Author’s Notes: Desperate for feedback!


Chapter 5 - Slow Burn

By Ashi

Morning shines red on my eyelids. I nuzzle into the body beside me--into the crook between chin and shoulder-- my head resting on a blanket of silky hair. An arm tightens around my waist, drawing me closer, accompanied by an incoherent groan…and a smell…What the hell is that?…

I’m not someone who wakes up disoriented under normal circumstances, granted, these circumstances are nowhere near normal, and I’m all too aware of where I am, why I’m void of clothing, and whose leg is flung over my hip. Even before I open my eyes, last night’s scene has played out in my head as if on a loop, each event repeating itself in humiliating clarity. Me passing out. Me waking up in an unfamiliar room. Irvine. Irvine kissing me. Irvine touching me. Irvine laughing at my boxers. Irvine…gods. And me begging him all the while.

I cringe and crack open a bleary eye. Fuck. I close it again. Any dubious shred of hope that it had all been some kind of twisted soap opera produced by my deranged subconscious is destroyed as my vision rests on an ornately beaded necklace stark against honey skin. A necklace unlike any other in the world, worn by a person unlike anyone I have ever met. Slept with. Fuck.

There’s a sharp mechanical bleating and I jolt, his eyes snap open—clear and vibrant indigo, so like and unlike the smoky amethyst of last night—and we look at each other for one torturously long second before he vaults out of bed, muttering something that sounds a bit like, "Stay" out of the corner of his mouth.

Irvine lumbers over to the source of the noise, his laptop, I see, resting precariously at the edge of his desk beside a menagerie of paperwork. He apparently remembers he’s not wearing anything, and makes a comical twirl in the middle of the room before spotting his boxers and snatching them from the small pile of assorted clothing we’d made in the middle of the room. His hat’s nowhere to be seen. He has to sift through my own discarded jeans and boxers in order to locate the rest of his clothes, and I feel strange that this act seems incredibly intimate after what we had done together. I lay back and throw an arm over my eyes, willing away flashbacks from the incident—the mistake—that had transpired last night.

There’s a metallic scrape as Irvine presumably positions the laptop so it’s no longer facing the bed, and most importantly, me, and the bleating stops abruptly. I hear only a slight pause, then, "Zell!"

"The one and only." His voice crackles over the static of a long-distance feed, still unmistakably mischievous, unmistakably Zell. I imagine his dark tribal shifting with a triangular, fanged smile.

"So how’s—why didn’t you call?"

"Ma’s fine, and I am calling."

"Good. What was wrong?…You were supposed to call last night." It was as if they were having two different conversations at the same time.

"Yeah, I know, I’m sorry—got side-tracked. Turns out she had some kind of weird virus. I’m not even gonna try the name. Set her up with some medication, though, and we’re coming home this afternoon…Anyway"--he lowers his voice slyly--"looks like I would have interrupted somethin’."

I hear Irvine’s startled silence before he attempts a very nervous sounding laugh. I make a mental note never to allow him on a mission that requires any sort of subterfuge. "What the hell are you talking about?" There’s still a trace of that pitiful, rather strained laughter in his voice. I wonder if could I grab my clothes, crawl away, find a strong alcoholic drink, and forget all this. I don’t remember seeing my shirt anywhere…

"Your hair’s down." That’s right. I remember snapping the thin band as he slid inside—I’d gasped, not as much from the sensation as from the way he’d looked then, like some kind of Nordic god halloed with moonlit copper. "It’s always in that goddamned ponytail. Even when you sleep. So I’m guessing there must be some kind of special occasion…Do I know the poor soul?"

"Well…" I raise my arm and peer beneath it, watching Irvine tug at a few strands of chestnut hair self-consciously. Zell is uncharacteristically quiet, waiting expectantly. "I guess I’ve been found out," the Galbadian finally drawls. His entire demeanor has changed, from his speech to his stance, and although I can’t see his face, I picture a crooked smirk in my mind’s eye. I hadn’t realized that I wasn’t the only one with more than one persona, more than one face.

"I knew it!," Zell exclaims triumphantly. "So who was it?"

"Oh, you know," Irvine says with a dismissive shrug, "just a lay." His words are simple enough, creeping across the walls of my mind like a slow burn. At the time, I could have believed it-- how he’d brushed his knuckles across my cheek and said things I’ve never expected, in a voice I’ve never heard. I could have believed it. I shift to curl up on my side, trying to quell a sudden wave of nausea. And at the same time, there’s a burning, a searing, stinging kind of ache, pulsing in my chest; it’s a dull, weary sort of pain, knifing through my consciousness like a distorted nightmare. I shudder under this sensation, this all-encompassing hurt, and, gods, but it feels good…

The conversation drones on, becoming a jumble of meaningless words that aren’t as much words as fragmented, far-away voices; I feel the weight of countless sleepless nights causing my eyes to drift closed and my breaths to even and slow, until I’m at the junction between dreaming and reality.

