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 4 - Search

By scribblemoose

On the sixteenth morning that Irvine woke up next to Squall, there was a loud crash, and a yell of 'fuck', and Squall was scrambling across his body to get something.

Irvine instinctively grabbed Squall as he passed, and kissed him. In his sleep-blurred state, it just seemed the most obvious thing to do.

"Fuck... Irvine... phone..." stuttered Squall between kisses.

"Fuck... Squall... who cares..." Irvine stuttered back.

The phone, which Irvine had just identified as a soft trilling noise from the table by his side of the bed, stopped ringing. Squall settled down on top of him, and had just started to writhe rather pleasantly when a loud pinging started.

"Shit, Hyne, fuck," Squall muttered. "My phone. Next to you. There. Give."

Irvine reluctantly passed him his cellphone, and set about seriously distracting him while he took the call.

"Selphie?" Squall said, grinning at Irvine despite the fact that he was using his best Commander voice.

Which was something of a turn on, Irvine decided.

"Oh. Good," Squall said. "Any luck?"

Irvine wondered whether he could persuade Squall to dress up in full uniform sometime and let him...


The blood drained from Squall's face; he started to climb off Irvine's body, but Irvine held him there.

"Yes," Squall said to Selphie, quietly. "I'll be right there. Thanks.... Yes. Fine."

Irvine raised an eyebrow, rubbing Squall's thigh, soothing him.

"She unscrambled the tape," Squall said. "They found out who kidnapped Odine." Squall looked down at Irvine grimly, full Commander mode now, the steel in his eyes almost frightening.

"It was Seifer."

Irvine licked his way lazily up Squall's inner thigh, enjoying the shudder of suppressed laughter that rippled through his lover's slender body.

"You taste good," he murmured. "Salty. Yum."

Squall combed his fingers through Irvine's hair, spreading long copper strands out over his own belly.

"This is heaven," he said, very quietly, perhaps to himself.

"Really?" said Irvine, surprised. Not that it didn't feel heavenly to him too, but he'd imagined that heaven for Squall would be somehow more... heroic.

"Absolutely," said Squall. "I feel happy. The happiest I've ever been."

Irvine lay his cheek on Squall's thigh and looked up at him, a lump in his throat.

"What?" said Squall. "Does that sound stupid?"

"No. Oh, gods, babe, no. It sounds just fine."

"I've never felt this way before. I didn't think I could."

Irvine felt tears pricking at the back of his eyes.

"You know when we were stuck in that room, decorating for Selphie?" Squall said, his fingers still moving rhythmically through Irvine's hair. "You said you have to take the heartache sometimes, so you can appreciate the good stuff."

"Did I?" Irvine's memory of that day was dominated mostly by Squall, all brooding leather with tinsel round his neck, actually coming on to him. The details escaped him in the face of that kind of image.

"This is the good stuff," said Squall. "I'd never had the good stuff before."

Irvine smiled, tracing little circles around Squall's hipbone with his middle finger. "Don't be daft. You had Rinoa."

"Not really. It didn't feel like this."

"Squall, man, you rescued her from outer space. How can I compete with that kind of devotion?" Irvine knew he was fishing, but he couldn't help himself. He had to face it, he was jealous of Rinoa. Of the connection that he knew, in his heart of hearts, Squall still shared with her.

"No, you're missing the point," said Squall. His scar wrinkled in concentration at the effort of forcing his feelings into words. "It wasn't really love, what I had with Rin. It was the magic. I'd never felt so connected to anyone before. I'd gone from being completely alone to having someone who's lifeforce I could feel, who's energy was bound to mine. I had this overwhelming need to protect her, to care for her. But it wasn't love. It wasn't even sex. It definitely wasn't sex."

"You mean the sex wasn't..." Irvine put on his most innocent expression, but he could tell straight away that Squall wasn't buying it.

"I'm gay, Irvine," he said. "So you were on to a winner there from the start."

"But I'm better than Seifer," said Irvine, with big, round, puppy-dog eyes.

Squall smiled indulgently. "Yes, Irvine, you're better in bed than Seifer. There, happy?"

Irvine grinned. "Yup," he said. "Can I tell him?"

Squall laughed. "We've got to find him first."

"That's fine." Irvine settled himself back down on Squall's thigh, with a fleeting kiss to his sleeping cock. It twitched briefly in response, but showed no signs of stirring. Irvine sighed happily. They were all satisfied and warm, and Squall loved him and was happy. It didn't get much better than this.

Pity they had to go and save Odine, really... but that didn't matter right now. He'd managed to drag Squall back to bed once the initial shock of Seifer's involvement in the current crisis had faded, persuading him that there really wasn't anything that could be done until Laguna's people had analysed Selphie's data. It would be at least another half an hour before the security team reported back, and he intended to spend every last minute of it enjoying the soft haze of sated lust and warm affection that Squall was exuding.

"It feels good, doesn't it," he murmured. "When you start to work out who you are, and who you want... what you want. Feels like you've arrived."

"Yeah." Squall was still playing with Irvine's hair, stroking it gently, twining it around his fingers, making little tufts to tickle Irvine's shoulders. "It's a relief, too. Means I don't have to think about it anymore. I can go back to thinking about rostas and contracts instead of stupid feelings."

Irvine was fairly sure that that was a joke. But he glanced up just in case. Sure enough, Squall was grinning mischievously at him.

"You've got a way to go yet, Leonhart," Irvine said. "I think you'll need constant supervision for a good while. Maybe years."


"And sex therapy." Irvine snaked out his tongue to bully the tip of Squall's resting cock, sucked briefly on his silky soft foreskin. Like rose petals, he thought to himself.

"You can't leave it alone, can you?" complained Squall. Happily.

"Nope," said Irvine, nudging it gently with his nose. "You smell good," he murmured, as if that was an excuse. "You smell fucking good."

Squall groaned, and his cock twitched again, thickening enough to straighten out the kinks. Irvine scooped it into his mouth, anxious to feel it hardening against his tongue. He loved to feel Squall get hard in his mouth.

"Oh, gods, Irvine..."

Irvine tickled lightly just behind Squall's balls, and released his cock barely long enough to speak.

"Got another in there for me, Commander?"

Squall clutched his fingers in Irvine's hair. "One way to find out," he said.

Irvine growled approvingly. He did so enjoy a challenge.

