Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VIII is property of Square Enix.

Betareader: Angel of Enigma

Warnings: Yaoi (boy love with the pairings Seifer x Squall), language, non-con (rape), self-abuse, angst, violence, fluff, AU (Alternate Universe).

Whispered Screams

Chapter Thirteen - Looks Like Heaven, Feels Like Hell

"Cry for me."

By Angry Angel

Like your smile and your fingertips,
Like the way that you move your lips.
I like the cool way you look at me,
Everything about you is bringing me

Bob Dylan, "Buckets of Rain"

"... So, just when exactly are ya gonna be done taking your stroll down Cranky Lane, huh? I mean, have mercy on my poor dashboard already — you're like melting it or something."

A deep, husky laugh escaped Seifer's throat as he cast a quick glance at the dark-haired boy sitting in the passenger seat. Squall was glowering at some imaginary point on the black plastic surface of the dashboard in front of him, his cold blue eyes zeroed in on it with grim resolve. Seifer had left him be for the greater part of their ride, but now that they were inevitably nearing Squall's home, the blonde thought it be best to clear up the dark, menacing cloud that seemed to be hovering above both of their heads like a bad omen.

It was safe to say that said bad omen was more or less to blame on Seifer's very unusual concept of performing first aid on Squall in his bedroom; at least the blonde assumed as much, considering that his younger companion hadn't heeded him with anything more than a vague snort or dismissive grunt ever since their departure. Of course, finding the brunette in a state of perfect silence was far from unusual, but it was slowly starting to grate on Seifer's nerves.

"Man, alright, look-"

The golden-haired eighteen year old drawled a smooth sigh as he hauled ass across the freeway and passed a car on their sharp right in such a rough manner that it flattened Squall against the back of his seat.

The act didn't exactly help to brighten Squall's mood in the least bit.

'Fucking prick. Who the hell taught you how to drive, anyway? Good grief.'

"-If you're really that upset over what I did back at my place, I apologize, okay? I was just fucking with ya. Had I known it'd be this big a deal, I would've happily kept my mouth shut... or your hand out of it, for that matter."

"...It's not..."

"It's not what? A big deal?"


Squall had tugged his wrists beneath his arms and breathed those sullen, monotone replies against the slightly tinted window in front of him, all the while scowling as if the world was about to come to a bitter end. For some obscure reason, which was light years beyond Seifer's understanding, Squall never even looked like he actually meant it when he dismissed a matter as "nothing" or "no big deal."

Honestly — why couldn't he just throw a hissy fit or something and get it the hell over with?

'Just who are you trying to fool, anyway? It's not like I can't tell that you wanna stab me with the next best piece of cutlery you can get your hands on.'

"Oh, so it's not, huh?" Seifer thus snorted, his tone suitably sarcastic. "What's with the sour face then, perky?"

"... Nothing."

"Right... I see... so 'it's not' a big deal and it's 'nothing'," Seifer mocked dryly. "Woop-dee-fuckin'-doo, we actually might be getting somewhere here. Like, be still my beating heart, perhaps I'll actually get to hear a full fuckin' sentence from you today! Damn."

Seifer growled deeply, purely annoyed and parched on tolerance for the brunette's unnerving attitude. Meanwhile, Squall sucked his bottom lip between his teeth and gradually sank as low into his seat as his safety belt would permit. How he hated this. Why on earth couldn't Seifer just keep his stupid mouth shut and leave him alone for five fucking minutes? Why? Was it really all that much to ask?

Of course Squall had been upset over the blonde's weird ritual of tending to his wounds ("what an entirely redundant question in the first fucking place", Squall snarled to himself), but at this point, the memory of it all didn't even so much as faze him anymore. As his forehead crinkled in deep thought, his mind was occupied with far more unsettling issues than Seifer mistaking himself for a hormone-driven epiphany of Count Dracula.

'... What the fuck does he expect me to say, anyway? There's nothing for us to discuss and I certainly don't feel like wasting my time over stupid small talk. Everyone's always expecting me to say something, as if I signed some sort of fucking agreement when I was born that I would lay out my feelings before every asshole that has the guts to ask. It's nobody's business what I'm thinking, or why I don't wanna talk. Seifer's no different — he's exactly like everyone else and annoying like ten of those motherfuckers. I can't believe I'm actually taking him home with me to have breakfast after everything that happened. What a glorious idea. I must be fucking crazy or something. Why does Mom want to meet him, anyway? It's not like he's my "buddy" now, just because we... tche. Whatever. Even if I wanted to be friends with him - which, rest assured, I don't - it would simply be a... bad idea. I don't need a friend anyway, much less someone like Seifer to piss me off every thirty seconds for the sheer fun of it. And the really messed up thing is, I already know Mom's gonna love him and his stupid charm to pieces. I just know it. Fuck. I guess I can simply hope that... her and Ell are the only ones home. If not... I...'

