*standard I don't own FFVIII, Squaresoft, characters, etc. applies from now until whenever I decide I'm done*


Chapter III

By Yuri Nigasa


What the hell?  One moment I'm staring down the reigning prince of clinical detachment, and the next he's invited himself to dinner like it's something we do every other Tuesday.  I shook my head and faced the doors of the elevator.  My reflection stared back at me, a distorted image that made my eyes seem strangely cruel.  I blinked as the elevator settled and the doors parted, the reflection gone.  I ran a hand across my cheek, feeling the burn of stubble against my palm.  Sleeping in my clothes had made me feel grimy.  I needed a shower.  Safely escorted back to my cage, I stripped off my clothing and kicked it into the corner.

I turned the knob on the shower, wincing as flecks of cold water hit my skin.  Slowly, the water heated.  There is one thing I do enjoy, and that's a scalding hot shower - the kind that leaves your skin tinged red and slightly tingling.  Somehow, that was the only way I ever felt clean.  I leaned into the pounding spray; water running down my head and across my body in sheets and rivulets.  I kept thinking of how Squall had looked last night, before he had left.  He just kept gazing at me, eyes locked, as if I was the only thing he saw.  I wished things were different between us.  I shouldn't have waited so long to tell him what was going on, but I had to keep him safe.  If I had been responsible for the deaths of any of them...  It would have killed me too.  How do you tell anyone that?  Especially people who look at you as if they hate you… or worse - the one that won’t acknowledge you enough to hate you.

I finished shaving and let the water run across my face.  I picked up the washcloth and scrubbed my skin roughly, as if paying penance for some sin I couldn't recall.  Taking a bit of shampoo, I spread it across my hair and ran my hands through, digging at my scalp with my nails.  I needed a haircut badly.  The hair at the back of my neck was already to the point where it was brushing at my collar, and that one little strand of hair that refused to stay in place no matter how much I sprayed it was hitting my cheekbone.  Not that any of it mattered as I stood there, drenched.  I wanted to look good tonight, as much as I'd refuse to admit it until the day I died.  I was reading too much into this and I knew it.  Well, maybe, if I didn't discount all that damned 'hope springs eternal' crap that doesn't do anyone but the greeting-card industry any good.

I turned the shower handle to the extreme right, sending an icy blast of water across my skin, then pushed the handle down and shut it off.  I grabbed the towel off the rack and made a mental note to requisition some decent towels if I got a chance.  I stared in the mirror, running a comb through my hair and gelling it back.  It wouldn't do to get overdressed now.  I still had four hours to kill.

I decided to change the sheets on the bed and straighten up a bit, tossing all the dirty laundry that I usually just let accumulate in the corner into the hamper, where it belonged.  I didn't exactly have a lot to straighten.  Everything from my old room had been moved down here.  All the small things that define the space a person calls their own.  A few books, some old Weapons Monthly's, a couple comic books that I had somehow become owner of.  My eclectic music collection... all twenty disks of it.  Blade polish for a weapon I no longer had.  Clothes in various shades of gray, black, blue, and red - a.k.a. the apathetic, bruised, and bloody wardrobe.  Fuujin had coined that one.  Pictures taken at Balamb Harbor with Rai and Fuu.  An award for distinguished accomplishment in weaponry, with a fake-gold sticker seal and in a cheap plastic frame.  Not a hell of a lot to accumulate in eighteen years.

Then again, I guess I already had enough baggage without adding to it.


I was sitting at my desk with enough paperwork to choke a Chocobo.  I had signed and sent out all the requisition forms, glad to get them off my desk and out of my mind.  I had enough on my mind as it was.  The knot in the pit of my stomach just seemed to grow every time I thought about having dinner with Seifer.  The worst part was that I had done it to myself.  Nobody to blame this one on.  A chirp from my networked terminal announced an incoming data transmission.  Great.  I really didn't feel up to having a conference with anyone right now.  I clicked the icon, and was intrigued to see that it was an incoming transmission from Esthar.  Any other day it wouldn't have seemed suspicious, but after last night...  Let's just say I was curious to see what President Loire had to say.


