Author's Note: Contains some spoilers for the ending. ^_^}
By Tenshi no Korin
"You are LOST."
"I'm not lost."
"Okay then brilliant one, where the fuck are we?"
"Oh, I see why you're the leader."
"Don't you need to go shoot something?"
"Hey you started it by sayin' we were lost, pal, I was just agreeing with you. And your big mouth makes a damn good target."
"I'm the only person who talks to Squall that way, so just keep your help in your hat. As for your gun from what I'VE seen you couldn't hit the broad side of a chocobo decoy- "
"Irvine. Zell. If you both don't shut the hell up I'll be forced to kill you."
The two fell into an immediate silence as Squall peered at the rather useless map, and squinted at stars. Zell kicked a tire, wondering if 'fucking rental piece of shit' counted as really talking. From the look Squall shot him, he suspected it did. Irvine sat in the passenger seat, long legs crossed and dangling out the open window, hat pulled low over his eyes and gun cradled in his lap. He lifted a hand to wave at a passing insect, and settled down to a nap. This wasn't HIS problem. He was just the gunman. Why he couldn't have been left with the girls in Deling or they couldn't have brought one along instead of the butter-headed chatterbox he had no idea. He gave a martyred sigh. Life was o unfair. Granted though, he lifted his hat to give a perusing glance at Squall's backside, the little twerp had grown into a rather nice shape, especially well-dressed in the black leather look. Who would have guessed?
Zell really wasn't anything to be sneered at either. Irvine admitted to wondering where he got the tattoo and if he had others, but he really couldn't shake the image of Zell five years old, red-faced and bawling. He chuckled into his collar, feigning sleep while Squall turned the map this way and that, trying to look like he knew what he was doing, and Zell paced and kicked rocks. They obviously hadn't the foggiest who Irvine was, maybe the sniper just had better memory than most or something had been done to theirs.
Crybaby Zell and Brooding Squall, both SeeDs now and oblivious to their origins. Irvine's expressive lips twisted in a wry grin. Both of them very capable and rather appealing adults, without the least notion that Irvine was wondering which one to seduce first. He was quite fond of girls, but as there were none readily available...
Wouldn't that just add an extra jaw-drop when the time came to reveal who they had been. He could just see their faces now.. Zell would just gape and maybe even Squall would twitch a little, realizing that their erstwhile lover was really-
"Are you going to do anything but be useless?" Zell yanked the car door open, spilling Irvine onto the grass.
Irvine tipped up his hat where it had slipped over his eyes, leaning back to smirk up at Zell. "I figured you had the pacing and spazzing out bit covered." He swaggered to his feet, getting a swift kick in the hindquarters from a red-sneakered toe.
"Look, you spaghetti sideshow freak, If you don't wipe that smug grin off your face I'm gonna-"
"Zell. Irvine." Squall didn't deign to look at them. "Go find some provisions. We'll camp here tonight, we have the time and we're not going to find that tomb in the dark, on foot."
"Aww, man!" Zell's shoulders slumped. "Why do I gotta go with HIM?"
"Zell," Squall's tone took on an extra notch of authority. "Don't question orders."
"Yes sir," Zell muttered, and turned dejectedly to go as only Zell could. Squall frowned thoughtfully at his back and with a barely audible sigh, went to rummage in their supplies for a tent.
Irvine watched this exchange with curious, bright eyes, weighing suspicions. Well well well. Will wonders never cease.
Lovers, either past present or hoping for future, but Zell and Squall had an electric charge just then that, to a connoisseur of l'amour such as Irvine, was unmistakable.
This trip might be more interesting than he thought.
"This is all YOUR fault," Zell bitched, looking around the foorest floor for edibles as if hoping for a wild hotdog bush. Survival was never his best class. "' Find provisions,' he said. Yeah right. Like there's a fucking quickie-mart in the middle of No-"
Leaves drifted silently around Zell's startledly frozen form, a tiny thread of blood tickled down one cheek wehre the bullet had just barely kissed him. A rather startled looking whefferbird dropped down from the trees to land dead at his feet.
