Broken Wings

Part 2

By Sukunami

Sitting on the padded bench in front of a large mirror, Squall somberly worked on a set of damaged feathers.  It was a strange sense of pride that made him care for the unnatural wings which he both loathed and admired.  Aside from the spelled choker around his throat, the white feathers were the sign of his downfall from a respected soldier to a worthless sex slave, and yet, the same wings which symbolized his enslavement had also given him the ultimate freedom of flight.  While he had relied on the sorceress' perfectionist nature during his escape, it still came as a surprise that flying was far from impossible.  It was almost frightening the height he could maintain above the ground.

And then a fucking airship had to ram into him.

With a shadow of a smile, Squall decided that he may have deserved the rough treatment.  Before that incident, Almasy had first ordered him to land, which the winged man did after some hesitation.  Standing naked in fairly deep snow, he had calmly waited for the large airship to settle on the frozen ground, and once the ramp dropped, it was his signal to jump off the chosen cliff site and take flight once more.  In hindsight, it was a foolish to think that he could escape the ship which held the far greater size and speed, especially when he was surviving on little sleep and no food after days of traveling, but there was no other choice aside from surrender, and that was out of the question.  That, and he never expected the reckless commander to collide into him in retaliation for the feint.

Moving lower along the lengthy feathers, Squall let his thoughts drift to the image of the blond officer.  To his annoyance, he couldn't deny that he felt a deep attraction for the tall, muscular man who typically smirked at the world around him, his bright green eyes holding a gleam of cynical humor.  And while Squall knew that it was incredibly stupid of himself, he was increasingly enjoying the company of the loud and seductive man.  Almasy was heat personified in both touch and emotions, and it livened a part of Squall which he believed dead after years of war followed by well over a year of shameful slavery.

Sighing, Squall released the wing in his hold and looked to the mirror, silently ordering himself that he couldn't be this weak.  He knew about Almasy's reputation before meeting the commander, and the past months proved to him that the man wouldn't turn to the side of the rebels.  While Almasy talked of staying on the winning side, to Squall it sounded like a hollow excuse by a person who chose his battles and stuck with that decision until the gruesome end.  In the simplest terms, Almasy was a stubborn asshole who would never change, and oddly, Squall could respect him for that.

A sharp series of knocks made the winged man straighten and stare at the doorway, his confusion shown by narrowed eyes.  No one ever knocked, not even the servants who changed the sheets and the like.  Certainly never Ultimecia, the sorceress enjoying the drama of surprise.  A frown then joined his expression as Squall realized how fucked up he was to be baffled by something as ordinary as a knock.

Schooling his expression, Squall walked over to the door which was always unlocked from the inside, it being a cruel joke of the sorceress as it was the collar around his throat which kept him from passing over the threshold and not the solid door.  Of course, she hadn't warned the winged man of that fact until he had attempted to leave the unlocked room without her permission.  The resulting shock of magic had left his body basically paralyzed for over an hour.  Squall didn't need another lesson after the one.

Opening the door, the winged man glanced over his apparent guest.  "You're a mess."

Deep laughter ended sharply with an inhaled breath as Almasy pressed a hand against his side.  "And here I thought you'd have something sweeter to say after missing me for a whole month."

Refraining from stating the lie that he hadn't missed the blond, Squall motioned the man inside.  "Take a shower and then I'll look you over."

Bright green eyes shone at the order.  "Wanna join me?"

The brunet frowned vaguely, but replied, "If you wish it."

Smirking, Almasy patted a grimy hand against his cheek.  "Nah, go ahead and keep your feathers dry.  You'll make the bed wet, otherwise."

The blond officer then made his way to the bathroom, unsuccessfully hiding his limp from the observant rebel.  Squall silently watched the hurting man as he mentally listed the injuries Almasy most likely held.  The winged man then closed the dark door before following the large man into the bathroom to retrieve the medical kit there.  Not bothering to watch the blond strip out of ruined clothes, Squall moved back to the bedroom and set out various bandages and ointments on the large bed.

It wasn't the first time the rebel leader had attended to the injuries of the stubborn blond, the young man having some issue against healers, but Squall had never seen the man so battered.  Staring at a roll of bandages in his hand, he wondered why he bothered caring for the blond commander.  He was tempted to say that it was his duty and nothing more, but Squall knew that there was more to it.  Perhaps it was respect between rivals, perhaps it was a sign of appreciation for the blond who rarely treated him like the slave he was... Despite the hours he had thought it over on previous days, Squall had yet to come to a conclusive decision.

