Author’s Notes: Desperate for feedback!
Chapter 11 - For Aslan to Cry
Lucy and Susan held their breaths waiting for Aslan's roar and his spring upon his enemies. But it never came. The others…rushed in and…rolled the huge lion round on his back and tied all his four paws together, shouting and cheering as if they had done something brave…
-- C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
There was a time when I would wake up without any idea where I was, who I was with, or where the night had gone after downing those last few.Galbadian liquor will do that to you, and there were places that held their doors open for anyone, as long as a jingle accompanied your step.
So there’s something distinctly familiar about waking up aching and disoriented, but when associating a hangover with the sensation of living through a train-wreck, a guy’s generally exaggerating.Not to mention I’ve got a feeling, like I get, sometimes. It’s like when there’s something in front of your face in the dark, and you know it’s there even though you can’t see it; you know if you stretched out your hand, you could touch it.Sometimes you can even pick up specific information about it—dimensions, proximity, potential danger—with an amazing degree of accuracy. Sometimes, it’s just a feeling.
When I hear it, I’m not sure. I drift in and out of consciousness, half-dreaming, and it’s somewhere in the juncture between sleep and wakefulness that I catch it: a soft, pained whimper, familiar like a song I’ve heard but have forgotten the name. My head aches, heat pooling at the back of my skull: hot, sticky wet.I ignore it and open my eyes.
His—that uncanny grey-blue—are closed, even as he shifts and twists under an invisible assault, skin stretching over ribs that protrude sharp and carved, chest rising and falling rapidly, erratically, as his body works to suck in air that can’t seem to fill his lungs fast enough.
I don’t notice I’m moving until I find I can’t—at least, not outside an inch of lax rope. I’m bound, sitting, my arms securely strapped to my sides, thick cords wound around my chest, waist, legs, prohibiting all but the slightest movement. The chair, of a metal that’s unforgiving to the tender back of my head, is attached to the floor. Bolted, like a thing made for torture, but the real death sentence is my severance from him; it seems, as it always has, that I’mright next to him but not close enough.The prolonged agony of an executioner’s electric current would be less painful.
I struggle against the bindings until I sag, exhausted, each breath dragging through my throat like broken glass, and I can almost remember shouting his name in desperation, in anger, in fury so raw I shake with it. The slick rustle of his skin against the table slowly quiets, then stills, and I look up to see him lying almost peacefully, chest rising and falling in a gentle rhythm that aches with familiarity, if not for the constellations of cuts and bruises marring his smooth skin, the glistening blood on his thighs, cheeks wet with tears, pale, delicate wrists cuffed high above his head and bleeding.And even when my throat burns with bile, I can’t look away, a kind of morbid fascination preventing my eyes from leaving his tortured body. I keep thinking about what they say about angels, you know, how every time you tear the wings from a butterfly, it’s another soul cast from heaven. Makes you wonder where they all go.
Matron used to tell us a story when we were small.One part always made everyone cry, even Seifer, who denied this vehemently whenever Zell chose to remind him. As most children know, and most adults will keep as an unspoken rule, the hero never dies; never fails; never does anything short of saving the day with a stunning combination of humility and grace. So it was always a shock (no matter how many times we listened and hoped against it) when everyone’s favorite character, the Lion Aslan, was killed; bound and muzzled, helpless and accepting on the Stone Table, the only known Achilles’ heel, so to speak, to his immortality. But perhaps the worst happened before his death, when, out of spite and cruelty, his tormentors sheared his mane, leaving him—a once proud, beautiful creature—completely defiled and humiliated.I sometimes watched the normally apathetic Squall while he listened, his wide, teary eyes rapt with attention, his small hands clutching his tattered stuffed lion in horror. He stayed awake, listening, long after everyone else.
“Squall.” I breathe his name unconsciously, and I hardly recognize my own voice for its feebleness. He stirs unexpectedly—the quiet, half-swallowed exhalation succeeding in what my shouts could not—and I call him again, louder. My breath catches in relief as he limply turns his head towards me, dark hair catching the feeble light, matted in places with the blood that seems to be everywhere. His eyes are liquid, hazy gunmetal grey.