In just a few moments Squall's cock was hard and thick in Irvine's mouth; he wrapped his hand around the root, pumping slowly, pausing every now and then to kiss the sensitive tip and nibble the flared ridges around the head. Squall rocked his hips, his eyes closed, head thrown back, cheeks flushed. Irvine was regularly astounded at how fast Squall could go from unaroused to completely wanton. Sometimes just one kiss, one touch was enough... He took just the head of Squall's cock in his mouth and suckled on it, precome slick and sweet on his tongue, the sound of Squall's ragged breathing filling his ears.

He snaked his free hand down between Squall's legs and started to tease his entrance, still slick from their fucking earlier. Still full of his come... Oh Hyne, what a thought... His middle finger slipped inside, found Squall's sweet spot and rubbed.

"Oh... gods... Irvine..."

Irvine twisted his finger, pulled it in and out once or twice, then settled to rubbing some more. Squall's body responded instantly, fingers tight in Irvine's hair, his whole body tensing up, thighs clenching in the same rhythm Irvine was using to stroke and suck him.

It felt so damn good, that he could do this to Squall, to rouse his body to pleasure in an instant, over and over. That he could distract him from the responsibility and duty that hung over him and help him to be a normal eighteen-year old boy, impulsive and reckless and unashamedly horny.

At least until the next crisis struck. Irvine felt a pang of guilt: after all, Cass was his friend, he ought to call her, and there was a crisis on, but, oh, gods, Squall felt so good, tasted so good, and they deserved this, didn't they? They'd already saved the world once. Surely that was enough?

And oh, Hyne, but it felt good. He glanced up to see Squall biting his lower lip, eyes closed tight; he watched the pleasure flicker across his lover's familiar, beautiful features. He was close; if they'd had more time Irvine might have stopped there, teased him, fucked him again, maybe. Or maybe not. There was something irresistible about Squall giving in to the demands of his body like this. Something Irvine definitely wanted to encourage.

Squall's body was building to orgasm, and his voice was louder, deep and throaty and contagiously erotic, like a growl or a lion's purr. Irvine sucked a little harder, his own sex throbbing in sympathy as he rubbed it against the covers.

"Fuck, yeah, 'vine, oh-"

Irvine moaned with satisfaction as Squall spurted on his tongue. He caught every last drop, thick and warm, but didn't swallow. When he was sure Squall had finished, he got to his knees and straddled Squall's hips, leaned down and shared Squall's load with him in a long, sticky kiss. His own cock slapped hard and heavy against Squall's belly, and he wrapped his shaking fingers around it and pumped it rapidly, still kissing Squall deep and hard. He came in just a few strokes, his cries of pleasure swallowed by Squall's mouth as his body jerked creamy stripes over Squall's belly.

The fingers in his hair were slow again, gentle, soothing, like Squall's kiss, languid and tender. Loving. He drank it in, his whole body suffused with pleasure.

He supported his weight on one hand, planted by Squall's shoulder, the other curled protectively around his cock, easing out the last few dribbles with a sigh of deep contentment.

"Mmm... oh, babe," he murmured, dropping his forehead onto Squall's. The arm he was leaning on trembled slightly, muscles twitching from sudden release; he kissed Squall on the nose and sat back.

"You made me sticky," said Squall, reaching down to spread Irvine's semen over his pale skin.

Irvine swallowed, hard.

"Need to shower now," said Squall, blue-grey eyes teasing him from under long, dark lashes.

"No," said Irvine. "Just stay like that, forever. That would be fine." His fingers joined Squall's, spreading his come over one nipple, bringing it instantly erect. "I don't think we can stop," he said, faintly. The blood was still roaring in his ears, his heartbeat still stronger than it had any right to be. "I think we're going to be on this bed, fucking, forever."

"We'll get hungry eventually," Squall pointed out. "And they'd send people. To interrupt."

Irvine smiled. "We could tell them to fuck off," he suggested.

Squall's hand folded over his, drew it up to be kissed.

"I'll wave Lionheart about a bit," he said. "That usually makes people run away."

Irvine's smile grew a little more foolish; he brushed the hair back from Squall's eyes so he could see them properly. "You still happy?" he asked.

"Oh yes," said Squall. "Still happy."

"Me too," said Irvine. "But we have to go save the girl, don't we? And kick Seifer's ass."

"Yeah," said Squall. "Again."

Irvine sighed heavily. "Okay, then. Shower it is."

He climbed reluctantly from Squall's damp and sticky body, reaching out a hand to help him up.

"Hey, Squall," he said, retrieving a towel from the radiator, still half damp from their last trip to the shower.


"You know you said I was a sex god compared to Seifer?"

Squall snorted. "Don't get carried away, Kinneas."

But his legs were still trembling, Irvine noticed, just a little.

"Did he ever-"

"Irvine, don't."

Irvine looked up sharply, something in him responding instantly to the change of tone in Squall's voice.

"Don't what?"

"Don't keep asking about him." He took the towel Irvine held out for him, and padded off to the shower, his eyes hidden behind his bangs.

"Sorry," said Irvine, following him. "I didn't mean to bug you, babe."

"It's not as if I ever ask about your exes," Squall said reasonably. He pulled open the glass door to the shower cubicle, and turned the tap on, snatching his hand back quickly from the freezing water. "Damn. Needs to warm up a bit."

"You can ask me if you like," said Irvine.

"It's not as if I've got a month free," Squall said, shooting Irvine a sly look.

Irvine sputtered indignantly, and pushed Squall under the cold water; as always, Squall's reflexes were quicker than his own, and somehow he found himself being pulled in after him and yanked directly under the shower head. He swore loudly as the icy water smacked his shoulders and back, snatching his breath away.

Squall grinned at him, for all that he was shivering himself.

Irvine pushed him roughly against the tiles, and kissed him, taking refuge from the freezing spray in the warmth of Squall's mouth, the press of their bodies creating a comforting, spreading heat between them.

"It doesn't matter," said Squall, his hands settling at the small of Irvine's back and pulling him closer still. The water was starting to run warm at last, and it plastered Squall's hair to his head, dripped down his face, beading on his smooth skin. He looked more beautiful than ever. "It doesn't matter what happened before. It doesn't matter."

"Of course," said Irvine. "Sorry, babe."

Squall grunted, pressing strong fingers into the muscles of Irvine's lower back, easing out the tension Irvine hadn't even realised was gathering there.

The door chime sounded.

Squall cursed, and just for an instant he looked as resentful as Irvine felt.

"I'll go," said Irvine. "You're the one who's sticky, after all."

Squall growled at him, and reached for the soap.

