Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, objects, places, or Counting Crows lyrics.
Colourblind - Chapter Eight
Seifer had never been any good at fishing. No matter how hard he tried, he simply couldn't get the hang of it. He could see the fish for himself, swimming happily around the crystal-clear pond, but they never showed any interest in the bait. It was extremely annoying, and Seifer couldn't help wondering how he was so bad at this, and how that bonehead Raijin was so good.
Exasperated with himself and the fish, he tossed the fishing rod away from him, and lay back on the grass, with a deep sigh. He gazed idly at the sky, which was as bright and blue as the pond, completely bereft of clouds. One thing he did like about living in Winhill was the perpetually great weather - it had only rained twice since he'd arrived here, while every other day was full of gorgeous sunshine. It cheered him up. Bad weather only brought him down. It reminded him of things that he was making an extremely active effort to forget about.
And so far he wasn't having a great deal of luck.
An unwanted mental image came into his head. Blonde hair, white limbs, light eyes squinting at him in the early morning light. Seifer felt his stomach lurch, and he forced it back down, where it belonged.
That mental image had an effect on him as clouds going over the sun. His handsome face creased into an expression of suppressed unhappiness, his mouth in a set line, his brow furrowed.
He had just upped and left Deling City one day. Everywhere he went, she'd been there. He'd found himself following blonde girls in the hope that it was her, when the logical part of his brain knew that it wasn't. There had been nothing remotely logical about this situation and he knew it. He'd felt drunk with love and resentment, like being under a horrible spell. It had controlled him, and if there was one thing Seifer Almasy hated, it was being controlled. He had always sworn that it would never happen again, but it had, and it still was. It nauseated him.
He'd debated going to Balamb to find her, but he'd decided against it, too proud and too angry. He'd hoped she was hurting, wherever she was, on some mission, being bossed around by Squall, putting her life on the line. He'd entertained the brief thought of her on a mission, being fatally wounded and wishing that she'd never fucked up with him, the way she did. Blood on her lips, skin getting whiter, saying Seifer's name...
Admittedly, he'd only thought about that once or twice, when he was feeling particularly angry at her. Once he'd reverted to his usual state of feeling just sad or rather empty, he reflected at what a stupid thought it'd been, and felt a stone in his stomach when he imagined Quistis dead. Even though he doubted he'd ever see her again, the thought of her just not existing anymore made tears prick his eyes and made his stomach churn.
Winhill had seemed the best place for him to go. As far as he knew, there wasn't anyone who knew him here. Ellone would have been a possibility, but she had moved to Esthar to be with Laguna.
By and large, the people of Winhill were easy-going and friendly, although they'd be rather cagey with him at first. Seifer had worried that they recognised who he was, but if they had, they hadn't mentioned it. A couple of local girls had tried their best with him, but hadn't gotten anywhere. They'd been pretty, a pair of tanned brunettes, but for Seifer the wound was still too fresh. He had no idea when it would even begin to heal.
Listen to yourself, you sound like such a pussy, came the little, carping voice in Seifer's head. Pull yourself together! She's just some chick!
The words rang hollow in his skull. No matter how many times he repeated this little mantra to himself, it never made the slightest bit of difference.
It was one thing to deceive other people, but it really was another doing it to yourself.
Seifer lay there for a short while longer, listening to the sound of the pond and the sound of the light breeze dancing across the grass and the flowers. There were so many flowers here. Sometimes, Seifer felt he'd drown in the beauty of the place. He felt quite out of sorts, a big, lumbering man like himself, like a Golem in a room of glass.
He ambled back to his home on the outskirts of Winhill at a leisurely pace. He still felt like he'd stumbled into some fairytale village, all flower baskets, thatched houses and rolling fields. In a way, he didn't feel at home, but that was nothing new. The only place he'd ever really felt at home was the Garden, and there was no danger of him ever going back there again.
Some of the residents of Winhill nodded at him as he passed, and some smiled. They were interested in the handsome, quiet stranger that had invaded their parts. Most of the population were getting on in years, and the old women couldn't help but beam at the golden man and coo to eachother. If they'd known who he was... who he'd been, then chances are they would have been less glowing in their reports of him to their friends.
