When Night Falls
The world is dying.
I don't know when it started exactly, maybe a year ago, maybe longer. It seemed innocuous at first, pathetic shadow creatures appearing on this world with no known origin. No one was concerned since the bugs could hardly stand against a strong wind let alone a blade of adamantine, but then they kept coming until their numbers rose in exponential increments. Despite the efforts of warriors and scientists alike, no solution could be found to stop the influx of shadow creatures.
The worse came when we discovered just how dangerous shadows can be. More than their sharp claws, more than their ability to hide underfoot, they steal bits and pieces of life from everything they touch. The stubborn survive, whereas the weak... The shadows have a terrifying knack to sense weakness in their prey, even the briefest glimmer of lost hope enticing the shadows to attack and steal the once bright soul. Too many people have been lost, their bodies left to rot in open view as no one is left to bury the dead and too few monsters remain to feast on the flesh. The world itself seems to have given up: the trees are leafless over dead grass, the oceans have retreated while leaving nothing but desert, and the sky is tinted dark blue from the dust of defeated shadows.
The world is dying and there's nothing I can do to stop it.
"Shit, that's depressing."
The bitter declaration wakes me from deeper thoughts and I glance up from the dead earth to look at Seifer. With months of battles behind us, his blond hair is longer and shaggier than he prefers it, not to mention a light growth of stubble at his jawline, but personal grooming isn't high on our list of priorities these days. His gray trench coat lost years ago, he now wears a sturdier leather jacket that has his signature cross sword branded along the back and an image of a lion stitched onto the left sleeve. While the rest of him is covered in black dust from defeated shadows, silver shines brightly against his chest from a thick chain and the Griever ring I gifted to him years ago. His choker disappeared shortly after that and I never did ask why.
Seifer smirks at my stare, but his eyes don't reflect that humor. "Looks like our anniversary plans are shot to Hell."
Curious at his statement, I look at the land ahead of us and my heart aches at the reasonably expected, but wholly unwanted sight. The cabin we purchased and remodeled years ago looks like an aged structure from before we were born, the once golden planks of wood now dark with rot. While the cabin at least appears in one piece, the dock that once stretched out over the lake is now a crumbled mess on cracked earth with no water in sight. I don't know why we bothered to fantasize that our home would be spared from the world's slow death, but it had been something to keep us moving, to keep us hopeful.
A hand settles on my upper arm and squeezes gently. "It's not much, but night is coming. We should go inside."
I nod at the suggestion, ignoring the way the hairs at the back of my neck raise at the idea of nightfall.
We walk to the prematurely aged cabin and step inside, somewhat surprised to find it in better shape than the outside. Our gunblades and traveling packs discarded, I think to dwell over the pictures and books left behind, but Seifer obviously has a different plan as he grabs one of my belts and drags me toward our onetime bedroom. Dim in the grayish light of sunset, the room holds little of the warmth I recall from the cherry wood furniture and crimson sheets. It feels like walking into a nightmare where everything is familiar, but the details are different enough for everything to be wrong, so very wrong.
Without releasing his hold on my belt, Seifer removes the dust-ridden top sheet and sits on the mattress to pull me forward such that I'm forced to straddle his legs. Instantly, one hand braces me at my shoulder and the other sneaks up beneath my shirt, denying me an easy escape when he attacks my neck with heavy licks and caressing kisses. It's hard to think rationally with this man around, but an important thought manages to filter through -
"We don't have time for this."
Seifer laughs against my neck, his stubble more clearly felt. "Leave it to Shiva's Lover to ruin a good time."
"You're the one who mentioned night was coming. This can wait until after nightfall and the surge of shadows passes."
Acting like a man who hadn't heard a damn word I said, Seifer lowers his hand from my stomach and to my belts, long ago mastering the technique needed to unbuckle a belt with one hand.
"Seifer..." I scold in a threatening voice, but the growl only encourages him.
A second belt undone, he says, "We don't have to go all the way. Just let me touch you."
Something in his voice makes me go still, and when the final belt at my waist slips open, I place my hands at his face and make the man look at me. Though reluctant, Seifer lifts his head and meets my gaze with his entrancing eyes of green and flecks of blue, the color of the seas which are slowly becoming extinct on this world. He hides nothing in his gaze and it's weak of me to wish he had.
Seifer moves his hand from my shoulder to stroke his fingers through my wind-tangled hair. "I'm sorry, Squall. I guess I never was as strong as you."
"No... No, why now? How could you lose hope now?" I ask in a broken whisper.
"This place," Seifer replies as he rests his forehead against my chest. "It was always a place of salvation for us. No matter the fights with your friends, no matter the brutality of the missions SeeD convinced you to handle, we could always come back here and find peace. But those bugs got to this place, too, just like the rest of the world and I don't know why we bother..."
I want to argue, to give Seifer a reason to continue forward, but I know he's right. We haven't seen another human in weeks and it's been months since we heard from any of our friends. Food and water are becoming frighteningly scarce and there is simply no reason for a sane man to continue walking on this dying world. Truthfully, I don't know how we lasted this long.
