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.

(I know that I should really show what happened to the leather clad one but that would more than likely require another multipart fic and I don't have the time to do that now, so he's just gonna straight up tell him.)


Chapter 6

By Darksquall

You're tender and you're tired
You can't be bothered to decide
Whether you live or die
Or just forget about your life
But it's too late to be real
No time to be strong enough
Just time to leave it all behind
Memory has become pain
You're tender and you're tired manic street preachers.

I wear this crown of thorns,
upon my liars chair,
full of broken thoughts,
I cannot repair,
beneath the stains of time,
the feelings disappear,
you are someone else,
I am still right here,
Hurt Johnny Cash


Seifer shut the door behind him quietly, wincing at the soft thunk of it closing.

He'd left Squall barely thirty minutes before, after realising that he'd somehow run out of bare essentials such as coffee and milk. Seifer couldn't believe he'd forgotten such vital items such as those when he'd slipped out for an hour a couple of days before but laid blame on his concern for the worryingly thin and weak lion in the bedroom.

The quiet brunette had been lost to the realm of sleep completely and even though Seifer had hated to leave him without letting him know where he was going. The way Squall had been reacting to his withdrawal he hadn't wanted to leave him alone for any amount of time while he was conscious. Especially with the potential weapons in the apartment, not to mention Hyperion and his guns.

Seifer carried the heavy brown paper bag to the kitchen. For the price of rent which was just the nice side of extortionate he got a decent sized bedroom, and a good kitchen, not that he ever bothered to spend much time in the latter. His cooking skills were atrocious, and he was a full time patron of the several nearby take outs and food stores.

The kitchen counter black of course extended along two walls with a door out onto his balcony, perfect for sun lounging in the afternoon, cutting it off at one end and the wall at the other. The work tops matched the small food preparation island that separated the kitchen side from the section of the room that the estate agent had called a "Dining area" which was only large enough to comfortably seat two people, or six Zell Dinchts. The whole room was horribly white.

It was, however, probably the cleanest room in his entire apartment, since he spent only enough time to brew coffee or grab a beer in there more often than not.

He almost dropped the bag on his first step into the kitchen.

Squall, looking smaller and more haggard than Seifer had ever believed he could, was curled in the corner of the room. He had his back to the counter, kept rigidly straight to prevent it from aching as he hugged his knees to his chest with one arm, his injured limb hanging limply by his side. The sling that had once protected it had been tossed carelessly aside. His slate blue eyes stared aimlessly into space. The emptiness within them was probably what scared Seifer the most. No matter how exhausted Squall was, no matter how often he retreated into himself, there was always some spark of life within those eyes, there was always something to remind anyone who was watching that there was a precious intelligence in the quiet, deceptively fragile man.

Seifer saw nothing. Not even fear, not even pain anymore. It was as though Squall had given up. He was sure the spark had been there the day before but now, there was absolutely nothing left.

He did, however, see the large carving knife set carefully beside Squall, where he could reach it in a heart beat.

"Squall? Baby?" Setting the bag down on the small table, Seifer took one, single, hesitant step towards his silent lover.

No sooner had the first syllable left his lips than Squall's trembling hand had reached out and snatched up the knife, lifting it to protect himself. A hazy awareness had entered the blue grey orbs and though he still looked barely aware of his surroundings, he looked sure enough of himself to attack.

"Squall, it's just me." Seifer stopped dead in his tracks, the fear for the broken figure before him making his heart pound like a drum in his ears. For the first time since the hospital he was truly afraid, after all, there didn't seem to be anything more than a token awareness of his surroundings in those eyes, and the young man, though broken and bruised and a shell of his old, quiet self, was still a highly trained SeeD. Seifer didn't believe for a second that he could take Squall in a blind, self protective rage, no matter how much working out he'd done, no matter how much he'd trained. "No one is going to hurt you."

"Don't come any closer." Squall murmured, his eyes lifting to the blonde man, but seeming to stare straight through him.

"Okay, I won't, see?" Seifer stood at the end of the counter, the block of knives in reach. In the event that Squall did attack him, he needed to be able to protect himself. "I'm right here. Squall I want you to say my name. I'm the only one here with you."

Squall's hand flexed as he gripped the knife more surely, his knuckles white. Only then did Seifer notice the cuts and grazes across his fingers and knuckles. He looked like he'd punched a few walls before he'd grabbed the knife.

"I know your name." The blue-grey gaze darted away briefly, his eyes following some motion that only he could see.

