Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 8

Holiday Blues

by RaceUlfson 0 reviews

In a post war AU Seifer has a bad day.

Category: Final Fantasy 8 - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Humor, Romance - Characters: Seifer, Squall - Warnings: [?] [V] - Published: 2007-03-03 - Updated: 2007-03-03 - 6345 words


Don't own the boys; just borrowing them without permission from Square Enix to play for a while. No harm, copyright infringement or profit intended.

From the Hero Universe, although you don't really need to have read that arc. The boys were reunited several years after the war; they are in their mid-twenties at this point. Seifer is studying to be a doctor in Esthar; Squall is Commander-in-Chief of SeeD, based at Balamb Garden, and they see each other as often as they can.

Many of these events actually happened. Names have been changed to make the story interesting.

For Darksquall: wishing you a much happier birthday.

Holiday Blues

If anyone asks, let me tell you, long distance romances are the pits.

It's all togetherness and sex, then whoop, Squall's off to save the world again and I'm left home trying to identify leftovers without a lab test.

Not that I don't keep busy. For example, I was due to get off shift 10 am. Yesterday. Nothing like an unscheduled ice storm and a few dozen holiday drinkers to liven up the ol' surgery.

I had just finished washing up and was heading to the little torture device they call a cot for a well deserved 90 minute nap when the doors burst open and a woman ran in. She was doing that panicky looking around helplessly thing, making little silent screams for help. I hustled over to her, hoping I looked more like a doctor and less like road kill.

The woman latched onto my arm and dragged me out to a car that was illegally parked up on our side walk. In the back seat was a man with a kitchen knife in his shoulder. I figured by the parking job the ride there couldn't have been too smooth, but he was still conscious, so he'd probably live if I muscled him inside. Unfortunately, we barely got through the doors when he decided he'd had enough. The patient pulled out the knife with a curse, spraying me, the woman, and most of the immediate vicinity with blood, then brandished the knife a me, snarling.

I checked my spells and cast Sleep on him before anyone else, for example, /me/, sprouted knives in uncomfortable places. I moved forward to catch him as he went down, cleverly stopping the spurts of arterial blood by sticking my fingers into the wound. Hey, it worked for the little boy and the dyke, which is a story for another time. Get Irvine to tell it to you after he's had a few drinks. Make sure Xu isn't around first.

I stepped back with the patient's dead weight in my arms, trying to keep him off our admittedly none too clean floor, and fell over a hynebedamned box that wasn't there a few moments ago. Mr. Happy Knife missed vital portions of me with his trusty blade, but together we managed to wrench my knee into a position it immediately began protesting. Luckily the woman found her voice and broke most of the noise abatement laws shrieking; it wasn't long before help arrived and the patient was safely off to surgery. Mrs. Happy Knife got a mild sedative and a nice security person to explain the cutlery to.

I scrambled to my feet, gritting my teeth against the throbs in my right knee, and glared at the box. "Where the did that come from and why is it in the middle of the Hynebedamned floor?"

An orderly shrugged. "It's our Yule gift from the University: hams."

"I don't care if it's a gingerbread house complete with gumdrops, witch, and lost children, get it out of the way." I left him to figure out where to put it - at that point in time asking me wouldn't have been advisable. Or sanitary.

I limped off to wash the blood out of my hair and changed to less festively red scrubs. My favorite nurse, Ris, brought me an ice pack and I made her promise she wouldn't let anyone wake me up for at least an hour. Unless it was really important.

I arranged my self as carefully as I could, but it only took about the longest minute of my life to figure out me and that cot were never going to get along. I'd sleep better hanging myself by the ankles from the ceiling. I went with option two, bad coffee. They get a special blend for hospitals, twice the caffeine and grounds in every cup. It gives starving med students something to chew.

Naturally, Uriah Heap, the poorest, most pathetic med student of us all, was already in the break room stealing cookies from the nurses. He wasn't really called Uriah, of course, but I never bothered to learn what his dumbassed name truly was. I didn't need to know, since I had no intentions of sending him a postcard, and if I need to yell for him, "Hey, Asshole" worked just as well.

Sadly, my name is a bit more famous and memorable and Uriah uses it like a second hand car dealer. "Seifer." He said, which I suppose is a greeting even though he makes it sound like he's identifying pathogens.

