Better Broken Better Broken

By: Ellipsis the Great

DISCLAIMER: Kingdom Hearts and everything affiliated with it belongs to SquareEnix and Disney. All I own is the plot…

Summary: Sometimes, rules aren't meant to be followed, and promises shouldn't be kept. Seiner.

Rated: M just in case.

Spoilers: None that I know of…

Warnings: Definite yaoi on the horizon, a little angst (obviously), and I suppose I should point out that this is AU…

Prologue: The Big Six

"Don't know what's going on, don't know what went wrong, feels like a hundred years I still can't believe you're gone. So I'll stay up all night with these bloodshot eyes, while these walls surround me with the story of our life." –Three Days Grace 'Gone Forever'

Say what you will about me, but it's a little known fact that I, Seifer Almasy, know Hayner March better than anyone.

It's not an opinion, though many would argue against it (Roxas Doyle, Hayner's best friend, especially). And it's not like I tried to get to know the little chickenwuss, but after nearly fifteen years of fighting with him I was bound to know a lot (read: too much) about him…if only to be able to piss him off even more and even better.

On that note, I know that there are certain rules when it comes to goading Hayner:

Rule #1: Never say goodbye to Hayner. It's the first rule that people pick up on, and the only one that everyone follows, no matter what. When you bid Hayner farewell, you always say 'See you later' or something to that effect. Never 'goodbye'.

Rule #2: Never mention Hayner's father. Ever. This one isn't as obvious, although everyone subconsciously knows about it. Most people are more self-conscious about not mentioning the man (deserter, trust-abuser, bastard) around Hayner's mother, who's prone to bursting into hysteric tears after just hearing a name that sounds like his. Less people notice how quiet and pale Hayner gets when his father comes up in conversation (not that it happens often now, twelve years after the fact). I'm one of the few.

Rule #3: When Hayner says 'Mama,' pick a fight with him. This rule is one that only I know about or follow, although Fuu always goes along with it (Rai does, too, but that's just because he goes along with everything I do). She's learned to make more cutting (albeit still one-worded) comments when she notices that I'm actively going out of my way to piss Hayner off. I've never felt the need to explain to her that Hayner only ever says 'Mama' when he and his mother have had a fight earlier on in the day (he usually calls her 'Mom'). This, inevitably, means that when Hayner gets home the fighting will pick up again and usually escalate into something physical. By picking a fight, I not only keep him out of his house longer, I also manage to land a few hits that have Hayner going to the Usual Spot to get doctored by Olette—thus keeping him away from his volatile mother even longer. If all went well, Hayner wouldn't make it home until his mother had gone to bed, and she would have slept off her rage by the next morning.

Rule #4: Watch where you hit Hayner. Another that only I know about, and probably one that only I am able to follow. It only comes into effect after one of the 'Mama' days, but those happen often enough for it to be a viable Rule. After Hayner's mother gets physical with him, he makes certain movements that tell me where he's been hit; little habitual flinches or jerks that let me know—his mom hit his shoulder last night, threw something at his stomach, kicked his side…really hard…

Rule #5: Always let Hayner break out of headlocks without too much of a fuss. This one is probably one of the hardest to follow—it's easy to pass off the others as natural things. Not so easy to let Hayner break away from the (suffocating, stifling, constricting) arm I've placed around his neck without anyone (especially Hayner) catching on to it. It's also impossible for me not to put Hayner in a headlock, a fact I discovered after a week of forcing myself not to do it. Hayner's a proud kid, and smarter than I sometimes like. He actually figured out what I was doing and yelled at me about it. He even tried to avoid me for a while, and I let him do it until I caught sight of a particularly nasty bruise peeking out of his collar. I started a fight that lasted for nearly five hours the next time I heard him say 'Mama.' And don't ask me how we managed it—I'm just that damn good, okay?

Rule #6 (the most important one, I figure): If any of Rules 1-3 are broken, don't hold anything back (sans anything regarding Rule 5) in the next fight. Hayner always has an excess of built-up tension to get rid of when someone says 'goodbye' or mentions his dad on accident, and especially after his mother has beat on him. Hayner would never lay a hand on his mother, except to try and calm her down, but that doesn't mean he doesn't get pissed at her. He knows, to an extent, that what his mother does is wrong. He needs a big, nasty, explosive fight to help blow off steam. And this rule is as much for me as it is for Hayner; I always get frustrated with myself when I accidentally break one of my own rules.

