Grazhir :: Crossover :: Tempest :: 07 :: Sight Seeing

07 • Sight Seeing

Storm flicked his hair back and leaned forward. “I guess what I’m worried about—okay, obviously Rinoa. They don’t know about you, Cloud. There’s nothing they can find out or dig up.”

“And for all they know, there are records of one Storm . . . someone . . . in Esthar, right from the point of birth.” Cloud shot a speculative look at Laguna.

Laguna blinked and produced a sheepish smile. “I don’t really understand computers. I kinda let Kiros handle that side of things whenever possible.”

Storm sighed, then smiled. “Assuming you had a secure terminal, prez, I could insert a record. We’d both need one. And last names.”

Cloud coughed. “My last name is Strife, actually.”

“Oh, okay. It’s not like it ever came up.” Storm flashed a brief smile at his lover. “Any suggestions for me?”

After several minutes of silence, Cloud spoke. “What about Sith?”

Storm arched a brow. “A bit alliterative, don’t you think?”

“Well . . . I thought of it because of someone I once knew. Except, in the beginning, I didn’t know who he was. I may have mentioned him, I don’t remember. The point is, he wasn’t who he appeared to be, at all. Quite deceptive, really.”

“I trust he wasn’t such a bad guy.”

“Rather nice actually, once I learned more about him. Anyway, what do you think?”

Storm shrugged and looked at his father. “Dad?”

Laguna scratched the back of his head. “I guess I don’t care. It isn’t as though you could use the last name of Loire, unfortunately. Sith does sound sorta nice, too. Though, I’m not sure how anyone would get information on you two as residents of Esthar. Those files are pretty well protected.”

“That’s true, but I’d like to tie up any loose ends, prez, if you’re okay with it.”

“Oh, sure. Soon as you work up some sort of a history, you should be able to do that from in here somewhere. I’m pretty sure I have a terminal. I’ll just have to log in so you have full access to the system.” He looked up and smiled. “Now, about a tour?”

“I think it might be fun,” Cloud said. “After all, I’ve only really seen Esthar and some of the surrounding countryside.”

Storm bit his lip, then said, “I’m sorry. I never even thought about. . . .”

Cloud waved a hand negligently. “I’m not criticizing, just mentioning. We’ve been really busy up ‘til now. This would be one way for me to see the sights. I know you feel pretty safe here, Storm, and might not want to venture out too far.”

“No, it’s okay. If they haven’t figured it out by now. . . . All right. Then we should see about arrangements for Deling. Would there even be a point in looking into Fishermans Horizon?”

“Maybe,” said Laguna. “I’m pretty sure a lot of people from there showed up for the concert you gave here.”

“Hn. Forget that, then. So, Esthar, Deling, and . . . Balamb?”

Cloud cleared his throat. “Do Gardens even let in outsiders for their festivals?”

Storm frowned, then said, “I think they would for something like this, especially if we insisted. Though, the quad is rather small. I think it’d mostly be the younger set who would want to come from town. I guess we’d have to talk to Selphie.”

“And go through Rinoa for Deling?”

“So long as she understands that she’s not in any way in command of us. I get the feeling she’s pretty pissed at me—Squall—for leaving like that, so I’m not above doing something to make her happy for a bit.”

“Do you want me to have Kiros talk to them, or would you prefer to approach them personally?”

“I think”—Storm shot a look at Cloud—“that for Rinoa we’d want you and Kiros present.”

“Can do! Just let me know when.”

Storm nodded. “Thanks, prez. For now, though, I’m really wanting to go get in some exercise.”

“Sounds fine. You already modified a new blade, so . . . we could invite some people along. It isn’t as though we’d have to explain the materia.”

Storm turned and tilted his head to look at his lover. “We could drop by to see who’s in the suite, I suppose,” he said slowly, then turned to look at his father. “You want company tonight, prez, for dinner?”

“Only if you don’t mind a crowd. They’re leaving tomorrow, so I’ll be dining with the gang.”

Storm gave a slight shrug. “Unless one of us doesn’t feel up to it, I expect we’ll turn up.” He bounced to his feet and rounded the table, then dropped a kiss on his father’s head. “Later, then.”

“Bye, prez.”

*

They were let into the suite with no fuss by Irvine, who looked slightly surprised to see them. After waving them inside and closing the door, Irvine turned and said, “Nice to see you folks. What’s up?”

