The Seventh Month

Meetings & Regret

I feel a drip of water run down the back of my neck as I stand at the front of the board room. My quick shower was so refreshing that it turned into a rather long shower. It almost felt as if I could wash away my problems with that one shower. Unfortunately I then had to throw my uniform on and nearly run down the hall to be here early. So in reality the shower just added to my problems. Evil shower.

I stare absently at the clock on the wall. All the SeeDs I requested are here, except one. He's technically not late yet, but I prefer everyone to be here at least 5 minutes in advance. He has four minutes to arrive. I will not make concessions for the new commander, if he is late I will have to chastise him. I really hope he gets here soon. I don't want to look like a fool for promoting him without consulting the others.

I mentally go through various gunblade moves in my head to stop the urge I have to pace. I'm too tense and I don't like it. For once there is nobody of higher authority to get orders from, no financial backer to make my mind up for me. Although technically there is Kiros and the country of Esthar, but I would be in this position regardless. I could have prevented this, I know it, but now I have to wonder how I will correct this. I examine the faces of each person in the room. None of them seem confident in the evidence they have discovered. My only hope lays in the man who isn't here yet and probably won't have anything new for me anyway.

Someone's watch beeps signaling the hour. I blow out air and my bangs float upwards for a moment. Before they have a chance to settle in my eyes again, the board room door bursts open and in strides my oh so punctual commander.

He's dressed in his uniform like earlier but is also carrying a thick folder. I send a questioning glance his way. He shrugs back at me and takes the empty seat opposite mine at the other end of the table. I realize now that the room has gone completely silent. Waiting for me to chastise Seifer perhaps, waiting for me to begin, or anticipating the moment when I will lose my composure and snap. Sorry folks, Seifer did make it on time, and I don't plan on breaking down for a while yet and definitely not in a room full of my peers. So I guess that leaves option two.

"Thank you for coming." A murmur goes through the gathered group. Probably about them not having any other choice but to come. "Before we start on the mission facts I have two announcements to make. The first is a long overdue congratulations. Kinneas, please stand." Irvine looks around nervously before standing tall beside the smiling Selphie. "Without Kinneas' assistance the war would not have been as successful as it was, so it is with great pleasure I am able to award Irvine Kinneas the rank of SeeD. Who placed second highest on the written exam and passed one of the hardest field exams in Garden's existence." There was some slight chuckles at the last remark. The war wasn't hard it was far beyond description. It's a miracle we are all alive. I walk over to Irvine and pin the SeeD insignia onto his lapels. I step back and shake his hand. "Congratulations." I say before I am pulled into a hug by Irvine. I manage to pry myself away and return to the front of the room before the applause dies down.

"I also have another promotion to make. As you know the rank of Commander has been vacant for some time. Many of you have suggested him in the past weeks so it is with pleasure I ask Almasy to rise." Some SeeDs look slightly shocked at the promotion but the general consensus is that it was a wise choice. As I pin on the commander pins to Seifer, applause once again fills the room.

"Now, down to the reason we are gathered today. By now you should be aware that President Laguna Loire was kidnapped from our care." Since no startled noises or shocked expressions circulate the room I can safely assume that B-Gardens network system for rumours is still functioning at full force. "We have accepted the mission to find Esthar's President and destroy those involved in the abduction. We will now start going through what we know and have discovered since the time of the abduction. Will start with the crime scene, who's representing them?" I ask as I move to my chair. Someone to my left is about to rise when Seifer stands abruptly and speaks over the more timid SeeD I had called on.

"Before he begins" Seifer shot a look at the poor Crime Scene SeeD that quickly retakes his seat. "I have a few things I'd like to share." I look at Seifer while trying to figure out what he is talking about it. This really isn't the best time for show and tell. Although - Mind out of the gutter Squall.

"As you know I spent some time under the command of the last sorceress. What you don't know is that she planned much more than what we believed." He pauses to hand out papers that were in his thick file folder. As I look at the numerous packages of information I wonder briefly when he had time to do all this and then I wonder why I'm wondering about that when I should be wondering about how he knew all of this information. I dismiss the random workings of my mind and focus once again on Seifer.

"Under the influence of the sorceress I did horrible things, most not known, not even by myself. When I heard the description of the kidnappers' crest it triggered a memory. I did some research and that triggered the rest of my involvement in this group, The Cross Snake Force. One of the sorceress' objectives was to take over Esthar. That would have been difficult even for someone as powerful as her. Esthar was ruled by the man who had defeated Adel, and although they were not open to the world they still were a powerful force. So, she asked me to put together a special operations unit for her. It would be comprised of elite Galbadian soldiers and Winhillian Extremists. Galbadia and Esthar had never gotten along. That dispute started long before Galbadia fought Esthar under Adel's control. Winhill is more xenophobic than Esthar and never did accept Laguna and blamed him for the pain and death of one of their beloved residents. So there were some who would do anything to get revenge. With the Galbadian training and the Winhillian attitude they would be the perfect force.

