AUTHOR'S NOTES: I don't like the title. I don't like the summary. I don't particularly like the story. I do, however, like Squall & Irvine as a couple. And since they never really seemed to have a relationship outside of their common mission, I had to think something up. This story isn't too good. I don't even distinctly remember thinking it up and writing it; but, hey, it's on my computer so I guess I did.

Inherited Traits

By Kaerith

I heard the sound of boots coming toward me. I peered up through my bangs. He was coming straight for me! A cold hand of fear squeezed my heart.

"Squall." His voice was soft but undeniably masculine. I raised my head and posed like I was casually leaning on the wall by choice instead of suddenly watery knees.

"Irvine." I greeted coolly, crossing my arms. My act of cool had no effect over my traitorous eyes which wandered everywhere but his face. I focused on a point somewhere over his left shoulder.

We stood for a while. I could feel his eyes on me, silently trying to puzzle me out. Heat crept up the back of my neck and my eyes began their nervous drifting again.

The cowboy sighed, shifting his weight to his right foot. "Well, since you're never going to bring it up, I'll have to."

I nearly broke into a cold sweat then and there. Bring *what* up? My tongue was tied and I would have slumped to the floor if the wall weren't propping me up. I looked around. No one else was walking around the second-floor hallway. We were alone.

I gulped, trying to unknot my tongue to mutter an excuse to slip away. I could feel a soundless gurgle in my stomach, and I swear, I must've turned green.

"Shit, man, are you okay?" I looked into his eyes. Big mistake. The concern there nearly made me crumble into tears. *Why am I such a crybaby when he's around?* The butterflies in my stomach were getting worse. I only had a split-second warning to try to get away. Irvine grabbed my shoulder, spinning me around, just in time to get his expensive cowboy boots splattered in this morning's cold cereal.

All of a sudden, the floor seemed *awfully* inviting….

I woke up with a start, half-sitting up from the couch I was laying on. I looked around. Nothing much. Just an old, second-hand sofa mix-matched with an overstuffed armchair and beat-up coffee table. The only decorations in the room were a few gun catalogs and magazines scattered on the table and a rifle hanging proudly on the wall. A poster of an older John Lennon hung in a corner, an afterthought. *Definitely Irvine's room.*

Where was he? Frantically, I looked around until I heard muffled curses coming from the bathroom. I grabbed a few Lemonheads from a candy dish to freshen my mouth. Time to sneak out.

Both feet were firmly on the floor when a hand and voice stopped me. "No way. You're not leaving yet."

My shoulders fell in defeat as he paced over to the armchair. Flopping down into it he glared at me. "You owe me. You owe me *big.* That was my second favorite pair of boots." Irvine rested his elbows on his thighs and leaned forward. "You're gonna pay with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but. 'Kay, pardner?" The last part was drawled out.

I shrugged. "Whatever…"

He laughed once. A deep, throaty chuckle. "First question: Why have you been avoiding me?"

I slumped against the couch and half-covered my face with a hand. *At least things can't get any worse. And at least he already knows that Seifer and I had fooled around before the Sorceress thing. Best just to tell him straight out. Like ripping off a Band-Aid; fast and painfully.*

I took a breath to steady my nerves and heartbeat. "I-I like you, Irvine." *Please, let's just leave it at that.*

But no. Irvine wanted to watch me squirm. "Like me *how*?" An evil smirk stretched across his face. That pushed me over the edge.

"I fucking LIKE you, you goddamn womanizing, cock-sucking redneck!" Like molten lead, rage filled me up, molding itself inside my skin and giving me strength. I had leapt from my seat and was standing two steps from his chair.

Irvine's eyes matched his taunting grin. "'Course you do, Squally. This," a wave of his right hand indicated his body, "is just too hard to resist."

Oh, how I wanted to slap that smile off his face. I lunged forward preparing to do that but, somehow, my hands pinned his wrists down as I slammed my mouth over his.

After a couple of heartbeats his fists unclenched and he relaxed, slightly opening his lips while I nibbled gently on his lower lip.

A moment, an eternity, later I pulled my head back, sheepishly removing my hands from his wrists with their fluttering pulse, and slowly opening my eyes, afraid to see the disgust on his face.

Instead, Irvine looked up into my eyes and smiled, all mockery gone and replaced with relief and gladness. "I was hoping you'd do that." His voice was a whispered half-croak caused by the emotion I saw in his face. "Man, how I hoped."

And I, swept up in my own sweet relief, fell into his lap and was cradled in his arms. "Really?" I asked timidly. Irvine nodded, his soft scented hair brushing against my forehead as he lightly kissed my cheek.

We sat like that for a while. Eventually, I said "Sorry about puking on your boots."

"Don't worry 'bout it."

There seemed to be nothing else to say.

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