Cloud sidestepped the question to ask, “Is it just you here?”

Irvine shook his head. “Naw, Seifer’s in his room. The girls are out decimating the stores with Zell.”

“We thought we’d swing by to see if anyone felt like some exercise. Figured we’d head out in a few.”

“Sounds like a plan to me. Let me go see if Seifer is interested.” Irvine made like a gun with his hand and pulled the imaginary trigger, then wheeled and sauntered over to one of the doors and rapped sharply.

Thirty seconds later the door opened and Seifer stepped out. “Yeah?” Then he looked over and noticed Storm and Cloud. “Hello.”

“We were wondering if you’d like to join us on a little hunting trip, that’s all. Irvine already said he’d come with us,” said Storm.

Seifer blinked and ran a hand through his hair, then nodded. “Sure, why not? I was thinking too much anyway. Let me get my gunblade.” He disappeared back into the room for a minute, then returned.

Irvine, who had strolled off to his own room, came back with his shotgun and his hat, which he immediately placed on his head and tipped back.

“You don’t mind following us to our suite so we can get our own?” Cloud asked.

Several minutes later they were inside Tempest’s suite. Storm stayed with his former friends while Cloud went to fetch their weapons, glancing around casually to make sure there was nothing out that would be suspicious. Of course, with him standing there, it was extremely doubtful that either Seifer or Irvine would poke their noses into anything.

Cloud appeared with Ultima Weapon strapped to his back, which occasioned two very odd looks, and handed Storm’s blade over along with a thigh case. He was already wearing one.

After strapping both on, Storm jerked his head toward the door and said, “Salt flats, the plains, or the forest?”

“Don’t care,” replied Cloud, then glanced at the two others, who shrugged.

“Might as well be the plains, then. To the airstation!”

*

The journey was short, and not much was said. They arrived at a section of the plains that looked like any other—bland and boring. Seifer was quite curious as to why they’d been invited, but didn’t ask.

As it was, they had barely left the ship when Storm flicked his hair back and said, “We’ve been thinking some more. About touring, that is.” Then he went silent and whipped out his blade as they were attacked.

Several minutes later he said, “You mentioned a Garden Festival, but . . . is that sort of thing open to the public? And how big are the facilities?”

Irvine tipped his hat back and replied, “Uh, actually, I have no idea. We use the quad, but it isn’t that large. Seifer?”

Seifer rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I suppose the ballroom could be used. It is a lot bigger. As for townies, I dunno. I assume you’re asking because it might be a bit . . . selfish . . . of us to get to hear you, but not the townsfolk?”

Cloud nodded. “I mean, I don’t care either way, but they might.”

“I guess it comes back around to Selphie, then.”

They paused their conversation to take care of another set of marauding creatures, then Irvine said, “I’m kinda surprised you folks chose this as a way to work out, but it was nice of you to invite us along.”

Storm blinked and said, “Gyms are a bit mindless, you know? Besides, prez seems to like you and all, and we trust him, so why not? It’s not like there’s anything special about us.” He shrugged and squinted into the distance.

Seifer tilted his head to the side and said, “Not special? Sorry, but you two are hell with those weapons. Good enough to be SeeDs, actually. Though, how the heck you can hold that thing up, Cloud, is beyond me. It must weigh a ton.”

Cloud grinned and made a slashing arc through the air with his sword. “Practice is all. I’m stronger than I look. Just don’t have the kind of build that shows it much. It’s just as well—found out real quick that prancing around on stage takes quite a bit of stamina.”

Seifer got the feeling there was quite a lot Cloud wasn’t saying, but let it pass. “Started on a new album yet?”

Storm’s eyes focused on him, an odd expression on his face. Then he smiled abruptly and said, “Yeah. We think the next one might have eight, but we’re not ready to record it yet. There’s a few things we need to work out first.”

“Well,” Cloud cut in, “that and we really shouldn’t move too fast. A break from work would be nice, too, not that we can seem to stop writing things down. Still. . . .”

“Sounds like Selphie and her obsession with writing down almost every thought that occurs to her,” said Irvine fondly, then raised Exeter to fire a bullet into the fleshy mass of a Malboro that was trying to sneak up on them.

