“Life sucks, don’t it?” a voice I never expected to hear again said next to my ear.
“Hyne on the pyre!” I must have jumped a good 2 feet straight up, and would have gone farther if I hadn’t been tangled in bed sheets. I came down swinging, but the son of a bitch dodged. “What the fuck are you doing in my quarters?” I scrunched back against the headboard, glaring at the intruder.
Seifer sighed and settled himself comfortably in my desk chair. “Nice to see you, too, Chickenwuss.”
“Don't call me that. You,” I said, slightly amazed that for once I was in the right and it was Seifer Almasy who was breaking the rules, “are not supposed to be here.”
He leaned back and put his feet up on the end of my bed. “Sez who?” He inquired mildly.
My heartbeat was slowing and my brain was speeding up and in the middle I was starting to figure out What Was Wrong With This Picture. Other than Seifer in my bedroom at – I checked the clock – 3 damn AM. “Aren’t you slightly… dead?”
Seifer grimaced. “Not exactly.”
“How can you be ‘not exactly’ dead?” I reached over casually for the edge of my sheet and blankets.
“Ever hear of a Phoenix down? How many times did you die in the war?”
“Obviously, one less time than you.” I tugged the covers up to my nose, trying not to shiver at how easily they slid from under Seifer’s crossed ankles. I was noticing I could see the clothes I’d dumped in my desk chair through his body, too.
“I’m not dead, ok?” he snapped.
"Yeah, sure, it's only a flesh wound. Seifer, I was there!"
He sighed. “I’m just not exactly here. At the moment.”
“But why are you ‘not exactly here’ in my bedroom?”
Seifer smirked. “Because your life sucks.”
At the moment, my life was sucking so hard I was starting to list to the side, but I really didn’t see how being haunted by Seifer fucking Almasy was going to help. I developed a better plan. “I’m going back to sleep now,” I told him. “When I wake up, you’ll be gone, and my life will have improved already.” I wiggled down so I was in the bed properly and snuggled in,keeping the covers carefully over my head. “Too much chocolate coated popcorn before bedtime, that’s all.”
“Hyne on a high wire, any of that crap is too much. No wonder you can’t sleep.”
“I’ll tell Selphie about it in the morning, and that’s what she’ll say.”
I laughed into my pillow. “Oh, no, not Squall. He only talks to you if there’s a war going on. The rest of the time, you’re invisible.”
“I am invisible,” Seifer groused. “You are the only one who can see me.”
I moaned and burrowed in so my head was under the pillow. “Why me?” I asked into the mattress.
“I’m here to grant your fondest wishes.”
I kept my eyes scrunched closed, trying to force sleep. “I suppose wishing you’d go away would be a cheap shot?”
“You don’t really want that,” Seifer said, much too close by. I opened one eye and stared into his. He was in the bed with me! Right under the obviously defective covers which were supposed to protect me from nighttime supernatural visitations.
I did not scream like a girl, but I did somehow make all of my molecules leap backwards away from him. Naturally, I ran out of bed and ended up on the floor on my ass, my feet still trapped by the bedclothes. Damn those military corners, anyway.
Seifer took that opportunity to take over my bunk, spread out, and get comfy. “You need to lay off the caffeine, Chicken.”
“Don’t call me that.” I snapped, freeing myself and sitting up, leaning on my knees. “Okay, fine, three wishes, right? Good thing I already have those made up. A custom painted Elvoret-9 T-board, a stack of gil up to my chin, and a baby brother.”
“Kind of an old list, isn’t it?” Seifer smirked. “I’m not a genie, you don’t get three wishes.”
Just as well, I guess, because I never have time to T-board anymore and Ma is pushing 50 and probably wouldn’t appreciate a new baby. And I didn’t need the gil, I had everything I wanted. Pretty much. More or less. Kinda.
I sighed. “Ok, you aren’t a genie, what are you, then?”
He mumbled something. I frowned. “Say that again?”
“I said,” Seifer growled, “I’m your fairy godfather.”
That was wrong, so wrong, and on so many levels. "I always knew you were a fairy. Look, Seifer, I went to the SeeD ball, ok?”
He was back to smirking again, dammit. “But did you dance with the handsome Prince?”
Selphie plunked her tray next to mine and slid into the seat next to me. As usual, she’d started our conversation when she first spotted me from across the room, so by the time she actually sat down and asked, “I think it will look great, don’t you?” all I could do was give her the ‘thinking it over face’. I’d learned not to just agree, because if I did, I found myself drafted into all sorts of things.
Not that my response made any difference to Selphie. Most of her conversations didn’t really require any audience participation; it just slowed her down. She’d tell me what we talked about later, in a bright yellow tulip shaped sticky note – written in green glitter ink.
“I thought you’d say that,” she confided, nibbling the croutons off her salad. Her eyes took on a dreamy look most of us had learned to dread. Thank Hyne she was distracted by Squall entering the cafeteria, cool and elegant as chilled wine in a silver goblet. Selphie jumped up and waved wildly, like he could miss seeing us at the reserved SeeD table. “Squally!” He and I both winced at the same time, but Squall was polite enough to hide it and nod to her before getting in line. Everyone made way for him, but he sort of glided by like he didn’t notice. “What brings him down from On High?”
