Silence And Motion

By Scarlet Fever

The high winds ruffled through my hair as our SeeD transport ship cut rapidly through the Centra Sea. An Esthar excavation team had gone missing in the Kashkabald Desert, so Garden had sent SeeD out to find them. There were apparently some new, dangerous monsters out there. We were doing in for considerably less money that we usually did things, but it was more of a personal favour to my father, Laguna Loire. I had decided to bring Seifer and Zell along.

Seifer.... I think everyone was surprised when I asked him to come along. But, it was more as a hired hand. He isn't SeeD anymore, but does some freelance work for Garden as a bounty hunter. He works with the police and army out of Balamb Town. He's very good at what he does, and anyone who has skipped bail when he's on the job has been caught. When I requested him, Quistis had raised her eyebrow, but I was Headmaster, and could do whatever I wanted. Besides, the school year was in full swing, and a lot of SeeD were instructors now.

Zell was also happy that I'd brought Seifer along. They're very hush-hush about their relationship, but I know what's going on. People think that because I don't say much, that I don't know what's going on around me. That's just not the case. The fact that I'm so solitary tunes me in better to the world around me. I pay more attention to things around me than someone like Selphie. Or, even than Rinoa. She seemed kind of put out about me asking Seifer to come along. I don't know why. I don't pretend to understand her. I think she's afraid for me because of what Seifer had done in the past. But, that was a long time ago.

Two years, to be exact. I feel old now, like I've seen everything that life and the world have to offer, but I'm only 19. I have my whole life ahead of me, and all I want to do is sleep for the rest of it. I wonder if the others feel the same way. They don't act as old as I feel, although Quistis always acted like a 40 year old, so she doesn't really count. Selphie is still the social butterfly, bubbly as ever. Irvine is still casual and a horrible ladies' man. Rinoa is still her usual self, always sweet, although my passion for her has dwindled a little bit. But, all romances hit that stage of comfort where the urge to fuck them every fifteen minutes disappears. Zell, although he's matured greatly (probably Seifer's influence), is still fun-loving, and a bit foolish at times. My father is still.... Well, let's just leave it at he's the same.

I see the coast like a shadow coming closer and closer. I dig into my pocket for the communicator that's there. I change the station, and radio in. "Squall Leonhart here."

"Okay!" The voice said on the other end, just glad to hear the transmission. These were experimental communicators, so I was just as glad that they were working. It was the first time we'd used them on the field. They could communicate over long distances, like now. "I can hear you fine, Squall. Although, it's a bit scratchy. I guess that's because of the wind." It was Nida's voice on the other end.

"Good. I was worried that they wouldn't work this far away."

"It would probably be clearer if you were inside, but it's better that you're testing it outside."

I just nodded. "I can see the Kashkabald coast right now. Seifer, Zell and I will hit land in about ten minutes, and then start searching for the excavation team."

"Laguna just radioed, and he faxed over some information about the new monsters in that area. The team were able to send some documents before they disappeared." Nida's voice lowered a little. "After reading this, I don't really think they're alive."

"We'll go in assuming they are..." I looked over my shoulder when I heard footsteps on the deck. Seifer and Zell came out, looking to the coastline. Zell's fingers tapped on the railing, and Seifer shielded his eyes against the sun. Seifer was wearing a long black coat. It was similar in design to his typical trenchcoat, but black leather rather than grey. He was not using his gunblade. "I'll contact you once we know more."

"Right. I'll fax those monster reports to the ship." Nida severed the connection.

"You don't have your gunblade..." I mused. This would be the first time Seifer and I would fight together since before the whole Sorceress thing.

"I don't use it anymore," Seifer said quietly, his pale green eyes moving over the rapidly approaching coast quickly. "It's too bulky for chasing people around. It's on a mount in my apartment."

"What weapons will you be using?" I asked, wanting to know exactly how to strategize.

Seifer opened his coat as he pushed some hair out of his face. Seifer had let his bangs grow, so they now hung in his eyes, although the back of his hair was still as short as ever. I could see guns hanging from under his arms and at his hips, as well as some knives in sheaths. I just nodded, and he closed his coat again. It would be like working with Irvine.

"How did the communicator run?" Zell asked as the ship slowed.

"Good," I answered simply. "Nida said he would fax the monster reports that Laguna sent."

"I'll go check," Seifer said quietly, going back into the ship. He seemed almost uncomfortable around me. Maybe it was just bad memories.

