Kamikaze Love (Liberi Fatali Arc)
What you live and breathe is why you're dying...
Seifer lay there.
The wound had been there long enough to have finally frozen over slightly, nature's own icy form of stitching. Unfortunately, the wound had been there long enough for it to allow passage of Seifer's life blood as it had flowed out of him.
The teen had long since stopped moving. Not dead, but mercifully close. He blinked now and then, not wanting his eyelids to freeze over. He wanted to see the sky before he died, not the murky darkness it would inevitably fall into.
He had been chased, and had fallen. They, the cruel hunters, had left him there to die, in the middle of the tundra. They had followed him farther than anyone ever had, into an uninhabitable location, one that he didn't know how he'd gotten to. He had been unable to handle it anymore. He'd collapsed.
That he was still alive was a mockery of a miracle; allowing him to survive long enough to freeze to death.
His usually intensely coloured eyes had long since dimmed, lacking any spark, or any expression apart from a weary resignation.
He heard the crunch of soft snow compressed footsteps. He didn't bother to move. Unfortunately, his body would allow him no peace in the time he was so close to death, as it forced ragged coughs from his already spent form. And what a peaceful way to go he thought sarcastically, still able to look at the situation in a rather sardonic manner. He had always been told that a person freezing to death would know that they were close, when they began to feel warm, began to feel sleepy. He was definitely sleepy, but his body remained spitefully cold. He closed his eyes for a moment, losing the energy needed to keep them open.
A coolness touched his forehead, different in feeling to the bitter clawing of the cold. His view of the sky was momentarily blocked.
He blinked, and again. The stranger in front of him helped him up. He saw a flash of silver brown, of vivid blue, of white.
He could see the tree ahead of him, through the gap between the person's neck and shoulder, as the figure began to move, with him on the stranger's back. Seifer noted fuzzily that although the person carrying him was obviously exerting themselves, there was no gentle mist of air signifying the cold from their lips. They were moving for mere minutes, yet Seifer felt he'd been able to sleep for hours in that time, maybe days...
He awoke, stunned at the contrast in colours, yet unable to express himself beyond a cough that may have sounded surprised. When he tested his voice, it seemed non-existent, and only provoked farther rending coughs from his throat.
He was within warm, brown wooden walls replacing the whiteness of the landscape. He was indoors somewhere. He reached up to feel the area just under his ribcage. The wound was still there; harsh and angry. It stung Seifer spitefully as ripples upon ripples of pain coursed through his body. He had a moment to flinch before the ripples hit him. He gritted his teeth, and vowed not to touch the wound so heavily ever again, as it didn't like to be disturbed. His fingertips were tinged in a light opaque red, another penalty of his carelessness in handling the gash. Another hand wordlessly took his hand in their own, and gently rubbed the blood from the fingers. He looked towards the owner, and saw the stranger. Brown strands of hair hung smoothly down the stranger's face. His eyes were a silver, complimenting the similar shades in his hair. Seifer frowned only slightly. He was sure that it was a stranger. He tried to talk to him, but not even a murmur emerged.
"You won't have a voice just yet" the stranger's voice danced with silver peals in the air coldly, not in emotional distaste, but literally adding to the cold atmosphere. Seifer shivered as the words seemed to come in contact with his skin. The stranger seemed to catch himself at the slip up, and resumed his task, moving towards the cut on Seifer that gleamed a brilliant red. The colour made him dizzy. It didn't fit in with the colours of the room, of outside.
Seifer remembered then, the red colour had reminded him; the burning hot pain, his own screams at the intensity. He couldn't handle it, he'd run away. Except the pain had followed him, coursing within his own body, the torrent of molten anguish flooding his body, tainting his blood...
Seifer blinked again. There was no fire here, no burning, no pain. Only when he touched the wound did it seem to burn.
The stranger touched the wound, and once again Seifer flinched.
Except there was no pain, just a numbness that immediately made him feel better. Better enough to sit up. A vivid glow returned to his eyes. If the stranger noticed this, he didn't comment on it.
They had been here for weeks now it seemed. Honestly, Seifer didn't know. The gash was still there however. It wouldn't heal over, and when he touched it, it would bleed and cause an avalanche of pain that he found difficult to dig himself out of.
Only the touch of the stranger brought him back, stopped the blood. Only a touch was needed, and the red would fade sullenly. The stranger spoke little, but now when he did, it no longer made him shiver like before. The words still joined the iciness that engulfed them outside of the cabin, but they were words that fell softly, like fleeting snowflakes. He had yet to learn the stranger's name, but over time, he had learned a few choice words, even what seemed like formed sentences. It felt like learning to talk again. The stranger had ignored him pointedly when he had asked for his name, so Seifer had taken to calling him Snow. No wonder, he had so little other inspiration around him. It had been a silly nickname, which had stuck.
