Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VIII is property of Square Enix.
Betareader: Angel of Enigma
Warnings: Yaoi (boy love with the pairings Seifer x Squall), language, non-con (rape), self-abuse, angst, violence, fluff, AU (Alternate Universe).
Chapter Three - Lessons Learned
"Just concern yourself with the fact that I do care."
By Angry Angel
During the few minutes before the beginning of his next class, he had exchanged his backpack for his gym bag. Irvine had pointed him into the general direction of the changing rooms, and he had happily informed him that he was going to his choir class, for "all the girls take choir lessons." Of course, Irvine couldn't really sing to save his own life. Seifer had merely chuckled at the cowboy, too preoccupied to really care. He was looking forward to gym class; it would provide for some well-needed distraction on his side.
The guys' locker room was a little off the beaten tracks, and it took Seifer a while before he finally spotted it at the end of a long hallway. He pushed the door to it ajar, entering a small, white-tiled room in which the air was heavy with the sting of sweat. A few guys were already undressing and slipping into their gym outfits, but Seifer paid them no mind. He dropped his bag upon one of the wooden benches and gave his respective locker a scrutinizing look-over. It appeared to be fully functional, unlike some that he had come across on his trips to other schools for athletic purposes.
Humming quietly to himself, he sorted his shorts, shirt and sneakers onto the bench. Then, he glanced at some dark haired student that had been eyeing him curiously from the other side of the room.
"Hey," Seifer said, a husky growl to his voice. "Any idea what we'll be doing?"
The boy stopped weaving brand new laces through the holes in his shoes and nodded, an air of vanity and importance surrounding him.
"Actually, yes I do. We'll be doing track. Lots of running, you know."
"... No shit," Seifer replied with a grunt, and his face soured.
He wasn't an all-state track runner for no reason.
"Erh..." the brunette continued, "Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you the new guy?"
For some weird reason, he seemed upset that Seifer hadn't introduced himself right away.
Like the blonde hadn't had anything better to do.
"Yep, that'd be me," Seifer nodded curtly.
"Ah, neat. My name's Nida."
The boy named Nida resumed lacing his dark blue sneakers while Seifer finished changing. The blonde looked over his shoulder when Nida closed his locker door with a clatter and went to file out of the room behind a group of other guys.
"I'll see you outside," Nida declared airily.
Seifer nodded vaguely, not quite sure what to think of the pompous brunette. He figured that he had just met their future Valedictorian or something along those lines. Quietly, he sat down on his bench, tresses of blonde hair washing into his face as he bent down to tie his laces. Somewhere behind another row of lockers, towards the back of the room, someone was slamming their door shut violently.
'Sheesh, why don't you just go and tear the damn thing off?'
He rolled his deep green eyes and glanced up, curious to see the guy that put so much passion into storing away his belongings. He could hear the other's footsteps on the tiled floor, the rubber of his soles grinding on the coarse stone.
A lean-framed brunette emerged from behind the dividing wall of lockers. Seifer caught only a glimpse of unruly brown hair, black shorts and a white, long-sleeved t-shirt, before his features carved downwards into a nasty frown.
Yup, sure enough, he had managed to land himself in yet another class with the ice princess, paving the way for probably yet another run-in that could get him chucked into detention.
Peachy. Just peachy.
Squall eventually halted in his steps, feeling Seifer's intent gaze on himself. Slowly, he uncrossed his arms from before his chest and looked to the side. He actually met the blonde's eyes this time, but his expression was way out there - completely unreadable. Seifer raised his back slightly to study the brunette more closely.
The guy was kinda on the thin side, he thought, though he still managed to look enticing. His legs in those light, black shorts were muscled subtly. A decent runner, perhaps, though Seifer doubted it. Squall's stride was too agitated. He had laid off the leather bands, but his wrists were taped up tightly - both of them. Weak ligaments, most likely.
Seifer considered saying something.
Of course, when given the choice between a swift retreat and casual conversation, Squall Leonhart rarely ever opted for the latter. He shied away from contacts with other students on a daily basis, apparently eager to do his nickname great justice. He didn't care for friendship or even the occasional acquaintance. All that he wanted was to be left alone, and he couldn't have been any less bothered for the people around him.
