Chapter Twelve - Secretly
I’ve been a friend with unbiased views and then secretly lust after you…
Irvine listened to her relate the day’s events to him, her sweet voice chattering on as they strolled, her arm linked through his, her small, pale hand resting on his arm, trapped under his. She grinned up at him, her nose wrinkling slightly as she giggled and he smiled indulgently at her, thinking for about the bazillionth time since he’d met her how very precious she was. How perfect things would be. If only he could love her.
"And I told him, I mean, I gave him fair warning! I said, ‘If you don’t get out of my way I am sooo gonna kick you in the nuts.’ And he just stood there, like he didn’t think I could do it and so I just let him have it and down he went, crying like a baby and I was really embarrassed for him, Irvy, I really was."
Irvine smiled at her, shaking his head slightly as he fought the urge to laugh out loud. As he turned his head, though, he saw him. Half hidden under dappled moonlight and shadows, the faint breeze stirring the short blonde hairs on the back of his head. Irvine knew from past experience that the golden crest of his bangs would not be swaying in the breeze. A hurricane couldn’t cave that ‘do in.
After he’d finished studying the impressive angle of Zell’s hair, he noticed the way his shoulders slumped, the way his head was bowed and Irvine knew he was suffering. Most probably some sort of internal struggle involving the fair Commander, but whatever it was, Irvine knew, better than almost anyone, that when Zell was feeling low, he needed companionship more than anything else.
He turned his gaze back to Selphie, offering her the smile she’d never been immune to and her chatter trailed off, magically, as she raised her eyes to his. The effect that his grin had on women never failed to amuse him. It was almost as though they lost the power to reason when they looked into his eyes. And then his smile faded as he realized that he was all too familiar with that particular feeling, himself.
"Selph, honey," He began, and she nodded, all wide eyes and sweet acquiescence.
"Yes, Irvy?" She prompted, head angled, expression expectant. He lowered his lashes a little, his smile syrupy in its practiced perfection.
"Do me a great big favor and head on inside. I got a few things I need to do before curfew." He explained.
She didn’t smile, but she didn’t look angry either. That was always good. When Selphie got miffed, she got inquisitive and when she started asking questions, the volume level of her voice just kept going right on up.
"Sure, but, will I see you tonight?" She asked, her voice neutral. He knew she wasn’t keeping it that way on purpose, as some women did to disguise their true feelings, Selphie had no such artifice in her, no pretensions. He’d managed not to make her feel as though she were being dismissed, and for that he was glad. He knew that Zell would want no witnesses to his pain, and Irvine intended to keep Zell’s heartbreak right under his hat. That is, until he could erase it from his memory forever.
"Probably. But no matter what, you and me, breakfast tomorrow, right?" He flashed her the grin and he could have sworn she almost swooned. Heh heh…
"’Right, Irvy. I won’t forget." She promised, and she rose up on tiptoes to kiss his cheek. He still had to stoop somewhat, just so she could reach him. Short little thing…
And then she was spinning about, her yellow dress moving against her body like the last ray of sunlight in an otherwise darkening sky. He grinned to himself, watching her skip off, the ends of her hair bouncing pertly against her shoulders. And then she was gone, the shadows obscuring most of the quad as was typical at this time of the evening.
Zell turned then, startled, as though he’d only just become aware that he wasn’t alone any longer. Irvine watched him struggle to smile, and the tiny curve of lips that he managed didn’t fool Irvine for a minute. So he offered one to Zell. The first real smile he’d given anyone all day.
Zell rubbed absently at the back of his head, unsure of what to say, unsure of why he felt the need to explain his presence in the Quad so long after sunset. It was really no one’s business, and yet, the fact that he’d been unable to greet his friend in the way he’d truly wanted to made him want to tell Irvine everything.
"Hey…uh…Irvine." He began, his voice forced and a little too cheerful, even for Zell Dincht. Irvine tipped his hat, still smiling at the short blonde boy, not missing for one second the way his heartbeat picked up.
"All alone tonight?" Irvine drawled, making an attempt at lightness. Zell flashed him a self-deprecating smile and shook his head.