It’s a long time—but then, it could have been seconds or hours to me—before something pulls my mind back to my cold body in this unfamiliar bed. A word. A name…mine. "…if he’s better?" Zell’s voice filters to my foggy mind, and I’m almost sure I’d misheard before Irvine makes a rather clumsy reply.

"Squall? Well, yeah, he seems alright, I guess." Nothing out of the ordinary. Right. "Same as always."

"Ah, hell, I’ve gotta go, Irv…" There’s a high-pitched woman’s voice in the background, and Irvine laughs.

"Forgot your laptop, eh, Dincht?"

"Yeah—in a second, lady…Well anyway, take care of him for me, okay?" What the hell? Since when did I become the community project?

"Yeah…no problem."

"And Irvine…"


"You’ve got some nasty shit on your arm. Just thought I’d tell you."

By now, the monster fluids have tried to a blotchy green film, crusted to the hairs of my arm. No matter how vigorously I scrub at the vile stuff, I can still feel it there, even as I watch the diluted sludge spiral down the drain. I can still smell it, too, almost like the odor has become imprinted in my nostrils. It’s hard to believe I’d actually fallen asleep with an authentic Geezard-autographed arm, but then again, I had been a little distracted. I’ll probably always be a little distracted every time I so much as think of Squall now.

I feel tired, suddenly, and find myself watching him sleep through the bathroom door. I’d disconnected the feed with a clenched jaw, preparing to face one of the more awkward situations of my life, only to find the source of my anxieties in a comatose state in my sheets. Hyne, he’d looked so small and pale and fragile—and beautiful, my mind supplies—and I’d drawn the sheet to his chin and walked away.

My attentions shifts to the black digital clock on the bed-stand; it’s already 9:08, but my class doesn’t start till later this afternoon. Then Zell’s, directly afterwards. I groan, and begin the process of removing my clothes once more, the prospect of a hot shower overriding the thought of breakfast. I have a feeling cafeteria eggs just ain’t going to sit right this morning.

I soap off mechanically, mechanically wash my hair, and mechanically rinse. I stand under the spray for a while, the hot, coursing water pelting against my sore muscles and streaming down my skin in rivulets. I let my mind wander, back to a bed, a boy.

When I open my eyes some time later, I don’t immediately realize that I’m not alone. Not until I find myself staring down into a pair of kohl-lashed, plaintive grey eyes not four inches away. He closes the distance, pressing against me and winding his arms around my neck with childlike caution. "Is this okay?," Squall whispers, lips brushing my ear, a thousand unsaid words passing between us, and all I can do is nod.

His mouth finds mine, and the same electric rush is present from the first time; I’m drowning in it, and the day disappears as I run my hands down his sides to his hips and around to his perfect ass, massaging gently as his tongue slides against mine. His pleased purr is audible over the roar of the shower, and he pushes back against my finger when I drive it carefully inside him. "Mmm…More," he moans, dropping his head to my shoulder.

By the time there are three fingers moving inside him, he’s more than ready, and the friction of his slick abdomen against my erection has become nearly unbearable. "Squall…" Only an inarticulate noise answers as I remove my fingers. "Let go for just a sec, koi." He looks up at me, his initial expression of confusion fading as he understands, and obediently drops his arms and steps back, gripping the railing shakily. The water streams steadily over his body, highlighting and illuminating the subtle slopes of muscle and outlining every contour, every curve. Beautiful.

I drop a kiss on his shoulder as I take him wordlessly, and somehow, I don’t think this is quite what Zell had meant.

I gasp when his long fingers slide around to take my aching sex, pumping in time to his careful thrusts. It’s not enough. "I’m not going to fucking break," I hear myself growl, and I don’t recognize my own voice.

He stills in surprise, and it’s a few moments before his voice sounds somewhere close to my ear, low and gravely. "Then, tell me what you want." His left hand roams over my stomach and chest, and my breath hitches when he locates a nipple and pinches and rolls it between his callused fingertips. "Tell me, Squall…"

I push back hard, driving him deeper inside me and making us both moan. "Fuck me."

