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


Chapter IV

By Yuri Nigasa


I could feel the weight of Squall's limbs tangled across mine.  The air still held the faint scent of sex and sweat.  I looked down to see the top of Squall's head, buried against my chest and felt that feeling again.  It caught me off guard and took my breath away. He stayed.  In total defiance of everything that probably made Squall who he was, he had stayed.  I pressed a silent kiss to those silken threads of hair, running my fingers down his spine.  He stirred and looked up at me, his eyes a dusky gray in the low light.  I smiled, and he smiled backAt me.

"What time is it?" he asked, voice husky.

"About seven."

He grunted, burying his head in my chest.  I felt the warmth of his lips pressing kisses to my chest.  I chuckled, the sound resonating deeply.  I still couldn't believe he was here, in my bed.  I put my hand under his chin and tilted his head up, teasing the corners of his mouth with my tongue, tracing the sensitive curves of his lips, tasting a flavor that couldn't be described as anything other than Squall.

"Seifer," he said.


"I'm supposed to be in the office in an hour."

I growled.  It hadn't taken long for the Leonhart practicality to kick in.  I shouldn't be complaining, I know.  I had more now than I had ever imagined having, I've just always struggled with that possessiveness, that selfishness.  I rolled over, pinning Squall beneath me.

"Let's see you get to the office now," I smirked.


I sighed, rolling back over.  I heard him swing his legs over the edge of the bed.

"Mind if I shower here?"

I waved a hand dismissively.  "Course not."  Yes, I was sulking.

I put my hands behind my head, closed my eyes, and listened to the sound of the shower start up.  I could hear the soft sound of Squall's feet walking across the floor, then felt his mouth on mine.  I opened one eye and regarded him as he stood.

"Pouting?  That's new."

I grunted and closed my eye.  A smile tugged at the edges of my mouth and I said, "Just go get your shower."


It was going to be a morning for the rumor-mill once the guards put two and two together.  The Commander went in last night and didn't come out until morning.  I stepped into the stream of water, half expecting Seifer to ambush me.  Last night had been scary.  Not in the typical 'oh crap a Malboro and I forgot to junction' way, but far worse.  Physical fright only serves to give me that adrenaline rush, that feeling of momentary invincibility when I've got Lionheart in my grasp and I know that there really is only one possible victor.  I was way out of my league, emotionally.  I wanted it and didn't want it, prime example of emotionally deficient paradox I resided in.

It's not so hard to become enamored, really.  All that requires is an aesthetically pleasing set of features.  Perhaps love isn't even so difficult.  Especially if it's that typical more intense infatuation type of love.  Trust, though.  That's a far truer test than any other.  I don't trust easily.  In my gut I'd say I really don't trust at all.  Trust leaves you open, vulnerable, in a way that nothing else does, and I was a lifelong student in the study of invulnerability.  What had possessed me to agree to this?  As much as I told myself I was fine as I was, did I really crave something more?

I wanted to know Seifer.  My entire life, he'd been there.  They'd called him my rival, but it wasn't really a word that fit.  Mirror?  Second half?  I was at a loss to describe it.  Now what was he?  Lover seemed too intimate a term, but that's what he wanted.  He hadn't wanted just my body, but he had demanded more.  He always pushed me constantly, eliciting reactions from me that I couldn't control.  I think that's what scared me the most.  I always had to be in control of everything, every little nuance, every emotion, every action.  When it came to Seifer, there was no control.  It was just pure, unadulterated, response.

I shut off the water and reached my hand outside the shower curtain for a towel, feeling instead a hand grab mine.  Seifer pushed the shower curtain back and smiled.  I'd be damned if he hadn't been watching the entire time.  He wrapped his arms around me, warm as the surrounding air-cooled the droplets of water on my skin.

"Think enough?" he asked, naked flesh pressed against mine.  I just snorted.

He grabbed a towel and tossed it over my head, releasing me from his arms and going back into the bedroom.  I couldn't tell if he was playing or pissed.  What did he expect from me?  He was as out of character as I was.  Neither one of us had ever been in this situation before.  What am I supposed to do with a Seifer that's being caring, considerate, and possessive?  I'm not wired to deal with that Seifer.  I'm not wired to deal with that from anyone.  I can't even identify what it is I feel, why I want to trust him, and why that scares the hell out of me.


