Disclaimer: belongs to the company that owns it. Guess which company that is .-
Warning: mild nudity, language, lack of direction on the author's part :(
The cat, which I can't quite bring myself to refer to as 'Griever', lies purring contentedly on top of my chest, rising and falling with each breath I take. My eyes are closed, though if I bothered to open them I would be met with the gorgeous sight of the cat's ass being shoved in my face in its endeavor for more attention. Pushy bastard.
I had called Irvine earlier to arrange the meeting at the Beach House, and he said he would see to the technical details. Technical detail number one being, of course, to hide the photo albums from Selphie before she got it into her head to share Squall's life story with him. That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but a person can only take so much reminiscing before getting the urge to go psychotic.
As I scratch the base of the cat's tail I think about the journals under my bed. I should probably get around to burning them at some point. I won't, of course. Murphy's Law being what it is, I would destroy them and then get the immediate urge to rifle through them all and relieve past memories, masochistic prick that I am.
I had thrown Squall's story in the box as an afterthought. I meant to read it at some point, preferably at a drunken point, but at the same time I had once promised Squall that I wouldn't read it, and even after all this time, I couldn't just go back on my word. Of course, Squall being in the picture now, the book should probably be returned to him.
With a sigh I pick the cat up and dump him by my side, where he proceeds to glare at me. I stick my tongue out at him, spend a moment lamenting the fact that I'm completely pathetic and that I actually just stuck out my tongue at a cat, and then slide off the bed.
The box is still there, right next to the smaller box of old receipts that I can't bring myself to throw away. After a moment's contemplation, I bring them both out from under the bed. The heavier, cardboard box dedicated to old notebooks I toss to the side, and then sit there for a moment, holding the plastic shoebox. With a sigh, I pull the lid off, and stare at the bare mementos of memories still stuck in my head. Some of the receipts are for meals, including the one from our first date at Sanks, when we decided that we liked each other more than just friends, and, with the help of a couple of glasses of wine, we went home and tested that theory. There are a couple movie tickets, the receipt from the choker he gave me (which Selphie dug out of the trash, knowing I would want to hang onto it) with the price blacked out, the one from the lion necklace I gave him for his nineteenth birthday, among various other reminders. At the moment, it's not them I'm interested in.
I sift through the receipts until my fingers brush the item I'm looking for. It's a photograph, taken by the camera happy Selphie, of Squall and me. Squall was on the phone with someone, just a mundane business call. Purely in the spirit of being annoying I had drawn him into a hug, wrapping my arms completely around him, and flashed a huge grin at the camera. Squall, whose head was tucked under my chin and who refused to remove the phone from his ear, smiled distractedly towards Selphie just as she pushed the button.
When I moved I had the other pictures of Squall and me put into storage with some of my other junk, but this picture I had to keep. In that one little shot, our relationship had been completely captured, and I couldn't give that up.
With a final glance at Squall's face, I put the picture back in the shoebox and shove the whole thing as far under the bed as it will go. I snort at the note "Things Never to Look at Again – unless dead drunk" that I had scrawled across the brown cardboard while I had actually been heavily inebriated and open up the box.
I frown at not seeing Squall's notebook; I thought I had put it in last. Confused, I dig deeper, tossing out other books left and right. Finally I'm left staring at the last book, and still no sign of Squall's book. Oddly enough, the black sketchbook he had given me with my name embossed on the spine was also missing. Well, that's weird. I can't imagine not packing them, though I suppose it's a possibility. I'll have to ask Selphie later.
The sound of the front door slamming distracts me from the task at hand, and I decide to worry about the small mess later.
After a moment, Squall knocks on the doorframe. I stand and stretch, then walk towards him. He says something to me, about how he's going to change out of his suit real quick, and how he was sorry that he was late. Whatever his words are, they don't matter. What matters is that they come from him. Of course, this isn't Squall, is it? Not with that distant, unfamiliar look in his eyes, or the stiff stance he maintains with most people. No, my Squall isn't here anymore.
God, why do I torture myself like this? I wish I could find something, do something to make him remember. Something to make that look go away…
I manage to answer him without sounding like a complete moron, and he wanders off to do whatever it is he needs to do.
