WARNING: boylove, shouen-ai, yaoi, explicit smut, swearing and pink carpeting.

Final Fantasy VIII belongs to Squaresoft. Bollocks.

Feedback very welcome, here or by e-mail (fanfic @ scribblemoose.co.uk)

Second story in the Magic series.

This series, for Gwen, with love.

Blood and Sand

Chapter 3 - Magic

By scribblemoose

Irvine woke to find his nose being tickled by soft brown hair. He smiled.

Squall was sleeping on his back, one arm thrown above his head, the other draped over his tummy. He was still, lips slightly parted, and he snored just a little. Irvine was curled up on his side, his face buried in Squall's neck, a good deal of his own hair trapped awkwardly under Squall's shoulder.

He considered how best to get himself out of this predicament. He was pretty much pinned to the bed, and whatever way he tried to extricate himself, he was likely to disturb Squall. Which seemed a shame. So he lay still, ignoring the heavy tug on his skull, and concentrated instead on the complicated man lying next to him. He remembered, painfully, the events of the previous day: the amazing sex, the row, the going shopping with Selphie and pretending everything was okay, when really all he wanted to do was to go back and find Squall and make things right. Then when he finally did get back, the waiting, waiting for so long he fell asleep. And how when Squall had come back, at last, wanting him, or wanting something, instead of the making up Irvine had hoped for it had gone wrong all over again.

Irvine closed his eyes, trying not to remember how he'd taken Squall as Squall had asked, hard and hurting, and over as soon as possible. How he had let Squall take everything good out of sex and make it about nothing but pain and endurance and power.

On the fifteenth morning that Irvine woke up next to Squall, there was a promise fresh on his lips. And whatever happened, he intended to keep it.

Finally the pulling on his scalp got too much, and Irvine had to move. He took a handful of his hair and tugged it as gently as he could, but Squall was trained to sleep light, and started awake immediately.

"Mnhhn? Irvine?" Grey eyes flickered open, blinked and slowly focused on him.

"Mornin', babe," Irvine smiled, still yanking his hair. "Sorry," he said. "Damn stuff gets everywhere."

Squall squinted at him, gradually realising what the problem was. He lifted his shoulder, releasing Irvine's hair. "'S fine," he mumbled. "Like your hair."

He reached out a hand to touch it, running his fingers through the tangled strands, still blinking, sleepily, a warm smile appearing on his face.

He looked adorable, still half asleep, open, warm, readable. If only he were half so straightforward when he were fully awake, thought Irvine. But then, he wouldn't be Squall, and Irvine had to admit that it was partly the challenge of getting to the real man underneath all that defensiveness and emotional baggage that attracted him. That and the passion he already knew was seething under the surface, just waiting to be freed.

He didn't say anything, half hoping Squall might drop back to sleep and give him the chance to watch him some more. But Squall rarely went back to sleep once he was awake, and it looked like this morning was no exception. Irvine watched sadly as the burden of waking life settled back onto Squall's young shoulders, twisting his scar into the slight frown that rarely left his face, casting a shadow over his cloudy eyes, and robbing him of the easy smile. Doubly so, this morning. Irvine watched Squall remember the day before, saw it lay heavy on his heart.

"Squall, we need to talk."

The eyes fluttered shut; Irvine could feel him withdrawing, hiding from the conversation just as he had the night before.

No. Not again.

"I know it hurts. But this is one of those things we have to do, if we're going to be any good together."

Squall's naked shoulders gave the barest shrug.

"Squall, sugar, we-"

"Don't call me sugar."

Irvine grinned at Squall's familiar low, bickering tone. "Sorry, sweet thing."

One eye opened and glared at him, surprisingly effective for only half the normal power.

"Yesterday was crap," said Irvine.

The other eye opened. "Yeah."

"We have to fix it," said Irvine gently, brushing back the hair from Squall's eyes.

"There's nothing to say," said Squall, his eyes dull as he forced the feelings down, suffocated them. "What's the point? It's just raking it all back up again."

"There's plenty to say. Like, I'm sorry, for instance. And I am. Sorry."

Squall just looked at him.

"It works like this," said Irvine. "I tell you why I did what I did, and why I'm sorry, and then you do the same. And then we try and work out what we do different next time."

Squall looked like he'd really prefer to be somewhere else. But he made no attempt to leave; he didn't turn his back and go back to sleep as Irvine had suspected he might. Instead he pulled himself up to sitting, re-arranged the comforter over his lap, and rubbed the last remnants of sleep from his eyes. "Okay," he said, with a yawn. "I'll try."

"Good." Irvine sat up too, and took Squall's hand, twining their fingers together. "It's like this. I like being with you. I like being with you a lot. It gets so all I want to do is be with you. I'm proud of you, of us, of what we have. I don't give a fuck what other people think. I know I stepped over a line, I shouldn't have lied to you about the elevator, it was stupid. I hated that you wouldn't tell me what was wrong, and I worry that you work too hard. I'm sorry I lied. I want you to be able to trust me."

"I do trust you," said Squall, quietly. "I trust you with my life. You know that."

"Yes, but - " Irvine paused. That was a different sort of trust, he thought. That was to do with Command, and fighting, and friends and enemies. Not lovers. But he didn't say anything. It was enough, for now, that Squall was willing to listen. "Yes," he finished. "Me too."

Squall nodded, gave his hand a little squeeze.

"Now you," said Irvine gently. "What about you?"

He could feel the tension start to coil in Squall's body, snapping muscles tight, panic starting in his eyes.

"My work," he started, his voice cold, flat. "It's important. You're irresponsible, you don't understand it. I have to keep up this, this, thing, of being Commander, it's not something you leave behind in the office. It's part of me."

If it hadn't been for the trace of uncertainty in Squall's eyes, Irvine would have thought him angry. But he wasn't. He was just trying to keep control. This was how Squall did hard things: he detached himself, pretended he wasn't there, didn't have feelings, or that the feelings didn't matter.

"I am sorry," Squall said. "I know I was rude to Cass, and I shouldn't have said those things to you in the elevator. But I didn't know what else to do. That's how I am."

"You were scared of what people might think," Irvine probed gently.

"No, not-" Squall looked into the distance, his frown deepening. "Yes," he admitted. "Not scared, exactly, but it is important."

"It's none of their business," said Irvine.

"But they think it is. People judge me all the time, Irvine, I'm the Commander of Balamb Garden and that makes me public property. There's people out there who don't want me to be Commander, and Martine's one of them. I won't give him a stick to beat me with."

Irvine bit his lip, fighting his rising temper. "Is that what I am?" he asked, in a forced-calm voice. "A stick?"

The panic rose in Squall's eyes again. "Yes," he said, "I mean, no, but-"

"Squall," said Irvine, carefully, "do you really want me? Us? Is it what you really want?"

"Of course it is," said Squall, with gratifying certainty.

"But you're ashamed of me."

"No, I'm not, I just... " Squall scrunched up the comforter in his hands, "I have to be careful."


"So you don't get to be the stick," said Squall, in all seriousness. "I don't want you to be the stick."

"And how, exactly, could I be the stick?" Irvine was starting to get confused. "How could people use me against you?"

"They could... I..."

"They could what? Take the piss? Call you names? You had all that with Rinoa, I know you did, the anti-sorceress demonstration at Deling, and..."

"No, it's not that, it's... the Gardens are in a difficult position. I'm in a difficult position. I'm only eighteen. I'm commanding people ten, twenty, even thirty years older than me. There's people who want the Gardens for themselves, there are SeeDs who want my job. All they have to do is put it about that I can't cope, that I've not got my mind on the job and..."

Irvine was very still. Words of protest and disagreement faded unspoken from his lips, as he realised, with a sinking heart, that Squall was probably right.

"But you saved the world," he said, looking at the slender, almost thin and undeniably young person sitting next to him, and thinking how unlikely that seemed, even to him. But he'd been there, he remembered the strength, the courage, the unbelievable force of will that had enabled Squall to carry on when anyone else would have given up. "Doesn't that count for anything?" There was bitterness in his voice; the idea that people could forget so quickly what Squall had done for them raised a rare anger in him.

"A lot of them don't even know what happened at the Castle," said Squall. "Why should they care? All they remember is the Lunar Cry, and the War of the Gardens. As far as they're concerned the best they can see in me is that I'm Laguna's son. And even he has his enemies."

"So you have to work yourself into the ground just to prove you deserve your job when..."

Squall just shrugged. He'd accepted this a long time ago, Irvine realised. It was only a problem because he, Irvine, was a whole new vulnerability.

"We could keep it secret," he said, hating himself for it but understanding, really understanding how Squall felt at last. "It could be fun, sneaking about, like a game..."

"No," said Squall, vehemently, surprising Irvine with his determination. "You mean more to me than that. You're the best thing that happened to me since..." he tailed off, looking down at the twisted fabric of the comforter in his fingers.

"Rinoa," Irvine finished for him. "It's okay to say her name, Squall. I'm not the jealous kind, you know."

"Rinoa. She was... I miss her, Irvine. A lot," he said, with such feeling Irvine's claim was challenged straight away. "But I don't..." he carried on, with far less certainty, "I don't, she isn't, she doesn't mean what you mean to me. Not any more. Probably not ever. I don't know if I ever really..." he clutched the bed covers even more tightly, looking wretched. "I think I might be gay, Irvine."

He looked up at Irvine, scared, seeking approval.

Irvine stared at him. Squall was certainly full of surprises this morning.

"But you had other girls," he said gently.

"Yeah, but... I dunno," he said vaguely. His eyes darted to Irvine's, worried. "Does it change anything? Would it?" he said. "Do you mind?"

Irvine smiled, flicked a stray strand of hair out of Squall's eyes. "Of course not. I'd have been bothered if you'd decided you were straight," he said, with a wry grin, "but otherwise it's all the same to me."

Squall looked visibly relieved. "Oh good. I mean, I'm not completely sure I am," he mused, "but I think... I still have to work stuff out, I guess."

"Sure," soothed Irvine. "I've been there, it'll be okay, I promise. I'll help. We'll work it out together, huh? All of it, the job, the gay thing, us. Together. Whatever it takes, okay?"

Squall gave him a grateful little smile.

There was a pause.

"Is that it?" asked Squall, eventually. "Are we done?"

Irvine hesitated. He wasn't, quite. He still wanted to know why Squall had insisted on being taken so hard, so brutally, why he had wanted Irvine to hurt him. But this wasn't the time. Squall had already told him a lot of things he hadn't wanted to face up to. Irvine couldn't bring himself to ask for any more.

"We're done," he said.

Squall gave a sigh of relief, relaxing visibly.

"You know what happens now, though?" Irvine said, tracing one finger from Squall's shoulder down his arm to his elbow, and making little circles there.

