Monster

By DK

I don't want your love
to bring me down
I don't want your love
so turn it around

~ Duran Duran

.

Staggering through the night, stumbling down slick streets and tripping over curbs. I’m soaked to the skin, my hair flat against my head and dripping in my eyes. It’s pouring out here, the rain pounding incessantly against the houses and pavement. And me. I don’t care, and I’m not really surprised. The rest of the world has already pissed on me enough. I guess it’s just the sky’s turn.

I’m Seifer Almasy, and I’m having a bad day.

Around me, Balamb is quiet, even most of the bars closed at this late hour. The streets are empty except for yours truly, everyone with a brain having already retired to their homes for the night. Home. Now there’s a concept that’s totally foreign to a guy like me. I haven’t thought about having a home for a long time, and after what I did tonight, I don’t think I ever will again.

I guess a confession is in order. I wouldn’t be thinking like this if I didn’t feel guilty, but the thing is, I’m not sure exactly why I feel that way. Is it my fault? Is it her fault? Is it Squall’s fault? Is it God’s fault?

I stumble past the gas station at the border of town. Its large window is dark. It seems to stare blankly at me, like a blind eye. Her eye.

Damn it!

I’d better start at the beginning.

~~~~

It was a sunny day, I think. I don’t honestly remember the weather that well, but nostalgia tends to have an effect on your memories. Maybe that day just seems so bright now because of what happened later on. It was a good day, a happy day, a bright day, and now that I think about it, it was the day I lost my innocence.

No, not THAT kind of innocence. That wouldn’t come until later. I’m talking about the kind of innocence that’s much more valuable. Innocence of the soul, not the body.

That day was the first time that I learned what it meant to hate.

I was fifteen at the time, and just starting to get into the meat of combat training in the Garden. I had started gunblade training a few months before and I was good. Damn good. I think my progress frightened the instructors a little, but that was okay by me. I had learned a long time ago that intimidation was your best friend in a world that couldn’t be trusted.

Well, one of your best friends. The posse was together even back then. I’d known Raijin and Fujin for some time, and we got along well. They were tough, like me. They didn’t take anything from anybody, and I respected them for it. When we weren’t kicking everyone’s ass and raising hell, we were thinking of ways to do it without getting caught.

Raijin HAD been caught attempting to sneak a tarantula into Xu’s room, and was currently scrubbing the bathrooms of Balamb Garden in order to atone. That left Fujin and I alone for the day, which I didn’t mind all that much. Yeah, I was attracted to her, though I wouldn’t ever say it that way. She was hot, rough, and mean, just like I liked ‘em, and I think she liked me, too. In fact, I know she did, now. Then, I wasn’t so sure.

There were no classes that day. Maybe it was a holiday, or a weekend. I just don’t remember. I only wish the rest of the day’s events were that easy to forget.

Even now, I wonder why I remember those events so well. Today, I can recall almost everything that either of us said or did, from the moment we left the Garden to the moment that I realized that my feelings had changed forever. Maybe the trauma crystallized the memory for me, burned the knowledge of my actions on my soul forever, so that I could never forget. A fissure of pain so deep not even a Guardian Force could smooth it over. Then again, I would have a physical reminder if my mind ever failed.

Both Fujin and I had been in weapons training for some time, and we were ready to try hunting something a little tougher than the Grats that thronged in the training center. Besides, an outing would be more fun. No supervision by meddling upperclassmen or instructors, no rules. This wouldn’t be like an exercise, it’d be an adventure.

We set out at noon from the Garden, just walking in a random direction and looking for trouble. We were going to find it, just not the way we thought.

“Intended destination?” Fujin asked me, her arms swinging at her sides, her eyes focused straight ahead. The bright sunlight flashed periodically off the spiked metal pinwheel she carried in one hand, hurting my eyes.

“I dunno, Fuu,” I said, swinging my own gunblade experimentally in front of me. “Wherever the action is.”

She looked at me for a moment. Her eyes were unlike anyone else’s. They were red, predatory. A little scary. I liked that. Then she just nodded, brushed a few strands of silvery hair out of her face, and walked on. I followed.

The world seemed to drift by under us lazily as we walked side by side. We didn’t speak, we just plodded along in companionable silence, shoulders brushing from time to time in a way that wasn’t exactly accidental. It felt like nothing could go wrong.

I don’t like to think about that time. I like to think about it even less than I do what happened after. Because every time I do, I realize that I can never get that feeling of joy, of peace, back. Maybe I can pretend, but it’ll always be gone.