*

Hours later, over dinner, Seifer noticed that they sat well away from Rinoa, and on the same side of the table. Obviously Laguna had said something to them and Seifer was simply happy that it looked as though they were on their guard. Why it mattered to him, he wasn’t sure. No, he was. Thinking back over his time under Ultimecia’s influence was a painful thing, but it made him far more likely to want others to not fall under the domination of another or be used.

Frankly, he didn’t understand why Rinoa had continued to be so fascinated with Squall. Sure, he could understand her being pissed that he got away, even that his infatuation had faded. Water might wear down stone, but in the end, there was nothing left, right? He wondered if, deep down inside, she was monumentally insecure. She certainly hadn’t stuck around him for very long.

He let out a soft snort, which occasioned an odd look from Quistis, so he leaned over and whispered, “Just thinking, that’s all, about Rinoa’s interest in those two.”

She narrowed her eyes for a moment, then whispered back, “You really think there might be a problem?”

He gave a tiny shrug and whispered, “Don’t know, but I think they’re aware of what she has in mind, so I guess it’s all right. They’ve been thinking of maybe giving a show for the Garden Festival.”

Quistis pulled away to give him a look of surprise, then leaned back in, only to be stopped by Selphie squealing, “Heeey! No sweet nothings over there!”

Seifer smirked and patted Quistis on the hand, then had a sip of his drink and went right back to his contemplative state, listening to the conversation around him with only half his attention.

The next morning, they returned to Balamb.

*

“Prez?”

“What’s up, Storm?” he asked, glad to look up from the paperwork on his desk.

“Could we—are you good to take a break?”

Laguna scratched the back of his head, thinking that Storm looked awfully anxious about something. “Don’t see why not.”

“Could we go to your quarters?”

Laguna looked up at his son in mild surprise. “Are you—sure, okay.” He pushed his chair back and stood. Several minutes later they were safely behind the wards and seated in a set of chairs, so he gave Storm an inquisitive look.

His son furrowed his brow and fidgeted, which was most unlike him, then looked up. “Dad? The thing is, I wrote this , and that’s fine, but, I wanted you to look it over. I’m worried . . . that it might upset you.” Storm brushed the hair back from his forehead then added, “And if it did, then we wouldn’t use it.”

It had to be important if Storm was calling him dad. He tended to only ever use that when he was actually worried. That made him not only curious, but worried himself. Without thinking about it, his hand rose to scratch the back of his head nervously. “Okay. You have it with you?”

Storm nodded and slipped a folded sheet of paper from his pocket, then handed it over a touch reluctantly. The second it was in Laguna’s hand Storm rose to his feet and wandered over to stare out the window.

Laguna cautiously unfolded the sheet, noting that it looked rather worse for wear, and began to read. At first, he didn’t understand why Storm seemed so anxious, but after reading it several more times he began to see what it was. Everything was slanted, though, just like his other songs.

He looked up and cleared his throat softly, waiting until Storm turned around to look at him. “This is about us, about me.”

“Yeah. It isn’t how I think things are, just how they might have been.”

“In a way,” he said. “But that isn’t how things are now.”

“No.”

“I’m not worried, son. I’m not offended. I think . . . we’re okay, aren’t we?”

“Yes. It’s just that we’ve never talked about it, so I was worried. . . .”

“Do you want to talk about it? I know . . . I made a lot of mistakes.”

Storm shook his head. “Not really. I just needed to get that on paper, you know? Those times, seeing through your eyes, wondering how you might have felt . . . when you realized. I mean, like Sis said, you can’t change the past, you can only see things differently. Like the difference between how a child sees things and an adult. I just want to know that you don’t mind, but if you do, I won’t use it.”

Laguna folded the sheet and stood, then rounded his chair and stepped closer to his son. He handed over the paper and said, “I’m not going anywhere. And hopefully, neither are you. Have you done the music for it yet?”

“Cloud did, yeah.”

Laguna placed a gentle hand on Storm’s shoulder and smiled brightly. “When do I get to hear it?”

*

Two weeks later, they were headed for Balamb Garden. They had got ahold of Selphie’s email address and had sent her a letter that detailed their questions. Less than a day later they had back a reply inviting them to come visit so they could personally inspect the quad and the ballroom.

Another letter went out asking about the accommodations they might expect, especially as they would have several people with them. After being assured—Selphie’s usual cheer came through even in text—that none of that was a problem, Storm and Cloud agreed on a date, then went off to talk to Laguna about borrowing Kiros and a few security personnel.

