Author’s Notes: Desperate for feedback!


Chapter 4 - On the Brink

By Ashi

Outside, the sky bleeds a crimson sunset, spilling its wine-colored light across the mountainous horizon…It’s beautiful in it’s loneliness, a scene that could easily be depicted on a postcard advertising some kind of spiritual getaway. Get away…I can’t, and it has less to do with the heap of paperwork in front of me than I’d admit to anyone.

I take another moment to admire the countryside of Balamb in its early twilight phase, the darkening strip of horizon framed like a painting in the bay window of my office. The stillness is broken by the hiss of the door as it opens behind me, and I wonder where the hell my secretary’s hiding before I remember I had given her the rest of the day off after she spilled diet green tea on the FH trade agreements…I should consider giving her more vacation options in the future.

I turn in my chair, preparing a glare as I swipe a wayward fall of hair from my line of vision in annoyance. "Damn it, Zell, try knocking before…" The sentence dies in my throat when I realize it’s not the spiky blonde before me, presenting me with a crooked, sheepish grin, but the tall, lean form of Irvine Kinneas. The dying sun bathes his golden skin red, and he glows like he’d stuffed five aura stones in his pockets.

"Is that some kind of greeting, Commander?," he asks, cocking a dark eyebrow. "What kind of example are you setting here, anyway?" I give him a mild look and he chuckles to himself, apparently finding either himself or my dark expression humorous. Whatever.

"The only other person here is you, and I don’t think I could do much to further your corruption."

He laughs, and it’s rich and golden like the play of sunlight on his tan. "You know," he says, eyes twinkling, "you have a point." He’s turning that lecherous smile on me, voice dripping with insinuation as he leans over my desk. "However, there is one thing…" I know he’s joking, and some twisted part of me that wouldn’t mind screwing one of my best friends is slightly disappointed. I don’t know when this perverse attraction to the Galbadian sharpshooter began, but I can’t afford it, especially now when he’s within kissing distance and regarding me with a challenging smirk, dusky eyes level with my own. Not to mention I’m more than a little certain his interests lie purely in the female side of the spectrum.

I sigh heavily and close my eyes--more in desperation than agitation—relieved when I hear the rustle of his clothes as he moves away, and breath hitching for just an instant when I allow myself to imagine him leaning the other direction. Pathetic. I’ve no right to fantasize about one of the few people who consort with me by their own volition, even if it would take the edge from my loneliness for a little while. It wouldn’t last, I’ve learned that much during those first lazy weekends spent with Seifer, although I can still feel his eyes on me from this morning.

I can still feel…everything. There was something in the press of his body against mine, in the warm roughness of his touch that cleared my mind of everything but him: above me, inside me, everywhere. I’d wake to find us in a tangle of limbs, and I’d watch his face in contemplative fascination as he dreamed in the grey light of morning. It was that fifteenth winter when I’d woken alone and shivering, instinctively reaching toward a body that wasn’t there, and it was then I’d realized something had changed between us. I would later find that something was a girl, a pretty long-haired image of porcelain perfection. I had known I could never give him as much, and had ached for him some nights, although I’d convinced myself it had been nothing but hormones and stress-relief.

It wasn’t long before he returned to slipping in my room after-hours, and I never questioned or denied... Because somewhere in the back of my mind, while I lay shuddering beneath him as he breathed my name, I could almost believe it was more.

The eyes are wide and unseeing, bloody hands tearing at his own flesh in manic horror, and I’m reminded of a program I watched once about crystal methamphetamine. I read the caption again, a numb sort of realization advancing with each word. "Psychochemical agents are considered incapacitants. They alter the nervous system, thereby causing visual and aural hallucinations, a sense of unreality, and changes in thought process and behavior. The effects of many of these agents are unpredictable."

I towel my hair absently, considering my options. It feels strange to be seated at a desk again, half-opened books spread across its expanse in the lamp-light. This time, however, I’m not making a half-ass attempt at "studying," which for me had always began with a drink and ended with a visit to Leonhart’s. Needless to say, I rarely finished my homework.

My mind settles on Quistis through the process of elimination, and I’m already halfway to her room, just crossing the intersection between dorm wings. I pass a few cadets, who glare at me appropriately and rush past whispering animatedly to each other. At the least I had expected a huge upstart at my return to Garden, but for the most part, people simply stay out of my way. To the point of clearing the hallway as I walk past. Maybe it has something to do with the fact it was their beloved commander’s request that I grace the halls once more as a…standard sanitation engineer. The only confrontation I’ve had so far was with the vending machine, but it was nothing a few swift kicks couldn’t solve. But then, I suppose that could work for any situation.

