Grazhir :: Crossover :: Tempest :: 06 :: Plans

06 • Plans

Eyes on Me

Cloud flung himself into a chair as Storm activated the security system, then turned and looked over, a smirk twisting his lips.

“Don’t think I didn’t see that little bitch squirming. She’s trouble.”

He nodded and blew a kiss to Cloud. “Yes, she is. She was looking at us like we were dessert.” He grimaced and dropped down next to his lover. “She’s definitely going to be trouble. The question is, what to do about it?”

Cloud shrugged. “I don’t know. I do know she’s imagining herself on the arm of someone who could make her look good. Possibly sandwiched between us. Just thinking about it repulses me.” He shuddered and laid his head against his lover’s shoulder.

“Well, it’s not like we have to do much with them. They’re staying here at the palace, of course, but that doesn’t mean they can waltz in here whenever they want. Though . . . I wouldn’t put it past her to try.”

“At least our little visit went well. They didn’t recognize you.” Cloud grinned.

“Thank Hyne for that! Or . . . whoever.” Storm glanced up at the ceiling for a moment before looking back at Cloud. “You know what I mean.”

Cloud snorted. “Yeah, I do.”

“Besides, the memoirs came out. That means Squall is out there . . . somewhere.”

“Anyway . . . so what to do? Play it cool? Be obnoxiously oblivious?”

“Oblivious, though it may just make her try harder. If she ends up looking like an ass, that’s her fault, not ours.” He grinned and swooped in to capture Cloud’s lips in a quick kiss.

“All right. Let her dish out her own then. I don’t know what you ever saw in the girl,” remarked Cloud, then squawked when Storm bounced a throw pillow into his face.

“You’re going to pay for that, Cloud.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I’ll figure something out. But . . . hmm.” He played with a strand of his hair, twisting it around his fingers.

“What?”

“I was wondering if I should tell prez that we have this potential situation. For all her faults, she’s a wiley little devil, and I’m worried she might try and charm her way past the palace staff.”

“It’s not like she can get in here,” objected Cloud with a slight frown.

“No, but she could be laying in wait the next time we open the doors,” pointed out Storm.

