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


Chapter IX

By Yuri Nigasa


"You're what?" Irvine's face was perplexed.

"Taking the damn test too."

"Great, there goes the curve," he chuckled.

I laughed.  "I wish man.  I don't want to go through some stupid field exam.  The last thing I need is to be is shipped off to Esthar to play with all those new little freaks."

"You think that's where they'll make you take the field exam?  Why can't they get you an exemption like they did me?"

"Wrong side for that I suppose," I smirked.  "Perhaps going into battle against SeeD doesn't count.  Maybe they're still a bit miffed about that whole thing."

"Someone should talk to Squall about it.  I don't think it's right."

"Ahh, just leave it.  I wouldn't be doing it anyway if it wasn't for him.  Like I said, if I had wanted to be SeeD, I would have done it one of the first four times."

"So is that some sort of Garden record?"

"Nah.  You know how many people wash out on both exams?  Only thing I don't want is to go fetch some idiot Guardian.  Last thing I need is something running rampant around my brain.  It'd probably like me less than I'd like it, which would be a disaster in the making.  I just want to take my baby into battle and watch her wreak havoc.  Let someone else keep me standing and pop off the fireworks when necessary."

"You know, though," he said thoughtfully, "the thought of you with a Guardian is kind of scary.  You held your own against us for the most part, completely unjunctioned the entire time."

"Not entirely true."

Irvine raised an eyebrow.  "What do you mean?"

"I wasn't 'junctioned' per se.  Not like you guys, but there was a link with Ultimecia that was downright scary.  It was like whenever I wanted to harness that energy, it just flowed out my fingertips."

"Man, that must've been intense.  I know that I got on a first name basis with Leviathan due to my junction.  I can't imagine getting power from another person."

"So what's it like, being unjunctioned from it?"

"She," he gently corrected.  "Don't let the scales fool you.  It took me a while to break the connection.  You just get used to being a certain way, and then you aren't anymore.  It's not quite like missing another person, but it's like something's gone.  A part of you."

"So do the effects dissipate at all?  The memory loss?" I wanted to know if Squall would ever remember the things I did.

"Well, a bit.  Course, it hasn't been all that long, and I wasn't junctioned like the rest of them, not for as long anyway, and definitely not like Squall.  It was scary to see him like that.  He just kept piling them on, like he didn't want to remember, didn't care what it did to him.  Like he'd lost the only thing that mattered to him, and since it was gone, he didn't even care anymore."

That little observation hit me hard.  Had we both been so wrapped up in what we had expected of each other that we had been that blind?  Probably.


I sat compiling a tentative roster for the Catania Deployment, trying to concentrate on the task at hand and failing miserably.  Since Seifer had agreed to take the SeeD test, I knew that I'd have to send him.  There really wasn't enough time left in the Esthar Deployment to justify sending him.  I set myself up as Field Commander and decided that I'd balance the ranks evenly on the twelve open spots.  The Council would howl over it, but if they didn't like it, let them get someone else to do my job.  It would suit me just fine.

I scrolled through the active roster, pulling names for duty based on specialty.  I tipped the list predominantly in favor of those with high-end magic training.  Eight magic and four combat specialists should do nicely.  I placed the date of deployment a week away.  I would have rather waited until Zell returned to leave, but I would have to see if he could possibly get back early.  Maybe I offer him hot dogs if he gets done before I'm ready to leave... it might work.

I pulled up the messaging system and started typing.


Field Communiqué

From: 64-9132 Cmdr. S. Leonhart

To: 05-3714 Field Cmdr. Z. Dincht

Re: Progress


I need to know if things are ahead of schedule.  Minor deployment I may accompany, would like you here to keep an eye on things.  What is the likelihood of arriving back a week ahead?  I'll have hot dogs waiting at the docks.



I hoped he would reply before I headed out for the day.  It would make planning so much easier knowing that he could be back here to keep a reign on things.  I was reaching for a pen when the door opened.  I looked up, surprised.  Nobody had called back on the com, so it took me off-guard.

Seifer was standing in the doorway, wearing a black knit pullover and white linen pants.  His collar winked in the light as he folded his arms across his chest and stared at me.  I pushed my hair out of my eyes and raised an eyebrow.