We met the monsters we’d been looking for about a mile or two from the Garden, near the fringes of a small wood. They amounted to nothing major, just a few of the Bite Bugs that wandered periodically through the grasslands around Balamb.

They swarmed up from the tall grasses around us, their chitinous blue carapaces shining brilliantly. We moved to meet them, our bodies responding more out of instinct than any conscious thought.

It was over fast. Fujin tossed her pinwheel, bisecting one neatly before it even got close. The other two approached in a pair, and I leapt between them, gunblade flashing. They tumbled to the ground, greenish ichor leaking from their shattered frames.

That was when things went bad.

I started thrusting my gunblade expertly at thin air, feinting and stabbing at an imaginary opponent. I was hamming it up like a fencer in a comic play. I guess I wanted to impress her. I was laughing.

“Did you see that, Fuu? Got ‘em! Just like that!” I turned, sweeping the blade behind me dramatically. She screamed.

Blood.

There wasn’t a lot, but there was enough. It spattered crimson across my white jacket. It coated the tip of the gunblade. It ran down Fujin’s face and across the hand she had clamped over her left eye.

Her eye!

“Oh God.... Fuu,” I gasped. She collapsed to her knees, moaning and whimpering as she held her hand clamped to her face. I went to her, my gunblade dropping from fingers that suddenly felt frozen. She was rocking back and forth and making little sounds that didn’t mean anything. Her left hand, the one she held to her ravaged eye, was already stained red from the palm down. I didn’t know what to say. I felt like someone had unplugged my brain.

“I’m sorry...I’m so sorry.... are you all right?” I asked stupidly. Her eye socket was leaking blood like a broken water main... she HAD to be fine.

“Hurts.....” she said so softly that it was almost imperceptible. Then, she slumped against me, her body all dead weight. She had fainted from the shock. Probably for the best, the pain had to be terrible.

For a second, I just sat there, unmoving, her body pressed against mine. Her face had landed on my shoulder, and I could feel warmth spreading there. She was bleeding.

I had to do something.

I couldn’t do anything.

My fault.

My fault.

Somehow, I managed to make my muscles respond. I pushed Fujin away from me slightly, holding her by the arms. Her head rolled limply backwards, her hand falling away from her wound. I got one look at the remnants of her eye and almost emptied my stomach right there. It wasn’t just the injury itself; as Garden Cadets we had been required to view films of atrocities in order to desensitize us. But no matter how often you saw something on film, seeing it on someone you cared about was a lot worse.

The next few mintues were hell for me. I seemed to move in a mechanical daze, not really understanding the things around me, just responding to them. I took off my coat, hacked off a sleeve with the gunblade, and made a crude bandage for Fujin’s eye. She barely stirred. She was shivering, and her skin felt cold and clammy, nothing at all like I’d imagined. There was nothing I could do for her. We weren’t allowed to junction GFs outside of class yet, and I felt helpless. The only thing I could do was try to get her back to the Garden.

I sheathed my gunblade and cradled her in my arms like she was a child. She didn’t feel very heavy. She felt fragile, like she could break any moment, shatter like the china doll her pale skin made her appear to be. Maybe it’s just memory playing tricks on me again, but I could swear it started to rain, like the weather was mirroring my mood, or mocking the way my world had collapsed in an instant.

I started walking, her head bouncing against my shoulder with every step, her lips gently brushing my neck. Once again, it didn’t feel the way I thought it would. It felt cold, empty, lifeless; the touch of a corpse. She didn’t feel like Fujin any more, and I wondered if she ever would again. Was the old Fujin still in there? Or had I carved her away in one foolish action?

It was the longest walk of my life, and it gave me plenty of time to hate myself. It was all my fault. I had been stupid again, acting impulsively, acting like a fool.

Like a little boy.... just like a little boy.... confused, scared, striking out at the world around him in a blind, jealous rage.

I prayed. To God and to Hyne and to anything I could think of. I prayed that Fujin would be all right. That she wouldn’t have to pay for my stupid mistake.

By the time Balamb Garden appeared on the horizon, my arms burned with exertion and Fujin felt a lot heavier than she had before. I staggered to the entrance, breathing heavily. Already I could see Garden Faculty members running over. At the realization of safety, I found my legs folding up. I couldn’t seem to stand anymore. I fell to my knees, laying Fujin on the ground before me, and then I fell across her. The last thing I heard as stress and exhaustion overcame me was the steady beating of her heart.

She was still alive. Thank God.... still alive.