"Do you think this was a good idea?" I asked Zell quietly.


"Asking Seifer to come along."

Zell gave me a half-smile. "Yes, of course I do. I mean, he's an expert in finding people."

"Yeah, but he's an expert in finding criminals who have skipped bail."

Zell just nodded. "And, they don't want to be found. Think how easily he'll be able to find someone who is wanting to be found."

"If they're still alive..." I muttered darkly.

"Don't tell me there's still bad blood between you guys..." Zell said, almost laughingly. "I know that Seifer doesn't feel bad towards you."

"He said that?" I asked, curious.

Zell shrugged one of his muscular shoulders. "Yeah. He was actually kind of excited about working with you again." Zell sighed wistfully. "You guys always had that rivalry thing..." I could pick up on a twinge of jealousy in his voice. He didn't really know that I knew about his relationship with Seifer. I think he guessed, though. But, if I hadn't known, I wouldn't have picked up on the subtle change of tone in his voice.

"I guess."

"It's just that... He thinks that you might be wary of him. I guess that's why he's so... distant." The ship came to a full stop. "Rinoa wasn't too happy about him coming, huh?"

It was my turn to shrug. "She's just looking out for me."

Seifer came out with some documents in his hand. "Okay. Here they are. I read them all over so I got the picture of what they are about. But, the monsters are more your end of things. I'll just concentrate on the excavation team."

I raised my eyebrows, taking the stack of papers from him. "You read all this already?"

"I'm a fast reader." He looked out to the desert. "Ready to go?"

Zell and me had broken away from Seifer, who had taken one of the communicators and had gone off in a different direction. I asked him if that was such a good idea, but Seifer had just laughed at me and said he worked alone all the time. It was no big deal. I wondered if Seifer would have kissed Zell if I hadn't been standing right there. Instead, he did nothing and just walked away.

Zell and I were discussing the monsters that were popping up around the area. The excavation team, in their notes, had called it the Red Malboro. There was no photograph, but there was a sketch, and a description. It indeed did look like a Malboro, but was red rather than green, and its mouth was different. A Malboro had a stretched out mouth. This one's mouth was smaller, and it actually looked like a cross between the legendary Malboro monster and a deep sea squid. The report was pretty vague, and mixed in with stuff about the team's work in Kashkabald, but it did say it was a monster that dealt status ailments.

"I bet this will take all of an afternoon..." Zell muttered, stretching his arms over his head.

"Don't get so cocky," I muttered, sneezing. Sand was blowing in my face, hence the sneeze.

"We've dealt with Malboros before, though." Zell smirked, turning to face me, walking backwards. "This will be a cakewalk."

I just shrugged, and put the papers in the pack that was strapped to my back. I was glad for Zell facing me, because he blocked the blowing sand. "You aren't worried about Seifer alone?"

Zell smiled, his sharp canines showing. "Why all the questions, Squall? You normally aren't so curious."

"No reason..." I murmured.

"Right...." Zell rolled his pale blue eyes. "Come on, you can tell me."

I just gave him a frown, but my eyes narrowed when I saw movement behind Zell. For a moment, I thought it might be Seifer or the lost excavation team. But, my eyes widened when I saw the silent motion, like liquid across the sand. It wasn't moving on legs.

"Squall....?" Zell saw the look on my face, and turned around. There were three or four of these Red Malboro things coming towards us. They moved like octopi, all flowing tentacles. They had beady black eyes that were trained on us. I pulled out the Lionheart, and Zell raised his fists.

"What were you saying about a cakewalk?" I asked quietly as the things came slowly closer. One of them made a screeching noise, and Zell grunted. It was the ugliest, shrillest noise I'd ever heard, and I actually wanted to drop my gunblade and cover my ears.

Zell just ignored my comment, and cast Aura on himself, then Haste on me. We started attacking the things, trying to avoid their tentacles. There were only a few of them, and their bodies were soft, so it wasn't too hard to kill them. Zell put his hands on his knees, and looked across the desert. There were long tracks from where the creatures had moved, and I followed Zell's gaze. He was looking down into a valley of sand. We were standing on top of a dune, and looking down on some sort of cave. There was someone walking around there. Seifer.

"Shit...." Zell pointed. There was a hole, more like a cave, in the sand. More of the creatures were coming out. "Think it's like... their hive?"