"So, Commander," he said, "do I need an appointment or is now a good time?"

I leaned back in my chair, putting my feet up on the desk.  I put my hands behind my head and feigned consideration.  After a moment I said, "Now will do."

He took several steps forward, stopping by the chairs in front of my desk.  "I have a problem, Sir," he said, grave faced.

"Well?" I asked.

"All work and no play makes Seifer a dull boy," he winked, stepping closer to my desk.


He put his hands on the desk and leaned forward, eyes sparkling a brilliant emerald and a smile tugging at his lips.  "I want to play."

"With?" I asked coyly.

"You," he said.

I put my feet down and leaned forward, my face mere inches from his.  "Somehow, Cadet Almasy, I don't think that's covered in the Garden Protocol.  In fact, I believe we have... regulations that deal with that."

He growled low in his throat, gazing at me with the look of a predator.  "What if I break some of those regulations, Sir?"

"Well then, appropriate action would be taken.  Garden can't have Cadets breaking regulations without reprisal."

"Sir, Just what would a Cadet have to do to merit punishment from the Commander himself?"

"Why, Cadet?"

"Because whatever it is, let's just say I probably already did it and got away with it a long time ago, Sir."

He was straining every muscle in his body to maintain control.  I was determined to torment him as long as he could take it.

"Mistakes made before my tenure as Commander aren't my concern."

"Sir, what if, hypothetically speaking of course, I assaulted the Commander in his own office?"

"You assume you'd get that far?"

"I don't know, Sir.  I think I'm a fair match."

"Really?  A bit overconfident aren't we, Cadet?"

"No, Sir."

"So, Cadet, are you always this difficult or do you know how to take orders from your superiors?"

"I've never been good at following orders, Sir."

I had to give him credit.  He was damned good at this.  My mind was already ten steps ahead in anticipation, and I could feel my growing arousal straining in my pants.

"Well, let's just see how well you do, why don't we?  At attention, Cadet."

I walked to the office door and locked it.  I turned around to see him standing straight up, hands clasped behind his back, heels together.  I walked behind him and trailed my hand up the back of his thigh and over his ass.  He flinched and started to turn around.

"I said at attention Cadet."  I smacked his ass roughly.  Seifer straightened up immediately.  "That's better."  I stood behind him and trailed my hands over his body, running them over his chest and down the front of his pants.  I caressed his erection while I moved closer, pressing my own hard-on against his ass.  I could feel him shaking in anticipation.  "Cadet, do you have an objection?"

"No Sir," he said through gritted teeth.

"About face, Cadet," I ordered.  He turned to face me.  I looked up at him and was amazed.  The expression was that same aggressive one he'd worn for years.  I wondered if this was what he'd been thinking all those times he'd turned an identical look at me before.

"Remove your shirt, Cadet."  I watched as he lifted it up and over his head, revealing the taut planes of his chest, muscles rippling underneath the skin as if to hint at the power they possessed.  I leaned forward and took one nipple in my mouth, biting down.  He inhaled sharply and began to reach his hands up to my hair.  I smacked him across the ass again.  Almost reluctantly he returned to attention.  I trailed my mouth to the other nipple, flicking my tongue across it until it hardened.

I moved my hands to his belt and began to undo it slowly.  Kneeling down, I undid the button with my teeth and heard him hiss when I pulled the zipper down the same way.  His pants slid down around his ankles and I teased his hardened shaft with my teeth through the fabric of his boxers.  I reached my index fingers up, hooked them around the waistband, and slid them down, sitting back on my heels to just gaze at him.  I wondered how far I could take him.


"Sir?" his reply came out more breath than voice.

"Touch yourself."  One hand slid from behind his back to grip his erection.  Slowly he began to stroke himself, his head tilted back and eyes closed.  He began to gasp and moan.  "Stop, Cadet," I said, "I don't remember giving you permission to come."  His cry was one of pure frustration.  Reluctantly he stopped.  I hadn't ever been this aroused in my life.  His eyes were a haze of desire, gazing down at me.  "Eyes forward, Cadet."  He obeyed.