"No?" said Squall, innocently, so innocently that Irvine had to laugh.

"The make up sex," he said. "This is where we make each other feel so good we never want to fight ever again."

A slow grin spread across Squall's face, and he suddenly didn't look so innocent any more.

Irvine kissed Squall tenderly, scrunching his sleep-tousled hair gently in his strong fingers, tasting him deep.

"That's better," he whispered.

"What is?"

Irvine was caught off guard for a moment; he hadn't really been thinking of anything specific. He searched Squall's eyes; they were unguarded for once, soft. Trusting.

"Us," he said. "This. Understanding each other."

Squall blinked. "Yes."

"What would you like me to do?" Irvine curled a strand of Squall's silky, dead straight hair around one finger. "Anything. You name it."

"Everything you do is good."

Irvine wondered if that were true, or if Squall was simply too shy to say what he wanted. He couldn't quite tell. But the idea of a shy and innocent Squall was even more irresistible than the compliment, however unlikely it might seem.

"Touch, lick or fuck?" he whispered, brushing Squall's ear with his lips.

"Touch," said Squall, surprisingly. Then he kissed Irvine's neck, and added: "then lick." His hand flowed smoothly down Irvine's side to rest on his butt, cupping it gently, with a little squeeze. "Then fuck me."

Irvine found himself suddenly trembling, his cock rock hard and rasping against the sheets that were wound between them.

"Oh, Squall, babe..."

"Think you can manage all that?"

Irvine trailed his shaking fingers down Squall's chest.

"I'll try my very best," he said.

His hand brushed against the head of Squall's cock. It was wet, already slick with precome. Squall made a lot of precome when he was really turned on, Irvine had noticed. He liked it. A lot.

He followed the edges of Squall's cockhead with one finger, paused at the wrinkled point where his foreskin was attached, and rubbed gently. Squall gasped, and kissed Irvine urgently, moaning into it, thrusting his cock into Irvine's touch.

Irvine stroked down one side of Squall's cock and back up the other, feeling the ridges and veins, appreciating the silkiness of the skin drawn tight over flesh hard as rock.

"You have the best cock I ever saw," he whispered. "It's perfect. Like steel in velvet."

Squall opened one eye and gave him a look.

"Sorry," said Irvine. "You make me poetic. I can't help it."

"Hn," said Squall, but a smile twitched at the corner of his lips.

Irvine wrapped his fingers around the shaft and squeezed gently. "That good?"


"And this?" He started to move his hand back and forth, keeping his fist loose, rubbing ever so slightly as well as moving Squall's foreskin over his cock.

"Oh yes..."

"Tell me, babe. Tell me what it feels like."

Squall looked panicked for a moment, and Irvine felt a little guilty. After all, Squall had already done more talking that morning than he usually did in a week. He was about to retract his request when Squall started to speak.

"Feels good," said Squall. "Feels hot. Hard. Balls are full. Feels like it's ready to go off any second."

Irvine chuckled. "We can't have that. This is just stage one, remember?"

"In that case you'd better get on with stage two," said Squall, squeaking as Irvine clasped his cock firmly between finger and thumb, just below the head. "What..."

"It'll stop you coming," said Irvine. "For a bit."


Irvine released the squeeze. "See?"

"Um. Yeah. Wow." Squall couldn't keep a grin from his face as this new technique opened his mind to a whole range of new possibilities.

"Of course, I can teach you not to come in other ways," Irvine said, and paused to tease Squall's nipple with his tongue, licking around the soft pink skin as it puckered obediently under his caress. "And I can teach you how to stay hard for hours."

"I often wondered how you did that," Squall confessed.

"It's in the breathing," said Irvine. "I'll give you lessons. But for now..."

He moved his tongue to Squall's breastbone, and started to lick a swirly spiral pattern along it, heading down towards his belly.

"Oh yes," said Squall, "oh, please, yes."

Irvine pushed the covers back and surveyed his prize.

Squall's cock was beautiful, the sort that you found in arty erotic photography, or sculpture. It arched slightly towards his navel, which it almost touched; it was perfectly proportioned, the head a little wider than the shaft, the foreskin a snug sheath, soft as roses. His balls lay between his slightly spread thighs, the left a little higher than the right, oval-round and tempting. Irvine sat up and drooped his head, his hair falling to pool on Squall's belly, shielding him from view, making sure that whatever he chose to do first would be a surprise.

He slowly leaned over, until he was sure Squall could feel the puffs of warm breath on his twitching skin. He gave the barest brush of his lips to the head of Squall's cock, and darted his tongue out to catch his precome, before swooping down to taste the wrinkled skin that held his balls. Squall cried out, and brushed Irvine's hair aside just in time to watch as Irvine took each of his balls in turn into his mouth, drenching them in spit, rolling them gently on his tongue.

"Oh Hyne, Irvine, oh, oh, oh..."

Squall grabbed his own cock this time, pinching just as Irvine had, instinctively drawing breath deep into his lungs, deliberately relaxing tight muscles.

He's a fast learner, thought Irvine. No wonder he's so damn good at everything he turns his mind to.

Irvine nibbled his way down to nip at Squall's inner thigh, encouraging him to spread his legs. He didn't dare take Squall's cock in his mouth; even Squall wouldn't be able to endure that without coming, not when his balls were snapped up tight to his body already, his shaft throbbing and twitching, leaking another long, sticky line of clear fluid into his navel. So Irvine moved lower instead, licking down the ridge of flesh from his balls to the tight pucker below.

He pushed Squall's legs a little further apart, and fluttered his tongue over the little hole, breathing in the heady, musky scent of him, stroking his twitching thigh muscles with broad palms.

Squall whimpered, tilting his hips up to make it easier for Irvine to pierce him with his tongue.

"Please," he whispered, "oh, please... inside. Need you inside..."

"When I'm good and ready," said Irvine placidly, settling down between Squall's legs as if settling in for a long session.

Squall groaned, and snuck a hand down to his own neglected cock, but Irvine smacked it away. "Mine," he said. "Leave it alone. My way."

No rushing. No taking. No hurting. Not this time, not ever again.

He bathed Squall's anus in long licks, like a washing cat, then probed gently with his fingers to open it a little, enough that he could push his tongue inside, swirl around the tight rings of muscle, probing and stroking as he went. Squall was making the strangest noise, a sort of low keening sound, like a lost puppy; Irvine raised his head to check he was alright, but firm hands pushed him back straight away, leaving him in no doubt that whatever kind of noise it was, it meant Squall was very happy.

"D'n't stop. So good. D'n't stop."

Irvine dropped a kiss on Squall's anus, which was gaping just a little now, before he went back to exploring it with his tongue.

"Stop," squeaked Squall, in sudden contradiction. "Fuck. Now. Before it's too late. Fuck me."

Irvine was tempted to make him wait, but a quick look into his eyes, grey flecked with blue, honestly pleading with him, told him that Squall's need was genuine.

He withdrew his tongue and knelt back on his heels, tickling the underside of Squall's balls with one hand while the other stroked his ass. "Pass me the lube, then, babe. I think it's under the pillow."

Squall swiftly retrieved the tube and passed it to Irvine, watching as he squirted a blob over his fingers and worked it into Squall's ass. After the work of his clever tongue two fingers slipped easily inside, stretching him out a little more, teasing and stroking.

"You ready?"

"Yes... fuck yes..."

"I think you could be readier."

Squall's squeal of protest would have been worthy of Selphie herself.

Irvine watched as he worked a third finger inside Squall's body, and was tempted to add more, but one look at Squall's twitching cock told him that wasn't a good idea. At least, not this time, he decided. Besides, his own body was starting to protest at the delay.

He slathered his cock quickly, and hitched Squall's ankles up onto his shoulders.

"Now you're ready."

Squall shook the hair from his eyes, and watched as Irvine pushed inside him, bit by bit. Slowly. Very slowly. Not because Squall's body was in any way reluctant to accept him: on the contrary, his passage was nothing but slick and wet and eager. But Irvine wanted this to be everything last night should have been, and more. Slow. Steady. Strong. Driving bad memories away, leaving new ones so deep they'd never fade.

Squall accepted the last inch of Irvine's cock into his body with a sigh and a squeeze so dangerous that all of Irvine's well-meant resolutions to make this last were instantly in jeopardy. He was only saved by some very deep breathing and counting thoroughly to twenty.

Squall snickered, and pulled handfulls of Irvine's hair forward, rubbing it against his cheek. "I love your hair," he murmured, and wiggled his hips provocatively.

The last of Irvine's self-control fled, and he started to give Squall the fucking he'd been begging for.

It was all very well to harbour romantic notions about making it last forever, he thought, his hips swinging rapidly, plunging his shaft in and out of Squall's tight body. But it was another thing entirely to try and resist Squall when he had something in mind. Irvine supposed commanders had to know more than one way of getting what they wanted.

It was good, just the same. Better. He couldn't be certain which of them was in control any more: he may have been doing the fucking, but the way Squall's hips snapped up to meet him, and how his legs wrapped around Irvine's back and pulled him down left him with no illusions that Squall might be a passive partner. They moved together, and all the while Squall's eyes kept their steady gaze on Irvine's and let him know it was good. He popped his fingers in Irvine's mouth for him to suck, to taste his skin, and he loved the rasp of fingerprints over his lips and tongue. He reached down to curl his fingers around Squall's cock, letting it twitch in his hand for a moment or two before he started to pump.

They stared at each other, smiles and moans turning to snarls and grunts as they came, Squall spraying thick white in an arc that reached his neck, Irvine flooding Squall's insides in long strokes, pulling out just once so he could watch it squirting onto Squall's skin, then plunging back deep inside to finish, holding Squall as close as he could, squeaky sticky wet all over.

Squall's legs collapsed back onto the bed, pushing Irvine's softening cock out of his body in a slick rush. He started to laugh, and Irvine joined in, even though he had no idea what was so funny. It just felt good, amazingly good, to hear Squall laugh, and to laugh with him.

"Steel in velvet," Squall gasped eventually, subsiding to breathless giggles.

"Hey, be nice," said Irvine, flopping onto his back, contentedly. "I was trying to be romantic."

"I'm sorry," said Squall, and started laughing all over again.

Squall buckled up the last of his belts, and reached for his jacket. He couldn't stop smiling. Especially when he looked at Irvine, who was wearing an almost identical grin.