Irvine dragged himself away, snagging a towel and wrapping it firmly round his waist. It occurred to him as he opened the door that maybe he should have got dressed, because appearing half-naked and dripping wet in Squall's doorway was pretty much advertising things that Squall would probably prefer him to be, well, discreet about, at any rate. But by then, of course, it was too late.

Fortunately he came face to face with a grinning Selphie, who promptly dipped around him and into Squall's quarters with no more than a giggle.

"Hi, Seffie. Come in, why don't ya..."

Selphie plonked a file down on the coffee table in the middle of the living area. "Thanks. Sorry if I interrupted anything," she said with a smirk.

"No, you're not. You're gloating," Irvine pointed out.

"I have every right to," said Selphie. "It's not my fault you're driving me mad with jealousy."

Irvine enjoyed a fleeting moment of delight before she put him firmly in his place.

"What I'd give for a night with Squall. Is he as good as he looks? I've always wondered."


"Just asking. Hey, look, files. Security reports." She poked him in the ribs. "Some of us have been working, you know."

"Thanks. I think."

"You're welcome. You look happy. If a little wet."

"I am," he said. "Very. It's... I haven't felt this way for a long time, Sef. Not since..."

They looked at each other for a moment, something passing, unspoken, between them.

"Good," said Selphie, eventually. "That's good."

Irvine smiled.

"You'd better go get him," she said. "Laguna's organised a briefing for ten-thirty."

But just at that moment Squall appeared at the doorway, immaculately dressed in his SeeD uniform, only his damp hair to suggest that he hadn't just stepped from his office.

"Get dressed, Kinneas," he said, Commander-voice tempered by the flicker of a twinkle in his eyes. "Time for work."

Squall tried hard to concentrate on what Laguna was saying, and to ignore the brush of Irvine's foot against his own under the table.

"He can't have left the City, or at least we don't think so. He must still be here somewhere." Laguna sounded as though he was talking about a set of lost keys, rather than an archvillain and kidnapper.

"Damn the boy," muttered Quistis. "Doesn't he ever learn?"

"Has he been acting oddly at all?" asked Squall. "I thought he had to report in to Cid once a week?"

"Cid would have told us if he hadn't, I'm sure," said Quistis.

"I want you to talk to Cid, and to Fujin and Raijin," Squall told her. "Find out anything you can: how he's been behaving, if he gave any hint of what he's up to, anything."

"Of course," said Quistis.

"And while you're at it, I want to know if he's likely to have any GFs, and if so which ones and how he could've got hold of them."

Quistis nodded.

"Could we go look for him?" said Zell. He was flicking a pencil deftly through his fingers at a startling rate; to his irritation, Squall kept catching the movement out of the corner of his eye.

"That would help," Laguna said, before Squall had a chance to answer. "Yes, by all means."

Squall was about to snap that Zell was under his command, not Laguna's, and if Zell didn't put that pencil down he'd find it rammed up his nostril, but he felt the press of Irvine's foot on top of his under the table. He turned to glare at his lover, but Irvine just shoved a piece of paper in front of him: a note?

~Be nice. Everyone's stressed about Seifer. Can I suck your cock again later?~

Squall stared at Irvine's messy handwriting, completely dumbstruck. Eventually Laguna's voice penetrated his stunned mind.

"Squall? I said, if that's okay with you? If we can use your people?"

Squall looked up, trying desperately to get his brain to work again. "Yes," he croaked, and cleared his throat. "Of course. We're at your disposal."

He scribbled quickly on Irvine's note and slid it back.

~Thanks. Only if I get to suck yours.~

Irvine grinned broadly.

"Good," said Zell. "I am so looking forward to kicking Almasy's butt again."

"Not on your own," said Squall, desperately trying to keep the thought Irvine had planted in his mind under control. "As soon as he gets found, I want to know. We've no idea what power he might have picked up, but think about this: he got into the palace, and into Odine's lab, without anyone even seeing him. That tells me he's got some kind of magic from somewhere."

"You mean he might be invisible?" said Selphie. "Cool. I've always wondered-"

"Not cool." Squall cut her off sharply. "Dangerous!" He was about to launch into a tirade, but caught himself, remembering what Irvine had pointed out to him. They're uptight. We're all uptight, this is way too close to home. Be patient, damnit. "I've underestimated Seifer too many times, Selph," he continued in a gentler tone. "If he's really managed to get himself invisible, whether it's by magic or something else, or even if he's just damn good at hiding from us, I don't like it. I want him out in the open where I can see what we're dealing with. Okay?"

Selphie nodded, silent. Squall pretended not to notice that she stuck her tongue out at him when he turned to Laguna. For some reason it didn't annoy him; possibly because Irvine chose that particular moment to drop his pencil on the floor and bent to retrieve it, making sure he got a good grope of Squall's leg on the way up.

Squall concentrated on breathing, and wondered, not for the first time, what he'd got himself into with Irvine. He counted to ten and wrestled his body back under control, forcing himself to ignore the warm tingle Irvine had sent rushing through his body.

"We'll try and track down Cass," he heard himself say to Laguna. "If I can bring her here, will Odine's team be able to help her?"

"Of course," said Laguna. "We can help her to contain her powers, to understand them. We'll keep her safe."

"I'll brief the team," added Kiros.

"Thanks," said Squall. "I think that's it, then. Let's get on with the search. And Quisty, Selphie, I need to talk to you about Trabia."

"Oh!" said Selphie. "Really? Only I thought with all this it would have to wait-"

"No," said Squall, allowing himself to give her a little smile. "I think we've already waited long enough, don't you?"

Selphie beamed at him, and winked. Squall suddenly found himself wondering what she and Irvine had been talking about while he was in the shower that morning.

Not that it mattered, of course. It was over between her and Irvine, after all. He trusted Irvine.


He couldn't help but think back to the previous day, to finding Irvine in the back room of the Torama, covered in lipstick and guilt.

What if he hadn't interrupted?


Squall started at the sound of his own name, and realised Kiros had been asking him a question.

"Sorry?" His voice came out more sharply than he'd intended.

"Could we have Irvine this afternoon, to work with Zell on the search?"

"Yes, of course." It made perfect sense: Zell was wound tight as a spring. Irvine was the best person to keep him from going off the deep end, help to channel his energies where they could do some good.

