She notices it the first time when they're over for Seifer's birthday.
It catches her off her guard. She lets the spoon drop, distracted. It rattles a bit against the wood of the table. The sound is, fortunately for her, too low-pitched to be heard above the glossy pop music Raijin has playing on Seifer's portable speakers. She retrieves it from where it fell and adds to the pile of dirty dishes.
When Seifer told them, almost a year ago, that he was dating the same guy who left him for dead after their last battle during the third Sorceress War, she was less than thrilled.
She remembered all too well the hollowness that had inhabited Seifer's eyes after the war. He had been barely alive when she and Raijin found him, blood plastered on his slendered coat. The lack of sleep and proper food had rendered his skin grey. It had made him look even more like a ghost, Raijing had later said. As if he was dead before the battle had begun, holding long enough to give the expected show, but not enough to give propre resistance. She remembered scrambling the stop the blood, to cast whatever Cura she had left, until she realized she didn't have any. Ultimecia hadn't been so kind to spare some to her and Raijin. She had allowed them to follow Seifer for a while, as if sensing refusing them would cause her Knight to flag and leave. Fujin managed to dig out a few potions and one life-saving Elixir. Before she knew it, they were out of the damn place, looking for shelter.
They saw Squall that day. Saw him running through some Galbadian soldiers, Irvine and Quistis in tow. His expression was grim, as usual. The red on his blade wasn't only from the soldiers : some of it was Seifer's, she knew. She had sworn that day he wouldn't escape this unscathed. If Seifer died, she and Raijin would made him pay.
In the end Seifer survived his wounds but woke up from Ultimecia's daze with a broken mind and memories full of holes.
It took time -too much of it- to bring him back on his feet.
The hollowness is now gone. Sometimes it flickers in his eyes, like lightning cutting through black clouds. Most of the time it blinks away as soon as it came.
She turns to her eye to Raijin, keeping her cool. Her best friend is all smile but he guesses something unstettled her. It's been a while since she was able to hide anything from him.
"Awww, don't be like that!" He tries to take the dishes from her but she mimicks kicking him before he can grab the plates and he jumps out of her reach. It's been years since she last put any real force behind her kicks. He still dodges her empty threats anyway. Old habits die hard.
"I just wanted to help!"
"Unhelpful. Don't baby me."
He has been a whipped moron since their engagement. It's funny in a way, to see him so eager to please. It's also quite annoying. She is used to the man who has the nerves to say what he thinks, unconcerned of her disliking it or not, and challenging her when she needs it.
"But you have a look on your face..."
"Well, she can't have two ." Seifer quips. He leans away from the counter to catch her eye above Squall's shoulder. "Not with that single eye, man."
Seifer snorts, grinning like a cat and she can only let out an amused sigh. Squall snaps the wet rag against Seifer's leg and she is internally delighted to hear him yelp. Beside her, Raijin bursts out in rambicious laughter.
"Dude, you had it coming!"
She keeps gathering whatever is left on the table and deposits them in the sink. Seifer and Raijin are engaged in some kind of playful brawling like the two children they are, leaving only Squall washing the dishes. Their shared lunch almost always ends this way. It was uncomfortable at the begginning, with her still holding flaming rage against the former Commander, and Squall being completely closed off. She wouldn't say it's friendly now, but there is some kind of companionship that makes the close proximity not so awkward.
She lets Squall to his washing and watches her two idiots fighting for the control of the speaker when she catches it again.
For a brief instant, Squall turned around to look at Seifer. Something in his entire demanour melts and, for the second time today, the look he sends Seifer's way is nothing but tender and fond. The corner of his lips rise in a loopsided smile. She guesses the warmth that must spread in his belly, the same kind she felt herself a few minutes ago. The utter fondness that leaves her feeling soft is now brightening his eyes with a special light.
She feels the warmth spread again, this time engulfing her whole body.
She doubted their relationship from the very start and hold her breath, counting the days , skin scrawling at the idea that the more time passed, the more heartbroken Seifer would be when the two of them would break apart. Seifer had always been kind of obessed by Squall. It felt wrong to see him foolishly put his heart into Squall's hands when the man didn't see able to handle any kind of emotion.
It felt right, now, when he was looking at Seifer with raw tenderness.
The look disappears, like a door closing, and Squall was back at washing the dishes, chusnets bangs hiding his expression. It was only a glimpse, yet it was strong enough that she had needed only one eye to see it.
Seifer booming laughter brought her out of her reverie. By some miracle, the man of her life had managed to end up on the floor, back on the tiles and feet in the air. The chair he was apparently balancing on was still under him with one wooden leg laying a few meters apart.
"Stupid." she says with sentiment.
"The both of them." Squall answers in kind.
In the end, she believes they could be alright.