Seifer must have heard Zell's curse, because he started moving up the dune towards us. He had a pinched expression on his handsome face.

"What is it?" Zell asked, able to read Seifer's expression better than I could. "What's wrong?"

"I found a couple of bodies. They were in excavation team uniforms. But, I only found two of them."

"How did they die?" I asked, looking down into the valley, where the creatures were moving like ants, ignoring us.

"Slowly, from what I can tell..." Seifer shrugged. "I'm not a doctor, though. I mean, they must not have had much physical training. These things aren't that hard to kill."

Zell put his hand on Seifer's back. "I'm just glad you're okay."

Seifer opened his mouth to say something, but looked over at me, and closed it again. He simply nodded. I wondered what he was going to say to Zell. I looked down to the monsters, and they were just milling around near the mouth of the hole.

"What are they doing?" Zell asked.

But, before any of us could make any sort of guess, wave after wave of Red Malboros swarmed out of the cave. They broke apart, and some headed away from us. There were hundreds of them.

"Shit!" Seifer exclaimed. He looked to the group moving away from us. "The ship!"

"Think they're going for it?"

"Get back to the ship," I commanded. "The desert is their domain. If we can get to water..."

Both Seifer and Zell nodded at me, and we started to run back to the ship. I kept looking back over my shoulder. It was hard to run in the sand, and the things were slowly catching up to us. We were ahead of the other group that was moving towards the shore. Both groups converged into one great mass of liquid looking monsters, tentacles slowly rolling over the ground. I almost dropped my gunblade when I saw a much larger creature moving rapidly towards us. It must have just come out of the cave. It was in the centre of the group. It looked like the others, but was like three times larger. Was this the equivalent to the Queen Ant?

Zell uttered an incoherent curse as he saw the giant thing. He started calling on one of his Guardian Forces. As we ran, Shiva appeared, and cast Diamond Dust. There were ugly screams from the swarm, and some of them dropped dead. But, there were just so many. Seifer was firing his guns into the group, aiming for the Queen. I summoned Bahamut, and more went down, but it was like taking a cupful of water out of the ocean.

"There's the ship!" Seifer yelled, ahead of us. He had the longest legs, and thus could run the fastest. He suddenly stopped, and I banged into him. A small group of the things had moved where we couldn't see them, and now were blocking the way to the ship.

"Dammit!" Zell closed his eyes, and called Quetzacoatl.

"NO!" Seifer yelled, but it was too late. The Thunder bird indeed killed the Red Malboros blocking the way, but the thunder spell also hit the ship. "You fucking idiot!" Seifer yelled angrily.

"I'm sorry!" Zell exclaimed.

"Just concentrate on the big one!" I commanded loudly. "You can argue later." I could smell the smoking mechanics of the ship, but there was no time to think about that. I cast Ultima on the big one. Its scream was massive, and actually shook the ground. Zell used his Limit break attacks on the big one, but it was hard because the tentacles of the smaller ones kept winding around his legs and arms. It was easy to rip them from the soft bodies, but there were just so many. Seifer was calmly standing back, regulating his breathing as he aimed up at the big one. He fired the gun at her head, and got one of the eyes. It screamed, and the ground shook again. Zell fell backwards into Seifer, and I fell over, rolling down a slight hill.

I cast Aura on myself, and went to use my Lionheart limit break. I ran towards the creature, and started hacking, ignoring the smaller ones. As I moved to hack at it again, a huge tentacle loomed over me, casting a dark shadow. I tried to jump out of the way, but the tentacle was way too big. Its suckers were bigger than my head. It slapped me square in the chest, and I flew backwards, landing hard on the ground. It knocked the wind out of me, and it stung painfully. My gunblade had landed a few feet away from me. I stood on wobbly legs, and reached for it. My vision went black for a few moments, and I had to wait until I could see clearly again.

Seifer and Zell were still attacking the thing, Seifer's bullets penetrating its eyes, and Zell's fists making wounds in the soft body. There were severed tentacles everywhere, but still so many creatures. When I could move well enough, I started hacking at it again, my chest hurting with each breath. It must have cracked my ribs. I dug the blade of the Lionheart deeply into the creature's soft gullet, and it screamed so loudly that we all tumbled backwards, falling into the sand. I ended up inhaling some sand, and started coughing.