I grabbed a cup and hobbled past him to flop on the couch. I propped my leg up on the coffee table and balanced the ice pack on my knee, ignoring Uriah and hoping he'd take the hint and leave me the fuck alone.

Yeah, sure. Right on cue, he said in this exasperated parental tone, "What have you done to yourself now, Seifer?"

"Groin pull dancing. Gotta watch those grande jettes."

"Shouldn't the ice pack be a bit higher?"

"I'm just that big."

Uriah sniffed like an old maiden aunt. Not that I have one, but I always thought of Kiros in drag would be perfect for the part. "Seifer, why don't you cast a spell?"

"Almost out." I hated giving personal information to jerks, but he needed to know I wouldn't be pulling a miracle out of my ass if he needed help. Speaking of help, where had /he /been when I was dealing with Mr. Happy Knife and the Fountain of Fun? Probably in the cloakroom going through everyone's coat pockets for small change.

"Poor Seifer, reduced to healing the old fashioned way with the rest of we mere mortals." He was messing with his coffee like it was a chemistry exam, measuring each little bit of sugar and creamer. I noticed he was using the expensive mocha creamer the Chief of Surgeons bought and hid in the back of our fridge.

"I still have /Silence/," I hinted. Uriah hates it that he can't cast worth a shit. Not that it really matters, his chosen focus is Maternity and magic isn't much needed. Thank Hyne, 95% of women can give birth just fine on their own. I'd feel worse about the other 5 percent, but the nurses could handle it. The scary thing was, the mothers-to-be adored Uriah's fussy nanny like mannerisms. Go fig.

The ice was doing its best and I was prepared to call it an improvement. I sipped my coffee and was too tired to even make faces about how bad it was.

Or maybe not, since Uriah chimed in, just as I was about to drift off, with, "Reduced to drinking the house blend, Seifer?"

Somewhere along the line Uriah found out I had a paid scholarship and a rich lover, and ever since, it's been little digs about how I'm living the good life and how miserable and underprivileged he is. Never mind that I worked my ass off for four years saving for med school while earning that scholarship; or even that I have some pride and won't let Squall totally spoil me like he wants to. Granted command appearances at the Palace keep me better fed than most interns, but I think having Laguna Loire as a 'father-in-law' more than makes up for that.

"Yeah, remind me to have the servants flogged over that, will you?"

Uriah made a little moue of distaste. "That's not exactly a proper sentiment for a Healer, Seifer. I know with your violent background you have a lot to overcome, Seifer, but I do think -"

Ordinarily I just chant the Healer's Oath to Harm None when he's around, but it had been a long time with no sleep. "You aren't thinking much if you are planning end that sentence with an insult to a violent person like me."

He has this prissy little fake laugh that translates as "punch me" to anyone in the area with a Y chromosome. "Oh, Seifer, you are so funny."

I grinned at him, showing more teeth than is strictly polite. "I'm not laughing. ...yet."

Fortunately for Uriah's face and my career, Ris bustled in at that point and interrupted us. "Did you get your Yule hams, boys?"

"I scored three," Uriah said proudly.

"Aren't they one each?" I asked, just to stir the pot.

"Yes, but some of the others were kind enough to donate theirs to a starving student."

Uriah looked at Ris and me pointedly. As if. I don't know about Ris, but they could have been handing out maggot ridden halibut and I'd demand mine to keep Uriah from getting extra.

Ris said briskly, "They are quite large, I don't know how you'll manage to carry those home."

We were saved from Uriah's explanation by one of the Fellows paging him. He ran off, full of self importance, and I whispered to Ris, "You know he can get more in his little shopping cart, along with the bottles and old clothes. He just needs to take out his 'will heal for food' sign."

She laughed and smacked me on the arm. "I came in to tell you the good news: you can go home. The roads are open and Leece and Voni just made it in and the others are on their way. Happy Yule."

"I'd kiss you but my boyfriend is very possessive." I cheerfully threw out my so-called coffee and headed off to grab my coat.

"Don't forget your ham!"

