Chapter Seventeen - Baby’s got a temper
The slight boy stood at the ship’s railing, his small, pale hand curled around the steel rail, where the paint flaked off and became sharp in places. He cradled a sleeping kitten in the crook of his other arm, whispered sweet little nonsense to it while the night wind whipped his flaxen hair about his shoulders. When he turned his head, the light of the full moon lit his features in angelic profile; and Kato stood back, wreathed in shadow, and just watched.
“I know you’re scared, too, Cinder, but where else do we have to go? Laguna likes us, Mr. Leonhart likes us, and I think Mr. Almasy likes us as well. We should stay with people who can protect us.”
He chattered on, speaking softly, as though the kitten were wide awake and able to comprehend his words and his reasoning. Kato knew he was only speaking to reassure himself, to lessen his fear and Kato felt a little tug at his heart. Never in his life had he felt any emotion like it, and he was hard-pressed to put a name to it.
Kato moved toward him, slowly, tentatively, like one might approach a frightened, wild creature and Liric’s whispery voice became a little clearer.
“Little cold to be out here with no coat, isn’t it, beautiful?” Kato’s voice was low and teasing as he draped the small blanket around the boy’s shoulders. Liric jumped, startled and began backing up, his eyes wide. Kato held up his hands, stopped advancing.
“It’s just me, little one. Don’t be scared.”
Liric sighed and slid his hand over the railing, hissing softly when he scraped his palm over a dented, jagged piece of metal. Kato was by his side immediately, taking his hand, turning it palm up to inspect it. Liric turned his head, eyes squeezed shut.
“Is it bleeding? Oh, tell me it’s not bleeding!”
Kato smiled, watching Liric’s pretty face, so drawn and taut with fear over something so inconsequential.
“No, it’s not bleeding, it’s just a scratch.”
Liric opened one eye and looked over slowly, pale lower lip caught between his teeth. Kato tickled the palm of his hand with his fingertips and laughed softly when Liric giggled, a heart-stopping smile lighting up his strange purple eyes. Kato’s breath caught for a moment. He’d never seen anything so beautiful. Ever.
“Come back to the stateroom with me. Uncle Laguna wants to see you tucked into bed before he turns in.”
Liric huddled into his blanket, smiling shyly when Kato tugged it tighter around him.
“Oh, please be careful of Cinder.” Liric entreated, quick to pull the edges back around the small animal’s face. Kato grinned and helped him, tucking Liric’s hand back inside the blanket and arranging it around his little pet.
“There. Your baby is all snug and warm, see?”
Liric smiled again, peeking up through long, thick lashes. “Thank you, Kato.”
Kato slid his arm around the smaller boy’s shoulders and led him back toward their rooms, where Laguna had probably turned back the bed and managed to locate an electric blanket for them.
“I’m staying with you tonight, Lir. That okay with you?”
Liric was silent for a moment, his mind replaying the day’s events in rapid rewind, until he stopped on the frame of Kato, smirking wickedly, licking someone else’s blood from the point of a blade.
“Yes. That would be very nice, Kato, thank you.”
Kato leaned his head against Liric’s and bumped him with his hip, which drew a breathy giggle from the boy. Kato smiled to himself.
“Is Laguna really your uncle?”
Seifer came out of the bathroom, towel draped over his shoulders, hair still dripping. His pants hung low on his hips, as most drawstring pants had a tendency to do on a man, and Squall silently thanked whoever had designed them in the first place.
“Feel better?” He asked his big golden lover, who favored him with a boyish smile and an involuntary little flex of his muscles.
“Much. You gonna grab a shower before bed?”
Squall just stared at him. Shouldn’t the answer to that question be obvious?
“Of course I am. I’ve been sweating all day.”
Seifer shrugged, began to towel his hair dry as he regarded Squall with the tiniest bit of amusement.
“Who said you were done sweating?”
Squall’s lips twisted in a shadow of a scowl, faint blush pinkening his cheeks. He hated that Seifer had the power to make him blush. He was a mercenary for the love of Hyne. Mercenaries didn’t blush.
He rolled off the bed, letting his uneven bangs fall into his eyes, shielding them from view. He missed Seifer’s grin, one of pure masculine amusement.
“I’m going to shower. I hope you saved me some hot water.” He sounded a little petulant, even to his own ears. Seifer popped him right on his leather clad ass with his wet towel.
That time, Squall scowled.
“Real mature, Almasy.”
Seifer chuckled as the door closed behind Squall, and he draped his towel over a chair. Apprehension warred with a bit of excitement as he glanced up at his own reflection in the mirror. Over nine months had passed since he’d fled Balamb Garden with all the self importance and misguided fancy that only a dreamer could possess. He didn’t look much different, didn’t feel much different, either. But he had changed, and he was very much aware of that fact. He wondered, again, if the others would see him for what he truly was, and not the killer he used to be.