The fear that Squall would hurt himself was so tangible he could taste it. Held back by the knowledge that the younger man would not hesitate to attack if he dared to move closer, Seifer kept his voice as soothing and gentle as he possibly could. "Say it."

The blade turned in Squall's hand, the electric light catching it and making it flare bright silver for a moment, drawing the brunette's attention away from the possible threat to it. "No. You weren't there."

"Put the knife away Squall. Come to me." Seifer held a hand out to the seated man desperately. He longed to wrap his arms around the fragile form and comfort him somehow but he couldn't take a step closer without Squall attacking, or worse, hurting himself. He didn't have the potions to heal too deep a wound. "No one is going to hurt you. Never again."

The tears that carved glistening paths down Squall's pale cheeks were more painful than a stab wound. He didn't even try to hold them back, not even acknowledging them as he cradled the knife closer to his chest like a long lost lover. "No. Not again."

Never, never in his entire life had he ever felt so completely helpless. Never had he felt such a keen pain within his heart as in that moment. "That's right, not again. It's me, baby. It's Seifer. I'm the one who loves you remember? I'm the one who's going to protect you." He swore silently he'd find the two bastards who'd done this to his Squall, and he would kill them slowly. He'd make them scream until they were hoarse; he'd hear them beg for their lives before he finally sent them to their graves.

Squall stood up very slowly, his eyes blank but fixed firmly on Seifer. The knife hung at his side, held loosely enough to not be torn from his grasp. His expression was unreadable, his lips set in a determinedly solid line.

"Squall. Put the knife down."

"...No." There was no emotion in the word, as bitterly cold as the frozen wasteland of the Trabian fields.


"Safer with it." Despite the front Squall was putting up, the mask, the shield, whatever it should have been termed, he looked as though a stiff breeze would knock him over. He was trembling violently, half pain and half withdrawal, sweat beginning to bead on his forehead.

"Aw.., baby. Squall You're safe with me. I won't let anyone hurt you, do you understand that?"

Scrubbing his eyes with the back of his good hand, the injured brunette came alarmingly close to hurting himself with the knife, close enough to make Seifer's heart leap into his mouth. "You were gone..."

Seifer closed his eyes for a moment, the words striking him like a pulse ammunition powered gunblade in the chest. It was all his fault, all the pain and suffering the quiet brunette had gone through. Nothing he could say would change the past and nothing could make Squall instantly better. This was his penance, helping his lover to find himself again, to recover and become the Squall Leonhart he'd used to be. "I know and I'm sorry for that. I'm here now, though. Do you believe me?"

The quiet sob sound that echoed from Squall's lips as he took one tentative step towards his lover felt as though someone had pulled the trigger on the gunblade that guilt had buried in his chest. His head dropped forward, his chin almost resting on his chest as he took one tentative step towards Seifer.

"C'mon baby." The vision before him hurt Seifer physically. Never in his entire life had he felt so heart sick and horrified. "Come to me."

The gap between them closed slowly, Squall taking hesitant, staggering steps towards the safety that Seifer provided. He paused, just a little way from the taller man, his teeth worrying at his lower lip nervously.

Seifer took one, single step forward, his hand still lifted, reaching for Squall. His voice was barely a whisper of a sound. "I know I wasn't there for you, Squall. I wish I could go back and fix it but I can't. Let me protect you now. Please trust me."

The brunette pressed the knife to Seifer's arm lightly, the silver blade biting into the flesh just lightly enough to make a faint red line of blood well up and wet the blades appetite. It seemed he was proving that he still had control and power over Seifer, the power to kill him if he chose it, but before he could speak, Squall turned the blade in his hand and offered the handle to his lover.

Taking the knife, Seifer wrapped Squall tightly in his arms, pressing the smaller body against him as he kissed the side of Squall's head. Every time he looked at that too dark hair he hated it more and more, but at least this slightly more coffee shade wasn't as horrible on Squall as the black. "I'm so sorry, Squall." He sighed.

When the brunette sagged and sobbed breathily against him, his trembling growing ever more violent and noticeable. Seifer set the knife down and bent to sweep Squall up and into his arms, carrying him to the bedroom carefully.

"I woke up... and you were gone..." Squall murmured, burying his face against the blonde's neck to hide his tears and his shame. "I thought you weren't coming back..."

He could have kicked himself for not waking the quiet brunette up, for letting him think that he'd been left all alone again. He'd been a fool to think that Squall wouldn't notice, he'd probably been awake since the moment the door had closed behind him. Seifer sat on the bed, cradling the fragile form against him, stroking his hair and kissing his forehead reassuringly. "It's alright. I'm not going to leave you, Squall."