They had done things together, calming tranquil things that seemed to make time trickle through their fingers. Seifer began to feel a peace in this place, becoming almost fond of the place. His wound, although still there, had calmed to a grudging spasm of occasional pain that he couldn't quite place. He was happy here with his Snow.
He didn't remember when he'd started to think of Snow as his. He just was. He tried to fathom why, but for some reason, in this place, he found it impossible to linger on things.
"Where is this?" Seifer had many questions. He remembered nothing but his name, and a sense of his identity, but even that lay teasingly just beyond his reach. He enjoyed hearing Snow speak. It was always in a deliberate and intentional manner. He never wasted words, and never used them if words weren't needed. The words themselves were beautiful. They hung in the air, in gorgeous winter colours, relaying the emotions behind the floating shapes.
Snow sighed, even to Seifer's muddled mind, it looked silver, forlorn, like he'd come to terms with what was an inevitable conversation.
"It's...difficult to explain" the usual white words were tinged a blue, with steel marbling. Sadness, and...frustration? Seifer wasn't an expert at reading the emotions that stained the words, but slowly, over time, he was able to read the subtle differences, the different shades that marked different emotive states, some too subtle to be defined with words. It gave him the ability to read the true thoughts behind the sometimes misleading words. Another silver sigh, and then Snow began.
"This is my world. You don't live in this place usually. I brought you here" The words were deceptively white; a neutral standing, but Seifer could see the subtle shadings of blue trying to camouflage itself as white. Doubt, evasiveness, fear. Snow was trying to hide things from him.
"What are you trying to hide from me?" Seifer tried again. His words were different to Snow's. They were always translucent, something that troubled him. Were the feelings behind his words that transparent to Snow? Or was it the fact that he didn't belong in this place, this world?
"Why am I here?"
"I brought you here to save you." Pure white, with challenging dark silver rope entwining within the letters. Seifer was confused, and apprehensive at the sickening feeling that suddenly occurred within him. When he next spoke, he wasn't sure if he wanted the answer that would marry his next group of questions
"What did I need to be saved from? Was it those hunters who chased me before? Why would they chase me?" Once Seifer had started, he had been unable to stop, the words tumbling from his mouth before he could stop them. The air grew colder at each one, and he found himself flinching once more at the deathly cold words that Snow spoke.
"Once you know, things won't be the same anymore. You won't be able to stay here any longer" The words were sharp and bitter, so Seifer missed the flash of white-silver hurt that flitted through the darkened steel colour of the words.
"Snow, I need to know" Finalisation.
"I brought you here to protect you from yourself. Your mind turned on you, and began to attack you. You caused that wound to yourself, and you're the reason it wouldn't heal" The words no longer gave out colours. They were cold, transparent like his own. He spun round. Snow was in the distance now. How had he gotten so far away? He looked back at Seifer for a moment.
"It's coming for you again Seifer Almasy"
Seifer's eyes widened and he collapsed to his knees. He watched the feelings of regret and pain, anguish, burning flood the area, attempting to drown him...
Except that they weren't touching him. They were all battering at the translucent sheet of ice that served to protect him, as he methodically dispelled each memory of his past.
Garden, Failure, Knight, Edea, Ultimecia, SeeD...
He felt the feelings and memories surface and rear their heads, only to be impaled with thick spikes of ice, battered with harsh tundra snows.
He had killed people, killed childhood friends, been manipulated. He could feel each agonising memory attempt to finish him. Yet, more of the snowy wasteland rose up to aid him.
Hyperion, Fujin, Raijin, the Orphanage, Zell, Rinoa, Selphie, Quistis, Irvine, Matron...
The blanket of snow spread beyond infinitely.
He stood suddenly, ignoring the waves of nausea, ignoring the numbed legs, ignoring the soft veil of snow that had settled on his shoulders.
He was missing someone.
He saw the blue eyes, the silvery brown haired brunet, the stoic form. The form gazed at him, and collapsed in the snow, an unnatural red blossoming around the now still form. He realised then.
"Squall" He breathed, before the dark sky above him seemed to engulf him. He'd started running, towards Squall, an attempt to escape the frustrating ending that this had taken, not wanting to leave, needing to help him.
But he now knew that Squall, his Snow, would have it no other way.
And he hated him for it.
Seifer saw fuzzy images above him. Felt the heavy weight of his own body, which had seemed so light before. His body ached. His mind protested for a moment, not wanting to leave the void filled bliss of slumber. It had been simpler there, he hadn't felt tiredness or the weight of being awake for a while. He wasn't sure if he wanted it, but his body fought to awaken.
"Seifer?" He heard the voice call his name, but it wasn't the right one. He'd only heard one voice for a while now, and he didn't desire the voice that paled harshly in comparison. Blearily, he checked the surrounding area for the words that should have hung physically in the air, for an indication of the voiced person's intentions.