Before I know it, I’m standing in the middle of the girls’ wing with no idea where Quistis might be—I realize a little too late that I really don’t know the layout of this section of the dorms at all (perhaps because I had always been so preoccupied with things at the other end), and have even less knowledge of where the blonde instructor’s quarters are. This could pose a slight problem.

I’m turning, cringing at the thought of asking assistance ("Excuse me…Why, yes, I’m the heartless, evil bastard/madman. Listen, could you help me find Instructor Trepe’s room?"), when my mental monologue is interrupted. "Seifer Almasy?," Quistis says in mock-disbelief, voice smooth and light like water. She’d make a good singer. "I must admit, I’d never thought I’d see you here. You always seemed so much more interested in a certain someone in the other section." My surprise must be evident on my face, because she laughs behind a gloved hand, shaking her head so that gold-spun hair sways about her jaw-line. "I’m not blind, Seifer," she intones with a knowing smile. "Or naïve. There’s only so many reasons why you could have been leaving his room at 5:00 every morning."

If I was Squall, I’m sure I would be blushing now-- I swear the little shit turns red at the drop of a hat. I just grin, leaning back against a nearby wall. "I wasn’t aware you were keeping tabs on us, Instructor, or I would have made sure to check under the bed."

Now it’s her turn to bite her lip, and she rolls her eyes in a decidedly un-Quistislike manner. "Well, I should’ve checked the closet, since you seem so resolved to stay in it." When did she get so good at this?

"Listen, Quisty, contrary to what you seem to think, I’m not into guys." She lifts a finely sculpted eyebrow, obviously fighting the urge to comment as she waits for me to elaborate. "Leonhart was a one-time thing. I don’t plan on doing it again."

"Ah," she acknowledges, apparently satisfied with my curt explanation, and I’m suddenly dreading the end of this conversation. "So, what brings you here?"

"So, Squall," I say, breaking the awkward silence as I pretend I hadn’t seen that panicked look flash in his eyes before they closed. "Uh, look, Zell called me earlier today--I think just ‘cause your line’s always turned off—and he said he’s taking Ma to a hospital in Esthar…I guess it’s pretty serious. I was gonna tell you earlier, but I had to take his class and try to finish grading some stuff real fast." I’m rambling, but my mouth seems to be on auto-pilot while my mind whirls with possibilities.

He looks at me blankly for a moment, and I get the impression that he just remembered I was standing here. "Zell…?"

"Yeah, man. Zell—you know…short, white, and spazzy?"

"..He’s in Esthar?" His concern is just radiating, let me tell you.

"Yeah, they should probably be there by now…He’s supposed to call."

"Oh…Do you think she’ll be alright?" If I were anyone else, I don’t think he would have allowed that note of worry to surface, maybe even ditching the question entirely; I take some pride in the fact that he trusts me that much more. Squall knows even better than I do just how large of a role Ma plays in Zell’s life, and I myself can’t think of the martial-artist without seeing her right behind him as a perpetual support-system. Unconditional love…Must be nice.

"I…hope so. The truth is, I don’t really know much about it, but Zell seemed pretty worried." Squall averts his eyes, and I see the weariness return in full force like someone had turned a dial from "tired" to "dead on feet." "But, you know Zell," I forge on desperately . "He’s always overreacting about stuff. Remember the ‘noodle incident’?" Squall had found that little mishap hilarious—he had even made a soft noise of amusement while Zell extracted the half-cooked, angel-hair spaghetti from where it had somehow slithered down his shorts as he’d tried to sneak a bite from the pot Selphie had been tending. And I managed to get some incriminating photos while the removal process took place…Zell didn’t take this very well.

To my relief—and amazement—a small smile pulls at the corners of the commander’s lips, and I try to memorize the brief transformation before it diminishes to a faint tilt. He nods, that shadow of a smile refusing to fade completely, and I feel a sweet sort of pull somewhere way to close to my heart. I clear my throat, which feels suddenly constricted. "So, I guess you need a training partner, huh?"

There’s something about the feel of dried monster fluids on my skin that really grosses me out. I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad if not for the smell, a lovely mixture of turpentine, rotting meat, and silage, assailing my nostrils with every breath and making me regret ditching my duster earlier. I’d rather be a human incubation unit than a walking outhouse any day.

