Into Esthar

BY : Chemotaxis
Category: Final Fantasy VIII > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 1011
Disclaimer: We do not own Final Fantasy or any of the characters in this story, nor do we profit from writing this story.

~ Chapter Seven - Collision Course ~

[Seifer Almasy's Vehicle, Thursday, 16th of October, 11:46 am]

As soon as Seifer sat down in the driver's seat of his thirteen-year-old dark green Toquino Renegade pickup truck, shielded from the cold outside, he leaned over to unlatch the glove box. It sprang open with a quick snap and with his headache spurring him into urgency, he reached inside to search through his small stash of assorted healing items. Grabbing the vial he needed, he twisted off the tiny cork and greedily downed the luminous liquid inside, numbness soon soothing his headache. For long moments he sat in silence, a hand kneading at his forehead even after his eyes had finally cleared and the Antidote had done its work. When he finally released a deep breath and took in his surroundings again, the air inside the car had gone damp, a thin layer of condensation clinging to the chilled windows.

Looking out at the people walking down the street, watching as they drew their clothes closer in an effort to keep the brisk autumn cool at bay, he tried to ward off straying thoughts and stay focused on the task at hand. He was going to take responsibility for his actions.

Slumped against the driver's seat, he arched his head back to try and ease away some of his frustration. He needed to be calm for what he was going to do--not worked up. Even though his plan wasn't all that great and could easily backfire, he remained firm in his decision, unwilling to back down.

Squall's cell phone weighed heavily in his pocket, impossible to ignore, so with a deep, steeling breath he retrieved the device and flipped it open. For long moments he stared at the blue display before finally venturing on to the list of contacts, locating the one he needed. Pausing once more, he eyed the name in apprehension, but bit the bullet with a simple press to a button.

He could no longer reconsider, there was no going back. Bracing himself, he waited for his call to be answered.

"...Squall..." he heard Rinoa answer weakly, sounding slightly surprised, as if she hadn't expected Squall to call.

Listening to the soft voice, a voice that had always sought his affection and had soothed him before the war, Seifer's reluctance grew at what he was about to do. There was no way the conversation was going to go well. He was going to hurt her regardless of how the call unfolded. Reminding himself of what he'd witnessed back at the club, of how she had slapped Squall, only to leave the man alone at the club, he knew that what had happened had at least to some extent been her own fault. But it hadn't been Squall's, and she needed to understand that. Determined, he kept his voice low as he spoke his first words. "Rinoa... I need you to listen to me."

"Who is this?" she immediately asked, her voice apprehensive.

Uncertain of how to answer her, not wanting to give his identity away, Seifer paused to collect his thoughts. He hadn't really thought things through, just rushed ahead as usual without much consideration for the specifics.

"I'm a friend of Squall's," he finally answered, hoping his reply would satisfy her curiosity for the time being. "I was there last night... at the club." The last word was spoken in clear implication; he wanted Rinoa to realize her own part in what had happened.

A couple of moments trailed by as the girl remained silent. When her words finally came, they were laced with suspicion. "Squall doesn't have any friends in Esthar."

Realizing he should have expected such an answer, Seifer felt annoyance simmer just beneath the surface. For her to presume such a thing rubbed him entirely the wrong way. "He does," he stated firmly.

Not wanting to protract the whole ordeal any longer than absolutely necessary, he got to the point. "I offered him Avalanche to help him forget." Even thought he tried hard to mask it, he couldn't keep the regret out of his voice. "He never meant to hurt you."

After a stretch of silence, a short choked laugh resounded at the other end of the connection. "...I can't believe this..." Rinoa said, letting out another chuckle, this time more dark and disbelieving than before. "He was with you last night, wasn't he?"

Eyes narrowing at the girl's darkly amused response, Seifer couldn't believe her laughter. What the hell was she laughing at? That he was calling her? That Squall had been with a guy? As his annoyance reached new heights, he could no longer contain his barely restrained anger. "What the fuck is so funny about this?" he snapped, his left hand clenching tightly against the cold leather of the steering wheel.

