Disclaimer: the characters and places contained herein do not belong to me and I make no claim or money from this. I can't even claim responsibility for most of the idea because it came from both Race Ulfson and the song "Hurt" covered by Johnny Cash.

With many thanks to Pixie, Acid Rain and Astraea.

This fanfiction is dedicated in its entirety to Race Ulfson, also known as the beta babe who usually previews all my stuff and tells me where I've fucked up.


Chapter 5

By Darksquall

Thought about it so many times
Too afraid to open your eyes
To see the sadness that's inside
Just sit back in and stop time

Manic Street Preachers You're tender and you're tired.


He'd been sitting up for a while now.

Squall felt awful. His head throbbed, and his limbs ached with a dull heavy pain that he could not relieve no matter how he rubbed at the affected muscles. His breathing was shallow and uneven, a sweat spreading over his pale skin as he attempted futilely to force his limbs to still their trembling. He couldn't stop, his body betraying his weakness.

His captor-cum-boyfriend slipped into the room with him, carrying an armful of clean clothes. The beautiful jade green eyes strafed him slowly and a smirk curled his lips. "Wanna fold?"

Turning his gaze from Seifer to his still bandaged shoulder and back again, Squall arched one delicate chocolate eyebrow at him. "You have a spare?"

"You mean you can't fold one handed?" The taller man grinned at him.

"Not to a satisfactory standard, no."

Dumping the clothes on the floor Squall winced at that, how could he be so messy? How could he do that with his clean clothes? Seifer strolled to his bedside and crouched down to gaze at him. His features took on that now familiar worried expression as he brushed back his lover's too dark hair, Squall was growing to hate that expression, it made him feel even weaker than he was. "You don't look good, Squall.

"I'm fine." Squall stated softly, flexing his left hand restlessly. Even his fingers hurt.

"You're not fine. Your skin is grey. That's not fine." Seifer still looked worried, the concern in his eyes making Squall's heart ache almost as much as his limbs and his back ached.

Squall looked down at his chest; covered in the soft, grey flannel of the pyjamas Seifer had dressed him in the previous day. "Seifer....that's the pyjamas..."

"You're sweating." The taller man moved closer, peering at his lover intently. "Stop jerking me around Squall, are you in pain?"

He tugged away from the hand, twisting his back awkwardly as he tried to avoid the touch that would make Seifer give him that look again. The pain that shot through his body was like a thundaga spell, electric shivers of agony alighting along his spine and making him pant with the effort to not just cry out. "I'm fine."

Seifer's hand found his forehead, the cool skin of his palm making him feel almost relieved for a moment. "You're shaking."

Squall knocked the hand away, his blue-grey eyes barely focusing on Seifer as he glared at the elder man. "Almasy..."

"Hey, Squall." Seifer's voice changed, no longer teasing. He sounded softer, gentler, so different from what his lover was waiting for and expecting. The growling hunger crawling through Squall's veins made him tremble even harder beneath the careful green gaze of the taller man, his fear and agony as tangible in his system as a Marlboro's poison. He hated himself, hated Seifer for making him feel even more vulnerable. "You don't have to pretend okay? If something's wrong, you can just tell me."

He half believed it was all a dream. And the other half of him was waiting for the other shoe to drop. He knew it wouldn't last long, he couldn't even dream of Seifer still wanting him as soon as he heard the story, heard the truth. Nervously, he folded his good arm over his chest, his teeth worrying at the pale skin of his fingertips.

The flesh reddened at the abuse afforded to it. "I'm okay." Squall murmured, as though if he said it enough times eventually it would come true.

"Fine, I can't make you trust me." Seifer paused and sighed softly. "Would something to drink help?"

"I trust you" Squall's voice was barely above a whisper, and his response to Seifer's question was simply a nod.

His lover returned quickly, offering a glass of water with a few fresh slices of lemon floating in the liquid. Squall took it, almost spilling it and ordering himself to clutch the tumbler to his chest, he whispered a "thank you." Squall's hands were shaking so badly even that couldn't hold the vessel still, and the water trembled and splashed along the walls of its prison, daring to seek an escape.

The cravings were getting stronger. The monster crawling through his blood and invading his brain was getting more insistent.

Seifer wanted to be pissed. He wanted to get mad and shout and scream and berate the shuddering form that had been presented to him, but he found he simply couldn't. With Squall looking so weak, so ill, his wants simply melted away with his sorrow. "When are you gonna start telling me the truth, babe?"

