The Epilogue is up at last. With this, Melancholy Requiem is finally finished.
Now that I've finished this, I'm going to write another Seifer/Squall story fairly soon, and I would appreciate it if you were to read my next story as well. :) I feel very happy having finished this story and I can't wait to tackle another project.
The ending of this story might be disappointing to some and satisfying to others. For those who were hoping for a different ending.. I am sorry, but this is the way the story had to end in order to get Squall where I wanted him to be.
Thank you for staying with me until now and please consider dropping a final review after reading this Epilogue. I'd appreciate it.
by Cosina Veloce
The door fell shut behind Squall with a quiet click, and Squall searched for the light switch in the darkness, illuminating the neat, sterile living room. Letting his eyes trail from one object to the next inside this depressing room, Squall slowly walked into its center, sitting down on the couch carefully. Taking in the so very familiar room, Squall noticed that he saw his home with new eyes, saw his life at Balamb in a completely different light, like someone had removed the eye patches he'd been born with to show him how the real world was. Or, to show him that there was more than one world. He felt estranged amidst the room he'd been living in for eighteen long, but painfully uneventful years.
His eyes fell on a clock in a corner of the room, showing 3 o'clock in the morning. Even though Squall had taken a bullet train, the train ride had still taken 5 long hours. Hours on which he'd done nothing but stare out of the window, seeing nature change. Snow melted away until he couldn't see even a trace of it anymore, trees got higher and thinner, resembling the ones commonly found in Balamb more and more with each passing minute. He had witnessed his old life getting closer and closer, and Squall had felt his old self returning. Stoic. Cold. Emotionless.
He thought of Seifer. He thought that right about now, Seifer was probably victorious, a whole new life ahead of him. Squall was painfully tired, but wanted to read Seifer's message before he fell asleep. He hadn't read it on the train. He had figured if he read Seifer's message at home, there was at least something he could look forward to. Something positive and worthwhile 'waiting' for him at home, where everything else would be as plain as it had always been. Squall sat there for a long while, the little white piece of paper clutched tightly in his fist, before he eventually unfolded it to read what Seifer had written him these 5 hours ago.
In Seifer's surprisingly neat (almost like a girl's, Squall thought), spidery handwriting were 6 lines, written in dark blue.
Spending time with you was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
I hope we'll see each other again.
Squall closed his eyes, drawing shaky breaths. With a strange feeling inside his throat which felt like it intented to choke him, he clumsily stood up and walked to his bedroom, tottering and staggering like a drunk as he tried to reach the room in which he wanted to drown himself into oblivion.
Upon reaching his room and falling onto the bed, Squall fell asleep almost immediately. He didn't dream that night.
When Squall entered the kitchen the next morning, he was greeted by a scream that echoed sharply in his ears and was almost knocked flat on his back as his mother hugged him, yelling into his ears just how much she'd missed him. Squall made a face, but let his mother do as she pleased, sighing in relief when Raine finally let go.
"I was so worried about you, Squall," Raine looked at her son with deep, genuine feelings displayed on her pretty face. "I know I shouldn't be, you're already 18, but it's the first time you ever spent so many days alone somewhere.. I'm really glad you're back, Squall."
Squall just looked at her and nodded.
Raine still looked so very worried. "How was it..?"
He shrugged. "Fine."
His eyes left Raine and he looked over at the kitchen table where Ellone was sitting, a magazine of some sort in her hands and talking animatedly on the phone. Squall noticed that her shirt was tight and revealing, and that she repeatedly checked her manicured fingers as she laughed and giggled with, as Squall assumed, one of her girlfriends. She hadn't even noticed that her brother had come back after not having been home for three days.
Raine, who had followed Squall's eyes, noticed the situation. "Ellone!" she called, which caused Ellone to whisper something into the phone, and then look up.
"Yeah, mom?" she asked nonchalantly.
"Your brother is home."
"Oh, hi, Squall," Ellone greeted brightly. "Didn't see you there. How you been?" She devoted her attention back to the phone and turned her body away from her relatives. "So, like I was saying, he was totally checking me out and..."
"Hello, Ell," Squall said quietly.
Raine turned back to her son. "So, how did you like Deling?"
"It's a great city," Squall said.
Raine raised an eyebrow. "Oh really? I'm surprised you like those Galbadians. You know how they dislike us hardworking country-folks." She laughed quietly, a hand before her mouth, and Squall just looked at her, realizing for the first time just how stupid she was. Just how little she knew. Squall, who had experienced the other side of life these past days, found it difficult to relate to his mother that moment, his mother who refused to see anything beyond her town's borders. She probably thought she'd seen the world just because she used to live in Esthar more than 18 years ago, back when she divorced Laguna. For the first time, she really hit home that experience wasn't always about age.
