Chapter Seven - Never Surrender
1.1 And nobody wants to know you now…and nobody wants to show you how…
He stood silently, nervously, as he listened to each shrill ring blend into the next. He hadn’t wanted to make this call, but he’d been gone almost a month and he knew that they would all be worried.
Come on, Zell. Pick up. The phone continued to ring until Squall heard the tiny click and he knew he was going to have to leave a message. He hated answering machines.
‘Yep, yep, you got Zell!’ His cheerful voice caused a wistful half smile to form on Squall’s lips and he pretended he didn’t feel the dull ache in his heart.
‘I’m not here, or, I am here and I just don’t feel like talkin’ to ya! Just kiddin’, leave me a message and I’ll call ya back!’
Squall cringed at the annoying beeping sound and then there was silence and he began to speak.
“Uh, Zell. Hi. Squall here. Just wanted to let you know that I’m in Esthar, things are fine. I found Seifer. He’s…with me…here at Laguna’s. We should be arriving back at Balamb in a few days. I…hope everything…” He paused, hating the forced cheerfulness of his voice, hating the fact that he couldn’t hear Zell’s, hated being away from home. But worst of all was what he imagined Zell would be feeling as he listened to this message. Wondering if all would be well between them when Squall returned.
“Page me if you need me…or…. whatever. I have to go now. See you soon.”
And then he placed the receiver back into its cradle and sighed. He was glad that he’d listened to his instincts and held Zell at bay regarding the physical aspect of their relationship. He’d only just come to terms with the fact that his best friend harbored feelings toward him when he’d begun dreaming of Seifer again. The long, restless nights when thoughts of Seifer had threatened to pull him under. Awakening from vague and disturbing dreams, his body sweat-slicked and aching; memories of the dream coming to him only in fragments or vague impressions. He would awake feeling frustrated and sometimes guilty. While he’d made Zell no promises, taking up with Seifer when they’d been sworn enemies forever would still seem like a betrayal.
Sighing heavily, he glanced at the phone one last time before turning around and heading to the room where Kiros displayed his finest weapons. It was playtime.
Seifer was in the conservatory before Squall and he’d found a clearing near a group of exotic looking trees and flowers. Squall paused, watching him intently. He’d bared himself to the waist, his loose pants only serving to accentuate the perfection of his body. The lines of his muscles flowed one into the other creating one long fluid ripple. His spine was straight, his shoulders squared, his arms moving slowly in a continuum of grace as he flexed and stretched his body. The sunlight filtered weakly through the tinted glass that enclosed the conservatory, subtly dappling Seifer’s skin.
Squall stood quietly, kitanas grasped loosely in each hand, their covered tips trailing in the soft grass. The humidity in the open area was suffocating. Whether or not it had anything to do with Seifer’s proximity, Squall was unable to decide. The fact was, he was finding it hard to breathe. He closed his eyes, breathed in deeply and bolstered his reserve. He could look, but he would not touch. He wouldn’t be so weak, he simply would not. He was stronger than the desire that seemed to drive him, and he was going to prove it, right now.
“Heads up, Almasy.” He called, tossing the sheathed kitana into the air. Seifer spun about smoothly, arm raised overhead, and caught the blade easily. Still holding the weapon over his head, he unsheathed the blade, tossing the casing aside without even looking to see where it might land.
Squall raised an eyebrow, impressed in spite of himself.
Seifer grinned; his eyes alight with the prospect of a little swordplay. It had been too long since he’d wielded a weapon just for the sheer sport of it.
“Nice choice.” He returned, referring to the kitana. He watched, green eyes predatory, his line of vision trained on Squall’s every movement. Squall unsheathed his own weapon and lay the casing beside him, nudging it aside with his boot.
“Lose the shirt, Leonhart.” Seifer demanded, eyes narrowed as he began a wide circle around Squall.
Squall cocked his head to one side and regarded him with an almost sneer.
“Your attempt to get me out of my clothes?” He surprised himself with that one.
Seifer’s expression registered surprise, but only briefly before the mask was firmly back in place.
“You and I both know I could do that without using this as an excuse. I simply didn’t want to shred your shirt, that’s all.”
Squall’s eyes narrowed to two steely slits and Seifer silently applauded. A couple more quips like that and Squall would be practically frothing with temper. Seifer had never known anyone who could pull Squall’s chain the way he did. Squall never really lost his temper unless Seifer was the cause of it. He took an inordinate amount of pride in that fact.
“Shut up and show me what you got.” Squall growled, pulling his shirt over his head and discarding it on the grass. Seifer smirked. Atta boy…
He circled Squall in a wide, careful circle, remembering Squall’s deadly reach. He’d been careless once before and Squall and he’d received a not-so-little scratch right across his chest for his trouble. It was a mistake he wouldn’t make twice.