It took Seifer roughly fifteen minutes to get to his home. It was just outside the main village and somewhat dilapidated, but Seifer liked it. He liked the musty smell of old wood, the way the sunlight would dip in and out of various gaps in the walls that he couldn't be bothered to fix, the way the stairs creaked when he walked on them, they sounded like an ancient tune. He liked the fact that he had a porch, which he liked to sit on at sunset, with bourbon in a chipped, cloudy glass. There wasn't a lot of furniture - just a few old and deceptively comfortable chairs, his bed upstairs, one or two tables dotted around the house, and a mantlepiece that he'd put a radio on.
The porch steps creaked slightly as he walked up them, and he gave the front door a brief kick and it flew open. Nobody bothered to lock their doors in this place. And anyway, it wasn't as if there was anything valuable in the house to steal, apart from his Hyperion maybe, but no one had any use for it here.
Seifer flung his long coat off, where it landed in a crumpled heap on the floor, then picked up one of the comfy armchairs and moved it out onto the porch. Then he shuffled away to make himself a cup of tea, after which he slumped into the armchair with a sigh that he felt as far down as his toes. Seifer stared at the surrounding landscape, his face passive, the mug warming his callused fingers. It would be sundown in a few hours.
He ran a hand through his hair, which had grown slightly longer in the last few months. He hadn't wanted to go to the barbers, for fear that they'd recognise him, and also because he didn't want to waste the little money he had left from his old job on something as unimportant as a haircut. He felt scruffy, and missed his short hair. His hair only appeared to grow upwards and then flick out in absurd cowlicks here and there, giving him the appearance of a grumpy, yet handsome, dandilion.
He was thinner too, although not for lack of food. It seemed that his black mood had had an effect on his usually robust appetite. Seifer would pick at food over the course of the day, but there was no enjoyment in it. There wasn't much enjoyment in most things these days, not even when he was surrounded by beauty like he was in Winhill. He suspected that he'd never be happy again, but then again, he reflected wryly, he'd suspected that before he'd fallen in love with Quistis.
Maybe I'm being punished, he thought, sourly. Maybe this is what I get for what I did. I never get to be happy ever again. I mean, I do probably deserve this, if not worse.
He thought of the missiles that had been launched at Trabia Garden and felt sick. Quistis had told him about it once - the gravestones draped in memorabilia of the dead, the students gathered in huddled masses, grieving, the destroyed building, the toys of the junior classmen strewn around the place. It was one of the few things in Seifer's life that he truly regretted. He knew that he'd been controlled by the sorceress at that time, but he still felt disgusted at himself.
Seifer remembered Quistis's face when she'd been telling him those things. Gravely beautiful, her hair tousled, lips swollen - it had been some seriously weird pillow-talk.
He felt a stab in his chest, and bit his lower lip. He drank half the cup of tea in one gulp, and decided he didn't want the rest.
He had no appetite for anything anymore.
Quistis disliked flying the Ragnarok by herself. Zell was far better than she was at it, and she was pretty much sure that he would be furious at her right now, especially when he'd find out what she'd taken it for. She was sure she'd be punished for this, but at this moment she was so excited that she didn't care. She had to see Seifer. She didn't care if he spat in her face and told her to go fuck herself, she had to see him, had to tell him that she'd been wrong and he'd be right and that she loved him, despite what he'd done, despite who he'd been, despite everything.
She didn't think she'd get another chance like this. She needed to know, otherwise she'd spend the rest of her life wondering, "what if?"
It took several hours to fly to Winhill, but it was considerably quicker than any other mode of transport. She landed a short way outside of the village so as not to alarm the residents. They weren't fond of soldiers in this town, she knew that well enough. She smiled to herself as she wandered into Winhill - nothing had changed. It still looked like a painting in a maiden aunt's living room, or something equally twee. The sun was about to go down, and she felt her heart quicken. She needed to find someone to ask about Seifer's whereabouts before they all went to bed early, unlike the people from the bigger cities.
Quistis spotted an old woman walking towards the town square, and rushed up towards her. The old woman looked startled.
"Can I help you?" she said brusquely.
"Yes, um, sorry to bother you," Quistis stuttered. "But, have you seen a young man around here? Tall, blonde, always wears a trenchcoat?"
The old woman blinked at her, and then smiled. "Oh yes!" she said. "We've all seen him!" There was a flirtatious tone to her voice, and she chuckled. "Yes, he's caused quite a stir here. Hardly ever says a word to anyone, but so handsome. My sister and I always see him trying to fish down by the old pond, but he never seems to have any luck, poor dear."