He shook his head muzzily, which caused a sledgehammer to figuratively hit the side of his head. Okay, so no more head shaking until that didn't hurt.
"Seifer? Can you hear me?" He recognised the face above him. The kindly Doctor who had always tutted, but had tenderly healed his wounds as he'd grown up in Garden.
He sat up quickly, ignoring the drumming pain that this caused. When Kadowaki rushed over to steady him, he held up an arm. He braced for the impact of the inevitable torrent of memories, but was pleasantly surprised by the lack of turmoil that assailed him as he sifted through them like a well worn magazine collection. As he gathered up the parts of his identity, he remembered that there were people in the room.
"Seifer?" the doctor crumpled into relaxation and relief as he smiled at her in recognition. She was glad to see that the haunted look in his eyes had finally lifted. He had almost gotten to the state of delusion and had begun to attack himself emotionally. He had reacted badly to anyone he'd recognised, and had eventually locked himself in his room. He hadn't gone crazy, but he had lost the sorceress, who had been a constant presence in his mind, and when she had been defeated, the shroud that had separated his actions from his conscience, his duty to his friends and family, had lifted. He had been a wreck.
And the sight had been more than he could handle.
At first, he'd tried to ignore it; he'd laughed in the right places, tried to find his place within his family once more. He prided himself for surviving so long.
But then the nightmares had come, his mind accessing what it was refused during the day. These nightmares left him vulnerable during the day, his studies had slipped.
Many people thought he'd gone back to being typical Seifer; unwilling to listen to the voice of authority, cocky and arrogant, aloof.
In reality, he had been desperately fighting a losing battle. He had resorted to slowly pushing away the only people who cared for him, his mind reassuring him that they hated him anyway for what he'd done.
And still he had kept the smirking mask in place.
Seifer frowned slightly, the dregs of sleep still weighing him down. The last he'd remembered of his awakened state was the burning, punishing fires of his mind. They followed him wherever he'd gone, even partly to the snowy landscapes...
"Ah, how long have I been here?" He asked the doctor. She was busying herself with routine checks.
"You've been out for about a week. How are you feeling?"
Seifer shifted slightly as she checked his heartbeat. The metal of the stethoscope was cold, reminding him sharply of his dream.
Had he dreamed it all? But that didn't explain his current state of mind. It would be a relief, as the idea of Squall seeing such a weakness from him would be too much to bear. At least from all this, he hoped that he had his pride.
"Well, I'd like to keep you overnight.."
"Seriously Doc, I'm fine. It was just a slip up, and now I'm fine" She pursed her lips thoughtfully.
"Well, if I can get a guarantee that you will come in every day for the next week for a check-up, I see no immediate dangers from releasing you now..." She silenced any thanks that he had on his lips with a warning look.
"However Seifer, if this happens again, come and tell me. DO NOT let issues build up like that. Looking after yourself doesn't just involve the physical aspect of wellbeing. If your psychological side can't cope, it will take a toll on your body. No one wants to see that happen to you"
Seifer smirked. She didn't even know the half of it. He could personally guarantee that it would happen to him again, even if he tried to prevent it, and that a lot of people would probably be glad. He decided to not mention that to her. She could be very...ferocious when angry.
"Who knows about me..collapsing?"
"Only me, and one other. It occurred very late at night"
That didn't reassure Seifer, who was panicked at the idea that someone, anyone might have seen him in such a vulnerable state. There were only two exceptions, one of them being Kadowaki.
Kadowaki was different. She had known Seifer from a very young age, listened to him as he cried about stupid things, like how his attempt to impress his friend had ended badly when he had been blamed for an incident that he'd done accidently. He remembered her listening when he proudly told her of his training in the gunblade; another attempt to impress his friend. Over the years, he had gone to see her less and less, and his friend had become his rival.
"Who is the 'other' who knows, apart from you?" He had a hunch, but he'd been wrong about these things before.
"Squall. He came here with you slung over his shoulders, struggling quite a bit I might add. He's not built to carry your weight, but he managed it somehow. Had you informed me about your over exertion, he wouldn't have had to, stubborn boy that you are" She looked at him fondly. A lot of people didn't understand the reasons behind his behaviour, but she had offered him the sanctuary of the medical facility in a new terrifying world where orphans were taken from their home and forced into a mercenary's world, trained from a too young age on the different ways to kill a person. All to fulfil a prophecy caused almost unwittingly by Squall. They had all thought it was for the best; build a facility that could take care of any sorceresses when they rise in power, fill it with the only people who could actually confront a sorceress and survive.
It had been a perfect plan, if you didn't look at the bruised hearts of the young children who had been forced into these roles.