Irvine lowered his gun with a nod of satisfaction. "Dinner," he explained.
"YOU SHOT ME!!"
Irvine snorted. "If I shot you, you wouldn't be alive to gripe about it." He bent and picked up the fat gamebird by the legs. "You twiched. I'm going back. If you think you can find better feel free to keep looking, but I really don't think you want me alone with your BOYFRIEND."
The whefferbird dropped to the ground again, this time due to Irvine's sudden relocation four feet away into the nearest tree trunk, Zell's fists tight on the front of his duster.
"Listen. If I catch you saying shit like that around Squall, all that's gonna be left of you is a hat and a STAIN, you got that, hombre?" Zell's eyes flashed with leashed in lightning, the fact that he was a head shorter than Irvine no longer seemed like an advantage in the sharpshooter's favor.
"Hey hey HEY... Just calm down, I was only kiddin, geez." Irvine held up half-gloved hands, smiling amicably. "I don't wanna start no fights here, we got enough enemies."
Zell gave him a final glare and shove, and left him alone. "Take your dumb bird. That won't be enough for three of us." He stalked off into the underbrush, towards the small spit of beach they'd passed a while ago.
"Hey, do you really think we should be-" Irvine sighed, Zell was already out of hearing range. "Splitting up?" With an accepting shrug that the goddess of luck did NOT have him on her list today, Irvine scooped up the bird and began walking after Zell.
Slooow... Easy...One...Step...At...A...time... "GOTCHA!" Zell's hand flashed in the water and came up with a moonfish the size of a chicobo, he sloshed through the surf to add it to his catch. One more should be enough; Zell knew that moonfish were Squall's favorite and there should be plenty to go around. He hopped over boulders into the shallow end of the tidepool for another one.
"You sure it's a good idea to wade after dark?"
Zell, intent on his next prey, did not turn. "Is being an annoying fuck some kind of HOBBY of yours, Irvine? I'm kinda busy here." He was concentrating so hard that he failed to see the sharpshooter's eyes widen in surprise, hand groping for his shotgun.
"Just BECAUSE you're a badass from Galbadia doesn't mean you're god-"
"And believe it or fucking not I DO know what I'm doing here-"
Zell missed, fish slipping out of his grasp. "Dammit, Irvine! I almost had that-"
"BRWWWWAAAAWWWWGGGGGGGGG!!!!!" came the giant roar above Zell's head, shaking the ground and landing Zell on his ass in the tidepool.
"HOLY FUCKING SHIT WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!??!?!!!???"
"That is NOT a DUCK it's a-" Zell spun just in time to realize that Irvine's shotgun was leveled at his head.
"AUUUUUGGGHHH!!" He dove, the discharge of gunpowder ricocheting on the rocks, water from the deep tidepool geysering up. He came up spluttering for oxygen, Quezacotl's name on his lips, but had to dive again as barbed claws hurtled towards his head. They hissed into the water after him, and Zell wedged himself into a crevasse to avoid them. The talons were jerked away with a muted roar of pain that could be heard even underwater, eerie harp music distorted through the water.
Zell grinned, a few bubbles leaking out. Irvine had called Siren, maybe he knew what he was doing after all. That should stall the scaly critter long enough for Zell to backtrack and-
Zell came to an abrupt halt, fingers still inched from the surface and air. His oversized shorts were hung securely on the rough sea rock. He made an involuntary, indignant yelp, and promptly regretted it when seawater rushed in to fill the void in his lungs.
"Down, boy! Go find another snack bar!" Irvine unloaded another round between the thick-skinned brute's eyes, making it howl with rage. "Damnation! Zell, quit diving for pearls and come up here! I need your help!" His only reply was a few small bubbles and a ripple. Irvine, back in a safe, locked corner of his mind, began to worry.
