"What's this?" Seifer asked as Fuujin handed him an envelope. She was holding three of them; this one had his name on it.
She shrugged. "INVITATION."
Seifer ripped it open, smirking at the heavy paper. He was invited, apparently, to a New Year's Welcome Party at Balamb Garden. Black tie recommended, in fact. He scowled at it - the first communication he'd had from Garden in over a year, and it was an invitation to a damn party? What in Hyne's name was Squall on about? He flipped it over, trying to see if there was more to it than his name on a list. Come home, the words were scrawled across the otherwise blank back of the heavy cream-colored paper, in a familiar handwriting. Seifer made snarky comments about prodigals, but Fuujin recognized the look in his eyes and started gathering their belongings.
Seifer was sure he'd seen every one of his former classmates - and been given the hairy eyeball by most of them - before he tracked down the man who'd invited him. Trepe, oddly enough, gave him a hug, but most everybody else was like Chickenwuss - dirty looks and deliberately turning away.
In the center of the bustling ballroom, Squall was the focus of everyone's attention. No, he realized. Rinoa was the center of attention, bright and sparkling in a floor-length gown that made her look like a princess. Squall, looking awkward as ever in his dress uniform, was merely the setting for her jewel. She was the focus of his attention, too, and Seifer was pretty damn sure he'd never seen Leonheart look like that at anybody, himself included.
He caught Squall's eye from across the room, and stepped out onto the balcony. He wasn't going to have this conversation - or any conversation, really - with a hundred other people watching. It was as cold as Balamb ever got, an hour shy of midnight on the last day of the year, and Seifer was pretty sure he'd made a mistake.
Then he heard the familiar tread, and knew it for sure. "Seifer," he said. Seifer hadn't expected him to speak first. "You came." Two fucking words might have been a million, for Squall, and Seifer realized that he was really and truly fucked.
Seifer shrugged. "You invited me."
Squall nodded. Waited. He looked good in his dress blacks. Tired, though. Older than he remembered.
"So. You and Rin. I admit, I didn't expect it to last. Figured you'd be too quiet for her."
He smiled, just a little. "She got used to it." Squall was still watching him. "I hope you weren't exclusive."
Seifer laughed at that. Trust Squall to remember he'd had Rinoa first. "When was I ever exclusive with anybody? I seem to remember you taking exception to that very thing, in fact."
Squall rubbed at the scar across his brow. Fuck him if it didn't make him better-looking, rakish or some damn thing. "Times change," he said at last.
"Times change?" he echoed, with a barking laugh. "Yeah, I guess they do, Headmaster Leonheart."
"Don't," he said, looking genuinely hurt.
"Why? You invite me to your big shindig, show off your girlfriend, what is it if not rubbing it in my face?"
"My wife," he muttered, and was the bastard blushing? He was.
"We got married at Solstice. Secretly. But... That's not why. It...wasn't to show off."
Seifer was still reeling from the revelation, Squall married, "Then why?" he demanded, not bothering to keep the anger and bitterness out of his voice. "What in Hyne's name do you want from me?"
Squall crossed the distance between them in sharp steps, precise as any maneuver, and extracted the invitation from Seifer's inside coat pocket. His hand was warm, even through the glove, brushing his shirt front. He turned it and handed it back, the handwritten message facing the still winter sky. "Come home?" Seifer asked as if it was the first time he'd seen it; as if he hadn't spent hours tracing it with his fingers. "Just like that? All is forgiven? Which is why Chickenwuss looked like he'd rather hit me than look at me, of course. Did Cid put you up to this?"
Squall shook his head.
"Edea, then? Or - hell, don't tell me it was Rin."
The headshake again.
Seifer looked at him, slowly up and down. The edges of his mouth twitched. "You?"
"Is that so hard to believe?" Squall's voice was soft, raspy, and he was close enough Seifer felt the warmth of his breath faint against his cheek.
"We - weren't exactly friends, Squall, even when I was fucking you senseless."
"I wasn't really anybody's friend," he said, scrubbing at the scar again. "Doesn't mean I didn't care."
Seifer heard footsteps approaching, sharp staccato on the wood floor. Trepe, he thought,and then Quistis pushed the curtain aside. "Squall? It's almost time." Trepe took them in, didn't look upset or even inclined to meddle much.
"I'll be right there," he said, and she went away again.
"What the fuck did you do to her?" Seifer asked, and Squall shrugged.
"Rinoa," he said, as if it were an explanation. Hyne, maybe it was. Seifer didn't think Rinoa would take kindly to Trepe bossing around her boyfriend. Her - husband. The idea of Squall Leonheart as anybody's husband was ridiculous. Except. Except there was something about him, a quiet authority that hadn't been there before. Headmaster, indeed.
"So you want me to come crawling back? I don't need help, we're doing just fine without Garden."
"Of course you are," he said, as if he knew. Hyne, maybe he did. "But this is your home, Seifer. You belong here," he said, and he leaned just the slightest bit closer, kissed him on the mouth.
Squall was almost at the door when Seifer managed to shake off his surprise enough to speak. "Leonheart," he called. Squall paused, hand on the door. "Are you exclusive?"
A smile, a genuine fucking smile, and another headshake, and he was gone. Seifer swore under his breath, somewhere between revelation and prayer, and followed.