"Seems to be the norm lately, doesn’t it?" He sounded rueful, and jaded. Irvine found himself wishing that Squall Leonhart were here right now, just so he could lay him flat. And he wasn’t planning on using his skills of seduction for it either. One good fist in the face would do quite nicely. But then, if Squall were here, Zell wouldn’t be looking at him like he was, all wide blue eyes and uncertain glances. Irvine figured that if there were ever an ideal situation, he was in it and he hoped Zell would forgive him later for the plotting he was doing right now. If Squall wanted Seifer Almasy so damn bad, so be it. That left Zell to him, didn’t it? Gods, he hoped so. And he hoped, fervently, that his well-used cowboy charm would work this time. All that practice had to be good for something, right? This one time when it simply had to count. The irony was enough to make Irvine want to laugh. He found himself hoping that the old saying, ‘What goes around, comes around’, was nothing more than words. Because he needed all the help he could get with this one and he didn’t intend to allow long forgotten words to fuck it up.
Zell looked around, noticing that Irvine was alone.
"You here by yourself, too?" He asked, and the surprise was there, in his voice.
Irvine glanced around, taking in the shadows and the almost eerie silence and then he turned to face Zell again.
Zell stood near one of the short stone walls, where you could peer over the edge and see all the way to the ground. It was one hell of a drop, and Irvine didn’t like it at all. Zell leaned over it a little, face upturned, letting the wind ruffle his hair. Irvine’s breath caught in his throat and he gave himself a little mental shake. He would not wax poetic about Zell Dincht leaning over a balcony for Hyne’s sake.
"So, what are you doing out here all by yourself?" Irvine asked him, intentionally keeping his voice light so as not to release the floodgates that Zell was most certainly struggling to keep closed.
Zell shrugged, turning his back to Irvine and taking a deep breath.
"Just wanted to be somewhere where I couldn’t hear the sounds of other people, y’know?"
Irvine nodded, knowing exactly what Zell meant, although he’d never admit it to anyone. He needed the solitude sometimes, or it felt like the world was closing in on him. He opened his mouth to say something, ask something…whatever, but Zell was bending further over the ledge, his shoes rising off the stone floor as he leaned, and Irvine felt his stomach clutch.
"Uh…Zell…?" His voice sounded strained and something in the way he spoke had Zell turning his head and smiling slightly.
"Whatsa matter Irv?" He asked teasingly. "You don’t like heights?"
Irvine glared at him, but it was too late, Zell had scored a direct hit.
"Just…just put your feet back on the ground, k?"
Zell grinned, knowing that he could have some fun with Irvine if he really wanted to, but just as he began feeling light hearted, the almost dizzying wave of remembrance rushed over him again, and just like that, his heart began to ache.
Irvine saw his eyes shutter, as though he’d put on a mask, and he stepped toward him. No small feat when one took into consideration his irrational dread of heights.
"You okay, Zell?" He asked and Zell lowered his eyes, not answering.
"Zell?" He prompted again, and Zell lifted his eyes slowly. His stare grabbed Irvine then, and when the moonlight reflected off the bright sheen of tears in his impossibly blue eyes, Irvine practically melted.
"What’s wrong, Zell? Tell me, whatever it is…" He stepped forward again, hands reaching for Zell instinctively and Zell shook his head, stepping back slightly.
"I called the Presidential residence last night." His voice was uncharacteristically flat, and Irvine had a growing sense of dread that he already knew what was coming.
Zell nodded miserably, hanging his head and kicking at a loose piece of stone as he spoke.
"Whoever answered the phone said that…" He trailed off, his throat constricting painfully.
Irvine tilted his head and waited, wanting so much to simply wrap his arms around Zell and promise to keep his heart safe for as long as Zell would allow him to.
"He said that Squall was…in his room with Seifer." He said softly.
Irvine waved his words away.
"C’mon, Zell. That doesn’t mean anything, I mean…"
Zell looked up, his eyes glittering and hard and Irvine trailed off, his excuses abandoned in the face of Zell’s disdain.
"I know exactly what it means." And he shook his head, the anger gone as soon as it had arrived. He sighed. "It’s not like it comes as a surprise or anything, I mean, I knew it was going to happen sooner or later."
Irvine looked perplexed. "You knew what would happen?"
Zell shoved his hands into his jacket pockets.
"Seifer. And Squall. I knew when he left that it was all over between us." He gave a short bark of laughter. "Before it’d even started."
Irvine looked away, unable to find words that would make Zell feel any better. He supposed he would have to let him come to terms with it on his own.
"Zell?" Tentative, hesitant. Zell looked up, his usual sunny expression overcast and drawn.
"You want to come back to my room for a little while?" He offered lightly. Zell threw him a dubious glance.
"What for?" He sounded suspicious.
Irvine smiled. "Don’t flatter yourself, Dincht." And he wrapped an arm around him then, pulling him close and tugging on his golden crest of hair.