Instead of vocalizing those thoughts, I reach down to his pants and undo the button and zipper. "We don't have time for much."
Seifer leans back with a grateful smile, his eyes bright with unrestrained love. "It's enough to have you."
His hands grab onto the edge of my shirt, his signal for me to shrug off my jacket before he helps to remove the torn and dusty clothing. Our gloves are lost somewhere in the mess of uncoordinated kisses and Seifer removing his jacket. With no time to waste, I slide my hand past the elastic band of his boxers and grab hold of his dick. Seifer groans at the contrast between the sweaty heat of his cock and the icy coldness of my hand, the sheer pleasure in his growl making me smirk with a victorious edge.
Noticing my expression, Seifer breathes a laugh before leaning forward with a kiss to disrupt my smirk. At the same time, he jerks on my pants to give his large hand enough room to handle my beginning arousal. With more than six years together, we have learned each other's bodies almost better than our own, a strange reality when I actually think about it, but it's not like Seifer allows me to think much during these times together. His hand moves with firm intent, my gasps from his rough touch swallowed by his desperate kisses.
Eventually Seifer bends down to dote his attention to the largest of my scars, the icicle attack from Ultimecia, and I bury my free hand deep into his golden blond hair. His breaths gain a rough edge against my skin, a pleasure reflected in his strengthening grip on my cock. I barely recall when he would try to be gentle, Seifer always fearful of being associated his reflection who tortured me and carved into my flesh. I broke him of the condescending habit early on, but the fear never left him, and though it hurts to think so, he became a better man for it.
"Squall," Seifer purrs against my neck, "Thank you for being here, for coming back to save me. I only wish that I could've saved you."
Before I can speak a word, he squeezes my cock enough to steal away my breath and reduce my argument to an irritated, "Bastard."
"I love you, Squall. In this world and the next, my soul belongs to you."
An unwanted tear spills across my cheek, a touch of wetness that Seifer steals away with a chaste kiss.
Nothing needs to be said after that, our hands moving with a final purpose as his head rests against my shoulder and my chin settles on top of his head. My eyes focus on the window without truly seeing anything beyond the slowly approaching night and I surprise myself at being able react to Seifer's touch. He's the first to come, hot fluid on my hand and a low grunt against my chest before he bites at my collarbone, the ultimate touch I need to release into his hand.
We sit like that for a time, my fingers clutching onto golden hair and his tongue lapping at the beads of blood from his bite. But it can't last and we move apart to wipe our hands on the old sheets and eventually sit together against the headboard with our pants redone, but our jackets and my shirt remain missing. Settled with Seifer's arms around me, I watch him play with the gold ring on my left hand, a post-coital habit of his. A similar ring decorates his left hand, a substitute for the Griever ring he wears on a chain, the idiot never comfortable with the chance of damaging the ring by having it resized.
And then the last rays of sunlight fall beyond the mountain horizon.
With the first whispers of shadows entering the cabin, I lean forward with the intention to grab my discarded blade, but Seifer stops me. Glancing back into his eyes, I'm reminded of the reason why the shadows were immediately drawn here. And then I face the reality that I can't have hope without Seifer. His expression changes faintly, perhaps seeing a reflection of what I see in his eyes. The whispers grow louder beyond the bedroom door, but I return to Seifer's side and let him take my left hand in his, our rings grinding together when he squeezes tightly.
"I shouldn't tell you," he whispers, his chin against my shoulder, "but I'm a little bit relieved that you're coming with me."
I scoff at his self-depreciating tone. "If it were the other way around, I'd take you with me, too, so don't even think that you're some kind of monster."
Seifer breaths a laugh against my skin. "Hyne, if we only had another ten minutes..."
Though I always assumed sex would be his last thought before death, I never imagined witnessing the event in its fullness. Pressed against his body, I close my eyes and try to focus solely on Seifer - his incredible heat, his unique scent, his steady breaths - instead of the eager approach of insatiable shadows. I tighten my hand within his and feel grateful that I was given some time with him, time I would've lost if I stayed in that other existence.
And with a final breath together, darkness attacks.
My breaths rushed and my heartbeats wild, I snap open my eyes to subsequently wince at the brightness of unexpected light. Everything feels wrong in that moment, an alarming thought that I can't focus on beyond a brutal headache that makes me curl beneath thick sheets. The headache feels oddly familiar, and the moment I realize why, my breaths halt in abrupt fear. Still under the sheets like a terrified child, I cautiously lift a hand to my forehead and feel short-lived relief at my fingers brushing against my scar instead of bandages.
Then I remember the all consuming darkness.
With the knowledge that I shouldn't be alive and most certainly not sleeping on a narrow bed, I lift the sheets and stare at the wholly unfamiliar room. Bathed in midday sunlight, I glance over the aged wallpaper that has started to peel off the wall, the collection of boxes piled in a corner, and the mismatched furniture that has seen better days. Then I spot my gunblade case leaning against the wall... but it's not really my gunblade case, just very similar to the one left behind in the cabin.
