Author's Note -- I haven't done one of these in a very long time, but this song really calls to me with the following scene and I can't stop thinking about it. As with my other songfics, the lyrics of the song are within the story as dialogue, thoughts, etc, so it may be awkward to read. This time I'm using 'I'm With You' by Arvil Lavigne, and as a note, I'm not going to be quoting the song exactly as I go along.
Waiting in the Dark
With a deep sigh, I sit on the edge of the bed and run a hand through my tangled hair, the long strands messed after my failed attempt of getting any decent sleep tonight. One would think I should simply give up by now, but instead, I glance out a partly closed window and tiredly hope that some fresh air may help me to get some rest. Or perhaps some heavy exercises with my gunblade will help to exhaust my body further until it gives out. And if I'm really lucky, I might make a mistake and knock myself unconscious with my own blade.
By the time I struggle with several belts in the darkness and find where I tossed my worn jacket in the small living space, I step outside to find that it has started to rain. Closing my eyes, I turn my face up into the cold splattering of water and savor the chilling caress for a brief moment. But that meaningless touch can never satisfy the deeper desires I'd rather not name, and so I scoff at my weakness before walking into the night.
As my feet move on their own, I stare thoughtlessly at the reflective surface of the wetted stones which pave the streets of this town. It's the sound of musical laughter which makes me pause and look over the square to watch Aerith spinning with her hands held out wide to best feel the falling rain. A man I consider a heartless soldier like myself watches her fondly, his strange blue eyes glowing softly in the darkness of night. Cloud then removes his tattered cape to cover the young woman and gently leads her in the direction of the Dalmatians' home.
I continue to stare at the vacated square, unable to move from where I'm standing on the bridge which overlooks this part of Traverse Town. My whole body seems to ache as I wait in the dark, waiting to understand why I hurt so much.
"I thought that you'd be here by now," I whisper, but there's of course no reply. There's nothing but the rain, no footsteps on the ground. I stand there listening, but there's no sound.
Frustrated with myself, I turn sharply and continue on my previous path to the sewers. But my thoughts have already been tainted with the questions which have kept me from sleep these past days since Sora, the child keyblade master, left to battle Ansem. Isn't anyone trying to find me? Won't somebody come take me home? ... But it's pointless to ask such things. Apparently I'm meant to suffer in this lifetime, that I'm always meant to be alone. But it's a damn cold night, too cold to try and figure out this life. I would be better off warming up with some mindless gunblade exercises deep in the sewers where few people can find me.
Hunched over while trying to find some warmth in my pathetic jacket, I walk on the wet stones toward the steps which lead down into the square. Then, for the first time in a very long time, I slip. After rolling down the short stairway and smacking my head nicely against the wall, I groan and stare dazedly at the world before me. Footsteps unheard, a shadowy form slowly steps in front of me and waits there. The glare of a streetlamp makes me wince as I look up, but despite my blurred vision, I see the golden hair wet with rain. I suddenly feel like crying, and I want to ask the man why he hasn't taken me by the hand to take me somewhere new, someplace with him. But I know I can't ask that. While I don't really know who he is, I know the rules between us. And yet, despite our rivalry, I know that I'll always be with him.
"Hey, are you alright, Leon?"
My eyes widen at the wrong voice, the wrong name. I force my vision into some kind of focus and I find a glowing blue-eyed gaze set on me, not quite concerned, but the fact that Cloud spoke to me signifies the worry he feels for an almost friend. Gingerly, I use the wall to push myself up onto my feet, relieved that I hadn't been a complete idiot and injured myself in such a mundane fashion.
Meeting the blond's gaze, I tell him, "Looks like everything works."
Cloud doesn't quite smile, but I know he is finding his own humor in me nearly killing myself on a set of wet stairs. "I'm heading to First District. Want to join me?"
I pause in surprise at receiving the offer, and then shrug as my reply.
He nods in affirmation, then turns to the large doors which lead to First District, the effect not as intimidating as when he wears his red cape. In fact, he seems smaller this way, almost young. But those eyes of his lost their innocence long before I knew this man.
We walk in silence for a time, something which is impossible when the other girls are with us. While I appreciate Yuffie's presence with the way she reminds me of Selphie, I can only take so much of the talkative women. Cloud seems to hold a similar opinion to myself, but after being separated from his friends for so long, he probably doesn't mind their chatter.