The pilot touched down not far from the Garden on a bright morning, not even jostling Storm awake, though he was woken up. It would have been impossible to sleep through the ship-wide announcement. Grumbling softly—he was quite comfortable curled up against Cloud—Storm rolled to the side and sat up, then poked his lover several times.

“Wha?” was the sleepy reply.

“Up! We’ve arrived. There’ll probably be a welcoming committee any minute now.”

“Ten more minutes,” Cloud mumbled.

“Cloud,” he said sternly. “How do you expect to see anything new if you insist on sleeping in?”

Cloud yawned expansively and rolled over onto his back. “We never get up this early,” he complained.

“If I may remind you, we are visiting a Garden.” He glanced over at the clock and snorted. “They’ve been up for at least three hours.”

Cloud closed his eyes and groaned, then hauled himself up into a sitting position. “Okay, I’ll get up. But I want you to know it’s under protest.”

Storm rolled his eyes as his lover got up slowly and stretched, finally giving him room to get up himself. “Come on, gorgeous. Let’s get dressed. I’ll even be nice and pick you out an outfit.”

And there was a welcoming committee. Storm couldn’t say if he thought it was strange or not that it consisted of Seifer and his posse. He flashed them a smile, then looked behind them as though seeing Garden for the first time, letting his eyes widen slightly as he took in the familiar vista. Cloud’s reaction was at least genuine, though even he was fairly mild in what he actually allowed to show.

Seifer stepped up with a smile and said, “Welcome to Garden. Since we three have quarters in what we call visitor’s country, we were detailed to escort you in. Would you please follow us?” He stepped back in a half turn and gestured.

Storm exchanged a glance with Cloud, then moved forward to reach Seifer’s side. His lover stepped to Seifer’s other, and the entire party headed in through the main gate. Seifer was nice enough to point things out as they walked along, though really, there wasn’t much to be interested in.

Eventually they arrived at their assigned quarters, which happened to be conveniently located at the end of a hall, but not without attracting a great amount of attention, especially from impressionable young girls. Inside were a number of rooms down a corridor that led off the huge reception room.

Cloud immediately made for a couch and stretched out, causing Storm to sigh and roll his eyes.

“If you fall asleep, I’m not going to bother waking you for lunch.” After being rewarded with an indistinct mumble, Storm turned to Seifer and his posse and said, “Right. What’s the schedule?”

“Today? Lunch, shortly. That would be in here, as I don’t think you’d want to brave the cafeteria for that long. After that, we can go on a tour of Garden if you’d like. We didn’t set much of anything up since we weren’t sure when you’d be arriving. Tomorrow, though, you can meet with Selphie to see if either the quad or the ballroom would suit, and to deal with any questions you might have about the whole deal.”

Storm cast his gaze around the room for several moments, pausing briefly on a clock, then looked back at Seifer. “Would you and your friends care to stay for lunch?”

A fleeting look of surprise crossed Seifer’s face. “I’m sorry. Storm, I’d like you to meet my friends, Fujin”—he gestured at her—“and Raijin. Guys, Storm. And, Cloud is on the couch.” Thirty seconds later, after murmured greetings were exchanged, Seifer said, “Was he up late?”

Storm snorted in amusement. “We usually are, and he’s not much of a morning person. He’ll wake up when he smells food.”

Seifer nodded and twisted to look at his friends. “Did you want to stay?”

“We cannot,” Fujin stated. “But don’t let that stop you.”

“If you’re sure.” Seifer twisted back as they turned to go and said, “That would be nice. Thank you. Was there anything in particular you’d like?”

Storm was so surprised to hear Fujin speak normally that it took him a few seconds to respond.

*

Storm kept getting the feeling that Seifer really wanted to ask them something, and finally looked him straight in the eye and arched a brow. “What is it? Whatever it is that’s been bugging you, it’s not like we have to answer if we don’t want. So ask.”

Seifer chuckled softly. “Am I that obvious? I’m just concerned.”

“About?” asked Cloud.

“I don’t want to come off as a complete jackass, but. . . . I’m worried about Rinoa.”

Storm exchanged a look with Cloud, then said, “I think we understand.”

Seifer shifted. “You guys seem pretty aware, so maybe it’s an unfounded concern.”