~~~~

I wasn’t out of it for long. It was probably only three or four minutes later that I opened my eyes and felt the cold floor against my face. I sat up slowly, rubbing a forehead that suddenly seemed to be pounding. Students in Garden uniforms surrounded me in a circle, their voices rising and falling excitedly. I seemed to have gathered quite a crowd.

“Seifer!” Raijin bellowed in that ox-like voice of his. “I thought ya had had it, ya know!”

He came staggering up, sliding to a stop only a few feet away. I waved his attention off with a sharp gesture of dismissal.

“Where’s Fujin?” I croaked. My mouth felt dry.

“Hey, don’t you worry about Fuu, boss! They took her right to the infirmary and she’ll be okay.” The strain in his voice belied his normally cheerful tone.

“Why aren’t you with her?” I said, my voice harsh, accusatory. I got to my feet with a grunt.

“They wouldn’t let me in, ya know? And I figured I might as well check on you, boss.”

I nodded. Then I noticed the people who were still gathered around. Most of them were junior classmen. None were instructors. I felt myself hating them, too. Fujin didn’t matter to them. All they cared about was entertainment. A little something to break up the monotony of their boring-as-hell days.

“Get outta here!” I snarled, staggering to my feet.

I swung my fists wildly, striking out at the crowd as best as I could. I hated them almost as much as I hated myself. I wanted to break their faces, send teeth bouncing across the marble floor of the Garden. Let these little twerps bleed for a while, see what it felt like. I’d show them all.

They scattered like a flock of quail before me. I yelled after them.

“Any of you punks so much as look at me again and you’ll be drinking your meals through a straw!”

“Hey boss, not now!” Raijin said, nervously laying a hand on my shoulder. “It’s not the time, ya know?”

“Whatever.” I remembered hearing that ass Leonhart say that word, and my self-disgust got even stronger. “Let’s go see her.”

I didn’t like the infirmary. I don’t like hospitals at all, never have, never will. They look wrong, smell wrong. Everything emotional, everything human, scraped away like so much useless flesh, leaving only the pale, bleached bone of white floors, walls, and ceiling. The stench of disinfectant, heavy and sickly-sweet, filling the air with its sterile death. I didn’t want Fujin to be in a place like this. Especially not because of me. She was alive. She didn’t belong.

Dr. Kadowaki tried to be reassuring, but just came off as pedantic. No, we couldn’t see Fujin. Yes, they were doing everything they could. No, she probably would never see out of that eye again. Yes, she would live.

I lowered myself unsteadily into a small chair in the waiting room. She would live. That was good news, right? Then why did I feel so bad?

She was going to hate me for this. I had scarred her forever, taken away half of the world’s light permanently. And for nothing. Nothing. Not even because I was angry, because I was stupid. Careless.

“Seifer? Are you listening?” Kadowaki was still talking to me. I wasn’t paying attention. Her words were the yammering of wounded choco. Stupid. Meaningless. I wanted to hit her for wasting my time.

“What?” I asked, voice low and menacing. Uppercut.... followed by a left hook...

“How did this happen, Seifer?” She didn’t seem to notice my tone. “You were obviously being irresponsible again, going after monsters like that. And don’t try to pretend that that wasn’t what you were doing. You should really show some maturity.”

Show some maturity.

“There are junior classmen who are far more responsible than you, Seifer. Just look at Squall.”

Look at Squall!

“Fujin’s had enough trouble already, poor thing. She shouldn‘t have to pay for your mistake.”

Your mistake.

Always your mistake, Seifer.

You shouldn’t make fun of Zell, Seifer.

Can’t you be more mature, Seifer?