With one hand tangling in his lover's shirt, Squall made a breathless sound of need. The need for contact, emotion and comfort was one he so rarely vocalised that he didn't have the words for it.

Seifer kissed him, pleased when the brush of their lips was responded to. "I love you, Squall. Let me help you."

The blue-grey eyes locked with his own for a moment before Squall nodded and squeezed them tight shut once more. "Okay." He smiled weakly, his skin pale and hot to the touch. He looked sick. He looked like a ghost of the man he'd been in the war.

"You gotta talk to me, Squall. I want to know what happened to you."

"...Going to kick me out if you don't like what you hear?"

With one gentle hand under Squall's chin, he tipped the smaller man's face up to look at him. "Look at me. Open your eyes and look at me." He requested. It was only when Squall did as he asked that he realised how constricted his pupils had become. "Nothing you say to me will change the way I feel about you. I love you I want you to trust me again."

"Alright..." Squall sighed.

"Tell me you believe me." Seifer locked his eyes intently with his lover's.

"I believe you." Squall murmured, adding under his breath "sometimes".

Seifer smiled crookedly, pleased that no matter how much time had passed or confused Squall had become, he was still Squall somewhere deep inside that perfectly beautiful but battered icy shell. "And you know that I love you."

Squall had distracted himself with tracing a button on Seifer's shirt with one trembling fingertip. "I love you."

Although he hated the too dark locks, they made the perfect hiding place to prevent Squall from seeing the pain and anger he was struggling with. "I'm not letting you go again. But I need to know what happened, can you tell me?"

"Alright." Squall nuzzled against Seifer's chest. "It was fine for a while, after the war ended. Then Irvine found out Rinoa was fucking other people behind my back. I didn't believe him, until we went to Esthar for a party. I went back to our room early and she was fucking one of the foreign ministers in our bed." He chuckled bitterly as his fingernail teased at a loose thread. "I think she was trying to get their help to free timber. I'd already told her that there wasn't any point since the new government was treating them just fine, they'd even pulled the majority of the soldiers out by then.

"I couldn't tell her I knew... I had a few drinks. A few too many. And I slept with him as well." Squall's voice took on an almost ashamed tone, a deep blush blooming on his cheeks as he admitted it. "I couldn't send her away so I made sure she'd leave. She caught us and did just what I knew she would... After that, I stopped caring. I didn't go out, I started to drink after I'd finished working."

Squall paused, lowering his hand to Seifer's and tangling their fingers together. He couldn't look up into Seifer's eyes and didn't dare attempt to read what he was feeling. His body still ached as though he'd been hit by a truck, even down to his fingertips. There was no reprieve from the pain, not even Seifer's touch could soothe him any more.

"Cid... Cid came back after eighteen months to take over as headmaster again." He realised what that could imply and looked at his lover with needy storm coloured eyes. He had been in control then, at least during the day and he had to communicate that to Seifer. "I never let it affect my work. He just came back with no warning and stepped in."

Seifer's fingers carefully smoothed the wild locks, still damp with sweat, against Squall's head. He could see the fever in Squall's eyes as much as he could feel it racking the smaller man's body with a fire more intense than even Ifrit's flames. "And so you just... left? What happened after that?

"I didn't leave officially. I took a break, a month off. Went to Esthar, saw my..." the brunette's voice trailed off and he closed his eyes. He couldn't tell Seifer about Laguna. Not when he felt so weak and didn't have the heart to share that he actually had a family. It was another source of shame, the fact that he had a father who he didn't want. He felt like he was letting the whole orphanage gang down by ignoring Laguna so he'd tried his best to keep some semblance of a relationship while not rubbing it in his friend's faces. "I spent some time with a few of the palace guards, some friends I'd met in the war. I was smoking by then and they gave me pot. That's where it started."

When his lover's voice trailed off, Seifer lifted his gaze to Squall's face again. He didn't like what he was hearing. In fact, he hated every word from Squall's pretty mouth and wanted to scream at him to stop, as though that would change the past and he'd never again have to face the damaged figure that lay cradled against his body again. It was his own fault for not being there, he was growing ever more sure of that now. "I shoulda been there to take care of you."