"What truth? I'm telling the truth."

"You look like shit." Seifer crossed his arms over his chest, the position unconsciously defensive, protecting his heart from all the hurt he knew would follow if Squall finally did talk, finally admitted what was wrong. "You're shaking like a leaf. You're cold and clammy and you won't look me in the face. What are you trying to kick and how long has it been since you had it?"

Squall forced himself to meet Seifer's eyes, though he could only hold out for a few minutes before the nervous energy alighting through his body made him turn away, his paranoia feeding from his fear and vulnerability and growing with each passing moment. "Not trying to kick anything."

With a nod, Seifer picked up his laundry, heading back into the other room and ignoring Squall completely.

Two could play at being the childish secretive idiot. And if he stayed in there a moment longer he was going to end up hurting Squall again or going mad from the effort to prevent that.

Squall set the glass down on the bedside table very slowly, trying not to pay attention to the consistent swirl of movement that the entire room danced in. He almost missed the first time, the glass almost slipping from his fingers, water splashing over the rim and dripping onto the floor before he finally managed to settle the glass on the surface.

Sitting back, he scratched at his wrist. The entirety of his skin felt as though tiny insects and geezards were crawling over him, the tiny, itchy, scratchy sensations joined by the slick, slimy texture he could only liken to the creatures that haunted the Galbadian deserts. He hated it, he wanted to scratch until he bled or dive in a cold shower to rinse the invisible creatures off him.

Squall's limbs still ached, more painful than a Flare spell's strike.

He allowed himself to scratch at the tender flesh along the inside of his good arm, the rough, healing lines of his scars caught and dragged beneath his fingernails.

The crimson blood beaded along the scar, rolling down the pale skin.

Seifer hated that the quiet brunette would not be straight with him. He hated even more that he couldn't be mad at Squall, after all, it just was Squall. The silence, the brooding, the attitude colder than Shiva's asscrack.

When he returned just to check on his patient, he found Squall staring at his bloodied arm, as though entranced.

"...What the hell are you doing?"

Squall's head snapped up, blinking at his lover in surprise. He hadn't heard him enter the room, he'd been too lost in how pretty the blood looked against his skin, how much it made him feel better. A release that he could not have found without that cut. "Doing?"

"Look at your arm."

The blue-grey gaze returned to the ruby beads rolling down his arm to pool on the flat of his elbow, tiny droplets littering his alabaster skin like a beautiful and delicate beaded glove. The red made his skin look paler than the black leather he usually wore, making the lack of colour ever more intense. "Oh... that."

With an exasperated sound, Seifer stalked into the bathroom, returning with a small first aid kit. He gave the quiet brunette an irritated look, an aura of grouchiness surrounding him like the bitter smoke of Squall's cigarettes. Heavy and thick, the weight of it was almost oppressive. "Are you trying my patience on purpose or something?"

"What patience?" Squall questioned as he made sure the blood didn't drip on the bed clothes. He didn't want to leave any mess for Seifer to have to clean up later, he didn't want to endanger the blonde anymore than he already had with just his presence.

Seifer's jaw tensed, his hands curling into tight fists. His anger made him want to lash out, to strike at Squall and make him shut up; make him stop being such a little idiot. He could not scream at Squall, his patient, he could not scream and shake the love of his life until he snapped out of it. "The patience I just lost."

The smaller man lifted his head, watching Seifer with honest confusion and innocence. He wasn't aware that he was being awkward, he really didn't know what was wrong or why his lover was glaring so hard that if he had been a plant he would have withered and died.

With a heavy sigh, Seifer sat at Squall's side. When he reached for the wounded limb however, Squall pulled it away, out of his reach. "Don't."

"What do you mean, 'don't'? Gimme your arm."

Still clutching his arm to him and keeping it out of Seifer's reach, Squall had to force his words out, each one harder to say than the last. "...I don't want you to catch something." And here it was, finally his confession was right in front of him and it was dying in his throat.

"Don't be stupid, what the hell could I catch?" Seifer growled and reached for Squall's arm one last time. "Now gimme your arm."

"I was careful, I swear... but when they're all on you..." Squall choked back a sob, almost panting with the exertion of his admittance. "You never know if it's going to be okay... I took remedies and potions just in case but I haven't had one since before... not for a few days..."