He would have suggested it himself, if he hadn't had a thought, just one tiny, wicked thought at the back of his mind that maybe after his meeting with the girls they could sneak back to his room and-

Squall swallowed hard, willing himself to concentrate on Kiros as he outlined logistics and talked about search patterns. Here he was, involved in a meeting to deploy the full force of the Estharian military and the finest of Balamb's SeeDs in recovering a world-famous and potentially dangerous scientist, and he was trying to plan how he could run off with his boyfriend for a blow job.

He ignored the scratching of Irvine's pencil across his pad, and untangled his foot from Irvine's. This was no time to be passing notes and playing footsie like a lovesick cadet. This was about Seifer, and where Seifer was concerned, any weakness was dangerous. He'd exploit anything, if it meant he won. And especially to beat Squall.

And whatever else happened, one thing had always been crystal clear to Squall, and always would be.

Whatever the cost, Seifer must never win.

By the end of an afternoon with Zell that had felt like taking an over-enthusiastic and untrained dog for a walk through a park full of cats, Irvine wanted nothing more than a long soak in the bath, preferably with a naked Squall, something laid back and slinky on the sound system, and the judicious application of a bottle of elixir.

Instead he faced an agitated Squall, whatever crap passed for Estharian pop music, and a ten minute shower if he was lucky.

For once, Irvine was dismayed to find that Squall wanted to go clubbing.

"Aren't you worried about her?" Squall asked him, surprised. Irvine felt a stab of guilt.

"Of course I am, babe. Just tired. Give me half an hour, and I'll be right. Sorry. Zell's hard work, you know? The slightest hint of someone over five foot six with blonde hair and he wanted to pummel them just to be on the safe side."

"Oh. Yeah. No luck, though?"

"Nope." Irvine pulled his shirt over his head, enjoying the stretch of tired muscles. "Not a hint. He's well underground, or else he's gone. And Cass hasn't been back?"

"Not that I could tell. I left messages everywhere. Then I got Quistis to leave messages, just in case it was me. After last night and... you know, what happened." Squall turned away, picking up his watch from the bedside table and clipping it onto his wrist. He'd already showered and dressed, in ordinary leather pants and t-shirt.

Not that there was anything ordinary about Squall in leather pants.

Irvine watched Squall's butt as he moved about the room, combing his hair, tucking his shirt into his pants, pulling a belt out of a drawer. He suddenly started to feel a whole lot better.

"I shouldn't have left her out there on her own," Squall said. "I should've..."

"Cass is a big girl. She can handle herself, believe me."

All the same, Irvine had a nagging worry himself that wouldn't quite go away. It wasn't like Cass to just disappear. But then, the Cass he'd known hadn't been a sorceress. Or, for that matter, the kind to kiss someone else's boyfriend just to cause a distraction, and then just run and hide.

It suddenly dawned on Irvine that Squall was right. They should be worried. Very worried indeed.

Irvine was showered and dressed in ten minutes flat.

There was something about going to a club three times in as many days that took the gloss off the experience. It was early, of course, and without the people the seedy corners, scuffed wooden floor and faded walls were more conspicuous. There was no buzz, no atmosphere, just loud music, tinny without the bodies to absorb it, the lights stark and too bright with no flesh to play on. Irvine recognised the girl behind the bar; she was the same one from last night. She looked tired, and irritable, even though she smiled as they approached.

Irvine ordered drinks; he knew that Squall wouldn't want to stay long, but after the day he'd had he needed a beer. Besides, it gave him an excuse to tip the bartender; he figured she was covering Cass for another double shift, and he somehow felt responsible.

"She's not back then?" he asked, as she flipped the caps of two chilled bottles and slid them across the bar.

"She's not coming back at all," the girl said. "She's gone."

"Oh." Irvine's heart sank.

"Gone where?" Squall asked. "The City's closed, isn't it?"

"So they say. That happens from time to time in Esthar. We're not keen on outsiders."

"No," said Irvine. "Any idea where she'd go? We've got something really important to tell her. Something she'd really like to know."

"She didn't even have the decency to tell me in person. She sent her new friend over there."

Irvine followed her gaze across the bar area to a shadowy corner.


Squall's grip tensed around his beer bottle.

"I didn't know she knew Cass," said Irvine.

"Me neither. Funny how you think you know someone, eh?"

Irvine folded a generous amount of bills and slid them under the bowl of peanuts in the bar before he followed Squall over to Tanya's table.

"Babe, let me," he whispered, lengthening his stride to catch Squall up. He had a feeling Squall wasn't keen on Tanya, and much as he hated to admit it, it really did look as if she knew something they didn't.

Squall ignored him. "Where's Cass?" he demanded, in full commander mode.

"And you must be Leonhart," said Tanya. "How pretty."

Irvine was glad at that moment that the Torama didn't allow weapons. If Lionheart had been tucked into Squall's belts, Tanya would probably be pinned against the wall right now, and almost certainly bleeding from several places.

"We're just concerned," Irvine said. "We're friends of hers."

"Really, Kinneas? Even after what she was up to with your boyfriend last night? You've got tolerant in your old age. Or are they letting you join in?"

Squall's voice cut through the air like ice. "You will tell me where she is. It's up to you how much it hurts."

She looked back at him with admirable defiance. Not many people would even consider trying to face down Squall when he looked that menacing. "You really are alike," she murmured.

"What?" said Irvine, confused, but they both ignored him.

"Where is she?" said Squall.

"She's gone away. That's all I know."

"You're lying."

"Am I?"

"Yes. It would be better for you if you didn't."

"He has friends in high places," Irvine cut in. "I'd tell him, if I were you."

"I don't know where she is," said Tanya, apparently unperturbed, tossing her golden curls over one shoulder. "I can't tell you what I don't know. I'm an innocent civilian. You can't hurt me. It would really upset your father, for one thing."

Squall's fists clenched at his sides. She was right, of course.

"You can't leave the City," Irvine said. "We'll just keep asking 'til you tell us."

"No, you won't," said Tanya. "Fuck, what's this woman to you anyway? You've had better, Kinneas."

"She's a friend," said Irvine.

"I didn't think you stayed friends with the girls you screwed. Never worked, you said."

"I'm sorry if I hurt you," said Irvine. "But that has nothing to do with Cass."

"That's where you're wrong," she said, and got smoothly to her feet, hitching her handbag over one shoulder.

"Why? What's it to do with her?"

"You'll see. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got an appointment. I'll see you again, boys."

She brushed past Squall's elbow as she passed. "I'd get out while you can, if I were you," she stage-whispered in his ear. "He can't be trusted."

Squall glared at her.

"He's only fucking you because he's already had all the women that are desperate enough to sleep with him."