It wasn't often that Squall let himself enjoy a moment's happiness without letting the worries that always seemed to be hovering in the wings take over. But that morning, for once, he did. It wasn't just because of the sex, amazing though that had been. However painful he'd found it to open up and talk about things, it had left him feeling closer to Irvine than he'd ever been to anyone. And it felt good. Very good. It reminded him of the time he'd dived off a cliff as a child, near the orphanage. It hadn't been a very tall cliff, he didn't suppose, and he'd always been a good swimmer, although he'd frightened Sis and Matron half to death. But he clearly remembered the moment he'd decided to jump, no matter how scared he was. He'd been sure the sea was deep enough, and once he'd convinced himself to take the risk, once it was too late to turn back, it was all euphoria and exhilaration; the wind rushing through his hair, caressing him for the long freefall until he hit the water, slicing into it neatly, cool and soothing on his heated skin. Safe.

Irvine finished brushing his hair, still damp from the shower, and tied it back in its usual ponytail. Squall immediately found himself itching to release it. At this rate they wouldn't get out of their room 'til lunchtime. And for once, Squall didn't care.

"So, what are you doing today?" asked Irvine. "More meetings? Signing things? Or are you just going to hang around the place looking hot until everyone agrees to do whatever you want?"

Squall snorted. "Like that would work!"

Irvine sidled up to him, draped his arms over his shoulders, and stole his breath with one look.

"Works for me," he said.

Squall had to delve into his pants to adjust his swiftly hardening cock. His swiftly hardening, sore-and-yet-still-leaking cock.

"I have to see Laguna," he managed to say, despite the fact that all the blood seemed to be draining from his brain straight to his groin. He couldn't take his eyes of Irvine's mouth.

"Okay," said Irvine. "Shall I go see if Selph wants more shopping?"

Squall licked his lips, his sense of responsibility desperately fighting his lust for control of his body. "No," he said. "Come with me."

"To see Laguna?"

"Yeah. Just promise you'll be good."

"Oh baby," Irvine growled, letting his own erection just brush across Squall's. "I'm always good."

Then he leaned in to give Squall a tantalisingly soft kiss. When he stopped kissing and pulled his head back, Squall found himself following, demanding more, pressing his body against his lover's and only wincing very slightly at the painful rub of cotton over his swollen cock.

Irvine laughed. "I hate to say it, but I think we need to get out of here," he said. "Before our dicks fall off."

Squall gave a little moan of protest, but he backed off all the same. "Hn."

"So what're we seeing Laguna about?"

"I need to plan some missions with him. But first we need to find Selphie and the others." His eyes twinkled mischief, as he suddenly realised he had a pleasant surprise to offer them. He'd almost forgotten about Trabia, with working late and being such an idiot and all.

"Why? What is it?" Irvine asked, intrigued.

"You'll have to wait and see."

Irvine grinned. "Is this you teasing?"

"Yes," said Squall, smugly. "As a matter of fact, it is."

Squall sat on the table in the small meeting room where he'd assembled the orphanage gang, one foot flat on a chair in front of him, the other dangling, barely brushing the floor. He looked at the anxious faces collected around him, and singled out Selphie in particular. She was giving Irvine an odd little look, and for a fleeting second Squall felt a pang of jealousy. After all, Irvine had gone out with Selphie for months, and had been really upset when they broke up. What if he really still loved her? What if he preferred girls? What if...

"Hey, Commander." Irvine looked straight at him, the corner of his mouth twitching. "Got something big and juicy for us, then?"

Squall swallowed hard, and Irvine winked. Selphie giggled.

"Irvine, honestly," tutted Quistis, covering the smirk on her face with one hand.

"What?" said Zell, confused.

Squall loved them all. Really, he did. But sometimes...

"Yes," he said, refusing to so much as smile. "I've got good news." He looked at Selphie again. "We're going to rebuild Trabia."

She blinked at him. The others were already whooping and clapping; she was frozen, staring. She mouthed silently to him amid the hollering: "Trabia Garden?"

He nodded once, and slid off the desk, suddenly horrified that she might be angry, or that he'd done the wrong thing, or...

She launched herself at him, flung her arms around him, her little body all warm and soft. "Oh Squall," she whispered. "Oh, Squall, thank you. I never thought... never..." He felt something wet on his bare neck. She was crying.

He put his arms around her, awkwardly. "It's okay," he said, patting her back stiffly as she sobbed. "There, there."

"I'm sorry," she snuffled. "It's just been a dream, all this time, I never thought it would happen. Oh, Gods, what am I doing?" she stepped back, releasing him from his unaccustomed role of comforter. "I'm sorry, Squall. It's just such a surprise."

Irvine was there, suddenly, and presented Selphie with a handkerchief. "Silly Seffie," he said, fondly. "You got my boyfriend all wet."

He put an arm around Squall's shoulder, kissed his neck where Selphie's tears were drying on his skin. Squall fought the urge to brush him off, trying to relax, telling himself he was with friends, it was okay to show affection in front of them, it couldn't hurt, and Irvine had called him his...

"How's it getting paid for?" Quistis was asking. "It's going to cost a fortune."

"Laguna did a deal with us," Squall said, trying his hardest to focus. "We clear up Esthar of Lunar Cry monsters, and Esthar pays us in Garden."

"Woohoo!" yelled the quickly-recovered Selphie. "Sir Laguna is just the best."

"I think you can drop the Sir, Selphie," said Squall. "You know him well enough by now."

"I like it," said Selphie. "Besides, it's particularly heroic of him. When do we start?"

"Straight away," said Squall. "I signed all the papers yesterday. We can start getting plans drawn up as soon as you like. I want you to lead the rebuilding programme, Selph. You up to it?"

"You bet!" Selphie bounced, clasping her hands delightedly in front of her chest.
"And Quisty, you alright with logistics?"

Quistis nodded once, smiled. "I could do with a new challenge," she said.

"Me, Zell and Irvine will get on with the monster bashing," said Squall.

Irvine's name sounded different on his lips, somehow. It chimed in his head, like a bell.

He wanted to say it over and over.

"Let me at 'em, baby," Zell enthused. Squall wondered vaguely if he'd be so keen when he'd killed thirty or so more marlboros, but concluded that actually, yes, he would. Zell was unstoppable that way.

Squall looked around at them, all happy and excited, and decided there and then that he would take Laguna up on his other offer, too. They all really deserved a vacation, and even if it was tempting to steal some time alone with Irvine...

The door opened, and Laguna's assistant burst in.

"Sorry to bother you, Commander, but the President would like to talk to you straight away. It's urgent, sir."

"Of course." Squall nodded to her. "Where is he?"

"In the presidential suite, Commander."

"Thanks. I'll be right there."

She'd gone before Squall remembered that Irvine still had one arm curved protectively around his shoulder, that he had reached up and twined their fingers together. He turned and found his lips bare inches away from Irvine's, the temptation to kiss him, to take just one tiny kiss, even, was almost irresistible.

Irvine didn't even think about it. He just kissed, brushing his lips swiftly across Squall's, with the faintest stroke of his tongue. He left Squall breathless in an instant.

"You want me to come with?" Irvine was saying. "If it's an emergency maybe I should stay here?"

"Um," said Squall.

Irvine raised an eyebrow in amusement. "You okay, babe?"

Squall nodded.

Think. He needed to think. And not about Irvine, for a moment.

"Come with me for now," he said. "Dad'll say if he wants to see me alone."

"Okay," said Irvine. "Let's go."

"See you later," Squall said to the others. "We can talk properly about Trabia and everything then."

"Thank Sir Laguna for us!" Selphie yelled as they left, Irvine's arm slipping from Squall's shoulders as they stepped into the corridor. The doors slid shut behind them.

"I hope it's nothing serious," said Quistis.

Even Squall could tell from Laguna's face that something had happened. He was tense and clearly worried, an unusual frown twisting his normally cheerful expression.

"You wanted to see me?" Squall said, unconsciously matching his father's frown with his own.

"Yes, thanks for coming, hi Irvine."

Irvine nodded and smiled. "If you want I can..." He pointed vaguely over his shoulder.

"No, stay." Laguna smiled back, despite his obvious anxiety. "Nice to see you."

Irvine relaxed a little, feeling gratifyingly approved of.

"What is it?" Squall asked. "What's wrong?"

"Odine's been kidnapped," said Laguna.

Squall stared blankly at him for a moment.

"Kidnapped?" said Irvine. "Why?" He couldn't imagine why anyone would willingly steal the strange little man. Most sane people tried to avoid being within listening distance at all costs.

"Because he's the most advanced scientist on the planet," Squall pointed out. "And one of Esthar's greatest assets. Have they asked for a ransom?"

"Not yet. It seems he's only been gone a couple of hours. I got a message a few minutes ago to say he wasn't in his labs, and there were signs of a scuffle. There was a note, too, - and this is the strangest thing - it said he'd been taken to serve the new sorceress."

"Can I see the note?" Squall asked calmly. Irvine couldn't help slipping an arm around Squall's waist, he couldn't leave the man alone today, and the mention of sorceresses made him feel oddly possessive. He was pleased to note that Squall made no effort to escape his affection; if anything he leaned a little closer.

He read the note over Squall's shoulder. It was printed, of course. And read just as Laguna had described. Odine, taken to serve a sorceress.

Like he'd served Ultimecia.

Squall handed the note back to Laguna. "Any idea where-"

"Not a clue. I've got some people looking at the security cameras, and Kiros has closed the main exits to the City, but I'd be surprised if they're still here, whoever they are."

"Can there really be a new sorceress?" said Irvine, his voice hushed, as if thinking it aloud was risking making it true.

"Of course," said Squall. "Some women are born with Hyne's power, it's always been that way."

"But they're not all evil," said Laguna. "I mean, Rinoa isn't, and Edea, except when Ultimecia took her over..."

"And some are," sad Squall. "On the whole it's the evil ones who do the kidnapping, in my experience."

"We can take her," said Irvine, confidently. "Whoever she is, she can't be worse than Ultimecia, right?"

"Probably not. But finding her's going to be difficult."

"Shit." said Irvine. "Cass. What if this is what the warning meant? It might be a trap, or-"

"What warning?" Laguna interjected, alarmed.

"She was left a message to give us, that there was a sorceress around that was out to get us. Nothing to worry about," said Squall calmly. "It was just an empty threat. Didn't think anything of it really, we get them a lot. Didn't take it seriously."

Actually, Irvine remembered, Squall had tried to take it seriously. It was he who'd assumed it was a hoax.

"My fault," he said. "We should've taken more notice."

Squall shot him a little smile. "You weren't to know," he said. He passed the note back to Laguna. "We'll go see Cass, see if she can remember any more."

"That might be the only clue we have, apart from whatever the security cameras turn up," said Laguna.

"Right. We'll get straight onto it. You've got my number, just call if anything happens, okay?"

"Yes, Commander," said Laguna, with a wry grin.

"Oh. Sorry. Um. Is that okay?" Squall looked a bit sheepish.

"Sounds fine to me. Off you go then. And take care, okay?"

"Whatever," said Squall, mostly out of habit.

