Grazhir :: Crossover :: Tempest :: 05 :: Being Noticed

05 • Being Noticed

Council

“So, do you think you can get us started?” he asked anxiously.

“Of course!” Laguna exclaimed. “Anything for m—you and Cloud. Being president does have its perks, you know,” he proclaimed proudly, a cheerful smile lighting his face.

“Brilliant,” interjected Cloud, patting Storm on the shoulder.

Storm suppressed the shiver he felt race down his spine and summoned a smile. “We’ve got enough for an album already, I think.” He glanced at Cloud, who nodded. “So as soon as you can . . . er. . . . ”

“What else is a patron for? I’ll get Kiros right on it. After all, he’s more than a little interested in you two himself. I’ve caught him lurking around your suite listening to you practice. I’m sure he’d be happy to help!”

Cloud chuckled appreciatively. “So we should be able to start recording shortly. I’m certainly raring to go.”

“You’d never know it to look at you,” shot back Storm sarcastically, tweaking one of the blond’s spikes.

“Uh, boys . . . do you have a name?” asked Laguna, looking back and forth at them.

‘Huh, back and forth. . . .’ He blinked up at his father. “Oh, Tempest.”

“We thought about Stormcloud, but that just made us laugh. It’s a little too silly,” supplied Cloud with a wicked grin.

Laguna giggled, something that always made Storm wince internally. His father was way too innocent for a man his age. Then again, remembering his time as a Fairie, he understood his mother’s hesitation, and eventual acceptance.

“Great! I’ll go find Kiros now,” Laguna called as he ran out of the office, narrowly missing the doorframe.

“Why the strange look?” asked Cloud, peering at him uncertainly.

“Huh? Oh. Just the way he was looking at us. Gave me a weird idea for a song, that’s all. Mixed up as always.” He shrugged in a self-deprecating manner.

“I could say that’s not a bad thing. After all, if your songs were more explicit, people would really start to wonder what rock you crawled out from under.”

He leveled an icy glare at Cloud, then smiled and stuck out his tongue childishly.

“Don’t do that unless you intend to use it,” Cloud purred, then quickly walked off, leaving a stunned Storm behind.

*

He smiled and set down his pen. The newest song was written, this one a sly dig at himself and Ultimecia, prompted by his father earlier on. An odd wellspring for creativity, but . . . whatever, right? It was therapeutic, cathartic, and an entirely different way to express himself as opposed to the memoirs he was still working on.

‘At least they’ll know at some point that I’m still alive, even if they never see that face again,’ he mused, breaking from his thoughts as Cloud entered the room. He picked up his notebook and tossed it to the other man, who caught it one-handed. “What do you think?”

“Hmm. . . .” replied Cloud absently. “Wait, don’t tell me. I want to see if I know you well enough to decipher this one.” He sat down across from Storm and lifted his legs, dropping his feet on Storm’s lap, and slouched in his chair.

“I think I get it,” said Cloud after a while, then looked up to lock gazes. “It’s you and . . . Ultimecia. Isn’t it.” He grinned disarmingly. “Maybe even Griever. I like it, Storm.”

He scowled.

Cloud laughed and set the notebook down and fished out one of his own. “Here,” he said casually. “Tell me what you think of this?”

Still scowling, he reached out and took the notebook, then read through the words. He looked up, eyes wide, and gazed at Cloud. “Do you—I mean—is this . . . what I think it is?”

Tango Of Tears

She let him lead her to the floor, her hand resting lightly in the crook of his arm. Once there, she drew away and faced him, then placed one hand in his, letting the other drape around his neck.

“I’m flattered, you know. I’ve never seen you dance with anyone before.”

She flashed a quick smile at him before looking away and over his shoulder as the music started, and they began to move as one to the delicate strains, sweeping through the formal movements of the dance.

“I didn’t mean to embarrass you back there. I just. . . .” he trailed off uncomfortably.

Quistis looked back. “You just. . . ?”

Seifer inhaled and let out a deep breath. “I’ll be honest. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I just never had the courage to ask before, and no opportunity.”

She tilted her head back slightly and flushed again, tinting her cheeks a rosy shade.

“You, not have courage?”