The senior members of Garden had known that Squall would be the one to lead them onto victory. The other orphans had been his back up, but had taken a back seat to it all. Except that Seifer hadn't liked that. To him, Squall and him had always been equals up until they left the orphanage, and even when they had been moved to Garden, he still strived to continue their friendship in any way possible, even if in rivalry. None of the students had known of Squall's destiny, but somehow, Seifer had sensed he was being pushed into a direction, which he'd struggled against. In doing this, he had distracted Squall. When they tried to move Seifer away from Squall, worrying about a bad influence, he began their duels with one another at night. When they'd switched dorms so that Seifer was no longer influencing Squall outside of watchful class time, he'd sneak into Squall's room and spend the night. Everything they did to keep people away from distracting Squall worked, but not when it came to Seifer.
Kadowaki shook herself out of her thoughts as Seifer stood, testing his balance.
"I want to see you here every day Mister. But if there's anything outside of the routine check-ups, please feel free to come back anytime you feel you need to, please." She rested her hand on his arm, Seifer now too tall for her to reach his shoulder. Hyne, they had all grown so much.
She sighed after Seifer had left in the direction of the dorms, no doubt to bully Squall into not telling anyone that he had collapsed.
Seifer walked down the corridor, intent on finding Squall as soon as possible. It was about lunch time, so he would either be with the group, or in his dorm.
After the events of the sorceress war, Squall had resigned as Commander, returning to the role of standard SeeD. Many people were displeased with this, but they could do little about it. It was just like Squall to attempt to fade into the background once the dirty work was done. He himself would've stayed in the limelight a little.
Seifer focused his thoughts away from that alley of thought. He remembered the pull of the sorceress on them both, how the sorceress had forced him to follow her, bargaining with Squall's life. On the outside, the sorceress and he were performing . Within his mind however, she had taunted him, which he had ignored. She had then offered him power, which he'd ignored. She then spied the group, threatening each one of them until she reached Squall. Seifer had seen then that he'd had no choice. He went so Squall wouldn't have to take his place. He'd stayed because he had wanted to help Matron, who was little more than a flitting voice of pleas and apologies to her young child. Finally, when he had finally used enough power to free Matron, he was just too weak and far gone under Ultimecia's powers to resist anything. Seifer stopped. Had Garden known that he would become the Sorceress' Knight? What had made him and Squall so special? Quistis, Zell, Rinoa and Selphie had all been there. Rinoa ended up becoming Ultimecia's host anyway. It didn't make sense.
Seifer made his way to the cafeteria as he mused over this, thankful that his thoughts were remaining logical and not overwhelming him with guilt and pain.
That was odd. Seifer narrowed his eyes.
How had that happened? He never thought through things this calmly. Had Squall done something to him, or had that just been a dream? He had his suspicions based on what he and Squall could do, but he'd never seen anything like the snowy landscape before, so he couldn't be entirely sure...
Upon reaching the cafeteria, he spied Zell, Selphie and Irvine. Squall was not with them. He made his way over. It didn't hurt to ask.
"Any of you know where Leonhart is?" He asked casually. The group stopped their discussion to look up at him. Zell frowned slightly, before finally answering.
"What do you want him for?" He asked. Seifer looked amused. Was Dincht trying to protect Squall from him?
"I don't think Leonhart needs a love-struck Chicken to protect him, I don't think it's any of your damn business, and if you make it your business I'll introduce my fist to your face. Have you seen him or not?" Seifer leered. Seifer had spoken to Zell rarely since they'd moved to Garden. The only things he remembered was Zell's hatred of the nickname he'd given him, and Zell's apparent boy-crush on Squall. He briefly remembered Zell's incessant need to see Squall's 'Gunblade' during the SeeD exam.
Zell's face reddened slightly, and he made to stand. Selphie placed a hand on his shoulder, as if to restrain him.
"We haven't seen him today. Maybe he's still in his room?" He had to hand it to Selphie. Out of the whole group, she was still incessantly friendly to him, even after the Sorceress War. He nodded his thanks and made to leave.
"Seifer, don't start anything with him today, he really hasn't been well this week" Those words made him slow his steps slightly.
"What's wrong with him?" he asked.
"Well, he's seemed kinda under the weather, always tired, very sluggish with his movements. Maybe you gave him what you had?"
"What do you mean 'what I had'?" Selphie gestured towards him.
"You know, about a fortnight ago. You were like a zombie" Seifer raised an eyebrow. How had Selphie noticed his condition? He had shied away from people towards the end. What was weirder was that Squall seemed to have the same thing, which was...impossible...
Images of a snowy world flashed momentarily in front of his eyes. He turned away without another word. His movements increased, finally to a run. After almost knocking over two SeeDs and potentially a cadet, he reached the SeeD dorm rooms.
He pounded on the door.
There was silence. Seifer entered the code into the door. It buzzed incorrectly and remained shut.