"If you look at your package I outlined their strengths and weaknesses as I could remember them being, a list of names of prominent members of the Force and you will also see a map of where their training facility was located during the war-"

"Hey! That's the Missile Base. I thought I blew it to smithereens." Selphie interrupts making blowing up motions with her hands.

"Uh, you did. But there is a whole sub level that remained intact and was soon employed by the Cross Snake Force. They've probably redone security and layouts since I was there but I did include what I could remember. They would have had no reason to move their operations base, so if President Loire is being held anywhere it's there."

He sits down and silence fills the room. The SeeDs shuffled their papers as they thought about all they were told. Foremost in their mind is probably why is their present commander the enemies former one? That thought circulates in my head for several heartbeats before I realize I have no regrets. If it weren't for Seifer I'd have no leads on the location of the President or on the member of the group. Was he the one that compiled that group? Yes, but anybody else could have done the same. He was not himself during the war. I have forgiven him for torturing me so I can do no less for anything that occurs as repercussions of the war.

As murmurs start to replace the silence I stand from my chair. "Thank you, Commander Almasy for your detailed report. With this information we can start a proper recovery operation. Berkley?"

"Sir?"

"I want you and your team to find the SeeDs closest to the missile base and do a recon. I don't care what mission they are on or if they are on vacation. This takes priority. Understood?"

"Yes Sir!"

Valentine?"

"Take Commander Almasy's list of Cross Snake Force members and make it complete. I want all past, present, and potential future members listed with their present locations on my desk ASAP."

"Understood Sir!"

I take a breath to compose myself before continuing. There is a tangible enemy within my sights now and I'm excited to get moving. "Everyone else, continue on with your tasks using the updated information and I want all SeeDs on standby."

"Yes Sir." Is chorused around the room. Yet strangely, nobody seems in a hurry to leave. I'll have to fix that if I'm going to be able to talk with Seifer. My friends look at me curiously wanting to know if I'd like to talk to them privately afterwards. I have no reason to right now so I dismiss them with a nod of gratitude. They silently stand and head towards the exit. I notice the other SeeDs have still not caught on. I'm not going to say anymore at least not to them. Why won't they leave so I can get on with things? I take another breath to relax my nerves.

"Alright, you have your new assignments enough wasting time. Dismissed." With a swipe of my hand I turn from the group of SeeDs and take a minute for the information to settle. I turn and start gathering up papers while watching the SeeDs prepare to leave.

They quickly filtered out of the office to carry on with assigned tasks. Not surprisingly many threw glances to their newly appointed commander. Everyone knows that Seifer was brainwashed during the war but to know that he helped to set up this organization must still sting. Hell I was tempted for a second to throttle him. Setting up something like that, against Esthar.....

I look over to Seifer who hasn't moved since finishing his speech. As he notices my gaze on him he stands from his chair with a sigh. "I guess once this is done you won't want anything to do with me?" He questions as he stares at the grain of the table.

How ruthless does he think I am. Crushing his dream before it can even get started. "No Seifer, I'm not going to get rid of you." I state trying to catch his eye.

"Thanks, I suppose." He pauses a moment waiting to see if I do anything. I don't. He picks up the commander pins in front of him. "Here. Find someone more worthy to lead your SeeD's Squall. We should have known it wouldn't have worked."

He tosses me the pins that I easily catch in my right hand. "No." I state tossing them back. Startled he only manages to grab a hold of one. The other bounces off his hand to clatter onto the table. We both follow its path until it lands by the papers Seifer had showed us earlier.

"Aren't you going to do anything?!" He questions not understanding why I haven't gotten angry at him. "I fucking helped set up the kidnapping of your father and you just stand there like I've done nothing more than cut in line at the lunch rush." He moves directly in front of me. I have to tilt my head up slightly to look him in the eye. "Please Squall, Yell. Punch. Fight. Anything!"

Finally I've had enough with everything. Enough with his pity me routine. Enough of the sorceress war always coming back to haunt me. And enough of this stupid thing I think I feel for the bastard in front of me when I should be worried about my dad. I raise my hand and strike him across the face. His head turns as the sound of the impact resonates off the walls. He looks back at me with his jade eyes muted and the imprint of my hand turning red against his skin.

"Did you just... slap me?" He asks slightly stunned as he brings a hand up to feel the most likely stinging skin. I ignore his question. A punch would have felt much better, but him sprawled out cold on the floor wouldn't have helped me get the point across.

