“So,” Bartz said, breaking the quiet of their company.
Squall didn’t much care for small talk, but he made tended to make exceptions for Bartz. The brunet always had something interesting to share, not that he’d ever admit.
"Have you ever danced before?“
The question came out of nowhere and it was so random and unexpected that Squall found that he could only gawk.
Bartz grinned. "So, no then?”
Shaking his head, the gunblader turned his gaze to the canyon, looking decidedly more disgruntled than usual. “Actually, I have.”
“No way. With who?"
Bartz made a point to scoot closer, and were it not for their friendship, Squall would have pushed him off the low hanging cliff they sat on. "Her name is Rinoa. She’s back on my world.”
“Is she part of SeeD?”
He frowned, brows furrowing, “It’s… Complicated.”
"Oh.“ Bartz folded his hands in his lap and mirrored Squall, looking out into the canyon.
The silence dragged on, and while Squall reveled in it usually, this stagnant quiet felt awkward. Baited, almost. "I’m not very good at it.”
“Good at what?”
Bartz laughed heartily, clear as a bell. It was a warming kind of sound. "Oh, I’m sure you’re not that awful.”
“Trust me, I am.”
Quiet came once more, and suddenly Bartz hopped up, grabbing Squall’s sleeve and yanking him up as well. “Prove it.”
Squall cocked a brow, and Bartz opened his arms invitingly. “Dance with me!”
The notion was ridiculous, and if Squall had a sense of humor, he probably would have laughed. The two of them, dancing on a clifftop in the midst of a war, like idiots. He was about to roll his eyes and sit back down, but Bartz remained open to him. “You can’t be serious.”
"Because-….“ Why not? He could not for the life of him, think of a good reason, why not. The obvious war reasons aside, there was no good reason, other then the fact he really didn’t want to.
Squall sighed. “Because I’m bad at it. We’ll look stupid. And I don’t want to.”
Bartz put his hands on his hips and rolled his eyes, “Well, if you’re bad at it. Practise makes perfect. No one can see us being stupid. And that’s just too bad. I want to, so dance with me.”
Squall narrowed his eyes, putting on his best deterring glare, but Bartz was not bothered. He joined their hands, put his hand on the other’s side, and stepped closer. Squall jerked away, frowning, but Bartz followed him perfectly.
“Alright alright! But put your hand on my shoulder. I am not going to let you lead.”
Bartz’s face lit up in an extremely satisfied smile, and looking smug about the developments, placed his hand on Squall’s shoulder. Squall was not impressed.
He looked down at their feet for a moment, brows knitting together in concentration as he tried to remember how the basic waltz went. The last time he’d danced was at the ball with Rinoa, and that’d been a complete disaster for the most part. He’d stepped on her feet, crashed into other people, missed his cues, missed her cues, and was glad the fireworks had interrupted them before they’d gotten a chance to dance some more. Bartz seemed to notice his reluctance, and leaned in the direction they should begin moving in. Squall took the hint and sloppily stepped backwards, starting them off at a snail’s pace.
It was different here, on the cliff. There wasn’t roomful of people watching, there was no music to follow. No Rinoa to push him in the right direction. Just Bartz, dropping subtle hints here and there and carefully avoiding Squall’s awfully timed feet.
On their fourth rotation, Squall was mildly pleased to see that he’d fallen into some kind of rhythm, and looked up from the ground to smirk at Bartz. Only— Bartz wasn’t looking at him. The crystal warrior had his eyes shut, following his gentle lead with practised ease.
He was genuinely enjoying himself.
Squall got distracted by the way the dim sunlight bounced off his hair and the spots of colour that flashed from his beads that he tripped on Bartz’s ankle, bringing them both to a stumbling halt.
Bartz’s eyes shot open and he laughed, sheepishly, clinging to Squall’s shoulder and hand, even as he was trying to pull away. “Kinda hard without music. Here, since I’m making you dance, and that’s embarrassing. I’ll sing! That’s just as embarrassing!”
Before Squall could protest, Bartz had started up the pace again, and had lowered his voice to sing. It was quiet, and sad.
“ Once there were trees full of birds.
Meadowlands vibrant with flowers.
Carefree the songs our children once sang.
Gilding our minutes and hours.
Clouds came and covered the sun,
The breath of the baleful unease.
Turning to ashes flowers in their fields,
silenced the birds in their trees.”
All at once, Squall felt the terrible sadness radiating from Bartz, a feeling he’d never gotten from the sunny rogue before. He listened, transfixed, and kept to their pace easily.
" Fight till the battle is done,
The squadrons of night can’t conquer the day.
Not shadows extinguish the sun.
The night has left us crippled with grief.
As we strive to keep alive our belief.“
Their dance slowed, sluggish, and then it came to a complete stop. Bartz didn’t look like he was focused on Squall anymore. His eyes were fogged, and fixed on Squall’s chest as he continued.
”But a loss so great,
it clouds our hopes for the dawn.
Are we the plaything of fiends,
or merely the dreams.
Lies that we’re telling ourselves?
Spectres of plague and pain,
all of our own delusions come back.
Relentless in their attack.
Have we been fighting in vain? Fighting in…“
It was then Bartz realised they’d stopped, and slowly registered back into focus.
"Oh… I’m sorry! I sometimes get carried away with my songs.”
He pulled back with a sheepish laugh, and this time, Squall was the one to follow. Bartz tried to play it off, cheerful and optimistic as ever. “You should hear the song I wrote about boko! That one’s saucy– Oh and it’s great to dance to.”
Squall hadn’t any idea what he could say, but continued to stare at his friend closely. Bartz heaved a sigh, letting his smile fall, and allowed his head to droop onto Squall’s shoulder.
“I didn’t mean to make it sad… I guess… Even though I pretend I’m not feeling something, I still am.”
“I can relate….” Squall’s murmur was hesitant, and loathsome to admit.
"I’m sorry Squall. I don’t really think all that… About the fighting in vain… I know we’re going to win.“
Squall didn’t answer.
"We just have to.”
They stood there, leaning on each other for a while. Squall dropped their hands and put the arm around Bartz’s shoulder, comfortingly. He missed Rinoa. Everything from her bright smile and her nonsense, to her nagging and her tears. Bartz reminded him a lot of her, and it hurt. At least they could find some solace in each other. There wasn’t much to be had on the battlefield. He supposed someone as cheery as Bartz would wear down eventually.
He just hoped, that like Rinoa, his being there might be enough to keep the person he cared about smiling.