When I looked up, the big red Queen was swaying and screaming. She pitched backwards, and crushed the smaller Red Malboros that were surrounding her. When her tentacles stopped their slow wave, the smaller creatures stopped moving. They didn't know what to do. Some still moved towards us, but others were moving in jerky patterns, or even in circles around the Queen's dead body.

Zell summoned Shiva again, and even through my coughing fit, I summoned Bahamut once more. Seifer didn't have any magic or Guardian Forces, so he just emptied magazine after magazine into the remaining creatures. It took a while, and I found that as time passed, I was feeling hotter and hotter. That hit must have gotten me better than I'd thought it had.

"Squall....?" I heard someone say my name. I think it was Seifer, but it was hard to tell. It sounded very distant, like I was in a wind tunnel or underwater.

"Hey, Squall...?" That was a different voice. I think it was Zell. "You don't look so good."

I tried to stand, but my legs felt like jelly. What was wrong with me? I remembered the report saying that they dealt status ailments. My gunblade felt too heavy, so I dropped it in the sand. I collapsed to my knees, trying desperately to regain my composure. But, I was unsuccessful, and fell forward into the sand. The last thing I heard was either Seifer or Zell calling my name. I didn't know which one it was....

"This is all your fucking fault!"

"I said I was sorry, Seifer. I mean, if they'd gotten to the ship, it would have been destroyed anyway...."

It was like I was a million miles away. Everything was muted, but I could hear them fighting. I felt so hot, so heavy. I tried to move my head, but it just made me ill, and made me cry out in pain.

"Squall?!" It was Seifer's voice. "Are you okay?"

"Thank Hyne you're awake!" Zell exclaimed quietly.

I tried to say something, but felt like there was a sock rammed in my throat.

"Don't try to talk..." Seifer mused, putting his hand on my forehead. It was so blissfully cool. "We're in the camp of the excavators. You've only been out for an hour or so. The ship is destroyed..." I could see Seifer give Zell a hard look. He softened his face when he looked at me again. Was that pity in his eyes? Was I really ill? "And, the communicators don't seem to be working right now. We'll keep trying, though."

"You have a really high fever..." Zell whispered. "We're trying to cast spells on you, but it isn't working."

Seifer frowned. "Why don't you make yourself useful and get some cool water for a bath so we can lower his temperature."

Zell glared at Seifer, and stormed out. I could distantly hear him calling for Shiva. Seifer turned back to me, checking my eyes.

"Seifer..." I croaked out. God, that was the most painful thing I'd ever done. A tear slid down my cheek from the pain. "Rinoa....?"

"Shhh..." Seifer stroked my hair with his wonderfully cool hand. "We're trying to contact Garden. Don't worry."

I nodded, and tried to ask something else, ask about the status of the Red Malboros, but I blacked out again....

I don't know how much time has passed. I don't know if it's only been hours, or days, or even weeks. I'm only conscious for snippets of time. Whenever I wake up, Seifer is there, telling me that I'm still sick. Sometimes I feel wet and wonderfully cold. Maybe this is when they're putting me in ice baths. I'm embarrassed, because this means that either Seifer or Zell, or both, are seeing me naked. It makes me feel vulnerable. One thing I do know is that it's usually, or rather always, Seifer who is next to me when I regain consciousness for that short amount of time. His hands are always nice and cool, and his voice is always soothing. I hear him and Zell fighting sometimes. I wonder if they really are a couple. Maybe I was wrong in thinking they were. Or, maybe they were, and now they aren't.

And, what about Garden? What about Rinoa? I feel like I've been away for a long time. I really don't know how much time has passed, but I have a feeling it's been a while. What if she thinks I'm dead?

Today, or whatever, I open my eyes, and Seifer is sitting next to the bed. I slowly look around. Even moving my eyes makes me dizzy. I'm soaked with sweat, and I'm shivering and burning up at the same time. "Seifer....?" I whisper. My throat still hurts, but at least I can say something.

"Squall, you're awake."

"What....?" I trail off, finding that saying only those two words has sapped my strength. "Where's Zell...?"

"He went to check on that Red Malboro cave."

I made a moaning noise, and he put his hand to the side of my face. So cool....

"Don't worry... They're all dead. We found a few wandering around, and penned them up. We didn't kill them because we wanted either Garden or Esthar to study them. If we kill them all, they could be extinct."