Laguna risked a ruffle of Squall's hair, and got a flinch and a hard glare for his trouble.

On the whole, Irvine thought he'd got off lightly.

Cass's home was a small apartment not far from the club, functional and neat, with plain walls and basic furniture. It didn't look like the sort of place that was lived in much, more a container for her few possessions. She welcomed Irvine and Squall into it, and offered them a seat on the bare couch.

"I didn't expect to see you again so soon," she said. "Not that I'm complaining."

She looked at Squall a little warily, and he remembered how bad tempered he'd been the previous morning. He wanted to apologise, but didn't know how to go about it, so he made do with what he hoped was an encouraging smile.

Irvine hugged her, and they sat down. She sat in a chair opposite them, her hands clasped between her knees.

"It looks like you might be right," said Irvine. "There might be a sorceress around somewhere looking to cause trouble."

"Oh," she said, obviously surprised. "You seemed so sure, I..."

"Something's happened since we talked to you that makes it seem more likely," Irvine explained. "Could you go over it again? Tell us exactly what she said?"

"She said that the sorceress has returned. And that she was going to..."

"Going to what?" prompted Squall

"Um... well, the exact phrase was that she was going to kick your sorry butts to hell. I think. Yeah. Sorry." She gave an apologetic little grin.

"That sounds fairly threatening," observed Irvine.

"She didn't say anything about anyone else?" said Squall. "About doing anything else?"

"Nope. Seemed pretty focused on the two of you. Why?"

"Something's happened today at the Palace, I can't say what, but... a sorceress was mentioned. Seems likely the two things are related."

"Oh. Wow. Has anyone been hurt?"

"Not as far as we know," said Irvine.

"And... if there is a sorceress, would you... could you... do you have a sorceress detector, or something?"

Irvine laughed. "No, I'm afraid not. That would make life too easy."

"Oh." Cass scratched absently at her right palm.

"It sounds as if she's looking for us, though," said Squall. He was frowning slightly, as if trying to remember something. "Maybe we should go back to the club tonight, see if she shows up."

"Might work," agreed Irvine. "I wonder how she knew we were going to be there in the first place?"

Squall shrugged. "Followed us, maybe? It's no secret we're here in Esthar. They might have picked us up at the palace, or the restaurant."

"She must've been watching a while," said Cass. "She knew you were out back."

"We can circulate the description, see if anyone else spotted her," said Irvine. "What d'you think, Squall?"

"Yeah. Good idea. I'll get Selphie on it, she's good at recon. And I think we should get back to the club tonight."

"Why, Squall," Irvine grinned. "You asking me on a date?"

Squall gave him a disapproving glare, but there was a tiny twitch of a smile too. "Strictly work, Kinneas."

"I can book the back room for you boys, if you like," offered Cass.

Squall hid a sudden blush behind his bangs. "No, thanks," he muttered.

"If we're going to make it look authentic, maybe we should," suggested Irvine.

"No," glowered Squall.

"Okay," said Cass. "No worries."

Squall didn't notice the wink she and Irvine exchanged. Or at least, if he did, he didn't say anything.

He sat quietly for a while as Irvine and Cass chatted easily together, recounting old times in Galbadia, which was apparently where they'd first met, when Cass was a dancer at a club there. It seemed she knew Selphie as well, and a fair number of Irvine's old friends. Squall listened, interested more than jealous this time, suddenly realising that although he'd grown up with Irvine, and had travelled the world with him in the past year, there was still a good deal about him he didn't know.

His eyes kept coming back to Cass, though. Something was nagging at his mind, and he couldn't for the life of him work out what it was.

Until the time came to leave, and she held out her hand to shake his. And then it clicked. Yesterday, there had been a bandage. Injured she said, something to do with her job.

Now there was nothing. As Squall shook her hand he looked carefully, there was no damage, no injury. Not even a scar.

She looked at him curiously, and he realised he was staring. He drew his eyes back swiftly to hers, and felt a shiver run down his spine. There was something there, something familiar and at the same time rare as diamond.


"What's wrong, man? You look like you've seen a ghost."

Squall was hurrying them out of Cass's apartment building as if there was a ruby dragon on their tail.

"Tell you in a minute," he whispered. "When we're clear."

Irvine didn't bother to ask what they were trying to get clear of. He'd learned long ago that it paid to do as Squall told him and ask questions later.

They were out of the building and striding down the main street in the red section before Squall said anything.

"Magic," he hissed. "She's got magic."

Irvine frowned. "Who, babe?"

"Cass. I felt it, when I shook her hand. It was strong. Not as strong as Rinoa, but-"

"Woah, back up a minute. You can feel magic?"

"Kind of. It's part of the whole sorceress knight thing. I could always feel Rinoa's, from quite a long way off, ever since that time in space, and with others, I get a sort of tingle..."

"Not just sorceresses, then? You can feel Guardian magic, too?"

"Sometimes, a little. But sorceress magic hums, it's got a whole different feel."

"Did Rin and Matron know you have this talent?"

"Yes, of course," said Squall. "Cid has it too. Why?"

"Oh, no reason," said Irvine, casually. Sometimes it astounds me how little I know about you, he thought. And I want to know it all.

"Anyway, she has it. Cass is a sorceress."

"Cass? But... what... how can that happen?"

"You know how it happens. Some women have the capability for Hyne's power. Cass must be one of them. The odd thing is I didn't feel it yesterday."


"Something's triggered her in the meanwhile."

Irvine stopped, with a touch to Squall's elbow to make him stop too.

"We have to go back and tell her. It could be dangerous for her, if there's an evil sorceress about and-"

Squall didn't say anything. He didn't have to; the expression on his face said it all.

"You think she could be the evil sorceress?" said Irvine, horrified. "But you don't know her, she-"

"Remember how it was with Rinoa," said Squall. "It happens to nice girls too. If that's what's happened, it wouldn't be Cass we're dealing with. It would be whatever sorceress has possessed her."

Irvine stared at him, aghast, speechless.

Squall raised a tentative hand to Irvine's face, touched his bangs, watched him blink at the caress, lean into it just a little, surprised at his tenderness.

"We'll find out," he said. "We'll work out what happened to her, and if it's anything bad... well, we'll put it right. I promise."

Irvine gave a little smile, taking Squall's hand in his and kissing the palm. He laughed, feebly.

"I told her there's no such thing as a sorceress detector," he said. "And I was sitting right next to one all along."

"It's not quite like that," Squall said. "It only works if I'm close, or touching. Well, except for Rinoa."

"Can you feel her now? Rinoa, I mean?"

A slight shadow passed across Squall's face. "No. She faded gradually, as they got further away, until by the time the first day had passed... nothing."

"It bothers you."

"Yes. It doesn't feel right, it's like something's missing."

Irvine felt a surge of jealousy; he couldn't help thinking that a bond like that had to mean something beyond an ordinary friendship. Squall and Rinoa had a relationship he could never hope to understand, and he was surprised at how much that bothered him.

He tugged Squall closer and kissed him, just briefly, reminding himself that they were in public, but needing to stake a claim in some ridiculous fashion. Squall pulled away, but there was a gratifying reluctance about the way he did it that Irvine rather liked.

"We'll get a better idea tonight," Squall said. "I'll talk to Cass, see if she's aware of her power. There's things... things she'd know, if she knew she was a sorceress. And we'll find out soon enough if there's an evil influence in her. Sorceresses don't seem to do be too keen on going unnoticed for long."

"No, I guess not. I can talk to her too, hang about and see if she does anything odd..."

"Perhaps not," said Squall, gently. "No offence, babe, but you're a bit too readable for undercover work. Come on. We should report back to Laguna."

Irvine grinned at his Commander as they started off for the Presidential Palace, feeling suddenly and unreasonably happy.

After all, it wasn't every day that Squall Leonhart called you babe.

Irvine shook his hair down, dripping a little on the deep pile carpet of Squall's bedroom. Dangling his head upside down, he dragged his fingers through the soggy, tangled mass.

He was aware of Squall watching him, and he played it up a bit, swishing his damp russet mane from side to side a couple of times before flicking it up to fall down his back. He sat on the edge of the bed, and gave Squall a particularly seductive smile.

"Let me help you with that," said an apparently oblivious Squall. "You've got some fucking awful knots there."

Irvine tried not to look too disappointed that his efforts had gone unnoticed. There was some compensation in the way Squall knelt on the bed behind him, clad only in a tiny pink towel, and arranged Irvine's wet hair lovingly down his back.

"So long," he murmured, admiringly. "I wonder if mine'll ever get that long."

"You growing it, then?"

"Yeah. Well, you know." Squall coughed. "More like I never get it cut," he said, gruffly.

"I'd like that." Irvine tipped his head back to give Squall a smile, and got a sudden kiss on the nose by way of a reward. His cock twitched, but he ignored it for now. He was enjoying this rare moment of intimacy with Squall, just spending time together, naked - well, apart from Squall's towel - without some crisis or duty breathing down their necks. For the next hour, at any rate.


He could be gentler with the comb, though.

"Sorry." Squall shifted behind him on the bed, apparently settling in for a while.

"Where d'you learn to do that?" asked Irvine. Squall was dividing his hair into neat sections, tackling one tangle at a time, working from the bottom up, his fingers steady and confident. "Did you used to do this for Rinoa?"

He forced down a stab of jealousy at the thought. Damnit. Why did he keep thinking of Rinoa?

But Squall just laughed.

"Hardly. She hated anyone touching her hair. Always worried about it getting mussed or something."

Irvine allowed himself a moment of smugness.

"No-one taught me," Squall continued. "I never even thought about it. It's just combing."

Yet another latent talent, thought Irvine. Squall Leonhart: hero, magic detector and hairdresser extrordinaire.

"You do it very well," he said.


"And just so's you know, you can play with my hair any time you like. Hell, I prefer it mussed. Muss away."

Squall laughed, a deep, throaty rumble that Irvine would never tire of hearing.

"What're you going to wear tonight, anyway?" Irvine leaned forward a little to make it easier for Squall to reach the ends of his hair.

Squall shrugged. "Something clubby, I suppose. Why?"

"Well, I was just thinking..." Irvine gazed intently at his close-trimmed fingernails, swinging his legs against the side of the bed. "If you felt like wearing those zip-up-the-side leather pants again, um... that would be cool."

"Are you telling me what to wear, Kinneas?"

"No," said Irvine, innocently. "Nope, just a suggestion."

"Hn." Squall finished combing through one section of hair, and flipped it over Irvine's shoulder before settling down to get on with the next. "Well, okay," he said. "On one condition."

"What, babe?"

"If I can borrow your grey thing."

Irvine had a sudden and very interesting premonition of Squall dressed in his favourite leather pants, belt slung low over his hips, black vest top covered by a slightly over-large silver-grey fine mesh sweater.