"Do you know where he lives?" Quistis could feel her heart in her mouth.
"Well, he doesn't live in the village, so I think he lives in a little place just outside of it. Little place, a bit scruffy-looking, but I suppose for a bachelor he doesn't need a castle or anything. Looking for him, are you?"
"Yes, I am."
"Well, I hope you have better luck with him than the local girls did! Apparently he's not much of a talker."
This filled Quistis with delicious hope, the idea that Seifer had been doing the complete opposite of sleeping with every girl in sight. Maybe he still cared for her, maybe he still loved her. She felt dizzy, all of a sudden.
"Are you alright, dear? You've gone a bit flushed."
Quistis smiled at the old lady. "No, no, I'm fine, thank you so much." She spun on her heel and rushed in the direction of the opposite side of the town. The thought that Seifer was breathing the same air as her at that very moment was dizzying.
It only took her around half an hour to walk to the outskirts of Winhill, and sure enough, standing there in the distance was a ramshackle-looking house, small and decaying. A man's house. Quistis stopped walking once she was within a hundred feet of it. Her heart was banging so hard in her chest that she thought she was going to be sick. Months of misery and "what if's" would be coming to an end soon.
Then she felt that she was getting ahead of herself. What if the misery wasn't going to end here? What if it just got worse? She imagined Seifer laughing at her, his beautiful face alive with malice, telling her that she was nothing to him, and that he wasn't interested in anything she had to say. The thought felt like a gunshot.
Quistis stood there, just breathing, for the best part of ten minutes. He was in there, she was sure of it. Suddenly, battling hideous monsters on the plains of Esthar seemed preferable to what was undoubtably going to be the most terrifying moment of her life.
Quistis Trepe... frightened of a man and some words... who would've thought it? She smiled wryly at herself.
"This is pathetic," she said outloud, before striding up to the house and stopping abruptly at the porch.
He was there, dozing in an armchair, with a bottle of whiskey open next to him. A cracked glass tumbler was in his hand, empty, and he was breathing deeply. Next to him, leaning against the wood of the porch, was Hyperion which was glinting slightly in the diminishing light. Clearly Seifer still didn't feel totally safe, even in a sleepy little town like Winhill. He was like Squall in that respect, always ready, always on the alert in some way. His mouth was slightly open in his sleep, his head leaning on the side of the chair. Quistis noticed that his hair had grown, and he looked distinctly more unkempt than he usually did. She couldn't help but allow herself to smile, at how handsome he was, how adorable in this moment of unconciousness. Quistis could have stayed looking at him like that forever, partly because of the joy in her stomach, and partly because him being asleep meant that he wasn't shouting at her.
Quistis took a step forward, her foot landing on a small twig, and cracking. Seifer shifted, and his piercing green eyes fluttered open. His right hand went straight for Hyperion, and he squinted at her through bleary, sleepy eyes. His expression became that of confusion, then shock, then anger. He stood up to his full height, and Quistis could see that he'd become thinner. She didn't smile, and said nothing, just looked at him, standing there like Apollo, the light of the setting sun making his hair flame like a halo.
He took a step down off the porch, and glared.
"Is that who I think it is?"
Quistis swallowed. Her throat had suddenly gone very dry.
Seifer took another step down. "Quistis?" His face was now unreadable, and Quistis could feel herself shaking slightly. He repeated her name.
"Yes, Seifer," she said. "It's me."
Seifer walked unsteadily towards her. He'd been drinking, Quistis deduced.
"It's really you." His face was a blank page. "You're actually here."
She detected a strange tone in his voice. What was it? Anger? Hurt? Digust? She felt her stomach sink.
Then, like the sun coming through the clouds, his beautiful face burst into a smile that made her knees tremble. "You're really here, you're really here." Seifer grabbed Quistis by her upper arms and kissed her so hard that she was sure he'd bruised her lips. She didn't care. She wrapped her arms around him, feeling months of tension and sadness and regret pour away like spilt wine.
Suddenly, he stopped, looking at her with an intensity that frightened her, and stepped away from her. Seifer felt his heart hammering in his chest, his head awash with euphoria and anger. It was a confusing combination. He glared at her, standing there, so beautiful and staring at him like she'd done nothing wrong.