“Come here, Squall. Dance with me.” He purred seductively and his words hit Squall with the force of a train. Then he steeled himself against Seifer’s more obvious tactics. He wouldn’t be distracted so easily this time.
“Careful what you ask for, Almasy.” He warned. Seifer smirked as he drew the kitana over his head in a graceful arc.
“Kiros, look at this.” Laguna called, the smile evident in his voice. Kiros lay his polishing cloth on the desk and strolled to the window where Laguna stood. Below them, spread out like a scene from movie, stood the two boys, bare-chested and graceful. One radiating determination, the other emanating an almost playful sexuality. Squall was putting up the good fight, but Kiros had only to watch them circling each other like two overgrown lion cubs to know that Squall was in way over his head with Almasy. That boy was sinful, plain and simple and Kiros had yet to meet the person, male or female, who could resist his lure.
Thinking of the many times Seifer had compromised his integrity for the sake of survival made Kiros angry. He was looking at a boy who had never had the chance to be a child and now it was too late. The only thing that could save him now was standing opposite him, kitana raised and stormy eyes flashing. He’d once thought Seifer Almasy to be a lost cause, but seeing him with Squall, he now knew differently. His salvation lay in the heart of Balamb’s Commander and if Squall couldn’t look far enough into himself to recognize fate for what it was, he’d be Seifer’s downfall. And next time the knight wouldn’t rise so easily, if he rose at all.
“That little shit is playing with my kitanas!” He managed to sound affronted. Wouldn’t do to let Laguna know he was playing matchmaker. He’d be sure to open his mouth and ruin the whole thing.
“Aw, come on, Kiros! They’re just working off a little aggression!” He nudged his friend in the ribs a little too hard. Kiros grunted. Laguna laughed and did it a second time.
“We used to do it all the time, remember?” He glanced at Kiros, that sweet smile doing unspeakable things to Kiros’ insides. Kiros grinned, unable to help himself.
“You can almost smell the testosterone.” He joked.
Laguna laughed, shaking his head. “Yeah, that used to be us.” He laughed again. Kiros regarded him with one perfectly arched brow.
“Used to be?” He asked, tone indignant.
Laguna grinned, missing the aggravated look Kiros shot him.
“Yeah, man, we’re old now. Remember?” He slapped Kiros on the back causing his beads to clack together. Kiros gave him a baleful look as Laguna walked away, shaking his head and laughing to himself.
Kiros settled his gaze on the boys once again, resisting the urge to pull Laguna’s hair. Hyne, that man was dense. Kiros could probably pull out his cock and wave it at him and Laguna would scratch his head and tilt his head to the side, the way he always does when he’s perplexed, and say something like, “Something wrong, buddy?”
Kiros shook his head. Old. Yeah right. Tell me another one, old man.
“Hey man, come on in a minute, let me change and we can go.” Zell held the door open for Irvine as he keyed the lock and stepped inside his room.
“Okay, but get your ass in gear, pretty boy, I got stuff to do today.”
Zell grinned as he listened to Irvine’s slow drawl coming from the other room. He shed his clothes quickly, tripping as he tried to pull his shoes off without untying them. He hadn’t trained in two days and he could barely stand it. Thank Hyne Irvine wasn’t a lazy ass all the time or he’d be training with Quistis. She was the only girl he could train with and not worry about hurting. She’d kicked his ass on more than one occasion, so he didn’t have to be so careful with her.
Irvine was great to spar with when Zell could actually get him off his ass. All the guy wanted to do was fuck and sleep. In that order. Over and over. Zell shook his head, smiling to himself. Whatever anyone said about Irvine, they couldn’t say he wasn’t entertaining. And, surprisingly enough, he was a very good friend once you got to know him. He’d been a big help in keeping Zell’s thoughts from centering squarely on Squall and staying there. The nights, now those were a different story. He missed Squall so much it hurt and all he wanted was for Squall to give up this stupid search and bring his ass home. Where people actually cared about him.
“Hurry up, short stuff, I’m not gonna feel like doin’ this if I hafta wait much longer.” Irvine called out, stretching himself over Zell’s sofa like a blanket.
“Hey man, your answerin’ machine’s blinkin’. You might wanna check it ‘fore we go.” He told him as he leaned his head back and settled his hat over his eyes for a quick nap.
Zell came bounding out of his bedroom; shoes laced tight, loose pants a nice contrast with the skintight shirt he wore. Running a hand up the front of his crested bangs, he leaned over the table to check his machine. A big red number ‘1’ blinked intermittently and he narrowed his eyes. Check it now? Or later?
“Irvine?” He nudged his friend with one knee. “Come on man, get your dead ass up!”