"Have you given up?"
I glance over at the smaller man, not quite certain what he is referring to. "Given up?"
"Searching for your light in the darkness. Have you given that up?"
"My 'light'," I repeat with a slight chuckle. "That doesn't really describe the person I'm looking for."
Cloud smirks. "Still, have you given up?"
"I don't know," I reply honestly. It's so hard anymore to know that Seifer could be anywhere or perhaps nowhere. With the destruction of our world, anything could be possible. And frankly, having hope hurts.
Silence forms between us once more, lasting until we reach the main square of Traverse Town. Once there, Cloud slows to a stop and turns to face me with his odd sapphire eyes. "I was close to surrendering to my fate, but now that I've found my light, I know that everything was worth it."
I don't argue, knowing that Cloud has gone through a similar hell as I have, but I still hate how easy he makes it sound.
"I'm going to the hospital. You are welcomed to join me."
Recognizing the fake offering for what it is, I shake my head. "I can manage on my own. Tell Aerith and Yuffie that."
A breath of laughter escapes the blond. "I warned the girls that you'd know it was them who wanted to make certain you were okay. I'm not worried," Cloud states while turning to leave. "I know that you'll find your light or die trying. It's how we are."
I watch the man's back for a time, wondering if anyone else notices his stronger step whenever he visits the hospital. I'm not even certain if the others know that he goes there regularly, or if he uses his time with me as an excuse to visit the person who is in there healing from both physical and mental damage. But that isn't my business, so I don't question it.
Once Cloud is out of sight, I walk to the cafe which seems open all hours of the night. Stepping inside, I automatically look for a place, search for a face, but there's nobody here I know. Sighing, I take a seat in the darkest section of the poorly lit room. I remove my jacket and hold the dark material in front of me while I stare at the red wings painted on the leather. Unsurprisingly my thoughts turn to the bloody war, the Fourth Sorceress War, which occurred shortly before our world was torn apart into nothingness.
The war wasn't Rinoa's fault back then, the blame resting with the souls of sorceresses who tainted her mind and convinced her that the world needed to be guided by her gentle hand. Of course, her hand had changed from kind to cruel within a matter of months, but Rinoa never saw the difference as she became less like her loving self. And I, as her loyal Knight, was unknowingly drawn into that world of darkness and lies.
It's somewhat ironic that it was another Knight who saved me. Our roles reversed, Seifer had led the SeeD heroes of the past to face the new sorceress, to destroy their one time friend. I don't remember it clearly, but at the command of my Mistress, Lion Heart had cut into my friends without hesitation and without mercy. It hurts me now, but back then, I didn't care except to please Rinoa. But then a certain blond grabbed onto me and surprisingly pulled me into a strong hug to trap my sword arm. Seifer spoke into my ear, told me to wake up... and I did. Moments later, Rinoa was dead and my gunblade wet with her blood.
"... Sir? Sir?"
I blink out of hurtful memories and stare up at the waitress.
With a frustrated huff, she asks, "Did you want anything?"
Did I want anything... The innocent question nearly makes me laugh since I do want something, I want many things, but Fate has denied me everything. "No. I changed my mind."
Pushing back my chair, I stand up and walk past the obviously annoyed waitress. Once stepping outside, I'm abruptly reminded of the cold weather and quickly put on my worthless jacket. As I walk nowhere in particular, I stare down at the wet ground while I continue to fight the insane urge to laugh. Nothing is going right and everything is a mess, and here I am wanting to laugh. What the fuck is wrong with me?
When the rain starts to fall again, I stop and find myself in an empty alleyway. Alone. "No one likes to be alone," I murmur to myself, and then I finally do laugh, but oddly tears seem to form at the same time. I could lie and say it was the rain, but I'm beyond caring about a few meaningless tears.
I stumble back a few steps before I run into a brick wall and then gracelessly drop into a seated position against the solid support. Gazing up into the rain, my panicked laughter stops and I seem to calm down without too much trouble. But questions still plague me - isn't anyone trying to find me, and won't somebody come take me home? But there is no answer as I sit outside in this damn cold night. Nobody will help me figure out this life, and no one is willing to take me by hand to take me somewhere new. People surround me here, but I'm alone, even as I feel like an important piece of me is forever with that selfish, arrogant man. A man I never really got the chance to know.