You could live in the same town and do the same things everyday for 20 years, and chances were you knew less about life than a person 15 years your junior who had lived life to its fullest. You're so ignorant, mother. So very ignorant.
"I already packed your school stuff for you today," Raine interrupted her son's thoughts with her annoyingly cheerful, carefree voice. "You've got a Biology test today, did you know?"
"No," Squall answered truthfully. "I'll go to the bathroom and wash myself now," he announced, but Ellone interrupted him and he turned around to her. "Look at this," Ellone said, pointing at the TV, casually putting cookies into her mouth. She had stopped talking to her girlfriend on the phone and was lounging on the kitchen chair. "The news are on."
"Anything interesting?" Raine asked.
"New gang riots in Deling City," Ellone explained. Squall stopped dead in his tracks, whirling around, almost jumping the TV as his eyes glued themselves to their TV set. Both women noticed his unusual behaviour and sent him a strange look.
"That's another reason why I was so worried," Raine started. "Deling and its gang -"
"Shut up, mother!" Squall exclaimed passionately, his eyes never leaving the TV set. A pretty woman was announcing another gang riot with a stern face, talking about two street fighting gangs who had battled each other for money. Squall's blood turned to ice.
"During last night's gang riots in Deling City's most dangerous part, Lower Portway, several corpses of individuals involved in gang activities were discovered this morning. The gang's names are unknown. All or any clues to the whereabouts of the other gang members go to the Deling City Police Department. Valuable clues are handsomely paid. These are the victims, for help of identification:
The face of a handsome man with dark hair and slanty eyes appeared on the screen. A sad smile was playing around his lips.
"Bao Gomer, 26 years old, shot to death. No criminal record."
His face disappeared, and the face of an older man with brown hair and sunken eyes took his place.
"Zink Aers, 45 years old, stabbed to death from various mortal wounds. Ex-convict, long criminal record, including murder."
Ellone yawned somewhere behind Squall, but he paid her no attention. His heart was thundering in his ears, soaking up every second of the TV program and when a handsome voice flashed on the TV, Squall swore his heart skipped a beat, to be enclosed by a crushing, violent hand of stone. Squall felt like he was suffocating, like the entire world was melting away around him, until there was nothing left but him and the face on the TV screen. The face he had seen during the past three days. The face that had said so many smart things. The face he had covered with kisses.
"Seifer Almasy, 19 years young, died from a bullet through his heart. Ex-convict for murder."
"Oh, he's so handsome," Ellone cooed.
Squall felt like vomiting, suffocating and collapsing all at once. Turning to his sister, he yelled, at the top of his lungs: "Shut up, Ellone!" The yell was so loud that Squall's lungs positively hurt, and Ellone looked as though he had slapped her.
Squall clasped his hands to his face and ran out of the door, collapsing on their front lawn, vomiting violently, his whole body shaking with the spasms. As soon as the spasms subsided, he wiped his mouth carelessly, and ran away, distantly hearing his mother's screams behind him, but she was as insignificant as a butterfly against a steel pipe.
Memories were attacking Squall's head almost violently as he ran.
I see you as my equal, Squall.
Seifer's voice sounded hollow inside Squall's head and he shook it, not noticing any of the neighbours he passed, not noticing where he was running to and not caring.
Rinoa and those gangs was all I really had.
You don't have to worry about me, Squall. I'll be fine.
Have you ever thought about killing yourself...?
At this point, Squall let out a frustrated yell.
I don't love you, Squall...
Squall started to sob, gasping for air. His head was starting to spin and his stomach was revolting.
.. but I'm on the path that leads there.
Collapsing in his run, Squall buried his face in his hands, not crying but still feeling like he was suffocating. Squall made himself as small as he could, wrapping his arms around his shaking body. The hot Balambian sun was burning down on him.
When another memory flashed through him, Squall violently, almost as if someone invisible had lifted him, jumped up, his face a mask of aggression and sudden determination. One of Seifer's sentences repeated itself over and over again in his head, like a mantra.
Only when we put our own lives at stake is when we truly feel alive.
Only when we put our own lives at stake is when we truly feel alive.
Only when we put our own lives at stake is when we -
Breaking into a sudden sprint and not stopping once, Squall finally had a destination, a place to be. He didn't look back once, nor left or right, the entire time he was running.
Dina Nibil was chewing on her pen absent-mindedly as she was processing some of the data on her computer, her thoughts travelling back and forth between work and the catastrophic date she'd had with her boyfriend last night. He had accused her of being a workaholic; laughable when she reminded herself how much he liked to throw his heart into work himself. Sometimes, men were just idiots, she decided to herself, checking her watch.