"Dammit Squall, I know you're in there, don't play games with me. I know you did something, and I want to know what"
"Squall, I'm getting in there one way or another. If you won't open it, I'm smashing it down. Failing that, I'll go downstairs, and climb in through the window if I have to"
After what seemed like an eternity, the lock clicked, and the mechanised door slid open. Squall weary face gave a small, tired smile. Seifer gave him a once over. His hair was dishevelled, and strands hung limply in front of the vivid blue eyes, heightened in their colour by the dark shadows under his eyes. He wore a black t shirt and olive green combat trousers, a far cry from his usual militaristic look.
"You wouldn't be able to climb up from here" Seifer smiled slightly, momentarily relieved. Squall was still conscious, that was something. He leant on the doorframe as Squall walked back towards the window in his room.
"Next time, you'll have to try me. Now what's wrong?"
"I don't know what you mean" Squall denied this in a low tone, but Seifer could read the signs that indicated that Squall was very ill, not just having a lazy day. That was enough for Seifer to pounce on.
"Squall, what's wrong? It's me here. You don't have to hide things from me"
Squall spun around angrily. Seifer could once again see the overly-bright blue colour of his eyes that came in few circumstances; when Squall had been crying, when he was overtired, or seriously unwell. All of those were worrying things in Seifer's eyes.
"Yeah, because you did such a good job of sharing things with me. Why didn't you tell me any of what happened to you?" Seifer was taken aback.
"What do you mean?" He asked, confused at the question, and wary at such a response. Squall usually only got angry when he was trying to cover up something else. Selphie, in one of her strange 'bond with Seifer' sessions, had told him of Squall's verbal outburst when they had all thought that he had been executed. It had made no sense to the rest of the group when Squall had stormed out. They hadn't even known that the two had been particularly good friends.
"Squall, tell me what's wrong, I can't fix it if you don't tell me"
"How can you fix it when you couldn't fix your own issues?" He spat. Seifer had the sense to grab his rising temper and keep calm. Squall was a shrewd opponent, and would use what was necessary to divert attention. In this case, he was relying on Seifer's temper to change the subject.
"I heard from Kadowaki that you helped me that day"
Squall paused, his face slightly flushed, interrupted in his anger. Seifer had chosen his words carefully, knowing that he couldn't keep up his facade of anger without any fuel from the other side. In the past, Seifer had provided that fuel, even relished the responses, but slowly, he had began to catch onto the technique, noting the same strategy in battle. Squall would become overly aggressive when hiding an injury or weakness, like a cornered animal. Seifer waited a moment,
"I don't remember much about the actual day, but thanks" He said it casually, as he idly scanned the room, giving the impression that he was being flippant.
Having been caught in such a vulnerable state, Squall had little time to reinforce his usual emotional defences.
Seifer waited for a moment, and then sighed inwardly at the lack of response. This was Squall's final defence, and surprisingly, the most effective. Ignore it and maybe it'll go away. Throw in a glare for super effectiveness. A childish defence, but it had always worked on most people, and Squall hadn't needed to change it in eighteen years. If Squall didn't want to talk, people couldn't make him. Unfortunately for Squall, Seifer wasn't most people. That had never worked on Seifer, and it wouldn't now. He knew Squall better than Squall knew himself. He tried a technique that was almost guaranteed to work. No one else knew of this technique.
He moved towards the brunet, who tensed in unsure expectation. Seifer encircled his arms around the brunet, who stiffened and tried to push him away, to no avail. Seifer simply held him and waited, remembering himself doing the same thing numerous times; at the orphanage, when Squall was unwilling to admit his night fears, when they'd first come to Garden and Squall was afraid of the changes, when Squall had failed his course modules when he was sixteen. Each and every time, Squall had responded in this way, and each and every time, he had submitted.
Now was no different. Seifer held the brunet as he almost collapsed. Squall kept his face firmly burrowed in the crook of Seifer's shoulder. His slightly trembling body was the only indication that he was crying.
Zell had always been an annoyingly loud cry baby, Selphie had been a squealer, Quistis was a tantrum crier, lots of stamping of feet and screaming. Irvine had copied Selphie, but gotten bored halfway through. Even Seifer himself was an angry crier, usually not realising that he was crying with clenched fists and gritted teeth.
Squall was different. He was a silent one. The person you never realised was crying. Always had been. Squall was always the person that people thought didn't cry, but that was the way Squall wanted it. Seifer remembered punching Chicken Wuss once for over-bothering Squall, Zell not realising that Squall wasn't just being anti-social curled up on his bed, but was actually crying. Seifer had done it partly out of over-protectiveness of his best friend, partly because Squall didn't like people to know that he was crying.
Seifer hadn't minded that back then, as he always knew, and that was enough for him. Squall had confided his worries and fears to him. After Ellone had left however, Squall had withdrawn, losing trust in everyone. Seifer had worked hard to get Squall back, only to ruin things by abandoning him to follow a Sorceress. He knew he was mostly to blame for this, but still hated how Squall had slowly tried to hide things from him. Him, who knew all of Squall's hiding places and secrets.