You’re mean, Seifer! I’m telling!

I was clenching my fists fiercely, glaring into them. If I looked up, Raijin and Kadowaki would see what was going on inside. I don’t let anybody see that.

It was hard to remember all the thoughts that swam through my mind. Simple classroom use of the Guardian Forces had already begun wiping my mental records clean. Moments remained isolated, separate islands in a sea of confusion, the bridges of memory between them demolished to make room for the power of the GFs. I didn’t know that then, of course. I just felt confused and angry, unable to put the pieces together to form a whole.

More than that, I felt like a failure. I was pathetic. A fallen knight, a broken, useless thing. People told legends about the knights who saved the women they loved. The ones who instead gouged out their eyes didn’t receive so much honor. They were the villains, not the heroes. Suddenly, I found myself wondering if the villains were really so bad, or just stupid. Just weak.

Like me.

“Well, it’s obvious you’re not listening to me. I guess you are concerned for your friend” The doctor’s voice softened. “She will be all right, but I’m afraid that there’s no way... she’s going to be upset for some time, I imagine. She’ll need her friends to be there. And not to drag her off into dangerous situations any more.”

The stout woman walked over to her desk, sifting through the papers there. “I’ve half a mind to recommend serious punishment for you, Seifer, but I think what happened will be a severe enough penalty for now. Now why don’t you go get some rest? I’ll have someone get you just as soon as she’s awake.”

“No. I’m staying.”

“Me too!” Raijin piped up. I was sure the past few minutes of silence on his part were some kind of record for him.

“Fine,” the doctor said, sitting down. “Just be quiet and don’t bother anyone.”

There’s not much to say about the next few hours. I sat there, looking through old magazines mechanically. The words and pictures on the pages meant nothing. In every laughing face, I saw the blood running down her cheek. In every empty article, I heard her scream.

Finally, just as I drifted off into a light, troubled sleep, a touch on the shoulder. I opened my eyes to see Dr. Kadowaki standing there.

“She’s awake,” the woman said. “If you want to see her, come on. She needs rest.”

Raijin and I followed her down a short hall and into a small, square room dominated by a large bed. The only light came from the window, where weak moonlight shone through the blinds in stripes that crossed the walls, the bed, us. Fujin was there, her form looking strangely small and fragile underneath the starched white coverings. She turned her head listlessly to look at us as we walked in. Half her face was swathed with a white bandage.

My fault.

“Are you feeling okay, Fujin?” Dr. Kadowaki asked, jotting notes on her clipboard. Of course she wasn’t okay. What the hell kind of question was that? She might never be okay again.

Fujin just nodded.

“Can you talk? Can you tell us how it happened?”

My fault. Had to take responsibility. My fault.

“Monster....” Fujin breathed, her eyes blankly focused on the ceiling.

“Yes... just as I figured. Seifer here was a bit too upset to talk about it. Well, it’s fortunate that you’re still alive. We’ve had a lot of Garden students meet their end that way. Too many.” She paused, tucking the clipboard under her arm. “We’ll talk about things in more detail later, Fujin. For now, it’s just best that you get some rest. You’ve been through a lot. The medication we gave you should be making you drowsy.” She turned to Raijin and I. “Don’t be too long, you two.”

Then she was gone, the door whispering shut behind her.

Fujin turned back to us, her gaze shrouded and heavy. Raijin noticed almost immediately. I have to give him credit. He might act like a total idiot a good percent of the time, but he can read people.

“Um... good to see you’re okay, Fuu. Call me if you need anything... I’m just, ya know, gonna step out for a minute.” He stepped out quietly. Well, quietly for him.

“So...” I could barely look at her. “What’s the deal, Fuu? Why didn’t you tell them?”

“Seifer...” she said quietly. She lifted a hand and beckoned me closer. The distance between me and the bed seemed to stretch out suddenly, a sea of white linoleum. A dangerous gulf of emotion.

I crossed the gap seemingly in slow motion, my steps slow and measured. Seconds stretched out to eternities. Time ran backwards. And finally, I was only a foot away from the bedside.

“Seifer...” Her hand grasped mine in the darkness. It felt warm and soft, each finger long and graceful, each nail finely shaped. “I know you didn’t do it on purpose.”