"C’mon, I’ll feed ya and let you hang out and watch t.v. for awhile."
Zell grinned, reaching behind Irvine to tug on his ponytail as he fell into step beside him.
"You got any hotdogs?" Zell asked hopefully. Irvine chuckled.
When Irvine looked down at Zell, he caught the wicked flash of blue, and thought he recognized the warmth that suffused his body…as hope.
It was dark. And quiet. And he couldn’t remember ever having awakened with such a sense of peace and contentment. Opening his eyes slowly, he could just make out the curve of Squall’s jaw, could feel the sweet press of Squall’s lips against his shoulder. Seifer rubbed his lips against Squall’s tangle of hair and wrapped him closer within his embrace. Squall stirred slightly, moaning softly in his sleep.
Seifer’s eyes drifted closed again as the warmth of Squall’s whisper enveloped him and he sighed, Squall’s silky skin sliding over his so perfectly. And before his subconscious had a chance to win out and lull him back to sleep, he lowered his mouth to Squall’s and tasted his lips again.
Squall, not quite awake, wound his arms around Seifer’s neck as though he’d done it a thousand times before and Seifer kissed him desperately, the sort of kiss that conveyed only the longing behind it. Longing, and need and hope. Squall tasted it on Seifer’s tongue and answered it with the press of his body, the sigh on his lips. Giving him everything he knew to give in the hopes that Seifer would understand his heart should words fail him tomorrow.
"Squall…" Seifer’s voice was raspy and low, still sleep diluted. Squall moved over Seifer fluidly, straddling him gracefully as he rolled his hips experimentally. Seifer moaned, low and breathless and Squall pressed a small kiss at the hollow of his throat as he moved so sinuously against him.
He reached behind him, finding Seifer’s need immediately, guiding it home with just the brush of his fingertips. Seifer strained at the gentle touch and wrapped his arms around Squall’s ribs, burrowing his face into the sweet curve of Squall’s neck.
"Squall…be careful…" He whispered, some part of him praying that his admonition wouldn’t have any adverse affect on Squall’s tentative ministrations. Squall rubbed his cheek against Seifer’s hair and whispered to him.
"Shh…Seifer. Just let me." His voice was so low and so sweet that Seifer found that he could do nothing but to let him do as he wished while he breathed in the musky scent of his skin. He nodded slightly, leaned his head back against his pillow and allowed himself to simply feel. Squall moved carefully, but not out of any real sense of hesitation. He was still unsure of himself and of what Seifer expected of him, but when he felt Seifer’s muscles clench under his thighs, he knew that whatever he did would be okay.
Seifer arched his back when Squall took him inside and he whispered brokenly to him as he held him close. Squall moved against him fluidly, curving his body to accommodate Seifer’s embrace and he smiled against Seifer’s chest as he listened to the steady beat of his heart.
Irvine leaned against the door and grinned. Shirtless, hair loose, hat abandoned for the night, he held a bottle of beer loosely with his fingertips and watched Zell in contentment. He realized that he’d give up sex forever if he could have this to look forward to every night.
Zell had kicked off his shoes and hung his jacket neatly on the back of Irvine’s door, apparently ready to settle in for the evening. He sat cross-legged on Irvine’s bed, polishing off his third or fourth hot dog while he giggled between bites. He looked up then, catching the almost wistful expression in Irvine’s eyes and he blushed.
"Hey, I’ve kinda taken over here." He looked sheepish and began rearranging things so that Irvine might have a place to sit. Irvine smiled tightly and shook his head.
"It’s all right, there’s room." He moved around the bed to get a good look at the t.v. Now he understood what Zell had been giggling at. He was watching Tom and Jerry on the cartoon channel.
Irvine slid him an amused look and Zell blushed slightly.
"We can change it, you don’t have to watch this." Zell offered hesitantly and Irvine shook his head.
"I like cartoons, leave it." He told him and was rewarded with one of Zell’s hundred watt smiles.
"’kay." He agreed happily and scooted over slightly to make room for Irvine. He held out the empty plate and grinned at Irvine.
"I’m full." He said with an apologetic look and Irvine took the plate from him, grinning, and set it down on the nightstand.
"I should hope so. You ate them all." He observed dryly and Zell looked embarrassed.
"Sorry, I just…"
Irvine laughed and toed out of his boots before flopping down on the bed beside Zell and fluffing his pillows up.
"I’m only kidding, Zell. Lighten up."
Zell looked uncomfortable as Irvine stretched his long frame out on the bed and crossed his ankles lazily. Zell was sitting practically on the edge and Irvine gave him a strange look.