I slowly leaned forward and ran the tip of my index finger underneath his balls and up the underside of his shaft, circling around the tip.  His body responded to my every touch.  I stood up and began to remove my shirt, draping it over the chair.  I kicked my shoes off and undid my belts, placing them on the chair before following them with my pants, underwear, and socks.  I stood before him naked and fully aroused.

"I want you completely naked, Cadet."  He removed his shoes and socks, stepping out of the pants around his ankles.  "On your knees," I demanded.

I stepped in front of him again, the tip of my erection rubbing deliciously across his lips.  "You've shown you can follow orders reasonably well, Cadet.  Let's see if you have any... other... abilities."

He moaned and took my swollen member in his mouth.  His mouth was hot and wet, his tongue roaming across my hardness.  I sighed and ran my hands through his hair, forcing him down further.  He was frantic, as if being denied satisfaction just turned him on all the more.  My knees began to weaken and I put my hands on his shoulders for support.  I thrust my hips in time with the rhythm of his mouth sliding up and down my shaft.  I felt my body begin to prime for release, then suddenly he removed his mouth and looked up, a devious smirk on his face.

I groaned in frustration, narrowing my eyes at him.

"Cadet," I gasped, "did I tell you to stop?"

"No, Sir, you didn't," he said in a sultry voice.

"Cadet, I want you to give me head."

"No, Sir."

So that was his game, then?  "You realize, Cadet, that you will be punished for failure to follow orders?"

"Yes, Sir.  I want to be punished."

"Well then, are you prepared for the consequences?"

He reached over to his discarded pants and drew out a small tube, and handed it up to me, eyes glinting in anticipation.

"Yes, Sir, I am," he bowed his head and looked down at the floor as if chastened.

I opened the tube and spread some of the slick substance across my shaft, then more across my fingers.  I knelt down and moved my hand between his legs.  Obligingly he spread them further apart and I ran my finger between the cheeks of his ass and finding the tight bud between them, slid my middle finger into the resistant opening.  I moved my finger in and out slowly, spreading the lubricant around before forcing another finger in.  I heard him hiss slightly as I began to stretch him wider before inserting a third finger.  His erection was growing, and I had a desire to watch him masturbate again.

"Cadet, I want you to pleasure yourself again, but remember, you aren't allowed to come."

"Yes, Sir," he said.

As I slid my fingers in and out of him, he began to stroke himself in time with my motions.  As I watched him, my desire to fuck him became overwhelming.  I withdrew my fingers and sat back.  "Cadet, come here," I beckoned him with one of the fingers still slick with lubricant.  He straddled me and I positioned him over my cock, then pushed down on his shoulders to impale him on my shaft.  His eyes went wide with shock and his breath caught in his throat.  I wrapped his legs around my waist and began to thrust.  I put my hand over his and began to stroke him in time with my motions.

I felt him grow close to orgasm, so I stopped my motions and removed his hand, sitting perfectly still.  He whimpered in frustration and I looked up at him, smiling deviously.  "You don't have permission to do that, Cadet."  His breath hitched in his throat and he struggled to find his voice.  "Is there something you want to say, Cadet?"

"May I come, Sir?"

"Beg me, Cadet."

He began to plead softly, and for every request I thrust into him roughly.  It became a litany of mindless entreaties, and I felt him shake as I plunged into him over and over again.  I began to feel my body grow taut as I neared release.  Grasping his erection in my hand I began to pump him hard and fast.  I arched my head up to growl one final command in his ear.

"Come for me, Cadet."

I felt the heat of his liquid pour across my chest as I lost myself in the dizzying height of my own orgasm, our bodies pounding together in an unbelievable flood of ecstasy.


Crimson, mandarin, and gold mingled in a liquid writhing against the velvet of night.  As I stared I could swear I saw figures entwined and twisting in the burning grasp of flame.  In my ears a familiar discord of chimes played counterpoint to the driving urge of drums.  My peripheral vision refused to focus, teasing me with a hazy impression of bodies dancing ecstatically to the ceaseless beat.  I lifted my head to gaze across the fire, and there she sat, impeccably arrayed and with the poise of one born to rule.  Imperceptibly, her head tilted in acknowledgement.

"You," I opened my mouth, but my voice was no more than a whisper.

Her lips formed a word, I heard her, but no sound came from her lips.  "Remember," she commanded.

