Chapter 24 - Where the Heart is

By The Wandering Englishman

Irvine raised his gun level with his attackers head, his hands shaking furiously.

"Please, stay back..." The cowboy trembled, trying to glance back at the two SeeD cadets behind him. "I'm warning you. I don't want to have to hurt you."

The newcomer glared past the unruly brunette bangs that hung in front of his dead grey eyes, lifting a bony hand up slowly to push one side of his fringe behind his ears.

"Irvine..." The cold, dead voice whispered before looking behind the Auburn-haired man to the cadets cowering beneath the van. The dark man walked past the SeeD, moving the barrels of the gun away from his face with a small push.

"You two...get up." The stranger ordered, shooting a look to the cowboy to keep his distance. The two cadets crawled out, standing in front of the brunette with their weapons at the ready and their heads looking down at the booted feet.

"Squall...don't you dare." Esthar's commander ordered as the leather-clad man circled the children.

"Squall?" The male cadet asked, looking up from underneath his long lashes. His female companion swallowed, bordering on tears as Squall leaned in and sniffed at her red hair.

"Leave them alone." Irvine called, realising he could no longer move; he couldn't protect them.

"You're a pretty one." Squall mocked, placing his thumb underneath the girls chin, lifting it up to look at his dishevelled face. "Tell me your name."

"Celene." The girl replied; dropping the sai she held in her hand into the grass by her feet.

"Celene..." the dark man echoed, licking the girls neck. "How old are you?"

Irvine watched helplessly as the exchange continued; noticing from the corner of his eye the boy glaring at Squall, twisted the handle of his sword as he inched closer.

Good...he's looking for his weak spot.

"I'm...f...fourteen." The red head stuttered, closing her eyes as the dark haired man began to nibble at her collarbone.

"Such a sweet child..."

Light flashed in Irvine's eyes a moment, causing him to blink his violet eyes a few times. When his sight finally returned, the dark blade of the cadet was resting on the back of his former friend's neck.

"Let her go, or I will remove your head." The young SeeD ordered, the usually calm blue eyes full of rage. Squall turned his head, looking amusedly up at the youth before letting Celene drop to the ground.

"I've let her go. What now?" Squall smirked, pulling the sword from the cadet's hand in a swift move. As the boy stumbled back, the leather-clad man turned, placing the sword at Irvine's neck.

"Commander!" He cried, reaching out a hand towards his leader as the dark man chuckled.

"Commander is it, now Irvine? Moved up in the world."

"It's what happens when you eliminate the competition..." The cowboy laughed lightly, the cold steel cutting painfully into his throat as his Adams apple bobbed.

"Yes..." Squall cooed, walking around behind his friend, sword still tightly pressed to Irvine's neck. "But after you, there won't be any competition left. Think of it, old friend...your death means the end of this war." He smiled, looking over at the boy.

"Fitting, don't you think?"

"Don't kill him, Squall." The Cadet begged, taking a step forward, eyes never leaving his commanders.

"Why not?"

"Kill me instead. You've killed everyone I ever loved, I'm not going to watch you kill my commander too."

"Such brave words...for such a little boy."

"Don't, Carson..." Irvine warned, looking down at the ground sadly.

"But...I've no reason to kill you."

"Then I'll give you one..."

"Why are you here?"

The man paused, looking down a moment before speaking.

"...I've come to save my life."

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