Squall's eyes went wide; Irvine thought for a minute he really was going to hit her.

"That's enough," he said. "If you don't have anything to tell us I'd get out the fuck out of here, fast, I were you. Before-"

"Before what? Before you take me into custody and get someone else to hit me? Before you follow me outside and beat me up in an alley somewhere? I can't see how that's your style, somehow, Kinneas. You'll let me go, because if you don't the person who's expecting me will take great pleasure in taking out his frustration on your dear little friend. You wouldn't want that, would you? Such a pretty girl, and all. So much power, too, and bless her, she doesn't even know it."

"How did you-"

"Good night, gentlemen." She pushed past Squall, and to Irvine's surprise he let her go.

"Squall, what..." Squall didn't even watch her go; he was seething to himself, fists clenched tight at his sides, eyes glittering silver, staring at the space she'd just left.

"Seifer," he growled. "It has to be Seifer she's working for."

"What? No, surely not, that's too much of a co-incidence."

"No. Not a co-incidence. A plan."

Irvine opened his mouth to ask Squall to explain, but at the last minute he decided against it. Squall looked incredibly angry, understandably frustrated, hot as hell and not in the mood to be questioned.

"I've had it with this place," said Squall. "We're going home."

The frustration was still flaring in Squall's eyes when they got back to the Palace. He kissed Irvine hard as soon as they were through the bedroom door, twisting one hand in his hair and tugging the shirt out of his jeans.

"Someone's feeling frisky," Irvine observed, obediently raising his hands above his head so Squall could drag his t-shirt from his body.

"Hn," grunted Squall, and kissed him again, harder still, teeth clashing. He set to work on Irvine's belt buckle, swearing under his breath when it caught in the strap of his watch.

Irvine was happy to go along with this sudden show of passion. At least Squall seemed to have walked off a good deal of the anger on the way back, and had even conceded that Seifer's involvement was purely hypothetical. He helped Squall with the recalcitrant belt, and set about stripping Squall's clothes off too. Squall grasped Irvine's cock as soon as it was freed from denim and cotton, and started to pump it urgently.

"Hey, lover, you carry on like that and your hand's gonna get wet," husked Irvine, pushing tight leather off Squall's perfect butt.

"So? You'll just get hard again," said Squall between violent, frenzied kisses. "What's the problem?"

Irvine chuckled. "I'm glad you have such faith in my abilities."

"Hard evidence," muttered Squall, and staggered back to the bed, pulling Irvine after him.

"Hmnghnf," said Irvine, his response confounded by Squall's renewed kissing.

Squall nipped his way none too gently down Irvine's neck, clamping his mouth over the tight muscle of his shoulder and sucking to a bruise. Irvine threw his head to one side, stretching the skin tight under Squall's teeth and lips and tongue. He reached between them to find Squall's cock, rock hard and dripping between their bellies. He gripped it by the root and ran his thumb over the wet tip.

"Fuck me," Squall growled into his ear, pumping harder on his cock and rocking his own in Irvine's grip.

"If you say so, babe." Irvine rolled Squall onto his back, and grabbed the lube from under the pillow. Squall spread his legs, lifted his cock and balls to allow Irvine easy access to his ass.

Irvine smiled, flipping the cap of the lube and squirting a generous blob into his palm.

"Fuck, but you're hot," he said.

Squall tossed his head from side to side, eyes closed. "Just-" he said, his fingers clawing at the bedclothes. "Fast. Now."

"Okay, babe, okay. Just got to make sure it's good, eh? I've got my reputation to consider, after all," he teased.

Squall made an odd kind of whimpering noise in the back of his throat. "Just fuck me, Kinneas."

Something about the way Squall spat out his name rang an alarm bell somewhere in the back of Irvine's lust-hazed mind. There was something other than urgent passion in his voice, a desperation borne of more than simple need. Irvine watched Squall's hooded eyes and found his entrance with one slick finger. Squall was tight, tense, closed. Irvine stroked gently, breathing deeply to calm his own desire.

Squall growled frustration.

"Look at me, lover," said Irvine. Squall's eyes opened, dark with conflict, need, uncertainty. "Are you okay?"

"Take me, fuck me, now, damnit..."

"Shhh. You're not ready, babe," said Irvine, gently, brushing the Squall's bangs back from his face. "Just relax. Let me make you feel good, huh?"

"I want you inside me," said Squall, shaking his head to dislodge Irvine's fingers, his hair falling back in eyes. "You're driving me mad... can't wait..."

"It'll hurt," said Irvine, stubbornly. "You're not ready."

"I don't care," said Squall, teeth clenched. "Just fuck me. Now. Hard. Fast. Now."

Irvine guided his cock into position and pushed a little, but Squall's body was closed tight. This wasn't right.

He'd promised.

"What, 'vine? What's wrong?"

His fingers clenched around Irvine's hips, hard enough to leave a mark on the golden skin.

"I won't hurt you," said Irvine, firmly.

"Oh, come on, I'm not a fucking girl, Irvine."

He pulled away, and sat back on his heels.

"I don't hurt girls, either."

A flash of repentance crossed Squall's face, but he didn't say anything. Irvine frowned, angry at himself for going along with this again. Damnit, he should have known.

He put one hand on Squall's knee soft, reassuring. "I think I understand, babe. This is about Seifer, isn't it?"

Squall glared at him, furious, rejected and frightened all at once. "I don't know what you mean."

"This is how Seifer liked it. This is what Seifer showed you."

"Don't be stupid," spat Squall through gritted teeth. "Let me go."

The idea that Irvine was in any way restraining the slayer of sorceresses by kneeling there with one gentle hand on his knee was more than faintly ridiculous. But Irvine didn't laugh.

"No," he said.

Squall thumped his head back on the pillow in frustration.

Irvine watched him, trying to think. He struggled to contain his anger at Seifer, knowing that this was a knife edge; if he got this wrong, Squall would retreat into bitter hurt and silence. "So what was it? Did he like it rough? Knock you about a bit? Did he get off on hurting you?"

"No," said Squall. "It wasn't like that... I, it, it doesn't matter."


"Besides, who says it's anything to do with Seifer? Why does it have to be your way all the time? Has is occurred to you that maybe I like it rough?"

"Oh, yeah, sure," said Irvine, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Because you seemed to like it so much last time, what with the crying and all."

Squall glared at him. "Don't be stupid. I didn't cry."

"No." Irvine conceded. "But by Hyne, you wanted to."

