A.N.: *pokes head up from behind barricade* Is FFN working yet? YES!!!!! Better get on with posting, then...

While I was writing this I had the song Sex Child by the Hail Marys on in the background. It might be worth looking it up because it fits the mood of the chapter kind of exactly. (Yes, it's performed by two lesbian women instead of two gay men. That hardly matters, does it?)

WARNING: Yep, this chapter bears an NC-17 rating. Yaoi lemoniness and not much else; Squall and Seifer decided to take a little break from all that exhausting plot and tire each other out in...different ways. Enjoy.

DISCLAIMER: Squaresoft still owns Final Fantasy VIII, and I think if Hironobu Sakaguchi read this chapter it might even surprise him a little to see what the characters got up to while he wasn't looking.

Darkened Sunrise

Chapter Twenty - Of Joys And Passions

By Persephone

The deadlock on the front door clicked. Squall didn't turn round, didn't even raise his head from where he lay curled into a pile of pillows with his face buried in a wrinkle of the oversized jumper he wore. He knew the man who stood in the doorway so well that there was no need for such precautions, such fears.

He heard deceptively light footfalls approach his bed, felt a soft hand on his shoulder, swallowed back a smile at the sound of a deep, amused chuckle echoing round the bedchamber. "Hey, I recognise this," Seifer murmured, taking a fold of the blue-green woollen cuff between two long fingers. "Stop the presses. Balamb's most overpaid SeeD resorts to theft to keep warm."

Squall snatched back his arm, twitching his hand further back up the sleeve. "I didn't bring any sweaters," he defended. "Heating's so high no-one needs them here. And it smells nice," he added in a lower tone. It was the truth, nothing but. The jumper smelt of sweat and deodorant and aftershave and gunblade oil, all mixed up in a heady cocktail of Seiferness that threatened to destabilise Squall completely. He already felt like he was floating on a raft down Trabia Canyon. Adrenaline-full, and out of control.

The warmth of Seifer's smile washed over him, sinking into his achy muscles and relaxing him as much as a full-body massage. "I'll have to stop laundering my clothes." The bed dipped as Seifer settled his weight onto the edge. Squall reached out without speaking and squeezed his lover's hand. Seifer gave a small, pleasured sigh and lay down alongside Squall, taking him into his arms. Squall wriggled down till he was as close to Seifer as possible. This was a lot better than just snuggling up with a jumper. The jumper didn't cuddle back, and it wasn't warm, and it didn't have that soothing heartbeat that thudded directly into his ear.

They lay like that for some time, until Squall descended into a half-asleep haze that only served to make the whole situation seem unreal. The past three days had been horrendous in the main but - there was something in the air now, a kind of relaxation, a sort of closeness and acceptance, that had been almost absent from their quiet moments previously, when he'd been staggering under the weight of his secrets. He'd almost never been afraid of being with Seifer but he'd never before felt so languid and peaceful just from the sensation of a tender hand running through his hair.

That might have been that, they might have fallen asleep then and there, if Seifer hadn't said very quietly, "Squall, if I've hurt you at any time in the last few months, I want you to know I didn't mean it and I'm more sorry than I can say."

"I know you didn't mean to. Not the kind of thing you could have expected." Still so sleepy. The room was nice and warm, and Seifer's chest was such a comfortable pillow...

Seifer's breath audibly trembled in his throat. If he'd been anyone else Squall would have thought he was on the verge of tears for the second time that day. "But I knew you were hurting. I knew there was something wrong. I just never dreamed..."

Squall leant up and cut him off with a kiss. "It wasn't you who hurt me," he said more forcefully. "I always knew that. I -" He broke off, not liking what he saw in Seifer's eyes.

"You didn't always want to be touched. Did you? You didn't always want to have sex. I forced you -"

"It wasn't the same as what they did."

The air felt thick around him. He dropped his head, hid his face in Seifer's chest again. "I'm sorry," the whisper floated down to him, "I didn't mean to remind you..."

"They would have killed me. They told me they would if I didn't whore myself for them. I hated them, and I hated myself - it's so hard not to..."

"You mustn't!" Seifer pulled his head up, cupped his face, stared down into his eyes with a blazing emotion in his own gaze so intense that Squall couldn't look away. "You mustn't," he repeated, quieter but with just as much emphasis. "You're too good for that."