This idiot was no exception.
He had identified Seifer as a cocky snob the moment he had first laid eyes on him on the road. Some arrogant prick in a stupid football varsity jacket who deemed himself something special - the typical jock who thought he deserved to be sucked up to.
Squall sucked up to nobody.
With a muffled snort, he turned around, and he was out of the door before Seifer could have done so much as blinked.
Bending over again, the blonde folded his laces into a loose knot and jerked them tight while his eyebrows mashed together.
"Stuck up bitch," he muttered.
He hurled his clothes into his locker and slammed the door shut no less noisily than Squall had done only seconds before. Seifer was angry, and he didn't even exactly know why. All he knew was that the touchy little ice princess better behaved himself, because his patience with the brunette was starting to run dangerously thin.
Seifer took shit from no one.
He left the changing room and jogged down the hallway, out of the door and into the athletics court. He could see the outline of Squall's figure against the blue sky, walking up to a group of students that had huddled on the track ring. Seifer followed him, and he wasn't surprised to see the brunette stop a little ways off to the side of the main crowd, which consisted of males only.
The blonde grinned weakly.
Squall was a lot more predictable than he had seemed at first sight.
Seifer examined the area with great interest. He loved running, and this track court was fucking marvelous. Apparently, the running tracks had been freshly paved, for the coarse material beneath his shoes was hardly specked with dirt. He scraped at it with his heels, only looking up at the sudden sound of a deep, authoritarian voice.
"Everyone here now? Good."
He hadn't even noticed the tall, dark-skinned man in the black tracksuit at the front of the group. He looked to be in his early thirties, very slim and wiry. The kind of teacher that the girls flipped for. His long, black hair had been woven into intricate braids, cascading down his back smoothly like water. His eyes were of the same smothering opaqueness as coal, but they were sharp and attentive. The man screened his students for a while, pausing only briefly as he passed over Seifer.
"Since it's been almost three months that most of you have seen a track ring up close, I'd say three laps sound good for starters," he declared, smiling faintly at his students' complaints. "Go on, go on."
Seifer was mildly surprised at the abrupt manner in which their teacher was commencing the lesson. Raking his memory, he tried to remember the man's name.
'Seagul. Kiros Seagul. Right, he's the track coach, too. Go figure.'
Next to him, Squall had sped off for his first lap, apparently familiar with Seagul's teaching habits. He left most of the other guys in the dust, causing Seifer to rectify at least parts of his earlier impression of the frigid brunette.
The bitch could run.
He pivoted on the spot, blinking at his teacher who had approached him almost silently. The man was studying him closely with those black eyes of his, as if there was something in particular that he was looking for.
Seifer wondered what it was and whether or not he had found it.
"Yes?" he answered.
"I'm Kiros, the school's track coach," the man explained unnecessarily. "Director Cid told me you were interested in joining the team?"
"Eh, yeah," Seifer replied, caught slightly off-guard. "I was kinda debating between track and football..."
"Well, it's up to you," Kiros replied crisply. "If you feel like stopping by, practice is each Monday, Wednesday and Friday after school. We meet out here."
"No problem. I know you're good, you were part of the all-state selection last year. You'd be an asset for the team."
"Okay... I'll think about it."
"Sure. Let me know what you decide by the end of the week."
"Well, better get going then. The others are almost done with their first lap."
Indeed, Squall and the other guys at the head of the group were approaching the start of their second round. Without much hesitation, Seifer decided to join them.
He jogged up behind the brunette and three other students from his class, setting a moderate pace for the time being. Frankly, he hadn't trained much over the summer holidays, too busy recovering from the banter with his parents and his former schoolmates. It had been a downright pain the ass. His ex-boyfriend had totally flipped on him, cracking at the thought of people knowing about their relationship. He had put up a remarkable tantrum, until Seifer had simply kicked his ass to the curb. Of course, the poor dear hadn't been too pleased.
"--princess is running again. Run princess, run."
Seifer's head flicked up in confusion. Someone in front of him had spoken, a nasty inflection to their deceivingly soft voice. The guy was dark haired, about his height and size, perhaps smaller, and his angular face was tight with jeer. The two blonde boys squiring his sides were laughing as they studied their friend's victim.
