A Story About Tears
by Clara

"Do you ever feel like crying?"

"..What?"

"You know, after all this, just...crying."

There was a bark of laughter. "Squall? Cry? The boy was born without tear ducts, I know this for a fact."

"Oh yeah?" Rinoa looked between miffed and interested, annoyed that someone knew more about Squall than her, and curious about a life she never lived. "And what's your basis to this 'fact'?"

Seifer grinned, pleased that all eyes were on him. He leaned back, folding his hands behind his head. "We-ell, way back when, when we were little kiddies, I found this kitten hidin' in the tree. This was a feral little beastie, all black with bright green eyes and a killer bite. Cute thing, too. I gave him to Squall, 'cause I knew how he had a penchant for fuzzy things. I mean, just last week he made me buy these black fuzzy handcuffs..."

"Seifer."

"Ahem. Anyway, him and Squall formed this weird little bond. No one else was allowed to touch the cat, 'cept me 'cause I saved it and everything, but the beastie would follow Squall around every where and sleep curled up on his chest. He even had a name and everything, but I can't remember it for the life of me."

The others nodded, watching Seifer with eager expressions on their faces. Memories were hard come by in this group, so when one remembered something all the rest would listen eagerly in hopes of restoring that same recollection.

"So one day I come back from the beach after looking for a starfish and Squall comes running up to me, lookin' pretty freaked out. Somehow I got from his stutterin' that something happened to his precious beastie, so I gathered up all you guys and started this search thing. I ended up finding him curled up behind a rock, pretty much completely destroyed." Selphie squeaked, putting a hand to her mouth. Immediately Irvine's arm was around her shoulders, and she was too distracted to push it off. "None of you guys got to see him, 'cause when I took him to Matron she made sure to send all of you guys outside. But it was terrible. The cat's stomach was ripped open and his intestines were floppin' about, and one of his eyes was gouged out. We think the beastie took on a wolfhound or something."

Again Selphie squeaked, but this time she turned to press her face against Irvine's shoulder. The table got an eerie, somber feeling for a moment, and Seifer felt a tinge of amusement. Here was a group of hardcore killers that saved the world—looking close to tears because of a story about a kitten. The slight quirk to his lips told Seifer that Squall was thinking something along the same lines.

"I go outside 'cause Matron wouldn't let me stay and find you guys, huddled in a tight little circle. Zell and Selphie were sobbing uncontrollably, and Irvine was kind of like, hiccup crying. Hell, even I was bawling my little eyes out, not something I'm proud to admit. When I got to Squall, though, he was kind of just, staring at the ocean and hyperventilating slightly. But he didn't shed a tear. Not one hynedamned tear." He dwindled off there, looking smug. The rest—Quistis, Selphie, Rinoa, Irvine and Zell—were looking at him with fascinated expression. Squall snorted quietly.

"Well, on that depressing note, I'm going to get going." Irvine pushed himself up, shaking his head slightly. Soon after, everyone else cleared the table until it was just Seifer and Squall, one still looking smug and the other amused and annoyed.

They looked at each other for a long moment, Seifer's grin widening with every second that passed. Finally, Squall shook his head.

"You're a lying piece of shit."

At this Seifer laughed. "Liar? Me? I'm offended, Leonhart."

"...There was no cat."

"You doubt me?" Seifer leaned forward, tapping the slender boy's forehead with one, long finger. "I think you have a selective memory. You know, blocking out the bits you'd like to forget."

Squall sighed and stood. "Whatever. I'll see you later, Almasy."

And then it was just Seifer, leaning against the table and looking out the window with a wistful, pleased look on his face. He didn't even look up when someone took the seat across from him, were Squall had previously been sitting.

"Hi, Matron. Didn't know you were here," he said after a moment, turning to give the woman a slightly guarded smile. She smiled back, folding her hands atop the surface.

"Good evening, my dear. How are you?"

"Good." He bit his lip, a bad habit he had never been able to escape. She smiled softly at him.

"I happened to overhear you telling the others about Killer..."

Seifer's eyes lit up. "Killer! That was it. I knew it would have a dumb name like that. He still alive?"

Matron nodded, still smiling. "Still alive, still getting into too much trouble for his own good, just like you boys. He hasn't been the same since Squall left, though, the poor little animal. He was also a bit...upset at my long absence, as you could imagine."

Seifer nodded, resting his chin on his hands. A smile was creeping back on his lips, and his eyes were getting a faraway look to them. Finally, he stood up himself. "I hate to cut this meeting short, but I've got an early class tomorrow. I'll see you later, Matron." And then he walked off, shoes clicking against the linoleum.

Matron watched him walk away, then took a deep breath. There were tears standing in her eyes, wasted salt water that longed for days long passed.

"Takes after his fathers, that wild cat."

.end