Oh, yeah. I suited up for the cold and then got a bit hot and sweaty searching for our Yuletide gifts. Finally one of the student nurses pointed me out to the back stoop. I guess the orderly took me literally when I told him to get the box the hell off the floor. Still, it was certainly cold enough to preserve the meat and it was unquestionably out of the way. I headed out the back, planning on nabbing my treat and hoofing it through the slush to a lovely, heated transport and home sweet home.

I rounded the corner just in time to see a skinny dog drag away what proved to be the last ham in the box. Turns out there was a flaw in the orderly's plan after all. My temper flared and so did a Fira, one of my only distance spells.

But I held off. The dog was probably hungrier than I was, and anyway, I hate over cooked ham. Plus, it never pays to throw a fireball too close to the bottled oxygen connex. I cheered myself up by hoping the dogs got all of Uriah's hams, too. Or at least the one attached to his legs.

The bus was late enough for me to consider going back into the hospital, even though I knew I'd get drafted for another shift. When it finally turned up I flashed my pass and stumbled to the back, embracing the lovely warmth. It took a couple blocks for me to notice that the bus wasn't just warm, it was hot, as in Galbadia in August on a black top at noon hot, and the bus driver was wearing shorts and a tee shirt. I took off my hat and unwound my scarf, panting. "What the hells?"

"Heater's busted," an old lady said helpfully. She had her coat in her lap and was fanning herself with a religious tract.

It was worse than busted; it was stuck on 'blast furnace' and blowing with all its might. Sweat was pouring off the poor driver; I sympathized as I ripped my coat and gloves off. Estharians run small so I was wedged into my seat with no leg room and that and the heat worked to set my knee to visibly swelling. I was tempted to go ahead and cast one of my few remaining /Curas/, but it never pays to fling spells in public. Especially not a public with people still goosey over two Sorceress Wars. Hells, even back at the hospital we had an array of useless but odd looking instruments - I swear at least one was a salt shaker- to run over people to disguise the fact we were casting /Scan/. A lot of healing is mental, or so they tell me. I tried mentally commanding my leg to stop hurting, but I never was any good at taking orders.

Still, it had been a long time since I was so happy to reach my stop and start the long hike to our apartment. I think the last time I was in that big a rush to get off the bus Squall was standing there. No Squall tonight - he was on a mission scheduled to last through New Year's - but the wet, cold air felt so good I grinned like a loon anyway. I must have looked like a drunk, lurching up the sidewalk smiling to myself.

That lasted all of about 15 seconds. Then I started cussing and putting my sweater and coat back on. It was colder than Shiva's ass, a phenomenon I unfortunately knew rather well. It didn't take long for me to figure out I'd left my hat, gloves, and scarf on the Hynebedamned bus. Naturally, it was long gone before that little factoid wormed its way into my brain. I turned up my collar, shoved my rapidly chilling hands into my pockets, and set to hating life. Those gloves had been expensive, a gift from Laguna, and I wasn't going to be getting another pair like in a good while.

It's a couple blocks to the apartment, a walk I normally don't mind since it keeps my ass from spreading worse than Rinoa's. Tonight in the cold and dark and with my knee bitching me out with every step, it felt like I was hiking to Balamb. And fuck, was it ever dark. I knew it was a new moon, not that it mattered with the heavy cloud cover blocking even the brightest stars. It came to me eventually that there should have been more light pollution, not to mention the occasional street light or sign.

I stood at the foot of the metal stairs and looked up at our completely black apartment building. Lucky me, our apartment was one of the 30,000 homes without power. Yay. My knee and I had a discussion as to whether or not it was going to make it up the stairs. The consensus was, not a chance. I looked around like I was letting my dog crap on someone's manicured lawn and cast /Cura/. Naturally, the bright pink flash lit up the night like a signal flare.

Screw it. I hauled myself up the stairs, good leg first, and tried not to think about the amounts of skin I was leaving as my hand consistently froze to the metal rail. What sadist put metal handrails in stairways, anyway? In summer, you could fry bacon on it.

One of the girls from 2-B peeked out, holding up a glow stick. I couldn't say which one, since she seemed to be wearing every item of clothing she owned. There are three girls living there, Squall's little fan club: GF Girl (Alexa, from Alexander), Car Girl (Tamara, from Torama), and The Other One, who's name he never can remember. Squall thinks I'm being a dick when I won't tell him her name, but actually, it took me a long time to realize he was serious. Her name is Leona.