... I'll come back to you. I promise! ...
The shout of a child's voice, of Sora's voice makes me look up sharply, but abruptly a blinding ray of light shines into my face and forces me to raise my hand to protect my sensitive eyes. The rain continues to fall, but forgotten rays of sunlight slowly break through dark clouds as I stare up from beneath my gloved hand. The stone beneath me softens and suddenly crumbles into coarse dust. Though surprised and somewhat frightened, I manage to stand, but the shifting sand makes balance a tricky issue. Straightening, I stare out around me as the now lightly colored sand expands outward, nearly blinding me with the reflection of sunlight. And then the warning sound of the ocean softly roars just before my booted feet are unexpectedly attacked by a cold wave of salt water.
Deciding that a sorceress must be messing with my mind, I remove Lion Heart from its sheath and prepare to fight my way out of this illusionary world. Turning my back to the now fully formed ocean, I take one step toward the beach before I pause in utter shock. Metal glinting under the sun, the broken shell of Balamb Garden sits innocently only a short distance away. Destroyed in the last sorceress war, the unsalvageable base serves as a grave and a reminder about the outcome of war. Oddly, I prefer the hunk of metal like this.
While still wary, I reholster my gunblade and walk toward the ruined Garden. Reaching the destroyed base which used to be my home, I place my hand on the warm metal and shudder from the contact. Half-expecting my hand to pass through the solid wall, I'm now not so certain that this is an illusion. Fuck, why does this have to be so confusing? Or maybe I'm just out of my mind... Yeah, that sounds about right. It's not like I was that far from the edge of insanity in the first place.
"Fuck, is that you, Leonhart?"
I freeze at the deep voice, my eyes widening at the name that I haven't heard in a long time. I then hear footsteps, soft along the sandy ground as they slowly approach me. Wasn't this what I wanted? Isn't this what I've being waiting for? If so, then why am I suddenly afraid?
The footsteps stop a short distance away. "That is you, isn't it, Squally-boy?"
I turn sharply at the name, reflexively wanting to correct him that 'Squall' is dead and only 'Leon' remains. But words stick in my throat as I stare at the larger man standing only feet away. Once slicked-back hair is now vaguely longer and flows freely in the ocean breeze. His skin is darkly tanned to a golden brown, the healthy color giving his blue-green eyes a more vibrant look than when he was paler. The damned smirk is in place, making me feel angry, happy, and warm all at the same time. My eyes then widened as I notice his shirtless state, his choker now joined with an apparently handmade necklace baring teeth of various sizes and shapes. Though I recognize his pants, they had been cut into long shorts, revealing even more tan skin and bare feet.
He looks good and I hate him for that.
"Where the hell were you?" I ask harshly, the words bursting from my mouth.
Surprised, Seifer frowns at the question. "Trapped on a fucking island with some punkass kids. But what about you? If possible, you look paler than before. And skinnier."
"I..." I glance away from his keen examining gaze, suddenly ashamed for all the curses I aimed at the clueless blond for leaving me alone. "I was waiting for you," I murmur stupidly, unable to stop myself.
"Hn, that's funny - I was waiting for you to come rescue me for once."
Frowning, I glare up at the man, but my irritation doesn't last against his disarming smile. There is only one other time I remember Seifer truly smiling at me, and shortly after that moment, the world had been invaded by darkness. Seeing his smile now makes me feel anxious despite my urge to smile back.
"So, do you think everything is back to normal now?" Seifer asks, his gaze examining the ruined Garden towering over us.
I shrug. How should I know these things? Maybe Sora succeeded where we failed, but I don't feel like this is over with. As long as there is darkness in the hearts of men, there will always be conflict and war in the future.
Warmth touches my skin, making me jerk back in surprise before I stare into bright green eyes.
Seifer chuckles while lowering his arm. "I'm glad nothing has changed much if you're still a deep thinker. I was worried... We didn't have much time after the war to talk, and once we were separated, I didn't know if you'd have someone to keep you in line without me around."