"Oh, hi.  Hello, Squall."  Laguna's youthful face smiled back at me.  That this man had been made the leader of Esthar was amazing.  That he had managed to stay the leader of Esthar for nearly two decades was miraculous. 

"How may I help you, President Loire?"

"It's just Laguna, just Laguna," he waved a hand dismissively.

"What can I do for you?"  I couldn't think of anyone who was more easily distracted by irrelevant detail.

"Oh, yes.  Well... um...  I'm afraid that some of our classified data may have been compromised.  Actually," here Laguna paused enough to actually blush; "I think I inadvertently sent a file to Balamb that I shouldn't have.  You see, I was working on some forms," which probably meant he had been playing solitaire, "and well, I wasn't paying attention like I should have been and you know how it is."

No, I did not know 'how it is.'

"I understand, sir.  What kind of file was it?"


I groaned.  This was going to be a long conversation.  "What kind of classified file?"

"Just an operative report I was supposed to update and, well, inadvertently sent off instead."

Seifer's report.  So he was telling the truth.  How much corroborating information could I get from Laguna, though?

"Well, sir, nothing has come through as of yet.  I still have some things in queue, however.  Is there anything I should look for that will distinguish this file from a standard Garden operative report?" 

I knew damned well that it had been nothing more than Garden's base operative report form, just more heavily encoded.  Had it truly been an Estharian report, the format would have been incompatible.  The lack of technological information exchange since Esthar had 'disappeared' had assured that.

His face was a study in consternation.  He was weighing how much he could say without giving anything away, not knowing that I already knew all the cards he held.  He was the gambler, I was the house, and there was no way he could win.

"Actually, it was a report on some... previous... work that we had done with Garden, so the format would have been the same."

"I wasn't aware that Esthar had previously worked with Garden."

"Well, with Ellone being there and all...” He was fidgeting.  If I didn't know any better I would have said his leg was cramping.

I simply sat there, silent.  That's the wonderful thing about silence.  You give anyone enough of it and they'll talk just to fill it.  Apologies, confessions, opinions...  In this case, I was counting on Loire's nervousness to run his mouth for him.  I wasn't disappointed.

"We had begun contact with Garden just prior to the, ah, that Parade in Galbadia.  You know that Esthar was responsible for the overthrow of Adel," he beamed, "And well, we were concerned that there was another uprising at hand.  So, we worked with Garden under an alias."

I nodded slowly, not speaking.

"We hired an operative to infiltrate the Galbadian side.  It wasn't exactly a safe assignment, so the operative went undercover.  Once the conflict was over, I should have updated the file and closed it, but well," he shrugged disarmingly, "I forgot."

"I see, sir.  So has that operative reported back here to Garden?  If they have not, I'll need to update their personnel file."  Come on, just a little more.

"As far as I know, they returned to Garden after completion of the mission."

He just seemed so charming.  So guileless, candid.  Amazing how easily I underestimated him.  I can see now how he got where he was.  'The dumber they think you are, the more surprised they are when you shoot them.'  Only I was on to him, and I was about to call him on it.

"Thank you, then.  I will keep an eye out.  What should I do if I come across it?"

"Just delete it, if you would."

"That won't be a problem.  Oh, while I have you here, sir..." I began.


"It's about Seifer Almasy, sir.  As you know, I've been keeping him here, at Garden, until something can be done with him.  I want him to face trial for his crimes.  I am considering convening a War Crimes Tribunal to decide his fate.  I already know the positions of most of the major players, and I just wanted to confirm that Esthar does indeed support the charge of death for Seifer Almasy, for his role in the Sorceress' Uprising."

He blanched.  Laguna Loire had counted on Garden, specifically me, to be fair and just in the handling of Seifer's case.  I hoped to shock him into giving me what I wanted.

"I... actually..." he was flustered, "I think this would be something that would be better discussed person to person.  I can arrange to visit Balamb, if that's all right?"

"Certainly, sir.  When will you be arriving?"