"Too good? I - I don't know about that. I - it's getting easier to - it doesn't hurt so much any more. Thinking about it. But for so long I thought I - I'd done something so terrible - even when I told Alex Brannard, just after it happened. He - he said it wasn't bad of me to do what they wanted, to save my life - I thought he didn't understand - I thought no-one would like me anymore if they knew."

"Squall! You're so wrong. I love you, it's right for me to love you - you deserve it! But I - that doesn't mean I - I can't..." The glazed look crossed Seifer's face again and he pulled his hands away like the touch hurt him. Squall felt a flash of pain sharper than a blade tip in his heart before he realised the truth. Seifer thought he didn't want to be touched anymore. Couldn't he see...?

I can't leave it like that. But I can't - I...I can't do this. I can't. No, I've got to get a grip. I can. If I can go outside time to attack killer sorceresses, I can handle their ex-knights in a very real bedroom. I can do it. No, I can't. Screw it. I'm going to have to, aren't I? Squall slowly reached out and took his boyfriend's limp wrist in one strong hand. If only he didn't know how hard his own heart was thudding... "Seifer, you know - it's my mind that's been hurting all these months - not my body. Don't you?" A nod answered him. "And do you know what hurt me just as much as the memory of being raped?" Seifer just looked blank. "Thought not. There's something you don't quite understand.

"What hurt was - I didn't know how to be with people any more. I couldn't talk to them, touch them - let them touch me. I didn't know how people could stand to be with me anymore - I - I let go of them before they could hurt me first. Rinoa was the only one close enough to notice a change. I couldn't even hold her - she thought I'd gone off women and left in a huff. I guess I thought the others would say something similar and just go. So I went first. And after a while I was all on my own in the middle of a crowd of people - hurting like crazy. I couldn't let anyone in to take the pain away; I was sure they would think I was really mad. But then you came back. You stayed with me even when I was in my worst moods. You - you reminded me how to touch people again."

Squall lifted Seifer's hand to his face. The blond man stared at it like he couldn't get over the difference in their skin tones. "It frightened me at first," Squall went on in a softer tone, "and I guess it still does, a little. But it thrills me so much at the same time - it's like a drug. I don't ever want you to stop touching me, Seifer. Even when I'm crying because I hate the way I was touched once. Because I know you won't hurt me." He brushed the hand further across his face, kissed the callused fingers one by one, never letting his eyes stray from Seifer's face because he didn't want to stop watching the slowly brightening dawn of wonder floating across him.

He finally let Seifer's hand come to rest in the curve of his neck and reached out to mirror the pose. Moving slowly - as slowly as I can, so I don't have to pull back, so I know I'm the one in control - he slid into Seifer's side and wormed his way up his body, never stopping his gentle caresses that now ghosted across the other man's shoulders and neck. He came to a halt when their heads reached a level, when he hovered over Seifer like a bird about to come to roost - about to come home. Seifer's jewel-bright eyes hung below him, soft and almost warm in their regard. The familiar spectre of the pain of abandonment was mocking Squall but he paid it no attention. For once, he could believe it lied to him.

And maybe I can silence it forever.

"What do you see, when you look at me like that?" he whispered, his voice so low that it wouldn't carry outside the cavern of their intertwined bodies.

Seifer's hand tightened fractionally. "I see you. Just you - everything about you - you're so wonderful. It's like you're shining."

"Is that why you love me?"

"I think it's because I love you," and the lazy smile Squall had once feared he would never see turned on him again spread across Seifer's lips. He answered it with his own abbreviated version - he'd always found it strange how affected Seifer was just by seeing his pathetic attempt at a smile - and leant down to taste his lover's mouth. Just that tiny rush of sensation made him tremble all over.

"You love me," he breathed into Seifer's mouth, "but I wonder -" kiss - "if you can -" kiss - "control yourself enough -" kiss - "to learn -" kiss - "some new ground rules."

"SeeD code of conduct? Suits me great." Squall tossed his forelock out of his eyes, half-sat up. Seifer's body was hard with passion but he hadn't moved. He stayed down, under Squall, even his wrists pressed hard into the mattress, as if he understood what Squall wanted - needed - before he even had the chance to explain.