"Everything okay?" He asked lightly and Zell shook his head a little too quickly.
"Uh, yeah. I’m fine." He assured him, scooting back onto the bed as though to make a point.
Zell grabbed the remote control and began flipping idly through the stations, more out of a need to give himself something to focus on rather than any real desire to watch t.v. Irvine sighed contentedly as he settled further into the mattress and he looked up at Zell to catch him watching before his eyes slid closed.
"You watch what you want, Zell, I’m just gonna relax a while." His voice was low and slurred, and Zell knew it wouldn’t be long before he’d be sleeping.
Zell nodded, although Irvine couldn’t see it and he moved a little closer, scooting down in the bed and stretching out beside his friend. While lying so close to Irvine in such a seemingly intimate setting made him a little uncomfortable, Zell was grateful for the company. It was a welcome distraction, even if he was getting a strange vibe from Irvine. Or maybe he was just paranoid.
After a few minutes of unnatural stiffness and wariness, Zell lay the remote down and turned over on his side. Irvine had turned to face him in his sleep, and Zell was unprepared for the jolt of lust careening through his belly as he turned his gaze on Irvine. He lay almost perfectly arranged, one hand curled under his cheek, the other tucked between his knees. His hair had spread over his shoulders and out onto his pillow, the flickering light from the television making the silky strands appear shot through with gold and red. His lips were full and slack, his eyes closed lightly, the long brown lashes resting against his creamy skin. Zell licked his lips once and steeled himself against the unexpected surge of want that he experienced when Irvine stirred once and moaned softly in his sleep.
Zell grew very still and barely dared to breathe when Irvine stretched one arm out and lay it protectively over him. He grew rigid almost immediately, knowing that if he had any sense at all he’d get up, put his shoes on and hightail his ass back to his own bed. But somehow, with the artificial light from the t.v. casting warm, familiar shadows on the walls, and Irvine’s welcoming offer of companionship still fresh in his mind, Zell relaxed under his sheltering touch and moved to rub his cheek experimentally against the pillow. Within minutes he was beginning to drift and he reached down to grasp the blanket, so near to unconsciousness that he was barely aware of his surroundings. He lifted the blanket and covered them both, glad to be where he was and thankful for Irvine’s sincere thoughtfulness. He fell asleep shortly thereafter, his last sight that of Irvine’s sinfully beautiful mouth, and warm from the welcoming heat of his body. Irvine sighed blissfully and snuggled even closer until their knees touched and Zell was wrapped quite sweetly into the curve of his body. And he dreamed not at all.
The sky was still gray when Seifer shook him awake, tickling his sides and rubbing his lips against the shell of his ear.
"Squall." He whispered, wrapping his arms around Squall’s still form, still sprawled over him sleepily. Squall turned his head, groaning in protest and burrowing his nose into the warmth of Seifer’s neck.
"Hmmm…" He murmured nowhere ready to leave the sanctuary of the bed they’d shared.
Seifer smiled faintly, reveling in the silky warmth of Squall’s skin and wishing they could ignore reality and stay in bed for the rest of the week, at least. He knew though, as well as Squall did, that they had to face the day and decide how best to protect Laguna.
He tried again. "Squall. Come on, Squall, we have to get up." He ran his hands up and down Squall’s back, bringing him awake slowly. Squall turned his head to face Seifer again and opened his eyes hesitantly.
"What time is it?" He asked hoarsely and Seifer looked down to watch him fight consciousness. He smiled.
"Little before dawn, I think."
Squall groaned again. "It’s too early…"
That earned him a chuckle from Seifer, who shifted slightly under him, tumbling him off of his body and onto the mattress.
"I’m going to get in the shower, give me a minute or two to get the temperature right and come join me." Even as he issued the invitation, he wondered how wise it would be to have Squall in the shower with him when they had a time limit. Fuck it. I’ve earned it.
"Okay, Squall?" He prompted and Squall yawned, stretching and twisting his lithe form, causing the blankets to shift in a most becoming manner. He rolled over onto his stomach, one knee pulled up toward his chest and he hummed softly, sleepily. Seifer couldn’t help smiling as he watched the Commander of Balamb Garden curl up in his bed like a spoiled kitten.
"Squall?" It was a warning. Squall heard it and made a soft whimpering sound.
"Okay, okay, Seifer, I heard you. Go ahead, I’m right behind you." He promised, his voice still low and husky.