“That doesn’t matter,” I spat back. She was supposed to hate me. The weak were undeserving of sympathy. Especially from those they had hurt with their recklessness. “There was no excuse... I... I’m sorry... I was so stupid.... I’m suh-suh-sorry!”

Damn it. No.

No.

Don’t cry.

Big boys don’t cry.

Chicken-wuss.

Nothing but a weak little chicken wuss....

I clamped down ruthlessly on the sob that threatened to escape. I don’t think she noticed.

“Accident....” she squeezed my hand. “Just an accident.”

I looked at her. She seemed almost otherworldly in that light, her body covered with alternating stripes of light and darkness. One stripe rested across her eyes... eye. That predatory orb held something in its red depths that I had never seen there before. Something soft underneath a layer of armor.

And then I knew. I knew as surely as anything in the world, as surely as her hand was in mine, as surely as my feet were planted firmly on the floor, as surely as my name was Seifer Almasy, that she loved me.

And I knew that I resented her for it.

I was worthless. I was the weakling I had never wanted to be. I was reckless, envious, a jealous little boy. Not a man. Not in control. Not a hero. Just a child. A child who couldn’t do anything right. A child good for nothing but inflicting pain.

I didn’t need love. I needed hate. I needed pain. I needed the world to despise me like I despised myself. Fujin loved a broken image, a useless thing. If I accepted those feelings, I would only be embracing failure. I would only be admitting that I could never be any better.

So I slipped my hand out of hers, mumbled a muted apology, and left the room.

I wanted to run, but it would be pointless. No matter how fast and how hard you run, you can never escape yourself. Instead, I seemed to drift aimlessly. Raijin went in to see Fujin for a moment after I left, but I barely acknowledged him. All of the Garden seemed to be filled with a gray haze, and I walked slowly through it.

Eventually, I found myself on the observation deck on the second floor, my gunblade in my hand. I leaned heavily against the railing, my mind trying to make sense out of feelings that had suddenly been shattered and reformed. Feelings of affection, maybe even of love, if I could understand such a thing then, had changed to feelings of aggression and resentment. And all through one reckless, careless act that revealed the depths of my insignificance, my failure.

The blade shined fitfully in the moonlight, some places darkened by spatters of blood from the monsters.... and from Fujin. The tip of the blade was discolored, rusty flakes of dried blood still adhering. I brought it close to my face, ran a finger across its surface. The flakes broke away, crumbling into a fine dust that fell away from the railing and into the air.

So, I thought, that’s what dead love looks like.

~~~~

Maybe if I hadn’t had to look at her.

But I did, and every time I saw her face, failure and shame crashed into me all over again. Fear, confusion, self-loathing, all of them had a place, and that place was in Fujin’s black eye patch. It was the dark pit where my instabilities lurked. It was the dark pool that reflected my inadequacy back at me.

Eventually, that wound began to represent everything that I hated about myself, the reasons that I could never be the hero that I wanted. I would see her, imagine the scarred eye socket, remember my reckless blade tearing through. It was not a pleasant feeling.

It wasn’t just the qualities about myself that she reflected that made me reject her; it was the fact that she felt something for someone with those qualities. I didn’t want to be the way I was, and I didn’t want anyone else to want me to be that way, either. The very fact that she felt something for the useless shell that was me only proved that she had poor judgment. Her feelings could not be trusted. I couldn’t afford to embrace her affection; it would only pull me down.

I didn’t hate her, not then. That came later.

Somehow, our friendship didn’t collapse, mainly because shortly after that we became part of the disciplinary committee and our duty bound us together. Aside from that, it became harder and harder to be around her. I tried as hard as I could to fake friendship, to make things seem like they were before. For the most part, I think I succeeded.

All too well, considering what happened later.

All too well.

~~~~

Should I talk about Rinoa now? What could I say? How could I describe her?

The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars rolled into one?

She meant a lot to me. That whirlwind summer we shared was the best time of my life. When I was with her, I didn’t worry about my failures. I didn’t worry about letting any one down. I was the hero in white armor, and she was the fair damsel in my arms.

I didn’t know how to show love. Hell, I barely knew how to think of love. And even if I did know, I didn’t want to think about it. But I loved Rinoa. I still do.