Something was shaking me, pulling me away, calling my name. 

I opened my eyes and saw Seifer's profile in the moonlit room.  What was it I had been dreaming?  I could only recall the sound of chimes.

"Seifer?" I asked groggily.

"You were having some sort of nightmare or something.  It was scaring me."  His hand was smoothing my hair down and away from my eyes.

"Sorry," I said softly.

He chuckled.  "Only you would apologize for dreams you can't control."

I turned and curled myself against the warmth of his body, feeling him envelop me in his arms.  I yawned deeply, sleep teasing at the edges of my mind already.  "Go back to sleep," I murmured.  "It's going to be a long day tomorrow."  I felt the pressure of his lips against my temple in silent compliance and I succumbed to darkness again.

When I opened my eyes again the sun was streaming offensively through the windows.  Seifer had rolled over on his back and was snoring softly, one arm still curled possessively around my waist.  I nuzzled against his neck and began to kiss his collarbone.  He stirred, almost purring in his contentment.  His head tilted down, mouth seeking mine.  I gladly offered it to him, losing myself in the moment.  It went on this way for a while, until I reluctantly pulled away from him.

"Can't we just stay here instead?" he asked.

"This shouldn't take more than a week."

"Go, take care of it, and come back," he sighed.  "I know.  Dammit, you should have just sent me to the Chicken for a week.  Then I'd be back already." 

Zell and the rest of the Esthar Deployment had arrived back two days ago.  As promised, I had waited at the docks with a half-dozen hot dogs.  I've seen some incredibly disgusting things in my life, but a man with three hot dogs in his mouth at once... it's not an appetizing sight.

"They would say I was exhibiting favoritism."

"Aren't you?"

The corners of my mouth turned up in a small smile.  "Time to get ready."

He groaned as I rolled away from him, releasing the weight of my body off his arm.  He sat up, eyeing the Cadet's uniform sitting in the closet.  "Do I really have to wear that?"

"At least until we leave the harbor.  Besides," I smirked, "you look cute."

He raised an eyebrow.  "You did not say that."


He glared.


"That's it.  I'm not putting it on.  You can just kiss my ass."

I took it as an offer and leaned over the bed to place a kiss on the soft flesh.  "Now put it on."

"Damn you," he growled, the humor in his eyes taking the sting from the words.


I stood at the docks of Balamb Harbor, odd man out in more ways than one.  There had yet to be any word from Esthar that might grant me absolution in the eyes of these people.  To them, the sight of the fallen Knight in an ill-fitting Garden Cadet's uniform was absolute blasphemy.  They didn't trust me, didn't like me, and were afraid of me.  I knew it because I could see it in their eyes.  Those looks spoke as loud as any insult or taunt.  It was only because of the rumor that I warmed the bed of Garden's beloved Commander that they left me in peace.

I watched Squall direct the final preparations as I waited to board the watercraft to Galbadia.  He was wearing a pair of light gray leather pants with a single studded belt, a trio of chains slung from the right side belt loop to the back loop.  Underneath a leather jacket of deeper gray that had four inch sections of chain mesh along the outside of the sleeves he wore a deep maroon tee shirt.  I sat down on a crate near the dock and blatantly ogled him as he went about his business.  Every so often he'd lift his head and glance in my direction, as if to verify that I hadn't run off.  I'd wink surreptitiously and he'd blush just a little, pale rose underneath his porcelain skin, then turn back to the business at hand.

When everyone at last began to board, I found myself last in line.  I ducked and headed inside, not surprised to see that every seat was taken by someone or something.  Fine, they could have it that way.  I turned and headed up to the deck as we began to pull away from Balamb.  The sun and wind battled to see which would control my body temperature as we picked up speed on the open waters.  I braced my hands on the railing and leaned forward, gazing at the receding shoreline.

I felt a hand on my back and turned my head expecting to see Squall, but instead of the familiar brunette color of the hair I saw deep violet.  I scowled, not wanting trouble this early in the trip.

I was met with a disarming smile and an extended hand, the last thing I expected.  "Elijah," he said loudly over the sound of the craft and wind.

Caught off guard I reacted on pure reflex, extending my own hand to shake his.  "Seifer," I said.