It’s late, I still haven’t finished those papers, and I reek of monster entrails. Not to mention Squall and I did quite a number on the T-Rexaur population, which probably won’t recover any time soon. Basically, it’s about time to head out and find a shower. "Squall, let’s get outta here," I begin, stopping in my tracks when I realize not only is there no answer, but there’s no accompanying sound of footsteps either. He’d trailed behind me during much of our little session, and I just figured he needed some space or something…This was fine by me, since it seems like every time I look at him now, I wonder what would have happened if I’d leaned in those last few inches…

As if on reflex, I smack my forehead (resulting only in getting some nondescript substance above my brow), and turn to stomp off in the direction I’d just came, focusing on finding the taciturn commander rather than on how inviting his lips had looked in that moment of vulnerability.

I sigh heavily, rounding a corner and nearly running headfirst into some kind of exotic plant which gives off a smell rivaling the one currently coating my person, and continue mentally berating myself as I hurry through the pseudo-forest. He’s a guy; I’m a guy. He’s straight, and damn if I’m not the straightest person I know. There. Now that that’s settled…

My thought processes come to a screeching halt as I emerge from a clump of foliage, stumbling across a scene that, for a split-second, encases me in a blanket of cold as swiftly and surely as Diamond Dust from Shiva’s fingers. Then I’m running, my feet beating against the artificial turf as I sprint full-tilt to reach the outline of a figure that looks way too small and way too still, folded in a heap on the ground. He’s next to a wall, as if he’d been leaning against it and had simply slid face-first to the dirt.

I skid to a kneeling stop next to the unconscious body of my best friend, my own pulse racing as I search for his. His wrist feels frail and brittle in my palm, as if a contraction of my fingers could crush the bony structure like glass. And his pulse…fast and weak, but all I need before scooping him up in my arms—a task that feels much too easy—and breaking for the exit before a monster wonders in my path. I hazard a few glances at Squall’s face every now and then, fear hastening my pace as I take in the colorless skin and slack mouth. He’s warm, though—I can feel his body heat through the layers of his clothing, which offers me a small amount of comfort.

My room’s closest, and before I’m aware of the transition from training center to dorms, I’m punching in my access code while balancing Squall against the door with one arm. No one’s around. Praising whichever heavenly deity had guided me to clean my quarters early this morning, I’m to my bed in a flash, carefully lowering the lifeless body onto my simple white sheets. It’s ironic, that he had been doing the same for me a little more than 24 hours ago.

And it’s surreal as I watch his eyelashes flutter, soon followed by slices of chrome blue in the dark of my room; the pupils are dilated to large disks, the iris a thin silver ring encompassing black. I stoop to his side, and his eyes follow my movement, struggling to focus on my face. "Hey, welcome back," I whisper, forcing a smile. I reach out to brush an errant strand of hair from his eyes, and my fingers linger a bit over his forehead. Gods, he’s warm.

He makes a few unintelligible noises as the my callused finger-pads ghost across his scar, his eyes never leaving mine as his tongue darts out to moisten his lips.

" ‘vine?," he murmurs, pitching it just enough to emit uncertainty.

"Yeah, Squall, it’s just me," I say in what I hope is a reassuring voice, all the while feeling as though my tone would be more appropriate for use with a skin-kneed kindergartner, and not the highest ranking official of Balamb Garden. I never said I was good at this. "Look, I’m gonna go get Dr. Kodawaki and be right back, okay?" I search his face for any kind of signal that he had heard me, and finding none, turn to go; I’m side-tracked, however, when his fingers reach out to grasp my wrist in a remarkably strong hold, clutching so hard that I know his nails will have left red crescents in my flesh. I look over my shoulder to find him half-sitting, propped on an elbow, his face a mask of childlike fear. I’ve never seen Squall with such an expression—it’s horror, panic, and shame all in one, and it terrifies me.

"Don’t," he gasps out, reclining back again when he’s satisfied I’ve stopped, but not relinquishing his hold on my wrist just the same.

"I have to, Squall—it’ll only take a few minutes, that’s all, and I’ll be right back with someone who can help you."

He shakes his head mutely against the pillow, and I sigh, crouching beside the bed once more. He still doesn’t let go. "Squall…" I suck in a breath as his fingers slide up to intertwine with mine, a gesture that seems as unlikely than the situation under which it is happening. Okay, who is this, and what has he done with the sullen little bastard I thrashed monsters with no less than an hour ago?