“Er, why don’t you send a note up then.”

~~~

Laguna bounced in, then scratched the back of his head in confusion as Storm activated the security system directly the doors closed. “Uh, what’s up?”

“Nothing major we hope,” supplied Cloud from his perch on the couch.

Storm turned and caught his father’s gaze. “It’s like this—we both saw how Rinoa was acting when we dropped by. She was practically salivating at the idea of getting her hands on one of us, or both.”

“You don’t think you’re being a little harsh?”

“No, prez. We’re just concerned she might try and slip past the restrictions, or try and charm information out of you. Do not let her, please?”

Laguna scratched his head again. “Well, if you think so. . . .”

Storm pulled out his ace in the hole and played it shamelessly. “Dad, please?” he asked softly, laying his hand on Laguna’s arm.

“All right, son.”

Red Carpet

The crowd screamed and bounced, swayed and waved their hands in the air, while Seifer just watched from the private box he was sitting in, his only real company his companions from Garden. Tempest had just finished ‘’ and the air was still crackling with the energy that had flown between the two men, from Cloud to Storm and back again.

He shot a quick glance at Rinoa and saw her exactly as he expected, oblivious to the undercurrents of the last number, still expecting to be able to gain a new toy to grace her arm. ‘It’s a shame,’ he thought. ‘She has so many good qualities, but at times like this, she’s more of a mercernary than a SeeD ever was.’

A moment later his attention was back on the stage, watching as the two blonds pranced around during the intro of the next song, ‘’. As they began to sing he got that strange feeling again of disconnection. He really wished he understood, but maybe now wasn’t the time to worry about it. The concert was going well by his standards; they really could sing. It wasn’t all studio tricks.

Some time later, Tempest finished up with another song Seifer had never heard before, ‘’, then they shouted out a hearty good night to the crowd and bounded off stage and into the wings to thunderous applause. Seifer rose and slipped out of the box, jogging toward the exits and a ride back to the palace.

*

“It would be so wonderful if Tempest would come to Galbadia,” trilled Rinoa.

Laguna flashed her a smile.

“I mean, you’ve done a lovely job, but. . . .” She trailed off and averted her gaze.

“Excuse me?”

“Well, I’m sure they could get so much more coverage, you know?” She smiled at him winningly.

Laguna scratched the back of his head, remembering what Storm had said. He looked her straight in the eye, only peripherally noticing Seifer sidling closer. “Really,” he said flatly, showing none of his usual cheer.

“Oh yes,” Rinoa replied. “I have ever so many contacts in Deling City, what with being a General’s daughter and all,” she confided in a hushed undertone. “I think it would do them so much good, don’t you?”

“I see,” he said with uncharacteristic asperity. “Are you saying that as president of Esthar I don’t?”

“Of course not!” she exclaimed, an offended look on her face. “It’s just that. . . .”

“It’s just that what?” he asked dryly.

“Well, I mean, you’re so busy. Surely you don’t have the time.”

“I’ll thank you to remember that they came to me, not the other way around. If they’re satisfied, then so am I. They aren’t toys, Rinoa, they’re people. I don’t think you’d be winning yourself any points if you were to talk to them like you have been to me.” Laguna snatched a glass from a passing tray and sipped some champagne.

“I’m sure I have no idea what you’re implying, Laguna,” she said frostily, then flounced off.

Laguna took another sip, then turned at the sound of laughter to see Seifer, who looked up and met his eyes. “Keep an eye on those two, eh? She can be. . . . Well, whatever,” he said with a faint shrug, then strode off to slip an arm around Quistis’s waist.

Laguna let out a soft snort.

*

Storm and Cloud strolled into the private party side by side and glanced around, then moved toward Laguna. Coming to a stop at his side, Storm leaned in to whisper, “So prez, any trouble?”

Laguna looked around for a few seconds before murmuring, “Yes. What you anticipated, actually. She’s under the impression that she can handle you two better than I can.”

Storm and Cloud exchanged a glance, then burst into peals of laughter, attracting the attention of everyone. Seconds later Rinoa arrived with a winning smile, sliding her body in between the two young men and shooting an icy look at Laguna.

“Hello, gentlemen. You were fantastic earlier!”

“We’re glad you enjoyed the show,” said Cloud with a lazy smile.

“It was amazing!” she exclaimed as she attempted to wind her arms into theirs.

“Sorry—Rinoa, was it? Anyway, sorry, but we were just in the middle of a business discussion, so if you’ll excuse us, that would be lovely,” drawled Storm, detaching himself with a slight grimace.

“I—what?”

“Which part of you interrupting something didn’t you understand?” asked Cloud, also plucking her arm off his and holding it away from his body before letting go.

“Well I never,” she huffed.

“We very much doubt that,” shot back Storm with a sly grin. “After all, you look like the kind of girl who knows how to have fun. But, as Cloud has said, there are things we need to discuss with our patron, so you will please excuse us, no?”

Rinoa drew herself up sharply, visibly confused by the conflicting signals she was getting. After a moment, she gave a slight nod and turned away, striding off quickly.

“Well, that was amusing.” Storm rolled his eyes slightly. “What, specifically, did she want, prez?”

“She mentioned that it might do you two boys good to get more exposure, such as in Galbadia—with her help, of course.” Laguna looked uncharacteristically solemn.

Storm exchanged a glance with Cloud, then looked at his father. “We’re already on MVC. Any idiot who knows how to work a remote can watch us expose ourselves . . . so to speak.”

Laguna shot him an uncomfortable look.

“Well,” said Cloud, “I suppose it depends. Granted, we are doing this for ourselves, because we enjoy it. But we did draw quite a crowd this evening. Should we consider a real tour?”

“People do seem to like that sort of thing,” Laguna said a bit diffidently.

Storm shrugged. “It isn’t as though we need the money. But, it is something to consider. However, I categorically refuse to let anyone other than you, prez, handle us. If we decided to do something like that, and she were to set up an appearance, I’d still want your people with us, and okaying the accommodations and such.”

“That could be arranged,” Laguna said thoughtfully. “I’d bet Kiros would love to be on hand.” He flashed a quick grin.

“Yes, but could you do without him? I know that you rely on him, prez, and he is one of your best friends.”

“It wouldn’t have to be for that long. I mean, how much trouble could I get into in a few days?”