He chuckled and shrugged. “I know. Not the kind of thing you’d ever expect to hear out of my mouth. But it’s true.” He smiled and swept her between two other couples. “When it comes to you, that is,” he added in a low voice.

Her eyes narrowed in response.

“I’ve seen the way you look at me, Quisty. I hope I’m seeing things right. Dare I hope?”

She blinked and looked away again, though her voice floated to his ear, “For?”

“For us, of course. Will you—may I have the honor of your company at dinner in town some evening soon?”

She shifted in his arms, pressing minutely closer.

“I hope that was a yes,” he murmured as she trembled ever so slightly, then made an indistinct noise of agreement.

He smiled, then inwardly cursed as he heard the music near its end, then draw to a close. They stood there together, lost to the world, only to wake up to hear the announcement for the next number. He released her hand and tilted her face back to his.

“Sweet Hyne! Do you know how to tango?” he asked with an enticing smile, unwilling to let her go so soon.

She looked at him with eyes that sparkled with unshed tears and nodded.

The Dream Within

“That depends. What do you think it means?” asked Cloud calmly.

Storm furrowed his brow, then pushed Cloud’s feet off his lap and stood. Keeping his eyes on the other man he slowly raised his pinky finger to his mouth and traced his lower lip, then his upper. Cloud swallowed and crossed his ankles.

Storm made another circuit, then dipped his finger into his mouth and sucked, pushing it out with his tongue only to draw it back in. Cloud shifted again and folded his hands in his lap, recrossing his ankles. Storm smiled around his finger then withdrew it, replacing it with his index finger to begin a slow pattern of thrust and release, his eyes fluttering shut for a moment, then opening to gaze at Cloud hazily.

He drew his finger out lazily, making it slide over his lower lip and down his chin. He left a glistening trail of saliva down the column of his throat, then spread his fingers wide across his chest. Cloud’s hands were twisting a bit in his lap and his eyes were half closed, his head tilted back against the support of the chair.

Storm smiled and took slow steps toward Cloud, letting each foot cross over in front of the other one, then stopped just to the side of the chair. He reached down and held Cloud’s chin in one hand. “Assuming I’m correct, I think you’ll follow me,” he asserted in velvet tones, then let go and turned to prowl off to his bedroom and stand facing his bed.

Moments later he heard footsteps behind him, and then arms slid around his waist and pulled him back. He let his head tilt in open invitation and purred when soft lips pressed against his neck, then hissed in pleasure as teeth sank into his skin. He covered the hands that held him with his own, using his fingers to draw idle patterns as he reveled in the sensations Cloud’s mouth was engendering in his body.

As those magical lips moved up his neck, he turned his head carefully, sighing when they kissed a line across his jaw and sought to capture his mouth. Storm broke the hold on him and pivoted, darting his tongue against Cloud’s mouth. When Cloud moaned he pushed for entrance, sliding his tongue inside as those lips parted, and began a dance of exploration and caresses.

He pulled away and nibbled at Cloud’s lower lip, then whispered, “More. . . .”

Cloud’s eyes snapped open and he pressed against his soon-to-be lover, pushing him gently toward the bed, all while trying to strip the clothing off the both of them. Storm willingly helped, and when they tumbled onto the bed they were both naked and breathing heavily.

He looked up into impassioned blue eyes and admitted in a whisper, “I’ve never—” He was cut off by a crushing kiss that threatened to take his breath away, and arched his body against Cloud’s mindlessly. After that, he simply let Cloud do as he pleased, and reacted without resistance and without thought to how loud he was becoming.

*

Surprisingly, it didn’t take more than a few weeks once Laguna and Kiros arranged things, and they’d cut an album of the songs they’d written. The videos took a bit longer, which didn’t surprise either of them, but when complete they were thrilled with the results.

While they were waiting for the first song to hit the airwaves, Storm spent time on his memoirs. Much like the songs, the process was cathartic, and Cloud was always there to distract him when he became morose, teasing him out of his mood or taking things a step further and making him gasp and moan with pleasure.

They were eating lunch with Laguna when ‘’ played for the first time. Lunch morphed into an impromptu party.

Omen

The clock ticked over and set off the alarm, blaring music into the room for Seifer’s usual wake up call. He groaned and rolled over, wanting to go back to sleep, but knowing he couldn’t, having set the clock clear across the room. Countless times of sliding into classrooms just barely on time had taught him to do so.