They stared at each other for a moment.

Squall was the first to look away. "It's no big deal. If you don't want to fuck..."

Irvine closed his eyes, and took a deep breath, still trying to keep his temper in check. "I just want to understand."

"There's nothing to understand." Squall pulled himself up, knocked Irvine's hand off his knee and started to shuffle off the bed, out of Irvine's reach. "I'm going to get a shower."

Irvine grabbed an arm and pulled him back, grasped the back of his head in one broad hand and kissed him, not hard but firmly, holding him still until he finally gave in and started to kiss back.

"That's better," said Irvine, pulling back just far enough to be able to see Squall's eyes, registering renewed lust in them, and an odd determination.

Squall threw himself back on the bed, pulling Irvine on top of him, and kissed him twice as passionately, twice as sensuously as he'd just been kissed. He nipped and teased Irvine's lips, bullied Irvine's tongue with his own, wound his fingers in Irvine's hair. He tugged, just a little.

"Oh babe," moaned Irvine. "Oh, gods, babe..."

"Irvine..." Squall's voice was deep, husky, still with that edge of desperation. "Fuck me. Please?"

Irvine's heart sank. "No. Not the way you want it. Sorry, babe. I won't hurt you."

"But it's what I..."

"I've got an idea." Irvine rolled them both over, taking Squall so much by surprise that he didn't have a chance to resist. He grunted as the full weight of Squall's body landed on his. "You want it? You want it hard? You want to prove you're not a girl? Well, then, commander, why don't you fuck me."

Squall's eyes flared with surprise. "But..."

"You want it to hurt? You can hurt me all you like, you can hurt yourself using me, if you must, but I won't hurt you. Understand?"

Squall looked thunder at him.

"What's it to be, Squall? You want to fuck, or what?"

Squall's lips twisted into a snarl. "You want fucked, Kinneas? I can do that."

"Fine." Irvine reached for the lube, slapped the fat tube into Squall's palm. "Do it then. Hard as you like."

Squall looked doubtful for a moment, but only for a moment. He grabbed Irvine's wrists and pinned them to the bed with a one-handed grip while he squirted a line of lube up the length of his cock, not even flinching at the cold of the gel, and spread it swiftly over his sex with one trembling hand. He knelt between Irvine's thighs, hitched his legs over his shoulders, and in an instant he was poised at Irvine's entrance, starting to push.

He looked down at Irvine, angry, more than anything else.

Irvine looked back.

"Go on then," he said. "Fuck me."

Squall swallowed hard, uncertainty creeping onto his face, and drew back, one hand still on his cock, the other arm folding defensively across his ribs.

"Well?" Irvine persisted, holding his wrists crossed above his head even now that Squall had released his grip on them.

"What am I doing?" Squall whispered. "What the fuck am I doing?"

Irvine reached one hand up to gently touch Squall's hair. "It's okay."

Squall shook his head. His eyes were glistening: Irvine could tell he was fighting tears. "No. Not okay. No."

Then he was gone, his feet thumping heavy on the floor as he ran to the bathroom, the door swooshing closed behind him.

There was a moment of quiet, and then the muffled hiss of the shower.

Irvine realised his hands were trembling; he flexed his fingers as he shuffled off the bed. The room felt chilly all of a sudden; he shivered and reached for his shirt, fumbled with the buttons that Squall hadn't bothered to undo, and slid his arms into the sleeves. Pulling the soft cotton around him, he padded to the bathroom door.

It wasn't locked.

"Squall? You okay?"

He waited for an answer, stroking one finger down the line where the door met the frame. None came, so he pressed the button, and stepped inside.

Squall was sitting under the shower, back against the tile, knees hugged tight under his chin. He looked up at Irvine as he came in, grey eyes dark with anguish, hair dripping across his face so that Irvine couldn't be sure what was tears and what was just water.

Irvine knelt just outside the shower cubicle, and reached his hand in under the spray. Slowly, hesitantly, Squall found it with his own, and locked his fingers with Irvine's.

"You're all wet," observed Irvine.

The tiniest hint of a smile twitched at the corner of Squall's lips.

Irvine rubbed his thumb over Squall's knuckles. "You okay?"

"You were right," Squall whispered.

Irvine watched him carefully, leaned just a little closer. "Seifer?"

Squall nodded. "I'm sorry. Oh, gods, I'm sorry."

In a moment Irvine was in the shower with him, putting his arms around him whether he liked it or not, nuzzling his face into Squall's neck.

"Don't be sorry," he breathed. "No need to be sorry."

Squall had frozen, his body stiff and unresponsive; then Irvine stroked his wet hair, just once from crown to tip, and he let out a huge sob, then another, and another. Irvine held him as he cried, fists clenched and digging into Irvine's back, tense, painful tears.

"That's it," he soothed. "Okay, it's okay. It's okay."

"I didn't... I just wanted to... I... oh, gods, Irvine, don't leave me. Please, don't leave me."

A chill swept down Irvine's spine. "I'm not going anywhere, love. I'm here. It's okay."

"Everyone I... everyone..."

Everyone you love leaves you. Raine, Laguna, Ellone, Matron, Rinoa. Even fucking Seifer.

"I'm not going anywhere," he repeated. "I promise." I love you.

Squall's fists uncurled enough to clutch Irvine's sodden shirt, he shifted his legs so that Irvine could kneel between them, hold him closer.

"I don't... deserve..."

Irvine couldn't bear it; he covered Squall's mouth with his own, stopping his words, soothing, comforting.

"It's not you," he whispered. "Not you. I don't know what happened, but-"

Squall was still, his body stiff and rigid against Irvine's. Silent now, closed.

"Tell me," said Irvine.

Squall gave the slightest shake of his head, and made to pull away, but Irvine wouldn't let him. They fought for an instant, Squall wrenching himself from Irvine's arms, Irvine holding him stubbornly close, and then Squall surrendered, falling limp in Irvine's embrace, slumping against him as if he'd passed out.

Irvine hugged him close, and pressed his lips to his hair.

Squall's voice came, low, hesitant, with the barest edge of anger. "He said I was born to be fucked."

Irvine slowly slicked Squall's bangs back from his face, finding the soft grey eyes underneath, big and hurt, still wet with tears.

"He said I should have been a girl. I was too pretty to be a boy. A wuss. Only good for fucking and fighting."

Squall leaned back against the tile, pulling Irvine with him.

"He said men didn't love men. Just women. They might fuck men, if there aren't women, but never... it was never anything else."