I don't know what exactly I expected.  I shouldn't be peeved at Squall for being, well, Squall.  I don't know why I'm reacting like a total moron.  I know him, but this is uncharted.  This is completely virgin territory between us, no pun intended.  He comes out of the bathroom, towel tied around his waist and his hair all fuzzed out like some sort of perversely inspired kewpie doll.  I don't challenge the silence.  I know when to keep quiet, and this is one of those times.  Better to let him have the first words, if at all.  I had pulled on some blue jeans, just buttoning the first two buttons, and was leaning back on my elbows, just looking at him.

He was getting ready in 'I'm acting like I'm in a hurry, but I really just don't know what to say' silence.  He pulled his leather pants on and reached over to take his shirt off the dresser.  Buttoning it up, he tucked it in and buttoned his pants.  Damn, it was disappointing, watching him cover up all that flesh.

I bent to pick my shirt up off the floor, and when I looked up, he was standing in front of me, one hand on his hip, the other running through his hair to smooth it down.  I sat back and he moved forward, one leg on either side of my knees.  I dropped the shirt and wrapped my arms around his waist as his arms encircled my neck.

"Patience," he whispered.

I just pulled him closer to me, not wanting to say anything.

"I have to get upstairs, but," I could hear the smile in his voice, "I'll see you at the usual time?"

That, from Squall, was worth more than a thousand words from anyone else.  I lifted my head to look into his eyes, seeing warmth tinged with confusion and hesitance.

"The usual time," I agreed, and he kissed me.  I released him from my hold and he turned.  I just watched him walk out of the room.  A moment later I heard the door chime and unlock, then open.  I lay back on the bed and I could swear I could smell his scent on the sheets.

It was going to be a long morning.


I couldn't bring myself to look at the guards on duty.  I didn't even bother to wave off the salutes, just kept my eyes focused on the dull-brushed metal of the elevator doors.  At least they had the sense to keep the gossip down while I was still in the room.  I wondered how long it would take the rumors to circulate through the SeeD guard, down through the general student body, and back up to the intimate little circle.  I wondered if my clothes looked like they had spent the night on Seifer's floor.

I took the elevator up and stepped out on the second floor.  I headed to the left, pushing open the double glass doors that marked my office suite.  'Commander's Office' glinted in imitation gold gilt beneath the glass. 

"Boss!" Selphie called.  I raised an eyebrow.  "You got a message from Esthar.  Sir Laguna's office said that he would be arriving in four days."  The guy was the President of Esthar and still to Selphie he was 'Sir Laguna.'

I snorted, "That was fast."

"You mean you knew?" she squealed.

"It's about Seifer."

"Oh," she frowned.  I could tell she wanted to ask why her Sir Laguna was coming all the way to Balamb to talk about Seifer.

I looked at her, "I promise I'll tell you when I can."  She huffed a little but accepted it as the only answer she was going to get.  She knew when I couldn't be pestered into things.  "Anything else come in?"

"Erm... yeah.  Zell's latest report came in and it's in the box.  He said everything is going well.  They've registered a whole slew of new critters.  He estimates that things should be cleared up in another month though.  I think he wants to come back.  He said he missed the hot dogs."

I had placed Zell as Field Commander for the Lunar Cry cleanup.  I figured it would do him good, being in charge like that.  He had the potential to be a great leader - his exuberance and positive outlook inspired followers in a way I didn't.  People followed me because I was strong; they followed Zell because they wanted to.

"Quisty says she'll be by this afternoon.  She tried to find you this morning but said you weren't in your room."

Great, by the time the rumors got around Quistis' little observation would pound that last little nail of confirmation into the coffin.  A traitorous voice in my mind questioned if I really would mind if anyone knew.  Would I mind?  I didn't know.

"Okay.  I need you to get things ready for orientation.  We have less than a month."  When all else fails, make Selphie plan something.  Not only would it keep her occupied, but out of my hair, and hopefully out of my newfound business.

I picked up the stack of things that seemed to accumulate in my box like fungus.  Zell's report was on the top.  I took it into the office and sat down at my desk.  I scanned over it quickly.


Standard Field Report

Active Deployment/ Non-Warfare


Lunar Cry/Esthar area weekly operation status.

Current estimated Mission Objective schedule on time.