"Is that okay?" Squall asked.

"Fine," croaked Irvine. "Absolutely fine. You know I'll wear anything you want, right?"

"Hm. Jeans. The black ones. And something that shows you off here." One pale hand snaked around Irvine's waist to pat his belly button. Instinctively, Irvine pulled the already flat muscles tight, and got an appreciative rub across his abs as a result.

"Okay," he said. He was surprised and pleased that Squall even had an opinion.

Another section of hair was flipped over his shoulder.

"It feels almost normal," Irvine murmured.


"Yes. Normal. Us, doing this. getting ready to go out, talking about clothes, going clubbing. Just like most people our age."

"I suppose," said Squall.

"It's good, isn't it?"

"Hm. Yes."

"It feels right. Being with you." Irvine felt strangely nervous. This was all still new, and he was frightened of taking things too fast.

Squall didn't say anything, but he paused in his combing long enough to take a long stroke of Irvine's hair.

Irvine caught Squall's hand, and kissed it.

"So what's the plan, for tonight? You want to just hang out and watch, or what?"

"I'll talk to Cass, like I said. Try to sense any other sorceresses."



"How will you be able to tell? You said you have to get close, to touch them..."

"That's why the club's a good idea. Fuck, it's hard enough to avoid touching people in those places."

He all but shuddered at the thought.

"Poor baby. You know, most men would sell their grandmother for an excuse to touch every girl they came across."

"Hn." Squall gave a none-to-gentle tug on Irvine's hair with the comb.

"Still, you'd better be careful. No naughty touching, or I might get jealous."

"I thought you weren't the jealous kind?" Irvine could imagine the tiny, wry smile on Squall's face.

"Unless provoked. Hey, what am I doing while you're off touching all these women?"

"Watching," said Squall.

That sounded like a very good idea to Irvine. So long as the view included Squall in leather pants, he could watch forever.

"Right," he said, happily.

"I can't put my finger on it," said Squall, "but there's something off about all this. It just doesn't ring true. Why would a sorceress go around delivering threats like that? They tend to be a lot more dramatic about things, in my experience."

"Unless she's scared of you," said Irvine. It was getting to be increasingly difficult to concentrate on Squall's words rather than the feel of his fingers in his hair, smoothing down the damp strands after each passage of the comb.

"I suppose that's possible," said Squall. "But in that case, why risk kidnapping Odine? That was positively reckless. It just doesn't make sense."

"No," Irvine agreed, absently. Squall had finished getting the knots out of his hair now, and was just combing it through from root to tip in long, gentle sweeps.

"I hope they find something on the security tapes. Dad said they'd been tampered with."


Squall stopped combing.

"You're not listening to me, are you?"

"'Course I am, babe. It's just relaxing, is all. You doing that with my hair."


The comb bounced down onto the bed just beside Irvine's bare thigh, and Squall gathered the mass of his hair down his back, pulling his fingers easily through it.

Irvine leaned back, enjoying the feel of Squall's touch and his own soft hair. Any minute now, Squall would say something all efficient and commander-like about it being time to get ready, he just knew it.

Sure enough, the stroking stopped.

"We should spend more time like this. When Odine's back and everything's back to normal. Dad said we could borrow his cabin, in the mountains..."

Astonished, Irvine tipped his head back to look at Squall.

"Squall, are you talking about a vacation? You?"

One corner of Squall's mouth twitched into the beginnings of a smile.

"I guess so."

"With me?"

"Yeah. And maybe the others as well. Just the orphanage gang. It would be good to be just us, but I figure, they've all worked so hard and Trabia's going to take even more out of them..."

"Sounds great." Irvine grinned up at Squall's face, peering at him all upside down.

"Oh, good." Squall looked relieved. "I thought you maybe might not want the others along..."

"So long as there's you and me, babe, I don't care."

Squall leaned down, and kissed him, his freshly shaved chin soft against Irvine's nose. He sucked gently on Irvine's lower lip.

"Oh Babe," murmured Irvine, as Squall pulled back, with a little smile.

Squall gently tipped Irvine's head forwards again, and started to kiss his hair, working his way down from crown to ends, his hands resting on Irvine's shoulders. Irvine's cock, half hard just from the kiss, had jerked its way almost fully erect by the time Squall had reached the bare skin at his waist. Then he started in sideways, curling himself around Irvine's body, kissing hipbone and belly, and finally nuzzling up against his cock. He licked up the length of it, took the head in his mouth and just held it there, sucking everso slightly, until it had finished hardening.

Irvine stared at the magic that was happening in his lap, speechless. He stroked the dark, silky hair back from Squall's face, revealing big eyes, more blue than grey, gazing at him with something that could have been virginal innocence if he hadn't been doing what he was doing.

Squall's eyes slid shut, and he set about working the whole of Irvine's cock into his mouth and down his throat.

Irvine gasped, his sex enveloped bit by bit in delicious wet warmth, his balls gently cupped in a careful hand, tickled softly by knowing fingers. It was bliss. Pure bliss. He felt like the luckiest man in the world.

Squall settled himself in Irvine's lap, pulling back a bit to take the root of Irvine's cock in his hand with a firm grip. Then he set about fucking Irvine soundly with his mouth, sucking and licking, cradling the head of Irvine's cock in on his tongue and freezing every now and then, just to tease; letting it fall out all together, dropping it to bounce against his belly, only to scoop it up with tongue and lips and start all over again.

He held out quite well until Squall opened his eyes again, and winked.

He winked. Squall Leonhart, saver of worlds, was curled around him, suckling on his cock like it was the most delicious thing he'd ever tasted, and winking at him.

Irvine came with a cry of surprise, bliss shuddering through him in waves as he spurted onto Squall's tongue.

Squall backed off after the first couple, to take the rest of Irvine's load on his nose and lips and chin.

"Oh," Irvine finally managed to gasp. "Oh. Oh. Gods. Babe. Oh. C'mere..." He scooped Squall up in his arms and kissed him, licking the long streaks of cooling semen from his face, tangling fingers in his hair, almost crying with the pleasure that still racked his body from time to time. Squall climbed into his lap, and wound his arms around Irvine's neck, kissing him back softly, nibbling and flicking at Irvine's tongue with his own.

Irvine held him close, stroking his back, down his spine to his perfect ass.

"That was perfect," he whispered. "Oh, gods, that was perfect." I love you.

The thought popped into his head, unexpected and unfamiliar, startling him. Not yet ready to be said out loud, but there. Definitely there. Terrifying and exciting all at once.

"Hic," said Squall.

"You okay?" Irvine drew back a little to look at Squall's face.

"Fine, thanks." Squall grinned, and hiccuped again.

"You have hiccups," said Irvine, trying not to laugh.

"Hn." Squall glared at him.

It was hard to take Squall seriously when he was hiccuping like that, though.

"Can I get you a glass of water?" Irvine suggested. "Or maybe I should give you a shock?"

"Fu-hic off, Kinneas," growled Squall.

"I could distract you," Irvine suggested, running a hand over the smooth curve of Squall's buttock. "Return the compliment."

To his surprise, Squall shook his head. "It's o-hic-ay," he said.

"Sure?" Squall's cock was still half-hard, twitching towards his belly.

"We're already late," said Squall, but not in his Commander voice. He hiccuped again, and Irvine caught a glimpse of something in Squall's eyes. Embarrassment, maybe? He couldn't be sure. Irvine was good at reading people, famous for it, but Squall still had him baffled sometimes.

"Okay," he said. He reached out to give Squall's cock a friendly 'see you later' squeeze, but to his surprise Squall flinched.

"Sorry," Squall mumbled with another hiccup, and made to pull away.

"What's up?" Irvine let him go, a little sadly.

Squall murmured something under his breath, and started to search through drawers for clean underwear.

"What?" asked Irvine. Squall wasn't exactly blushing, but he wasn't mad either.

"Sore," said Squall, refusing to look Irvine in the eye.

"Oh!" Irvine tried to stifle a laugh. He really did. But he failed.

"There's no need to get smug, Kinneas," Squall growled, finally finding a pair of briefs and stepping into them with little of his usual grace and dignity, looking distinctly flustered.

"I'm sorry," said Irvine, still grinning. "Not smug. Really. There's some elixir left in the drawer, you could..."

"No. Thanks. I don't like to... not for ordinary everyday things. It's not right. It's expensive, it's supposed to be for emergencies. And... special occasions."

"You're probably right," said Irvine, lightly, remembering the enthusiasm with which Squall had splashed elixir around in the back room at the Torama. Something told Irvine there were still a few tensions between Squall's sense of duty and his Galbadian heritage after all. "It'll pass, Babe."

"Hn. If you can keep your hands off me for more than ten minutes straight," mumbled Squall, carefully tucking his protesting cock into its cradle of soft cotton.

"I'll try," promised Irvine. "I'm sorry, y'know, if I was too rough this morning, or..."

Squall shook his head. "No," he said, swallowing another hiccup. "Just... I'm not used to it. Six month of celibacy followed by fifteen days of Irvine Kinneas can be a bit... overwhelming." He pulled on the leather pants that so often dominated Irvine's fantasies, tugging them over his perfect butt.

"Sorry," said Irvine."

"And you can take that grin off your face," said Squall, gruffly. "'S not funny."

"No, of course not," said Irvine, trying very hard to look serious, but not doing terribly well. "It's going to be difficult though, keeping my hands off you when you look so fucking hot."

"I'm sure you'll manage," said Squall, dryly. "Go get dressed. We've got to work."

Irvine gave him a sharp salute, and slid off the bed, padding naked over to the chair where he'd abandoned his clothes.

"You might as well bring the rest of your stuff in here," said Squall, his voice muffled by the black vest top he was pulling over his head. "Save you running up and down the hall all the time. If that's okay with you."

"Of course," said Irvine, surprised and more than a little pleased at the gesture. "Thanks."

Squall just shrugged. And hiccuped. "Damn," he murmured. "Fucking hiccups."

He looked irresistible. Leather pants clinging to his body, undone with belt hanging loose from its loops, hair messy and soft around his shoulders.

"Come here," Irvine said, reaching out for him. "I've got a cure for you."

Squall regarded him suspiciously, but made no attempt to escape when Irvine kissed him. A long, languorous kiss that made his lips tingle and his knees go weak.

Squall's eyes fluttered open to look in Irvine's when Irvine pulled back.

"I'll meet you in the corridor in ten minutes," husked Irvine. "I'll bring that sweater for you."

"Hn." Squall grunted, but at the same time treated him to his sexiest lopsided grin. He couldn't take his eyes off Irvine's; his heart pounded in his chest. Irvine pulled on his jeans and gathered up the rest of his clothes.

"Ten minutes," he said, as he backed out of the door with a wave.

Squall took a deep, experimental breath.