"Wanna go get lunch?" Jianna, one of her co-workers from the next table asked. They were currently the only two people in the office and while they weren't exactly friends, they sometimes ate lunch together when there wasn't much of an alternative. Today, though, Dina wasn't in the mood. She wanted to stay and think how she would straighten her things with her boyfriend – or, if she even wanted to.
"Nah, you go ahead," Dina said, waving her hand dismissively. "I've still got some stuff to do."
Jianna obviously didn't believe an ounce of what she was blabbering, but didn't press the issue. She just shrugged and left the office without another word, leaving Dina all alone in the Balamb Garden Acception and Administration Office. Hastily typing some more data into her computer, Dina spent a good ten minutes on work, before she yawned and stretched her arms over her head, deciding she would take a small break after all. Opening one of her drawers to eat some chocolate she had stored in there, she jerked in surprise when the door crashed open, causing her to sit up at once, gazing at shock at the boy who'd just entered.
He was panting all over, and there was an air of danger about him that caused Dina to almost visibly shrink back into her seat, trying to get some distance between her and the fuming teenager. The boy, so much raw emotions in his eyes, spotted her and bolted towards her, putting both hands on her table, his face now so close to hers that she could see that his eyes were wide and shocked, his clothes in utter disarray. He also smelled very faintly of vomit, something which caused Dina's nose to curl.
Resisting the almost physical pull to back away, she tried to collect herself, summoning the professional self that had gone into hiding somewhere inside her.
With a forced smile, she asked: "What can I help you with?"
"I want to join Garden," the boy said with so much determination in his voice that Dina did not dare say anything for a full minute. Just staring at the pretty boy – because pretty he was, despite his state – she silently contemplated her options. Suddenly, fear gripped her. She was alone in the office and she somehow wasn't so sure this boy wouldn't do anything to her if she refused him entry.
"Um, okay," Dina said, going for the safe route. "That can be arranged. How many years of combat or military training have you had...?"
The boy bit down on his lip. "None."
Dina's eyes widened. "None?" She paused. "In this case..."
"No!" the boy interrupted her sharply and she now saw that he was shaking all over. "I'll do anything if you accept me. I'm 18 years old and I've never had any training, but I know, I just know.." he said passionately, "that this is what I have to do. That this is the real me."
Dina was so perplexed she didn't know what to say. "Um, how about you sit down and we discuss this in peace? There's a chair over there."
The woman sighed in relief as the boy's dangerous presence retrated, strolling over in sure strides to get the chair. But when he positioned the chair so he was facing Dina, the determination evident in his face had not faltered. Au contraire, it appeared to have increased.
"So.." Dina struggled for words, so very intimated by this boy. "What's your name?"
The name rang a bell. "Raine's son...?"
The boy nodded and Dina frantically searched her memory to dig up everything she'd heard other people say about Raine's son before, but she could remember nothing useful. In fact, she could almost swear all the people had always been telling her that the Leonhart kid was extremely introverted and a loner and definitely not the kind of person who would barge into an office smelling of vomit and sweat and demanding the impossible. Dina frowned deeply.
"Are you attending Balamb Town High School?" she asked tentatively.
"Finishing this year," the boy said, seemingly getting impatient. "Look, let's get to the point: can I join or not? I'll do anything to get accepted. I'll train with a gunblade – or any other weapon if you so wish me to – night and day if I have to. I'll do my best to eventually catch up to the other students."
Dina licked her lips. "Mr. Leonhart, I'm afraid it's not that easy. We usually only accept applications from older teens who've had thorough training before and.."
"I don't mind being put in the same classes as the 10-year-olds at first," he interrupted her harshly. "I'm ready to make sacrifices. But I've made up my mind about it. Garden is the place I want to be."
He seemed so determined, so ready, so aggressive that Dina did not dare to reply for a while. When she finally did, it was with caution: "Let me talk this over with the headmaster" She reached for the phone, but again, Squall spoke up.
"Can't I talk to the headmaster myself?"
Dina looked at his misplaced clothes, at his messy hair and his wild face. "I think not."
Squall looked at her. "Please?" It sounded more like a threat than a plea.
"I'll.. talk to him." Dina swallowed and dialled the number. After three beeps, Headmaster Cid picked up the phone.
"Headmaster Cid speaking."
"Hello, Headmaster. Dina Nibil from Acception and Administration Office speaking" Her eyes darted over to the young man, who was staring at her intently. "I have a.. situation."
"What is it, Miss Nibil?" Cid asked pleasantly.