Putting such unpleasant thoughts out of his mind, Seifer eased the slightly shaking brunet onto the bed. True, Squall cried more than people thought, but he wasn't one to fall apart like this for no good reason. He gave Squall a moment to compose himself before voicing his thoughts.
"What's up Squally boy?" Seifer tried to read Squall's expression, but Squall's hair had grown to that annoying length where he could just about hide his face from view.
"Why did you hide it all from me? I would've helped you" Squall finally said quietly. Seifer raised an eyebrow. What did he mean?
"Gonna need a translation for that one Squall. What did I hide from you?"
"Why didn't you tell someone about your thoughts, and what they were doing to you, even if it wasn't me?" Seifer frowned at this question. How did Squall know about his thoughts and what they were doing to him? He'd had the thoughts that were barbed and razor-like in nature from the moment that the Sorceress had died, and had continued to have them. It was the only time that his memories had caused him to throw up, suffer from raging fevers...
That was what had felt odd. He hadn't had said thoughts, or the physical strain that came along with it since he'd woken up. In fact, the last time he'd had said thoughts was in his dream, laying among the snow..
Seifer narrowed his eyes suddenly, putting two and two together. He removed a glove and placed his hand on Squall's forehead. Squall tried to move backwards to avoid the hand, but Seifer grabbed his wrist with his other hand and forced him to keep still. Mere seconds later, he removed his hand from the burning forehead, his features forming a displeased expression.
"Squall, what did you do?" He held the brunet by the shoulders. Squall shrugged, avoiding his gaze. Seifer shook him slightly, not hard enough to hurt, but enough to get his attention.
"I mean it Squall"
There was silence for a moment, then a hoarse voice.
"I took the thoughts away"
"Where did you take them?" Seifer pressed, needing confirmation of what he had originally thought was crazy speculation.
Seifer released Squall. That had all been real somehow, the snow, the cold. A thought occurred to him (and after a brief struggle with Squall) lifted up Squall's T-shirt, to check for the wound that he had seen on the boy before blacking out. There was nothing, no red, just smooth skin.
"It wouldn't be a wound in the physical world. It was purely psychological" Squall jerked away, refusing to meet Seifer's eyes.
"You shouldn't have gotten involved..."
"What was I supposed to do? You think I didn't notice how it was affecting you? You scared me to death when I found you in your room like that. I needed to do it" Squall's eyes had flared at this, and he stood up abruptly. He had reverted back to his anger form, rejecting the direction the conversation was taking. He knew what Seifer was going to say. The room spun as his body rejected the sudden movement, and he was forced to sit down once again, or collapse. He held his head in his hands as he waited for the room to stop moving. Seifer waited patiently until Squall had regained his vision.
"Give them back, I can handle them" Seifer saw the shadow of defiance flit over Squall's face.
"No, you can't"
"Squall, I'm warning you..."
His eyes had now taken on that stubborn edge. Getting through to Squall emotionally was doable. Making him do something he didn't want to do was a little more challenging, something that Seifer wasn't sure he could handle in his barely recovering state.
"Squall, don't do this"
A flinty gaze was what answered him. Seifer sighed,
"Don't say I didn't warn you" He murmured.
Over the years, when Squall had done things to jeopardise his own wellbeing, Seifer had always resorted to Ifrit. From a young age, he had always had Ifrit, even before he knew about Guardian Forces or Junctioning. He had always kept it to himself, knowing even at such a young age that admitting to unrestricted magic was feared during a delicate time such as the Adel Sorceress War.
It was only accidently that he had discovered that Squall was the same. Ifrit had alerted him to Shiva's presence, but Seifer hadn't realised that it was Squall that she resided in until the day when she cried out to Ifrit for his human to save Squall. Ifrit had warned Seifer, who had promptly sprinted down to the beach and rescued him. Squall claimed even now that he hadn't been trying to drown himself, just that he was distracted by the water and didn't think about breathing. Seifer hadn't believed him, and still didn't. It was too convenient that it had occurred just after 'sis' had left.
It wasn't until they'd been moved to Garden, and learned about GFs that they found they could summon Ifrit and Shiva like GFs, without the need to actually junction them. What had shocked them more was that other people could junction what they called their Guardians, but it was a poor imitation of the link that they had. All the other students had been issued them by Garden, but had never been able to interact with them outside of battle.
They both used their Guardians in their own way; Seifer incorporating it into his Gunblade attacks, and Squall (to Seifer's chagrin) using his to keep everyone away.