Sure enough, the hiccups had gone.

When Squall emerged from his room nine minutes later, the first thing he saw was Irvine, leaning back against the wall opposite the door. Squall took in the low-slung black jeans, the vest top that revealed a lean stretch of abs and hipbone, the hair that shone, burnished copper under the soft lighting. Irvine took a step towards him, duster swishing about his legs. It was all Squall could do to remember to breathe.

He'd never felt like this before. He'd thought he'd known what love felt like, but he'd been wrong. Hyne, but he'd been wrong.

Irvine kissed him, one of those chaste, brief brushes of lips to lips that seemed to be the closest Irvine could get to public restraint. It sent shivers of lust up Squall's spine just the same.

He took the grey sweater Irvine offered him and slipped it easily over his head. It was loose and comfortable, and definitely a little too big, confirming Squall's suspicion that Irvine's shoulders were significantly broader than his own. But it felt good, and judging by the clear approval in Irvine's warm violet eyes, it looked good, too.

Irvine pushed Squall gently back against the closed door, and nuzzled into his neck, pushing the sweater out of the way with his nose, better to be able to nestle into the tender skin at the juncture of neck and shoulder.

Squall gasped, suddenly overwhelmed by the sensation of Irvine's lips and soft breath, not to mention his lover's long, lean body pressing against him. He instinctively slid his arms around Irvine's waist, a thrill shooting through him at the feel of bare flesh under his fingertips.

Oh gods.

Suddenly he didn't care if they were late, or if they were in a public place. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he didn't give a damn about SeeD, or what other people expected of him. All he cared about was the feeling of Irvine's arms around him, Irvine's cheek against his neck, Irvine's tongue flicking out at his collarbone. He melted into Irvine's warmth, safe, content. Loved. Horny as hell.

"Time to go, Commander," Irvine breathed in his ear, and with a final kiss to Squall's neck, he stepped away.

Squall blinked at him. He shouldn't let that go, he should say something sensible, try to get Irvine to remember that they were supposed to be working, concentrating, that he shouldn't be trying to turn him on like that when there were sorceresses about and Odine was kidnapped and...

"Right," he croaked, and followed Irvine obediently down the hall.

The Torama was quieter than it had been the last time they were there. Irvine stood at the bar, one boot-heel hooked over the rail, nursing a bottle of beer in both hands. Squall had followed Cass outside to talk to her during her break, and Irvine was under strict instructions not to follow. It was probably for the best: Squall was right, he wasn't good at pretending. But he was good at watching; it was one of a sniper's most important skills, after all, and the Torama was full of interesting people to watch.

Not as interesting as Squall's ass in those pants, though.

Irvine took a slug of beer, watching out of the corner of his eye as a stunningly attractive woman slid gracefully onto the barstool next to him.

Her honey-coloured hair cascaded in waves down her back, her breasts were full and deliciously exposed by her low-cut, lacy top. Little more than a fortnight ago Irvine would have been getting his best chat up lines dusted off and ready to go.

Not anymore. No easy smile rushed to his lips. No smooth words. Not a flicker of a tease in his eyes. One surreptitious glance at her cleavage and that was it. He honestly couldn't care less. Whoever she was, she was out of luck. He really had become a one-man guy.

"Irvine Kinneas?"

He started; he'd been about to slide comfortably back into his contemplation of Squall's tight, round, leather-clad ass, and had already forgotten the blonde and her seductive curves. He pulled himself together as best he could, reminding himself that he was supposed to be watching, not daydreaming.

"So they tell me," he said. "And you?"

"My name's not important," she said, tossing her blonde mane over her shoulder and regarding him through green eyes fringed with long, dark lashes. "I have a message for you."

Something clicked in Irvine's mind. "Well, Ms Not Important," he said. "That sounds interesting."

"I can't tell you here." She ran her tongue slowly over her lips. "What d'you say we go to the back room and talk there?"

"Sorry," he said, turning back to his beer. "I'm with someone."

"Oh, really? Would that be a certain Commander Leonhart? Only when I saw him on the way in he was all over that pretty little barmaid that works here. It's up to you, of course. But I think you'd be very interested in what I have to say."

Irvine thought rapidly. He couldn't risk her walking out, in case it was the woman Cass had told them about. He had to do something, even if just to keep her here until Squall came back.

He tried to look angry, or disappointed, or hurt, maybe. "Fuck," he said. "Really? Squall?"

"Oh yes." The blonde fished a plastic card out of her handbag, and tapped it casually onto the polished mahogany of the bar top. "Tongue down her throat and all. Really going for it."

That image made acting the jealous boyfriend a lot easier. Even knowing it wasn't true didn't stop it from giving Irvine moment of torture.

"Back room, you say?" said Irvine.

She smiled at him, smug and predatory. "You won't regret it," she said.

With a quick check to make sure Squall and Cass weren't on their way back, Irvine picked up his beer and followed her.

Cass let go of Squall, grateful to still be alive considering the risk she'd taken in grabbing him like that. "That was her!" she hissed. "That blonde, that was the one I was telling you about!"

"You kissed me!" said Squall, stunned. His lips tingled where she had pressed hers against them, and his mind was reeling. One minute they'd been talking about Cass's injury, and how it had healed overnight without her knowing how, and the next she'd flung her arms around his neck and kissed him, plunging her tongue into his mouth before he could protest. He'd been so stunned he hadn't even tried to pull away.

"I'm sorry," said Cass. "It was the only thing I could think of. I didn't want her to see you. Or me. I figured you'd want the advantage..."

"I see," said Squall, weakly. As if the shock of being kissed wasn't enough, there was the magic too. Cass tasted of it, buzzed with it.

It had felt startlingly like kissing Rinoa.

Nothing like kissing Irvine, at all.

His mind reeled in confusion, and just for a moment he longed for the still misery of loneliness that used to be his constant emotional state.

"I'm sorry," Cass repeated. "It was stupid, wasn't it? Like something out of a bad movie. Do you want to go inside and confront her?"

"No," said Squall. "It's okay. You're right, it's better if I can get a good look at her first, just in case... You just took me by surprise, is all."

Cass was blushing furiously. She wore an oversized shirt knotted underneath her breasts, and she was wringing one of the lose ends anxiously in her hands. "Gods, I'm sorry," she said. "I don't know what came over me."

She looked at him, and he was startled to see tears in her eyes.

He didn't know what to do about it though, so he just carried on. "It's not important. Let's go inside and see what she wants."

"You go," said Cass. "I'll just take a minute, if that's okay."

Squall nodded. He could tell she was upset, but he wasn't any good at this kind of thing. Maybe he should send Irvine out to talk to her.

But when he went back inside, Irvine was nowhere to be seen.

Irvine was beginning to regret following a potential enemy into a room where she had the only key. Not only that, but she was standing between him and the door with a distinctly predatory gleam in her eye and could, for all he knew, be a sorceress of Ultimecian proportions.

Somehow, he didn't think so, though.

"We're here," he said. "You mentioned a message."

"If I give it to you, what do I get in return?" she said, stalking towards him, licking her lips suggestively.

"Like I said, I'm with someone," said Irvine, standing his ground.

"And like I said, he didn't seem to care. If he doesn't care, why should you? Or have I got the wrong Irvine Kinneas here?"

"That reminds me. What was your name again?"

"You don't need to know that. Do you?"

She stood right in front of him now, her breasts bare inches from his chest. She was tall, taller than Squall, and she reeked of exotic perfume. She leaned towards him and kissed him, briefly, so quickly he didn't have the chance to kiss her back, even if he'd wanted to.

"I think I do," he said, firmly.

"Call me Tanya, then," she breathed, and licked clean up his neck from collarbone to jaw. "If it helps." She took his earlobe between her lips and flicked it with her tongue.

Irvine's body started to respond, however much his mind was busy coping with the notion that he really wasn't interested in whatever she might be offering him. She was certainly attractive, and the press of her soft body against his was making him hard and stealing his capacity for rational thought. But none of that was enough. He didn't want her. He didn't want her because it would hurt Squall, and more than anything, he didn't want to hurt Squall.

They needed information, though.

"Message?" He said, sliding his arms around her, the bare flesh of her midriff silky against his skin. "You did mention a message."

"Oh, yes," Tanya said, "I did, didn't I? Well, maybe afterwards."

"Oh no you don't." Irvine pulled back a little, holding her still with firm hands on her hips. "Message first."

She kissed him again, longer this time, and he kissed her back, letting her slide her tongue in his mouth and cupping one breast in his hand, finding and gently rubbing the nipple with his thumb. Wanting worked both ways, he reasoned, and if he turned on the old Kinneas magic, maybe she would give in first.

"You might change your mind after I give you the message," she said, although there was a slight tremor to her hand now, as it wound in the hair at the nape of his neck. "It's up to you. You can walk out of here now, and forget the whole thing, or we can have a little fun, first."

"And you might change your mind after we fuck," said Irvine. "I mean, let me get this straight, that's what we're talking about here, isn't it? You want me to fuck you in return for some spurious message that you may or may not have made up in that pretty little head of yours."

Her eyes flashed fury at him for the barest moment before she turned the seductive charm back on. "The Irvine Kinneas I know would jump at the chance." She sounded pissed, although she still had her arms around his neck, and was writhing her pelvis against his like a bear relieving a back itch on a tree trunk. "You're not telling me you've changed that much in two years?"

What? Irvine wracked his brains as to whether he'd met her before. He really couldn't remember, although that was no great surprise: two years ago he'd been 16, and at Galbadia, there had been a lot of parties, and he'd met a lot of people...

Her eyes narrowed. "You really don't remember, do you?" she said. "You bastard. You total, utter wanker."

"GF use," Irvine said. "Well known side effect. Sorry."

"Oh, please. Not that old chestnut."

"It's true," Irvine shrugged. "Now, are you going to fill me in, or what?"

"You said you loved me."

Oh crap. Irvine was starting to see where this was going, and he didn't like it at all.

"You said you'd call me. You said it meant something."

"Did I? Look, I'm sorry, really, but it was a long time ago, and I was young and really screwed up then and..."

"You owe me, Kinneas."

He suddenly felt more scared than when he'd thought she was a sorceress. Which she still could be, of course, only somehow it seemed a lot less plausible. If she'd been a sorceress on a revenge quest he'd probably be toast by now.

The emergency buzzer sounded.

Thank fuck for that.

"I have to go," said Irvine, disentangling himself from her arms. "Not that our little reunion hasn't been touching and all, but..."

The door opened, unlocked automatically by the emergency alarm system, and revealed Squall standing in the corridor. Tanya bolted before Irvine could stop her, pushing past Squall, who seemed barely to notice her, and she disappeared in a clatter of heels down the passage way.