He turned his eyes away, unable to meet his own gaze any longer, and sat down on the edge of the bed, listening to the sound of water running in the next room. He pictured Squall there, standing beneath the spray, rivulets of water streaming over his flesh, alabaster and perfect.
He sighed heavily, ran a hand through his damp, disheveled hair and knew the moment of truth was close at hand. If he wanted to keep Squall, he was going to have to tell him the truth about his none too distant past. And just hope that he would understand. And that he would forgive him, as he’d done so many times already.
When Squall emerged from the bathroom, dressed for bed and smelling faintly of soap, Seifer’s reverie was broken, and his thoughts dissipated.
Squall smiled, that funny little half-smile that still looked like a grimace at times, and he leaned in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest.
“Now who’s thinking too much?” He asked lightly, one brow a perfect sardonic arc.
Seifer shook his head and lay back on the mattress, which was, he was rapidly discovering, not going to measure up to Palace standards.
“The bed sucks.”
Squall switched off the light and moved to the small window to open it, the scent of the sea ushered in on a chill wind. He shuddered slightly. Seifer rolled his head to one side, watching the outline of Squall’s body, his heart feeling as though it were in a vise.
What if he didn’t understand, wasn’t willing to listen? What if he wouldn’t forgive him this time? It didn’t bear thinking about.
“Come to bed, Squall.”
Squall smiled, moved to the bed to kneel beside Seifer.
“Relax. Everything will be all right.”
Seifer looked up at him, gaze wary. “You say that like you know it for a fact.”
Squall settled in beside him, nestling his head on Seifer’s chest, just below his chin. Seifer’s arms went around him automatically, and Squall felt him sigh.
“I don’t. Not really. But I know our friends, and they’ll be just as happy to see you alive as I was.” He turned his head to press a kiss to Seifer’s throat. “Well. Maybe not as happy as I was, but…”
Seifer laughed silently and he hugged Squall tighter. “I sure hope not. Although…that might make for one hell of a homecoming. I always wanted to see how Quistis would…”
Squall smacked his arm, which did nothing more than further Seifer’s amusement.
“That’s not funny.” He muttered.
Seifer moved quickly, rolling Squall beneath him, pinned his wrists to the mattress. Squall’s expression did not alter, and he regarded Seifer with those solemn quicksilver eyes. Seifer responded with a suggestive roll of his hips.
“Or that pretty cowboy, maybe. Hells, might as well throw chickenwuss in the mix, too, hm?”
Squall turned his head, then, affected at last although Seifer couldn’t have known the real reason behind his retreat. And so he continued to tease.
“Selphie, maybe. ‘Course, we’d need to get a ball gag for her or she’d talk us to death. Hey, baby, whatever happened to the lovely Ms. Heartilly, while we’re on the subject?”
Still smiling, Seifer’s expression changed to one of confusion and concern when Squall shook him off, rolled to one side and began crawling up the length of the bed, drawing that familiar frosty demeanor around him like a mantle.
Seifer didn’t follow him, but instead sat where he was, watching Squall distance himself from him just as easily as he’d initiated closeness only seconds ago. He didn’t answer.
“Squall, I was just kidding. C’mon, you know that.”
Squall shook his head, brushed his hair out of his eyes. “No, it’s not that.”
Moving slowly toward him, then, Seifer settled directly across from him to sit cross-legged, only barely leaning toward him.
“What is it? Tell me.”
Squall took a deep breath and lifted his gaze to Seifer’s. “It’s about Zell.”
“Zell? What’s wrong with him?”
Squall picked absently at a thread on the bedcover. “Nothing. I just wanted to tell you something before we got back to Garden and you figured it out on your own.”
Seifer remained silent after that, waiting for Squall to say what he needed to say, and at his own pace. He’d never had to pull information out of Squall and he didn’t intend to start now.
“After time compression, after the war was over, Rinoa went back to Timber. I think she had her own agenda from the beginning, actually.” He glanced up at Seifer, his gaze lingering on the sleek, fine lines of his neck and shoulders. And he knew, no matter what it cost, or who it hurt, he could never turn his back on the man across from him. Not ever again.
I’m sorry, Zell.
“But she’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.”
Seifer told himself, even as his heartbeat quickened, that he had nothing to worry about. Squall loved him, of that he was certain.
“What is it, Squall?”
Squall sighed again, obviously uneager to begin this conversation. “One night, had to have been three or four weeks after Rinoa had gone, Zell came to my room. To tell me something.”
Seifer’s eyes narrowed slightly. “What did he want?”
Squall licked his lips, looked up at Seifer. “Me.”