Squall pressed a fingertip to Seifer's lips to quiet him. He didn't blame the taller man, any more than he could blame the syringes that gave him the high. "A year ago, they started taking the guardian forces away from us. They let us keep the low level ones for a while but... they took them too in the end." Squall's voice grew impossibly soft to hide the pain in his words. "Seven months, ten days. I'd tell you how many hours but my head hurts."

"Who took her from you?" Seifer couldn't imagine Squall without Shiva. He'd had the GF for years, half his life, and he couldn't imagine the boy being alone after so long with her. However, here it was right in front of him and it looked like it had broken him completely.

"Garden. Xu and Kadowaki."

"Man, I always hated that bitch. Tell you what when we steal Shiva back, I'll kick Xu's ass just for you baby."

Squall chuckled weakly and pressed a kiss to Seifer's throat. "Whatever."

With a small smile, Seifer pressed a kiss to his lover's cheek. "You can kick it Squall. You don't need Shiva. You don't need anyone, but I'm going to be here for you just in case." He hoped against hope that this would be the extent of Squall's confession, just a little drug problem, something they could deal with relatively easily.

"I know... I'm not done yet though." He hadn't yet told Seifer what he was most ashamed of, and he didn't want to go on but knew he had to. Closing his eyes tight shut he shifted, ignoring the shiver of pain that ran down his spine.

Slowly, carefully, Seifer shifted his lover onto the bed. Helping Squall to rest against the nest of pillows, he stretched out beside him, keeping one hand on the flat of Squall's stomach over the flannel of his pyjamas. He could feel every tremble, every shudder of pain that licked through Squall's body like that. "There we go, alright. I'm all ears."

"Thanks." The brunette murmured softly.

"Don't mention it."

The blue-grey gaze lowered to his pale hands, resting on his thighs. He felt so small and helpless, worthless. The tremble of his fingers did nothing to reassure him, only make him feel worse. "I... I'd never felt so alone in my entire life. Even before, Shiva was always there, she was the only one who hadn't left me, who hadn't betrayed me..." Squall paused, glancing at Seifer for just one heart beat, he didn't mean Seifer by any means, Rinoa and his father were the ones who'd betrayed him.

Satisfied that the blonde didn't seem to be too concerned with the word, he continued. "I started sleeping around. There's a club in Balamb, and a couple in Esthar that just... I don't know what to say to make it seem nicer, so I'll just say it. It's just fucking." Squall sighed, his voice beginning to crack as he forced himself to concentrate on the words, pushing away the thoughts of how good it felt to let go and let them take him, let them control him and be there with him. "I let them tie me up and do whatever they wanted. I'm not proud of it."

Seifer nodded absently. There seemed to be no surprise in his clear green eyes, anything he felt was successfully hidden from Squall's view. Folding one hand over Squall's in a futile attempt to still the shaking of his fingers, he hoped the touch would reassure the soft spoken young man. "And did it help?"

Squall nodded slowly. Every time he opened his mouth to speak, his voice grew a little hoarser, a little more strained. He had to get it all out in the open now before Seifer hated him, while he was strong enough to tell him. "It did... 'til I staggered out in the morning. I... started using smack. There were other things too but that was the first thing I really got hooked on." Squall squeezed his eyes tight shut and balled his free hand into a fist. The anger that welled up inside him at the thought of how he'd changed, how much he hated himself now was white hot, and more powerful than the Lion Heart blade.

"Okay, Leonhart." The loss of momentum to Squall's words, the dry cracking to his words reminded Seifer how weak the smaller man was, and he didn't want him to push himself. He patted Squall's leg gently. "That's enough."

"No..." Squall shook his head too quickly and his voice was firm. "No, I'm almost done."

The determination in the storm-cloud eyes was just as strong as it had been back at garden when they were duelling, and that little flash of the old Squall was enough to make him agree. "If you're sure. Don't push it."

"Someone..." Squall paused, realising that he couldn't remember who had first started him on the drug that had consumed the previous few months of his life more greedily than a chocobo presented with gyshal greens or Zell with a plate of hot dogs. The hole in his memory was nothing that he wasn't used to however, so he paid little attention to it, continuing in a strained voice. "Someone gave me rapture. It's more addictive than heroin but the high is better. I've been on this mission a month. I Had to infiltrate the gang who makes it so I posed as a rent boy."

Seifer kept his gaze firmly fixed on Squall, forcing the anger down and making himself listen to every husky, broken word. Even though it was killing him to hear them spoken at all, never mind to hear them in this awful weak and trembling voice.