I wander around the apartment, making sure the balcony door is locked, and straighten things at random. There's a picture next to the television of Rinoa and him, a black and white number, with her arms wrapped around him. She's smiling coyly at the camera, and Squall … here, in this picture, this is my Squall. His eyes are filled with vague amusement, the mouth barely turned up at the corners in what some would hardly call a smile. That's what he used to look like when we would talk to each other, and now it seems that only Rinoa can bring it out of him.
I toy with the idea of placing the picture facedown on the shelf, but ultimately I find myself simply straightening it and moving on.
After walking several more circles around the living room furniture, Squall decides to make an appearance. He's not wearing anything fancy, just plain jeans and a white t-shirt.
"I take it you're ready to go?"
He looks down at himself. ". . . ."
"Phft, you look fine. Believe me, you could walk in naked and no one would care." I think about that for a moment. "Scratch that. Selphie would be thrilled. Now that we've got that out of the way, are you ready to go?"
Squall frowns at me, confused. "How do you…"
"… read your mind?" I smirk at his expression. "Years of practice. I've got the keys."
He follows me out the door, thinking that little tidbit over. Admittedly, it used to piss me off when he would do those little monologues of his. After I bothered to learn his expressions, it pissed him off that I knew what he was 'saying'. A useful talent, really, but not something I'm willing to lose my dick over.
I bow him out of the dorm and lock the door behind us. It's warm today, just another aspect of this volatile weather we've been having lately. Looking at Squall's outfit, it would seem he has the right idea. Whatever. If it gets hot enough I can just take my shirt off.
I watch him as he gets into the car, the way his hair falls over his face as he twists in his seat to buckle his seat belt. His hair is exactly the same as it was three years ago. Appearance wise, nothing is different. He settles back into the seat, staring out the windshield with hooded eyes.
As I back out of the parking space, I wonder idly how often Squall drives. Then I have to wonder if he's improved at all. Not that Squall was ever a bad driver – quite the opposite. He simply wasn't a slow one. He took all of the driving courses the academy offered, and was damn helpful when it came down to getting away from a mission quickly, but I can't even count how many times I had been left puking after his typical abrupt stop, which left any occupants of the vehicle reeling with mild whiplash. I felt bad the other day when he threw up after eating at Sanks, but on the other hand I also considered it a form of payback, several years in the coming. A karma type of thing, if you will. However, I will admit that his knowledge improved my own skills quite a bit, as he taught me the finer points of driving. When combined with the fact that I acknowledge and follow the speed limit (unlike a certain brunette I know), I consider myself a damn good driver.
I'm only mildly surprised when he casts a slight glare at the speedometer and huffs. "Why do you go so slow?"
I smirk at him without taking my eyes off of the road. "To piss you off."
A moment of silence follows that. Then, "why?"
"'Why' what? Why would I want to piss you off?" I see him nod out of the corner of my eye. I shrug. "It's fun. 'Sides, s'not like I have anything better to do."
Ah, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. God, I love this man.
"Oh, that's helpful. What, you worried about offending someone or something?" He glances at me, somewhat bemused. I huff. "Please, that's nothing special. We're going to a new place, meeting people who used to know you. Obviously you'd be nervous. But you can't offend Irvine or Selph. Don't worry about it."
He stares at me a moment longer, then sighs and leans back in his seat, eyes closed. All right, cue me shutting the hell up.
He doesn't say another word until I turn into the long driveway. After looking around for a moment he glances at me, confused. "This is it?"
"That it is."
"But…" His eyebrows scrunch together in thought, taking his scar with them.
"But what, Squally-boy?"
"Don't call me that, prick," he snaps automatically, then freezes with his eyes wide open. I brake, and look at him, surprised. "Um…," he states brilliantly.
"Damn, I haven't heard that in a while." That used to be his standard response whenever I would call him something, and in the exact same tone. Phft, of course he would remember that.
"I don't know why I said that." His gaze lingers on the dashboard; he seems discomfited. I decide I might as well change the subject, filing this away for later.