Cloud tilted his head and smiled. “Do we? Prez did mention something, though. In any case, she’s not our type.”

“Yeah, I got that impression. Still, she can be pretty persistent.”

Storm bit his lip, then grinned. “Well, I suppose we haven’t exactly been obvious.”

“Oh, and like that song wasn’t?”

Storm gave Cloud a smirk. “Don’t ask me. You wrote it. Still, I’m not sure even in your face obvious would do much.” He shrugged. “I’m not particularly worried. Kiros is aware of the potential problem.”

“Speaking of songs,” Seifer said, “Is there any deeper meaning to what you guys write?”

Cloud wrinkled his nose. “Doesn’t that depend on who’s doing the listening?”

“Uh, I suppose you’re right.” Seifer looked vaguely confused by the response. “Everyone perceives things differently.”

“Exactly,” said Cloud. “I’d simply be happy if they mean something to a person, even if it’s not what I or Storm wrote into them specifically.”

“I noticed your CD doesn’t specify who wrote what. Is it a joint effort, or. . . ?”

“It depends,” said Storm. “Though, Cloud usually does the music. I’m afraid I have little talent there.”

“Who wrote ‘’, then?”

Cloud grinned. “That was me. I had some bad times in the past, and that’s something that resulted.”

Seifer furrowed his brow, then said, “Sometimes I wonder what would come out if I tried.”

“Depends. If there’s something you’re trying to get out, or get past, it can be pretty helpful to write, whether it’s lyrics, poetry, or just a journal,” said Storm. “Therapeutic, even if no one else ever sees.”

“Maybe. You guys seem pretty cheerful, after all.”

Cloud chortled and replied, “Yes. It’s amazing what perspective can do for a person.”

“Well, I expect you two know about me.”

“We do,” supplied Storm, “but only through the eyes of others.”

“Laguna?”

Cloud shrugged. “Prez, sure. Certainly enough to feel like you guys were all okay.”

“Maybe I’m just a little surprised considering what happened.”

Storm gave him a purposefully odd look and said, “Why? I mean, didn’t he seal up that Adel wench? Wouldn’t he have some idea what a sorceress is like, can do? We also read that book by your friend. He seemed to think you were all right. I get the distinct feeling he considers you akin to a brother. So why should we be worried?”

Seifer’s brows rose fractionally. “You really think Squall thinks that?”

“I certainly got that impression,” said Cloud, “even though he never explicitly stated it. Then again, from what I gathered, he wasn’t a very talkative person, or very good at expressing himself. And, despite what your friend Quistis says, you don’t seem all that much like the person described in ‘’.”

“Not now, no. Who wrote that one?”

Storm raised a hand and said, “Guilty.”

“I just wonder . . . where he is.” Seifer shook his head after a moment and smiled. “Sorry.”

“We don’t mind.”

“You two are just . . . easy to talk to.” Seifer gave a slight shrug.

“We don’t mind,” Storm repeated. “Just curious . . . why do you want to know where he is?”

“I never knew he felt that way about me, thought those things. Not until I returned to Garden, at least. He had more faith in me than I did, or in him. Maybe that’s why your work makes me wonder about him.” He paused, then said, “It’s too bad that Laguna doesn’t have any idea where he is. I guess I’m not completely surprised, though. It had to have been a massive shock for Squall to find out that the man is his father. Anyway, it would be nice to tell him . . . thank you.”

“Maybe you’ll find a way to contact him someday,” Cloud said.

“Or maybe he’ll contact you.”

“I don’t know. Maybe.” Seifer blinked and glanced around for a moment, then said, “Huh. Do you want that tour?”

That evening, in the dubious privacy of their room, Storm badly wanted to discuss with Cloud what had happened earlier, but didn’t dare. While he did not expect that they were being monitored, he knew full well from his own stint as Commander that all rooms had the necessary equipment to do so. He didn’t even dare write things down because of it. It would simply have to wait.

That didn’t stop him from pondering the changes in Seifer, and deliberating if he should strongly consider arranging for a message to be delivered to the former Sorceress’ Knight. And while he might have even considered Irvine, given that he was the calmest and least intrusive of the gang, he wasn’t sure he could be trusted to keep quiet.

Seifer, on the other hand, was very likely to remain silent if contacted. He did find it interesting that Seifer was making some kind of vague connection with their music. That led him to wonder just how he would react to the next set.