Storm stifled the urge to groan and closed his eyes briefly, then graced his father with a sweet smile. “Well, there really aren’t a lot of places to go when you come right down to it. Here, of course. Deling. Balamb. Possibly Fishermans Horizon. I couldn’t imagine stopping in at every village or town.”

“If you boys decide you’d like to tour, I don’t see any reason not to, though now probably isn’t the best time to work out any details.”

“Good point, prez. I suppose we should make nice and mingle,” Cloud said, glancing around the room.

“Hn. I suppose so.”

Laguna leaned in close and said in a low tone, “You might consider starting with Seifer, then. He was over here earlier, telling me to keep an eye on you two because of Rinoa.”

“Was he really?” Storm arched a brow. He nodded and turned to Cloud, saying, “Shall we, then?”

They drifted over toward Seifer and Quistis, snagging glasses of champagne on the way, and glided to a stop just near them. Once it was apparent that their targets had noticed them, Cloud said, “We hope that you enjoyed the concert. It was our first, so. . . .”

Seifer broke into an easy smile and nodded. “It’s a rare treat to find a group that can actually sing without needing all the tweaking that can be done in the studio.”

“I agree,” said Quistis. “And such thought provoking work, as well.”

“But disturbing,” said Storm.

“In an odd way, yes,” affirmed Seifer. “When I hear one of your songs, I can’t help but feel that there’s something I’m not quite getting, or hearing.”

“I find it a little amusing that your one song, Charm Attack, tends to make me think of Seifer,” said Quistis with a sly smile.

Cloud and Storm exchanged a glance, then Cloud said, “I’m not sure if we should be happy or sad about that. After all, it isn’t a very complimentary song. . . .”

Quistis laughed lightly and said, “You might understand if you knew more about him.” A second later she was edging away playfully with a grin on her face.

Seifer rolled his eyes and said, “Yes, I know. I deserve that. In any case, I know I enjoyed the concert, quite a lot. I’d definitely come see you again.”

“That’s interesting, because prez mentioned something about that Rinoa girl wanting us to play in Deling. We thought we’d consider things a bit and decide on whether we wanted to give a concert in a few other places.”

Seifer quirked up a brow for a moment and shot a quick look at Quistis. “You might not want to say anything like that around Selphie. You’ll never shake her loose. She’s already said she wants to get you to play for a Garden Festival.”

Storm rolled a shoulder in a half shrug. “We had considered Balamb, but I suppose the town doesn’t have anyplace suitable. I get the feeling the Garden does.”

“You’ve never been in one?” asked Quistis.

Cloud shook his head. “Not much call for it.”

“I suppose not,” said Seifer. “Though she would be the person to speak to, if you wanted to give it a shot.”

Quistis shot them a speculative look, then said slowly, “If it’s not rude. . . . How is it that you decided to go to Laguna with a request for patronage?”

Storm tilted his head to one side, absently flicking back his hair. “We’d heard he was quite an engaging fellow, not to mention fairly open to meeting new people. He was quite happy to give us an audience. We figured that if he wasn’t interested, he might be able to point us at someone who would be. As it was, he was pretty enthusiastic about the whole idea.”

Cloud laughed and added, “He had us moved into the palace almost before we could finish explaining our dilema. I really like him, he’s great fun.”

They spent the next ten minutes mainly talking about Laguna and Esthar, then drifted off to spend a few minutes with each of the others, being careful not to go anywhere near Rinoa until they spotted her in the company of Irvine and Selphie. Once they had finished the obligatory mingling, they paused by Laguna long enough to say good night and sauntered out, back to their quarters.

“You know, I wouldn’t exactly say that we did oblivious very well,” commented Cloud once they were in bed.

“Not really, but she did end up confused, so that’s okay. I mean it, though. There’s no way in hell I’m going near Deling with her around if we don’t have dad’s people to watch our backs. She’s enough of a politician to adhere—mostly—to socially polite behavior, though. Don’t get me wrong, she has some excellent qualities, and she’s very loyal to her friends, but she can be pretty mercernary when she likes.”

“I did read your memoirs.”

Storm shoved his hair back from his forehead and sighed slightly. “Still, I don’t think any of them caught on, do you?”

“No. Didn’t see any hints of anything like that.”

“Well then, how about we celebrate?”

“Did you have anything in particular in mind?”

Storm snorted softly and said, “I can think of plenty of things. The question is, can you?”

“I think with the right incentives I could,” Cloud said leadingly.

“Is that so?”

*

Seifer had been somewhat surprised when the men of Tempest had stopped by him and Quistis first, and wondered if it had anything to do with his vague comment to Laguna or not. But, as he felt no inclination to be so bold or rude as to openly ask them, or Laguna, he had shelved the thought.

Instead, he had gone back into town to pick up a copy of their CD for himself. He was very pleased to see, once he had unwrapped it, that lyrics were included in the cover insert. Granted, it wasn’t a huge quantity of songs, but what they revealed was intriguing. He could, actually, see himself in the song ‘’.

He had been quite cold, so self-assured. Him and his posse, often never bothering to look beyond the surface of others. Still, there were references that just didn’t make sense to him. It was almost like hearing one side of a conversation, and it was obvious, if it did actually refer to him, that they either didn’t know his old self all that well, or were concealing things.

Seifer shook his head in confusion. Why would they? It wasn’t as though he had ever met either of them before. Again, he was reminded of Squall, and what he had written. And that led him to read over the words for ‘’. How there was a triangle involved in it, he couldn’t see. Or maybe, he could. Seifer shook his head again, no closer to reaching any kind of an understanding.

Maybe Tempest just liked to write disturbing lyrics.

Seifer replaced the insert and closed the case, then stared at the cover. It depicted a storm brewing over a nameless sea, banks of clouds rising up in the greying distance. ‘Fitting, I suppose.’ He shrugged and placed the case in his bag.

They appeared on the surface to be so very confident and assured, so happy and relaxed. Why would such people have so much angst beneath the surface, or in their pasts? Seifer sighed heavily and sat back, slouching in his chair. He wanted very badly to know where Squall had hidden himself. He expected that he’d disdained any large city, and probably even the smaller towns and villages.

Granted, Esthar was so large that even a celebrity could find a way to disappear, but he wasn’t so sure that Squall would settle so close to his father. Perhaps one of the ruins?

A knock made his head snap up.