"I'll discuss it with my staff and aides first.  I will let you know within the week."

"That will be fine.  I look forward to speaking with you soon.  Leonhart out."

I cut the transmission and put my hands behind my head, leaning back.  Not bad at all.  It's not every day that I get the President of Esthar by the short hairs. 

I placed a call down to the kitchen to let them know that I would be dining with Seifer, and to prepare enough food for two.

Everything else could wait.  I decided to go down to my rooms and clean up a bit.  I convinced myself that it wasn't a matter of vanity, just about being presentable.  I waved to Selphie on the way out.  Irvine was hanging over her desk and from the looks of it; she wouldn't be here much longer, either.


I eventually settled on something casual - black jeans, electric blue silk shirt, and my collar.  I opted to go barefoot as well.  I blew at that one lock of hair to get it out of my eyes.  I was pacing the floor, agitation enhanced by the music I had playing in the background.  I wanted music, but nothing idiotic.  I had settled on a semi-obscure band from out of Wutai, a small island west of Galbadia.  They had gone on an indefinite hiatus six months ago.  Shame really.  I was hoping they'd pull it back together, because the music was absolutely incredible.

The door chirped and opened, and in came one of the zookeepers with dinner.  There was a lot more than I usually got, and it smelled a lot better, too.  She set it down and glanced up at me.  I felt that she was either checking me out or trying to read something into my having dinner with Squall.

"The Commander is on his way."

"Thank you."

Yes, thank you for compounding my nervousness.  As if it wasn't bad enough, let me know that right now he's probably taking the elevator down here.  He's probably checking his reflection in the distorted doors.  Yeah, right.  I sat down on the couch and picked up a drink, trying to get rid of the dryness in my mouth.  This was insane.  Seifer Almasy, enamored fool.  I composed myself just as the door chimed again and he walked in.

All I could do was stare.  He was wearing his black leather pants, with a simple chain belt slung low on his hips.  A high-collared deep burgundy shirt was under a tailored black jacket with fitted sleeves and slightly flared cuffs.  His Griever pendant hung down against the dark red fabric of the shirt, making it seem as if it was being showcased.  He wore his boots with the chain that hung across the heels, jingling softly as he walked.  I fought the immediate urge to devour him.  I felt woefully underdressed.

He was looking at me with a bemused look on his face, as if he was deliberately tormenting me, and he knew it.

"Ready to eat?"

I groaned inwardly, the phrase tormenting me with devious images.  I tried to form a reply but words had never seemed so foreign to me.  I couldn't figure out how to work my mouth.

That slight tinge of a smile across his face again, those enigmatic eyes narrowed coyly, hair falling down and dusting at his cheekbones.  If I didn't know better I would have sworn he was hitting on me.

"Uh, ah, yeah.  It got here just a few minutes ago, so it should still be hot."  I sat down on the floor, tucking my feet under me.  Squall positioned himself across the table so that we were going to be staring at each other the entire meal.  Or at least, I would be staring. 

I found myself wishing I could just get really drunk, really fast.


I was overdressed.  Really overdressed.  This was the inherent problem with having enough clothes to justify calling it a wardrobe.  I removed my jacket and tossed it over the back of the couch.  As much as I had spent on the stupid thing after Quistis had forced me into the purchase, I didn't want to get anything on it.  I tried to concentrate on the food in front of me, but the sitting across from Seifer wasn't making it easy.  I'd glance up only to make eye contact, and hastily move it back down to my plate.  At least he looked as uncomfortable as I felt.

"This is pretty good stuff.  A lot better than I normally get for dinner," Seifer remarked offhandedly.

"Really?  I think it's Cockatrice.  I usually don't ask as long as it's palatable."

"Yeah, normally I get the stuff that's one step above Geezard Surprise," he smirked.  "The surprise being that it's not Geezard, it's Grat.  I suppose they've got to do something with all the Training Center remains."

"You realize even the thought of that is completely disgusting."  I made a face and shuddered.