In time, Almasy exited the bathroom, the blond looking far better without the dirt and dried blood covering his golden brown skin.  Not bothering with a robe, the large man only had a towel wrapped around his shoulders as he dried his short hair with rough movements.  Smirking at the waiting brunet, he sat down on the edge of the mattress and leaned back on his hands.

Starting first on the scattered bullet wounds, Squall shook his head.  "What foolishness were you up to this time?"

Almasy scoffed.  "Don't blame me.  I'd be fine and healthy if you stupid rebels wouldn't shoot at me.  At least they have shitty aim."  He then brushed a hand against his heavily bruised side.  "I guess falling down a fucking cliff didn't help much."

The winged man said nothing in reply as he worked on the blond's front side, careful to not aggravate the deep bruises.  Aside from the few bullet wounds, there wasn't much to be done with the numerous shallow scratches, and so Squall moved onto the mattress to kneel behind Almasy and work on his backside.  Out of range of the sharp green eyes, the winged man breathed deeply as he could no longer resist his reaction to thoroughly touching the naked body before him.  Squall silently cursed the sorceress as he tried to focus on the deeper wounds.

"Say, Leonhart...  What do you guys do with injured prisoners?"

"Treat them as best we can."

"Why?" the blond commander asked, as if not believing the answer.

"Our war is against Ultimecia, not the soldiers she controls."  Placing an adhesive patch on an exit wound, Squall then asked, "What happened?"

After moment of hesitation, Almasy said, "My ship crashed and I wanted to know what would happen to the men left behind."

"Those who could be rescued should be safe by now."

The muscular body slumped at the assurance, and Almasy turned to face the brunet.  Green eyes were warm with obvious relief, the sight of which partly surprising to Squall after hearing many rants about the lazy and worthless men under the blond's command.  Almasy then leaned in close, promptly drawing the brunet into a deep, heartfelt kiss which made his whole body shiver from unanticipated pleasure.

"Thank you," Almasy whispered into parted lips as he broke the kiss.

At first unable to open his eyes as he tried to deal with the sudden burst of pleasure, Squall heard the man chuckle lightly before he saw the lecherous smirk of the blond.

"Stand up," the Imperial officer ordered as he removed the towel from his shoulders.

The winged man followed the command given in a rough voice and stood exposed before the other man.  While shame threatened to overwhelm him, Squall pushed aside his pride and morals as he allowed the onetime unknown part of him take control of his awareness.  His arousal twitched with sudden eagerness as he leaned in closer to the large man.

Almasy smirked, perhaps seeing the change in the man's attitude before him.  Unceremoniously, he draped the coolly damp towel over the hardened member and cupped a hand against the erection.  Wrapping his other arm around the lean waist, Almasy pulled the brunet closer, driving a quiet whimper from the aroused man.

"Go ahead."

With a shaky exhaled breath, Squall placed his hands on broad shoulders for support before he rocked forward into the loose hold.  While the combination of the towel and the strong hand provided interesting friction, it was proving difficult to find satisfaction when the hand wouldn't wrap around the needy organ.  And after a short while, he was beginning to wonder if he would get a friction burn in that way.

"Harder, angel."

Stormy eyes snapped open at the order and he met the heated green eyes of the blond.  A flash of humiliation burned through the winged man, but Squall was too far to simply stop.  Instead he leaned forward to rest his forehead against a bare shoulder and his hands slid back to find a firmer purchase on the golden brown skin.  With the better support, he increase his speed and force against the large hand.  By the time Squall was close to release, his breaths were harsh with the occasional whine and his eyes began to water from the frustration of struggling to obtain that moment of satisfaction.

Suddenly the cloth covered hand closed tightly around the hardened member.  "Harder," Almasy whispered directly into an ear before biting at the lobe.

The touch of pain was the final push the winged man needed as he tensed and came into the warmth of the towel.  Exhaustion then overwhelmed Squall as he slumped against the blond.  As he tried to slow his racing heartbeats, the brunet stared downward as his penis was wiped clean with a rough touch.  He then glanced at the bandaged body of the Imperial officer and stared briefly at the lack of arousal.

Shoving against the bare shoulders, Squall stumbled back a few steps before he steadied himself and glared at the blond.  "What are you doing here, Almasy?"