I nodded, and this caused the room to spin. I could hear the drone of Seifer's voice saying something else, but I could no longer hear him. It was like watching a silent motion picture. I could see him moving, see his mouth moving, but I couldn't hear him talking. I shook my head in frustration, and that just brought on an awful headache.

"Shhh..." Seifer whispered, brushing my hair off my face. I could hear him again. "You're just getting yourself frustrated. But, at least you're more lucid."

My eyelids felt like lead, and I shunted breath out of my lungs. My chest burned with pain. I tried to raise my hand to touch it, but it took too much energy. My arm ended up flopping towards Seifer, and he took my hand in his cool ones. His grip was strong, and felt comforting. I fell back asleep with my hand held tightly in his.

I woke up briefly, and could hear the hissing whispers of two people; Seifer and Zell. I slowly opened my eyes, and saw them near the door of the tent or whatever it was we were in. Seifer had his hands on his hips, and Zell had a deep frown on his face, intently whispering something. Seifer said something, his voice low and cold sounding. Zell stood in place for a few moments after Seifer had turned his back, and then stormed out quickly.

"Squall...? Good morning."

I just moaned. I tried to sit up, but that wasn't going to happen. One of Seifer's strong hands held my shoulder down. I could see beard on his face. How long had we been here?

"Don't try to move." His voice was clipped, tired. I guess that he and Zell weren't a couple anymore, maybe weren't even civil.

"Seifer... I....." I tried to continue, but just passed out again.

I woke up again, and felt weight next to me. I lolled my head on the pillow, and waited for the room to stop spinning before I focused my gaze. Seifer was hunched in the chair beside my bed, my hands in his. His temple was pressed to my shoulder, our linked hands under his chest. His body felt nice and cool compared to my hot skin. Had he been staying beside my bed non-stop? I tried to look around the room for Zell, but he wasn't there. I felt glad that Seifer was here to take care of me.

My chest burned, and I gently pulled one of my hands out of Seifer's tender yet strong grip, and touched my chest. It actually took ten minutes for me to do this, because I would black out for a few moments. When my fingers touched my chest, which was bare, I made a whimpering noise. It hurt like fucking Hell. Was I going to die here? I looked at Seifer again, sleeping with a distracted look on his face. Were we all going to die here?

I spent a lot of time blacked out. I couldn't see anything, but I could hear. I knew I wasn't awake. I would think about Garden, about my father, about Rinoa, about Seifer and Zell, about Seifer. Seifer was a constant presence around me with his cool hands and warm, gentle voice. I would hear him whispering things like 'you're going to be okay' to me. I had never been the sort of person who relied on others, but I was relying on Seifer now, and glad of it. I was glad he was there. I needed him. I couldn't even lift my head when I was awake.

Sometimes I would feel him lifting me out of the bed. I knew it was him because I fit perfectly in his arms. Zell was too small to have carried me that way. I would then feel cold and wet. I was being put in a bath of some sort. It was cold, and even hard. Ice? But, even this bitter chill did nothing to dispel my fever. The fever was still with me, just like Seifer was still with me. I could feel him even when everything was black all around me. It was comforting, familiar. I'd actually... missed Seifer when he was gone, when he wasn't part of Garden anymore. Seifer had always been there, and had been the only person who truly 'got' me.

The black would then stretch on for long intervals of time. I didn't know if I would ever see Rinoa again, ever be able to walk alone again. I felt skinny, like I was wasting away. I'd always been rather slender at best, but now I felt skeletal. I think that Seifer was trying to feed me, but I didn't feel even the slightest bit nourished. Maybe I was vomiting it up. That was probably what it was.

In the black, I would hear snippets of Seifer's voice, low and gentle, a familiar, friendly whisper. I knew that I was only hearing snippets because I kept blacking out. I think Seifer was just taking to me so he could hear his own voice, just talking to me so I would hear another person, like it didn't matter what he was talking about. To me, it didn't matter, either. I was just glad to hear a human's voice, especially when it seemed like I was slipping away, further and further away from humanity, from my life. I felt like I was going to wind up just like that excavation team. Dead, dead, dead.

How fucking stupid is this? I'd survived so much. I'd survived Ultimecia, I'd survived Adel, I'd survived the Omega Weapon, but I couldn't survive a fever? I felt so weak and pathetic, so utterly human.

"Remember when we were like... 12, and we got into that big fight, and had to do cafeteria work for a month as punishment?"