God damn me, I still do.

Squall took her. That gives me another reason to hate him.

Maybe I didn’t always hate Squall, I don’t know. Time and the GFs have done a good job of clearing away troublesome things like childhood memories. But I do know that I’ve always been jealous of him. Always.

He did everything I’ve ever wanted to do. He was everything I’ve ever wanted to be. He saved the world, got the glory, got the girl.

I failed myself repeatedly. I turned my life into a grotesque parody of my dreams. I fought for the wrong side, lost the battle, lost the girl.

He made his own way.

I was a puppet.

He was a hero.

I was a failure.

I hate him. He never did anything to deserve what he got. He never knew what it meant to suffer, not really. His life has consisted of one opportunity after another falling into his lap. Savior of the world, leader of the Garden, all of it strictly by chance. I had to fight for everything, and gained nothing but the resentment of the world.

I managed to throw away the only thing in my life that meant anything anymore, the only person that really cared. I know that now.

Too bad I didn’t know it two hours ago.

~~~~

The next part’s hard to tell.

I can barely stand to think about my actions. What I did seems worse than the atrocities I committed working for Ultimecia. And in a way, maybe it is. Most of the people I hurt then didn’t love me.

After things calmed down, I tried to settle back into normal life again. I didn’t want to go back to Garden; too many bad memories. Instead, I took the gil I had and rented a small flat in Balamb. The docks there were quiet, peaceful, a marked change from the conflict that had rocked the globe months earlier. I took to fishing in an attempt to forget my part in that conflict, to adapt to living a peaceful life.

It felt like a lie. The wounds to my pride and heart had crusted over in a thin scab, but it could break open at any time. I had been a scrapper from the moment I was born. Garden had done nothing but hone those skills to their peak. I was a fighter by instinct now, and slipping into a peaceful existence didn’t seem to be working. I felt restless, jumpy, like there was something missing in my life.

Raijin and Fujin still did work for the Garden sometimes, but more often they were around me, still accepting even after I rejected them. They had a place in town too, and all of us worked at various odd jobs - mercenary stuff, mainly - wiping out monsters that the Garden was too busy to deal with. The pay wasn’t great, but it kept us going.

My birthday.

There’s not much to tell about the preliminaries. The gift from Raijin and Fujin came in the form of a free night of drinks in the local bar, and the celebration consisted of the three of us slamming them back for hours on end. We stumbled out at closing time, Raijin announcing rather loudly that he was going to go for a walk down by the shore.

I didn’t want to. I wonder what I was thinking then. I wonder if I was already considering it.

Fujin and I wandered a bit, too, the streets seeming peaceful and sedate through the haze of alcohol. It was starting to rain lightly, fat drops splashing us as we walked, sobering us slightly. A small breeze blew through the streets, chilly but comfortable. It was some time since I had felt so much at peace.

Eventually, we came to my place. I remember vaguely telling Fujin that she could come in if she wanted. She wanted. We chatted about some things on my shabby excuse for a couch for awhile. Nothing of importance; easy topics. I don’t really remember.

We were sitting close, our shoulders brushing as they had on that fateful day a few years ago, our thighs side by side in warm union. Her touch felt good. It’s hard to admit my feelings. It’s even harder to understand them.

My feelings hadn’t changed. If anything, they had gotten stronger following the disastrous events of Ultimecia’s plans. I still resented Fujin’s affections, her love. More than that, since I had lost Rinoa, I think I had begun to loathe Fujin even more.

Rinoa was an articulate, charming, and vivacious girl. She was like the moonlight, lighting the way of the man who loved her. She seemed to be truly alive, truly unique and special. I had lost her affections, and was left with a one-eyed, monosyllabic albino in her place. Fujin was a poor consolation prize in the game of love.

What can I say? There’s nothing to defend my actions. I didn’t love Fujin then, and I don’t think that I do now. I was still willing to use her, though. With the reputation I had garnered, I hadn’t exactly been a hit with the ladies lately. I was aching for affection from anyone.

So I did her.

Hate me?

Not any more than I hate myself.

Do you want me to describe it in full detail? I don’t think I have the time, and the more I think about it, the more it hurts. The more I realize just how bad I really am, how pathetic, how hopeless.

She started it, I guess, when she leaned over and started kissing my neck softly. It didn’t take long for a combination of lust, alcohol, and pent-up emotion to do the rest. Minutes later, we were in my bedroom, naked under the sheets, doing the deed.

I’m not going to tell everything. I can tell you the worst stuff, though, and let the rest fall where it may.

I turned the light off. I didn’t want to see her face, to see the black eye patch that was a scar on my life. In the dark, she wouldn’t be Fujin any more. She’d just be another hot, young body. Another place to slake my lust.