"Stop Pitying yourself. I said I don't hold you responsible for the war. I mean that." He is about to interrupt but I hold up a hand to his lips. "No buts. This was just another thing you were forced to do. I need you Seifer... I need you to help find these bastards hide out. I need you to organize the SeeD's. And..." My eyes shift nervously from his face for a moment before I take a deep breath. "And I need you for me." I use the hand I still have on his lips to pull his head closer to my level and lean in to kiss him. It takes him a moment to respond and I pull back when I feel his arms start to wrap around me.

"What is it?" He asks somewhat breathlessly.

"This can't interfere with getting my father back. I don't know what this is really but I... I like how it feels when you kiss me... I don't know what's going to hap-"

"Stop." He put a finger on my lips to stop my ramblings. "Has anyone told you that you worry way too much?" I try to glare at him but find it hard to keep up as he looks back at me with a smile. "Listen. I won't do anything more to further harm the ones you love... but, I want to be with you... and ravish you and cherish you and kiss you and fu-"

"I get the picture. Why do you have to be so vulgar?" I move closer to him so that we are completely touching and slide myself against him.

"Just the way I am." He gasps out as my hands roam over his body. "Why do you have to be such a tease?"

"Cause some people can't take a hint." I barely finish the sentence before Seifer's arms wrap around me pulling me even closer to him as he kisses me. I return his affections eagerly and soon found myself half sitting on the board room table. His mouth traveled to my neck where he spent several moments biting, kissing and licking. I'm sure it would leave a mark but I wasn't too concerned. In fact I didn't give a damn who saw at the moment. The pleasure it was bringing was worth any embarrassment. Besides let Seifer have his fun. He always was obsessed with marking me, making me his own. This is one time I certainly won't complain. I had finally moved my hands from tangling in his golden hair to slowly undoing the buttons of his tunic. His hands weren't idol either, they were slowly undoing my own buttons.

"I'm so glad your wearing this... I hate those damn belts..." He mumbles into my neck as he undoes my pants. I was completely lost to the moment that I didn't even think about the unlocked door, or the fairly public area in which Seifer and I were slowly stripping each other in. That was until I heard voices outside the door.

Seifer was once again kissing me passionately and even as I moaned into his mouth I was pushing him away.

"What..?" Seifer's expression was hazy with lust as I started to quickly do up my pants.. again. "Why'd...?"

He looked sort of cute all confused and turned on. I wanted to grab him once again and rub my hands through his already mused hair. But the voices were getting louder and it was still pretty clear what we had been doing. "Voices..." I point to the doors and then to his outfit.

After looking down to see that his tunic was half off him he shrugged back into and did it up. He was just on the last button as the doors sprang open. I made sure my focus was anywhere but at the newcomers and definitely not at Seifer as he tried to straighten out his hair.

"Headmaster. Commander. I didn't expect to see you both here." Xu's voice rang across the room to me. I took this as my cue to look up from the papers I had been pretending to read. I waved off her salute and stood.

"Commander Almasy and myself were just going over a few of the files and plans that might be made." She studied me and Seifer as if trying to see if I was being truthful. We were still breathing a bit hard but hopefully she thought it was because we were getting into a fight. And if the hand shape bruise that was emerging on Seifer's face was any indication she would think of nothing else.

"Alright. Are you finished in here or would you like me to bring my briefing to a classroom, sir?" It was then that I noticed the group of low level SeeDs behind her... I really hoped that none of them were observant enough to notice the flushed faces of myself and Seifer.

"No, we can finish in my office." I gathered all my papers and poked Seifer as I passed to get him to do the same. He quickly threw his files in the folder he had brought with him and followed me out. As I passed Xu her eyes followed me, seeming to examine me once again. I shrug it off and notice that Seifer's smirk is securely in place and daring anyone to ask about the hand mark on his face or the hickey on my neck... wait a sec. Shoot!

~~~~Author's Notes~~~~

1000 apologies to all the people who are out there still reading this story. I was away from the internet for a really really long time. Then I didn't like how the chapter came across at all so I decided to stick to Squall's POV. Why did I ever want to do it in Zell's is beyond me. So when I went to do it in Squall's he was being a pain and wouldn't let me in his head... actually he did but it isn't the Squall I wanted... I got whining Squall, and love sick Squall, and evil Squall, I swear I didn't even know there were that many Squalls. I also got a jealous Squall... why he was jealous of Irvine is beyond me... maybe I shouldn't have had Seifer give Irvine that congratulatory kiss on the middle of the boardroom table...lol just kidding.

I hope this chapter flows with rest of the story since it was so long between chapters I hope the style and character development stayed the same. I also hope this chapter reads smoothly since I wrote it sporadically and jumping from spot to spot. I sure hope for a lot don't I?

On a side note. Did anyone notice that at the beginning of the chapter Squall's hair was wet and dripping and four or five minutes later his bangs are dry enough to blow off his face and float for a bit... oopps. Also I had some weird tenses going on... I somehow started with the present tense (which is just awful to write in) and kept switching to past.... I think I fixed major mistakes.