He was considering getting up when a new song began playing, vaguely upbeat, but strangely compelling. He listened intently, but only caught some of the words. He wasn’t quite sure what the song was about, but certain lines he could make out rang in his head. They reminded him of himself . . . maybe. Perhaps that was just his old vanity coming to the forefront.

Seifer rolled off the bed, landing on his knees, and stood up. A quick look in the mirror made him groan again; he looked like hell. He padded off to the shower to prepare for another day, the whole time thinking about that song.

Much later, that evening over dinner, he mentioned it to Quistis. She, with her usual cool logic, suggested he start watching MVC to see if there was a video to go with it. So it was that they were ensconced on the couch together in his rooms, watching the music video channel and hoping for it to play.

And it did.

Seifer watched intently as two young men appeared on the screen; both were blond and somewhat androgynous, and both were fascinating to look at. He watched, with Quistis at his side, as the two men began to sing, and listened closely to the lyrics pouring from those beautiful mouths. He barely even noticed the dark-haired, dark-eyed girl that appeared briefly.

“You know, you’re right, Seifer. It does sound a bit like it’s about the old you. But. . . .”

“But not exactly.”

“Two people then? Especially that last bit. . . .” She furrowed her brow.

“I’m not quite sure what to think of it. And I don’t recognize either of those men.”

“Who were they again? The group?”

“They’re new apparently. Tempest.”

“We could try looking them up. They may be new, but there might be a site for them.”

“I suppose. I admit to being really curious, and wondering what they’ll release next. It’s weird, this song. It’s saying something, I just don’t understand what.”

*

When Tempest released ‘’ they were even more confused; the new song carried the same nagging sense of familiarity, as though it should be screamingly obvious what it was about, except that it wasn’t. Seifer certainly couldn’t pin down the feeling, and Quistis wore a more or less perpetual expression of introspection. He felt unsettled, disarmed, and disconnected.

It got even worse when ‘’ started playing. The lyrics were depressing in the extreme, but once again that feeling was there, like an underlying current in a river. You couldn’t see it, but you knew it was there. It was a strange whisper in the back of his mind, nagging and teasing at him.

‘Rather like Squall,’ he couldn’t help but think, and that disturbed him more than anything.

He was snapped from his thoughts by Quistis tugging at his arm, trying to get his attention.

“Wha?”

“Seifer! Look, damn it,” she commanded, pointing at the screen.

He looked over to see a promotional spot playing out, advertising an upcoming concert by Tempest in Esthar.

Reminiscence

They arrived in Esthar several days early, piling into the palace with a plethora of bags to be greeted by Kiros, who quickly showed them to rooms in the dignitary’s wing and let them get settled in. Since they had plenty of time before dinner with Laguna, they decided to go shopping. Seifer thought it was all a bit silly, but since they had nothing better to do than to roam around town, he joined his comrades.

The shops weren’t terribly different, though they did carry a wider selection of items, and several new stores had opened. The book store, however, held the biggest surprise. The main item for sale was a brand new book, by none other than Squall Leonhart, titled ‘Unwilling Hero’. All of them purchased a copy and the group cut short their trip to return to the palace, sprawling on every available surface in the sitting room of their suite to dig into the book immediately.

Seifer had that feeling again, though it still didn’t make any sense. With a sigh he opened his copy and began to read. Several chapters in he decided that Squall was being uncommonly open in his writing. ‘Then again,’ he thought, ‘no one has seen him since the day he left Garden, so why not? I get the feeling he’s never coming back.’

For the hell of it, he flipped to the last chapter and read it through, then closed the book. Squall had always been hard to read, and it had always been true that anger was the likeliest of emotions for him to display, but there it was, laid out in black and white, what he’d been thinking not long before his brush with death. Who’d have thought?

He’d certainly never known Squall had felt that way about him, that he’d never blamed him throughout the entire ordeal. It had been one thing to see the letter he’d left behind, but to parade those same kind of thoughts to the entire world? ‘He’s definitely never coming back.’

He looked around at his companions, all of whom were deeply engrossed in their copies. Myriad emotions flickered across their faces, not all of which were pretty to look at. Shattered illusions never were. Apparently, none of them had ever really known Squall, and it was obvious that none of them had ever managed to get past the walls he’d built for himself.