I didn’t kiss her, or let her kiss me. I didn’t want her face to touch me. I didn’t want to get near her eye. Even in the dark, I could almost feel the wound reaching for me, displaying my weakness and shame like a beacon of light.

It was her first time, and I wasn’t very gentle. I think I probably hurt her.

I know I didn’t care.

She didn't seem to care, either. I heard a whimper of pain or two, but as an experienced fighter, she had endured worse and could work through things like that. In fact, after a while, she seemed to enjoy it. She made stupid little sounds, called my name. I thought of long dark hair, a soft mouth, a finely shaped nose.

It didn't matter in the dark. Always just bodies in the dark... Rinoa...

Rinoa!

Afterwards, we lay together under the sheets, sweat-slicked bodies still pressed together from our efforts. The room was still almost dark, diffuse light from a streetlamp shining through the window pane, speckled where rain adhered to the glass. My partner looked up at me in the wan light, the widest smile I'd ever seen on her face.

God, I hated her.

I had always been able to hold my liquor. That, the cold rain, and our actions had combined to start sobering me up. I was ashamed. My weakness had been revealed again, the weakness of my body. Somewhere, I knew with certainty, Squall and Rinoa were lying together like this. He had all I ever wanted, and here I was in the arms of a scarred, pathetic shell of a human. All she wanted to do was bring me down, keep me stuck in the mire of recklessness, anger, and weakness that was my life. I had been doing so well at escaping that prison, and she had pulled me back in again.

Fujin wrapped her arms around me, held me close. I shut my eyes so I wouldn't have to look at her face, but I could still feel her breath on me, gentle fingers of wind . She wriggled pleasingly beneath me, but all I could think of was her eye, burning only inches away, burning with my failure.

"Seifer.... th...ank you," she sighed. Stupid bitch. She didn't even realize I didn't care. No one could've enjoyed that. I guess she just didn't know what sex was supposed to be like. But she didn't stop there. She kept going.

"I love you, Seifer." My eyes snapped open in surprise. She leaned forward, kissing me quickly on the mouth and pulling back like a confused schoolgirl in her first years at the Garden. She was blushing.

I hate you, Fujin.

I fucking hate you.

And then I said it. I guess I could lie and say that I was confused, caught up in the moment, or just plain drunk. But that wouldn't be true. I said it on purpose. I said it to cause pain. I said it to hurt her just as much as she had ever hurt me.

"Oh, I love you too, Rinoa."

Fujin stiffened beneath me, transformed from a thing of flesh and blood to a wooden puppet. She turned her face away. In the light from the window, I saw tears begin to leak from her eye and trace silvery trails down her cheek. Her voice, when it came, was quiet.

"Get off of me."

So I did.

Now something was starting to break inside me, my resolve beginning to waver. I wondered for the first time if I had made a mistake. She had tried to be loyal, at the very least... maybe I should've phrased it less harshly..

"Fuu, I..." I reached towards her tentatively, not really sure what I was doing. Hell, for all I know I could've been planning to shake her hand.

"Don't touch me," she said, pulling the covers to her naked form and scooting backwards. "Don't you fucking TOUCH ME!"

I was at a loss. Suddenly the world seemed to be spinning so fast. Too fast. The merry-go-round of my life was careening out of control, and there was no way to stop it.

"I - I- I-" Stammering. I hadn't stammered in years.

"OUT!" She had reverted to her cold, authoritative disciplinary committee voice. "OUT!"

I stumbled backwards out of the room, closing the door behind me. I didn't know what to think. I leaned against the door, sliding downwards to the floor and putting my face in my hands. What was I thinking? Had I been right or wrong? I didn't know.

I heard it through the door. The soft, feeble sound of sobbing. I had never heard Fujin cry before, and something about that sound struck me to the core. I couldn't help myself, and seconds later I was easing the door open and peering through the crack.

Fujin hadn't moved. She still sat in the middle of the bed, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. She rocked back and forth slowly, sobs escaping from her lungs, her shoulders hitching with each sound. In the light, she looked so soft and fragile, her milk white skin shining, her head bowed, her eye downcast. Her legs were tightly clenched together, and she seemed to shake. Gradually, I realized that her mournful wailing was actually a word, repeated over and over.

"Ugly... ugly... ugly..."

I could've gone in there. I could've tried to do something, anything, to mend the person that I'd hurt. But I didn't, because I was too afraid. I realize that now. At the time, all I wanted to do was get away from there. The air in the apartment was stifling, oppressive. I had to get someplace where I could think.

I dressed as fast as I could, scooping up the discarded clothes on the living room floor and pulling them on. I also buckled on my gunblade, more out of instinct than anything else, and headed out into the night.

So now you know how I got here.

The question is, what do I do now?