As Squall was perfectly busy contemplating matters with himself in the unfathomable depths of his own mind, the blonde teenager next to him could feel his already wavering patience inevitably crumbling to dust.

'Goddammit, watching grass grow is more interesting than trying to hold a conversation with this guy. Argh. Fuck it, I give up.'

"You are one stubborn ass little punk," Seifer huffed, a bit more sting to his tone than he had intended, before reaching for the control panel of his radio and pushing a seemingly random string of buttons. "Fine — suit yourself, ice princess. If you're not gonna talk, I guess I'll just turn on some music."

Squall cringed visibly as the expensive surround sound speakers to his right, left and rear suddenly flared to life in a frighteningly noisy fashion. With twitching features and murder flashing in his eyes, the sulking brunette found himself forced to listen to the last, wry chords of some fading rock ballad.

"This station's pretty sweet," Seifer announced, his spirits soaring as he tapped his fingers on the steering wheel in an offbeat rhythm, though he earned nothing but a side-ways death glare from Squall's end. "I listen to it all the time."

'Do I look like I give a rat's ass?'

Squall refrained from putting his cynicism into words, if only because the DJ on air (who happened to be "gifted" with an extremely irritating voice) was starting to ramble at a level of volume that made it downright impossible for the brunette to even produce so much as a single, coherent thought.

"Whaddup up, dudes and dudettes? This is 92.6 kilo, your one and only pure rock station — and I'm the one and only Johnny G! What ya'all up to this fine Saturday morning, ey?"

'... Tche. Shove that "fine Saturday morning" shit up where the sun don't shine. Asshole.'

"I hope ya'all got tickets for our SWEET summer event out by Palmer's Park tonight! It starts at 5pm and ends, erh, whenever the last person hits the ground. Hehe. In case ya haven't preordered ya tickets, I guess ya can still get a hold of some at the gates, call our ticket hotline or eBay your lives away, but... either way, ya better get them while they're hot! Yeah, baby! Yeah! Whoot!"

'Oh my fucking god! Someone show mercy on my brain cells and decapitate this moron.'

"Oh yeah! Dude, and get this - my buddy just went to Taiwan and I told the fucker to bring me home some Taiwanese hookers, so maybe I'll actually show up with a date this year! Hah! Go me! Rock on! Hahaha-"


"That's fucking enough already!"

"... Eh?"

Seifer blinked in surprise as his formerly silent companion suddenly uttered a loud, almost desperate cry and sliced the air between them sharply with his left hand, wearing a most disgusted expression on his face. Judging by his twitching features and irate eyes, he had to be on the verge of blowing a major blood vessel.

"Turn it off, alright?" Squall spat through ground teeth, only barely holding restraint on his acute temper. "It's driving me fucking nuts! I'll talk about whatever the hell you want! Just... turn it off!"

Seifer studied him with newly aroused, meticulous interest, a smug grin playing a ballad entirely of its own on his lips. Squall seemed traumatized at the DJ's concept of teenage coolness and humor — well, frankly, Seifer was, too. The blonde did enjoy the "pure rock" station as long as Johnny G wasn't on the mic, but for what the overexcited dork was worth, he did serve as a valuable tool of torture.

When Seifer thumbed the 'off' button of his radio, Squall heaved a subdued, grateful sigh. The dumb, pseudo-cool talk of that moron on air had been enough to give him a raging migraine. Listening to the people around him was tedious enough — he certainly had no desire to cling to the words of some wannabe radio star who was sitting miles and miles away, cracking tasteless jokes that were bad enough to make him want to throw up on the dashboard before him.

Thus, the sudden silence that surrounded him felt like his own, private slice of paradise, but to his great dismay, Seifer was happy to remind him of the bargain that he had entered so thoughtlessly.

"Soooo," the blonde cooed slyly while his fiery green eyes were darting heated looks back and forth between the road in front of them and Squall's pained face. "You'll talk about anything I want?"

Squall cringed at the suggestive tone in Seifer's voice.

"... Bite me."

"Ah, you see, I would, but there's a limit to my multi-tasking ability, believe it or not," Seifer declared airily while flapping his hand towards the steering wheel. "Save that thought for later though, 'kay? Don't want the rumors going 'round that Seifer Almasy can't deliver."

Squall groaned in exasperation, but said nothing. Truth be told, it was pointless anyway. No matter how many snappy insults or terrifying death glares he hurled at Seifer, the blonde ridiculed them all with just one kinky wink or a cocky smirk. God, how Squall hated it! It was infuriating in so many ways, but go figure, there wasn't a damned thing that Squall could do about either Seifer or his behavior. He'd have to endure both, at least for the time and place being.