Seifer's eyes narrowed when he understood who they were talking to.
"Come on princess, what's up? Don't wanna talk?"
Squall didn't turn his head an inch as he was running, grimly trying to focus onto his own breathing instead of their taunts. He was staring blankly ahead, down the curve of the track. He had been through this before, countless times, and he knew that he could ignore them.
At least for a little while.
After that, it was just a matter of cutting his losses and retaining at least fractions of his pride.
"How's your daddy dear, princess? Same old crook as ever?"
Squall bit his lips hard, his teeth gouging into the delicate flesh. It was all he could do but hate with his entire being, and hope that this bill would eventually be paid.
"Did ya have a nice vacation, princess?" the guy continued snickering, the unkind nickname streaking every single one of his sentences. "D'ya play lots with yourself?"
Behind him, Seifer noticed Squall's hands tightening to fists, but the brunette kept jogging at the same pace, neither slowing down nor speeding up.
Seifer made sure to stick to his tail.
"Doubt he knows how, Jeff," one of the lackeys chortled, amused by his own lame joke. "Lil' Princess Prude."
"If you're a good girl I'll let you practice on me a bit, princess," the bully named Jeff offered foully, moving closer to Squall. "I know you're into that."
Seifer's stomach coiled with disgust and strain at Jeff's spiteful words.
Memories of a past he'd rather forgotten were inevitably pushing to the surface.
"You know you want to, princess..."
"I'd rather piss glass," Squall snarled, his voice pure steel.
Seifer hadn't anticipated the brunette's snide response, and apparently, neither had Jeff. The bully gave an angry gasp, his steps stumbling slightly as he tried to maintain his pace.
"Think you're something special, don't ya, fucking bitch?" he barked furiously. "I'll show ya fucking special!"
Before Seifer could have interfered, Jeff had extended his left leg and nastily canted it between Squall's. He could see the brunette struggling to stay on his feet as he was losing balance, but Squall had been running too fast to be able to retain control. He fell hard as his ankle twisted and his knees buckled - and falling on turf was never a pleasant experience.
Seifer stopped immediately. The bullies had halted as well, relishing the image of Squall crouching on the ground with painfully barked skin. The brunette's face was screwed into a pained frown as he tightly curled one hand around his left ankle.
The guys turned at the sound of Seifer's seething voice, irritation meshing with the sneer in their eyes.
"Who the fuck are you?" Jeff huffed, drawing up his shoulders.
The blonde stepped closer, consciously positioning himself between Squall and his enemies. He caught a glimpse of the brunette's face, confusion writhing every single one of Squall's fine features. His dark blue eyes were almost black.
"I'll be the guy with his fist in your ugly mug if you don't back away from him," Seifer growled, his face a hard grimace.
"Whoa, chill dude," the smaller of the lackeys mumbled, apparently less brave than their leader.
Who was to blame him? Seifer definitely looked like a menace alright.
"I saw what you did," the blonde snarled. "Don't fucking tell me to chill, dipshit!"
"So you did, huh? And what ya gonna do about it?" Jeff asked cannily, and his voice held a primitive note of warning.
Little did he know that Seifer wasn't easily impressed by so-called "warnings." He was prepared to do whatever it took to slap these assholes into their place, and he didn't care too much about the consequences. He could feel his blood turning hot with dire fury at their dirty deed, and he wouldn't mind going brawl-happy on their asses.
"Hey..." the other lackey suddenly piped up, his face strangely thoughtful. "I remember you. Aren't you that Seifer Almasy guy? All-state football or something?"
"Damn fucking straight," Seifer hissed, not letting down his guard.
The recognition of Seifer's obvious tackling abilities seemed to make the guys ponder - a concept that was wondrous all in itself. Seifer could practically see the little wheels milling behind their foreheads, debating their options. Messing with someone Squall's size was one thing, this guy however...
Well, let's just say it didn't strike them as such a brilliant idea.
"But... then what do you even care?" Jeff inquired placidly, jabbing his chin in Squall's direction.