"Seifer? Is that you? What was that flash?"

I bit down on the urge to say the sun peeking out of my ass and went with the better answer. "What flash?"

"Didn't you see...?" She blinked at me. "Where's your hat? Aren't you /cold/?"

"Yes, and that's why I'm not stopping to chat but hieing my ass off to my nice warm bed."

"Oh!" She giggled. "Sleep tight. Have a happy Yule!"

Nice girl, but sharp as a rubber ball. I made it to our door and fumbled with my cardkey and the lock. The lovely, secure electric lock that couldn't flash the happy come on in green light because the power was out. I leaned against the door and tried to remember where the override key was. I was very afraid it was right where I'd left it, on top of the refrigerator. Inside the apartment. The available options weren't too attractive, either. I could bust the window, which would not only piss the landlord off but defeat the purpose of getting inside out of the cold. I could pull Hyperion and shoot the lock, but she was inside with the Hynebedamned key. I could call a locksmith, but my cell had died about 14 hours ago. Freezing to death on my own stoop like a dumbass seemed the most likely, if least desirable recourse. That left only trotting back to 2-B and begging the girls to let me flop on their couch until the lights came back on.

I banged my head against the icy door, which popped open and dumped me into our foyer.

Oh, yeah, option 6: forget to lock the door on your way out like a dumbshit.

I stumbled in and flipped the switch, getting nothing but confirmation that yes, I was an idiot. By that point I didn't care if we'd been robbed blind while I was gone as long as the thieves left the bed. In fact, if the thieves were still there, I was just going to tell them to keep it quiet and carry on.

It was marginally warmer in the apartment, and I had plans to crank the heat up hot enough to melt candles once the power was back. Meanwhile, I was pretty whiffy from working and sweating like a blobra and my goal was a hot shower and bed. Screw the power, I'd sleep until it came back. Or Spring, whichever came first.

I shed clothes willy nilly, figuring it was too dark to bother with niceties of neatness. It was blacker than the inside of Norg's heart, but I knew where everything was. Sort of. I miscalculated on the coffee table and added another bruise to my collection. I swear that thing moves around the apartment just to lie in wait for me. Anyway, I made it to the bath before my own willy chilled away to nil and cranked up the wonderful, blessed, hot water.

I got a good face full of water that was on the high side of tepid before it dropped to ice cold. As I scrambled away from the stream, teeth chattering, it came to me that the hot water heater would be out with the rest of the modern conveniences. I grabbed all the towels and dried off as fast as I could, feeling the last of my body heat fleeing. Okay, fine. I'd go to bed and bathe in the morning.

Ah, bed. Lovely, comfy bed with thick blankets and soft sheets and pillows that smelled faintly of Squall. My wonderful, warm, water bed.

With the electric heater.

I tried lying to myself that the bed was not stone cold, but I was getting leg cramps. On the upside, between that and the shower, I was wide awake. It came to me that all I'd had to eat in the last 20 hours or so was a plain cake donut - Uriah had scored the last of the ones with the sprinkles - and since cooking at home wasn't advisable even under ideal conditions, I decided to go hunt up a nice warm diner or something and eat and nap in the booth.

I got dressed by feel, grateful that at least I couldn't accidentally end up in Squall's fuck-ugly orange flannel shirt; I'm too broad across the chest to wear his clothes. I grabbed a pair of knitted gloves, a muffler, and a hat from our emergency drawer. Ma Dincht still thinks we are all 6 years old and tends to hand knit us things no one but Selphie would wear, but desperate times called for desperate measures and all that. I peered at them in the total blackness for a bit, trying to figure out if I had any part of a matching set, and then gave up. If anyone commented, I'd tell him my granny was colorblind.

I grabbed the key and my wallet and set out towards a section of town that looked like it had light. I was half hoping a bus would come along - right now the one with the broken heater sounded pretty good - so I could get a lift to the Palace. Then I remembered Laguna had gone to Galbadia for some political thing, and also to visit his great aunt, who Squall assured me was only slightly less nuts than his father. Two Loires at one time was a scary proposition, and I was glad for once that Galbadia strictly forbade me from ever setting foot again on their soil. Seemed they still held a grudge of my role in the reorganization of their upper government. Like no one remembered what a jerk Deling had been.