"Don't startle me in bedrooms. Don't hold me too tight. Take the lead if you want, but don't try to control me. Don't start oral sex unless you've asked if I'm OK with it. Don't tell me I'm pretty. Don't tell me I want it, or you. Don't let go of me afterwards." He punctuated the words with long, flowing strokes of his hands that he was sure would all but cut through clothing straight into Seifer's body and soul. "And remember I always want to be able to look at you. If I can see you, I know who you are, and I know Seifer Almasy will never hurt me, never humiliate me."

One of Seifer's hands slowly rose from the pillow to stroke the scar down the centre of Squall's forehead. "I hurt you in the past because of my own glory-hunting and pride. I never want to do it again."

"I know."

The first kiss was fragile, questing, like neither of them knew how to love within a new framework; the second was deeper and stronger as Seifer's body caught up with what his mind must have already realised, that he had asked a question and Squall had given the answer they both wanted. Squall's grip tightened as he started to move with the kiss, to let out some of the passion that built up higher and higher inside him. Now as almost never before he wanted Seifer so badly it hurt. It was almost with desperation that he diverted one of his lover's hands to his fly. He suddenly couldn't stand to be in his clothes another second.

He raised himself on his hands and knees and pulled off Seifer's jumper and his own shirt all at once. Half-undressed, he stared down at Seifer, at the mingled lust and love playing across his face. He searched for signs that with him it would never be just a quick roll in the sheets with no internal meaning; never a few minutes spent satisfying one partner's physical needs with no thought for the other's wishes. Somehow he thought he found what he was looking for in the way their souls seemed to twine together as easily as their bodies. They were two men united. Somehow one.

His hands dropped to Seifer's chest. Wilfully restraining himself, he started unfastening the big man's shirt one button at a time, smiling broadly at the little sounds Seifer made and the way he kept trying to move more of his hypersensitive skin beneath Squall's hands. "Patience is a virtue," he teased, "that any SeeD needs. Patience - to bear the waiting before a battle -"

Seifer snorted, if somewhat breathlessly. "This? A battle? I don't want to - fight you - to win or lose."

"Love and war," and Squall's hands finally made it to Seifer's belt. "Just love and war." He loosened the other man's pants without looking, bending for a fierce kiss as he did so. Seifer's back arched as Squall brushed his erection with shadow fingers. His mouth under Squall's twisted with what might have been a plea. Squall sucked at his tongue, tried to convey his own impatience with the waiting along with his desperate craving for the foreplay. For he needed this rhythm that had been building up between them since their very first time. It reassured him. Comforted him. Told him that surrender and submission were not the same thing.

And while they moved in their mating dance, did Seifer feel the rhythm too? Did he feel how much Squall had to trust him, to even contemplate this act? He didn't know, and suddenly he was afraid. If Seifer couldn't see how far their bond ran, did that mean it was weaker for him than for Squall? Would he be the one to break away?

"Please don't leave me," Squall whispered against the skin of Seifer's throat. He tried to make it not sound like he was begging but it came out as a strangled entreaty, despite all his attempts. But his lover grinned and reached out and stroked his cheek and hair in a manner as reassuring as it was sensual.

"I'll stay, don't worry. By your side - always." Squall felt a little smile distort his lips. He just had time to think about what the expression felt like before Seifer half-sat up and kissed past it.

Squall rolled back onto his knees, letting Seifer move with him, till he was squatting on his haunches over the blond man's legs and the blond in question was sitting upright, leaning on him in an attempt to press their bodies as close together as possible. His trousers were round his ankles: Seifer's still covered his legs, but hung open at the crotch. Their flying erections rubbed together with just enough dry friction to tickle without hurting. Squall kicked his own trousers aside and started to wriggle Seifer's off him. The blond squirmed round to help him as much as he could without pulling away.

As the combat pants went flying Seifer sat back down hard on the bed. For the first time in a few minutes he leant back far enough so he could look Squall in the eyes. "Are you absolutely sure?" he asked, low and serious.

Squall nodded impatiently. "Who started this?" Seifer's ready smile returned with not a hint of bitterness. Without replying he reached over to the nightstand and took the tube of lubricant out of the drawer. Squall pulled it from his hand before the inevitable question could arise; he twisted off the cap with one quick movement and started anointing Seifer with it. The blond's breath whistled over his teeth. Squall's eyes flicked back up to Seifer's face. He couldn't help venting a breathless giggle at the look in the other man's eyes. "See something you like?"