“Irvine?” he murmurs thickly, brows knotting in confusion.“Where are we?”
I hate sleeping. Especially when I wake like this—disoriented, weak, still half-trapped in a nightmare that had seemed too real. Irvine’s face comes into focus and goes back out, but I’m still able to catch his look of concern. Pity, almost. I hate that, too.
I groan and try sitting up, and he’s saying something, and I feel the pull at my wrists and see the rusted ceiling lights and know where I am. And Irvine, Irvine’s here with me—oh, Hyne, Irvine, no—and he shouldn’t see me like this or look at me like that, shouldn’t, should never see this…I concentrate on his sitting form (not his face, anywhere but his eyes), a task that slowly becomes easier until I see the cords and the chair, and the blood caught on his collar.Walker…Walker, you bastard. We had a deal.
“…Squall,” Irvine whispers urgently, and I get the impression he has been trying to get my attention for some time, now. I look at him, and his eyes are warm.Oh, god, don’t… “Squall,” he repeats hoarsely. “Listen to me, Squall.” Oh, please, please don’t look at me like that… But it’s too late: I’m captivated, as always, drowning in his striking indigo, in the intensity that dances around him like a charge. And he has no idea what he does to me.“It’s gonna be okay,” he’s saying, and I’d almost believe it, almost, if he were anywhere but here. “Just stay with me.” Stay…He doesn’t mean that, a part of me insists, but there’s another part, small and weak and damaged, that wants to.
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” a mocking, all-too-familiar voice rings out, and the moment’s broken as our eyes snap to the opposite doorway.Walker strides in with a leisurely air, drying his hands on a worn dishtowel and wearing a haughty smirk that would rival Seifer’s—but then, Seifer’s were rarely so lecherous; never so cold. He tosses the towel aside and eyes me lazily, making sure to run his hand over a good deal of my prone body as he approaches; I tense despite myself, a conditioned reflex I can’t seem to control. “Unfortunately,” he says silkily, stooping at my side to stroke my cheek, his eyes on Irvine. “He’ll be staying with me.”
“Don’t you fucking touch him,” Irvine says lowly, voice laced with malice. Rather than appearing shaken at Irvine’s words, Walker gives the glowering sharpshooter a knowing look. “Oh…I see. You like him, don’t you?” he purrs, sliding an open palm over my chest.“You’ve had him?”
Irvine’s enraged look is the only answer Walker needs. “Was he good for you?” He handles a particularly tender region on my hip, and I bite my lip to stifle a pained gasp.
“Take your fucking hands off of him!”
Walker stops smiling. “No, you see, I don’t have to. He’s mine—I own him.” He walks around the table to Irvine, calmly drawing his pistol, which had peppered his shirt with dried blood—the same, I realize, that stains Irvine’s collar. “And the sooner you realize that--”
“Don’t!” Walker turns his head at my outburst, gun still raised and directed unwaveringly at Irvine.
“Yes, pet?,” he asks in mock-curiosity, as if he doesn’t know what I’m going to say. As if he hadn’t planned it.
“Please,” I say quietly, trying not to look at Irvine, “please, you said you wouldn’t--”
“If you’re good, I said,” he breaks in reprimandingly. “You haven’t shown much obedience, not at all, pretty.” He cocks his head in consideration, eyes travelling over me with little pretense as to what kind of “obedience” he wants. “Would you like a second chance to convince me?”
“Squall, no, don’t--” Walker brings the stock down across Irvine’s forehead in a savage arc that’s measured just short of fatal; at that particular angle, there’s a hair’s width either way.
“Irvine!” I cry, horrified as his head snaps back under the force of the blow before lolling uselessly to the side, blood trickling between his eyes and down one cheek in a fine, beaded crescent. He straightens with no more than a wince, his eyes sliding open to direct a black look at Walker.
“Squall,” he says slowly, through gritted teeth, “doesn’t have to ‘convince’ you of anything, you sick fuck.”
Walker stares at Irvine’s defiant, bloody face a moment, then turns to me with a look of barely-contained rage; his hand, closed around the gun’s barrel, tightens perceptively. “Pretty,” he says lowly, lips barely moving, “give me one reason why I shouldn’t kill him.”