"Squall! She's... she said, she... um..." Irvine felt an odd mixture of relief and guilt, and a good measure of confusion. However he explained himself, he had the feeling it wasn't going to come across as convincing.

"What?" said Squall

"I thought she might be the sorceress. She said she had a message..."



"She touched me on the way out. No vibes," said Squall. "What the fuck were you doing in here with her, Kinneas?" Surprisingly enough, he didn't sound angry, particularly. More exasperated.

"I... it's a long story."

Squall stepped into the room, and clicked the door shut behind him, punching the code to stop the alarm at the same time.

"Hey, how'd you do that?"

"Standard Estharian emergency code," said Squall. "Dad told me."


"So tell me," said Squall, and waited, standing with his weight on one hip, listening attentively, his expression impassive, unreadable, his best Commander face. "Why weren't you in the bar doing as you were told?"

"She said she had a message," said Irvine, already cringing inwardly as he realised how lame this was going to sound. "Said she would only deliver it in here."

Squall arched a brow. "A message?" He sighed. "What was it?"

"I never got that far," said Irvine, helplessly. "She decided I should pay for it. And then it turns out she knows me."

"Really?" Squall's voice was deceptively calm, but his eyes were glittering silver through his dark bangs.

"From way back," said Irvine. "I think maybe... but I didn't remember her."


Squall still didn't look angry, exactly, Irvine decided. But he did look confused, and maybe a little hurt.

"Nothing happened," he said.

"Then how did the lipstick get... all over you?" asked Squall, quietly.

Fuck. Shit. Fuck. Irvine picked up a box of tissues from next to the futon and started to scrub at his neck and mouth. Damn.

"I needed to play along to see what she was up to," he explained, hoping to gods that Squall would believe him. He didn't want to think about what would happen if he didn't. And just when he and Squall were getting on so well, and he'd started to get Squall convinced he could trust him...

"Right. And that would've stopped when?"

"It had stopped," said Irvine, earnestly. "It stopped right fucking there. I'm not going to hurt you, babe. Never. It was just a kiss. That's all. And I hated it, I promise. Really."

"Hn." Squall looked distinctly sceptical, but a lot less mad than Irvine had feared.

"Let's get out of here," said Irvine, throwing the clump of scarlet-stained tissues into the wastebasket. "Did you find out anything from Cass?"

To his surprise, Squall seemed suddenly uncomfortable. His eyes wouldn't meet Irvine's, and there was a tiny twitch in one cheek.


"She... um... she doesn't know, I don't think. She says her hand just healed, and she didn't mention magic or anything."

"Oh. Good. Well, that's good, right?"

"I don't know," said Squall. He was twisting his ring around his finger. "I'd like her to come to Odine's lab, get his people to look over her, but we'd need to tell her why."

"Yeah. Well, we can do that, can't we? She has a right to know. Unless..."

"I'll take the chance on her being evil. She certainly doesn't seem evil."

"That's a relief. So where is she now?"

"Um. Still outside, I think. I kind of ... left her there."

His eyes darted up to Irvine's.

"Why?" Irvine moved a step closer, itching to touch Squall, to take him in his arms and kiss him until the taste of Tanya was completely gone from his mouth.

"She was a bit upset," Squall said. "I don't know why, I thought maybe you could talk to her, but you weren't in the bar and the barman said you'd come in here with some blonde..."

Squall's eyes were full of confusion, panic almost. Maybe it had just taken a while to sink in. Irvine felt the guilt twist inside him, wishing fervently that he could have the last half hour back and do it over. This time he'd just grab Tanya by the throat and strangle the truth out of the silly bitch.

"I'm really sorry, man," he said, reaching out a hand to take hold of one of Squall's. "It was only a kiss. I wouldn't have let anything else happen, I promise. I'm yours. Just yours. And I'd understand if you're mad, or-"

"No." Squall's fingers threaded through his. "I'm not mad. Well, a bit, that you disobeyed orders, you're not even junctioned, but... no, not mad."

Irvine closed the distance between them, and kissed him. Squall gave a little moan, and his fingers tightened around Irvine's, squeezing hard.

Irvine rested his forehead against Squall's, their noses just touching. "I should have guessed she was a basket case," he said. "She tried to make me jealous, said you and Cass were getting it on outside, can you believe that?" He chuckled softly, slipping his fingers through Squall's hair.

"Oh," said Squall.

"Yeah, I mean, as if..." Irvine pulled back a little. "What d'you mean, 'oh'?"

Squall looked unhappily at him. "It was Cass's idea," he said. "She said it was to make sure that woman didn't see me, so I could sneak up on her, or something..." He frowned. "I still don't understand why, exactly. But there wasn't anything... you know."

Irvine found himself battling yet another wave of jealousy. However much he prided himself on not being the jealous type, Squall seemed to have the capacity to bring out a possessiveness he'd never guessed he had in him. "She can just fuck off," he said. "You're mine."

Squall bristled a little, but he didn't argue. "There was nothing in it," Squall said. "I'm not interested in the slightest. But she was... unhappy. You ought to go talk to her."

Irvine let that idea sink in for a moment. Just now he really didn't care if Cass was unhappy. Damnit, she deserved to be unhappy, taking advantage of his boyfriend like that. Whatever feeble excuse she'd had.

"Go on," said Squall. "You go talk to her. I'll go mingle."

"Alright," said Irvine, reluctantly. "But no kissing, understand?"

Squall snorted. "You neither," he said, pointedly.

Irvine shifted uncomfortably. "Right then," he said, and followed Squall from the room. He had no idea what he was going to say to Cass.

On the whole, though, he thought she was lucky he was willing to be nice to her at all.

In the event, he didn't get the chance to have any kind of conversation with Cass at all, nice or otherwise. She'd gone.

The girl behind the bar wasn't particularly forthcoming with details, understandably more concerned about the fact that she'd been dumped with a double shift as a result. Cass had felt ill and gone home, was all Irvine could get out of her.

When Squall had satisfied himself that there were no more sorceresses in the Torama, they headed for Cass's apartment, but there was no answer when they rang her doorbell, and the place was in darkness. If she had gone home, Irvine reasoned, she must have gone straight to bed.

If she'd gone home.

They decided to continue the search in some of the other clubs, at Irvine's suggestion, in the hope of tracking down some hint of Cass or even Tanya, but came up with nothing. It was midnight by the time they got back to the Presidential Palace; Squall headed straight through to the bedroom and flopped on the bed with a groan, flinging his arm across his eyes.

He was exhausted. He never wanted to step foot inside a club again as long as he lived. His ears buzzed from overloud music and his throat was hoarse from shouting to make himself heard.

"So much for the sorceress hunt," said Irvine, bouncing down next to Squall on the bed and tugging his boots off. "What a stupid waste of an evening."

"Yeah," said Squall. "Back to the security tapes, I guess. If Dad's people don't manage to fix them by tomorrow I'll set Selphie on them."

"You mean set Selphie on Laguna's people, or on the tapes?"

"I was thinking the tapes," said Squall, with a grin. "Although the other option could be fun."

Irvine lay on his side, propping his head up on one elbow. "At least we cleared up the mystery blonde."

Squall snorted. "Yeah. Not an evil sorceress, more an enraged victim of the sniper slut of Galbadia."

"Hey," said Irvine, poking Squall playfully in the ribs. "Less of the slut, Leonhartless." Squall tried to glare at him, but somehow found himself laughing instead. Fuck, he must be relaxed if he could actually take being teased like that. Rinoa would never believe it.

"What did you do to her, anyway?" he asked Irvine, raising his arm just enough to peer out at him, squinting as the overhead light shone straight in his eyes.

"I honestly don't remember," said Irvine. "I really don't. She looks kinda familiar, but that's it."

"You're disgusting," said Squall. "Sleeping with someone and not even being able to remember..."

"I'm not even sure I did sleep with her," said Irvine, a little defensively. "I certainly don't remember it, and I'm the one with the good memory round here, after all." He risked another prod to Squall's ribs, and was rewarded with a painful kick to his ankle. "'Ow."

"Don't push your luck," said Squall, languidly.

He could have fallen asleep right there and then. But Irvine had other ideas, of course, and before he had a chance to start drifting off Irvine was kissing him. It was slow and gentle, and continued for a long time without developing into anything else. The only gesture Irvine added to the brush of lips to lips and tongue to tongue was to wind a strand of Squall's hair around his finger, and he continued to play with it even as he drew back, and they stopped kissing, and looked at each other.

Irvine's eyes were dark, almost indigo in the soft lighting, shadows accentuating his strong jawline and high cheekbones, the prefect slant of his nose. Squall traced Irvine's hairline with one fingertip, tucked his bangs behind his ear. Irvine shook it lose with a frown; he was happy for Squall to do pretty much anything to him, but he liked his hair to be lose around his face.

Squall chuckled, and tugged Irvine's hair tie free of its tie, auburn silk tumbling over his shoulders and dropping to tickle Squall's face.

"You're beautiful," Squall said, tempted to keep the words locked inside him, but just as determined this once to try and tell Irvine at least some of what he felt. This was a good time. He felt sleepy and horny, and he trusted Irvine more at that moment than he could ever remember trusting anyone.

"Wow," said Irvine, softly.

That was the miracle, thought Squall. That's what made the difference. Not that he could tell Irvine things, but that Irvine knew how difficult it was; he valued them, treasured them, he understood.

Irvine kissed him again, winding his fingers deeper into Squall's hair. More serious now, more passionate, moaning approval when Squall responded to him.

"Oh Babe..." Irvine murmured between kisses, barely taking his lips from Squalls enough to speak. "I have to ask... are you still sore? Only... I want you so bad..."

Squall grinned. "It was only my dick that was sore, Kinneas. There's other parts of me that work just fine."

Irvine groaned, and slid his hand up Squall's side, under sweater and vest. "I want to make it good for you, too, babe," he said. "Got to be good for you too."

Squall considered that for a minute, more than a little distracted by the caress of Irvine's hand ghosting over his ribs. "You'll think of something," he said.

"How about I make you come without either of us touching your dick?" suggested Irvine, teasing one of Squall's nipples, making him gasp.

Squall closed his eyes and wriggled happily against Irvine's body.

"I'll take that as a challenge, then," said Irvine.

"Yes," Squall breathed, giving himself up to more kisses, a little more urgent now but still lingering and deep. He lay quietly as Irvine undressed him, touching Irvine whenever he got the chance, a rub to the small of his back, a squeeze of his hipbone, a soft kiss on the back of his neck. Irvine took his time, slowly unzipping and peeling the leather from Squall's body, kissing his way up each leg in turn, running his tongue around the outline of his muscles.

Squall tensed a little as Irvine hooked his fingers in the waistband of his underwear, but fought the impulse to take over or pull away, forcing himself to trust Irvine's steady hands.