Seifer blinked, letting the implication of Squall’s words settle in. He wasn’t surprised. Quite the opposite, actually, as he’d known, as long as he’d known that he wanted Squall, that Dincht wanted him, too. It was patently obvious to everyone except Squall himself.
“Why are you telling me this, Squall? Are you expecting me to compete with Dincht or something?”
He was doing his best to keep his temper under wraps and not reveal, in his voice, precisely how irritated he was.
Squall scowled. “No. Don’t be an idiot.”
Seifer sat back, his expression mild. “Oh, now I’m an idiot.”
Rolling his eyes, Squall nudged Seifer with his foot, rapidly becoming as irritated as the big jealous blonde seated across from him.
“What I’m trying to tell you is that before I left to find you, Zell and I…” He frowned; he hated talking about this kind of thing. With anyone. “He and I were…”
“Dating. You were dating the chicken.”
Squall nudged him again. “We were not dating. And don’t call him that. He told me how he felt and I was trying to…deal with it.”
Seifer nodded slowly. “And then you changed your mind. Why?”
Squall shrugged. “I didn’t change my mind. It wasn’t like that.”
Seifer quirked a brow at him. “No? How was it, then?”
Squall sprung then, pushing Seifer back against the bed, pinning his shoulders, shaggy chocolate colored hair brushing his cheekbones.
“Listen to me, you big dumbass. I’m trying to tell you that no matter what Zell said to me, no matter what I tried to feel, I couldn’t forget about you. Could never stop wondering where you were and whether or not you were still alive.”
Seifer didn’t fight him and simply looked up into the molten gaze of Balamb’s Lion. He couldn’t fault Zell. Would never even attempt to.
“And you found me. I’m all yours, the way it should have been from the very beginning.” Seifer inhaled sharply as Squall arched toward him, leaving no doubt as to where his passion had turned. “Are you still going to want me, and only me, when we’re back at Garden, when Zell is there, offering himself with every word that he doesn’t say?”
Squall stretched out over Seifer, tangling his legs around his lover’s.
“It’s always been you, Seifer. I don’t have to tell you that.”
Something in the tone of his voice, something in the way he moved against him, made it all irrelevant. All he’d ever dared to hope for, had been given to him in the few short days since Squall Leonhart had walked back into his life. He knew that whatever else Squall had to tell him simply didn’t matter. Not anymore.
Voice quiet and rough with barely restrained passion, Seifer resisted the urge to arch up against Squall’s erection. While he didn’t want to start off with two strikes against him, he wouldn’t feel guilty for claiming was destined to be his in the first place. He resolved to try to make Zell understand, when they returned. They would all realize, eventually, that he could be trusted.
“You belong to me, Squall. You’re mine and I’m yours. Nothing can change it.”
Squall fell upon him then, with questing hands and heated kisses, and when he’d freed Seifer from the confines of his pants, he began to kick out of his own. Seifer helped him, tossing the thin pants aside and immediately pulling Squall back into his arms, plying him with kisses that could leave no doubt as to the extent of his desperation, his need.
With his knees raised, gripping Seifer’s sides, Squall ground his erection against his lover’s, sliding back, then forward, causing Seifer to hiss with pleasure. Rubbing against him, framing Seifer’s face with his hands, Squall kissed him with all the emotion he could call forth and Seifer responded in kind, sucking his tongue further into his mouth as though he were trying to devour him.
Hands sliding over Squall’s back, gripping his ass tightly, Seifer clung to him as his movements became more frenzied. He was racing toward completion and challenging Seifer to follow him. Just as he’d always done.
“Squall…” A warning, a plea, Seifer wasn’t certain.
Squall turned his head and bit him sharply on the shoulder, causing him to arch his back, Squall’s name escaping him in a low, urgent moan.
“I had to tell you…Seifer.” He was panting, gasping for the breath necessary to form words. “Had to…”
Seifer nodded, ready to agree to anything, anything Squall had to say as he strained toward release, orgasm a shining precipice only a hand’s reach away. “Yes….Squall…”
Squall leaned close, hands pressed against Seifer chest and he whispered, his breath hot against Seifer’s ear. “No secrets.”
Seifer closed his eyes, bared his neck to Squall, and moaned his name with the last bit of coherent thought that was left within him to expend. Squall raced close behind, the friction too intense to resist any longer, and when he sank his teeth into Seifer’s neck, breaking the skin with a low, triumphant growl, Seifer caught his breath and came undone in his arms.
When the first drop hit his skin, Squall’s eyes rolled back and he tongued the place at Seifer’s neck that had just began to well with blood. And he came. Hard and fast and slippery against him, he came.
And he whispered, again, “No secrets…”
The dread and the apprehension engulfed him even before Squall’s seed had begun to cool on his belly. He was running out of time.
No, Squall. No secrets.
~The plot thickens! Next chapter…Reunion time. And lots and lots of Zelly.~
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