"You know, Squall... Sometimes I wish that I could be back at Garden. My job is fine and all, and it's fun to chase down criminals... But... once you're a SeeD cadet, it never really leaves your blood. Although, I won't miss having to follow strict orders. I was never good at that sort of thing."

"At least with this job, I feel like some sort of superhero. I mean, I get to chase down bad guys, and bring them to the authorities. It's like being a modern-day cowboy. But, don't tell anyone I said that. It's pretty embarrassing."

"You have to wake up, Squall... I don't know if I could handle you dying on me...."

"I don't think I could imagine a world without you, Leonhart. You know, you've always sort of been there. We were at Edea's together, we went to school together. We became Sorceress's Knights together. But, you were better at it than me. I was too blinded, too stupid..... I care about you, you know? I guess... I guess I'm just sorry that I never told you that before."

"I don't like to admit to needing people. I wanted to be alone. And, with you like this, I really do feel alone. I feel guilty about what happened. You should have brought another SeeD along instead of me. I failed in finding those dead guys, and now.... Now....."

"If you woke up right now, I'd tell you how much you've meant to me, how much even just your presence has influenced me, how I always wanted to reach out to you, but was just too proud to do it."

"But.... I... I do care about you, Squall. I wonder if you ever realized that."

"It's very lonely here. Especially now...."

"I care about you, Squall."

"Come on, Leonhart. You have to wake up."

"So... we're all alone here, huh?"

".... I love you...."

I heard that loud and clear. In the black, it reverberated all around me. "... I love you...." I know that I'd heard it correctly. Seifer loved me? He loved me and he was taking care of me. Taking care of me better than anyone else. When I opened my eyes, I could hear those three words as clearly as if Seifer had just said them into my ear. But, there was nobody around. I could hear the wind of the Kashkabald, and that was all.

Now, whenever I woke up for those few brief moments, I would feel Seifer's caring hands on me, know that he was carrying me to a bath, knowing that he loved me, and I would think about each move. How tenderly he was touching me, how gentle his fingers were, how soft his voice was, and I would think of how blind I was. I thought that Zell and Seifer had been the couple, when it was me that Seifer had felt affection for the entire time. I'd read it all wrong. I guess he hadn't said anything because of Rinoa. But, she wasn't here now, and I was on the brink of death. I wished that I had enough strength just to look into Seifer's eyes. I didn't know how exactly to feel about hearing him say he loved me. It made me feel guilty. I thought about Rinoa. But, why would it make me guilty if I didn't reciprocate those feelings? If I felt guilty, that meant that there was at least a little bit of love in me for Seifer. More than a little bit.

I opened my eyes, and saw Seifer sleeping in the chair beside me. I sat up, and looked at him. I actually sat up. And, the room didn't even spin. I touched my chest, and it didn't hurt anymore. I was cured! I couldn't help but smile to myself. I felt weary and hungry, but at least I wasn't dying anymore. I made a small pleased noise in the back of my throat, and this caused Seifer to wake up.

"Squall....?" He looked at me with disbelief in his peridot eyes. "You're awake!" He smiled at me.

"How long has it been?"

"A couple of months..." Seifer whispered, putting his cool palm to my forehead. "You don't feel feverish anymore."

"Where's Zell?" I asked. My voice was scratchy from not using it.

Seifer just shook his head, not saying anything. "I'm just glad that you're going to be okay!"

I sat silently, looking at him. I knew that he'd said 'I love you'. What should I say?

"You have that look on your face, Squall."

"What look?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

"That contemplative look. You want to say something, but you're hedging against it."

I looked down at my hands, remembering the feel of Seifer's tight grip around them. "I heard what you said."

"Hmmm?" He gave me a perplexed look.

"When you said I love you...."


I stared silently at him. "Did you mean it?" I finally asked.

He just smiled at me, and perched on the edge of the bed. He leaned in and kissed my hair. It needed to be washed. I could feel the scratch of his beard against my cheek. It was very different feeling from the close times I'd had with Rinoa. He then kissed my cheeks, then my lips. His lips were wonderfully cool against mine, and I kissed him back, eventually. At first, I'd just sat there, not really sure what to do. But, the kiss was gentle, was loving, was human contact that I craved, especially after being so close to death.