Though my heart burns at the memory of the cabin, I manage to crawl out of bed despite my headache and pad barefoot over to the case. I open the dark lid and stare thoughtlessly at Lion Heart shining a dull azure within the velvet lining. I catch my vague reflection against the blue metal and finger the hair that is longer than it should be, but not too dissimilar from my typical style. And thusly I get my first taste of an alarming theme - almost, but not quite the way things should be.
A soft knock abruptly sounds, followed by the cheerfully annoying call of my name. Startled, I stare at the door before opening it, wholly expecting Selphie to be standing outside, bright as the sunshine in her yellow dress. Instead, I find two young women standing at the doorstep, neither recognizable in my memory.
"Squall! You are here, you lazy bones," the shorter of the two women says, her dark eyes bright with mirth.
I say nothing in response, though feel somewhat offended at being treated so causally by a stranger.
"We haven't seen you in a day," the other one says in explanation, her tone oddly soothing to the point that my headache drums with less intensity. "With your habit to face the Heartless by yourself, we were worried that something had happened."
'Heartless'...? Why does that term make me worried?
The dark-haired girl abruptly gasps and points at my head. "When did you get that scar?"
When I don't immediately reply, the other one suggests, "Were you attacked by a Heartless? Is that why you've been hiding here, so that we wouldn't fuss over you?"
"... I don't know," I state honestly, my breaths growing shallow at the sudden realization of what could be happening here.
Again, the dark-haired girl speaks first. "You stupid boy, they messed you up good, didn't they? Those inky bastards! Why didn't you come see Merlin to make sure that there's nothing wrong with you?"
"Yuffie is right," the other one says with the type of concern reserved for close friends. "We don't understand what damage these Heartless can cause beyond physical injuries."
On the edge of a breakdown, I nod in the effort to get rid of these women. "I'll think about it, but right now, I need some time to collect myself."
Though the one named 'Yuffie' looks ready to argue, the other one saves me. "We obviously woke you, so get some sleep and visit Merlin when you're ready."
"But we'll be back if you don't get a checkup by dinnertime!" 'Yuffie' warns.
Once again reminded of Selphie, I feel my lips form a bare smile. "Understood," I say, and then close the door to the outside world that I can't continue to face.
As their footsteps recede until unheard, I lean back against the door and stare unseeingly at the aged wallpaper. This is impossible. I thought it was cruel of Fate to force me to relive the worse months of my life, but at least it was worth that pain to save Seifer and impossibly love him. This, on the other hand, for me to be dropped into a world that isn't mine... It just doesn't make any sense. Before, I had a reason and a mission, but this doesn't...
A glimmer of an idea comes to mind and I glance down at my slightly shaking hands. Gold glints from my hand, momentarily giving me hope that Seifer or a version of Seifer is here with me, that maybe I'm here for him, but then I notice that it's the exact ring I have worn for five years. Not almost, not a replica, but my ring that was given to me by Seifer and has been etched by the hard life of a mercenary. I slump to the ground, unable to stand and hardly able to breath as I draw my knees to my chest.
I want to die. It's a simple desire that has been denied me twice, but the moment I have that thought, a voice inside my head laughs and says that it isn't going to happen. I want to argue against the voice that is clearly Seifer's, but in my heart, I know that it's right. Even when prepared to die with Seifer, my first instinct at the approach of shadows was to grab my sword to attack and survive another day. I don't have the mentality to simply lie down and refuse my fate.
Resting my chin on bent knees, I think about those women and their talk about 'Heartless'. I have no reason to suspect so beyond Yuffie's statement of 'inky bastards', but something tells me that this world has been infected by the same shadows from my world. 'Heartless' seems like a good name for them. If it's true that the shadows are here, then this world doesn't have long in its doomed existence. Until that fateful end, I'll slaughter every shadow that steps in my path in retaliation for Seifer being stolen from my life.
My decision made, I stand up from the ground and step to the small closet near the bed. Aside from a collection of shirts, a single leather jacket hangs inside, an odd thing with short sleeves and a length that seems to be missing a few inches. Nothing else decorates the half-jacket, something I'll need to correct. I close my eyes and reluctantly envision that desolate place beyond Time Compression where I spoke with Seifer's specter, a bastard of an angel without wings who dared to apologize to me.
I don't know if Seifer would be proud of me continuing forward, but there's no question that he would be disappointed if I did nothing to avenge his death. He would conquer a world for me; killing a few hundred shadows seems like a small favor in return. And then one day, when night falls on this world, we will be together again.
Author's Whining -- So, that's what happened when Squall's world ended and he lost Seifer. It was nice being able to do this request since I wasn't planning to go into this detail with the main storyline, but now there's an extra bit of support to go along with the story that I can always refer back to. I hope this is what you wanted, Megan!