"Yeah well, you talk to the kitchen then.  I don't think I'm their most popular patron."

I shrugged.  "You should know that I spoke with President Loire today."

Seifer looked up with a mild expression of surprise.  "I thought you weren't..."

"I didn't.  He contacted me about what he originally called a compromise in security.  Turns out he just accidentally sent something when he shouldn't have."

"And that something would have been the Operative Report."


"So what did he say?"

"Nothing.  I told you I'm not bringing it up to him.  I told him if I received the file, I'd delete it."

Seifer wasn't pleased.  It showed clear enough on his face.  "Just great.  You know, I thought maybe that you were just trying to bluff me earlier, but you really don't care about my side of any of this, do you?  You just sit up there with everything just so and I'm just another tool for you, aren't I?  You know, maybe we weren't friends, maybe the whole lot of you can't stand me, but dammit, I do not deserve this."

I glared.  I put down my fork from the grilled Cockatrice and regarded him coldly.  How could I have thought he had changed?  "You know, last night I saw a different side of you, or at least I thought I had.  I thought that maybe I had seen a side of you that I would like to get to know, but I guess all that training in going undercover taught you to deceive people well.  For your information, Seifer, Laguna Loire will be arriving to discuss the matter personally as soon as it can be arranged with his staff."

I stood up and nodded cordially.  "I'll see that you're properly informed of any steps taken in the future.  Good night, Seifer."


Damn him.  Damn me.  Damn the entire situation.

"You do that well.  Walking out, that is," I remarked snidely.  He stopped dead in his tracks.  I hated resorting to the same tricks to get a response out of him, but if anything else worked, I swear I'd use it.

"Why don't you quit pretending you know how to do anything other than provoke me, Seifer?  You're a great one to go on about trusting you last night, when you don't even trust me to handle Laguna Loire."  He didn't turn around, just stood there, jacket in hand and staring at the door.

I was at a loss for words.  He was right, and I knew it.  He was also wrong, and I knew that as well.

"Why do I have to provoke you to get your attention?  You're always so eager to turn away, to run.  You've got to be furious before you'll even admit that I exist."

'Stonewalling' silence combined with 'I'm ignoring you' silence.  Two more types of silence to check off, I'm really making progress on this little collection.  I got up, walked up behind him, and simply stood there.

"And if you had my attention, what then?"

I lifted my hand to his shoulder and I could swear I felt this charge pass between us.  I turned him around I was hit by an incredible wave of déjà vu.  His eyes were like the ice shards of Shiva's attack, but filled with a fire worthy of Ifrit.  It was that look of pure emotion I had only seen on him once before.  I felt myself being swept into that emotion and I put my hand behind his neck, closed my eyes, and bent down.  The moment my lips touched his, it was like being hit with a shockwave.

"That," I smirked.

That look on his face was part shock, part pleasure, and entirely Squall.  Add 'stunned' silence to the checklist.  He just stood there, and I began to wonder if I hadn't pushed it too far this time.

I turned around, an apology on my lips, ready to retreat to the sanctity of my bedroom.  In the background the music played on, a driving, pounding anthem that filled the air with a sexual energy.  Then I felt a hand on my wrist.  I turned to see Squall smirking.

"You never were one to fill silence with small talk.  I like that."

The next thing I know he's got his arms around my neck and he's pulling me down, lips on mine.  I wrapped my arms around his slender waist, feeling the heat of his body through the silk of my shirt.  I stumbled back onto the couch, pulling him roughly on top of me.

My tongue invaded his mouth, exploring the wet depths, feeling the push of his tongue against mine.  His hands roamed my chest, teasing my nipples through the fabric.  I groaned into his mouth as he straddled me, my erection growing with every passing moment.  I grabbed at his hair, pulling his head back and his mouth away from mine.  I traced a line down to his neck and bit lightly.  He writhed against me, his own erection digging into my thigh.  How long had I dreamed of this moment?  His hands were at my belt, desperately trying to undo it.  My own hands were on his hips, pushing him down to grind against me.