Downtown was a flash back to one of Squall's exes - the lights were on but no one was home. Festive colored bulbs blinked in Yule colors, but every shop was closed. I guess no one wanted to stay open late and pander to losers who had nowhere to go on Yule. I spotted a coffee shop I remembered was often open late and jaywalked across the street to check it out. A car came by too fast for the ice and it and I danced a merry minuet before someone jerked me backwards up into a snowdrift. I landed on my ass in the dirty slush and the driver just managed to avoid taking out a corner transport pod full of people. He sped off to continue spreading fear and loathing and I jumped to my feet, trying to decide if I should clutch my heart, ass, or knee.

"Fuck me!" I wheezed.

"Now that's an offer I haven't had in many a long year."

My savior was a street person, weathered and withered, with the scorch marks of spell gone bad twisting the left side of his face. Still, he smiled, as best he could, and said, "You all right, Boy?" By the eye watering smell of him, he was keeping warm with aggressive body odor and paint thinner, which he was drinking from a dented soup can.

"Yeah, thanks. I hope that asshole doesn't kill anybody." I declined his offer of a hit and looked around. The gal at the coffee shop was just switching off the lights. I sighed.

"You new to the streets, Kid?"

I guess I looked worse than I thought, and a glance in the nearby shop window confirmed I'd beat the odds and scored a completely mismatched ensemble. Plus, I needed a shave. I shook my head. "Just lost and pissed off."

"You ain't gunna find yourself on the street, Kid. The Church of Hyne has a supper set out, if you're hungry."

I was, but not hungry enough to eat food meant for folk who couldn't afford to pay for any. I took off my muffler and hat and handed them to my guardian angel. I dug all my spare gil out while he protested.

"I can't take these, these is hand made, good stuff. Your momma made these for you."

"Not my momma," I said, handing him a depressingly small wad of cash. "Rozalee Dincht of Balamb." I gave him my jacket, too. "Happy Yule, Old Timer."

He held them up and sniffed them, like he could still smell Ma Dincht's rose garden in the wool. "Rozalee," he said reverently.

I headed up the street before the old man started fantasizing about Zell's Ma. I knew Zell'd find out some how and come kick my ass over it.

"Blessed Yule, Sonny!" the old man called after me.

The transport on the corner was cash only, of course. I couldn't very well go back and borrow 2 gil from my new friend, so I kept going. I had a pretty good idea of the places that would still be open on Yule Night: the church, the hospital, and oh, yes, the classic gathering places of lonely losers - bars.

It was too cold even for hookers, and except for a few random cars sliding down the road, it looked like everyone but me was smart enough to head inside. I wandered up and down Skid Row, thinking the cheesy lights and signs would be almost pretty if you couldn't read. There were brothels, but I couldn't afford hourly rates just to get a place to sleep, and besides, Squall would kill me if I brought home bugs, no matter how innocently I caught them. The flophouses were all full, and just as infested, anyway, so that left the bars. I picked one at random and went inside to drown my sorrows.

It was a standard place, all dark with blue lights and depressing jazz versions of Yule tunes. There were no couples or parties, only serious drinkers devoted to killing brain cells. I slapped the credit card Squall gave me for emergencies on the bar and ordered a hot toddy. This wasn't the sort of place you could get cute trendy drinks like Quistis liked, but I figured anyone could pour some boiling water into a mug of whiskey. The bartender checked the balance of the card first, but then he was all smiles. The drink was even decent, with orange and cloves. I sipped and felt my ass start to thaw. Maybe I'd survive the holiday after all.

Once I warmed up and switched to my brain killer of choice, hot cider and goldschlager, and retreated to one of the cleaner looking tables. The schnapps was hitting me pretty hard, due to my empty stomach, but since my immediate goals had reduced to getting snot flinging drunk, that suited me fine. The waitress kept them coming and I signed tag after tag, adding hefty tips for her and the 'tender. She looked like Ward's twin sister in a peekaboo blouse and miniskirt. She called me "Hon" and I figured as long as I had enough sense not to flirt back, I wasn't too far gone. I promised myself I'd stop just as soon as she started looking good.

I had just reached the comfortably numb state when a guy reeled towards the jukebox, muttering about not hearing that Hynebedamned song /again/. Another patron took exception to dissing what seemed to be his favorite Yule carol, and a brief fight broke out.