"Those guys who you saw were the dealers, Brent and Priest... I've been with them since almost the start of this mission. They..." Squall tightened his hands into fists, his nails digging into his palms and leaving reddened half moons in their wake. "You know what it does, right?" He lifted his gaze to Seifer, hoping beyond hope he wouldn't have to explain to him about the pleasure, the intensity of his release, the way all the pain and hurt just melted away when he was on the receiving end of the hypodermic.

A curt nod. "I know." Seifer's voice was even and emotionless.

"I was..." Squall pulled the pyjama shirt down, exposing a large, round burn mark, too big for a cigarette, it had to come from a cigar. Arcing underneath it was a healing thin red scar, if Seifer had been ordered to guess he'd have named a straight razor responsible for it, the smoothness of the curve and the slender wound almost graceful. It was possible with a knife but it'd be easier with a razor. "I was a demonstrator model."

Rubbing a hand over his face, gritting his teeth, Seifer tried his damnedest to not be affected by the words, the confession. But nothing could keep him from being angry. The thought of Squall, his Squall being cut and burned and tortured and fucked... He was surer than ever that he would kill the two he'd left alive if he ever saw them again.

"Damn it, Squall." His voice was rough, his anger too wild for Seifer's words to remain emotionless any more.

"I chose this mission. It's my fault."

"Don't say that again, dumbass." Seifer shook his head.

"It is." Squall glowered right back when Seifer glared at him. The clash of wills was almost audible. "I wasn't strong enough to handle being alone. That's no one else's fault."

"For the mission, you do what you have to." If he accepted that it had been Squall's fault, the elder man wasn't sure he'd be able to deal with it so easily. He'd want to shout and scream at the broken, weakened figure of his old rival and he didn't want to do that any more. It wasn't him any more.


"I'm trying to deal with this, Squall. Help me out here." Seifer almost considered pleading with him, so he'd be able to kick at the walls, punch someone, hurt something, and take out the rolling inferno of anger that burned inside him, hotter than firaga, hotter than Ifrit's flames.

"Then deal with the truth." Squall hissed in response. "They found my Garden ID; it was in a hidden panel of my wallet. You know the rest."

Seifer rolled onto his back, scrubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands as he growled, his rage capped off for the moment. He'd utilise it when he found the pair of bastards who'd dared to use his lover like that. "No fucking way you should've gone in there alone."

"Probably trying to get rid of me."

That caught the blonde's attention, and he glanced over sharply. "Do you really believe that?"

"Sometimes." Some of the missions he'd been handed made him wonder if SeeD would've preferred him as a martyr, a fallen hero for the cause, another legend for the line of duty.


"Whatever." Seifer's hand covered Squall's again, stroking his thumb over the cool skin gently. The silence stretched out for what seemed like an age, the pain in Squall's limbs throbbed ever more intensely, and he finally lifted his gaze to Seifer once more. "Why? Why do you still love me?"

Seifer made a sound that he meant to be a laugh, but it came out a cold, humourless noise. "Because you're you, Squall." Squall was his equal. His soul mate. No one could get through his skin, get inside his head, make him angry and hurt and hungry as Squall Leonhart. No one else could scar him. He couldn't love anyone else. He'd tried, oh Hyne had he tried to forget the quiet brunette who he longed for every day.

"First of all, that's not a real answer. Second, whatever."

"I don't know what kind of answer you want me to give you, Squall. Asking me why I love you is like asking me why I allowed Ultimecia to control me. It was, it is a compulsion." Only his love for Squall burned brighter than any sorceress. He'd wanted to serve Ultimecia. He wanted to live for the quiet figure even now curled in his bed.

"So is the need to inject rapture, but I'm resisting that right now." The blue-grey gaze was as cold as ice again. He loved Seifer. He wanted to be with him more than anyone he'd ever known and it was killing him to have to ask this, to see the pain in Seifer's eyes, but Seifer deserved better. He deserved someone who wouldn't let him down at the first chance he got.

"So maybe I should try resisting you, is that what you're saying?" Seifer released his lover's hand and sat up.

"You'd be better off."

"I'll put up with a lot of shit from you, Squall." Seifer shook his head. "Hyne knows you come part and parcel with matching emotional baggage, but you either want me, or you don't. Which is it?"

The surprise in Squall's expression was painfully clear, and it made Seifer wonder just how many choices Squall had been given in their time apart, and how many times he'd been forced to take something, to choose the wrong thing. "You're... giving me a choice?"