Of course Irvine was as careful as ever; Squall's cock twitched to feel the cool, soothing air, and on instinct Squall curled his hand protectively around it.

"Hey, no touching, remember?" Irvine batted his hand away, dropping a wet kiss to the eager tip of Squall's cock. Squall groaned, his hips flexing upwards to beg for more.

"I'm sorry I hurt you," said Irvine. "I never want to hurt you."

"'s okay," said Squall. "Doesn't hurt that much. Just sore."

That wasn't strictly true, in fact; even numbed as it was now it was so hard, there had still been a sting when he'd brushed against Irvine's jaw. But Squall didn't mind. More than that, he welcomed it, in an odd kind of a way. It was a reminder, physical evidence that he and Irvine were lovers, that Irvine had sucked and rubbed his body as raw as his emotions. Something had changed in Squall that morning, when Irvine had tried so damn hard to understand him. Not just to talk to him, or obey him, or laugh at him, or change him. Squall found it so hard to connect with people, even now.

Rinoa had been different. Their romance had been so dramatic, every sign writ so large even Squall couldn't miss it, scripted against the backdrop of their campaign against Ultimecia, like a play or a novel. And all the while the buzz of magic had been there, whispering to him that it was the right thing to do, that whatever lingering doubts clouded his mind when he held her in the middle of the night, he was her knight, he had no choice in that, it was meant to be.

There wasn't a script, with Irvine. Just impulse and emotions and this connection, all the things Squall feared the most. But still, somehow, he felt happier than he ever had in his life.

"I don't suppose this is a special occasion?" Irvine's voice cut through his thoughts; Squall realised that his lover was naked, now, kneeling at his side, trailing the back of one hand down Squall's chest.

"You're such a hedonist, Kinneas," Squall said.

"Yes," said Irvine happily. "And...?"

"And no," said Squall. He knew what Irvine was trying to do: as soon as the stopper was out of the elixir it would be accidentally spread over Squall's sore flesh, and the precious, silly reminder of that morning and Irvine's unquenchable desire would be gone. "Lube," he said. "Under the pillow." He daren't explain, Irvine would think him completely mad. "Challenge rules. No artificial aids."

"Oh. Well, that's not a problem," said Irvine, shaking his head so that his hair tickled Squall's ribs and belly. "The old Kinneas magic will work just fine, don't you worry."

Squall laughed at him, and gave a handful of copper hair an affectionate tug.

Irvine glared unconvincingly at him, any attempt at menace completely undermined by the warm affection in his eyes.

It was magic, Squall reflected, as Irvine tugged him over onto his front, arranged him to his satisfaction on hands and knees. He'd never dare admit it to Irvine, but the man could send a buzz through him stronger than any spell he'd ever experienced. All the better, because it wasn't magic at all, it was real and human and ordinary.

He hissed in breath at the touch of Irvine's slick fingers teasing his tender skin. Squall's cock felt heavy; painfully, wonderfully hard, balls full and throbbing already.

"That alright, babe?" He shot a look over his shoulder to see Irvine concentrating, gazing at Squall's ass as if hypnotised, slowly, gently stroking back and forth.

"It's fine," said Squall. It felt wonderful. Cool, soothing anxious, tender skin, sending waves of pleasure through his whole body.

"I've been thinking about your ass all night," Irvine murmured.

Squall felt his cheeks flush, and looked back down at the bed, his hips rocking back towards Irvine as if of their own accord.

"You look so fucking sexy in those leather pants," Irvine said, as if by way of explanation.

"You really do have a leather fixation, don't you?" Squall fought to keep his eyes open: Irvine had started very carefully to slide one finger inside of him, and he had a strong urge to melt into the bed and whimper his surrender.

"Well, duh," said Irvine. "Name me one person in Balamb Garden who doesn't have a Squall-Leonhart-in-leather fixation. You drive the whole place wild just walking into the cafeteria for breakfast."

Squall gasped, rendered completely inarticulate by the firm rub of Irvine's finger over his prostate.

Irvine gave a grunt of satisfaction, and did it again. Squall's arms gave out underneath him, and he buried his face in the bed, clutching desperately at the comforter. "Oh gods," he murmured into the quilt. "Fuck, Kinneas, that's so... ungh..."

He let himself sink into the sensation of Irvine's fingers twisting and stroking inside him, unable to think of anything much apart from how good it felt, how Irvine always seemed to know exactly how he wanted to be touched, and where. There was no uncertainty or fumbling; Irvine learned fast and always remembered what Squall liked.

"How you doing, babe?" Irvine's voice rumbled soft and low in his ear. "You ready for something a bit bigger?"

Squall nodded, scrubbing his forehead against the bed, his shoulders shuddering helplessly at the sensations Irvine's touch was raising in his body. He didn't trust himself to speak, couldn't find the words, didn't care. He whimpered shamelessly as Irvine took his fingers away, and pushed his hips back as soon as he felt the velvety tip of Irvine's stiff cock nudging at his hole. Irvine steered him back with one hand on his hip, groaning loudly, his other hand resting lightly between Squall's shoulder blades.

"Damn, but that looks so fucking hot... oh, man..."

Squall felt Irvine's balls slap lightly against his, and let out a long sigh. He felt full and sore and, oh, gods, so, so good.

Irvine gripped Squall's shoulders and licked up his spine, the broad sweep of his tongue pressing relentlessly over every bone, leaving a trail of skin wet and alive in the cool air. Then Irvine's front was pressed to Squall's back; he tossed his hair over one of Squall's shoulders and his lips were on Squall's neck.

"You feel so good inside," Irvine whispered. "So hot and tight. You ought to try this sometime, babe. You'd like it."

That was the first time he'd offered. Squall had never thought to ask. It felt so right, this way, Irvine buried inside him, thick and slick and touching all the right places.

"I like this," Squall said, barely coherent. "Like you. In me. Like this." He licked dry lips, shook sweat-damp hair out of his eyes. "Fuck. Please."

"Well, if you insist." Irvine started to move, pulling almost all the way out before he swung back in.

Fingers inched towards the root of his cock, tangled in the curls around it, not quite but so damn nearly touching him... he cried out in frustration, wanting more than anything to feel Irvine's hand curl around him, or his own, or just to fuck the bed, anything. He didn't care how much it hurt, he needed friction, something, anything...

"Steady, babe. It's alright. Trust me."

Squall did, ignoring the throbbing in his balls as best he could and focusing on the rhythmic thrusts of Irvine's cock inside him, stretching him, teasing him, filling him over and over.

Irvine whispered in his ear, telling him how hot he looked, how hot they looked together, how good it felt to be in him, doing him, fucking him, how much he loved sucking Squall's cock and touching him, how he wanted to cover him in honey and lick it all off, lingering over his cockhead and balls.

"Look over there, babe," Irvine said, pausing for a moment. "In the mirror, there. Can you see?"

Squall raised his eyes blearily to focus on the mirror in the wardrobe door. He gasped.

He saw a lean, pale body spread out on all fours on a pale pink quilt, dark hair falling in streaks over his face; he looked flushed, his lips faintly swollen, eyes hooded, and lying over him, fucking him in long, measured strokes, was Irvine. Golden skin and russet hair, vivid purple eyes meeting Squall's in the reflection, his face lit with a sexy smile, burying himself deep in Squall's ass and holding it there with a groan.

"So fucking beautiful," Irvine said.

Squall couldn't stand it any more; he wrapped his hand round his cock, squeezed once and came with a yell, watching in the mirror as he spurted helplessly over the sheets, dimly aware of Irvine's surprised yelp as his ass clenched. Irvine pumped quickly inside him for a few strokes then, fast and urgent; he'd obviously been holding back, and before Squall had stopped coming Irvine had started, thrusting hard inside him, a flood of warmth, and another, and another...

It was a blur, then, as his orgasm gradually receded and reality returned: he gingerly released his sticky, softening cock, turned to give Irvine a feeble kiss. His limbs turned to jelly, and all he could think about was how good they looked together, even now, all sweaty and smug and wasted.

Squall collapsed on the bed, Irvine on top of him, and was almost immediately asleep.

Irvine woke about an hour later, to find himself under the covers. Squall was padding back from the bathroom, rubbing his eyes blearily with one hand.

"Hey," Irvine said.

"Sorry," said Squall, sliding back under the covers. "Tried to be quiet. Woke up sticky."

Squall was warm and damp, he must've showered. Irvine dimly remembered rinsing off himself at some point, but he hadn't wanted to wake Squall, he'd been sleeping so peacefully, so he'd pulled the covers over him and left him.

"C'mere," he said, and held out one arm. Squall snuggled into his side, draping an arm across his belly, kissing his neck. He smelt clean and faintly of soap.

Irvine closed his eyes contentedly, and let himself drift back to sleep.

Except he was suddenly wide awake.



"You 'wake?"

"Looks like."


They lay there for a while, Irvine running his fingers through Squall's hair, Squall's knee fidgeting against Irvine's thigh.

"I can't sleep," Squall said, eventually.

"Me neither," said Irvine, "but this feels very good."

"Yeah," said Squall.

"You okay?"

"Yeah. Good. Thanks."

Irvine gave him a little squeeze.

I love you.

If he kept thinking that he was going to have to say it out loud, eventually. He might have already, if he hadn't been worried it would sound silly, or worse still frighten Squall away.

He found that hard to imagine right now, admittedly. He could all but taste Squall's contentment.

"I think I figured it out," said Squall.

"What, babe?"

"Rinoa. Why I stayed with her so long, when I think I knew, inside, I wasn't interested in her - in women - that way. I thought I must have loved her, but now... It wasn't that I loved her, at all." He yawned.


"No. I needed her. I needed the magic. I needed her to be a knight for. It made me feel... strong. I didn't love her."

Irvine swallowed hard.

"Not like I love you."

Irvine felt a tingle rush up his spine; the soft dark blonde hairs on his arms stood suddenly on end.

"I think I really am gay, Irvine."

Irvine cleared his throat. "Does it bother you?" he said.

"I don't know," Squall said. "I suppose it'll get easier."

"Of course it will," said Irvine. "Like I said, we'll work it out together."

Squall nestled into his shoulder, and yawned.

"Need sleep," he said. "Got to find Odine tomorrow."

Irvine smiled to himself. Only Squall could make an heroic act sound like an ordinary item on a to-do list. Save world. Kill monsters. Give Irvine head. Buy extra belts...

"Goodnight, sugar," he said, dropping a kiss onto Squall's damp hair.

"Hn," said Squall, already half asleep.

Irvine closed his eyes, listening to Squall's even, sleeping breath, the day coming back to him in flashes as he drifted off himself.

His last thought before he sank into sleep, was how odd it was, that he didn't remember Tanya at all.


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