He'd never seen Squall look so afraid. Not even back at the orphanage when he'd been just a scared and lonely little quiet kid. His eyes were wide and glistening with tears, his lips parted as his breath rasped in his chest. "What do you mean... when they're all on you?" Part of him just wanted to comfort the prone figure, to comfort his lover despite the rage and hurt that was welling up inside him, but part of him wanted to scream and shout and kill to protect Squall and his own heart.

Squall opened his mouth to reply twice only to close it again, his lower lip trembling with the emotion that was welling up inside him shame, fear, horror and the symptoms of his withdrawal. "When they fucked me while I was high..."

The jade green gaze was averted as Seifer struggled to force down the rage that welled up inside him like a geyser. He laid a hand over Squall's, not speaking, unable to look up.

'I knew he wouldn't want a whore.' Squall thought. He wanted to sob and scream but he doubted he even had the energy to do that.

Finally, Seifer looked up at him, his expression unreadable, his eyes clouded so Squall couldn't see the rage as he forced it back down and locked it in his heart.

"Shout at me." Squall pleaded. He didn't want his lover to bury the feelings, he wanted them out in the open where they could be dealt with, where they wouldn't be kept between them and keeping them apart.

Resting his free hand on the back of the brunette's neck, Seifer leant towards him, resting his head on Squall's shoulder. The soft feel of the flannel on his forehead comforted him, made him feel more in control of the situation than he actually was. He shivered minutely as the softness of Squall's chin rubbed firmly against his hair. "You want me to shout?"


When Seifer lifted his head to look at Squall again, he simply looked heartbreakingly sad. "I'm a bastard, but I'm not completely heartless you know."

"I made them wear protection." Squall murmured, his voice soft and weak. "But I was so confused, I don't know if any of them didn't bother."

Seifer pressed a soft kiss to the smaller man's mouth, the gentlest of tender touches. "I'm sorry baby. I'm so sorry."

"It's rapture." The brunette admitted reluctantly.

Framing Squall's face with his hands, Seifer leant his forehead to Squall's, their scars mated perfectly. "Dammit." He hissed softly.

From his work, he knew what rapture could do. He'd seen the obituaries of a couple of his regulars who'd overdosed. The drug stimulated the brain to produce endorphins, making pleasure all the more intense and preventing the user from feeling pain. With 'rapture', there was a very fine line between brain damage and a high, and even though it was relatively new to the streets it had already claimed its fair share of lives.

"Why?" Seifer asked, his eyes flickering open, the cool jade gaze focusing on Squall's storm grey irises. His pupils were constricted, black points in a sea of blue grey.

Why indeed.

How could he tell Seifer the truth? How could he put into words the utter and complete dejection and loneliness he had fought day after day after day? Bereft of everything, he'd had nothing left to live for. Without the one thing that held him steady, the single constant in his life, his guardian force, his goddess Shiva, he'd never felt so deserted. In the silence of his room, without even the cool, calming presence of her in his mind he'd found other methods of distraction.

The kind that came in shot glasses, cigarette papers and hypodermics.

In the end, he simply shrugged, whispering "I had nothing left to lose."

"I would've protected you." Seifer sighed.

"You weren't there." The brunette husked bitterly, his voice having more clarity and his eyes showing more life than he had all day.

"Yeah, but I shoulda been." And with that, his anger at Squall was pushed back down in favour of being mad at himself. This all felt like his fault and he hated all of it. Healing Squall, helping him get back on his feet would be his penance.

"This was for the mission too. Before that... I was just bored and lonely."

Seifer forced himself to get his act together, lifting his head to brush his lips over Squall's cheek. Part of him wondered if the pale figure would ever have to shave daily, half jealous, half noting the fact for future reference to tease Squall when he was feeling better. "Well, I can't promise you won't be bored, but you damn sure won't be lonely anymore.

Taking Squall's arm gently, he mopped up the blood that had trickled along his arm first and cleaning the wound as gently as he could. Squall's eyes followed his fingers and a frown fluttered on his lips. "Don't get it on you."

"I'll be careful." Seifer didn't care about that. If Squall was sick, there were potions and remedies to deal with that. "We'll get you checked out when you're walking better, okay? Just to be safe." He barely registered Squall's response, bandaging the arm and rubbing his thumb over it gently. "I wish I could help you take the edge off, baby, but I can't."

The quicksilver eyes focused on him briefly, Squall's confusion and pain apparent in their smoked mirror surfaces. He could almost see the realisation dawn on his lover. "Oh... I'm fine."