Last operative report dated one week prior to current date.

Current location places forces in/around Sorceress Memorial.

Estimated return to Balamb base one month.

Update Deployment Status? Y/N


Field Commander Operative Number: 05-3714 <Z. Dincht>

Squall - situation is positive here in Esthar.  We've catalogued roughly two-dozen new monster species.  Attached is all Scan information.  There are two new L.C. Dragon-types that have shown high resistance.  Difficult to defeat in groups of less than four among an average 15th Rank SeeD.  Luckily, they've been few and far between.  We had four high level injuries that required attention in Esthar.  20th Rank J. Black lost an arm when attacked from behind, 13th Rank F. Wong suffered heavy cranial trauma resulting in memory loss, 17th Rank N. Knight was impaled through the chest resulting in extreme internal injury, 8th Rank I. Malcolm received wound from T. Rexaur L. C. Variant, will require possible amputation.

On a more personal note - did you have to send me without hot dogs?!  That's no way to inspire me to lead, you know.  Will send further update next week.  Hope to get done soon.



Typical Zell.  A well detailed report.  I would need to find out where we could place the injured SeeDs in the event they were unable to return to active duty.  SeeDs Black and Knight were high enough Rank to consider utilizing them in a classroom capacity.  I flipped through the hard copy of the file attachment.  There were the two Dragon types, tentatively named Draconis Hematicus, or Black Dragon, and Draconis Serpentis, or S-Type Dragon.  T. Rexaur Variant Magnus Rexaur, or M. Rexaur, the monster that had attacked SeeD Malcolm.  One of the more dangerous Emergent Species was the Khemelionis, which had the ability to duplicate the attacks of a predator, or in this case, attacking SeeD troops.  It had been this monster that had impaled SeeD Knight, mimicking his Naginata attack.  There were thirteen more Variant types, and seven Emergent Species.  A note attached to the file said that plans were being made to transport samples to the Forest Region near Esthar, so that they could be studied in more depth.

I was midway through a stack of SeeD Rank updates when the com buzzed and I heard Quistis' voice.

"Come on in," I said.

Quistis was in her lab coat.  She had probably come up from the Infirmary.  Since losing her Instructorship, she had begun interning with Dr. Kadowaki.  She was proving to be highly competent, and as always, a quick study.  I think it suited her better.  It provided her an outlet for the nurturing aspect of her personality.  Quistis was the type who needed to be needed, and providing medical care did that for her.

"Well, I was going to tell you about the get-together we had planned for Friday, but according to Selphie, that's not the best day.  President Loire is really coming to discuss Seifer?"

I nodded.

"Do you think he wants to try and extradite him?  I have mixed feelings about it, really.  Something about the entire situation has never seemed right.  Seifer was always hotheaded, but never stupid."

I shrugged, "Quis, I can't say much right now.  I don't think Loire is going to try for extradition, however."

"Squall, what is it, that you can't tell us?  I think we deserve to know.  It's not like we haven't been involved with this from the start."

"I can't tell you what I don't know.  I promise I'll have something to tell Friday.  Give me until then."

"Okay."  She stood to leave, and then cocked her head to the side.  "Squall?"


"I heard earlier... no, never mind.  It's not important."

"I'll talk to you soon, Quis."


I looked up at the clock.  Less than eleven hours, forty-seven minutes.  The speed of the Garden rumor system had officially been measured.  I was just grateful Quistis had reconsidered asking me.


I walked into the front office and smiled at Selphie.  She looked a bit taken aback, but recovered quickly.  She waved shyly and went back to whatever it was she had been typing.  If any of the others had ever rivaled my propensity for violence as a kid, she was it.  Where I had concentrated on personal torture, however, Selphie had always been a fan of the techniques of mass-destruction.  I think it made her all the more frightening.  I left the goon squad lounging around the coffeepot, and made my way into Squall's office.  I walked up to his desk and leaned over, reaching in my pocket as I did.  I pulled out a silver length of chain and dropped it on the desk.  It rattled loudly against the wood surface.

"You left that this morning."  I couldn't help but smirk.  He picked it up, running his hands across the links to the opposing ends and pulling it taut.  Wrapping it around the back of my neck, he used it to pull me closer to him until we were nose to nose.

