Afraid to Love: Epiphany

By Black Rose

The chronometer clicks over, one glowing number exchanged for the next in an endless procession across an hour of the morning I haven't willingly seen for years. I dig my thumb into the heavy, gritty feeling around my eyes and try, once more, to find a comfortable spot on the pillow.

Have two weeks really already gone by?

I could swear that he just got off the plane yesterday, worn and underfed and overworked and strung tight as a wire about to break. And somehow, in four - no, three - hours I'm supposed to put him back on a plane and send him back to Balamb. Where did the time inbetween go? It's like it just puff! up and vanished.

I wonder if he feels the same. I wonder if it's a case of having not enough time... or of having too much. A man's world shouldn't change this much in two weeks. You can't assimilate this much in two months, much less two weeks. I'm not sure two years might be overdoing it.

Two weeks ago my son stepped off that plane, and in three hours I will be putting my lover back on it. Lover... Hyne, when was the last time I used that word in reference to myself? More years than I want to count. But here I am, and the bed I'm laying in is warm with the heat of two bodies and the smell of sex and he's curled on his side just an arm's reach away, as neat and quiet in sleep as he is when he's awake.

He didn't want to sleep but even at eighteen his body knows it has limits, which puts it a step above his head sometimes. Two weeks isn't enough time to erase the shadows under his eyes; it never is. Not even these last two weeks. But I'm not overworked or underslept and I've lain here in the dark, listening to the steady, even sounds of his breaths, all night long.

Three more hours. He'll be awake in another hour and a half. How... what am I supposed to say to him? What am I supposed to do? I never even knew what to say to him before.

I know what his skin tastes like. I know what he feels like, in ways I never even dreamed of. I know the sound of his sleep, and how little it takes to wake him.

I don't... know what to think about that. Not yet. Gods, has it only been two weeks?

What do we do now?

He hasn't thought about it. I know him well enough to know that. He can plan a six month tactical military campaign before he's had his first cup of coffee, but in this he's as clueless as I am. What a pair we make, the blind groping their way through a cactuar infested plain and trying not to get stung.

Maybe he gets it from me. But that thought doesn't help, it just knots my insides up under my ribs... stop it, Laguna. Stop it. There's nothing to be had by racing around when what's done is done.

I couldn't tell him no, now, even if I wanted to. And I don't... I don't know if I do. I don't know what the fuck I want.

I want to not have to watch that plane take off in three hours, that's what I want.

I wonder if I'll have to wait another two months before I hear from him again, his usual radio silence until the Garden threatens him into taking another vacation. I wonder - and I hate myself for wondering it - if this was just something he needed to get out of his system. I wonder what the fuck will happen now.

I wonder how much it's going to hurt, and I wonder what I'll do when it does. Hyne, what a fucking mess.

What now?

The chrono display clicks over another minute, which is no answer at all. Except that in an hour and a half I'm going to have to get up, put on my best behavior face, and pretend like this whole situation is something I deal with every day. He wouldn't respect or understand it if I fell apart or demanded some sort of display - worse, he wouldn't know what to do. I won't put him through that. And if it's two months until I hear from him again... then it's two months. I'm over twice his age. I can damn well act like it.

But if this is something he needed to work his way through... I won't regret giving it to him. I promised myself that days ago. But if it is... I honestly don't know what we'll salvage from it. Or how. And maybe there wasn't ever anything to be salvaged in the first place. Maybe it would have been better if Ellone had never gotten a chance to say "There's something I need to tell you." Maybe it all would have been better if I only knew Squall Leonhart as the commander of Balamb Garden, and we had only ever met across the boardroom table.

I can't - quite - regret it. But I can't fall into it with innocent enthusiasm either. My son... my lover. I can't add three to five and come up with two in the time we've had. I'm still tripping over it, and there aren't any safe words right now.

Another minute has ticked by and if I don't at least close my eyes and pretend to rest I'm going to be useless tomorrow. Today. In an hour. Hyne. I push the pillow around to find an unflattened spot and settle in again.

Squall... Squall sleeps on a front line combat hairtrigger that goes from asleep to awake and dangerous before he even knows what woke him. Maybe it's a measure of what we have had in the last weeks that he can sleep beside me at all. But I'm no more used to him being there than he is; I probably wake him up ten times a night or more by shifting around.

When he rolls over I hold my breath, waiting. I can feel the tug of the covers as he moves; an automatic check in the dark, probably, of the pistol under his pillow - safety on, clip loaded, muzzle pointed away from either of us, meticulous, precise and utterly habitual to him. My only saving grace is that he's as quick to fall back asleep as he is to wake; if I stay quiet and still for five minutes he'll never remember it happened at all. I close my eyes to shut out the glowing numbers of the chrono and try to breathe, steady and slow, as though I'm asleep myself.

I can't help but start when his fingertips, stretched across the width of the bed, slide like hot droplets across my bare back. He shifts again, a few inches closer, and in the dark I hear his soft sigh exhaled in a muffled, sleep heavy murmur before subsiding back into quiet, steady breaths.



They say, when a man first holds his newborn child, that it changes him forever. They say that when you first become a father and a doctor puts that squirming, bawling bundle in your arms, and you look into the red and wrinkled and howling face of your child that it reaches inside of you and changes something fundamental. It's what seperates a man from a father, and no man is immune. Something, in that one moment, is supposed to be one of the greatest epiphanies of your life.

We never had that, Squall and I. I never knew that moment with him, I wasn't there. All the wishing in the world can't change what already is. I never knew my son. I never felt like a father.

But... in the dark of the night my lover - a man who sleeps armed with one eye open, a living tripwire that is always primed - my lover just reached across the bed to touch my back. My name on his tongue was all vowels, breathed in his sleep, but it was my name.

He checked where I was, before checking where his weapon was. He reached... for me.

Oh, Squall.

Oh gods.

Can you hear my heart beating? Do you know...?

What... what do we do now?

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