Author's Notes: It's time to end it. I'm sorry this has come. I really am. Tears and such. But all good things must come to an end… And mediocre things like this must too. A nice little epilogue to leave you all satisfied and hopefully answer all your questions.
Then again… I've never been good at leaving questions go answered. I'm far better at making you ask them…
Epilogue: Divergent Journeys
It was a quiet cemetery, but it was not as if there was another kind. The somber air of death and decay were hidden carefully behind carefully kept grass and bright flowers left by the living, but it was still there. Any person could sense it, any child teach you to fear it, and any sane person was loath to think about the day they would be part of that somberness. Even the grave markers and tombstones lacked the flair and embellishments of older cemeteries or of those filled with people willing to leave their mark. There was no black marble carved in crosses, or pristine white angels standing guard. Just a few averagely sized, averagely colored, averagely average stones.
Still, in every place where the average gathered there was something different, something that didn't fit in with the common, that stood out by being plainer or simpler. This place was no exception. It came in the form of a small, five by eight piece of granite with only a name and a date engraved on it. No images etched, no sweet sentiments from the family, nothing. Just the little piece of stone showing that yes, there was someone there, even if they were barely worthy of the attention.
Before this piece of stone stood a man, his hands buried in the deep pockets of his long white coat. Rain was coming down heavily, as if discouraging him from visiting the barely marked grave, but even the plastering of blonde hairs to his head, even water falling from his eyelashes in a mockery of the tears another might have let fall, did not drive him away. He was a very, very stubborn man, and he was determined to pay his respects, despite his lack of respect for the deceased in life.
One out of the many gods people claimed there to be in the world must have been smiling down on the one who filled the grave too, for the blonde did not spit or scoff or kick mud onto the pathetically small stone. Then again, he had paid for the thing in the first place, so desecrating it would almost be insulting himself. Besides, the person had been good enough in life to be left alone in death, right?
"You're quite the man of habit," a voice came from behind the blonde. Apparently the mixture of rain and his deep thoughts had allowed someone to sneak up on the normally jumpy man. He was hardly pleased with that, but nothing could be done. So he continued to stare at the small stone, ignoring his new company.
"Every year, same time, same place, same silence," the observer said, remaining behind the blonde.
There was now the sound of rain hitting an umbrella, adding to the ambience of the place. Fitting almost, that the rain made no sound on the stones, but sounded beautiful when hitting that umbrella. The blonde hated that beautiful sound. It didn't fit the cemetery at all. He wanted to do nothing more than destroy the thing, kill the sound before it could do something to interrupt his calm.
"I'm not leaving you alone Almasy," the speaker said, amusement in his voice.
The name obviously had the desired effect as the blonde whirled to look at this guest. He didn't see what he was expecting, but what he saw was enough. Black hair gathered up in a ponytail, gentle brown eyes that weren't only gentle, but filled with sorrow and pain. Skin so pale white that next to the black coat and in this gloom it seemed to glow. And the slightest hint of scarring from burns at his neck where the turtle-neck could not cover.
A smirk that was once trademark to the Detective was thrown right back at him from the asian. There was no real joy or humor behind it though, just that sorrow that permeated the man.
"Now now Detective. According to that stone you paid for, Mister Nida Nomura is four years dead. You had him buried. There were witnesses to the fact…"
Seifer merely glared at the man before turning back to the grave marker. Nida Nomura, it read before the two dates, one four years before today. It was true. He had paid for Nida's burial after his 'death' in the fire. After all, he had saved Squall's life, even if he had to break Squall's heart to do it. One had to look out for their friends, whether they got along or not. Nida's family had offered to do it, had wanted to, but Seifer had insisted. Only him and them knew of this though, and somehow the man behind him.
"Do they count when the coffin was closed? Because he was too 'badly burnt' for the comfort of onlookers? Does that count as dead? Do they count as witnesses?"
"You tell me Almasy," the man responded, moving to stand beside him. The umbrella was shifted to cover them both, but Seifer was hardly grateful.
"He's not the same you know," Seifer finally said, breaking the silence they had stood in for almost five minutes. "No where near the same."
The other looked away, unable to meet Seifer's gaze at this point. There was still guilt there.
"It cannot be helped. Rei is still at large. It is why Nida is dead. It is why Squall must think Mister Nomura a killer and a liar. It must be done to keep him safe."
This brought a chuckle to Seifer's lips. Though his companion for the moment looked applauded at his actions, Seifer didn't stop.
"The night Nida died," Seifer finally said once he stopped, "Ellone told me something like that. That Nomura wouldn't let him remain in danger. That he wouldn't run. Tell me, sir, does death count as running?"
He hadn't been expecting that answer, not in the slightest.
"Nomura was a coward, and were he still upon this world he still would be. But there was one saving grace I believe. At a point he stopped running from the beast out of selfishness, and ran to death instead to save another. Some would call that bravery."
"I wouldn't. I could have protected Squall AND caught Rei if Nomura had worked with me."
"I'm sure that you believe that, but obviously Mister Nomura doesn't agree."
Silence again for another few minutes before the man with the umbrella spoke up.
"Has Squall at least… moved on in any way? Left the dead where they belong?"
Seifer nodded. "He's gotten himself a new fling now. He doesn't talk very much, even to his parents or Ellone, but he talks to me. He's afraid of trusting the guy. Can you believe it? A man who has been betrayed and broken afraid of trusting."
A flinch from the guest, then, "Can you tell him something?"
"From you, or from beyond this grave?"
"Tell him… Tell him that he doesn't have to believe Nida was a great guy. Just that he has to remember Nida stopped running for him."
The detective nodded, but remained where he was as the umbrella was pulled away. The asian man started off down the row of graves, pausing only when Seifer called out.
"Hey… Nida. He still loves you like the fool he is."
When the man disappeared into the rain there was nothing Seifer could do. He had told the paramedics that Nida was to be found dead, that he was putting the man into a witness protection program. He had let the sham continue. He had been the one to lie to Squall all this time. He was the one who was failing to catch Rei, who had somehow escaped the warehouse while Nida had been pinned under a burning beam. He had let Nida go with no way of bringing him back.
Yet, as the wind changed direction, Seifer could have sworn that he heard a faint 'As do I'. Maybe, just this once, it was enough.
"Rest in peace Nida," he said, kicking the stone at last. It was time to let sleeping dogs lie.
With Seifer gone the place became average once more. Averagely shaped stones of averagely plain colors with averagely plain writing. And still, amid it, there was the one thing that was different, the marker of a man that had been great once, who had given the life he had known for a man he had loved.