The unsure tone to Squall's voice felt an awful lot like rejection, enough to have Seifer edging away from him to put a little space between them. An emotional no man's land where the cold shell and the fiery rage could do battle without involving him. "The mission aside because I'm not going to let you die yes, you have a choice."

"Don't..." There was a soft tone of pain to Squall's words, his hand reaching uselessly towards Seifer but never touching him, never crossing the invisible barricade between them. "I meant what I said the other day."

There was a vulnerable look to Seifer's eyes as he gazed at his broken lover. "I can deal with the mood swings, the withdrawal, the mission from hell and your uncanny ability to drive me absofuckinglutely out of my mind. But if you're only with me because you don't have the energy to tell me to fuck off... I don't want that."

Squall choked back a laugh, and in his efforts descended into a coughing fit of alarming violence.

Seifer leant over to rub his lover's back. "Hyne, don't die yet, Leonhart."

Wincing as he found some measure of control again, Squall leant against the touch that somehow soothed the burning in his lungs and the aching of his muscles. "Almasy, you wouldn't listen to me even if I did tell you to fuck off. I... I want you. I just wish I knew why you still wanted me after all..." Squall waved a pale hand weakly, meaning the words he'd spoken and the confession he'd made.

"Dumbass." Seifer nudged him with gentle fingertips. "Because I love you. Because I'll always love you. You were my whole world, once."

The once that had been hastily tacked on at the end of the surprisingly reassuring statement made the brunette feel more guilty than ever. He didn't know how to apologise for the previous four years, so he decided on the next best thing. "I'm sorry for... Ultimecia."

"I don't want to rehash that. It wasn't me and I'm starting to wonder if it was really you. That's over now."

"Orders are orders." Squall leant closer to his lover, kissing him gently and nuzzling against him as carefully as he could.

It was the most irresistible peace offering Seifer had ever had. The sweet, soothing caress of Squall's lips to his own didn't go unanswered and he returned it softly. "In that case, I order you to behave yourself and just... love me."

"Never stopped." The whisper was almost lost against Seifer's lips.

Seifer enveloped Squall in a hug, his arms wrapped around his shoulders to hold him close. "Then we're gonna be okay. You're the only thing I ever wanted so much I'd die for it."

Biting back a curse as his shoulder complained at the embrace, Squall winced. "Watch it, I'm still sore."

"Sorry, sorry." Seifer backed off slowly, letting his fingers brush against Squall's neck until the brunette caught his hand, easing the touch to his side below the back brace.

"Here, if you're going to hold me." He tried not to be amused at the guilt etched on his lover's face. Thinking of Seifer Almasy as cute was becoming more and more common and Squall hoped it wasn't just some sort of delusion bought on by the absence of Rapture in his blood stream.

"I'm sorry you hurt." Seifer rested his cheek against the soft but too dark locks of Squall's hair, holding him as instructed. He wanted to hold him tight, to reassure him with the strength of their embrace, to cling to him and pretend that everything was alright. It would be eventually, but he'd have given anything to pretend, just for a moment, that it was already.

"My own fault."

"Doesn't mean I can't be sorry about it."

"Yes it does." Squall grumbled quietly.

"Stop arguing with me!" Seifer growled, nudging Squall's head with his chin in an effort to scold him into giving up the argument. "Hyne, you're wounded and trying to kick and you're still determined to get the last word." If Squall hadn't been quite so ill, quite so thin or pale, he might have continued the argument until he won, but Squall even felt ill in his arms.

"Whatever." Squall smirked to himself.

Realising that the stubborn determination was the old Squall peeking through the cracks in the new one, Seifer allowed himself to be goaded a little, in the hope that it would help. "Pain in the ass."

"Egotistical bastard."

"I love you anyway." Seifer said smugly.

"Stupid egotistical bastard." The smaller figure curled against him tighter, the smile still curling his lips.

"Eh, maybe there's a reason I never made it through school." Seifer ducked his head to press a kiss against Squall's forehead, smiling fondly. If this kept up, he feared he'd be writing sappy love poems and calling Squall his love muffin and meaning it within the week. "Calling me names won't make me go away, Leonhart."

"I won't stop yet." Squall closed his eyes and relaxed, a faint smile on his lips as his body grew slack against Seifer's. "Four years to make up for."

"Wait until you're better. So I don't feel guilty for smacking you around."

Nervously, Squall's fingers slid against Seifer's stomach and toyed with one of his buttons. He wanted to crawl into the clothes with Seifer, to hide away from the world and the cravings that were still growling through his limbs and veins. "You never used to feel guilty about smacking me around."