"Sorry about that in there, they planned it well in advance."

"I've been through worse than not having a chair," I smiled wryly.

He laughed easily, "I'm sure.  So you'll be taking a field exam this mission?"

I nodded.  "What's your specialty?" I asked, finding that he was extremely affable and easy to talk to.

"I'm a gunner.  One of the four combat specialists, but from what I heard during the briefing, it looks like they won't be relying on us much.  Suppose we're just backup."

"Don't mind my curiosity," I said, "but why are you being so social?  It seems I'm on everyone else's blacklist."

He smiled calmly, completely at ease with himself and me.  "Everyone needs a comrade."

I was taken aback by his directness.  "Even a disgraced Knight, eh?"

He laughed, "Somehow I don't think that's the case, despite popular opinion."

"How so?"

"If you were a danger to anyone, they'd never let you out.  You're not only out; you're taking a SeeD exam.  That to me signals that there's more to it than is being said."

I grunted, neither denying nor confirming his theory.  Abruptly he saluted and I turned to see that Squall had come on deck.  "Commander," he said.

"At ease, Mr. Eckner," he replied.

"If you will excuse me," Elijah nodded and took his leave.

"Making friends, are we?" the dry humor was evident in Squall's voice.

I snorted.  "Something like that.  Seems you've got at least one person on this infernal mission that doesn't completely have his head in his ass."

"Maybe he's being nice because he knows you've got the Commander's... ear?"

I leaned forward to nibble on his ear, which earned me a glance of censure.  "What?" I asked innocently.  "There's not another soul on deck."

He smiled begrudgingly.  "Come down to the command room when you want.  I'll be in there dealing with some last minute paperwork."

"As long as you don't make me do it, I'll follow you.  I still owe you for those damned Requisition files."

He turned to face me and laughed.  "I thought that was one of my better ideas."

I rolled my eyes in blatant imitation of him.  "Whatever."


We arrived in Galbadia late that afternoon.  It was early evening by the time we made it to Catania via rail.  Alisa Case and her associate, a man named Davis Madra greeted us at the station.  We cordially shook hands and then she spoke.

"We've arranged lodging at the hotel.  Tomorrow evening we can arrange to set things up, once you've had a chance to rest."

I nodded. "Thank you."

It didn't take long to unload our equipment from the private rail cars.  We had packed lightly, most of the equipment being surveillance oriented.  I relayed the directions to the three squad sub-commanders and headed to the hotel.  Seifer was still busy helping with the unloading, and I knew he'd follow when he could.  I had arranged in advance for us to take adjoining rooms, at least preserving the image of propriety.  I had no intention, however, of spending an unnecessary night without him.  When I last saw him he was working beside the man he had been talking to on deck earlier that day.  They seemed to be getting along well.

The streetlamps painted the road in a wan glow while shadows shaded the buildings in grays and blacks.  I felt unexpectedly uneasy.  I was glad to reach the brightly lit courtyard of the hotel.  My body was beginning to wind down from the stress of the day, and I was eager to have some dinner and sleep.  Tomorrow was going to be a day for setting up, and it would take everyone's help to get things ready.  As I walked in my room I tossed my bag down on my side of the bed and settled down on Seifer's side to wait for him.

I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew there was a knock on the door that separated the two rooms.  I got up and opened the door to find Seifer standing there in a pair of his old sweatpants, his hair and body still lightly damp from a shower.  In his hand he held a tray with two plates of sandwiches, chips, and drinks.

"It's not much, but it's edible." he said, leaning over to kiss me.

"Mmm," I said, inhaling deeply.  "Sounds good."

He took the tray over to the bed as I moved my bag to the floor.  "Not unpacked yet?"

"Fell asleep," I said.

He raised an eyebrow suggestively.  "Does that mean you'll be up later tonight?"

I winked as I took one of the plates from him, "Somehow I don't doubt it."

Later that evening as we lay satiated in each other's arms I ran my hand through the soft golden silk of his hair.  I found I couldn't completely shake the feeling of unease that had plagued me on the walk to the hotel.  I burrowed my head in the crook of Seifer's neck and as he moved against me once again, I lost myself in the scent and feel of his body, forcing the feeling of apprehension from my mind.

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