Squall had always used his 'Ice Wall' technique on everyone, and had stubbornly attempted to use it on Seifer when it came to certain things. Usually, Seifer hadn't minded, knowing that Squall liked his own space, but when it jeopardised Squall in any way, Seifer had always stepped in. They hadn't realised what would happen when they came into direct Guardian confrontation with one another. Their gunblade battles were only one dimension of their fights. When people watched, they only saw the physical fight, mixed with assumed junctioned magic. No one saw the spiritual battle behind it.
As they'd gotten older, being able to link with their Guardians became natural. Their creatures had a love-hate relationship. Shiva was faster, Ifrit was stronger. There had been cases where Seifer had been forced to use Ifrit to gain domination, when Squall was too stubborn to see sense. Seifer used this very rarely, and only when he thought that Squall was in danger otherwise. Ifrit was unlikely to let him use such a power on 'Shiva's child' without good cause anyway. During the Ultimecian Sorceress War, Ifrit had refused to aid him in battle in any way against Squall.
Seifer used this power now, waiting for the inevitable moment when he would hit the 'Ice Wall' that would fend off his attacks. Except that when it did hit, Seifer almost reeled back at the lack of strength in the defence. Squall struggled weakly, but his spirit was damaged from the physical toll that the memories were taking on his body, to the point where it was affecting his link with Shiva. His forehead gleamed with a sheen of sweat as he almost fitfully tried to gain control. Truthfully, Seifer was struggling to maintain the link, but was farther along the path to recovery.
Anyone else watching would have thought that this was causing Squall damage, but subtly, Seifer was impressing the concepts of sleep, rest, relaxation. He was imprinting his resolution to help, and for Squall to let him, to stop fighting him. Weak responses of disobedience and obstinacy, coupled with small tentative pokes of worry and a sense of responsibility. Seifer gently but firmly countered this, attacking the weak spot that was Squall's sense of responsibility. He would get nowhere against the more stubborn defences without causing a backlash, which he wasn't sure he could handle right now in his current state. He reminded Squall of simple things; Seifer was older, less affected, capable of handling things now. Squall didn't need to feel any responsibility, the worst was gone. Squall paused, unsure for a tiny moment. Seifer switched tactic, attacking that weak area mercilessly. Moments later, Ifrit had easily dominated over Shiva, and Squall, unable to take the strain anymore, was forced to submit, or fall unconscious.
Moments later, abandoning all sense of pride, he lay back on the bed, breathing harshly, which caused his aggravated throat to rebel with coughing. Slowly, the coughing subsided. Seifer stood up slowly, cautious with his own lack of strength.
"Hyne Squall, you took things too far..."
Squall didn't answer, he had fallen into a state of induced unconsciousness.
"Why are you here? Don't you have your own room?" Squall asked, almost grumpily. Seifer looked up with a casual, slightly mocking smile.
"I can't trust you to look after yourself, so I'm making sure you do. Plus, when you're a bit more recovered, I plan for you to return what belongs to me"
"I won't do it" Squall said, but without conviction or bite. Squall wasn't strong enough to challenge Seifer's victory, so had submitted sullenly, for now.
Seifer had stayed the night, returning only briefly to his own room for overnight things. In the orphanage, they had almost always slept together in the same bed, but they had grown farther apart over the years, so had become acquainted with the floor of each other's room. That, and Seifer didn't trust himself enough with the teen in such close proximity. To say out loud that he had nursed his feelings for the brunet that long would make him vehemently and violently deny it. When alone however, he would calmly sift through the memories of how this occurred, hoping to recognise when it first happened, when he first realised that he loved Squall.
He felt proud that he had managed to hide it away. It was well practised for him, so he could almost fool himself into thinking that the feelings didn't exist. It was easier that way.
So he remained on the floor. Whether Squall found this strange or not, he never gave any such verbal complaint or agreement.
"Okay, so talk me through your Icy world, and how you were able to pull me into it, and why the hell it affected you so quickly"
Squall was sitting up, his hair now noticeably shorter and dapper than before. His fingers idly clutched the over-long sleeves of his t-shirt. He seemed to be deep in thought.
"I...don't really know how I did it. I just remember Ifrit was angry and roaring for help. Apparently you'd silenced him somehow so he couldn't warn anyone, until you were too weak to control him any longer. I found you in your room. You weren't responding to anything. I tried to use Shiva to help, and she pulled you into my...that world"
"So, you've been there before?" Squall nodded slightly.
"It was the place I ended up in, after Ellone left. I didn't realise that you could enter there as well. But you did, and it was there that I could see the damage that had been caused to you. It was easy when you didn't remember anything, as the effects seemed frozen in time, but when you began to ask questions, I did the only thing I could think of to stop it. I reminded you of who you were. This brought your destructive memories up to the surface. I took them from you, sent you back, and kept them there..."
"...but then they started to leak out and affect you like they did me" Seifer concluded. It was a good idea, but the memories would burn through everything and anything to destroy. Squall was silent. he knew what Seifer would ask next.