"What were you going to say?"
It takes him a minute to catch on. "I was going to mention that this is only a few miles from the dorm."
"Heh, can't get anything past you."
"Well, yeah, but …" he growls, frustrated. "You've been living here this whole time? How is it possible that we never ran into each other?"
Great minds must think alike. I've been wondering that myself. "I have no idea."
He grunts some noncommittal answer, which I translate to 'conversation's over.' The rest of the drive up the lengthy driveway seems short. Of course, the appearance of Selphie at the door doesn't help much. It's short in the way that the walk from his cell to the chair is short to a condemned man.
Selphie runs towards the hapless brunette as he exits the car, squealing his name at a note the dog might be able to understand. I laugh at his expression as she throws her arms around him and damn near lifts him off the ground in a hug that Laguna would have been proud of.
"Squall! It's so good to see you. Oh, I hope you like chicken, because I made lots of it. And pie! Dinner isn't dinner without pie. Oh, honey, I've missed you so much!" She smiles up at him affectionately. He manages a weak smile, which she barely notices as she drags him into the house. I follow along at a more human pace, languidly absorbing whatever it is she's blathering on about. "Of course, I'm Selphie. Oh, that's so weird! To be introducing myself to you again, after all these years. Right, you met Irvine … Irvine! Get your lazy butt out here! Anyway, dinner's on the table. I figured you would be here earlier, but it's still nice and warm. If you want anything, just ask. All right, you sit here. I'll be right back. …Irvine! Ooh, that man. Hold on."
And she's off again. Squall looks at me from his seat, bewildered. I sit in the chair closest to him and smirk. "That's Selphie for ya. We like to think she powers Balamb's electric grid."
He 'ahs', and then finds some spot on the table and stares at it pointedly as if it were the most interesting thing in the room. Well, guess that conversation's over.
It's not too much longer before Selphie finds Irvine and forces him into the seat next to me. He grins at us, entirely undisturbed, and even manages to engage Squall in some conversation or another as Selphie sets the food on the table. I have to laugh when I see the main course – I've been eating way too much chicken lately. Selph's Glare of Death puts an end to my mild amusement quickly.
Dinner goes quite smoothly, considering. Squall doesn't say much, spending most of his time tuning in and out the general conversation at hand while scooping out the place. Every so often he replies to some question that gets tossed in his general direction, but nothing big. It's mostly small talk, which I'm thankful for. Unfortunately, given the looks Selphie keeps throwing at Squall, we'll be having a nice long discussion later.
Selphie, charming hostess that she is, runs off with Squall immediately after dinner, leaving my fine self and Irvine to do the dishes. I should have known better, considering. By the time we had the dishes washed and put away, Selphie had managed to get Squall settled in the living room, stacks of photo albums covering every inch of the table in front of them.
Irvine winces at my glare, and mutters some excuse or another for not having disposed of the photographs. Not that it really matters now.
Selphie smiles brightly at me as I plop on the couch across from her, and immediately engages me in a trip down memory lane. "See, Seifer? This is us at the ocean right after we first met. Remember?"
Yeah, I remembered. I remember Selphie somehow managing to pin me underwater, and how after I managed to trick Squall into going out with me, he would just have to bring it up whenever I got too arrogant for his taste. However, it is kind of nice to see shirtless photos of Squall, even if he is glaring at the camera.
Irvine sits next to me on the couch, and hands me a beer. He offers one to Squall, who turns it down. In the spirit of figuring I won't be able to get through the next hour or so without alcohol in my system, I graciously take the drink meant for Squall.
The first time I met Selphie, a few things stood out quite clearly. First was the fact that she looked too innocent to be a mercenary. Second was that she had entirely too much energy. Third was the fact that she seemed to have a camera permanently attached to her hand. Looking at the albums in front of me, I see now why I should have thrown the damned thing out of a helicopter long ago.