"Isn't it obvious?" he replied with a smirk as the soiled towel was tossed at the brunet's feet.

The narrowed glare said plainly that it wasn't apparent what the man wanted from him.

The blond's confident expression faltered before he sighed.  "I wanted to stay the night.  Maybe talk."

"We don't talk.  You fuck me, we sleep, you fuck me again, and then you leave.  That's it."

The man's smirk returned with a softer edge as Almasy stood and approached the brunet.  "Maybe when the Empress is here, yes, that's all there is for us.  But when I have you to myself, you let me have the other side of you.  The true side."

Refusing to retreat, Squall stood his ground as the larger man stepped up as close as possible and stared down at him with sharp green eyes.  A heavy arm hung over a tense shoulder and fingers gently stroked the softer feathers closest to the taut back.

"Do you think I don't notice the difference between the man who tends to my wounds and the man who sucks my dick?"

Squall scoffed.  "You're imagining things."

"Am I?" Almasy asked softy before pressing their lips together in a gentle kiss.  His warm tongue skimmed the pale lips before slipping inside with unknown tenderness.  Squall couldn't resist the sudden attraction between them as he pressed his body forward against the larger man and moaned quietly.  Almasy broke the kiss and gazed victoriously into blue-gray eyes.

"Means nothing," Squall whispered.

"Don't lie, Leonhart.  I know the difference between you and the slut I also adore."

Stormy eyes narrowed.  "You don't give a shit about me."

"Why do you say that?" Almasy asked with a raised eyebrow.  "Because I won't rescue you from here?"

"... ..."

"A-ah, but you don't see it from my side.  This way, I always know where you are, eagerly awaiting my touch I should add.  And with you imprisoned here, I know that a stray bullet isn't going to pierce through that thick skull of yours."

With stunned disbelief, Squall stared at the blond.

"I know you haven't a reason to trust me, but... the truth is that this might be the last time I'll be allowed to see you."  Stepping back, the blond took a hold of a limp hand.  "Let's lie down and talk.  I'm hurting too much to take advantage of you."

Distracted in his thoughts, Squall numbly let the commander lead him to the bed.  While the meaning of the last sentence could be applied to the man's battered body, the rebel could also hear something else implied, as if Almasy's spirit was hurting as well.  No, he knew that was the case.  And once realizing that, Squall couldn't decide what was worse - catching the disguised meaning or wanting to know what was bothering the blond.

In short time, Almasy laid stretched out on his back and Squall pressed up against the long body with a wing resting limply on top of the commander.  A hand reached down to stroke the base of the wing, rough fingertips caressing the sensitive skin.

"Did you screw up that badly?"

Almasy laughed at the accusing tone.  "Unfortunately, yes.  I didn't wrap up the scouting mission, my poor Hyperion was totaled, and two-thirds of my men are either dead or severely injured.  And that's not to mention that I was face-to-fucking-face with the rebel king, and I did shit."

Squall froze at the mentioning, not tensing, but not breathing either.

"By the way, your father is a prick."

With forced indifference, the brunet asked, "My father?"

"Don't give me that, Leonhart.  He told me himself that you're his son.  Pretty stupid of him to give the enemy information like that, especially when you've apparently gone to lengths to keep it out of common knowledge."

"... ..."

"Fine, don't admit it, but he had a message for you.  He said that he loves you and he's waiting for you to get your ass out of here, which is a load of bullshit if you ask me.  What kind of rebel king is he when he can't even save his own son from the Empress?"

Leaning up on his elbow, Squall looked at the man's face.  "Why would you relay such a message?"

Green eyes stayed focused on the ceiling as he continued to absentmindedly stroked the base of the feathered wing.  "Ultimecia isn't forgiving."

"Then why are you here?"

The blond breathed deeply.  "A foolish attempt to take all the blame and spare the lives of my men.  They've been through enough."

Stormy eyes stared at the handsome face for a moment longer before returning to his previous position.  "Maybe... Loire understands what his son wants."

Almasy chuckled quietly.  "You're a horrible liar, angel.  And it's still a pathetic excuse."