It was everything I wanted, but I hadn't wanted it like this.  He trusted me enough to give me free reign over his body, but not enough to let me in.


I couldn't believe it.  Every single cell in my body just wanted to melt into Seifer.  I wanted him.  Had wanted him forever.  He had kissed me.  Now, as I gazed down I could just see the soft gold of his hair as he buried his face in my neck.  I was struggling to get his belt off; I wanted to lay my body against his, skin to skin.  How can one piece of leather and metal be so complex?  I felt his hands on my hips, then a subtle change, as he seemed to distance himself from me.  He stopped nibbling at my neck and laid his head back against the pillow of the couch.  I was confused.

"Seifer?”  I said softly.

"Not like this, Squall.  Not like this."

"What do you mean?  Do you want to move it to the bedroom?"  I frowned at him.

"Yes.  No.  Both.  Dammit.  I want you Squall, above anything else I can think of, I want you, but not like this.  You trust me enough to fuck you but you won't let me in.  I don't want it like that."

I was stunned.  How was I to know he'd want more than just sex?  I didn't know if I could give him that.  Everything I thought I knew about him had changed.  The only thing that hadn't was I still wanted him as much as I ever had.

"What do you want?"

"You.  All of you.  I want you to have all of me, too.  I want to know you, Squall, not just the feeling I get every single time you walk past me."

"I don't know that I have that to give."

How could he ask this of me?  I'd faced down everything ever put in front of me, but this... this wasn't just my life on the line.  This was everything I was.  Hopes, fears, dreams, frustrations, desires...

"All I can offer you is what I am, Squall, and that's all I'm asking of you."

He reached out and pulled me down to lie on top of him, my head resting in the hollow of his shoulder.  I placed one hand on his chest, feeling his heartbeat beneath my fingertips.  One of Seifer's hands was running through my hair, the other was resting on top of mine.  I felt like I was standing on the highest edge of a canyon, wind whipping across my body, threatening to topple me off.  Every time I thought about what Seifer said, it made my heart race and threw me into confusion.  I closed my eyes.

"Please."  A whisper, nothing more.  Yet in that one word every single thing he could have said echoed through me, unspoken, but understood.

I looked down into that abyss, feeling the pressure of the wind at my back, and jumped.


"Promise me you'll be patient."  He sounded so unsure, so unlike himself.

"Promise me if I'm not, you won't walk away."  I put a finger to my lips, kissed it, and pressed it to his, feeling the pressure of his kiss on my skin.

The music changed, a song filled with longing and unintelligible words, a song of desire and loss.  It just made me pull Squall closer, feeling the solidity of his body against mine.  I didn't want to let him go, afraid that if he left he might not come back.

"Stay tonight?”  I asked.  My heart pounded, fear of rejection heavy in my chest.

I could tell he was contemplating it.  He was weighing the advantages and disadvantages, devoid of any emotional involvement in the decision.

"Quit analyzing it.  I don't want the answer your mind wants to give.  I want the answer that comes from here."  I placed the hand that had been resting on his over his chest.  I kept my tone soft, unthreatening.

He laughed, a soft exhalation of warmth against my chest.  "You could tell that, eh?"

"I've been watching you a long time.  I can tell more than I let on.  Stay, Squall."

He pushed up a little and kissed me softly.  "I'll stay."

I sat up, moving him back a little so I could stand up.  I held out my hand and smiled when he looked up at me, eyes slightly hidden by his tousled bangs.  It was a shy smile, but given entirely voluntarily and all for me.  I felt warm all over.  I led him back to my bedroom, the bed just a full size, but large enough to sleep two.  I kissed him gently, my hands going to the collar of his shirt.  I slowly undid the buttons, hearing him inhale sharply as the cold metal of Griever hit his skin.  I pushed the shirt off and kissed his bare shoulders, trailing kisses in a chain across his collarbone, licking at the sensitive skin that ran underneath the chain around his neck.  The cuffs of the shirt confined his hands, and he struggled to get them off. 

I looked up.  "Patience," I murmured.