The first album has pictures of the four of us on vacation, mostly at the ocean, though a few of the pictures are of other such fun activities. There's a small section on our rock-climbing trip. Irvine's brilliant suggestion. I don't know what the hell happened, but my equipment malfunctioned, and I fell fifteen feet to the ground. In fact, looking at these pictures, it occurs to me that I've nearly died on just about all of our 'fun little outings'. It also occurs to me that Selphie and Irvine are laughing far too much while explaining the events to Squall.
"Alright, that's enough. Don't you have anything else we can look at?"
Selphie pokes her tongue out at me as she closes the vacation album and pulls out a larger, blue one. This one is full of pictures of us in the military. Squall leans forward when he realizes this and peers intently at a picture of him in his uniform standing in front of a helicopter. As usual, he's giving the camera his best poker face.
"When was this?"
Selphie shrugs. "Right after we were assigned our basic duties. You had just gotten your flying license."
"I was a pilot?"
"Eh, among other things. You just preferred being in the air. You weren't the best pilot, but you were the best killer they had, so they pretty much let you do what you want."
Squall looks mildly confused by that. "I was the best . . .?"
"Mercenary? Yeah. Actually, we were the top four, so they put us in a special group, and we spent about half of our time training others. You disappeared on a training mission."
Irvine decided to speak up. "Which was a shame. You were in love with your job."
"I was in love with killing people?" His cold tone made the three of us glance up at him. Mentally I cuss out Irvine. Squall doesn't remember being in the military at all, and it can't be easy discovering you were a famed murderer.
"Well, you were good at it." Irvine adds, lamely.
"Alright, moving along …" Selphie cuts in, flipping through the pages. She stops at a certain page, and then grins as only Selphie can. She spins the album around and points to a picture, a picture I remember oh so well.
The four of us had been on leave at the time. Irvine and Selphie had just decided they only wanted each other, and felt the need to celebrate the fact. They had, in not so subtle terms, informed Squall and I that they didn't want us along for the ride that night. Being the jackass that I am, I agreed to leave them alone only if Squall would give me a piggyback ride across the street. What can I say? I just wanted to touch him without it being 'weird'. Selphie turned her full charm on the brunette, and he finally agreed, albeit reluctantly. Of course, Selphie had her camera on hand, and somehow it found its way into this album.
Squall stares at it, wide-eyed, as Selphie tells him the story, with multiple embellishments. I watch his face as he listens to her, and then watch his eyes lose focus as he wanders into his own head and completely forgets to pay attention to Selphie. The girl doesn't seem to notice, and chatters on.
Without warning, Squall cuts her off and addresses me. "Seifer, what did we do after that?"
I stare at him, knowing full well what we did after that. I'm not about to tell Squall, though. "Why do you ask?"
"I remember carrying you. I dropped you on your ass once we had crossed the street." Irvine snort laughs at this, remembering. "They left, and we went … somewhere. It seems important."
Damn his fucking memory. "Not really. We went to Sanks, because they wanted to go to Kerr's, and we weren't allowed to follow them."
And after Sanks we went home and fucked for the first time. Wasn't that fun? Of course, it's not like I can tell Squall that. Nor can I tell him about that awkward moment when we both figured on topping the other, and neither of us wanted to be on the receiving end. Never was a game of 'rock, paper, scissors' so crucial. Lucky for me, Squall lost, and decided it wasn't so bad on bottom.
He gives me an odd look, obviously not buying my version of the truth. Fortunately, Squall knows when to leave well enough alone.
"Hey, Squall. Out of curiosity, how did you know your name?"
I sigh at Irvine's question. "Ever heard of dog tags?"
Squall frowns. "Dog tags?"
I raise my eyebrows at him. "You were wearing them when you left land. They had your name on them."
Squall shrugs. "I never saw them. They must have been lost somewhere." He turns to Irvine. "I remember some things, like my name and birthday, as well as other dates that mean nothing to me."
Squall closes his eyes in thought. "December twenty-second, July eighteenth, and May twenty-third, among others."
I snort. "Figures."
"While we were … friends, you never once could remember my birthday. December twenty-second. May twenty-third was the day you were promoted as a mercenary."
"And July eighteenth?"
"I don't know." Which is bullshit. Of course he would remember my birthday and our anniversary after forgetting everything else.