"Please," he breaths, and I have to strain to pick up the faint whisper. His head turns away, eyes squeezed shut. "Don’t leave me alone."

I watch his profile for a moment in silence, bringing up my hand to clasp our joined ones, and marveling at the intricate pattern of gold and ivory our interlaced fingers have created. When I look up, he’s watching me, lips parted, and something in the way his snow-shadow eyes are trained on mine sends all rational thought flying from my brain in rapid succession. I lean in slowly, and his eyes flicker over my face before sliding closed, his fingers curling against my hands.

I’ve never felt anything sweeter than the pure electric sensation that rockets up my spine as my lips brush his, feather-light and achingly tender. It’s no more than the briefest of touches and no less than a second before I pull back, suddenly very aware of exactly who it is I’m kissing, and the condition I’m taking advantage of. He makes an incoherent noise low in his throat as I back away, and I’m confronted with the astonishingly lucid intensity of Squall’s most heated glare. If he’s going to kill me, I suppose this would be the way to go; I’d imagine it’d be much like death by chocolate.

"What the hell do you think you’re doing?," he demands huskily, and I’m at a loss for words. I mean, it should have been pretty obvious.

"Gods, Squall, I don’t know," I say coolly, considering the hammering of my heart, which I’m sure he can hear in the utter silence of my room. "You were there. What do you think I was doing?" I’m feeling strangely defensive, which isn’t all that odd considering I just kissed my best friend. My very male best friend.

"No," he growls, and it’s amazing how quickly he’s transitioned from out cold in the dirt to wide-awake and livid in a very small frame of time. "I meant, why did you stop?" Of all possible accusations, I’m definitely not expecting this one. So, I do the only logical thing. I kiss him again.

That first tender exploration is still there, although this time, it’s at a slightly different level. I nibble teasingly at his bottom lip before sliding my tongue across the hyper-sensitized flesh, feeling a surge of pride and delight when this elicits a tiny shiver from the commander. His fingers have wound themselves through the long strands of my hair, and he’s sighing into our kiss like a dream, sweeter, sexier, and far more perfect than any girl I’ve ever been with.

When he pulls me down to him, I don’t resist, hearing the far-away creak of the mattress as I settle on top of him, bracing myself on my elbows and relishing in the feel of our lips moving together with new fervor. My world focuses on the press of his body against mine, and he arches into the delicious contact as I roll my hips experimentally; we each gasp at this new-found source of pleasure, him grinding up against me with exquisite force. His head falls back, and I’m presented with the graceful curve of his exposed throat, which I take advantage of immediately.

Squall moans as I work at the sensitive dip between shoulder and neck, all the while rocking against him until our breaths come fast and ragged, riding on the edge of release. It takes all my reserved will-power to break away at the last moment, my heart fracturing at the whimper of betrayal that tears from his throat. "S’okay," I croak, bringing up my hands to cup his face and touching my forehead to his. Our breaths mingle, and he wraps his arms around my torso, loosely, allowing me freedom to leave if I wanted to.

We’re so close, I can feel the movement of his eyelashes against my skin. "Irvine," he whispers, the edge of need straining his voice. "I want…" His hips gravitate upwards toward mine, and I suck in a breath as he trembles in the effort to keep himself still. "I want you. Inside."

He wants me, and I’m scared half to death; scared I might hurt him, hurt our friendship. It’s one of those make-or-break kind of situations. "Are you sure?"


"You’re not still out of it?"

"No." He replies with an innocent honesty I’m unfamiliar with, voice subdued with trepidation, and I see a shadow of the little boy on the beach from all those years ago. He thinks I’m going to reject him.

I place a light kiss on Squall’s brow, fingering the hemline of his shirt, my knuckles brushing the smooth muscles of his abdomen. I’ve never been so nervous in my life. Not counting the assassination incident, of course. I let out a long breath, nuzzling my nose affectionately against his. "Alright."

I suppose there’s more meaningful things I could have said, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. I fumble with his buttons—he’s somehow managed to fasten them all in the wrong holes—but his shirt slides off easily enough after that. I move to kneel between his legs, admiring his moon-god beauty—his hair’s black against the white of his skin, and it splays across his face, a fine blush rising high on his cheekbones while I look at him. "What?," he asks, shifting uncomfortably. I watch the ripple of lean muscle as I lean in to capture a dusky pink nipple between my teeth.