The leviathan landed a sharp blow square in Irvine's chest, and the shooter swore with mingled pain and irritation as he used the last cure spell left in his arsenal, summoning Siren again and hoping she would be enough.
The seamonster went down with a wet splat of sand, slithering back underwater to die quietly. Irvine didn't stop to watch it, dropping his coat, hat and gun to the sand and surging into the pool of trapped seawater, breathing deeply and submerging after Zell.
Who was looking a most unflattering shade of green, weakly struggling for leverage on the rocks, his eyes falling closed as Irvine swum closer. Irvine added an extra push to his kicks as Zell's head floated slowly back, lips parted and no bubbles leaking. Irvine would have sworn if he hadn't needed the air, scraping his fingers raw as he tore Zell free from the imprisoning rocks, breaking the surface into warm moonlit air. Zell was an unconscious, unbreathing deadweight in his arms, offering no protest as Irvine waded back and deposited him on the beach.
"C'mon, loudmouth, say something for me, eh?" Irvine pushed hard on Zell's chest, and a small trickle of water leaked out to slide over his tattoo and wet the sand under his ear. "You always gotta be a problem, don'tcha? C'mon, Zell, BREATHE! Breathe, dammit, or I'll tell Squall about the time you stole his clothes at the beach!"
Zell, if threatened by this blackmail, showed no sign.
Irvine shoved long bangs out of his face with an impatient noise. Resuscitation techniques were dim and fuzzy in his memory, knowledge from a childhood by the beach was lost after years of living inland. Most of what he knew to do was gleaned from weakly plotted erotica, when mouth to mouth was a reason for two unlikely people to kiss. Hoping that somebody somewhere was getting a charge out of this, Irvine bent over Zell's prone form.
It was hardly romantic, Zell was cold and motionless underneath him, lips bitter with salt. Irvine had gotten better feedback from a CGI sexdoll. He exhaled hard without much hope, and kept at it until black spots hovered in front of his eyes. Irvine swore at himself for lack of magic; he never really trusted the stuff and had only been using it recently, but one shot of life, had he possessed it, would have done the trick. And there was no time to get Squall.
"C'mon, Zell, work with me here." He pushed on Zell some more, brightening when he managed to force out more water. "You can't die, Squall would probably wind up with Rinoa!"
Zell choked, coming to in one of the most unpleasant wake-ups of his young life, curling up on his side and trying to eject the remaining seawater from his lungs. His fingers clawed at the sand, looking for a handhold, and Irvine lifted him up, cradling his head against his vest.
"Damn you scared the shit outta me, Zell! Squall woulda hung me on a rotisserie rack if I let anything happen to you." He rubbed the martial artist's back, soothing away his coughs.
"Bleah," was Zell's comment. He'd swallowed a great deal of ocean. He blinked in puzzlement at the purple fabric under his cheek and the muscled arms clutching him like a long-lost brother. "Irvine. What are you doing?"
Irvine's blue eyes registered sheepish surprise and he loosened his deathgrip on Zell. It was easy to forget that, according to Zell, they'd only met two days ago. "You... you just gave me a turn, that's all. You looked worse than some dead guys I've met."
"Thanks," Zell returned dryly, grateful for the waterbottle Irvine offered, rinsing salt out of his mouth before swallowing gratefully. "Really, I mean it."
Irvine grinned, looking like he'd like to have his hat to tip, but it was pitched nearby with his coat and gun. "Well, y'know when there's not a damsel in distress I'll settle for a dude."
Zell hesitated, waterbottle halfway to his lips. "You know, just when I think you have morals, you surprise me by demonstrating you don't."
"I like being surprising." And Irvine proved it by kissing him.
Zell forgot even to shut his eyes, stunned motionless. He wasn't sure, but next to putting on a chocobo suit and doing a hula, that was the absolute last thing he expected Irvine to do.
Irvine pulled back, one eyebrow raised. "Well I was hoping that one would be better than the first, but I think I got more response when you were unconscious."