I swallow, avoiding Irvine’s eyes. “I’ll do whatever you want; please, don’t hurt him anymore.” He watches me carefully, then turns to Irvine, cutting his angry protests short.
“You’ll be quiet,” Walker whispers viciously, “or I’ll hurt him. Badly.” A muscle works in Irvine’s jaw, but he says nothing. Apparently satisfied, Walker unceremoniously tosses his pistol on a nearby desk, and crosses to me. Before I can blink, his lips are on mine, moving with a consuming aggressiveness that is merciless against my abused flesh. He forces his tongue inside my mouth, and I whimper softly; he always likes it when I do that.I can feel his smile as his fingers wander over my skin, as he devours me with his mouth and tongue and hands. Terror claws at my brain as he dips his head to run his tongue over the quickening pulse at the side of my neck, suckling and nibbling his way over my exposed throat .It’s nothing he hasn’t done before, I remind myself, fighting my instinct to shrink away from him. I should be used to this—why am I still panicking?
Walker abandons my neck abruptly, groaning as he takes my lips in another kiss. “Kiss me back,” he murmurs, and I obey, forcing my tongue to slide against his and my lips to part and move for him, allowing him further access into my mouth without taking control--only more fully receiving it. The way he likes it.When he bites into my lip I moan; I squirm at his touch, just enough. I close my eyes and ignore the burn.
It’s a few long minutes before he pulls away, grinning, whispering his little names for me, loud enough for Irvine to hear. He pulls out a cigarette and lights it. He looks at me and then at Irvine, that small, insane smile growing as he takes a few elaborate drags and closes his eyes, sighing contentedly as smoke snakes out from between is lips.
“Did he ever tell you about me?” he asks, lids cracking open to regard Irvine with a lazy stare. He’s met with silence, and I keep my eyes fixed on the ceiling, where I can’t see Irvine’s disgust. “No, I don’t suppose he would. Wouldn’t want anyone to know his little secret.” His laugh is cold, and edged with a note of hysteria that is always just audible. “But he knows. And I know. It was our secret, for so long…” He leans back, his weight settling against my side.
“Do you know how long I’ve fucked him, boy?” he continues conversationally, and I close my eyes in shame, swallowing back tears. No…“He was always so pretty, you know, such a challenge to break. I enjoyed it. And he learned fast enough.
“He likes it, you see, he’s conditioned for it—the drugs are really unnecessary. But old habits die hard, I suppose, even for him. He’d be on his knees for anyone, as long as they promised to fuck him raw, just like I taught him. Little faggot,” he says fondly, and I hear his smile. “You’re not special, boy. I know what he needs. I made him.”
Walker pauses and takes another drag; I hear his breath rattle and feel him shift against me. “I’ve been watching for awhile, now,” he murmurs. “It wasn’t hard--he saved the world, you know? Taking him back was…ridiculously easy. And I’ve wanted him back so badly…He’s grown beautifully, hasn’t he?,” he sighs gently, turning to look down on me. “Beauty,” he says in a near-whisper, “is such a fragile thing.”
With his fingernail, he traces a line down the underside of my arm, just hard enough to penetrate the skin and cause blood to rise hot to the surface. He runs his tongue over the wound briefly, watching, transfixed, as fresh blood beads at the shallow cut. “This,” he murmurs idly, eyes fixed on my bleeding arm. “This is beauty.”
He gazes at me for a few breaths, then takes one last drag before extinguishing his cigarette on a nearby desk. He yanks open a drawer, its contents colliding with one another as he rummages impatiently, and withdraws a small syringe—roughly the size of an index finger and filled with an iridescent, copper fluid. Bringing it before his face, Walker removes the cap, inspecting the needle dutifully. I close my eyes in wait—but to my confusion, he turns to Irvine.
“Para-magic, these days, is highly overrated,” Walker remarks airily, crossing the floor in his smooth, leisurely stride . “It’s so…limited. Such a bother, too. Drawing it from a source is unpredictable and inconvenient—too much of a hassle for any decent soldier—but do you think those smug Galbadian bastards would ever listen? ‘Mankind has progressed from inefficient, archaic methods of war-making’,” he imitates in a high, sniveling voice, coming to a stop before Irvine. “Bullshit.” His fingers tighten around the syringe, threatening to crush the flimsy plastic. “I’ve never known biological weapons to fail.”