Thankful that Squall couldn't see the blush on his cheeks and tease him for it this time, Seifer squeezed the smaller man gently. "Yeah, well... I'm not a kid anymore."



Suddenly, Squall lifted his gaze to Seifer's again, chewing his lower lip in thought. He needed to regain control, before he lost control again, before he did something worse than the clotting graze on Seifer's arm. "Take me to a safe house tomorrow? Please?"


'Because I'm afraid I'll really hurt you. Because I'm scared of loosing you again.' Painful thoughts he couldn't give voice to, to go with the painful images of Seifer, bloody and hurt from their battles in the war. Squall had to make sure he wouldn't hurt Seifer like that again. "I have some potions stashed."

"Why can't I just go and get them for you?" Then he wouldn't have to risk anyone seeing Squall. He wouldn't have to risk loosing him or having him get hurt again.

"Retina scan on entry." Squall didn't add that he didn't want to be away from Seifer for more than a heart beat again while the cravings were so strong.

Cursing, Seifer fixed a glare on his lover. "You're not ready to go out."

"Please. Seifer."

The look in Squall's eyes was what pushed him over the edge. The needy, hopeful look that made him seem younger, and impossibly fragile. He couldn't just say no to Squall, especially with the pain he was still in. "Fine. But we're going early in the morning."

"You. Early." One delicate coffee eyebrow rose in a perfect arc of amusement as Squall tried to get the words to work in a sentence regarding Seifer and failed miserably. He could foresee the problems that would cause instantly.

"I'll have you know I get up pretty early these days."

"All of you?"

Seifer grinned at the wicked curl of Squall's lips, suddenly looking forward to the healing all the more. "You already know the answer to that."

"I do." Squall frowned. "I wish I could do something about that."

Oh how Seifer wished that the pretty man that was sharing his bed could help him. How he longed to feel Squall's body squirming beneath him again, how he craved hearing that husky purr of Squall's voice as he begged to be filled. "Soon."

A curt nod was all the response Seifer had before Squall nuzzled against his chest again. "I still think you're an idiot."

"And maybe I am. That doesn't change anything though."

"I know." Squall smiled. "Besides, I want my pendant back." If he had to be Squall for Seifer and not Leon, he wanted Griever back around his neck and his finger. He found some measure of strength in the jewellery, as though the real Squall was locked within the lions of silver. It was nothing compared to the strength he'd found in the constant, unerring presence of Shiva before he'd lost her however.

"Your pendant?" Seifer tipped his lover's head to one side gently, brushing the softest of kisses against Squall's throat. He knew he couldn't have the slender brunette yet, that it was too dangerous, but he couldn't help but taste the flesh. "It's there?"

The brush of lips to his throat was more intoxicating than a glass of the finest Galbadian whiskey to him. He adored this kind of touch, the lips against his neck where he was most sensitive and receptive to Seifer's ministrations. Squall nodded, his eyes flickering closed. "Yeah. Left it there when I became 'Leon'."

Seifer lingered over the skin beneath Squall's ear. "We'll just have to get it, then."

"Don't leave without telling me again." The blue-grey gaze focusing on Seifer intently. The words were more serious than anything Seifer had heard from him that day, his voice having more clarity than it had since before the war. He could see the pain in the gaze, the fear in Squall's eyes and it felt awful.

Seifer brushed a thumb over one of Squall's nipples, making it peak beneath the warmth of the flannel. "I won't."

"I dreamt... Just stay."

Carefully, cupping Squall's cheek to tip his head towards him, Seifer kissed his lover deeply, a possessive but reverent kiss. He worshipped the brunette with his lips, breaking it gently to murmur "I'm not going anywhere. I'm yours. All yours."

"I'm going to hold you to that." Squall smiled weakly.

"I expect you to." Seifer's voice dropped to a huskier tone, nuzzling against Squall's ear. "You want me to make you come? I'll be careful." His hand gently slid down to brush against Squall's sleeping cock through the warm caress of the flannel. He'd held back for so long, and he wasn't about to let Squall reciprocate, surely he deserved something? "I'll just touch you."

When the gentle fingers cupped Seifer through his pants, he almost changed his mind.


"No, just you." The blonde curled his fingers over Squall's hand to ease it away from him gently. "Just lie still and let me."