Very brief, because when the shoving started, one of them landed on my table and spilt my drink in a wash of glittering cinnamon mess. I glared down at him. "Look Dumbass, I'm a healer. You two morons hurt each other and I'll have to clean you up. Trust me when I say I'll be curing the one who's pissed me off the least first." I shoved him out of my drink.

With the logic of drunks, they both turned on me. The music lover took a swing and I straight armed him down on his ass. The second came at me clumsily and would have missed by a mile but he tripped over the empty chair at my table. It hit my bad knee with evil precision. All pretenses at civility lost, I stood up and grabbed him by the lapels, throwing him away from me in disgust.

The other idiot had gotten back up and was reaching for a handy mostly empty bottle. "Don't. Don't say it and don't start it. I've had a really bad day and I'd love nothing more than to paint the walls with your blood." Too bad I'd taken a vow to Harm None. I smiled into his ugly face.

Music Lover, meanwhile, hit the sticky floor and I noticed just in time he'd come up with a gun. The waitress squeaked and hid as much of her as she could behind the bar. I turned to him, slowly.

"Before you shoot me," I said, "I should tell you that I am Seifer Almasy, the Sorceress's Knight. I have toppled governments and killed gods, and in all of Hyne's World there is only one person who can take me. /And you are not him/."

There was a moment of quiet, broken only by some weary sounding woman crooning about her blue Yule from the jukebox.

Then he shot me.

You know, those speeches always work for /Squall/.

I'm just saying, there is some inherent unfairness in the world. I dodged, not as well as I would have if I'd been sober, but the jerk was so astonished he'd actually pulled the trigger he just stood there with his mouth agape.

The bullet passed through me to shatter the mirror over the bar, each piece reflecting the counter spell I pitched in glittering blue green. Stop prevented the asshole from reflexively pulling the trigger again and the lot of us; a good thing as the Bartender vaulted over the counter with a shotgun in his hand. The guy with the gun evacuated his bowels and, as soon as I released the Stop spell, the bar. I wondered briefly about hypothermia but the waitress was on the phone to City Security, reporting the guy, and I figured Ethar's Finest would pick him up before he dropped. They could follow the smell.

The other guy quietly paid his tab and slithered out. I checked the new hole in my favorite arm and cursed. The bartender offered to call an ambulance for me, but I knew how busy they were at the hospital and declined. Figuring my cover was blown; I used my last Cura on the wound and ordered another round. They left the bottle and I settled in to review the injustices of my life.

The woman on the jukebox, who I was beginning to suspect was Julia Heartilly, continued singing sad songs and I reflected on how things like this never happened when Squall was around.

When somebody wants you
Somebody needs you
Yuletime is a joy of joy

We were both grown men, and Squall really didn't have a sentimental or romantic bone in his body, so I wasn't surprised when he casually mentioned he'd be gone over Yule. I knew I had shifts and would be too busy or tired to be much company and frankly, it was kind of a relief that Laguna was gone and we could skip the formal dinner and gifts thing. Even if a mission hadn't come up, Squall would have been drafted into going to Galbadia and visiting Aunt Nutbar.

But friends when you're lonely
You'll find that it's only
A thing for little girls and little boys

It's not like Yule had ever been a big deal for us, anyway. Garden had handed out some half assed candy or something in those extra cute little cheap felt stockings. Squall and Fuu always gave me their candy for some reason - allergic to chocolate, I thought - and I donated my stocking to Rai, who collected as many as he could and sent them home to his 92 jillion siblings. I think they made coats out of them or something. Frankly, the whole ordeal was slightly embarrassing and we'd all just as soon as gotten the gil Cid spent on the damn things. Even if it was only enough for a candy bar, at least it would be the kind we liked and not that stale chocolate in the tacky foil.

May all your days be merry
Your seasons full of cheer
But 'til it's January
I'll just go and disappear*

I don't drink much; I don't like to do it around Squall, who has a drinking problem he's dealing with, and also, I am very vulnerable to depressants. A few hits and I am the typical maudlin drunk, crying in the pretzels. But dammit, it was Yule, and I'd even bought Squall a present, with money carefully saved from my lunch allowance. Not that it made any sense to do it that way, what with the obscene amounts of gil I was charging to his credit card at that point.