I can’t see his face, and Irvine doesn’t look at me. It’s just as well—I doubt I could meet his eyes after…
“Do you know what this is, boy?” Walker asks, presenting the syringe to Irvine. “A condensed form of sodium thiopental…” The drug used for lethal injections, I finish mentally. “It’s taken a few years to develop, but I assure you, it’s quite worth it.How would you like to be the first to try it out?”
Oh, Hyne, no…“Please, just let him go,” I beg desperately, hoping it will be enough. “I’ll do anything—don’t hurt him.”
“You know I can’t do that, pretty,” he says without turning. “Besides, it’ll only sting for a second.And it’s much more satisfying than shooting--”
It was a sentence Walker would never finish. In fact, he wouldn’t even have time to cry out in surprise as the bullet went ripping through his chest, exploding out his back in a spray of blood. I tear my eyes from the pooling red beneath his fallen body, from his face, twisted and frozen in pain, and look to the half-opened doorway. If Walker had known, he would have made sure to lock it.
Seifer stands with Hyperion, the dark weapon striking against his pale, gleaming skin. Now, I wonder how it had been possible to miss his entrance. Irvine says something quietly, and Seifer nods, walking past him.
I’ve seen Seifer angry before. But the look on his face goes beyond anger, far beyond hate. I half-expect him to empty the remainder of his ammo on Walker’s dead form as he passes, but, to his credit, he merely glares at it. And then he’s looking at me, a shadow coming over his face as his eyes flit over my exposed body. I look at the floor, ashamed.
He punches a button at the lip of the table, and the cuffs release with a mechanical churn. Seifer hesitates, then touches my face, gently, and the way he says my name sounds odd. Gloves removed, his bare, callused hands skim over me with careful efficiency, checking for breaks and examining cuts, the light touch so different from Walker’s. And it makes me feel…things. Things I hadn’t noticed I’d missed, not until that night with Irvine…But I’d taken advantage of his kindness, of one of the few people who tolerated me, and ruined everything. Looking back, it’s more than I ever deserved.
Seifer shifts in his gentle examination, and for the first time, I notice the splash of red on his shoulder, budding from a slash that cuts cleanly through his muscle. It had obviously been bleeding for quite some time, a few patches already darkening in color.
I struggle to lift my head, and he immediately rushes to my aid, carefully supporting the back of my skull.“Shh, Squall, lay back down, I’m almost done-”
“But you’re hurt,” I argue in a voice that sounds too small, too…helpless.
He glances at the wound, unconcerned. “You need to learn to worry about yourself, Commander,” he chides, slowly laying me back down. “And let someone else take care of you for a change.” He smiles a little, the lack of pretense or sarcasm almost foreign on his face, and brushes the hair from my eyes, surprising me with an affectionate kiss on my forehead. “Wait just a second,” he whispers, quickly crossing the room to Irvine.
And it’s within seconds that Irvine’s ropes lie in a neat pile on the floor, divested effortlessly with aid from Hyperion, and both men are at my side.
“You’re sure we can’t cast anything…” Irvine confirms slowly, biting his lip as he looks at me.
“Walker has some kind of field set up. I found out when I ran into a couple ruby dragons he was keeping in his storage room,” Seifer sneers, shrugging his wounded shoulder. “For surprise visitors, I expect. Anyway, I wouldn’t chance it again.” Irvine nods in agreement, draping his duster over my shivering body—it’s a well-known fact that curative magic can do more harm than good when forced against an anti-magical field.
“I got your gun,” Seifer grunts, retrieving Exeter from a half-open desk drawer. “We need to get him out of here.”
Irvine’s arms encircle me, enveloping me in warmth and his comforting scent: subtle musk and the outdoors. “S’okay, koi,” he whispers as he lifts me gently, tucking my head into the crook of his shoulder. I lay my cheek against his chest, my eyes drifting closed as sleep overtakes me, and his voice is the last thing I hear.
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