Those are the Big Six—the biggest rules to follow when dealing with Hayner, though there are a few others that I don't adhere to quite as closely (don't insult Hayner's mother, don't let Hayner's friends distract you from a fight with Hayner, don't talk to Hayner civilly unless he's civil first…).

I hate the Big Six. Hate having to censor every word that comes out of my mouth. Hate having to soften my punches. Hate Hayner's mother.

Loathe Hayner's father.

If it wasn't for that man, I would never have had to come up with the Big Six. Would never have seen Hayner as anything more as just another kid that annoys the piss out of me. Would never have seen Hayner as someone to protect, in my own sick little way.

Would never have seen Hayner cry.

It's not like I want to follow the Big Six. I don't. I would love to be able to beat the ever-loving snot out of Hayner for the simple reason that he looked at me the wrong way, instead of because I want to keep him from getting the snot beaten out of him by his own mother.

But even more than that, I never want to see Hayner cry again.

Maybe it sounds sappy, or romantic, or something, but it's not. When a seven-year-old kid bursts into tears because he's finally realized that his father (sperm donor, tormentor, the origin of his suffering) has left him for good, it's not sappy or romantic or anything except sad.

And maybe I kind of feel like it's my own fault for seeing him like that, and that's part of what makes me do all of this stuff for him.

I'm not being dramatic, either. I—

Never mind. Let me start at the beginning.

The beginning is eleven years ago. I was eight, Hayner was seven. Hayner's dad had run off with some whore a year earlier, but Hayner's mom hadn't yet had her mental breakdown. In fact, she worked at my parents' restaurant as a waitress, which is how Hayner and I met. She worked afternoons, so every day after school Hayner walked down to the restaurant. It seemed only natural after a while for us to start walking together, since we were coming from and going to the same place. We got along okay—bickered a lot, sure, but it was mostly teasing. We hadn't become rivals just yet.

And every day when we arrived, like clockwork, Hayner would ask the same question.

"Mama, when's Dad coming home?"

She always found a reason to go into the back of the restaurant where he couldn't follow (it was against policy); an excuse to get away from him.

But Hayner never took offense—never caught on to the fact that she was avoiding him and the question. He would just turn to my mom, and ask:

"Mrs. Dincht," My real father had left before I was born, and Mom had married my stepfather, Zell Dincht, when I was about four. "Do you know when my dad's coming home?"

She would smile—a sad smile that always confused me, because I was kind of curious about Hayner's dad, too, and also didn't understand what was going on. At that age, your parents are still infallible; they don't just up and leave you.

"I don't know, sweetie. Maybe tomorrow?" She would suggest gently, then send us outside to play (tease, fight, squabble).

On the day in question I had left school ahead of Hayner, who had gotten a detention for something or other (probably forgetting his homework, if I know Hayner). I had shrugged my backpack off in my usual corner booth, and was going back to tell my folks that I was here and to tell Hayner's mom why he was late.

"The boys will be here soon, Deidra." My mom was saying. I paused in the doorway. "You need to pull yourself together."

"H-he's not coming back." Deidra, Hayner's mom, cried. "He's n-never coming back. What am I supposed to do without him? What about Hayner? I c-c-can't…I d-don't…oh, God…"

"It'll work out alright, dear." Mom said. "You know you and Hayner are always welcome here. We'll help you get through this."

"But he'll…he'll ask. He'll ask about his father, just like he always does! How am I supposed to tell him that his dad left us for some filthy whore? How am I supposed to tell him that he's not coming back?" Deidra sobbed.

"You'll just have to tell him, sweetie." Mom's voice was only slightly sympathetic. "You should have told him a long time ago—I told you to tell him sooner."

"I thought he would come back! He always comes back! Always…always…"

"Well, he's not coming back this time." Her voice became stern. "Now you, Deidra March, are going to pull yourself together this instant. You have a little boy to take care of, and you have to do it by yourself from now on. I'll help—you know I'll help—but you have to help yourself, too. You don't have time to wallow in self-pity."