"You won't be for long."

"I'll be okay." His breath was still coming in short gasps, his hands shaking so badly he had to lay them on his knees to keep them still. He looked like he was two steps from death and he was still being a stubborn little bitch. Seifer had to admire his tenacity.

"You will be. I'll help you." Seifer kissed him again, a gentle, sweet kiss. As he drew back, his lips bearing a boyish and lopsided smile, he admitted "I can't stop kissing you."

Squall stroked Seifer as he would a beloved pet, loving and possessive, his touch tender despite the pain in his limbs. "It's okay. I like it."

Winding his arms around his lover, Seifer sighed softly. He wanted to remember this forever, even if they had to part, even if they would only end up fighting and hurting each other again. "Give me a minute. I want to remember this when you're throwing breakables at me next week because I won't give you a fix."

"I need a reason to do that?"

Seifer laughed, hugging Squall just a little tighter, wary of the brace and the injured shoulder. Touching Squall was a bad idea, he wanted to do so much more than hold him, he wanted to push him back on the bed and kiss him, take him, feel that beautiful if broken body tremble in release instead of pain. "Why didn't you just tell me, Squall?"

"I did... I told you I was a drinking, smoking, drug addicted whore." Squall's eyelashes fluttered against Seifer's bare chest, though whether they really were damp with tears or whether that was his imagination, Seifer wasn't sure of.

"Maybe next time I'll listen, huh?"

"I doubt it." There was the faintest hint of amusement to Squall's voice, and it only served to encourage his lover.

"Well at least you can say some things stay the same."

Rubbing his cheek against his lover's chest, Squall smiled to himself. Some things did stay the same, like how much he liked to be held by the taller man. Like the same warm tones of Seifer's cologne, the scent that bought back memories of sleeping with Seifer in a too narrow bed that he took up the entirety of, it reminded him of how small a space that he could sleep in as long as there was still one possessive arm wrapped around him. "You still wear the same aftershave." He whispered to Seifer, almost reverently.

"And you're still the only one who can turn me inside out." Seifer rested his chin against Squall's unruly locks.

"Too messy." Squall murmured. And that horrible crawling itch was starting to return, his nails seeking the bandage on his good arm and his nails slipping under just the edge of it once more to ease the tension, make himself feel better for a heartbeat.

"Stop it." Seifer slapped his hand away gently and received a glower for his troubles. "Maybe I should go ahead and tie you to the bed now, so you can't hurt me later."

The silver-blue eyes narrowed faintly, and Squall hissed "You wouldn't dare."

Lowering his voice to his sexiest tone, a faint smirk curling his lips, Seifer gave the smaller man a 'don't you wanna fuck me?' look. "I remember a time when you didn't mind that idea so much."

He'd never minded it at all. He'd enjoyed giving up his control and giving himself over to Seifer. He'd never admitted it back then when he could still feel the rope around his wrists, rubbing his skin raw and sore, so much so he'd feel it for days, reminding him of being filled and taken beyond his control any time he pulled on his jacket or gloves, or picked up a gunblade. But he wasn't sure if he trusted Seifer that much yet. "When I didn't have a fucked up back and a broken shoulder.

Snickering, the taller man offered the glass of water to his lover again, watching him clutch the glass and drink eagerly, his fingers shaking as he sucked down the water almost greedily. When Squall was finished, he took it back and set it on the bedside table once more. The soft brown strands of Squall's hair yielded under his fingers easily, and he swept them aside. "Is there anything you want? Anything I can do for you?"

"I'm. Fine." Squall repeated once more, his words having more clarity than they had all day.

"Okay you stubborn little bastard. I'm going to take a nice long shower." Seifer stood, stretching leisurely. The shower was as much an excuse to get away from Squall for five minutes as it was to wash the grime from his skin. He gestured at a picture of himself on the wall and smirked at the prone figure. "That'll keep you company 'til I get back."

Squall eyed the picture and supposed it would be rude to ask for darts as Seifer retreated into the bathroom, leaving the door open.


Not bothering to linger over stripping, Seifer slipped under the hot spray. He felt the anger and tension begin to melt away, though he knew the latter wouldn't be completely sated until Squall was better and his mission was over and done with. The silence from the other room worried him, but he didn't glance back. He'd left the door open so that if Squall needed him, which he no doubt truly did despite his denial to both himself and Seifer, he could be called.