Zell shook it off, eyes flashing at the challenge. "Oh yeah?" His hand found the wet silk tassel of Irvine's ponytail and he wrapped his fingers around it, pulling back to get Irvine to expose the long column of his throat, and started at the open v of his vest and began working his way up. Irvine made a soft pleased growl, his arms were already around Zell and he just pulled him in tighter, mussing the soft hair that was stiff with seawater, pulling off the soggy jacket that was already drooping from Zell's shoulders.
Zell had Irvine flat on his back in the sand in under a minute, straddling his thighs and determined to prove his kissing ability was well beyond kickass. Irvine liked nothing better in the world than being proved wrong about such matters.
Heh, Zell thought, grinding his hips into Irvine's and gloating over the muted whimper he got in response, This is too easy. Serves the gun toting brat right, thinking I couldn't kiss. Apparently I can, else he wouldn't have his tongue clean up my-
Zell, not one to think things through when he was operating on challenge, suddenly realized exactly what he was doing. And what was being done back to him.
"Hey!" Zell scampered back. "Just who do you think you are, anyway?"
Irvine sat up on one elbow. "I thought I was somebody that was about to be laid." He sighed at the stars. "Damn."
"Now you just-" Zell shook an accusing finger at Irvine, trying to track exactly how to place blame on him entirely. "You... I didn't... waittaminute."
He chewed his lip, thinking. Irvine had tasted really good, like vanilla gunpowder.
"Yes?" Irvine drummed his fingers in the sand.
"Damn shame. You're much better at making out."
Zell scowled. "I don't like you one little bit."
Irvine yawned. "I hardly see what that has to do with you wanting to fuck me."
Zell opened his mouth, then shut it again, finger stalled in mid-air, resembling a lecturing Balamb fish. "That doesn't really..." He started. "What I meant was," He clarified. "Well you shouldn't have-" he began, and then snarled at Irvine still demurely sprawled in the sand, most of his exceptionally nice upper body exposed thanks to the scantily cut vest. "Will you quit LOOKING at me like that?! I can't THINK!"
"Looking at you like what?" Irvine replied, not stopping in the least.
Zell hugged himself, remembering he was just in a tank top and sand-crusted jeans. "Like you'd like to have me for dinner."
Irvine ran the tip of his tongue over his lips. "Well, I WOULD."
Zell swallowed hard, something about Irvine's eyes or the sand sparkling on his shoulders or his long legs just slightly spread making a warm wave of heat radiate out from between his thighs. "Um. Well." He shifted is weight. "It's just that-"
"You love Squall."
"Well yeah, and-"
"He's an iceberg."
"Fuck, man, totally, and he never-"
"-seems to care if you live or die-"
"Yeh, only sometimes and-"
"-there was that one time that you two..."
"Well, in the training center but he-"
"-acts like it never happened-"
"Damn YEAH, and it drives me BONKERS cos-"
"You're horny as hell."
"EXACTLY!" Zell enthused, then glanced back alarmedly at Irvine. "Hey... hey wait that doesn't mean I-"
Sand went flying and Zell was pinned, caught off-guard and now suffering the consequences by having a leather-chapped thigh pressed hard against his aching sex and a warm, mobile and all too-talented mouth tracing wet patterns over his own. "Unnh- wait, I really don't knNNNNNNNOOW if we should- nnndamn that's goooood- b-b-be doing this..."
"That's usually the best time." Irvine raised an eyebrow. "Unless, you saving something for him, Zell?"
Zell looked away. "Not... particuarly..."
"Hn. That's close enough to a yes." He nuzzled into the curve of one sensitive ear, listening to Zell's breath catch. "Maybe just a little touchy-feely, huh? Take the pressure off some? Nothing too precious, hotshot?"
Zell shivered, reaching up to pull Irvine's ponytail loose. "Yeah. That'd be nice." He paused, nuzzling the amber fall of Irvine's bangs. "Thanks, man."