“Lasagna,” I said, taking a forkful of mine. “He loves it.”
“He does? I never paid attention.” She looked at her own plate as if expecting some sort of magic trick. Silly girl, she knew it was the Tuna Surprise that did that. Most smart people are only tricked into eating it once, though. “I guess it’s about the only edible thing on the menu at that.”
Seifer timed his appearance for when I had a mouthful, on purpose; I’m sure, materializing in the chair across from me. I choked and he smirked. “Still dealing with that eating problem, Chicken?”
I glared and tried to breathe while Selphie pounded on my back, helpfully beating me half to death. Fending her off, I looked up to see Squall heading our way, his tray loaded. He looked mildly concerned, or maybe surprised. Or, hells, thrilled. With Squall it’s hard to say. Squall beelined for the chair where Seifer was lounging, idly passing his fingers back and forth through my plate. I think he was trying to snitch my garlic bread.
The idea of Squall sitting in Seifer was just too horrible. I escaped Selphie and ran over to grab Squall’s tray away from him. “Not that chair. Uh… there’s something gross in it.”
Seifer flipped me off, but I have years of practice ignoring him. Not that it ever did much good. I set Squall’s tray at the only other available seat, right next to me. Selphie gave me the hairy eyeball, but Squall, looking faintly befuddled, just sat and dug into his lunch. I didn’t realize I was watching him eat until Seifer kicked my chair, hard. That sloshed my juice – just as I was reaching for it, too, so it went all over my sleeve – and I got another weird look from Selphie.
She smiled, all sweetness and sunshine, and chirped, “So… any news on those chocobo rustlers?”
“You mean, news about your cowboy,” I teased.
“Irvine said he’d be back by Tuesday.” Typical of Squall to forget to mention that until asked. He had a lot on his mind and little details like telling a girl her fiancé had checked in and was coming home just slipped his consciousness.
Selphie nattered, Squall ate, and I sort of watched his lips and throat and …um.
“Hyne, you got it bad.” Seifer sighed. Anything else he was going to add was eclipsed by Xu marching over and planting herself in his middle before any of us could say anything to stop her. Squall opened his mouth, I guess to warn Xu off about the gross thing, but she was too quick and he ended up just looking at me, a bit wide eyed. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was trying not to laugh. Personally, Xu’s head sticking out of Seifer’s chest wasn’t doing much for my appetite, and I wasn’t at all sorry when my so called fairy godfather huffed and melted away.
“You need to get his attention.”
Seifer had taken to following me around after work. He tried doing it during work but I think the kids could see him a little. They got all excited the first time and he never came back to class after that.
I toweled my hair and sighed. “Seifer, this is me, Deafening Dincht. You know I can attract attention in a crowd. He’s… oblivious. Blind. Thick.” I sat on the bed. “Deliberately obtuse. I think he hates me.”
“You just have to get under his skin.”
“Sure, that worked great for you. You guys argued all the time.”
"But I had his attention."
"Because he was trying to kill you!"
Smugly, Seifer pointed out, “But I had his attention.”
“Seifer, the last time you got Squall's attention, he stabbed you in the head! I like my head as is, thanks.”
“It was more of a lucky slice than a stab.” Smugness had turned to sulk as Seifer ran his fingers over his scar.
“I’m talking about when he killed you, Dumbass.” I worked the mousse through my bangs and coaxed them into standing up. It's all about style, Baby. And being a leeetle bit taller.
“I’m not dead.” Oh, yes, seriously sulking now. “I’m just not here. Exactly.”
I rolled my eyes. “So your advice is ‘pick a fight’?”
Seifer flopped back on my bed. “Always worked for me.”
I paused mid reach for my pants and picked my work out clothes instead. "I can't believe I am listening to you."
"Awesome, ain't I?" Seifer made himself comfortable. "It's because I'm always right."
I grabbed my gloves and ran before the bullshit got any deeper.
I took advantage of my, um, natural ability to hide behind excessively tall shrubbery and ambushed Squall just as he got inside the training center. "Hey Baby! Want some company?"
Squall looked at me, then beyond me to the jungle of the 'center, then back at me, taking just long enough for me to feel like a dork. Totally deflated, I opened my mouth to say one of those 'it's ok' lies when he shrugged.
"I am after the high level T-rexors. They are too much for the cadets and they're eating all the grats." He pulled Lionheart and led the way in.
I felt sort of bad for Squall; even his down time was totally devoted to running B-Garden. "Oops. I'm used to leaving them for Seifer." He loved to fight the beasts and got pissy if he couldn't find one, so most of us had gotten in the habit of going for other critters.