Seifer didn't have to think long on that one. Granted, he had been pissed off at Squall for his stale attitude, but Seifer also possessed a great sense of righteousness. He had been a bully alright himself at some point in his life, but he had learned a lot throughout the previous months - much more than he had liked.
Being ridiculed and treated like shit was no fun at all, especially when the "jokes" were aimed below the belt line.
"Just concern yourself with the fact that I do care," he responded coldly. "So if you try this shit again you'll be collecting your teeth off the fucking turf. Got that?"
Jeff had no chance to give a reply of any kind, because they finally took notice of the fact that Kiros had come running up behind them, his face curled to a mask of concern.
Seifer could have sworn that he heard Squall groaning softly.
"What's going on here? What happened?" Kiros demanded.
"He--" Seifer started.
Seifer blinked, entirely dumbfounded, and he slowly twisted around. Squall was still sitting on the ground, though he was struggling to get up despite his sprained ankle. His hands, knees and the outside of his right thigh were a mess, chafed down to where his skin was oozing a thin layer of blood. Seifer knew that it was probably burning like fuck, but that didn't explain the brunette's unusual order.
"I tripped," Squall lied, exchanging a minute, warning glance with Seifer before he looked at Kiros. "Sorry."
Of course, Kiros Seagul was far from oblivious. He had heard Squall's hissed command to Seifer, and he had seen the caution in his eyes. This wasn't the first time that something similar involving Jeff and Squall had happened, but as it was almost tradition, the small brunette wouldn't tell a word. Unfortunately, Kiros himself hadn't seen what had happened, and it was difficult to punish students without a communicative witness. Looking at Seifer, the new guy, it was obvious that he had watched something, but Squall had silenced him all too efficiently.
It was a pity, and it angered Kiros like nothing else.
"Yes," Squall replied firmly. "It's nothing. Just my ankle."
Kiros studied them very closely as he bent down to examine Squall's left ankle, which had begun to swell up slightly. Jeff and his friends, Chris and Mike, were of course sporting their most innocent expressions. Had he ever expected anything else? Squall's face was carefully blank, as always. The only one that seemed mildly unsettled was Seifer, but the blonde was willing himself to stay calm and keep his mouth shut against his better knowledge.
It was pointless.
"I see," Kiros said sourly when he stood up, making it blaringly evident that he did not believe them. "Very well. Seifer, take him to the infirmary, please."
Seifer nodded hesitantly. He looked at Squall, whose features were dragged in agony at the mere idea of being in close proximity to the blonde.
"I can walk on my own," the dark haired teen tried, pushing himself onto his feet.
He couldn't help but wince at the pain that was jabbing in his left ankle as he stood, and he shifted his weight immediately.
"Yeah, I see that," Kiros replied sarcastically. "Seifer's going with you. Go on! ... And you guys better keep running!"
Seifer hadn't even noticed the small crowd of fellow students that had gathered all around them. Nobody was jogging anymore, curiosity having gotten the better of them. They did take off at their teacher's order though, knowing that Kiros was a man whose temper was lethal once aroused. He doled out detentions like no other.
"Come back once you dropped him off," Kiros ordered. "I'll check on you after class, Squall."
And with that, he walked off.
Feeling slightly nervous, Seifer studied his respective "task", trying to figure out the best way to tackle it. Squall heeded him with a glare out of narrow grey eyes that could have frozen hell over. He was, more or less, balancing his weight on one leg, trying to rest his sore ankle without looking overly ridiculous.
"Okay... uh... I guess you better put your arm around my shoulder or something," Seifer suggested with a helpless shrug, scratching his head.
Squall's expression made it awfully clear that he wasn't planning on putting anything around anybody. Seifer sighed deeply, feeling his irritation intensifying once more. It wasn't like he had expected the brunette to leap into his arms and label him his hero, but he had hoped that he would at least layer his grouchiness-level a bit, considering that Seifer had just helped him out big time. Sadly, Squall didn't look remotely willing to do anything of the like.
Finally, Seifer got fed up with it. He'd been appointed with this task, and he was going to see it through, death glares or not. Brusquely, he marched up to the brunette and grabbed his left arm, lacing it around his own shoulder. He snaked his right arm around Squall's waist, immediately feeling the brunette clamming up and trying to make a break for it. Unfortunately for him, Seifer used his advantage in strength and weight all too wisely.