My weak hands reached up and touched the sides of his face. Even though I'd never kissed Seifer, it felt so familiar, so right. He'd been part of me forever, and it felt like I was kissing part of myself, part of myself that I'd never touched before. The feeling of being whole was staggering, and my fingers curled in his hair. His clothes were gritty with sand, but his lips were so soft. His mouth was so soft, and my dick was getting so hard. So hard....

He must have noticed the tented lump between my legs, because his hand cupped it. I murmured, and the room started to spin. But, it wasn't because of the fever for once. It was because this was Heaven. It was because I needed this. His hand slid under the blanket, and I realized I was nude for the first time. His hand against my genitals sent my penis into full hardness. He slowly moved closer to me, inch by inch until he was slowly stroking my shaft, and pushing me down on the bed with his weight. I was crushed under him, his hand like a vice on my erection. His mouth was still soft and gentle against mine, though. He was kissing me like I was made of the most delicate things in the world, like I was a flower in a hurricane, about to be blown apart at any given moment. His tongue dipped into my mouth, and his saliva was warm, like heated honey. And, his hand was so strong around my cock, jerking me off.... jerking me off..... And, the room was spinning, spinning........ Spinning......

I opened my eyes, and grunted. Had I blacked out as Seifer was masturbating me? I opened my eyes, and looked up when I heard my name being quietly whispered.

"Squall....! Thank God...."

I looked up into Seifer's crystalline eyes, the colour of precious peridots. I couldn't keep the smile off my face. He leaned into me, his cool hand on my forehead, and he was so close, so I kissed him, continuing what we'd started. I moved my tongue against the seam of his lips, but he didn't kiss me back. He pulled away, his hand still on my forehead, and confusion furrowing his scarred brow. The scar that I'd given him, just like the scar he'd given me.

"What....?" I asked, confused.

"You're still a little feverish... You must be pretty out of it to think that I'm Rinoa, Leonhart."

I shook my head slightly, and it hurt. I still felt hot. Had my fever come back.

"Seifer.... What....?"

"Holy Hyne! Squall, you're awake!" Zell came into the tent, a big smile on his face. "We were pretty worried, there...."

"I...." My mouth hung slightly open, and I was at a loss.

"I think you're going to be okay. We just got in contact with Nida and Garden. They're going to be sending a ship for us within the hour. We'll be back at Garden by tomorrow."

"How.....?" I just kept shaking my head. Zell leaned over Seifer's back, his arms wrapped around the taller blonde's shoulders, smiling happily down at me.

"You were out for sixteen hours. You're lucky that Zell and Shiva got an ice bath going."

I felt confused tears coming to my eyes. "But... yelling....."

Seifer snorted slightly. "You must have heard us yelling at each other. We do that a lot." Seifer smiled, and cocked his head. His temple rested against Zell's cheek. "The stupid Chicken-Wuss blew up our ship... Remember?"

"It was an accident!" Zell exclaimed. "And, don't call me that."

"You... were... gone.....?" I wheezed out, a weight on my chest stealing my breath. It was the weight of sadness and humiliation.

"Yeah, after Seifer and I fought, I went to go see if we were alone... You know, no more Red Malboros." Zell smiled, and kissed Seifer's hair. "There weren't, aside from the one that we penned up for transport." Zell stood to full height, which wasn't very impressive. "I'm going to go check the shore."

Seifer nodded, looking at me with gladness in his eyes.

"... I love you...." Zell whispered in Seifer's ear before leaving. I could barely hear it, but Zell might as well have screamed it right in my face.

After we were alone, Seifer cocked his head. "You seem a bit confused... Is anything wrong? Are you in pain?"

"No..." I lied. I was in pain, but it wasn't a pain that he could fix with a first-aide kit or a Cure spell. "I heard you talking...."

"Oh, right..." Seifer ran a hand through his hair. "I was talking to you while you were out of it. I'm really glad you're okay. I... I care about you, you know?" He laughed suddenly. "I hope you didn't overhear some of the stuff that Zell and I were saying." He patted my shoulder, standing. "I really am glad that you're okay, Squall." He suddenly kissed my forehead. "I'll be right outside if you need me." He left.

He left, and the kiss on my forehead felt like a slap in the face. I felt like I was drowning, sinking like a stone. I turned on my side, and wept bitterly. I'd never felt more whole and wanted than when Seifer had said 'I love you' to me. But, I'd dreamed the whole thing, and it was so pathetic.

".... I love you...."

My tears burned hotter than the fever ever could have.

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