He knew they’d be cringing when they got to the end, to the furious ranting, the bleeding self-pity, and self-loathing Squall had displayed in his writing. They’d be angry, sad, and Hyne knew what else, but maybe they’d finally understand why he left, like Seifer now did, and why he hadn’t been afraid to die.

A glance at the clock told him it was hours yet before dinner. He sighed again and flipped back to where he’d left off.

*

“Laguna, where did those memoirs come from?” Seifer asked.

“Huh? Oh, Squall sent them to me, I guess. A manuscript arrived one day with a note asking me to see that it got published.”

“That’s it?” asked Quistis. “You never saw him?”

“Yup. It just arrived one day, so I did as he asked.” Laguna scratched the back of his head. “How could I not? He actually asked me for something.” He reached for a crusty roll and buttered it. “Anyway, are the rooms okay? I’m glad you all decided to come early. I think you’ll like Tempest.” He gave them all a slightly goofy grin.

“Uh, you know those two men?” asked Selphie.

“Sure do!” Laguna declared with a smile.

“How did that happen?” inquired Irvine with a curious glance before raising his fork to his lips.

“Oh,” replied Laguna cheerfully, “they showed up one day to see if I’d be interested in being their patron and gave me a mini-concert a bit later to show me they were for real. Kiros loves ‘em! I’m always catching him down by their suite trying to listen in.” He giggled and bit into his bread round.

“They . . . live here? In the palace?” choked out Seifer.

Laguna nodded, still chewing. After a moment he swallowed. “Yup! They’ve got rooms sorta like mine, totally protected so that people can’t get at ‘em unless they allow it. Of course, now that they’re on the airwaves, they tend to engage the security system. I can’t even get in without them letting me.” He grinned engagingly and grabbed his fork.

“Wow!” Selphie bounced in her seat. “Just imagine if they came to sing at a Garden Festival!”

Seifer arched a brow. “Have you even listened to their music?”

“Well, now that you mention it . . . no. But that’s beside the point!” Selphie beamed at him. “They’re really popular from what I hear, and we’ll find out for ourselves soon at the concert.”

Seifer glanced at Quistis, then gave Selphie a patient look. “Their music is good, but it’s also somewhat disturbing.”

“Why, thank you for such an interesting compliment,” broke in a honey-toned voice.

Every head but Laguna’s whipped around to see two blond men lounging in the doorway.

“Boys! Come on in,” caroled Laguna with a bright smile.

“Sure thing, prez.” One straightened and snaked an arm around his companion’s waist, pulling him into the room and onto a nearby sofa. “We already ate, so please, do keep on.” He waved his hand negligently. “I’m Storm and this is Cloud.”

A chorus of uncertain greetings and names rang out, to which the young men smiled lazily and nodded.

“We know who you are, but thanks for introducing yourselves,” stated Cloud.

Seifer had a hard time paying attention to his food with those two sitting so calmly nearby. He was actually grateful for once for Selphie prattling on like a maniac as he had the excuse to keep looking over to study the two young men. If he were the type to swing that way, he’d be feeling the ache right now, he knew. They both had an unassuming air, but it was clear they were very confident, and very much into each other.

They weren’t blatent about it by any means, but Seifer just knew. He stole a quick look at Rinoa, who was visibly squirming in her seat. ‘Tough luck, babe,’ he thought. ‘There’s no way you’ll be prying your way between these two, no matter who you are.’ That honeyed voice turned his attention back to the two men.

“This has been grand, but we should get going. Practice, you know,” confided Storm with a sly little grin as he rose to his feet and flicked his hair back.

“Mmm. Hope you enjoy the concert, folks,” added Cloud, then stood and twined his fingers with Storm’s. “Later, prez!” With a quick wave, they sauntered out soundlessly.

“Wow!” squealed Selphie. “I can’t wait to see them in action!”

Seifer leaned over and whispered in Rinoa’s ear, “Just some friendly advice. I know what you’re thinking, and I don’t think it’ll work.”

Her lower lip pushed out immediately as she turned to stare at him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Seifer shrugged. ‘I tried, right?’ He turned back to Quistis with a loving smile.