Squall flinched and I face palmed. Nice going, Bonehead, remind him he killed his buddy. Was buddy the right term? They weren't exactly friends, but Seifer had always been around, sort of like a bad rash. 'Nemesis' was about as close as I could get, and even that wasn't quite what I wanted. I followed Squall deeper into the T-Rexor territory, still rifling my mental thesaurus, and almost walked right up Squall’s ass when he froze in place, eying our prey.
He didn't cast, wanting the workout, I guess, and I was willing to play it that way. I got first hit, distracting the thing, and when it swung its huge head down, trying to find me in the tall grass, Squall was all over the other side. I don't want to brag, but we weren't Cadets by a long shot and even a 99 level T-Rex wasn't really enough to get us breathing hard. In fact, the only tricky moment came when Squall killed the beast a mite faster than I'd anticipated and I had to skitter out of the way or get flattened.
The T-Rexor was too big for the smaller critters to eat in a timely fashion, so Squall activated the disintegration spell that would send its proteins back to the matrix. I watched it dissolve and grinned at him. "Remind me to skip the hot dogs the next few days, Baby."
He actually made a huffing sound that could have been a laugh. "That explains so much." Squall turned slowly, tracking the crash in the underbrush we both heard.
This time there were two of them and although T-Rexors don't actually fight cooperatively, they will take advantage if you are distracted. My usual method is to fight up close and dirty and suck whatever damage comes my way - falling back to heal will just get you et. I took a good scrape along my left side and rolled with it, but I guess Squall thought it was worse than it was, because he stopped playing and threw Shiva. No one can pull a GF as fast as Squall and both the giant lizards were three-quarters dead and torpid from Diamond Dust before I even got back to my feet. I finished them off while Squall got reoriented in the real world.
"That was over quick. Remember a sudden appointment?" I asked, a little miffed that Squall had ended the fight so fast.
He colored slightly. "Sorry. Are you all right?"
I checked my side and frowned. "My shirt is hist, dangit." Well, there was a long ugly scratch on me, too, that was going to pull like a bitch when I flexed. A Curaga hit, talk about overkill, but I guess Squall was more used to dealing with more serious blows and didn't have anything else primed. I shook off the tingles and shucked my ruined tee.
We took down another two of the big guys, and it was starting to feel more like work than working out, and was about as fun and dangerous as pulling weeds in Ma's garden. I cast the disintegration spell this time, and looked around for more. What I saw was Seifer leaning against a tree, giving us a golf clap. "Fight with him, Dumbass."
Well, what did he think we were doing? It wasn't like Squall and I were on opposite sides...
"Hey, Baby," I said, stopping Squall's own scan of the area. "We're the most dangerous things in here."
"If you don't take into consideration some of the smells, yes."
"I don't know about you, but I came looking for a workout. So..." I held up my fists.
Squall blinked and gestured with Lionheart. "I can't fight an unarmed man."
That had to be some idiot infection leftover from Seifer's knight fixation. I rolled my eyes and kicked the gunblade out of Squall’s hand, mainly because he was distracted. Lionheart spun away, and Squall couldn't stop himself from tracking where his weapon went, so it was easy to put him flat on his back and sit on his ribs. "Dude, you are too easy. You need to brush up on your hand to hand."
Flushed, either with anger or embarrassment or because I was sitting on his diaphragm and he couldn't breathe, Squall was a beautiful man. And an insulted one. His eyes glittered like Shiva's ice. "I do ok."
Meaning, he won the war and all that. Sure, but I wondered, leaning forward to rest my folded arms on his upper chest, "What do you do if you are unarmed?"
Squall considered a moment. "Probably cast." Then the bastard hit me with an Aero that blew me off him and onto my ass in the tall grass.
We both rolled to our feet but Shiva was already chilling the air. I dodged her attack, slipping a little in the frosty weeds, and by the time my footing was secure Squall had Lionheart again and was charging. There's not a lot scarier than looking up and seeing that blade and that man bearing down on you; Hyne knows it was the last thing a hellova lot of monsters ever saw.
All I had to do was get close enough that Squall couldn't swing that deadly blade. The problem was, Squall knew that too. I'd said I'd wanted a work out and he gave me one, parrying my kicks as easily as I slapped aside his blade. The gunblade gave him reach and he had another advantage, stamina. I am fast, but I can't keep it up indefinitely. Squall could, oh, yes, he could fight all day and well into the night. I'd seen him do it with Seifer.
Squall could tell I was tiring, and upped the ante. He was using Lionheart two handed now, not because he had to, but because I'd slowed to the point where he could. He blocked a kick with enough force to knock me off balance, so I chose to roll with it and go down on my back. I knew Squall'd back off to give me time to get to my feet - that chivalry thing again- so I grabbed a handful of dead grass as a sort of steadying point and did instant stand. As soon as I was upright Squall slashed back, trying to disable my right arm.
I moved just a little, keeping my center, blocking, and Lionheart sliced the grass I still had clamped in my fist. Blades fell in a flutter and I guess Squall saw the movement out of the corner of his eye and thought they were my fingers or something because he actually gasped and stopped fighting.
If I'd known he was going to do that, I might not have hit him so hard.