Fighting hard to reel back his anger, he took a deep breath. This isn't how it's supposed to go.

"...Seifer?" His name was spoken in utter disbelief, an immediate end coming to Rinoa's awkward laugh.

Going from fuming to dumbstruck all within the fraction of a second, Seifer lost his train of thought.

Fuck. Definitely not how it's supposed to go. Back up. Get the message across and get out.

Through sheer force of will he managed to persuade himself that his identity was irrelevant in this. All that mattered was that she understood. "The message you left him... it devastated him. I can't believe you thought he would do something like that to you on purpose."

Rinoa's words came quickly this time. "What the hell is this? How..." she demanded, sounding totally perplexed, her voice heavy with denial. "You? ...With you?"

Feeling his anger rise once more at her unbelieving words, he had to remind himself that he was doing it all for Squall's sake; not hers. "Rinoa, calm down," he said, trying his best to calm himself as well. "That's what I'm trying to say... it wasn't him... it wasn't me... it was the drugs." Needing to make her understand, he continued on. "Don't blame Squall."

"The drugs?" she echoed incredulously, before continuing in a distraught voice. "...Why are you telling me these things? How long has this been going on?"

"Only last night... Rinoa, listen... there's nothing going on between us, it was a freak accident. I'm telling you..." he said, quickly trailing off as he worked hard to restrain himself and keep his composure. But as he remembered some of the words she had spoken, some of the words she had left for Squall to hear in a voice message, he could no longer hold himself back. "Squall doesn't deserve the accusations you threw at him. He would never hurt you like that. Believe me, he cares. He's in a fucking state right now because of you."

"So tell me, Seifer. Why do you suddenly care? Since when have you ever worried about Squall or me? What gives you the right to talk to me like this! ... If it was just the drugs like you said, then leave him the hell alone! He's had more than enough of your twisted games!"

Dangerously close to snapping, Seifer pulled aggressively at the steering wheel, the quick move forcing him forwards in the driver's seat.

"You're right, Rinoa. I don't have the right," he snarled, his voice seething. "But what the fuck? My twisted games?" he spat angrily, before forcing himself to take a deep breath. He couldn't believe her audacity. This wasn't about him; this was about them. "I will leave him alone," he forced out through his teeth, speaking the words he thought she needed to hear to feel less threatened by the situation. He needed her to calm down and focus on what he was saying.

"You're not listening to me Rinoa. I'm trying to help you guys here. Do you really think he would have told you any of this on his own?" he asked, knowing full well Squall would never do such a thing. She had to know that too. She had to understand he was doing this for them, that he was trying to help them salvage what the hell it was they had left. He couldn't be the last straw, he just couldn't be the one to mess up Squall's life again. "And I always cared about Squall," he added in a low voice.

An incredulous snort was instantly followed by sharp words. "You have a strange way of expressing you care. He might not have told anyone back at Balamb Garden, but I know what you did. You are twisted."

Rendered speechless, Seifer could do nothing but hold onto the steering wheel. She knew...

Squall had told her.

Closing his eyes, images of how he'd tortured the younger man at D-District played before his mind's eye, refusing to leave him alone. He felt nothing but shame and regret at those dark memories, his whole body numb to anything but the hurt that ran through him. He hadn't meant to. It... She...

After letting the accusation sink in for a moment, Rinoa continued, reining in her voice. "...As for your attempt to help... In the end... it doesn't really matter how he feels about you. What matters is what he doesn't feel for me... Seifer, if you really do care... I don't know what you think happened last night, but I know what I felt. You've always underestimated the impact you have on Squall."

He didn't hear her words at first, too preoccupied with the memories she had caused to resurface. When her words finally did register, he was left with nothing but confusion.