Irvine undid Zell's belt with trigger-skilled fingers, dipping into the heat waiting for him, listening to Zell moan. "Anytime."
Zell was drowning again, the waves washing over him were warm as Irvine's mouth on the back of his neck, gunsure hands moving with certainty between his legs. The incoming tide swirled up around his tense bared thighs, the water clear as turquoise glass mosaiced with moonlight. Irvine's undone hair spilled over Zell's shoulder, he leaned his cheek against the fighter's tattooed one, lips following the black flames.
Zell shook his his head, pressing back into the heat of Irvine's body behind him. Irvine sighed against one delicate ear, kissing soft blond hair. A wave slapped into them, shifting the sand under their feet, and Zell reached back to steady himself on Irvine's hipbone. It was an excuse, his hand sliding lower between them, Irvine's breath catching as strong fingers folded around his sex and began to move with the same beat as the rising water.
Zell lifted his hips into the next wave, cradled safely against Irvine's taller frame and drunk on the soft sounds of water and Irvine's unsteady breathing. "Nngod... don't stop- please..." Zell squeezed his eyes shut, trembling. The tide danced away from them and back, higher this time, reaching Zell's waist and Irvine's hips. It set off something in Zell, pulling at him like Irvine's hands and he came into it, dimly aware of Irvine's murmured explicative behind him and a hot rush of wet into his hand that was not seawater.
It wasn't like coming for Squall; perhaps the difference between a tsunami and an avalanche, Zell wasn't entirely sure. But Irvine had turned him gently to cradle him against his chest, holding him tightly as the waves washed them clean and their breathing evened.
Zell snickered; Irvine apparently had to put his hat on first.
"What?" He reached behind him to twitch his redone auburn ponytail free from his necklace.
"Nothin'" Zell tugged on his gloves, grimacing as they were rather damp and gritty with sand and what seawater had dried. "Yuck, I hope there's some fresh water between here and the Tomb of the kings, I feel like sandpaper."
"Was it worth it?" Irvine asked, swinging his coat back on and checking his gun as Zell nodded emphatically.
"Yeah, actually it was." Zell gathered up his catch of moonfish and Irvine shouldered the gamebird as they set off towards the camp. "And a good thing, 'cos Squall is gonna kill us. I can hear him now--' Where the-'"
"-fuck were you two?" Squall scowled at their bedraggled state, from Zell's ripped jeans to the seaweed on Irvine's chaps. "Although I'm kinda afraid to ask."
Zell stepped forward to own up, swallowing hard. "I'm sorry, Squall. It was really-"
"My fault." Irvine interrupted smoothly, not even glancing back at Zell. "I went off on my own, Zell had to save my ass from some seamonster when managed to nearly drown myself. Wouldn't have made it back if it weren't for him."
"Really?" Squall's perpetually lowered eyebrows went up in surprise, turning to an even more surprised Zell.
"Uhhh," Zell managed, eloquently. Irvine confiscated the fish from him.
"He's just bein' modest. Here, I'll get these cleaned up for us." Irvine retreated to the far side of the campfire, turning back to give Zell a conspiratorial wink.
"Well." Squall nodded once, and reached out to squeeze Zell's shoulder breifly. "Good work, Zell." He turned back to help Irvine clean the fish, accepting the bowie knife Irvine pulled from his boot for such a purpose.
Zell hovered in the shadows, blushing and grateful, his shoulder greedily holding the warmth of Squall's hand. Irvine kept Squall deftly distracted until Zell pulled himself back together, crouching down beside Squall.
"Hey, I can cook, if ya want? Ma taught me a lot of stuff."
"Good." Squall's grey eyes flashed with amusement. "I was hoping somebody knew how."
Irvine kept his smile down, hands busily defeathering the whefferbird. He supposed he could make Zell owe him for that, but it was really just an overdue favor. Zell might have swiped Squall's clothes that summer day twelve years ago, but Irvine had put him up to it.
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