The winged man didn't counter the statement, his mind still reeling from the idea that he may never see the blond again after the coming morning.  While uncertain, Squall figured it must have been at least eight months since the Imperial officer had recaptured him.  His meetings with Almasy were sporadic during those months, and yet the brunet felt more comfortable with the commander than any other person he had been forced to be with.  Perhaps it was their common background in war, or maybe their shared sense of honor...  But Squall didn't let himself think about what could have been.

"Do you know Nida?"

The brunet closed his eyes.  "Should I?"

"Maybe.  He's one of your spies."

"... ..."

Almasy sighed.  "He's already safe in one of your bases, so you don't need to worry about that.  And... hell, I'm fucking pissed at the bastard, but he's still someone I trust with my life.  I've known him since we were fourteen and bunking together, but now... suddenly, I know shit about him.  So if you know anything..."

Feigning ignorance, Squall tried to ignore the unheard desperate tone of the commander.

"Please, Leonhart.  As a last request?"

Stormy eyes opened at the unexpected plead.  "I don't know..."  Squall paused between telling the lie or the truth before saying, "I don't know the details, but he came from a wealthy family who used to support Ultimecia.  Without warning, she turned on them, and Nida somehow witnessed the death of his family.  He was found sleeping in the burnt ruins of his home."

"Shit, I knew he was an orphan like me, but I never got it out of him how it happened."

Though hesitating about how much to tell, Squall continued to say, "He liked you.  He requested several times that we should approach you, but I vetoed his appeals."

"O-oh?  Afraid of me, were you?" Almasy asked with half-hearted humor.

"You're a power-hungry, reckless commander who doesn't fight for a purpose but for your own recognition and fortune."

The blond shifted his position, his green eyes felt by the winged man.  "Well, damn, I'm impressed.  How did you figure all of that out?"

"It's a recent analysis," Squall admitted.  "Back then, I just didn't like the look of you."

Almasy laughed, then groaning as he pressed a hand against his bruised side.  "Damn it, Leonhart, are you trying to kill me?"

The brunet didn't reply as he closed his eyes once more.

After a moment of silence, the man beneath him shifted before the lights to the room were turn off.  The hand at his back moved to his shoulder and the commander pulled him in closer.  "Thanks for humoring me."

Squall huffed, though he moved his leg to cross over one of the warmer legs and nudged his body against the larger man with the excuse of getting comfortable.

With a breathy laugh, Almasy said, "It's been nice, Leonhart.  Real nice."

Sitting on his feet in his usual position to the side of the throne, Squall stared down at the kneeling commander who kept his head bowed.  Stony eyes showed none of the turmoil occurring within the mind of the brunet.  His desire to remain apathetic about Almasy was clashing with his anger at the blond for taking the blame for everything that couldn't have been his fault.  And then there was that twinge of pain in his chest, an emotion that Squall was happy to leave nameless.

"Is that everything?" Ultimecia asked from her throne as she idly petted a woman of brown hair and floppy rabbit ears.

Almasy tensed at the icy tone.  "Yes, Your Highness.  And I accept any punishment for my failures."

The silver-haired woman laughed with sudden humor.  "Oh, my precious dragon, do not fear for your life.  In these unstable times, such incidents are expected to happen."  Directing her rabbit to the ground, Ultimecia stood gracefully and approached the kneeling man.  "Despite the disappointment you have caused, I am relieved that you returned to me alive.  Raise your head, golden one."

The blond commander followed the order, his eyes narrowing in thought as he attempted to determine the sorceress' mood behind her words.

Ultimecia trailed a bent finger along his stubble roughened cheek.  "Yes, it would have been a shame to lose you," she said, dropping her hand to the man's shoulder.  Without warning, a flash of white fire ignited from her hand and covered the man's body.  Yelling a curse in surprise, Almasy launched up to his feet and stumbled away from the silver-haired woman.

While the magical flame quickly died down to nothing, Squall briefly closed his eyes as memories assaulted him of his same experience over a year previous.  Though unwilling to witness the event, his stormy eyes reopened, the grayness shining with pity for the blond commander who stood removed of clothing.

Realizing that the fire never harmed his skin, Almasy looked at the sorceress and promptly knelt back down.  "Your Highness, don't..."

Ultimecia hushed him as she raised a single hand.  "This is not your punishment, my golden dragon.  Think of it as another way... no, a better way to serve me."