"Nothing, koi. You’re beautiful," I answer truthfully, the endearment falling from my lips without hesitation or discretion, before they become busy doing other things.

He starts to say something, and I swirl my tongue over the hardening nub, suckling gently, and half-formed words turn into a long moan, his arms tightening around me. "Nnnnn…Irvine…" I slip a hand between us, stroking and squeezing through the denim of his jeans, in rhythm to the movement of my tongue around his nipple. "Want…want it…," he gasps, brushing his fingers against my trapped arousal. "Please…"

I say nothing, only crawling my fingers up to unfasten his jeans, glad I don’t have to work through his usually maze of belts, and he lifts his hips to help me as I slide them off along with his boxers. "Lions?," I ask, biting back a laugh at the indignant look he gives me.

"Selphie and Quistis got them for me last Christmas," he sighs irritably as I study the little cartoon beasts frolicking on the black fabric. "I don’t think they expected me to actually wear them."

"They are kinda cute."

"Whatever," he mutters, sitting up to pull at the edge of my vest, and it’s halfway off before my arms get in the way. At his frustrated growl, I reach up to finish removing it, tossing it to the floor with my hat. The well-being of the damn thing just doesn’t seem that important at the moment; not while I’ve got a very aroused and very naked Squall Leonhart pressing up against me, tentatively running his hands down my back and around to the front of my pants, lips seeking out the place where my jaw and earlobe meet.

I’m relieved of the remainder of my clothing before I know it, and I must say I’ve never been happier to be in said state. Squall kisses a trail down my chest, pausing for a moment to dip his tongue into my belly button before continuing on a torturously slow journey…Definitely never been happier, I think to myself as he lowers himself gracefully to his hands and knees, eyes meeting mine in a silent question; I nod dumbly, trembling with anticipation.

He sighs, and I feel the tiny release of air long before his lips close over me. I groan, biting my lower lip with the first swipe of his tongue, and it’s not long before my fingers are threaded through his hair, urging him on. His hands now rest on my braced thighs, and he’s drawn himself into a curving S-shape (for a better angle, I suppose), his supple body arched in such a way that I’m presented with a truly remarkable view of one of his best attributes. Not that any view of the commander is unremarkable.

Without thought—the rush of blood to my head wouldn’t exactly be considered thought—I bring one hand to my mouth, wetting the fingers thoroughly. I trace a glistening line over the curve of his spine, moaning when he purrs around me. Before long, I’ve found what I’m looking for, and I press into him gently with one slick finger, struggling to concentrate through the haze of pleasure he’s working me into.

I know I’ve hit it when he cries out, driving himself back against my hand as I insert another finger, stretching him as he takes me into his mouth once more…My fingers move to the rhythm he’s set, and soon our muffled cries fill the deep darkness of my room. This time, it’s him that breaks us off. "Irvine," Squall says urgently, looking up. He gasps, dropping to his elbows for a moment before levering himself up shakily, his face level with mine; my fingers are still moving inside him, and I smile in wonder at the effect they are provoking. His face is flushed and he’s panting shallowly, open-mouthed, eyes fluttering closed as he clutches my arm with bruising force. "Wait…," he tries again. "Sto-op…"

I do, grudgingly, waiting for him to speak. He drops his head to my shoulder, trembling, and I loop my arms about him awkwardly as he breaths against my skin. "Damn, Squall." I don’t know what else to say. He makes a noise that sounds oddly like laugher, deep in throat, and when he looks up he’s smiling. This is the weirdest damn day of my life.

"You’ve never…done this with a guy before, have you?"

"Ah, no," I laugh nervously. Wait a minute. "Have you?" He looks away, smile vanishing into a troubled frown as he nods.

"Yes," he says, letting out a great breath. "Do you still want to…?"

I shake myself out of the numb sort of stupor I’ve lapsed into, amazed at my own rapid answer. "Yes. Yeah. I just, you know, was wondering…" I’m not allowed to finish my sentence, however, when his lips close in to take mine in a desperate, heated kiss as he pulls me back with him. I’m left gasping as he breaks away, arranging himself on my sheets, his bent knees propped on either side of me.

"Will you…please?," he asks simply, eyes uncertain.

I slide my hands up his smooth, pale thighs, lifting his hips as I simultaneously hike his legs over my shoulders. "I thought I already answered that question." 

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