"I think it's more useful like this."  He smiled coyly and leaned back, drawing me further across the front of the desk.

"I can think of better ways to use it," I purred.

"I'm sure you can, but you aren't holding it, are you?"  His voice was low and sensual, eyes sparkling mischievously.  I took back what I said about Selphie being more frightening.  This was amazingly scary, in a really twisted I-want-to-jump-his-bones kind of way.  I hadn't known Squall could be capable of playing around like this. 

"So now that you've got me, what are you going to do?"  I was enjoying this little game very much.

He stood up, giving me slack on the chain.  I leaned back as he put one knee on the desk.  I found myself hoping he'd crawl across it any second.  Very wishful thinking.  He put his knee down, much to my dismay, and stretched out his arm, walking around the desk, never letting go of the ends of the chain.  I had no choice but to follow as he made his way over to a closet.  Opening the door, he leaned over.  It took every single ounce of willpower in my body not to attack him.  The next thing I know he stood up and turned to face me.  He pulled the chain forward, drawing me in to kiss me.  There's something hard between us, and it's not the obvious thing.  He put something cold yet familiar in my grasp.  As my fingers closed around it, my mind recognized it immediately as Hyperion's grip.  I smiled and he relinquished his grip on the belt.  It fell across my shoulders, a negligible weight.  I reached a hand up and pulled it off, tossing it in the corner.

"I haven't had a good sparring session in a while."

"Does this mean I get to ditch my babysitters?"

"I think I can keep you in line one way or another."

He walked back over to the desk.  I looked at my weapon.  It was perfect as always.  Squall was telling Selphie to dismiss the SeeD escort to the basement, that he would be taking custody of me for a while.  I could hear the wave of gossip it set off in the background.  If I didn't know better I would say Squall was doing all this deliberately.  He removed Lionheart from the familiar battered case emblazoned with the same Griever's head as his pendent.  The modifications Squall had completed made the weapon an incredible sight.  It seemed to glow with an aura all its own.  I had modified Hyperion on one or two rare occasions, preferring to modify myself instead of my weapon.

We walked out of the office to Selphie's uncomprehending looks.  Squall gave her a glance that conveyed in no uncertain terms that she was not allowed to say a thing.  To him maybe, but I had a feeling as soon as we left, she'd have Quistis and Irvine up for a chat.

It was the first time I had set foot outside the walls of Balamb Garden in nearly three weeks, give or take that nasty Time Compression incident.  The air was warm as we set out on the road.  I didn't need to ask where we were headed.  It had been the last place we had gone before Esthar had recruited me, and Squall had been sent to Timber.  The cliffs overlooking the Fire Caverns.  Wind and rain had scoured away the blood we had spilt. 

We took up positions on opposite sides, Squall holding Lionheart in the two-handed style he favored, Hyperion in my one-handed grip.  Synchronously we attacked, blades ringing out in metallic harmony.  He withdrew, stepping back, as I pressed forward, thrusting towards him only to have him parry the thrust to the left.  I had forgotten how good it felt to go against him like this, as equals.  He brought his blade around and down as I blocked horizontally, stepping back to make him vulnerable.

I thrust his blade upward and he was open, but twisted to bring Lionheart down in a diagonal slash that caught me unaware.  We circled each other, and I made the next attack, only to meet his blade halfway.  Sparks flew as we clashed.  Adrenalin surged through me, giving my moves an added intensity and quickness.  Squall responded in like turn, his enhanced flexibility and skill matching me at every moment.  For one blinding second I was hit with two images - one of the last time we had been here, and one of last night - juxtaposed on each other in a surreal way. 

It was enough to give Squall an opening, and I found myself flat on my ass.  The tip of his blade was pointed at me and he was smiling.  He walked forward to stand over my legs.

"You should pay attention," he said.

"It's not my fault.  I was thinking of you."  I slowly snaked my foot out behind his ankle.

"So it's my fault then?"

I jerked my foot forward with enough pressure to make him lose his balance and down he went in a heap.  I sat up and laughed.  "Now who needs to pay attention?"

"It's not my fault."

"Oh really?"

I saw something I had never seen before.  Squall grinned at me... lecherously.  "I was thinking of what you could do while you were down there."

As I crawled over to him on my hands and knees, straddling him and pushing him down on his back I growled, "I'll be happy to oblige that."

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