cover his ears with his pillow, because he simply hated loud noises - unless he caused them, of course - and every sound was at least twice as loud because of the cliffs surrounding the bay (at least, that was what Mrs. Kramer said, whenever Selphie's shrieking got on her nerves). Not that Seifer actually did use his bedding as makeshift earmuffs, mind you, because only girls did that - and thankfully, said girls weren't around and couldn't read minds, or he might have gotten a good kick in the shins for thinking that.

So yes, only girls did girly things, or boys like Zell, who was a crybaby and a chicken, or Irvine, who was half a girl anyway, because he constantly allowed the real girls to tie bows and ribbons in his hair, since he was, for reasons beyond Seifer's understanding, utterly smitten with Selphie - Mrs. Kramer thought it was cute, Seifer thought Irvine was being an idiot.

By process of elimination, that left only Seifer, who had thus declared himself the defender of all things manly (or at least boyish), and as such, considered it his duty to face any storm valiantly and, no matter how loud it may be, sans pillows. Not that he would have carried his pillow out here, anyway. Normally, he would have persuaded Squall to be his moral support, because Squall seemed to be the only other guy who hadn't contracted the girly germs yet, and was halfway decent at swordplay. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be able to count on Squall's assistance in this matter, because Squall's relationship to storms was special; in other words, he was a bit of a nutcase.

Whenever storm clouds were gathering on the horizon, Squall's usually somber mood lifted and he would suddenly become a lot more sociable, at least in Squall terms, because even on his best of days, he was just about as approachable as a rock... or perhaps and iceberg, because Squall could be pretty damn cold when he wanted to be, which was - sadly - most of the time.

The wind was getting stronger, causing the clusters of marram grass to flatten themselves against the ground, and whipping sand against Seifer's bare legs, pulling him back to the present. Good thing, too, because Squall was getting away. He hurried after him, careful not to make any noise, even though it was quite difficult to hear anything between the soughing wind and the waves crashing against the shore.

As he stumbled over the sand, the wind kept flinging sand at his legs, which made him want to stop and scratch away the itchy feeling. But he couldn't, because Squall had already left the beach and was heading for the cliffs.

So yes, Squall's obsession with thunderstorms was the reason he was sneaking after him like some sort of spy. Because sooner or later, Squall always found a way to slip out of the house unnoticed, would run off to places unknown and only return when the storm had blown over, shivering and soaked to the bone. Mrs. Kramer had given up on lecturing him about his disappearances, just as she had given up looking for him when he left, because Squall would do it again, and because she had never found out where he was going. And maybe, just maybe, because Squall always wore a secret little smile upon his return.

Seifer hated it when people kept secrets, just as he hated being ignored. Squall was doing both at the moment, but it wouldn't do to corner him and try to make him talk, because Squall wasn't intimidated by him, and even being the scrawny little guy he was, he packed a mean punch.

Squall was climbing a steep path to the top of the cliffs, easily finding his way and never losing his footing, and making it considerably harder for Seifer to follow him unnoticed, because the nearly vertical cliff walls did not exactly provide good cover. Luckily, Squall never once turned around or glanced backwards, so he didn't have to worry too much about it.

When he finally reached the top, huffing and panting, Squall was already a good ways away, right at the edge. What was the idiot doing there? Contemplating suicide? He wouldn't put it past Squall to actually wonder what a body splattered on the rocks would look like, even if it was his own. The boy was naturally fascinated by all things morbid (or "Groooo-hoo-oss!" as Selphie would put it), such as the guy "mutilating" the fish at the market, dead seagulls, or flaming squids. Alright, the squids-on-fire accident had been rather funny, but only because it served to remind them all that Quistis should never, ever be left unsupervised in the general vicinity of a kitchen, much less near a campfire, and they had resorted to Mrs. Kramer's cooking, which was much better anyway.