"What's that supposed to mean?" he asked after a pregnant pause, incomprehension clear in his voice.

Rinoa sighed in exasperation, before her voice took on a warning tone. "It means that Squall isn't as strong as he seems, especially when it comes to you. Your actions have consequences. They don't just roll off his back like it's nothing, no matter how composed he might pretend to be... You can't toy with him like this... I don't know what is worse. How you treated him during the war or this... You have no idea of the damage you are capable of."

Left mostly baffled by her words, Seifer was having a hard time keeping up, until some of what she was saying sank in. He couldn't believe she had just compared the events of the previous night to what had happened during the war. Mind reeling, he lashed out. "Why is this about me all of a sudden?" he demanded in a mixture of anger and distress. "I know my actions have consequences."

He took a moment to calm himself. "I know it's my fault. I know I fucked up, okay? Again," he said in annoyance. Realizing he had to get the conversation back on track, he continued on. "But clearly what you said affected him. I just wanted you to know it wasn't him. It wasn't his fault. That's all. So yes, if you want to be angry at someone, then fine, let it be me."

"...How noble of you," Rinoa said, no humor in her voice. "...I would be lying if I said I wasn't angry, but mostly... I'm frustrated... and hurt... You don't know what it's like. To want someone so badly, but never really being able to have them. And then for him to... with you... I just can't--"

Not sure he'd heard her right, his brown scrunched up in disbelief. Had Rinoa just said she'd never had Squall? That didn't make any sense. If the rumors he'd heard from Raijin and Fujin were anything to go by, then she and Squall had been together for over two years. Squall had changed for her. What had happened between himself and Squall was absolutely nothing in comparison. Her words were absurd, nonsensical even.

There was a moment of brief pause before Rinoa spoke again, her voice coming out dangerously tremulous. "...He brings out the worst in me. I've also done things I'm not proud of... It's because he's so oblivious... and so cold..." she trailed off, her quivering breath and sniffs on the other end of the line signaling her mounting distress.

Not liking Rinoa's growing disquiet, Seifer felt increasingly uneasy. "Will you stop making it sound like Squall actually wanted what happened between us to happen? Do you even know what Avalanche does?" he asked, incredulous at her words. "What happened wasn't any more his choice than a drug making him feel things he normally wouldn't."

"...Actually, I do know, Seifer. I'm no longer the naive girl you used to know," she bit out resentfully. "And don't talk to me as if I don't know Squall. I am the one who shares a bond with him... I'm not saying he wanted what happened, but it's not as meaningless as you think it is either." A long pause stretched on, before she finally concluded in a tired voice, "Goodbye Seifer."

At the soft click that signaled Rinoa had hung up on him, he brought down Squall's cell phone to stare at it for long minutes.

Uncertain his effort had actually made any difference, he couldn't help but feel annoyance towards the girl. Rinoa hadn't seemed to take any of what he'd said to heart, only lashed out in return. And when she hadn't lashed out, her words had been downright confusing. He didn't know what to make of the call. Sighing heavily, unable to curb the regret that welled up inside him, he wished he was the one lying passed out in drunken sedation.

It seemed the only instances he would ever feel remorse were in relation to Squall. He should have known better than to offer Squall Avalanche. He should have known that he wouldn't be able to control himself. Slamming his hand hard against the inside of his car, flesh making harsh impact with the rough plastic, he couldn't believe how much he had managed to fuck up in the space of a day.

[Seifer Almasy's Apartment, Zayin House, Thursday, 16th of October, 12:09 pm]

Having already stalled in the living room for over five minutes, not really knowing how to approach the situation, Seifer ran a nervous hand through his hair. If he thought what he'd just done had been hard, then he knew what was still to come would be much, much worse. Filled with nothing but dread at the prospect, he eyed the phone that had spurred him down the treacherous path in the first place. He'd left the device lying on the kitchen counter for Squall to find on his own, well in the knowledge that handing it to the guy would only add more flames to the already roaring stake he'd lit underneath himself.