Irvine pushed his hat back and let his gaze linger on Zell. His eyes were hooded and lazy and Zell discovered that he wasn’t immune to that look. Dammit. Turn your eyes somewhere else, Romeo.
“Take it easy man, I aint sleepin’, just restin’ my eyes, is all.”
Zell frowned as he hit the play button.
“Tch, I’ve heard that before…” He grew silent as he listened to the machines’ opening beep and the replaying of his own message. Irvine chuckled when he heard Zell’s recorded greeting.
“What are you laughing at?” He demanded.
Irvine grinned. “You’re such a dork sometimes, Zell.”
Zell punched him and flopped down on the couch to pull his socks up while he listened to his message.
When he heard the initial silence after the beep, he knew right away who it was. Squall hated the machine and he always hesitated before leaving his message. Zell began to wish he’d left Irvine in the hallway. He didn’t want anyone knowing the details of his and Squall’s relationship. If that’s what you wanted to call it.
He listened carefully to Squall’s voice, ears trained for any hint of what he might be thinking or feeling at that moment. And so he sat, staring at the floor, chin balanced on his knuckles as he listened to the man who owned the key to his heart drone on, offering no information whatsoever and certainly not throwing anything personal in there.
“…. whatever. I have to go now. See you soon.” Beep.
Zell didn’t move right away. It was as thought his heart were weighing him down, pinning him to the seat.
“So…” Irvine began hesitatingly. Zell cringed. Please don’t feel sorry for me, Irvine. Please. “Guess he found him.” He said pointlessly.
Zell nodded sullenly. “Guess so.” He agreed.
Irvine lay his arm casually around Zell’s shoulders. Zell let him.
“You didn’t think he’d come home ‘til he found him, didja, Zell?” Irvine asked softly.
Zell hesitated and then shook his head. “I knew he would find him.” He said quietly. Why did it have to hurt so much?
Irvine squeezed his shoulders, flashed him a reassuring smile.
“Come on, Zell, let’s go sweat it out.” He rose from his spot on the sofa and held out a hand for Zell. Zell grasped it and let Irvine pull him up.
“About time.” He teased, but his smile wasn’t real, and Irvine knew it. Oh well, time to face the music. Time to get back to reality.
He laughed, that laugh that wasn’t anywhere near to being real but had the exact effect he’d wanted. Squall was seething. He was getting sloppy.
“Is that all you got, Commander?” He smirked, slashing the air with his blade, sending Squall jumping out of range and nearly losing his footing.
“Fuck you, Seifer. Quit jumping around and come get it.” Squall’s voice was getting dangerously low. Seifer was loving it. And then he curved his blade to the left and Squall almost fell on his ass. He looked up then and Seifer saw something…familiar in his eyes. Uncertainty, maybe fear. Fear…not the Lionheart. And then Seifer’s vision blurred and instead of seeing Squall balancing backwards, quite precariously, on his hands, he saw someone else. A boy. 17 at the most. The fear in his eyes was tangible and Seifer could almost taste it. The boy opened his mouth, to beg, to cry. Whatever it was, Seifer never heard it because he’d buried his sword so deeply into the boy’s chest he’d had to brace the heel of his boot against him just to pull it back out again.
Seifer slid to his knees, his kitana falling to the ground with almost no sound whatsoever. Squall’s eyes widened, he called out Seifer’s name.
Seifer knelt on the ground, his head hanging low, his bangs brushing the grass. His body shook, from what, Squall didn’t know and he didn’t particularly care. Anger forgotten, he tossed aside his weapon and fell to his knees beside Seifer’s prone form.
“Seifer, Seifer, what is it? What is it?!” He yelled, grabbing Seifer’s shoulders and shaking him. “Dammit, Seifer! Talk to me!”
Seifer trembled against him and Squall began to feel real fear. His fingers were digging into Seifer’s skin and Seifer slowly raised his eyes to meet Squall’s.
When he finally did, Squall wished he hadn’t. He’d never seen Seifer’s eyes so tortured. The look in those emerald depths revealed a side of Seifer that Squall knew he wasn’t ready to meet.
He tried to stand, to pull Seifer to his feet as well. Whatever had just happened, Seifer was going to talk. But he hadn’t counted on Seifer being unable to respond. He continued to kneel at Squall’s feet, the weight of his body threatening to pull Squall back to the ground.
“Seifer, come on. Get up.” He could feel Seifer’s breath on his belly and his brows drew together in consternation. What in the hell was going on here?
“Seifer…” He tried again, with no real response. And so he stood, hands in Seifer’s hair, pained look on his face as he struggled with the feelings that were rushing over him, taking him over. Damn you, Seifer.
But despite his fear, his apprehension, he stood, and let Seifer wrap his arms around his waist and press his face to his skin while he knelt in the grass…and cried.
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