As Squall continued to struggle, Seifer tilted his head to bring his mouth close to the other youth's ear. Tresses of the brunette's chocolate brown hair brushed against his nose, and he thought that he could perceive the lush scent of apples.
Cinnamon and apples...
'Argh! Fuck. Focus already.'
Suppressing a longing sigh, he forced himself to snap out of it.
"You want me to tell him what really happened?" he hissed suggestively, motioning in Kiros' direction.
Squall froze on the spot and Seifer could hear how his breathing jarred at the thought.
"Didn't think so," he cooed blithely, sending a chill down Squall's spine.
The brunette was still stiff like a board in his hold, but at least he quit slamming up futile resistance. For the time being, Seifer was satisfied. He took a tentative step towards the school building, relieved to find Squall following his lead.
They walked slowly, their bodies melting together for the sake of necessity. It was awkward, for all that Seifer knew. Squall's body was rigid, every one of his muscles tight like wires. He hardly placed any of his weight on the blonde's shoulder, and his stride was accordingly erratic.
"I think you're kinda missing the purpose of this," Seifer grunted, and he curled his hand around Squall's left wrist to pull him further onto himself.
He had by no means anticipated the brunette's response to that touch.
Squall yelped in shock and was gasping for air as pain seared through his arm like fire, scorching his nerves. He stumbled over his own feet at the overwhelming sensation, wincing yet again at the acute ache in his ankle.
Seifer immediately let go of his wrist, but he continued to support Squall's body by the waist. The brunette's breath was coming hard.
"Fuck, I'm sorry! You okay?!" Seifer asked after he had halted both of them.
He cocked his head down to study Squall's face, but it was obscured by a curtain of dark hair. The brunette's pale neck was spangled with beads of sweat. He looked bad. He looked like he was in pain. Nevertheless, he nodded edgily, though Seifer could feel his hand shaking on his shoulder. The spicy, cinnamon smell of his body wash had kindled with the acute sting of fear.
Seifer didn't quite understand.
"You have problems with your joints or something?" he asked softly, trying to soothe the brunette's frayed nerves.
Again, just the faintest of nods and the sensation of Squall drawing away from him as far as he could.
"Damn, I'm sorry. I should have figured, since you taped them up..." the blonde said, regret swaying his words.
For the first time since they had left the track ring, Squall raised his voice. It sounded coarse and tight, and he was struggling to keep it from coming in nervous waves.
After sucking in a deep breath and willing himself to steady, Squall continued hobbling towards the door to the school building, determined to get this over with as quickly as possible. Seifer couldn't shake off the impression that Squall was merely trying to cut the subject short, but he paced himself with the brunette all the same. Squall's lean frame had become even more static in his arms, and he could feel the brunette's taut abdomen echoing the now flat rhythm of his breathing.
Though it bothered him slightly, he couldn't help but worry.
"What was that all about, anyway?" he asked, if only for the sake of crushing the silence between them. "Those fucknuts, I mean."
"None of your business," Squall replied coldly, staring straight ahead as if caged in a tunnel.
Perhaps he was.
The feeling, at length, was the same.
"I believe it is," Seifer disagreed.
"You're wrong, then."
Seifer could tell by the tone in Squall's voice that this matter was a final one, at least for the time being. The brunette was not going to let any details on the incident slip, no matter how hard he'd pry.
It only made the dark haired youth more intriguing.
'Yeah... in a stubborn, frustrating kinda way.'
They reached the door and Seifer pushed it open, helping Squall inside. Once in, he looked up and down the empty hallway, uncertain of where to go.
"So, where's the infirmary?" he asked, glancing at Squall.
"Down that way and to the left."
As they were walking in the direction that Squall had pointed out, an idea started to stir inside Seifer's head.
Perhaps this was a good moment to set things right between them.
Not that it was of any importance...
"Hey... we didn't really have a good start, huh?" he said casually and grinned, though he knew that the brunette couldn't see the gesture.
Squall was a few inches shorter than him, and he made sure to keep his head stubbornly low. Seifer could only gaze at the ivory skin of the brunette's neck and jugular when he craned his head around, and though the view wasn't necessarily beneficial in his current situation, he found it no less enticing. Focusing proved indeed slightly difficult.