With his elbows leaning on the hard surface of his kitchen counter, he began tapping his fingers restlessly against the dark stone. He'd certainly solved the mystery of why Squall had suddenly found a strong appreciation for Galbadian Bluewhistle, but the knowledge only made him want to face the man even less. Sighing, he turned around to glare at the empty bottle that lay discarded on the coffee table as if it was to blame for his impossible situation. Squall was going to be livid with him; he'd be lucky to survive the day. Secretly thanking Hyne that the man hadn't brought his gunblade along, his relief was shortlived as the mental image of his own gunblade lying hidden beneath his bed came to mind. He could only hope Squall hadn't realized where he kept Kronos, even if the spot was pathetically predictable.

What it came down to was the fact that he owed Squall the truth, nothing less. No more avoidance, no more lies. He would own up to what he'd done, just as he'd apologized for the war. It wasn't like there was any way he could get around it. If he didn't tell Squall what he'd done, the man would just find out from Rinoa anyway, and then he really would be dead.

Running his fingers through his short locks for the umpteenth time, he pushed away from the kitchen counter and headed for the bedroom. He couldn't stall any longer.

Inside the small room, his eyes were immediately drawn to Squall, the man lying in almost the exact same position as when he'd left. It was surreal to see the brunet like that. He'd never bothered to study the man's features relaxed in sleep before, had never seen Squall so unguarded. But before he could finish the thought a new memory emerged, one of Squall smiling and looking content.

Dismissing the imagery and the bitter taste it left in his mouth, he walked closer to the bed and grabbed the note he'd left there earlier. Crumpling the small piece of paper into a tight ball, he pocketed it in silence. His expression was entirely blank as he brought up a hand to massage one of his tense shoulders. Walking over to the bed, he lowered himself to sit down on the edge, the mattress shifting slightly under his weight.

Squall was lying on his stomach, cradling the pillow bunched up beneath his head, the lower half of his face mostly hidden from view by a high riding duvet. Hesitantly, Seifer pulled down the white fabric to uncover the rest of the man's face and left his hand to rest on top of the thin sheet. He really wasn't ready for this. He didn't want to be the one to return Squall to a world where the man's girlfriend had just left him for sleeping with his one-time rival. It took all his willpower to remain firm in his decision.

"Come on, Sleeping Beauty... time to wake up," he said in a low voice as he moved the hand resting on Squall's shoulder to try and stir the man awake. A displeased groan was all he received in reply.

Stubbornly keeping his eyes closed, eyebrows knitting together in a frown, Squall tried to will Seifer away. It felt like only a few minutes had passed since he'd laid his head to rest on the blond's pillow. His exhaustion exacerbated by the alcohol and chemicals still polluting his system, all he wanted was to be pulled under again by the deep sleep of recovery and keep all else at bay for just a little while longer, but Seifer's presence made the feat increasingly difficult.

"Come on Squall," Seifer said in a low voice as he tried to coax the brunet to wake. "I got you an antidote."

Realizing Seifer wasn't going to leave him alone, Squall unfurled his arm from underneath the pillow and turned to lie on his back in resignation. Instantly reminded of why moving was a bad idea, the glare he had intended to fix the blond with fell short as the room started to spin, his eyes unable to focus properly. The acrid taste of liquor mixed in with other fainter flavors he didn't want to label caused nausea to work its way up from his stomach to the back of his throat.

Holding out the vial containing the bright yellow liquid, pretty certain the item would gain him Squall's full attention, Seifer kept his eyes firm on the younger man. "Here," he said, waiting for the brunet to take it.

Squall immediately recognized the vial for the godsend that it was. Forgetting his desire for the blond to leave, he slowly worked himself into a sitting position and took the curative item from Seifer's hand, careful to avoid any accidental touch. Unsteady hands fumbled with the cork, before he downed the tingling cold liquid in one big gulp. Dropping the hand holding the small flask to his side, he slumped back into the pillows and closed his eyes in relief, the antidote already starting its work.