He hummed to himself, low and soft, a thrumming noise in his chest.

He didn't see Squall stand, rising to his feet shakily and carefully, nor did he see Squall move over to the doorway, watching him shower. If he had, Seifer would have snapped, he realised how much both of the needed to relax, Squall's injuries and adamant denial of anything being remotely amiss had him wound tighter than an eight day clock.

Oblivious to the brunette's presence, Seifer soaped himself, taking his time and enjoying it. No matter how much he truly desired Squall, or how much he wanted to return to the bedroom and cover the brunette's pale body with his own, he couldn't, not without seriously hurting Squall. And he didn't want to do that any more.

The thought of taking Squall made his body react in a way that made him wish he'd closed the door. As his slick palm ran along his hardening sex, he decided it would be fine so long as he was quiet. Bowing his head under the spray, he wrapped his fingers around his cock, only the faintest hitch in his breathing audible over the constant thrumming spray.

Squall watched, surprised. He almost spoke, his mouth falling open briefly, but he thought better of it at the last moment. He simply watched, unable to force himself away, his teeth worrying at the knuckles of his left hand to keep himself silent. And he had a wonderful show, as Seifer worked himself silently with a practiced hand, the outline of his body and the ripple of every muscle that glistened wet in the bathroom's harsh light.

The release wasn't something he wished to draw out, it wasn't for lingering over. Seifer stroked himself roughly, his eyes closed as he imagined Squall's hand stroking him, imagined the cool flesh wrapped around his hardness. Tipping his head back, his chest rising and falling quickly, Seifer shivered.

He could see the movement of Seifer's hand along his sex, urgently quick, and Squall's knees almost buckled when Seifer said his name as he came. He whimpered aloud before he could stop himself.

"Go back to bed Squall." Seifer rasped after a few moments of silence, shutting the shower off.

"You..." Squall thought better of speaking and waved it away, returning to his perch on the bed, scowling to himself.

Clad in only a towel, Seifer paused in the doorway, water dripping from his ruffled hair and trailing in languid, shimmering paths over the tan skin of his chest. If he had known Squall was watching, he would have found his release much faster, he would have given Squall more of a show. He was angry, at himself and at Squall for putting his back under the stress of standing so soon. "What are you doing out of bed?"

'I didn't want to be away from you any more than I have to...' Squall muttered beneath his breath, too soft for Seifer to hear, then adding louder "And watching you get yourself off."

"If I'd wanted an audience, I'd have asked you in."

"If you hadn't wanted an audience, you should have shut the door." Squall retaliated. He scowled, withdrawing into his old shell of ice and cracked stone even though it was killing him to hold it in place. Even though he knew Seifer would only try even harder to get him to react, it was the only way he could keep himself from crying, the lack of rapture in his system making him feel as unstable as a two legged stool.

Seifer was surprised that he didn't feel more mellow about the whole thing, after all, Squall had seen him naked, seen him come, seen him crying out in pleasure a hundred times, maybe even a thousand times, but Squall always had that effect on him, Squall threw him off balance with just a glance, so a harsh word shook him more effectively than an attack from the Brothers Guardian force. He whipped the towel from his hips, tossing it at Squall in anger. "I thought, just this once that you'd do what I asked you to do."

"And break the habit of a lifetime?" Squall caught the towel, tossing it back with his left hand. He was no where near as accurate as with his right.

Ignoring the towel and letting it fall on the floor, Seifer dressed angrily. No matter how hard he tried he couldn't shake the sudden irritation he felt. "Yeah, no kidding. Shit, Squall, you're going to fuck up your back if you don't stay still."

"Then it'll only be like the rest of me." He muttered in response, swinging his legs back onto the bed and laying back slowly as he tucked his feet beneath the blankets. The room spun slowly, making his stomach roll evenly. Squall hated to admit it to himself, but Seifer was right. He shouldn't have gotten up.

"Why do you have to remind me of your past?" Seifer whirled on him and spoke as calmly as he could manage, though inside he was a turmoil of rage and fear, his emotions swirling like the colours in Squall's eyes. "Why do you have to remind yourself?"

Settling for simply watching the blonde, Squall allowed himself to be angry, too tired and shaky to hide the feelings behind his shields now, and too tired and shaky to hide his exhaustion, he shot back "The pre war past or the past four years?"

Impatiently, Seifer dragged a hand through his wet hair. "Either. Both. Fuck!"