Not given the chance to speak, Almasy was surrounded by a flexible bubble of magic which gradually contracted to force the large man into a bent position despite his struggles otherwise.  Green eyes bright with panic shifted to meet the winged man's cooler gaze.  As with their first night together, Squall made certain to hold that eye contact as he vaguely shook his head in a subtle sign that the man couldn't show his fear.  Never in front of the sorceress.  Almasy visibly relaxed at the reminder, an odd smirk coming to his lips as he turned his attention back to Ultimecia.  The reckless nature of the commander shone through as he calmly waved his finger at the sorceress in a rude gesture.

The silver-haired woman gasped with true offense, then sharply motioning her hand such that the sphere rose high to the ceiling.  With concealed amusement, Squall watched the progress of the trapped man who hadn't received the customary kiss from the sorceress.  To his limited knowledge, the winged man knew of only one other person who had been 'denied' that kiss - Squall himself when he had managed to escape the hold of the guards and backhand the woman during their first meeting.  But briefly touching his choker, the brunet reminded himself of his situation.

"Already lonely, my dove?"

Squall glanced at the sorceress, but said nothing as he knew the woman would only twist his words.

With an insincere smile, Ultimecia raked her lengthy fingernails through his dark hair.  "Do not worry.  In a couple of weeks, he should be back in your bed.  Until then, there are others who will satisfy you."

"... ..."

A melodic chuckle sounded at the lack of response.  "Tonight, little dove, you will forget about that crude man."

While the sorceress returned to her throne and motioned for the guards to allow entrance to the privileged nobles, Squall stared vacantly at the dark floor in the attempt to keep himself from accidentally gazing at the trapped blond.  The rebel leader knew well what Almasy would experience over the next days.  First there was the healing, which would be a relief to the man's battered body, but the blond would soon learn what it meant to lose the hard-earned markings along his body.  Then would come the painful changing, Ultimecia preferring the slow process to make those alterations last despite the skill of powerful healers.  Though, with time came familiarity, and Squall knew he would never be rid of his unnatural wings.  To lose them would be the nearly the same as amputating his hands.

As quiet settled over the numerous nobility in the room, Squall tuned out his rampant thoughts and glanced over the relatively small group.  Most of the faces he knew and the others he could assume their identities by family colors.  Though the sorceress never spoke of truly important matters in front of the rebel leader, Squall was able to read into her speeches given to the supporting families.  There were weaknesses in her Empire, and the brunet was determined to exploit them once free of his chains.

But until that day, all the winged man could do was wait, listen, and somehow maintain his sanity.

Tainted by magic, the throne room was never a comfortable place for 'mere humans'.  Despite the large windows encircling the expansive room, light couldn't seem to pierce through the veil of magical energy.  Sunset was the worst for some, the reddish light casting a bloody hue to the room.  Squall, however, preferred that time of day, it being the moment when his wings weren't the bright white of purity and innocence, neither having much to do with the rebel leader anymore.  It was also the time when the sorceress would clear out the residing nobles and sit upon her throne while deciding upon her entertainment for the evening.

As common with that time of day, the sounds of overly loud moans echoed in the sparsely decorated hall emptied of everyone but the sorceress and her pets.  With Ultimecia apparently amused while toying with the woman bearing black cat ears, Squall allowed himself a glance at the large sphere hovering near the high ceiling.  On occasion, groans of pain would sound from the transparent bubble, the entrapped blond serving as a reminder to the nobles that everyone was expendable if they displeased the Empress.  Even highly honored officers.

An almost screeching moan abruptly sounded, Squall closing his eyes in pity for the lost woman.  Most of the varied pets had given into their bodily desires, shame and dignity surrendered for that moment of release.  But when they no longer cared for anything but that release, Ultimecia would typically become bored with those pets.  And with boredom came death.

So it was no surprise when the cat was knocked to the floor, the sorceress sighing in disgust.  "Come here, my dove."

After the silent count of three, Squall followed the order and moved on his knees to the overly large throne.  A manicured hand reached down to cup his face, thus insuring that the winged man stared directly into golden eyes gleaming with power.

Dark lips curled in amusement.  "You would resist me until your final breath.  That pleases me," she said with a purr.  "I wonder if your love will show as much as courage when he is reborn."

Stormy eyes narrowed slightly at the woman's continued attempt to bait him with Almasy.

Ultimecia reached back to caress a wing and sighed.  "It's a shame that I was pressed to change you.  I could have done so much more with this body.  But your love... I have been planning his transformation for many months.  He will be my masterpiece."