"Talking out of his arse as usual," said Irvine with a shiver; part rage, part cold. The heat had run out of the shower now, and the water stung his skin.

"I wanted to believe him. I did believe him. It was easier to go along with that than to think that I-"

"That you might love him?"

"Fuck, no. That I might be gay. That I didn't just want sex, and sex was all he could give me."

"So you didn't love him?" Irvine shivered again, definitely the chill this time.

"You're cold," said Squall, surprised.

"A bit," Irvine confessed. "Could we take this somewhere more comfortable, d'you think?"

Squall stared at him, as if realising for the first time that they were huddled dripping wet in the shower. "Oh. Yes."

"Come on, let's go to bed," said Irvine. "We can talk there. Okay?"

Squall nodded, and allowed Irvine to pull him to his feet, to coax him out of the shower and wrap a warm towel around him. He scrubbed his face with the soft fabric, pulling it around his shoulders like a cloak. He looked oddly frail, standing there dripping wet, lips faintly blue from cold. Vulnerable. Young. A vision further from a saver of worlds was harder to imagine.

Irvine grabbed more towels from the cupboard and led them back to the bedroom. He stripped off his wet shirt, and set about drying himself off enough to get into bed, anxious to have Squall back in his arms before he closed off again.

By the time he'd rubbed his hair halfway dry, Squall was already in bed, lying on his side, head propped on his elbow, watching him. Irvine twisted his damp hair into a rough plait down his back. He was still chilly; the weather must have taken a change for the worse, and for all their technological abilities, Estharian heating systems left a lot to be desired.

He got into bed, shuffled close to Squall, took his hand and stole a brief kiss.

"Your feet are fucking freezing," Squall complained.

"So warm them up," said Irvine, with a grin.

Squall smiled at him, a tiny smile, but a smile nonetheless.

"He was wrong," said Irvine. "Seifer."

The smile disappeared, confusion returned to Squall's eyes; he didn't actually move away, but he may as well have done. It took all of Irvine's resolve to continue; he would so dearly have loved to curl up with Squall in his arms and go to sleep. But they had to have this conversation one day, and every time he put it off, he felt as though he was adding to the lie Seifer had burrowed away into Squall's self.

"You know he was wrong, Squall."

Squall looked less than convinced. "He knew before I did, I think. That I was... that I preferred men. Somehow, he knew."

Irvine thought carefully before he said anything else. It would be easy to just tell Squall that Seifer talked rubbish, but that didn't mean that Squall would believe him. "How did the two of you get together?" he asked, eventually. "It's alright," he gave a little grin. "I'm not the jealous kind, remember?"

Yeah. Like hell I'm not.

"We were away on a field trip, in the mountains." Squall spoke softly, looking down at their joined hands, rubbing his fingers gently against Irvine's. "Had to share a tent. I don't know what Quistis was thinking, but... that's how it was. It wasn't a big tent, we were side by side in our sleeping bags, and he was asking me stuff: had I ever been with a girl, had I gone all the way, that kind of thing. So I told him about Nuska, just to get him off my back, really. I didn't tell him much. He laughed at me, said I may as well be a virgin, and went on to tell me all about his exploits. I'm pretty sure he made half of them up, but... after a bit he said he was getting horny, asked if I was. I said I was. Then he suggested we whack off, seeing as we were both guys and needed to get to sleep. That seemed okay."

"Did you fancy him?" Irvine wanted, very badly he realised, for him to say no.

"Yes," said Squall.


"I hadn't thought about it much, before. Well, maybe a little, but... It was his eyes, I think, there was something about his eyes-"

"Yeah, well. You were saying." Irvine kept his eyes firmly on a bit of invisible fluff he was picking off his pillow with his spare hand.

"I never thought anything would ever happen, though. I didn't even know what did happen, between guys, back then. I thought I was straight, only... well, anyway. He started to jerk off, under the sleeping bag, so I did the same, and after a bit he said the covers were getting in the way, so he was going to unzip it, and he did... I couldn't help looking. He liked that. A lot."

"I bet he did," muttered Irvine, darkly.


"Nothing. Carry on."

"He asked me if I wanted to help him out. So I did. That first night that's all we did, jerked each other off... the next night he got me to suck him and by the end of the week he was fucking me."

Irvine couldn't help himself. "Bastard," he spat.

Squall squeezed his hand. "I wanted him to, Irvine. He didn't force me or anything."

"Hn. So what then? You dated him?"

"Not really. We just fucked from time to time. It didn't change anything, we were still at each others' throats most days. He went out with girls, sometimes. It suited me. I didn't want anything else. No strings, no ties, no feelings. Just the fucking."

"You didn't want more?"

"No, not exactly. Then... this thing happened."

Irvine hardly dared ask. "You fell in love with him?"

Squall looked almost shocked. "Fuck, no! No, nothing like that. I don't think I was capable, back then. Gods, no. But I did... There was this girl, once, who Seifer liked a lot, I think. More than he'd admit. She dumped him, and he was cut up about it. I found him in the training centre, crying, and it was okay at the time, I tried to make him feel better, though I didn't much know what to do. I don't think I helped much, although I tried. He was never the same after that. That was that."

"What was what?"

"He changed. He wanted more than I could give him. He wanted me to love him, in some odd, twisted kind of way. He wanted me to take the place of whoever she was. It wasn't love really, but... when I turned him down, he left. We had a big fight, he made out it was me who wanted a relationship, not him."

"And that's when he started with the men can't love men crap?"

"I guess. It sounds stupid, I know, but..." fresh tears welled in Squall's eyes. "It sticks, you know?"

"It sounds to me as if he was trying to convince himself as much as you."

"I suppose. I hadn't thought about it much; it didn't matter. It was just sex, and, but... and when Tanya said what she said..."

Irvine's eyes went wide. Damn. Of course. He should have realised. "She said I..."

"Only wanted me because you couldn't get a girl."

"Squall, you know that's bullshit, right?"

Squall shrugged. "For me, sure. But you might like it better if... if I..."

"No. Oh no. Don't you dare think that. No."

"Seifer used to say..."

"I don't give a fuck what Seifer used to say. Seifer is a fucked up cunt who doesn't deserve to breathe the same air as you. Squall, look at me."

Squall lifted his eyes, confused as ever.

"I don't want you despite you being a man, Squall. I want you because you're a man. I want your ass and your cock and your fucking obstinate pig headed male attitude. Being bisexual doesn't mean I don't mind one way or the other. Being a man is part of who you are, and I want you. This is it. You're it. I've arrived."