"Not right now, thanks all the same."

Seifer stared at the prone figure of his lover for a minute, a slow realisation beginning to dawn on him. "You're trying to start shit with me, now. Right? You're completely out of control and you want the comfort of the one reaction you know you can get."

Rolling his eyes, Squall shook his head. Seifer had hit the nail on the head and he hated himself for being so predictable, so easy to read. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Sure you do. You can't stand harmony." Seifer didn't add that harmony made him feel restless and useless just as much as it did Squall, didn't add that he wanted the old Squall back to argue and fuck and fight with.

"What are you going on about?"

Declining to answer, Seifer distracted himself by beginning to tidy the room up, picking up some of the clothes and magazines he'd left out. He could easily distract himself from arguing with such a menial task, though he hated doing it. "Just lie down and rest."

"Wow." The silver-blue gaze never left him for even a moment, watching even the slightest of movements as Seifer retrieved a sweater that had been kicked half under the bed. "Remind me to put this date in my diary."

The irritation surfaced quickly on Seifer's features but he pushed it away efficiently, making himself wait for a moment before he asked "What?"

"Seifer Almasy, cleaning." The only response Squall's words received was an increase in the noise Seifer was making as he tidied, and even that made him feel decidedly smug. He watched and couldn't resist adding "You missed a spot."

The blonde man turned and knocked the lamp from the bedside table onto the floor. There was no anger in the action, and he was just as mild as he could be when he finally turned his head to look at Squall, the faintest hint of amusement in his eyes. "Better?"

"Much." Squall replied, just as calmly.

"Ungrateful bitch."

"I heard that."

"Heard what?" The blonde asked sweetly as he stopped to tuck the blankets so high around Squall's shoulders that the smaller man couldn't even move an inch.

"If you're going to do that, at least let me put my arm outside the covers." Squall rolled his eyes and sighed, mad that he could be so easily restrained in his weakened state. Some hero he had turned out to be, pinned by a blanket.

Seifer did at least do as he asked, and the pressure was removed from his achingly painful shoulder. "There. Comfy? Good."

"Do I have a choice?" Squall spat, angrily.

"Yes." Pausing, Seifer looked down at the broken pale figure sadly. "You always have a choice."

That wasn't true. Squall had been in situations when he couldn't chose, where there was only one, usually horrible, way out. If there had been other choices, he'd never seen them. Though many of the results he'd had thus far made him believe all his choices had been wrong ones. "And what are they this time?"

Pausing briefly, Seifer sat on the edge of the bed. He didn't want to argue with his lover any more, it was his own stupid fault he was angry and couldn't do anything to change that, but he could ignore it for the time being. "That's up to you."

The silence, only broken by the faint whimper of pain that accompanied the return of the throbbing ache to Squall's limbs, stretched between them. He was still aching for a fix of his preferred drug. "It was easier when you hated me."

He turned to look at Squall slowly, Seifer's expression completely disbelieving. "I have never hated you."

"Alright." Squall murmured reluctantly. "When I thought you hated me."

Suddenly, he felt very tired. Whether it was Squall's self destructive tendencies that were making him feel so weary or just the emotion of the day, he wasn't sure. He let his head fall back, his green gaze settling on the ceiling above him with a sigh. "What is it that you want, Squall, huh? You want me to fight with you?"

"Yes." The reply was honest and simple.

"I can't. I can't anymore."

"Why not?"

Seifer turned his eyes back to look at Squall again. The prone, pale figure was still trembling violently, frighteningly weak and the shadows under those storm like eyes were still growing. This wasn't Squall Leonhart, this was some ghost pretending to be him. "Look at you. What kind of bastard would I be to fight with you when you're like... this?"

"Just because I'm injured doesn't mean I'm incapable." The pale figure squirmed under the blankets, attempting to free himself.

"I wasn't talking about your physical limitations.

"Do me a favour Almasy, lift my arm up." Squall glowered at him. Seifer did as Squall asked, lifting the fragile limb up gently, careful not to jar the damaged shoulder no matter how much the little iceberg had pissed him off. His expression was unreadable, his eyes cold.

Squall extended his middle finger to Seifer, flipping him off.

He was almost shocked at the gesture, but he'd been expecting something like that and he laughed suddenly. No matter how injured Squall was, no matter how weak he was, he was still a pissy little bitch and Seifer loved him for it.