As the silver-haired woman taunted him, Squall became briefly distracted by something else - a familiar noise.  It took several seconds to recognize the piercing hum which could have been easily mistaken for a breeze if he hadn't been paying attention.  While disappointed at himself for the unavoidable surge of hope, the rebel leader quickly realized that he had to divert the sorceress' attention in the vague chance that someone was truly planning to attack the throne room.

"Tell me, my dove, should I add horns to our dragon, or is that a step too far?" the woman asked, her eyes glittering with vindictive humor.

Giving the sorceress the reaction she wanted, blue-gray eyes flicked over to the hovering sphere and then back to the woman, Squall attempting a shamed look as if he hadn't wanted to show his worry for the former commander.

Ultimecia laughed before leaning in close.  "Have I finally discovered your weakness?" she asked before kissing him.  The touch disgusted him, but his choker burned at the mere thought of biting the sorceress, and so Squall let the woman have what she wanted.

The sudden chain of explosions brought a fast end to the sickening kiss, the sorceress sitting back in her throne with surprise.  Despite his initial shocked state at the fierceness of the explosion, Squall was immediately on his feet and running for the edge of the stairs.  The moment he jumped into flight, gunfire sounded in the expansive room, the echoes of the empty hall making it difficult to determine the number of attacking persons.

But uncaring about the attack except for the distraction it provided, Squall flew fast and hard to the orb hovering at the ceiling.  In truth he had no idea of how to free the man, and he instantly realized that it probably wasn't the best idea to leave himself completely open to attack, but Squall didn't care.  Not slowing his approach, the winged man slammed into the sphere and was surprised by how easily it moved.  The large bubble had been launched from its position and flung toward a wall.  Wasting precious seconds while regaining his midair balance, Squall followed the sphere, his eyes widening when the orb smashed against the dark stone and simply popped into nothingness.  With a fast dive, the winged man just barely grabbed onto the falling blond, but given the man's greater weight, Squall could only slow their decent to minimize their injuries.

Dropping heavily to the ground, Almasy received the worse of it as he yelled out in the unexpected pain, the cry encouraging Squall to recover quickly as he knelt over the prone man and unconsciously sheltered him with the spread of wings.  Stormy eyes widened at the sight of the partly changed man, but he quickly composed himself before the blond opened his eyes hazed with pain.


His mask almost lost at hearing his given name spoken by the scratchy voice, the brunet nodded.  "Can you move?"

Green eyes shifted without much clarity.  "You're bleeding."

Squall glanced back at his wing, first noticing the bullet wound coating his feathers with redness.  "I'm fine.  But, Almasy, can you move?"

Before the blond could manage any type of reply, Squall felt the familiar hardness of a pistol being pressed against the side of his head.  The winged man briefly closed his eyes with irritation at being caught off guard.

"Release the Commander," a deeply toned voice ordered.

Unwilling to move, Squall continued to look into green eyes which narrowed in confusion.

"Raijin?  What the hell...  Get your grimy hands off of Leonhart!" the blond snapped as he sat up sharply, obviously a bad idea when he groaned and looked about ready to pass out.  Unthinking, Squall wrapped his arm behind the man and carefully helped him to lie flat on the floor.  Almasy raised a hand to his forehead, then wincing at the feel of thick claws.  Staring at the transformed hand, enlarged with golden scales and black claws, the blond laughed.  "Fuck, I probably can't pretend that this is just a dream, can I?"

"What happened to ya?" the intruder asked as he lowered his gun.

Almasy didn't answer him, perhaps preferring denial after all.  Below his left eye, golden scales had formed, covering most of the cheek.  While his front torso was free of change aside from lacking hair, the rest of his body held the same patches of scales.  The greatest change seemed to be the right hand and forearm covered in scales, the man's left arm spared of any transformations thus far.  Squall frowned at the knowledge he held of what was to come for the former commander if he wasn't freed.

Lightning flashed and thundered in the destroyed room, shortly followed by screams and the yelling of names.  The large man apparently named Raijin cursed and ran to the front of the room to help his men.  Kneeling as he was, Squall couldn't see much over the pile of rubble caused by the previous explosion, but he knew well about the damage the sorceress could cause with her magic.

"They aren't supposed to be here," Almasy muttered, still staring at his changed hand.

Squall had no reply to offer as he returned his attention to the blond.