"I didn't mean to be a dick or nothing," he quickly continued, but already felt like he was talking to a brick wall. "Just weird coming to a new school your senior year. Guess I was feeling kinda aggro."
If Squall cared for his words, he definitely did not show it. His arm was loose on Seifer's shoulder, and he stared at the linoleum to his feet. Deep down, he wanted to snort with laughter at the blonde's words, but he couldn't bring himself to. He knew why they had clashed in the first place; it was just as much his fault as Seifer's, perhaps even more so his own. He didn't like people in general, and he liked men even less. Admittedly, this one seemed alright enough at a closer look, but didn't they always before they fucked you over?
..::: "Just concern yourself with the fact that I do care." :::..
''Care'? Care my ass... and even if... whatever. It doesn't make a difference.'
"This is it," Squall said flatly.
Seifer looked up at the white door in front of them. He was mildly disappointed at Squall's ignorance, but at the same time, he could practically sense the brunette retreating into a shell that was to protect him against anything and anyone. Frankly, it wasn't like he had expected a response in the first place. He already knew better than that.
He pushed the door open and ushered Squall inside. The nurse's office was small and sterile, reflecting the occupant's scarce interest in decoration. Some framed certificates lined the walls. Seifer discovered a degree in medicine acquired at the Med School of Timber, issued to "Sybil Kadowaki".
'She's a doctor? Why's a doctor working as a school nurse?'
He tried to picture his own mother, Elaine Almasy, working as a nurse practitioner, and he almost had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing out loud.
Like his mom was ever going to strap so much as a bandage on anyone who hadn't whipped up a $1000 deposit.
A middle-aged lady had appeared from behind a white curtain that blocked off a separate treatment cubicle. A stainless steel stethoscope was laced around her neck, and she wore a starched white coat over brown shoes and stockings, and God only knew what else. Her deeply lined face was stern, though not necessarily unkind. She looked at Squall with an air of familiarity, and Seifer wasn't quite sure how much he liked that concept.
Nobody should be familiar with the school nurse.
"What happened?" the lady asked, leading them to a stretcher where Squall could sit down.
Seifer retreated, careful to make enough room for the doctor to operate on. Squall glanced at him ever so briefly, but he looked away as soon as Seifer had caught on his gaze.
"I fell," Squall said, tainting his words with the bitterness of lies yet again.
She didn't seem to pick up on it.
"So I see," the doctor replied calmly, examining his abrasions. "Did you twist your ankle?"
"Ah, yes... hmm. Okay, sweetheart. I'll take a look at it in a second."
She turned to screen Seifer's face and body, but the blonde shook his head vehemently.
"I'm fine," he muttered quickly, not too thrilled about doctors and examinations in general. "Only helped him."
"I see. What's your name, dear?"
"Ah. Well, it was very nice of you to help him, but you better get back to class, Seifer."
"... Right," the blonde said reluctantly.
He glanced from Squall to her and back, nodding vaguely. The brunette actually reciprocated his gaze this time, but his face was entirely blank. His lips looked like they had been stained with cherry juice - probably because he had been chewing on them so much. For a moment, Seifer wondered once more where Jeff's insults had rooted from, and if they held any truth at all. For all he knew, Squall could be into rubber donkeys. Those damned grey eyes of his surely didn't give away much more than cold-blooded indifference, let alone sexual preferences.
It was a shame, truly.
"Well... guess I see ya later then," he finally shrugged, feigning indifference. "Uh... and just lemme know if there's anything else I can do."
He didn't wait for a response when he trudged out of the room and quietly closed the door behind himself. Sighing deeply, he looked at the digital display numbers of his wristwatch. It wasn't even noon of his very first day yet, and he already had enough on his mind to last him for the rest of the goddamned year. Of course, he just had to run into a guy that fascinated the hell out of him. He wasn't even quite sure whether he really liked or really loathed the hard-headed brunette, but it was most likely a good bit of both.
Either way - Squall's rich scent clinging to his clothes did little to banish the brunette's image from his thoughts.
Very, very little.
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