Seifer shook his head, smiling even though, and padded silently into the adjoining bathroom. Squall heard the door close and the water begin running and he sighed, shooting for at least another 5 minutes of sleep.
Drifting peacefully, in that wonderful trance-like state that exists between deep slumber and waking, Squall heard the door open almost silently and then he heard the footsteps. He grinned sleepily, wondering what tactic Seifer would employ to convince him to get out of bed. The bed sunk under the weight of another body moving stealthily over the mattress and Squall hummed low in his throat. He felt him crawling over the blankets, on all fours, the bed dipping under his weight before he stilled his movements. Squall could almost picture him leaning over him on all fours, lowering his lips to Squall’s neck, his hair brushing against his cheek…
"Wakey, wakey." A familiar voice purred into his right ear and Squall jumped, scooting over to the other side of the bed with a decidedly undignified squeak.
Kato leaned back on his elbows, ankles crossed, his bronzed body covered only with an indecently small swath of a towel. His sun-kissed hair was darkened with his recent shower and it hung in messy little spikes into his eyes.
"Good morning, sweet prince." He teased, shifting so that his towel parted just a bit.
Squall sat up, clutching the sheet around him as he realized that he was lying there naked. Kato, however, was not so remiss in the awareness department.
"Somebody passed a sleepless night." He grinned and Squall scowled at him, tightening the sheet around his waist.
"What the hell are you doing in here?" He growled, not amused in the slightest.
Kato licked his lips and smiled. "Well, I was just checking to make sure you and lover boy were ready to rise and shine." His eyes traveled the length of Squall’s body to rest on what the sheet covered all too well. "I guess you didn’t need my help in the ‘rising’ department." He drawled
Squall resisted the urge to kick him off the bed. "We’re up. Go away."
Kato shrugged. "Up." He murmured, exotic eyes fixed to the front of Squall’s sheet. "That’s relative, don’t you think?"
Squall closed his eyes and prayed for the strength not to murder Kato during the course of the day.
"Kato, I just woke up, I’m not in the mood." He told him wearily. Kato grinned and looked up as he saw the bathroom door opening. Steam rolled out in hazy clouds and Seifer appeared in the doorway, towel clutched casually to him, water streaming down his body in rivulets. His brows drew together briefly as he took in the scene before him and he bit his lip to stifle the chuckle that hovered at the back of his throat. Squall wore his trademark long-suffering expression and refused to move his gaze to Kato.
"Kato, what the hell are you doing in here?" Seifer asked him, although his tone was much lighter than Squall’s had been. Kato grinned and pulled off his towel, tossing it at Squall, where it landed quite unceremoniously over Squall’s head.
Kato remained in much the same position he’d been in before, and he grinned wickedly at Seifer.
"Just bringing the sweet prince a towel, is all." He explained, as though his thoughtfulness should never have been called into question.
Squall pulled the towel off of his head and cut his eyes to Kato, only to avert them again.
"Hyne, Kato." He murmured and Seifer couldn’t bite back his laughter this time.
Squall shot him a quelling glance as he stood up awkwardly, struggling to keep the sheet wrapped about him.
Kato hopped off the bed then, grinning mischievously and blowing Squall a kiss as he paraded by.
"You boys enjoy your shower. Hurry up though, I’d hate to be forced to send Kiros up here after you."
Seifer bit his lip as he watched the dull color suffuse Squall’s cheeks, who pretended that he didn’t see Kato’s perfect little ass swaying past him.
Kato left the door open, on purpose, no doubt, and Squall heard him chuckling as he bounded down the stairs.
"Little bastard." Squall muttered and tugged on his sheet again. Seifer smiled softly as he watched Squall struggle to keep from losing his balance and tripping on the length of tangled fabric.
"Squall. You can leave the sheet." His voice was low and laced with humor and Squall blushed again, embarrassed by his own shyness.
He ceased his graceless waddling, however and straightened his shoulders, releasing the sheet and letting it pool around his feet. His reward was Seifer’s slow, wicked smile and the tiniest curve of his finger as he beckoned Squall to join him.
Squall answered him with a small twitch of his narrow hips and the knowing, icy look in his eyes.
"Hope you saved some hot water, Almasy." He teased, his voice low and smoky. Seifer tilted his head back and offered him his trademark smirk.
"I can promise you won’t miss it."
* * *
*Next chapter…road trip with the boys. Two words. Cat. Fight. Sorry it took so long, but I blame a select group of people for my distraction. It’s their fault. The title belongs to Skunk Anansie…the boys belong to Square. Duh.
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