"Won't you help them?" the blond asked tiredly, a soft smirk appearing.  "As a favor for me?"

"I would," the winged man stated as he stroked the choker at his throat.

"Fucking piece of shit..."

Without warning, Almasy grabbed at the ribbon-like necklace, his new claws sinking into skin as he tried to find purchase behind the interfering item.  Squall winced as the man pulled at the choker, not achieving much more than partly strangling the brunet.  But then several flashes of lightning once again energized the room.  Squall nearly fell backward when the necklace snapped and was quickly tossed into a pile of fallen debris.

The brunet placed a hand at his throat, but then quickly smashed his instinct to determine how the choker had been broken.  Pushing up to his feet, he ran into the small battle zone while zigzagging between the few piles of wall.  Eventually Squall found what he was looking for and yanked a large knife from the holster a fallen soldier.  Pausing there to collect his calm, the rebel leader glanced over the battle ahead of him.  He was instantly surprised and disappointed by the low numbers of soldiers fighting, something Ultimecia must have found amusing given her smirk and taunting tactics.

With a deep breath, Squall brushed back his lengthy bangs before attempting to climb the mount of rock.  Once steady at a decent height, the brunet launched up and flew towards the silver-haired woman.  The winged man had no illusions of catching the sorceress off guard, but he smirked at her expression once she noticed him in flight.  Ultimecia returned the smile, her relaxed stance proving her lack of concern about his approach.

It was obvious the moment she realized that the white choker no longer wrapped around the rebel's throat.  As a deep frown replaced the amused expression, her hand shot up with sparks of electricity crawling around the length of her arm.  But by then, Squall was already diving with the knife raised.  When the lightning strike hit him, the winged man faltered briefly but overcame the attack he had suffered through many times before.  His body still burning from the contact with electricity and darkness threatening his peripheral vision, Squall slammed into the silver-haired woman with his knife held high.

There was eerie silence for the several moments after the ungraceful attack, Squall then shakily pushing himself up into a seated position.  Blue-gray eyes were icy as they focused on the face of the fallen empress and the hilt of the blade impaled through one golden eye.  Knowing that the injury wouldn't keep the sorceress dead, Squall reached out for the hilt, but it oddly seemed to move further out of reach.  By the time he realized that he was tilting, the threatening haze of darkness finally took over his sight and he dropped to his side.  There was a moment of sound as the soldiers foolishly cheered for their victory, and despite his attempts to speak, Squall slipped into unconsciousness.

On the edge of awareness, Squall was subjected to the sounds of nearly frantic moans from a short distance away.  Though not remembering the apparent session of sex, the winged man was momentarily unbothered by the crude groans of pleasure.  But then he recognized the deep moans as belonging to a certain blond commander.  Once memories of the short battle struck Squall, his eyes snapped open with the panic that they had been recaptured by the sorceress.

The scene before him quickly appeased his fears as he focused on the sight of Almasy eating heartily into a large sandwich containing easily three layers of meat and various concessions which dripped onto the small table practically buried in food stuffs.  Squall sighed at the man's understandable gluttony given his days without food, something the winged man had suffered through twice after the tasking transformations.  But then confusion set in as the brunet didn't recognize his surroundings in the least.

"Oh, yer awake," Almasy muttered around a mouthful of food, then chewed some more before swallowing.  "Enjoy your little nap?"

After sitting up carefully, Squall pressed fingers against his throbbing temple.  "What happened?  I remember up to you removing my choker... and I think I managed to get a knife..."

Green eyes widened at the question, the blond then setting down his sandwich.  "Don't tell me that you forget killing that bitch."

The winged man stared at him, annoyed at being asked the obvious, and then shook his head.

"Shit, it was the most incredible thing I've seen.  By the time I managed to get off my ass, you were already in flight like some avenging angel, heading directly for the whore.  She attacked you with this lightning spell, but she had reacted too late and you ended up crashing right into her.  It was a beautiful sight to see that blade shoved into her skull."

While most of it was still hazy, Squall did remember sitting over the limp body of the sorceress. "What happened after that?  Did you remove her head?"

"Huh?" Almasy voiced with some disgust.  "You killed her, Leonhart.  Why would we do that?"

"What did you do with her then?"

"We had to get out of there in a hurry.  There were guards practically knocking down the door once they realized that the Imperial ship on the scene was one which caused all the damage in the first place.  But why does it matter anyway?  She's dead, nicely laid out for those noble fucks to gawk at."