"I have a young boy here who wishes to enter Garden, but he is 18 years old and has not had any military training whatsoever. Am I to accept his admission or not?"
There was a pause on the other end of the line. "Send him to me," Cid said.
"But, sir," Dina said, looking at Squall as she lowered her voice, "he's not in a very presentable state at the moment."
The Headmaster laughed good-naturedly. "Let me be the judge of that. Send him to my office in half an hour."
"All right," Dina answered, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. "Have a nice day, Headmaster."
"Goodbye, Miss Nibil," Cid said and hung up.
"So?" Squall asked, almost jumping in her face. "What did he say?" He looked just about ready to kill to get this information.
"He'll see you," Dina said coolly, trying not to show her fear. "Go to his office in half an hour."
A look of intense relief washed over Squall's face, an emotion that softened his features, showing for the first time how handsome he really was. He had deep, grey eyes and full, pouty lips, and Dina caught herself staring at the boy. "You may go," she said dismissively, shaking her head at herself.
The boy complied and left the room without another world, leaving Dina behind. She felt a tremor go through her body as she remembered the naked pain she'd seen in the youth's face.
"Come in," a voice from within exclaimed as Squall gently, but full of fear knocked at the door of the Headmaster's office half an hour later. Collecting himself for a second, he slowly entered the door, careful not to look to aggressive or overbearing as he bowed slightly to the man sitting on his desk, who was regarding him out of small, blue, patient eyes.
"Squall Leonhart, at your service," Squall said, without really knowing what he was saying. Perhaps it had come out as slightly ridiculous, but Squall hadn't been able to think of anything else. When he lifted his head to look at the Headmaster, Cid was still looking at him out of those unnervingly calm, yet friendly eyes.
"You may sit down," Cid said, gesturing to a seat. "Would you like a glass of water or some coffee..?"
"No, thank you," Squall answered as he sat down on the seat, looking at Cid, studying his face. Squall had been able to calm down these past thirty minutes and he was no resembling an axe-murderer on loose. His determination, however, had not wavered one bit. He had made up his mind, and no matter what he would have to take, he would get what he wanted. For the first time in his life, Squall knew what he had to do.
"I hear you have shown interest in joining our Garden," Cid started, looking at Squall the way a psychiatrist would. "Most unusual for an 18-year-old without any combat training, if you don't mind me saying so."
"Not at all," Squall said. "It took me a lot longer to realize what I really wanted than most kids."
Cid's intense gaze started to make Squall uneasy. "And you are sure joining Garden is what you want, Mr. Leonhart?"
"Absolutely," Squall answered in a heartbeat, licking his lips nervously as something in Cid's pleasant, but authoriative facial expression changed, something that Squall, having no real experience with social situations, had no way of knowing how to place.
Cid finally stopped looking at Squall and instead started to shuffle through documents. "I see." Squall didn't dare say a word as he watched Cid read through his documents, not wanting to interrupt the Headmaster, anything but anger him, anything but displease him. Anything but cause him to turn him down.
"I see a lot of determination in you," Cid said calmly. "Truly extraordinary. I wish more of my employees showed as much passion for Garden as you do." He smiled at that, but quickly became serious again. "However, it is not that easy. You might never catch up to other people your age and this is something you have to understand. You might end up sparring with people five or more years younger than you for a very, very long time. Life at Garden is not easy. It does happen that our cadets die during missions or even, even though we do our mightiest do prevent it, during sparring." He looked at Squall intently. "Are you ready to face all that?"
"No doubt," Squall answered immediately. "This is exactly what I want. I'm sure of it. No matter what it takes."
Cid nodded. "In this case, you shall be accepted."
Joy shot through his body, sweet, delicious joy. It was like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, like a feather had started to massage his strained nerves, like with one simple sentence, his life suddenly didn't look so bad anymore. The joy, however, quickly seeped out of him. The wounds were so raw, the pain so intense, but the prospect of being able to join Garden suffocated the cries of his raw wounds enough for him to enjoy feeble moments of perfect harmony.
"I can't thank you enough," Squall said earnestly. "Seriously. This means a lot to me."
"I can tell," Cid said softly, then smiled. "So, what weapon would you like to pick?"
"A gunblade," Squall answered, without having to think about it. Remembering how elegant, how powerful it had been in Seifer's hands, how deadly and vicious, he knew it was the right weapon for him.
"Well, I guess there's no sense in arguing with you," Cid said. "I'm looking forward to see you handle the gunblade. Nobody has ever really mastered it."
"Nobody?" Squall blurted out. "That's not true."