~~~~

I walk through the countryside outside Balamb, wandering through the grasslands, but at the same time feeling that I have some destination in mind. Maybe it's not so much a physical destination as a mental one; I have to keep going until I can understand all of this.

Maybe I'll be wandering forever.

Where did I make my mistakes? What did I do wrong? Just who is responsible for this?

Maybe it's Fujin, for clinging to me despite my aloofness towards her. Maybe she's just obsessive, and is reaping the just rewards for her actions.

I don't believe that.

Maybe it's Squall, for taking Rinoa from me. Maybe it's her fault, for choosing to go along with him.

I wish I could make myself believe that.

Maybe it's God's fault, the world's fault, Fate's fault, for throwing bad breaks my way.

I can't believe that. I've always prided myself on making my own way.

And so I have.

Me. Only me. Always me.

My fault.

I can see that, now that I think of the past. Now that I review my sins.

True, I showed weakness. But I showed it for the wrong reasons. I showed it ways that I never even thought about.

My weakness wasn't in losing the battle to Squall. It was in being unable to resist the seductive draw of heroism and the control of Ultimecia. It was in refusing to join the side of the right.

My weakness wasn't in losing Rinoa to Squall. It was in being unable to tell her how I felt, and being unable to forget her and move on.

My weakness wasn't in accepting Fujin's affection, it was in pushing her away, hurting her. I was too afraid that someone might see the envious, frightened child that was within me. I was unwilling to accept that the problems I had could not be solved by myself.

By rejecting her, I had destroyed the only person that ever really loved me. By breaking her heart, I had ruined what we had forever.

I know these things now. In my mind, I realize that I am in shambles.

And I don't care.

I still love Rinoa. I still hate Squall. I still resent Fujin for being nothing more than a placeholder, a square peg that could not fit in the round hole in my soul. I might hate myself for feeling this way, but I can't stop. A part of me doesn't want to stop.

I wonder where I went wrong.

The rain is still pounding down, and now the louder sound of thunder joins it. There is barely enough light to see by. As I push through the high, wet, grass, I find myself wondering if I'm standing near the place, a few years ago, that a love began to die.

My weapon shines in a flash of lightning as I draw it from my sheath and stab it into the ground.

I should walk away. Away from Balamb, Fujin, everything. I should leave this hateful emblem of my former life behind. I should keep going and not look back.

But can I really ensure that that would change anything? The problem is within me. Nothing but my own actions continue to destroy my life and wreck my world. The bright edge of the weapon beckons me. I could end my problems by ending myself.

Which is right? I don't know.

I don't know anything any more.

Well, maybe that's not right. I do know one thing.

I think of Fujin's lie so long ago, a lie she made up to protect me, a story she hoped would absolve me of blame. I think of how it wasn't really a lie at all, but perhaps the truest statement ever uttered about me.

Lightning flares. I stare into the reflective surface of the gunblade.

A monster stares back.

~Fin~


And that is that.  Just my take on Seifer's character.  Nothing much changed plotwise in my revision, just corrected a few mistakes on my part ("window pain"... ugh), and sharpened the prose in a few spots.

Later.


DK's Fanfiction