Somehow, carefully so as not to jar his shoulder, Squall wiggled his injured arm out of Seifer's grip and turned his head away. His features darkened as though a cloud had passed over him, his anger horribly plain to see.

"Squall, come on." He nudged one of Squall's legs through the covers.

"What?" The word was almost acidic in its anger, his voice taking on a tone colder than Shiva's diamond dust attack.

"I wasn't trying to insult you."

"Does the Pee Bee still stand for puberty boy or have I graduated to pissy bitch now?" Squall snapped back, disgustingly angry with both himself and Seifer, for his own weakness and for Seifer seeing it. It wasn't right, it wasn't fair, he was still too scared and screwed up to be able to handle the tempest of emotions raging within him.

He would have said either in response to Squall's question, but he knew better than that. After all, though bruised, Squall's legs worked just fine. "I'm just worried about you. And you make me fucking crazy."

That finally got the stormy eyes to look at him again, though it was only out of the corner of Squall's eye. "You drove me crazy for years. Consider it revenge."

Slowly, reassuringly, Seifer rubbed Squall's thigh through the protection of the blankets. Something deep inside him whispered that he should be climbing under the blankets and reassuring Squall but he knew better than that. The quiet little brunette had to realise that he didn't want him for his body, that he wanted all of Squall Leonhart. "I'll let you have your revenge, don't worry."

And he was reassured by it, as foolish as that seemed. The sweet touch, the tenderness, it all made him feel needed and Squall turned his head to see his lover. "So, what now?"

"I'll have to deal with whatever you throw at me. I'm not letting you go again."

"Idiot." Squall accused.

"That I must be." Seifer shook his head and stood, unsure of what to do next.

"Let me out." The brunette tried to order Seifer, but to no avail.

"No, you've moved around enough. You need to rest." Seifer was determined that no matter how much Squall wanted to hurt or kill himself, he was not going to do it. He was going to stay in that Hyne-damned bed until he was better or Seifer would die trying to keep him there.

"I won't get up again." Squall offered tentatively.

"Promise?" Seifer paused when he heard Squall's words.

And there was the old eye roll. It was foolishly reassuring to see that old side of his lover peeking through the cracked and broken shell of the man before him. "I promise I won't get up again today."

With a satisfied nod, Seifer helped to arrange Squall into a more comfortable position. He settled him against a nest of pillows, sat up, his hands folded on the covers neatly. And Seifer suddenly didn't want to be away from him. As he folded his hand over Squall's trembling fingers, the fever's fire languishing in each digit as much as the clammy skin of Squall's scarred forehead, he realised he wanted to stay right there, comforting his lover with his presence. He stared intently at the brunette. "I didn't intend for you to watch me in the shower."

"Seifer..." Squall gestured to the bathroom, the door still open, the line of sight providing a perfect view of the shower cubicle. "When you lay here, you can see right into the shower. Even if I had been lying down I'd have had a show."

"Well... I'm only saying I wasn't trying to... you know." Seifer looked chagrined.

"Wasn't trying to... flash me? Taunt me? Turn me on?" There was a tone of amusement to his voice, and a faint smile played on Squall's lips.

"Yeah, whatever."

Squall's good hand caught in Seifer's shirt and pulled him close to press a gentle kiss to Seifer's lips. "You're infuriating."

Seifer took the time to lean against the quiet brunette, nuzzling against his throat gently. He smelt so warm, so sweet and so... Squallish. Just as he had those mornings at garden when he'd woken up tangled with Squall, a comfortingly familiar scent. "I love you too." He smiled as he felt Squall's hand stroke his hair, a tender gesture that felt surprisingly good.

"Maybe... something to eat?" Squall still wasn't all that hungry but if he didn't at least try and eat something he knew he would be too weak to hide the pain any longer. If he could keep something, anything down, he'd manage it okay.

"Of course, your highness." The blonde pulled away from Squall gently, bowing gracefully and arching one blonde eyebrow at the prone figure. "Any requests this evening?" He somehow managed not to laugh at the glare that was shot at him in response, at the angry, mussed little kitten of a man hiding in grey flannel.

"I'll get out of bed again." Squall threatened.

With a snicker, Seifer turned and headed for the kitchen. He prepared a fruit salad it was light and easy and required absolutely no cooking, so Squall would not be further injured by his attempts at food preparation and a few slices of dry bread. "We'll eat in bed, okay?" He called back to Squall, adding in a lower voice that would not be audible from the bedroom: "Where I'll feed you and watch you suck at my fingertips."