'Geez, I'm gonna lose a few screws if I continue to stick around him. I can almost feel my IQ descending to his level of stupidity. Ugh. As long as he keeps his mouth shut, he's not even that bad. It's almost as if he's hell-bent on pissing me off. Why? He must be either really smart or really fucking stupid. At this point, I wouldn't place my bets on either of those options...'

"Alrighty then, here goes... Question Number One: Tell me about your family."

Frowning, Squall regarded the blonde with a look out of dark grey orbs that struck like daggers of pure ice.

'Well, scratch that last bit. He really is a stupid fucking prick. I mean, that's wasn't even a question.'

"No," the brunette decided to bite back his sarcasm and instead gave a simple reply for the simple mind. "Forget it."

"Oh? Why not?" Seifer retaliated smoothly as he heaved his shoulders in a carefully calculated shrug. "It's not like I won't meet them in about five minutes anyway... isn't that right?"

Like it or not, the "prick" had a point there.

Squall's hands clutched to fists beneath his arms at the (unfortunately) undeniable truth in those words. He wanted to slap himself for his unforgivable idiocy; just what had he been thinking, inviting Seifer over to his house for breakfast as if it had been the single greatest idea in the world? Ridiculous. Surely, he could have come up with some kind of excuse to avoid all of this...?

'... Ladies and gentlemen, it's official — Squall Leonhart is losing it. Why, you ask? I don't fucking know why! I don't get it, okay! Why can't I get rid of him like everyone else? I'm a fool for letting things get this far.'

Well, one way or another, it was a tad bit too late for regrets. Hence, Squall came to the conclusion that it would be smarter to answer Seifer's questions now instead of at the family breakfast table. Squall had never been one to lie because he despised dishonesty, but he would bend the truth when the situation left him little or no other choice. Doing so in front of his mother, however, would clearly prove to be difficult.

Finally, he let out a small sigh.

"There's... nothing to tell."

He emphasized that vague reply with a light, graceful sweep of his arm — a gesture that could have been perfectly deceiving...

Hadn't Seifer known better than that.

"Nothing, eh?" the blonde murmured shiftily. "Well, let's see... I heard you've got a lil sister. That right?"

The brunette's features slanted in an icy expression of repulse that was nothing short of intimidating. Oh, Squall most definitely didn't like the sound of this at all — just where exactly had Seifer obtained that bit of private information about his family from? The brunette had never mentioned his sister to anyone, or at least he believed that he hadn't. In any case, he had certainly never told Mister "Nosy Ass" Almasy about her.

After all, he possessed a well functional piece of grey matter, thank you very much.

'How did he manage to find out about Ell? Someone must have told him, but who? I can't think of anyone. And... what else does he know...?'

"So, do you?"

In his contemplation of Seifer's sources, Squall had almost forgotten that the brawny blonde was still waiting patiently for an answer by his side, curious as ever.

Well, what did it matter? Seifer was right — he was going to find out about Squall's family soon enough. Whether or not Squall gave the information away freely really did not make a difference anymore.

"... Yeah. I have a sister."

Frustrated over the fact that he had been tricked into admitting more than he had originally planned to, Squall blew a few stray strands of chocolate brown hair out of his face and crinkled his nose. His head was aching slightly from the lack of sleep and the events that had uncoiled during the night, although on second thought... when he had fallen asleep in Seifer's bed, curled up in the blonde's oddly comforting embrace, it had been a calm, dreamless slumber.

And, rest assured, "dreamless" was a term that was second to none where Squall Leonhart's sleeping habits were concerned.

'Hm. I don't understand... how can I possibly sleep better at the house of a complete stranger, who just so happens to be a total weirdo, than in my own bed at home? ... Yeah right. Who am I kidding? I - of all people - should know the answer to that question. Nonetheless...'

"What's her name? Your sister's, I mean. Uh, by the way, which exit are we takin'?

"Her name's Ellone," Squall replied flatly as his train of thoughts derailed. "Take 78 South."

Seifer, who had propped up his right elbow on the console between their seats, laughed quietly at those reluctant monosyllables.

"You're starting to sound like some kinda robot, you know that?" he teased lightly as he performed some very edgy movements with his right hand, obviously mimicking a mechanical creature of some kind. "Error, can't compute, error..."

Squall snorted grimly in response, death glare firmly in place as he folded down all the fingers of his left hand, save for the longest digit.

"Fuck you."

Seifer, however, seemed oddly amused by the fact that he had just been flipped off.

"... My, quite the vulgar bot, mind you. Whoever programmed you, anyway?"

"Do me a favor and drop dead already."

"Hoooh - touchy, aren't we? Hmm, perhaps you're just in need of an oil change or something of that sort..." Seifer mused with a wide grin, while poking an exasperate Squall in the ribs with the playfulness of a four year old. "Come on, lemme handle it, I'm good with lube and that kinda stuff!"