Well, that could just be his present to me; he'd never think to buy me one. I drank to that and signaled for another bottle. The waitress patted my shoulder when she delivered it and I smiled at her. Nice lady. Still scary looking, though, so I couldn't be that smashed. I drank to that, too.

Not that I wanted anything except Squall. I hated the times we spent apart. I never knew what sort of condition he'd be coming home in, and in the back of my mind was always the fear that someday he wouldn't be coming home at all. If we were together, I could protect him; cure him; rez him. Apart, I had to trust Quis, Irv and Zell and... Hyne, I guess. The only one I had total faith in was Squall. He always promised to come back and so far his record was perfect.

But where was he when I needed him? Off saving the damn world. Like the world had ever done anything for /me/. Fuck you, world. I drank to that. And fuck you, Squall, for going off and leaving me at Yule. I drank to that, too.

Hyne, I'd love to fuck Squall right now. Feel his silky skin against mine, taste his lips. Or, hells, just hold him in my arms. See his face. Hear his voice. Fucker could at least /call/, never mind the fact that my phone was deader than Deling. What I wouldn't give to be with him...

My heart actually skipped a beat at the sigh, and I looked up and slowly focused enough to see my lover, in the flesh, standing impatient and hipshot, glaring at me. I grinned like a sap.

"There is a Yule King!" and he brought me exactly what I wanted.

"Seifer," Squall said, "Do you what time it is?"

"No?" I was too enthralled with just looking at my present to register how pissed off he was.

"It's ten thirty at night! You were supposed to be at Ellone's seven hours ago!"

"I was? Why?" I blinked. "Didn't she go with your dad? ... What are you doing here?"

Squall rolled his eyes. "I came back for the surprise party." Guessing my next question, he added, "The surprise party the guest of honor never showed up for!"

"Who the fuck has surprise Yule parties?"

Patiently, Squall said, "What else happens on December twenty-second, Seifer?"

I mulled that over. "Oh!" I felt like I'd solved Odine's Theorem. "It's my birthday!"

Squall hauled me to my feet. "Yes, Dumbshit, and Elle and Selphie planned a huge surprise party for you. The whole Aunt Murtis thing was a ruse."

"The mission, too?"

"No, but I knew it would be over soon enough to make it back. I made sure of it."

I smiled at him, swaying a bit as he settled the bill. "That's my hero."

"And I spent all afternoon dealing with Selphie and Sis in preparty mode. Then you never showed up."

"They didn't invite me." I wasn't sulking, I swear.

"You were supposed to stop by and water her plants and feed her cat."

"I forgot! I pulled a triple shift at the hospital."

"When the storm hit, Selphie called you."

"My phone is dead." I shook my head, and regretted it.

"She left messages on the machine at home, too."

"Electricity was out."

"Zell went over personally and left a note on the fridge."

"It was dark... and he forgot to lock the door." I felt better about that.

Squall was nodding, like he'd figured all that out. "So about 4 hours ago when the power came back, we started scouring the city looking for you." He looked around. "Where's your coat?"

"I gave it away."

He noticed the hole in my sweater and tracked to the broken mirror. His lips thinned to a white line and he jerked my gloves out of my pockets. Then he blinked at them. One was bug-guts green and one was orange with blue stripes. Squall winced and put them on me anyway.

"It was dark," I repeated.

"You are going to tell me about what happened." It was not a request.

"Later," I agreed happily. "Hey, it's still my birthday. Do I get a present?"

Squall draped my uninjured arm over his shoulders and put his arm around my waist, propping me up. "If you hurry."

"Ooh, that sort of present! My favorite." I let him take me out, perfectly at peace with the world.

Outside the cold air - and the Esuna Squall cast -cleared my head a little. "How the fuck did you find me? There must be 50 bars on this street."

Squall bundled me into the waiting taxi and quirked a smile. "Lucky guess." He gave the directions to the driver and we pulled away, leaving the Cool Note bar and it's blinking neon Shiva sign in the distance.

It was a happy Yule after all.

* (from slightly modified version of "The Christmas Blues" sung by Dean Martin. I'm sorry, I was unable to discover the lyricist)

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