When there was no argument, Seifer released Squall, sliding one hand between the buttons of the pyjama shirt to feel the warmth of his skin, easing the other below the waist band of Squall's pants. Though his skin was feverish, it still felt like silk against Seifer's lightly calloused fingertips, perfection made human. Love given form. "I want to feel you tremble against me. Like before..."

The words made Squall shiver, not with pain, or with the absence of Rapture, but with lust, a need he hadn't felt so keenly since Seifer had last touched him four years before. "Just don't tease too much."

"I won't tease you at all." Wrapping his fingers firmly around the length that hardened at his touch, Seifer nuzzled against Squall's temple. He didn't want to draw it out, at least, not this time. He stroked the hardened flesh with no preamble, teasing in all those spots that he knew Squall liked to be teased as he worked the length.

It felt so good, it made the room spin around him. Squall turned his head to kiss Seifer longingly, even as Seifer continued to masturbate him, sucking on the tongue that dared to invade his mouth seeking solace.

"Easy, baby. Careful."

"This is careful." Squall growled against Seifer's lips.

As his fingers found one of Squall's nipples, teasing the hardened peak of flesh, Seifer nibbled at Squall's jaw. "I missed this."

"You missed this?" the brunette asked incredulously, wincing as he attempted to press against Seifer's hands only to have his back complain violently.

"Hyne, yes. I dreamed about this. Touching you, hearing you sigh and moan." Seifer rubbed his cheek against Squall's. He could feel the slick wetness of Squall's precome leaking from the head of his cock as he stroked it. The familiarity, the comfort offered by that sensation made him want to cling to Squall, never to let go again.

"Oh gods, Seifer..." Squall gasped, his body reacting to the approach of his orgasm despite the pain it caused him through his injuries.

"Don't move." He whispered into Squall's ear, stroking him faster, fingers tight around his heated flesh now. "Be perfectly still and just... come. For me..."

It was Seifer's voice the pushed him over the edge, that gave him the release he'd been longing for, for days. That voice that haunted his thoughts and dreams, the voice he'd longed to hear again to very badly. His hips bucked up mindlessly as he came, his seed spilling over Seifer's hand. "Seifer!" Squall's voice was a breathless shadow of its usual intensity.

"My baby." Seifer captured Squall's breathless words against his lips, kissing him more forcefully than he had in the previous days. "My Squall."

The slender body slumped against Seifer's chest weakly, held upright by the back brace and the closeness of Seifer's body. "My puppy." Squall husked, when he finally found his voice again.

Laughing softly, Seifer arranged his lover into a more comfortable position. "I'll over look that one. I'll go get something to clean you up."

"Thank you." Squall murmured sleepily, resting wearily against the nest of pillows Seifer had created for him once again. He felt warm, sated and loved and when Seifer returned with the warm wash cloth to clean him, he found himself enjoying the gentle treatment for once. Usually he despised being coddled and babied, but there was something in the strength of Seifer's hands and the cool green colour of his eyes that made him want to endure the babying. "Sorry... for before..."

"Stop apologising to me. You'll make me wonder where my Squall went." Seifer levelled a light glare at his lover. It wasn't at all serious, just reminding him who was in charge.

"Hiding." Squall tapped his temple weakly.

"Ever since I've known him, anyway."

Seifer glanced up as the pale, trembling hand caught his hand, his gaze locking with Squall's. the alabaster finger squeezed his own, and Squall murmured "I think... I need to stop."

"I'll help you. I know what you need, Squall." A faint note of inquiry from the brunette made him continue. "Patience. Trust. You just need me."

Considering that for a moment, Squall nodded gently. It made sense to his exhausted mind, and he wondered why he'd not realised that before. Perhaps he'd just needed to hear it from his old lover, needed to hear the honesty from his rival's lips. "Rest." He added to the list, letting his eyes slide closed to think and stumble over the fact he'd almost stabbed the only person he loved earlier.

"Rest." Seifer repeated softly, brushing Squall's hair out of his eyes, and placing a kiss on the old scar between his eyes.

When he spoke that word, it seemed as though all the tension had just melted out of Squall's body. His frown slid away, leaving his mouth slack and his features looking young again. In the previous few days, the dark circles under his eyes had lightened and he looked better, despite the raging fever and confusion, despite the still vivid colour of the bruised shoulder.

Seifer brushed his fingers through Squall's hair fondly one last time. "Love you." He whispered to the silent form.

He could have sworn Squall smiled in his sleep.



Thanks to all my reviewers, the words do mean a lot to me I assure you. I'd thank you all individually but I'd never get this posted tonight! Please let me know what you think if you have the time.


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