Roles reversed... I was the one to drag Seifer back from depression and despair after the Third Sorceress War, forcing him to rebuild the life he thought was gone. Rinoa hated me for placing too much time and energy into helping the Ex-Sorceress' Knight, her believing that I should have cared more about our failing relationship. But I didn't care. Perhaps it was my fault that she was driven to the point of desperation, needing to control every 'chaotic' thing around her, needing to control me.
"I'm fine," I eventually state, the weak comment making Seifer smirk.
"You aren't, but that's okay. I owe you some big favors and I'm not leaving you alone until I've paid off my debt. Deal?" He extends his hand to seal the agreement, an offered hand which I had desired so badly, but I refuse to take it.
"You owe me nothing."
Green eyes narrow with humor as his smirk softens. "Take the hand, Leonhart. We've got places to go."
I automatically react to the command, but then pause when I look down at my gloved hand. Ignoring the questioning expression of the larger man, I remove the leather glove and stare at my bare hand. Funny, I thought I would see some blood stained there, but all that remains are calluses and scars. Daring to look up into vibrant green eyes, I grasp onto the offered hand which is so much warmer than mine. I'm surprised that Seifer isn't afraid of frostbite, but then again, there is little the arrogant man fears.
Tightening his hold, Seifer looks down at our joined hands. "Don't leave me like that again, Leonhart."
I nod in reply to the hoarse demand, silently thinking to myself that I'm with you, where I need to be. "Where are we going?"
"Don't know, but does it matter? I just feel like going somewhere new."
A shadow of a smile sneaks into my expression. "I'd like that."
"Then let's get going," Seifer says, removing his hand from mine. "I want to be somewhere warm before it gets dark out."
I nod dumbly, realizing that tonight I won't have to wait outside in the dark, waiting for something I couldn't really name. But now that I've found Seifer, found my 'light' as it were, I feel a certain kind of peace. And then I feel years worth of exhaustion being set free.
"I'm tired," I state, surprised to hear my words spoken out loud.
"So am I, Squally-boy. I've gotten shit for sleep lately, but now that I'm with you..." Seifer smirks in that oddly charming manner of his. "Let's talk about this later. Right now, I'd end up saying something I'll end up regretting."
"I just got you back, Princess. I don't want to scare you off before I have a chance..." He sighs and runs calloused fingers through his hair. "I have a lot of proving to do. Until then, I don't want to do something stupid."
I stare at the obviously uncomfortable man, and I dare to assume, to hope... Not allowing myself the chance of thought, I close the distance between us and lean against the broad chest covered in tight, sun-warmed skin. Seifer freezes in surprise, but the fact that he doesn't move away gives me foolish hope. Resting my weight comfortably against his stronger body, I feel completely at ease despite the awkward situation.
"Do we have to go this moment?" I ask, my breath making his skin shiver. There is no reply to my pathetically needy question, and I wonder if I overstepped my boundaries with this man, but I don't care that much. It feels too warm, too safe resting against the larger man like this.
A deep chuckle abruptly sounds, then followed by a strong arm wrapping around my waist. "You are full of surprises, Squally-boy," Seifer mutters as he rests his head on my shoulder. "And no, we don't have to go anywhere just yet."
Permission received, I'm content standing here with the sunlight shining down on our bodies and the sounds of the ocean surrounding us. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I can breathe and simply live without another worry. Damn that spiky-haired bastard for being right, for knowing that everything would be worth this single moment in time. All the fights, all the pain, all the tears... they were worth it to give me a chance to say,
"I'm with you."
Author's Whining - I've had this damned idea in my head since I pretty much first heard this song over a year ago. Actually, it started when Miss Dincht and I were looking at Kingdom Hearts pictures and noticed Squall/Leon had red wings on his jacket, the same design as Rinoa's wings. Me being the hopeful person I am, I decided that the red wings meant Squall was forced to killed Rinoa-turned-evil-sorceress and he wore the jacket in memory of that day. Then I heard 'I'm With You' and I couldn't help but think of Leon standing in the rain, wondering why the hell no one has come for him. I mean, he is the only FF8 character in Traverse Town, so it's kind of depressing. Anywho, I know this story is short and probably confusing to you all, but I still had to get this out of my system. Thanks for humoring me. ^_-