Cid watched him carefully. "There was a boy at Galbadia Garden who came pretty close.." he trailed off. "Well, if you fill out this application, you can start school tomorrow, if you like." He handed Squall a bunch of papers along with a pen.
Squall could taste his heart at the back of his throat as he filled out the forms, his hand shaking in anticipation as he wrote.
When he had finished, he gave the papers back to Cid, watching him intently as he accepted the papers with a faint smile on his face. "Am I really accepted?" Squall blurted out. Suddenly, for one heart-wrenching moment fearing that Cid had only been kidding, that Cid had only wanted to pull his leg, that there no way they would accept a teenage boy without combat training. For one moment, he saw the life he thought he'd escaped approaching him with swift steps, trying to reach him with long, ghostly hands.
"Yes, I said so, didn't I?" Cid answered and Squall's vision ended at once, leaving a boy behind who didn't know what to feel, who was so utterly confused his head started to spin again. He had achieved what he had come to do and he suddenly, very abruptly, was afraid of what would follow.
"You may go," Cid said dismissely, starting to type some of the information Squall had written on the papers into his computer.
Squall stood up and just as he was about to leave the room, Cid spoke up again in a very warm, friendly tone: "See you tomorrow at 8 o'clock, Squall. Don't think that we'll go easy on you just because it's your first day."
Squall whirled around abruptly, causing Cid to look up from his work, Squall's troubled grey eyes meeting Cid's calm ones and a brief moment passed between the two men. "Thank you," Squall said quietly. "Thank you very much, Headmaster."
Cid smiled and just waved his hand dismissively.
Squall bowed and left the room, closing the door very quietly behind him.
When Squall stepped into the hot Balamb sun that afternoon, he instinctively had to shield his eyes from the impending light. Sweat started to break out on his skin at the strange, new heat and he took off his black jacket, wrapping it around his lean waist. Looking back up at the sky, he saw numerous small clouds passing by, each in curious, unique shapes, each giving off the peaceful feeling only nature could. The sky was very blue that day. Much bluer than the sky in Deling City had been.
Squall dropped the hand he had used to shield his sensitive eyes with, his hand wandering into his jeans pocket. Slowly, as if scared to damage the simple, wrinkled peace of paper, he extracted the note Seifer had given him, very likely the last thing he'd written in his much too short life. Possibly one of the last things Seifer had ever touched and had given it to him, Squall, the last person he likely had ever kissed, had ever had sex with. Squall groaned quietly as he saw Seifer's face, as detailed as though he was standing right before him, as though he only had to reach out to touch the blonde's body. He remembered Seifer's most extraordinary feature – his brilliant eyes, eyes that were able to see the world as it was, hiding sparkling intelligence in them.
Squall experienced the curious feeling of being torn apart from the inside and Squall, for the first time in his young life, came in personal contact with raw emotional pain, pain so deep and pure that only three days ago, Squall would never have thought possible of feeling. The brunette, at last, knew what it felt like, the emotion least liked of all of them, yet so basic and strong most children experienced it at a very young age, an emotion most people were as familiar with as they were with love, compassion or faith.
Squall closed his eyes, willing his body to stop shivering, his heart to stop beating too fast, his breathing to steady. The brunette felt the warm rays of the sun dancing on his bare arms. He heard birds singing distantly. He smelled the scent of grass and sun.
A day of advenutre is worth a thousand of comfort and boredom, Seifer whispered into his ear, as intimately as the lover he had been to him. Something warm covered the raw pain, trying to soothe it, but not quite succeeding.
Opening his clear, grey eyes, Squall looked into the sky once more, letting the simple beauty of a day lik any other soothe his strained nerves, letting it try to mute the stinging agony inside him. Somehow, words found its way out of Squall's mouth and they spilled out before Squall could stop them, words that Squall had tried to suppress because they were words that weren't meant to be heard by anyone other than Seifer. They sounded ridiculous even to him, but yet they were the last words he had really wanted to say to Seifer.
"Thank you for teaching me about everything.. about life... feelings.. and love. I would've liked to see you again.. somewhere...somehow..."
He clenched his fists until his nails digging into his palms were drawing blood. "Someday."
With that, he tore Seifer's message into tiny little pieces, covering them with the blood of his palms as he did so, a sudden drop of water falling down on them. Irritated, Squall looked up at the sky, looking for rain clouds, but didn't see any. Squall didn't know where the sudden drop had come from, something that left him with a deeply unsettling feeling.
But he returned to the pieces, and, when they were finally small enough, scattered them in the wind. Why he did so, he did not know. When the pieces were no longer visible, Squall drew a long breath, filling his lungs until they hurt.
Squall Leonhart, on this sunny day in Balamb during his 18th year of life, was eager to finally start living.