"It's been quite a while,"he said, controlling his voice. He wanted to shout and scream - whether it was from happiness or fury, he couldn't tell.
Quistis looked at the ground. "I know," she said.
Seifer rubbed his face, agitated. "You just dumped me, then left to rejoin the fucking SeeDs and now you're here. Mind enlightening me to what the hell is going on?"
Quistis looked at her hands, and then looked at Seifer, hard. "I was wrong," she said.
"Well, holy shit,"said Seifer, sardonically. "The almighty Quistis Trepe admitting she was wrong." He laughed, but it was a bitter sound.
Tears clouded her eyes. "I was wrong to leave you," she said. "It was stupid, and I literally just took the Ragnorok to fly here and tell you so." Seifer's face wasn't angry anymore. He seemed vaguely distressed at seeing her composure faulter.
"Is that all you came to tell me?" His face was serious, his eyes wide, and sad.
Quistis sighed. "No, it's not all." She breathed in, deeply. "I love you. I knew I did for a long time, but I never did anything about it. The only other time I revealed my feelings to anyone, I was shot down spectacularly, and knowing who you were, I didn't want to leave myself open to be hurt."
Seifer raised an eyebrow. "And how do you know I won't just ask you to leave, right now?"
Quistis looked at him sharply. "I don't," she said. "I just needed you to know. If you want me to leave, I will." She turned quickly on her heel, and started to stride away, wounded. Her heart felt like it had a hole in it.
Suddenly, a strong hand grabbed her and spun her around with such ease that she felt like a doll.
"I never asked you to leave, I never wanted you to." Seifer's expression was so hard that it could have been chiselled from diamond. "I only ever wanted to be around you." He sighed, and again, it was full of bitterness. "You hurt me, real bad. I felt like I'd never be right again. I had to leave my home just to get away from you, and you followed me here. If I can't get away from you, then maybe there's something to that." He smiled at her. "I love you, and I feel like a total woman for saying it, but it's true. I'm glad you came back. I'm so glad." He kissed her, softer this time, savouring the moment that he'd been trying not to dream about for months.
"I missed you," said Quistis.
"Who can blame you?" His smile was beautiful, and there was a glint of humour in his eyes. Or maybe it was a tear - Quistis didn't have time to tell, because she was wrapped in his arms, feeling more complete than she ever had in her life.
"What about SeeD?" Seifer said, his mouth muffled in her hair.
"Screw Seed," beamed Quistis, all her eloquence lost. "I want to do something for myself for a change."
"Squall won't be happy about that, or about you stealing his Ragnorok."
"I'll get it back soon. I just want to be with you for a little while. Then I'll return it, and come back here, if you're alright with that."
Seifer kissed her forehead and let his lips linger there. A lock of her long blonde hair touched his face, unsettled by the evening breeze. They both sighed.
"Alright, go send Ragnorok back, and sort out what you have to with SeeD." He looked at her, green eyes steely. "Then come back here."
Quistis smiled, and felt tears prickling in her eyes. "I missed you," she said. "Very much."
Seifer didn't say anything, but just nodded. He'd missed her and loved her and hated her more than he could say, but he wasn't ready to put it into words yet. He'd tell her when he was sure she was coming back. He brushed a lock of hair behind her ears, and didn't smile.
"You're staying here tonight though, right?"
He put his hand in hers, and they walked into the ramshackle little house together. Even in the rapidly darkening evening, they glowed. There was only the sound of the wind rustling the grass, and the faraway noises of the village as people settled down for the night with their families. Everything was thrown into a strange technicolour. They felt like they were in a film. Two beautiful blondes, who had nearly come to the end of their journey. Seifer felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders, while Quistis felt so high that her head spun and she saw stars.
Seifer stopped, suddenly. "When you come back from Balamb or wherever you're going, then I'll tell you how much I missed you. But I want to be sure you're coming back."
"I'll come back."
They went inside. They saw eachother smile.
I am covered in skin
No one gets to come in
Pull me out from inside
I am folded, and unfolded, and unfolding
Coffee black and egg white
Pull me out from inside
I am ready
I am ready
I am ready
I am fine.
So, that's the end. I may or may not do a one-off follow-up to this, but we'll see. Sorry for the delay in the final chapter too - I had exams and coursework for uni to do.
Thank you all for reading and reviewing. )