"Squall. Take me back there"
There was snow again, and Seifer saw Squall standing in the snow. Seifer was angry to see that Squall was bleeding. He was handling these thoughts a lot worse than he himself had been. Squall looked over at Seifer, the silver tints in his otherwise brown hair making him seem ethereal.
"Do I have to do this?" There were hints of green mixed in with the blue words. Worry and regret. Sadness? Seifer was amazed at how much easier it was to read Squall here. No blank expressions to hide behind.
"It's not your problem" His words were thankfully transparent. Seifer worried about what feelings of his could slip out into the words he spoke were they not in Squall's world.
"How do we do this then?"
"No buts. Do it" Seifer's voice was firm. Squall barely inclined his head in a nod. Seifer waited.
The sharp pain in his side returned. The thoughts threatened to overwhelm him once more. The Lunatic Pandora incident, the attack on Balamb Garden, Time Compression...the memories continued.
Seifer struggled to stay standing, awaiting the continuation of more memories. he assumed that Squall had stopped to give him a moment to reabsorb them... before he was abruptly wrenched from the world. He ignored the lingering feelings of dizziness and nausea that the return trip had caused, coupled with the onslaught of his half returned memories.
When he finally came to, he noticed at the room was empty. He could hear an unknown voice, singing challenge, until he recognised Shiva's dulcet tones.
Cursing the brunet in several different words that were colourful in a less literal sense in the real world, he almost staggered out of the room. It was late evening, after curfew, so there were no students around. Seifer, fuelled by his own anger, allowed Ifrit to take over, cursing Squall as he attempted to run. He was all too aware that his body hadn't quite recovered, but Ifrit's blood burned to answer the challenge that Shiva sang. It was now beyond the power of the two teens. Another severe, and almost dangerous side effect to their Guardian powers. Fighting between the two could occur at any moment. Sometimes, Seifer was unsure of where they themselves left off and their Guardians began. It looked like Shiva rejected the previous outcome at such low strength and wanted a proper rematch. Well, he would oblige her.
Hyperion in hand, he reached the place that Squall had run to; their usual training spot outside of Garden, on the cliffs just off of the fire cave.
He should've expected this. Shiva was proud, and detested losing in a battle of the wills. It was her forte, and her humiliation would spur on a physical rematch, even if the odds were physically in Ifrit's favour. Before, she had been unable to kick up a proper defence, as Squall had had little time to recover emotionally. The Guardians seemed to rely on their emotional state, which meant that this was obviously wasn't something Squall could let go of easily.
Seifer gritted his teeth angrily, which Ifrit absorbed with relish. Squall and Shiva had lost, yet had still pulled a fast one on them. Squall had only given half of his memories back before he had wrenched Seifer out of the world forcefully. He'd only given him enough back to ensure that it would disorientate Seifer and buy himself time to rally his powers. He'd thought that Squall was being too docile. Sneaky son of a...
Seifer made his way past the vacant seat where the Garden Warden usually sat during the day. The 'out' gate was locked, but easily vault-able.
Outside, it was raining, which made Seifer curse. She had timed this all too perfectly. This would give Squall a strategic advantage, which they had known. The Ifrit part of Seifer growled in frustration at Shiva and her clever human. All he wanted was for Shiva to submit completely and be his, which Seifer wanted Squall to do. They were both being stupidly stubborn about it...
Seifer slowed and shook his head slightly. He had to be careful. Sometimes Ifrit's thoughts would overlap with his own, and make him think over-possessive and primal things about Squall that Ifrit often thought about Shiva. The Guardians were divine beings of power, beholders of the elements, and Ice and Fire at the best of times sought to overcome the other. Shiva, and particularly Ifrit, responded to this in a very primal way. This had caused some...compromising situations that Seifer had been forced to quickly avert. He knew it would be easy for Squall and himself to just let the Guardians take over during battle. The power increase would be astounding, but in return, the lack of control could cause dire consequences. Seifer remembered how angry he'd been at Squall the last time they had fought on these cliffs. Ifrit had taken advantage of that anger and momentarily wrestled control. Squall, or Shiva, he was unsure, had been ferociously knocked to the floor with a fire spell. He remembered Ifrit's bloodcurdling smile on his own lips as he had raised Hyperion in the air. They were both marked that day, neither by their own doing. He quelled that anger now slightly, the memory forcing caution as he remembered the consequences.
He didn't want to dominate anyone, he just wanted Squall to listen to him about this. Ifrit howled in response, but remained passive. For now at least.
Seifer finally spotted his target. Squall's hair was already plastered against his forehead from the rain, but he stood there, waiting patiently.
"Squall, are you sure you want to do this?"
Squall didn't reply, his eyes an inhuman blue. Shiva and Squall were now in perfect sync.
And it began.