His eyes, his eyes.  They were hazed with desire, his pupils dilated as he stared at me, irises just thin rings of blue-tinted mercury around cabochons of obsidian.  I moved my hands down, listening to the soft clink of the links of his belt as they hit the floor.  I undid the button and zipper, running my hands across the velvet softness of his skin.  I moved my hands behind his back and helped him remove his shirt completely, tossing it on the dresser.  I pushed him down on his back.  His skin seemed to glow in the wan light that filtered in from the living room.  I pressed my lips to one of his nipples, sucking gently while tweaking the other with my fingers.  He squirmed beneath me, half-mewling gasps of pleasure coming from him.

I trailed my tongue down his chest, swirling abstract designs against the soft flesh.  I circled the sensitive area around his navel, and then tugged his pants down just a bit to run my tongue over the gently protruding bones of his hips.  He tangled his hands in my hair, pushing me down as he brought his hips up.  I obliged him, roughly shoving his pants down and off as he kicked to remove his boots.  His erection sprang out, freed from the tight confines of the leather.  I leaned down and licked the underside of his shaft, teasing around his head with my tongue.  He tried to push me down, but I braced my arms on either side of him, making his attempts futile.  A cry of pure frustration snarled its way from his mouth, making me chuckle. 

I took the tip of his shaft in my mouth, running my tongue across the sensitive slit, being rewarded with a few drops of salty liquid.  I devoured him completely, sucking hard while my hand reached up to gently caress his balls.  He moaned for me, the sweetest sound I had ever heard.  Squall Leonhart, flat on his back, totally naked, moaning for me.  The desire to fuck him was overwhelming.  I lifted my mouth, eliciting a cry of protest as he gazed up at me.  I practically tore my clothing off in my haste to have him.  I stood there, gazing at absolute perfection laid out on my bed.

I lay down on top of him, and suddenly he came alive, his hands roaming across my body, legs wrapping tight around me, his heels digging into my back.  He bit at my shoulder and clawed at my back.  I kissed him roughly, bruising his tender mouth, warring with his gentle tongue.  It was pure passion.  I groaned as my erection pressed against his.


"Don't ask, just fuck me."

It was all I needed to hear.  My hand reached into the bedside stand, pulling out a bottle of lotion.  It was all I had... it would have to do.  I struggled to get the top off, spilling it in my haste.  I found the bottle again and poured some in my hand.  I sat back, on my ankles, with Squall's legs still around my hips.  I coated a finger and slowly traced a path back to his opening.  I slid my finger in, probing, stretching.  Squall bucked against my hand, driving my finger in further.  I put a second finger in and slid them in and out, then joined a third, and fourth.  He was panting and clawing at the sheets.

I withdrew my fingers and put the remaining lotion over my hardened cock.  In the space of a heartbeat I had shoved myself to the hilt in Squall's ass.  He screamed, clutching at my thighs, fingers digging in hard enough to bruise.  I refused to move until I felt him pressing me further into him by pushing his ankles into my back.  I leaned down and pulled him up, his legs around me and his arms around my shoulders as I wrapped my arms around his back and felt the heat of his erection digging into my stomach.  I kissed him, rocking back and forth, feeling the tightness of his body squeeze against me.  He shuddered as I found the sensitive spot inside him.  I withdrew and entered, hitting it again and again.  Then it was nothing but noises and frenzied movement.  I couldn't tell where I began and he ended.

I buried my face in his neck as I cried out, releasing myself inside him over and over.  He tossed his head back, and I looked up to see his face in utter rapture as he came across my stomach and chest.  His hair was plastered around his face, a disheveled halo of darkness.  A tight possessiveness I had never known took hold of me as I looked at him, lost in ecstasy.

I lay down beside him, both of us spent.  I removed a pillowcase and cleaned up as best I could, tossing it in the corner.  As I felt him curl up beside me, legs tangled in mine and hand resting gently against my cheek, all I could think was...


Squall looked up and smiled at me, a look that will be forever etched in my memory as the one greatest experience of my life.

Softly, he replied, "Yours."

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