He was well accustomed to the feel of the cold liquid suddenly burning unbearably hot for the span of a few seconds as his body absorbed it at an unnatural pace, the healing agents of the item accelerated by magic. It soothed his unsettled stomach and licked its way through his veins, negating all harmful substances lingering in his blood. By the time the burn subsided, all that was left were sore muscles and an aching back, but it was enough. He could think again, his head clear and his body back under his control. Opening his eyes, he placed the empty vial on the bedside table without trouble, his fingers no longer trembling.

Turning to regard Seifer expressionlessly, his eyes no longer clouded, clarity of mind nearly cost him his composure as the sight of the blond brought unwanted images to the forefront of his mind. Bitter humiliation struck him as he realized Seifer had now seen him in every demeaning situation possible, ranging from pathetically weak and shoved against a harsh prison wall to passed out drunk on the man's couch and dependant on his help. And that wasn't even the worst of it.

Uncomfortable under the brunet's penetrating gaze, Seifer looked away. He wasn't normally one to avoid confrontation nor one to feel repentant, which left him without any behavioral patterns to fall back on. With his lower arms resting against his thighs, he began rubbing his fingers against his knees distractedly. In a subconscious move, he angled himself away from Squall slightly. Going over a host of different options of how to approach the situation, each one as unpleasant as the next, he decided to state his aim and persuade Squall to hear him out.

"We need to talk," he said, his eyes falling to the floor, his every move underlined by his increasing apprehension. "...I'm going to say some things that you aren't going to like to hear... but hear me out, okay."

Not saying anything in reply, Squall willed himself to wait for Seifer to continue, fighting his overwhelming need to run. It was an instinct he knew well from his childhood, one that had driven his feet until he hadn't known where he'd been anymore; one that had led him to fall asleep at the foot of a rock face, miles away from the orphanage, at the other side of the bay.

He had learned to face his difficulties since then, so he stayed in place as he tried to ignore Seifer's strange body language and the unusual warning that unpleasant conversation would ensue. Seifer's preferred way of breaking the news had always been blunt and unapologetic, never... this. It couldn't mean anything good.

At the lack of reply, Seifer decided he might as well speak the words no-holds-barred and get it over with as quickly as possible. "I spoke to Rinoa," he began, thinking Squall would view that as the worst of it. "I heard the message she left on your phone and it angered me that she'd think you'd do something like that on purpose." His words were measured, yet clearly conveyed how strongly he felt about what he'd done.

Seifer's words weren't quite sinking in. Dumbstruck, Squall stared at the blond, completely unprepared for the implications of the man's statement. He had expected Seifer to request he disappear not only from the blond's apartment but also his life, effective immediately from the moment he was able to. His mind was still torn over whether or not he would comply, when the altogether different words filtered through. I spoke to Rinoa.

Obviously contemplating how to proceed, Seifer sighed heavily before he spoke again. "I know," he said, his voice easily conveying just how badly he felt about what he'd done. He knew it was inexcusable, that he really shouldn't have done it. But knowing that didn't change it one bit. Bringing a hand up to his forehead, he pushed his long fingers into his golden hair and pulled at the short locks in visible frustration.

"I shouldn't have looked through your phone. But it was there on the floor. And you'd downed a bottle of alcohol. When have you ever run away from anything before? ...I had to know."

Eyes narrowing dangerously and white fists clenching against the bedding, Squall remained silent as Seifer continued his unwise confession. He ignored the sting of shame he felt when the blond cited his reason for such unwarranted meddling. The fact that his privacy had been violated in even more ways than he'd initially thought tipped the precarious balance in favor of quickly mounting anger. It was an easy emotion to embrace, blinding all other thought and burning its way to the surface.