"Just watching you do that is so hot," Seifer answered, his voice deeper, huskier.

"I'll have something hotter for you in a moment," Squall teased. He squeezed out another fingerful of lube. He frowned for half a second as he reached round behind himself. Yes, he had long fingers, but they'd never quite seemed long enough for this. He considered asking Seifer for help, decided the other man would get far too much fun out of tickling him in his favourite places, and manfully started rubbing slippy stuff around and just inside his entrance. Across from him, Seifer tried to repress a chortle. "What?" Squall demanded.

"You look so cute when you're concentrating," Seifer defended.

"So I'm a little more serious than you. Hit me."

Seifer pantomimed the gunblade slash that had nearly cost Squall an eye four years ago. It looked a little strange, mainly due to his nudity and to the fact that the invisible weapon seemed to be protruding from his groin. The movement brought him up a little straighter. "I'm serious about this too," he defended. "About you. Us."

"I'm still having to pinch myself that there is an us. You picked your way through most of my sexual hang-ups without trying." Almost done...maybe he needed just a little more...

Seifer laid his hands on Squall's waist in the dichotomous strong-yet-tender way he had. It had to be magic that had given him those hands. "And am I glad I've got that built-in radar. Just look at the wonderful boyfriend it got me." His eyes flicked to Squall's face, as if to check whether he'd said too much; reassured, he kissed the tip of Squall's nose with a finesse that should not have been possible in his aroused condition. Unable to stop himself, Squall hummed a high, happy note before dropping to a level with Seifer.

"There's nowhere I'd rather be than with you," he breathed. "And there're few things I'd like to do as much as this." With that, he fastened his lips hard onto the pair in front of him, and in the same instant he lowered himself onto Seifer's waiting sex.

The pain was fleeting, nothing but a touch of muscular strain, before the pleasure hit him full force. Seifer tossed his head back, crying out with delight. Squall dropped his face into the crook of his lover's shoulder and took a fold of strongly corded skin into his mouth. Silly to almost keel over from what was only a prodding from the senses. Yet, as Squall clenched his thighs and rose in Seifer's lap, he wondered somewhere in his mind whether he should have considered it sensory overload.

He gently worked himself up and down Seifer's erection, keeping the fact of his own control of the situation in the front of his mind all the while. Yes, he'd been used in the past. But there had to come a point where he had to trust again. Now, with Seifer, he felt he could - had felt that since he'd taken the man by the hand ten days ago.

And trust came so much easier when liquid fire flooded his veins from the ground up, when the ecstasy of coupling gripped him so tightly he didn't know whether to laugh or cry, when he could feel his lover's harsh breathing inside his own lungs, they were so close...

Seifer wrapped a hand round Squall's hardness, working at his sensitive skin with more enthusiasm than gentleness. There was a time for subtlety and it was not now. Squall arched his back, leant into the touch, sobbed wordlessly. The frenetic burst of sensation that rippled through his abdomen - the fullness of their final consummation, the grasp that proved their synthesis - was more excitation that any man could withstand. The wave peaked in a climax that took Squall as close to heaven as he would ever be.

He sagged with post-coital shock and swayed into Seifer, sending them both flying onto the mattress. Seifer thrust his hips upward one more time and released, hard. Squall felt his shudders, reached out to him with a hand that felt almost boneless. The warmth they'd created bridged whatever infinitesimal gap there might have been between them. It sank into every pore of Squall's skin, relaxed him, told him in a voice that brooked no argument that he was where he belonged. "Love you," he whispered into Seifer's breastbone. He couldn't say any more.

Seifer tucked a finger under Squall's chin and raised his head till they were looking each other in the eye. Squall saw the smile, felt the tendrils of love stretching from him, and wished he had the strength to be as much of a comfort to Seifer as Seifer was to him. As if Seifer had read his thoughts he tugged Squall upwards and kissed him full on the lips, not like the hard urgent kisses they'd exchanged earlier but in an altogether more intimate caress. "That was special. You're special. Remember it."

"I will." The glamour other people accorded him was something so easy to forget. But right here, right now, pillowed on his love's body and surrounded by the scent and feel of their union, he could believe he never would. He could believe the fairy tale that he would make all right with the world one day. Not tonight, though...and Squall tucked his head under Seifer's chin and closed his eyes.


(to be continued...)

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