"She's a sorceress, you idiot.  Their powers make them immortal unless you separate the brain from the heart."

The blond stared at him for a moment before stating lamely, "But... you killed her."

"No, severely wounded her.  She'll heal and come back," Squall said distractedly as guilt burned through him.  She had been right there, passed out beneath him, and he had failed to rid the world of her toxic existence.  There was no excuse for such a pathetic failure.

"Shit, shit, shit!" Almasy yelled out as he slammed his unchanged hand against the table.  "Are you telling me that she's going to wake up any minute now with revenge on the brain?  I lost six people there, Leonhart.  Six out of the fifteen I managed to drag back home in the first place.  I don't want to lose anymore boys for these fucking pointless reasons!"

Looking at the face reddened in anger, Squall nodded at the reminder that he shouldn't dwell on the past when dangers awaited in the future.  "Where are we headed?"

The blond hesitated before replying, "We're about fifty miles out of the capitol heading south.  Most of the boys have family there."

"So we haven't being traveling for long," the rebel leader commented as he quickly sifted through several possibilities of what to do with the soldiers.  "If you are willing to be prisoners, I can guarantee your safety."

"Whoa, you want me to surrender to you or some bullshit like that?"

"At first.  Later, if you and your men want to join us against Ultimecia, that can be arranged.  Once your loyalties have been tested, of course."

Green eyes narrowed in serious thought as they focused on the brunet.  Meeting the implied challenge, Squall didn't break their eye contact as he let the former commander judge the sincerity of the given proposal.  Almasy then stood from his chair and crossed the short distance to the bedside where he stood tall in front of the seated man.  Lifting his transformed hand, he gently cupped the brunet's face.  When Squall didn't react aside from unconsciously leaning into the unusual touch, Almasy lightly ran the claw of his thumb over the lower lip.

"Why aren't you afraid of this?"

Squall shrugged.  "You aren't out to hurt me."

"But I have hurt you.  Several times.  Hell, those scratches on your throat were deep enough to need stitches."

"As if you couldn't have done worse," he stated with a soft smirk.  The brunet then reached up to hold onto the scaled hand.  "Against better judgment and all reasonable logic, I trust you."

Green eyes shifted warily before Almasy knelt down before the shorter man and then cautiously brushed their lips together.  Squall breathed a chuckle, quickly taking control as he deepened the testing kiss.  Moving a hand behind the thick neck and under the loose shirt, the brunet ran his fingers down the line of scales covering a good deal of the man's upper back.  Reaching the edge where skin met scales, Squall smirked into the kiss when a rumbling groan escaped the blond.

Their joining soon broken, Almasy didn't retreat far as his eyes stared into stormy blue.  "I could turn on you."

"And you would if you could be certain that Ultimecia wouldn't continue what she started," Squall stated while repeatedly stroking his fingers from scale to skin.

"You really think that you know me, don't you?"

"I know what I need to know."

An uncertain smile formed, but quickly disappeared with a sigh as Almasy rested his forehead against the brunet's.  "I surrender with the request of asylum for myself and my men."

"I accept your surrender," Squall replied softly.  "Introduce me to your navigator and I'll give him the proper coordinates to a safe point.  We'll contact my people from there."

Leaning back, the blond lightly glared at the man.  "I'm trusting you with my men, Leonhart.  I don't want them accidentally shot by some kid in your little army."

Squall held back the offense he felt at his word being doubted.  Instead he placed a hand at the shirt-covered chest and silently wondered, maybe hoped, if Almasy was trusting him with more than just his men.  "If you trust me, then trust me."

Taking hold of the hand with his unchanged hand, the blond smirked lightly.  "Alright, I get the point.  I do trust you.  Probably more than I trust myself, but..."

The rebel leader was easily able to read the implied statement that Almasy was able to risk himself in the name of 'trust', but the others dependent on him were another matter.  "Your men will be safe, Seifer," he assured the former commander.

Once his surprise passed, the blond closed his eyes in relief and chuckled quietly.  "Maybe this shitty situation will work out after all."



Author's Whining -- To summarize the rant that I feel like writing - bleh.  It's just been an annoying string of month after month, and it's hard to concentrate on writing when other things aren't going as I hoped.  Things should get better, hopefully soon, but until then, you all will have to deal with my slow updates. =P

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