Squall stared at him.

"You're not a girl," Irvine allowed himself to smile. "I like that about you."

"Guns and women," Squall said. "You always used to say. Guns and women. I knew that you'd fooled around with Nida, but..."

Irvine's smile turned into a full-on leer.

"You don't think I really meant 'guns' guns, do you, babe?"

Squall frowned for a moment, until finally the penny dropped. "Oh! You mean..."

"For a clever guy you can sure be slow on the uptake, Leonhart. I'll forgive you just this once, though. It's a Galbadian expression, mostly. I know you've lost touch with your roots."

"Oh," said Squall. "I see."

"And you have the best gun I've ever seen," said Irvine. "Absolutely the best."

Squall snorted. "You can't have got about as much as they say, then."

Irvine laughed, and squeezed Squall's hand. "You'd be surprised," he said, fairly certain it was true. "I did some mad things, back when I was a cadet. I'll tell you one day."

"I'm not sure I want to know," said Squall, but Irvine could see the curiosity burning in his eyes.

He leaned closer, and kissed Squall softly, briefly, rubbed noses before he pulled back, and smiled.

Squall smiled back, slow and hesitant, but still a smile.

"That's better," whispered Irvine.

"Yes," breathed Squall.

Irvine kissed him again, just a little more firmly, a little longer, sliding an arm around his waist and tugging him closer. Squall responded with a little moan and ran his hand down the curve of Irvine's spine to settle on his ass. Irvine wriggled closer still, until their cocks were touching, twitching back to life again, slowly uncoiling, flexing, rubbing sensitive skin to sensitive skin.

Irvine slid his tongue slowly out of Squall's mouth, licked along his jawline. "You still want me, babe?"

Squall's hand tensed against his ass.

"It's yours if you want it." Irvine nuzzled at Squall's neck. "D'you want it, babe?"

Squall made a little strangled noise; his other hand clutched Irvine's hair.

"Only if you want it," purred Irvine.

"I want it," Squall choked out. "Oh, fuck, I want it."

Irvine felt a broad grin spread across his face. "Then take it."

He rolled onto his back, pulling Squall on top of him; Squall kissed him, urgently now, passionately but with no anger, just lust and excitement and maybe a little trace of nerves.

"I've never-"

"That's fine," said Irvine. "Just take it slow."


Irvine let Squall direct things after that, melting under his long, firm kisses, hips flexing, fingers smoothing through dark, silky bangs. Squall seemed determined to take his time, washing his tongue over Irvine's nipples, trailing his fingers down Irvine's side. "I'd say this was a special occasion," he murmured. "You got that elixir somewhere?"

"Yeah, but... lube's better." Irvine teased Squall's ear with the tip of his tongue. "I want to feel you, babe. Just you. Inside me. Just you. Okay?"


Squall rolled off Irvine's body for a moment, to retreive the lube from the bedside table. Irvine watched as he slicked his own cock, so hard, so beautiful, arcing towards his navel.

Squall gently parted Irvine's thighs, and knelt between them.

Suddenly Irvine was arching his back, all his pleasure focused on the sensitive skin that was all at once vibrant and shrieking pleasure at him under Squall's careful, fluttering touch. He gasped as one finger slid just inside, then a bit further, fidgeting around a little until he found the place that made Irvine arch and moan and beg.

"So hot," Squall murmured, apparently oblivious to Irvine's desperate pleasure. "So tight."

Irvine writhed against his finger, whined when it was slowly, tantalisingly withdrawn.

"Look at me."

Irvine obediently opened his eyes. Squall was lining himself up, his cock nuzzling at Irvine's entrance. His gaze flickered up to meet Irvine's; he smiled.


Irvine nodded. "Just a bit at first, just..."

Squall pushed slowly inside, waited a few moments, then pushed again, and kept pushing, sliding in, slow and easy, thick and hard, and oh gods but it felt good, to be full and stretched, and Squall buried in him, all the way, as deep and hard as he could be, and Squall was kissing him, and wrapping cool fingers around his cock and stroking; and Squall was moving, sliding back and forth, gently at first, then a little harder, but still slow, and deep, and filling him, over and over, and Squall was moaning, "oh gods, oh gods, oh gods" and looking down at him, biting his lower lip, eyes clear despite the pleasure that was threatening to overwhelm him at any instant, and it felt so good, his legs wrapped around Squall's body, his hands tangled in his hair, and he could feel himself close to coming already, far, far too soon. And Squall looked so beautiful, so stunningly, astoundingly beautiful, a mix of lust and concern in his eyes.

"That's so good," Irvine moaned. "So good, babe. So good."

Squall turned his head to kiss Irvine's wrist, darted his tongue out to lick the pale skin, the tiny bones.

"Oh gods," Squall moaned, softly, lips vibrating against his skin. "Oh gods... so... oh... oh... oh..."

His hand gripped Irvine's sex a little more tightly, moved back and forth faster,more urgently, but it was the feeling deep inside of him that rushed Irvine towards the edge: the feeling of being full, of being fucked, of Squall filling him over and over and over, of Squall plunging inside him all the way and stopping, crying out and spurting inside him, flooding him with his essence, wet and warm, little jerks of his hips driving him even further inside, spurting and spurting. Then Irvine couldn't hold it any longer; he arched his back and his body clenched tight for one toe-curling, white-knuckle moment; then there was release, unbelievable, sweet, mind-rending release. Squall collapsed on top of him, gasping; he could feel Squall's heartbeat pounding against his ribs, hot puffs of breath on his neck.

Irvine wrapped his arms tight around his lover, still inside, still as close as a person could be.

I love you.

He kissed Squall's neck, pressed his lips to his temple.

I love you.

Squall raised his head; Irvine brushed the hair from his eyes, and looked deep into marbled blue and grey.

"I love you."

"What?" As if he couldn't believe what he'd heard, thought it a mistake.

"I love you. I'm in love with you. I love you."

Squall's eyes widened for a moment, and then he smiled.

"Thank you," he whispered, as if it were a gift, rather than a confession.

He wiped Irvine down with a damp towel from the heap they'd abandoned by the bed, kissing his skin, tracing his tongue over Irvine's ribs and belly button, brushing lips over his sleeping cock, then tossed the towel back to the floor and curled up with his head on Irvine's shoulder, one arm curling possessively over his chest. Warm. Content. Close.

Eventually their fingers stilled in each others' hair, and they slept.

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