Thankful Squall hadn't throttled him yet, Seifer realized he was almost there. There really wasn't much more to say. He just had to make sure Squall knew why he'd done what he had and that he felt guilty for it all.

"She knows it's my fault," he spoke lowly, his voice conveying his regret. "I should've known better than to let you have Avalanche," he continued, pausing ever so briefly. "I thought I'd be able to control myself..." But he hadn't been. The temptation had been far too great and now Squall was paying for it. Again.

Understanding dawned that Seifer must have said all of these things to Rinoa as well, and it took Squall great effort not to act. He had at least wanted to try and talk to her himself when he was ready, to determine what she knew and never mention what she didn't. The drugs, the fact that Seifer was the one he'd been with, he'd hoped to conceal it. Even if she knew he'd been with a man, a nameless man existing in her thoughts was far less damning than the knowledge that their sick triangle was now complete, that he'd let the ex-boyfriend who threw her at Adel's feet fuck him. Never before had he felt so blinded by rage.

Seifer knew it was time to get out. It didn't bode well that Squall hadn't said or done anything for long moments. He could only imagine the man's anger rising with each passing second; the silence was stifling.

"I... I have to go soon. Feel free to stay however long you want," he said as he got up from his place at the edge of the bed without even looking in Squall's direction.

"I won't be around much. You'll mostly have the place to yourself," he added as he turned around, the need to get out of there overriding all other thought.

But without warning, before he could even take a step away from the bed, he was tackled to the floor, his head thudding harshly against unforgiving wood. He was only given a split second to stare into seething grey orbs before Squall's fist connected with his face, the man channeling all of his rage into the punch.

"Who the hell do you think you are," Squall hissed in anger, grey-blue eyes spitting fire as he stared down at the blond.

Barely able to control the urge to punch Seifer again, his muscles tensing in the effort to restrain himself, Squall pushed off the floor, his every move rigid as he walked to the blond's dresser. He was beyond the point of taking in anything Seifer had to say and couldn't stand watching the man's face another second, lest he do something he'd come to regret. Seifer's turned back had been enough to dye his vision red. He wasn't sure what else might elicit such violence from him.

Setting himself the task of getting clean and dressed, more for distraction than anything else, he yanked drawers open without asking for permission. Pain instantly radiated out from his knuckles, but he paid it no heed as he started to rustle through the dresser's content with rough movements. Focusing solely on locating a suitable change of clothing, he retrieved black boxers and a black shirt without much consideration for size and shape, not even bothering with pants. If the boxers already looked like they'd fit him as shorts, any pants Seifer owned would be ridiculously oversized. Shoving the drawer closed, he disappeared into the bathroom and without another glance in the direction of the blond, he slammed the door shut.

Unable to pay much attention to anything but the intense pain shooting out from where Squall had hit him and where his head had impacted with the floor, Seifer remained still, completely unmoving for long moments. Slowly bringing up a hand to tentatively touch his throbbing cheek, he tried to open his mouth slightly, the pain increasing exponentially as he did. He couldn't open his mouth much more than an inch. Realizing his lower jaw was most likely broken, he brought himself into a sitting position.

He'd never seen Squall so worked up, never witnessed the man lose his temper like that. Who knew that after all those years of trying to break through to the brunet, make him lose control, the result would be altogether unappealing.

Not wanting to linger for a repeat performance or for the brunet to decide that it was altogether alright to rid the planet of his existence, he pushed up from the floor. He would cure the injury once he was well out of the building, not now. The sheer urgency of the moment became clear to him as his eyes traveled to the bathroom door; there was no telling when the SeeD Commander would return. Kicking himself back into action, he hurriedly grabbed his gunblade from underneath the bed and with Kronos in hand, he left the apartment.

A/N: Thanks for reading and as always thanks to Aera for betaing! A slight warning is in order as Wolkje and I have entered some very stressful and busy times. We'll do our best to keep the updates regular though (and of course, reviews are great on the motivational side of things ;))


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