There's a moment of silence before Squall changes the topic. "No offense, but I want to go to the ocean."
Selphie, more than used to Squall's changing whims, closes the book and nods. "Take Seifer with you. Irvine and I need to turn in early. Oh, and take these albums when you leave. Maybe you'll remember something. Say goodbye on your way out!" And she gives Squall a hug that damn near broke his back.
Next thing I know, Irvine is shoving me out the back door with an obvious wink. Squall is pushed out after me, leaving the two of us to stare, bemused, as the girl closes and locks the glass door, smiling and waving at us as she does so.
"Selphie is …"
"Yeah, I know."
I don't remember this place at all, though I'm sure I've been here in the past. Seifer's strange comment from when I first met him runs through my head. I thought it was odd why he would ask me if I had been to the ocean lately. I look around the shore, recognizing various features from Seifer's sketches.
I wait for a wave to crawl over the sand before bending down and running my finger through the shallow water. It's cold, but not freezing. It will probably feel good on a day like this. I look over at Seifer, who jerks his head off to the side, but not quick enough for me to be able to tell he was looking at me. The man pisses me off to no certain degree. I know he holds the key to my past, corny as that sounds. He could probably tell me what all these meaningless dates and numbers in my head mean, and I know there was more to that night than just an overpriced dinner at Sanks.
Whatever. He'll tell me when he's ready.
I pull my t-shirt off and fold it loosely before dropping it onto a pile of soft sand next to me. My boots and socks follow, and I spent a moment just wiggling my toes in the sand. It feels good. I remove my watch and drop it on top of the small pile of clothes.
"Um, Squall? What're you doing?"
"I don't want my clothes to get wet."
I undo my belts and then my pants, and remove it all. My boxers follow. I stretch, raising my arms as high as they'll go, before stepping into the ocean.
It's warmer than I thought it would be, and there's just something refreshing about swimming naked that I never would have imagined. I look back towards the shore, where Seifer seems to be making an effort not to look at me. For some reason he's holding my clothes in his lap.
"Um, you go on. I'll hold your stuff for you. So it doesn't get dirty." And then he mutters something I can't hear as he slaps his forehead. Whatever.
I swim out a little ways into the water, surprised at how perfect it feels. I dive under, allowing the water to saturate my hair. After a few moments, I expel the air from my lungs, and sink down to the sandy bottom of the ocean, and then carefully open my eyes. It's dark around me, but if I look up I can see the sun, and it's beautiful. I sit on the floor until my lungs threaten mutiny. I come up for air, and then go back under. It's difficult to stay down in the water. I throw my arms out to my sides and balance myself.
Christ, how can I not have known about this? I could stay down here forever. I force even more air from my lungs, and watch the bubbles float upwards. I feel like I'm finally home.
I don't know how long the idiot plays his little asphyxiation games, but it's long enough for me to will away my obvious erection. Fuck. I mean, who the Hell just strips down in front of someone they barely know? Because, truth be told, even if I know everything about him, the man knows next to nothing about me.
I will say one thing – his body hasn't changed a bit. It just brings back all those memories of the times where we fucked each other on this very beach. Moron.
I stare peevishly at the spots where he goes underwater, willing him to hurry up and get his ass out. And finally, he does.
He must have swum underwater, as he surfaces much nearer to the shore then when he dove under. He stands up, and tosses his head back at the same time to get his hair away from his face. Seeing him there, naked, lithe body arched back like that, long fingers pulling his hair back, he's beautiful.
I stand quickly and drop his clothes on the sand, wanting to get away before he can see my current hard on. It's all I can do not to fuck him right here, whether he knows me or not. At this point, I don't care.
I want him to be mine.
B.S.: Sorry about the wait, guys. I blame personal problems, lack of a muse, and laziness in general. This chapter didn't do quite what I wanted to do, and I may revise it later. However, what I have works, especially considering the crap I had to go through t find a computer to get this posted. Meh.
Also, this story does actually get angsty later. Maybe not in the next chapter or the following one, but it's not exactly a fairy tale, nor will it have a fairy tale ending. There, I warned you. Now you can't get mad at me :P