I scream when Irvine withdraws and slams back into me without preamble. "This?," he gasps as I rock back to meet each of his thrusts. Just enough to hurt. "This is…"

"Uhnnn…yes…oh, god…please!" Oh, Hyne, yes, this is all I need. Just this…

He pounds into me, hitting my spot each time, and my own shallow panting and incoherent words fill my ears. And his, just behind me. I’m so close. One more thrust and I cry out, sobbing as his seed spills deep inside me, mine streaming down the shower drain. One more mistake…My knees give out and I sag against the wall; the only thing keeping me from falling is his arms wrapped fiercely around my torso.

"…Shouldn’t happen like this," he whispers, his voice detached and faraway as if he hadn’t meant to speak out loud. He says my name and runs his thumb over my bottom lip, tilting my chin up for a kiss. And I let him, just like I’d let him do anything, if only for the burn.

She tries to hide her irritation, hands folded primly on her lap as I thank the waiter. Her hair’s arranged in a haphazard ponytail, loose, too-short strands tucked behind her ears—I suppose it’s close to public indecency in her mind. She clears her throat. "What," Quistis asks, in a perfectly neutral voice, " is this all about, Seifer?"

"Did you read the information?" We’re sitting in the sunlit quiet of a late Balamb morning, on opposite ends of a little white table outside some random restaurant. She demurely sips her coffee—just short of raising her pinky—and quickly counters this effect by leaning forward so her elbows rest close to mine. Quistis Trepe: the walking contradiction.

It might look like we’re on a date to any outsider, as she removes her glasses and gives me an intense look. She could be about to kiss me, whisper sweet nothings in my ear…throw me down and ravage me, right here on this dinky little table. I manage to participate in her stare-down for a few moments before breaking off into snorting laughter. She sighs and squeezes the bridge of her nose in a gesture oddly reminiscent to Squall’s, shaking her head. "Good lord, Almasy," she grumbles, "your absolutely incorrigible."

"You say that as if it’s a bad thing."

"I’ll be honest with you. I don’t understand." Quistis retracts a bit, a pale, elegant hand massaging her brow in agitation. "You track me down, bombard me with an entire library of books with the assurance that Squall fits into everything somehow, and then ask me to meet you this morning. Is there a purpose behind all this?"

"Did you read the information?"

"Yes, I read the damned information!"

"Then think about it, Quisty. He’s got all the symptoms."

"Yes, he does. But it seems you’re disregarding the fact that he should recover after four hours or so. A day, at the most. No longer." She quiets as a waitress flounces by, balancing a precarious tray of assorted pastries. "How do you explain it?"

"You’ll agree that it’s possible to alter brain chemistry."

"Yes, but only after long-term exposure--"

"It’s possible, then."

"Yes," she sighs, becoming distinctly agitated.

"Now," I say, handing her the plain manila folder I’d kept concealed behind the lapels of my trench. "How would something like that affect a child?" She’s pulled out the thin pack of documents, her eyebrows drawing together as she scans the dates and terms I’ve committed to memory. "A five-year-old," I continue, "without a name. Without any known relatives…" And in my mind’s eye, I see a little boy standing out in the rain, waiting for the father whose rearview mirror would introduce him to a world that held no promises for the forsaken. I bite back a cynical comment, a drawn-out sigh taking its place. "Without anywhere else to go."

Quistis jerks her head up, eyes wide and blue and afraid. For him—again. "Is this…?"

"It’s legit," I assure her. "I, uh, ‘recovered’ it a few nights ago."

"You broke in?" Her voice is a fierce whisper, and I avert my eyes. "Seifer!"

"Shhh," I hiss, noticing a few patrons casting wary glances toward our table. "Calm down."

She settles back in her seat, struggling to maintain an expression of indifference. "I cannot believe you." I open my mouth to retort, but Quistis holds up a hand, narrowing her eyes. "No. Stop. Just—stop." She turns her attention to the papers she’s half-crumpled in her hands, smoothing them fretfully. "You’re sure it’s him?," she finally asks, lifting her face to look at me.

"I’m sure."

"How did you even know? I just—I don’t understand."

I watch her bird-bone fingers move over the neat blocks of text. "I can’t tell you. Not here."

"We’ll leave, then," she states, already getting up and leaving no room for argument. "Come on. We can take my car."

I follow her dutifully, a small, genuine smile stretching at the corners of my lips--like a rake scraping across fallow ground--when my eyes rest on the sporty red coup she’s striding towards. I catch my reflection in the rear-view, and wonder fleetingly what it had been like to watch a child become swallowed in a cloud of dust.

Return to Archive | next | previous