"I can't…I can't…"

I didn't stay to listen to any more of it. I don't know why, but I had just gotten so angry. Maybe I had picked up on my mother's anger.

Why didn't anyone ever tell us kids what was going on? They just let us keep believing whatever we wanted until it was too late to break it to us gently, and by then it only hurt us worse. Why would she let Hayner keep believing his dad was coming back? Why did she believe he was going to come back? And why did Hayner still believe he was coming back?

It was hard for me to understand. My dad, gruff though he was, had never left Mom and me. Had Deidra done something wrong? Had Hayner? I think the concept of a father leaving his family might have scared me. What if I did something wrong and my dad left? What had happened that would make a man leave his family?

"Hey, Seifer!" Hayner said as he entered the restaurant, as sunny as ever in spite of the detention he had just gotten out of. "Where's Mama?" His mother was always up front to greet him, even if she didn't stay long. "Is she with Dad?"

"No, she's not with your dad. She's in the back." I growled.

"What's wrong with you?" He asked, rolling his eyes. "Hey, do you think he'll come home tomorrow? I really miss him. And maybe he'll take us fishing! I bet he'll take Roxas and Pence, too. Wouldn't that be cool?"

"Your dad isn't coming back, Hayner!" I said. "He's never coming back! Quit being stupid!"

Hayner just stared at me for a moment. Then he laughed uncertainly. "Y-you're the one being stupid, Seifer. Of course Dad's coming back. He always comes back; Mama said so."

"She was lying! Your dad left you, Hayner!"

"Shut up!" He yelled. "Shut up, Seifer! You don't know what you're talking about!"

"Yeah I do! I heard your mom say it! Your dad left you and he isn't coming back!"

"Shut up!" He threw himself at me, fists flying.

"Hayner! Seifer!" Mom finally came out from the room in the back, grabbing our collars and dragging us apart. My mom is the strongest woman I know, literally and figuratively. "Boys, what's wrong? Why are you fighting?"

"Seifer said Dad's not coming back!" Hayner snarled. "Tell him he is! He is! Mama said he always comes back!"

My mom jerked a little, looking at me with an expression that told me she knew what I had heard. She set us down, kneeling beside Hayner and putting a hand on his bruising cheek.

"Hayner, sweetie, your daddy…he isn't coming back." She said gently. "He sent your mom the divorce papers…do you understand what that means?"

"Mama said he would come back." Hayner whimpered.

"Oh, sweetie, your mom thought he would come back. But she was wrong."

"Did I…did I do something wrong? Is that why won't he come back?" Hayner asked, his eyes filling with tears.

"Oh, no, sweetie." She hugged him. "You didn't do anything wrong. Sometimes…sometimes mommies and daddies just…don't love each other anymore. So…one of them leaves."

"Doesn't he love me anymore?" The tears had started to fall, now.

"Of course he still loves you, sweetie. Your daddy will always love you."

"But then…why won't he come back? Can't he come back and see me? If he still loves me, I don't…I don't understand why he won't come back."

"I don't understand either, sweetie. But it isn't because of you, do you understand? You haven't done anything wrong. Your daddy's just…just being silly."

Hayner shook his head, breaking down completely. His legs went limp, so that Mom's arms were the only things keeping him from falling down on the floor.

"Hayner, I'm…sorry." I said, surprisingly without any prompting. For some reason, it hurt to watch him cry. "I didn't mean to make you cry. I'm sorry."

Hayner just shook his head again, his sobs escalating. "Mama?" He was asking suddenly. "Where's Mama? Where is she? Did she leave me, too? She always comes out to say hello!"

"Shh, she's in the back. She's upset, too." Mom stood, picking him up. "Come on, I'll take you to her. She's not going anywhere. She'll take you home, okay? That's probably best right now."

She went to the back and gave him to his mom, who gathered her things and thanked Mom for letting her have the day off.

"Bye, Hayner." I called after him.

The look he gave me was frightening.

"See you later, Seifer." He said. He insisted.

I nodded vigorously. "See you later." Anything to make him stop looking at me like that.

He settled back down in his mother's arms, and then started to cry again.

Rule #1: Never say goodbye to Hayner.

End Prologue