Back to the problem at hand, Squall was still standing at the edge of the cliff, unmoving, and Seifer was sufficiently disturbed to decide that it was high time he revealed himself before -

"Good thing you want to become a knight, because you'd make a rather pathetic spy," Squall said disdainfully, his back still turned.

- before Squall spotted him and jumped out of spite.

The blond boy sighed and left his hiding place between the boulders, dusting off his aching knees. "How'd you know I was there?"

Squall snorted and threw him a backward glance. "With you climbing up the cliffs with the grace of a rampaging behemoth? Puh-lease!" he over-enunciated.

Squall liked to use big words, just to throw people off. Thus, it took Seifer a while to realize that he had just been severely insulted. "Hey! Aren't you being jus' a little unfair?!"

"..." Squall answered eloquently and drew his eyebrows together.

Having an argument with him was rather frustrating, because he liked to think up his spiteful remarks, but rarely said them aloud. "Oi! Stop being mean to me in your head!" Seifer cried and stomped towards him.

For a moment, something like mocking laughter flickered in Squall's eyes, before a gust of wind whipped his rather longish, dark hair into his face. When he brushed it out of the way, the scowl was firmly back in place. "Aren't you the one following me?" he asked, as if that explained everything.

Being an insufferable know-it-all was really Quistis' department, though, and Seifer chose to point that out. By now, however, he was within arms' reach, and Squall decided to take full advantage of that by slapping him upside the head.

"Ow! If I turn stupid because of you, you're gonna hafta marry me!"

"Going to," Squall corrected absent-mindedly. "You can't turn stupid from that, at any rate."

"Too many blows to the head can make a person go stupid."

"Not in your case, they can't. Because you had zero brain cells to begin with.; you can't get much lower than that."

Seifer contemplated hitting him back for that comment, but suddenly, something else occurred to him and he grinned stupidly. "You know, you never said 'no'."

"Idiot." Squall lowered his head to hide his flushed face. After a while, he said quietly, "Are you going to tattle?"

"Nah." Seifer grinned. "If y' tell me why you're out here, I won't."

The dark-haired boy rolled his eyes and shrugged a shoulder towards the horizon, which had darkened to an inky color, not a trace of sunlight left. Faint flashes of brightness were visible in the distance. Great, a thunderstorm.

"Well, duh. I mean, why can't you watch from the window? Mrs. Kramer's worried sick when you run off, and one of these days, you'll return burnt to crisp because a bolt struck you!"

"No, it won't. The storm knows why I'm here," Squall replied with conviction. As if on cue, it began to rain.

"So, why are ya?" Seifer demanded, a little angrily. He was cold, and getting wet, and if Squall had been anyone, anyone else, he would have just grabbed his arm and dragged him back to the orphanage.

"Just watch," the other boy instructed, tilting his head up to face the pounding rain.

So, Seifer did. He watched the lightning bolts dance across the sky, bright angry lines splitting the darkness and turning the surrounding clouds white and blue for a few seconds. He watched the sea surge up as if to compete with the rolling thunder, crashing powerfully against the cliffs, spray flying everywhere. And he watched Squall, relaxing in the rain, a content smile replacing his scowl.

Squall was startled from his reverie when arms suddenly wrapped around his midsection. "Idiot! What are you doing?!" he hissed.

He could feel the other boy shrug against his back. "'M cold. You're warm," Seifer said by way of explanation.

"Idiot," Squall repeated half-heartedly. Realizing that the other boy probably wouldn't budge, he heaved a long-suffering sigh and turned his attention back to the dance of rain and lightning. Seifer, to his surprise, stayed silent and let him watch his storm.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" Squall asked after a while, hating how uncertain his voice sounded. He didn't even know why Seifer's opinion suddenly mattered.

"Yeah, amazing," Seifer agreed softly, almost admiringly. Squall didn't even notice that Seifer wasn't looking at the storm at all.


Author's Notes: The squid-on-fire accident actually happened during a holiday by the sea, only it was my dad who lit them on fire. I'll forever remember the "What the hell just happened?"-look on his face. *snickers*

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