"Whatever!" Came the response.

He returned to Squall as quickly as he could, carrying the tray of food and a fresh glass of ice water carefully. "Welcome to Chez Almasy dinner is served." Seifer crawled onto the bed beside Squall, sitting as close as he could to his patient and offering him a grape.

For that, he received a curious look from the quiet brunette before Squall took the grape, lapping at Seifer's fingers as he chewed thoughtfully. "I don't know how much I can take." He murmured, a little embarrassed by that small admission.

"When you get full, just let me know." Seifer swept his thumb over Squall's bottom lip gently, smiling as his lover nipped at it lightly. "When you're feeling better... will you still sleep in my bed?" He continued to feed pieces of fruit to the pale man, a shiver of delight running through him every time Squall's tongue lapped the fruit juice from his skin.

"Will you want me to?"

"I'd be offended if you didn't." The blonde replied.

"Then I have to spend at least one night out of your bed." Squall smirked as he tore a piece of bread from the piece on the tray and popped it into his mouth smugly.

"...why is that?" Seifer tipped his head, annoyed and amused all at once.

"Just to piss you off." Squall said haughtily. He meant it; he would leave Seifer alone for one night just to prove that he could, as soon as he was able. He had to prove he had as much control as Seifer.

"I'll only follow you." Coaxing Squall to lift his face with one hand under his chin, Seifer brushed the most shivery of soft kisses over his lips.

"You're the puppy." The brunette murmured, allowing himself to get lost in the tender touch of Seifer's lips to his own. And he could have lost himself forever there; the pain didn't seem quite so bad when he had the distraction of Seifer's lips against his own.

Seifer shifted and stretched out with his head in Squall's lap, his cheek resting against his thigh. Retrieving one of the pieces of bread from the tray he tore more strips from it, offering them one by one, letting his lover eat them from his fingertips, brushing away the crumbs gently. "I missed the hell out of you, Squall."

"But your aim is improving?" Squall smiled weakly as he took a sip of water.

"Yeah... Yeah, I think it is." An honest and open smile curled Seifer's lips. This whole situation felt appallingly domestic, and he liked it. He liked that it felt so normal, despite the pain in Squall's eyes, despite the tremble of his limbs.

"I like your hair better this way." Squall admitted softly, blushing when his lover gave him a shocked look. "It's just... whatever. It looks better like this."

"I'll keep it then. If you like it."

Gently, Squall pushed away Seifer's hand as another piece of bread was offered to him. He couldn't take another bite. "I like it, but you don't have to keep it. I know you hate mine." He hated it himself; it made him think of Brent and Priest and with Seifer here, that wasn't what he wanted to think of anymore.

"I don't hate it. I just... I miss you." The blonde shook his head gently, well aware that he was still settled in Squall's lap. "I don't know, it's stupid."

But it wasn't at all stupid. Squall knew exactly what Seifer meant, the darker hair wasn't him any more than the drug addicted whore side was. He'd lost himself so long ago he didn't even know where to look. He felt dirty, and tired, and he just longed for an end to it all. Whether that would come with his death, or with Seifer's help he didn't care, just so long as the pain stopped. "I'm trying to find myself."

"Well, when you find you wherever he turns up remind him that he's promised himself to a certain ex-Knight." Seifer winked and brushed his fingertips over Squall's cheek. He was still hot to the touch, and that worried Seifer. "I can't wait to meet him again."

"We former knights must stick together." A shrug. A sigh. A young man with a tainted past and haunted eyes. When Seifer smiled at him, something inside Squall broke. Tears forced themselves from his eyes and he scrubbed his face against Seifer's hand to hide them. He felt as though he didn't deserve to see that smile, As though he were stealing something from the real Squall who was hiding away until he had the strength to return. "I hope he's back soon." He choked out.

Seifer wasted no time in gathering Squall into his arms, tight against his chest, and rocking him slowly. Littering the choppy, still too dark brown locks of Squall's hair with kisses, he felt intensely sad and guilty. "Shhh. It's alright. I'll wait for him." He ignored the apology that came with the tears, brushing them and the words away with a sweep of his fingers. "I love you, Squall."

"I loved you, forever." Squall muffled against his chest.

He simply hugged the small brunette against his chest all the tighter.




Author's notes: Thank you for your patience waiting for this instalment, I hope you won't have to wait as long for the next one.

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