Okay, maybe not so much "four year old" after all — Seifer was a downright pervert!

Squall was snarling warningly as he tried to escape Seifer's reach and swiped out at the blonde's hand in annoyance, determined to get away from the sex crazed maniac even if it meant bailing out of a moving vehicle.

"Perhaps you need to have yourself a mouthful of shut the fuck up," he spat dryly when he finally managed to slap Seifer's arm aside.

The older blonde whistled through his teeth at the razor sharp spikes of sarcasm that prickled Squall's tone. The brunette's usual, flawless personification of a deaf mute was really quite deceiving; Squall could be a snappy little bitch when the mood struck him. Funny enough, Seifer found that trait more than intriguing. He could appreciate a good challenge, which was probably one of the reasons why he hadn't given up on Squall "Ice Princess" Leonhart the very first day that they had met and clashed like fire and ice.

On second thought, Squall's pretty face and alluring body most likely had something to do with it, too.

"That's exit 78 over there," the dark-haired boy informed him dully, unknowingly shaking Seifer out of a kinky daydream that, had he known the details, would've likely driven Squall to castrate the blonde with a flamethrower.

"... I knew that, kitten."

Seifer hadn't known, but that was really beside the point.

"Yeah. Like hell you did."

Of course, Squall was on to him — as usual.

'Ah well, at least he's talking, eh? Hooray for me.'

They took the ramp off the highway and proceeded down a steep hill until they hit a wide, four way intersection. With an encouraging smile, Seifer turned to Squall for assistance. After all, he knew perfectly well that the stubborn teen would rather let both of them rot at the crossroads than give the blonde directions again without being begged and pleaded beforehand.

"Hey, which way now?"

"I thought you knew where we were going?"


"Why did I see this coming?" Seifer sighed arduously, but his voice was fluttering with humor. "Why no, your sweet Icicleness of Doom, I do not know the way to your great abode of supreme and utter bitchiness. So, uh, might you be so kind as to guide me there, si le voulai plaise?"

"... Your French is so bad, it's giving me a headache," Squall groaned while demonstratively massaging his right temple with the tips of his fingers. "Just shut the hell up, alright? And stop calling me names!"

Then, he dispassionately jabbed his left thumb towards the driver's side, almost hitting Seifer in the face as he did so.

"Go left. And don't say another damn word, got it?"

Seifer complied with the hostile command, if only to live to find out exactly which place it was that Squall called "home"; it was knowledge of the kind that was clearly worth suffering for.

Soon enough, the suburban environment around them changed. Lush trees and colorful flower beds became more abundant as did the houses that stood on either side of the road, increasing dramatically in size and value. To be honest, Seifer was somewhat surprised; Squall had never quite struck him as your stereotypical spoiled brat of loaded, snobbish parents who had too much cash to really know what to do with. On the contrary, there wasn't a single grain of vanity floating about in Squall's body, nor did he appear like the kind of person who valued money or status at all. Instead, the brunette practically slaved at "Ward's Diner" — why and what for, Seifer still couldn't understand.

He couldn't possibly be enjoying it, could he...?

"Turn right up there at Brush Hollow Drive."

"Brush Hollow? 'Aight."

Seifer elegantly swerved around the turn that Squall had pointed out to him, while flicking sideway glances at the houses to his left and right that reminded him so very much of his own home back in Balamb. Frankly, he didn't care too much for these surgically clean, perfectly picturesque neighborhoods. They looked so lifeless and fake. People rarely, if ever, spent time in their professionally landscaped yards, let alone out in the neatly swept streets; one could easily believe that most of these places were downright deserted, had it not been for the expensive vehicles parked in every single driveway.

"It's number 15440," Squall said quietly, his voice unusually flat and bodiless. "The white stucco one."


As they slowly pulled up alongside the large, three story tall home that was practically hidden within a glade of blooming trees, neatly trimmed shrubs and a cast iron fence, Seifer let out an acknowledging hiss of air.

"Damn," he lilted as he looked the property up and down past Squall's rigid profile. "That's quite the pad you got there!"

"Whatever. Park right here or pull up into the driveway. I don't give a fuck either way."

Seifer arched both brows at the unexpected chill that had iced up the brunette's words. Perplexed, the blonde locked his gaze to the narrow, steel blue eyes right across from his own; Squall Leonhart, the living, walking (and occasionally talking) freezer compartment. What the hell was he upset over this time? Annoyed, Seifer noted the younger boy fiddling with his seatbelt despite the fact that the engine of the truck was still running. For some reason, the brunette seemed to have trouble releasing the buckle, and at a closer look, Seifer noticed that Squall's fingers were shaking.

'What the hell...?'

"Hey... are you alright?" Seifer asked slowly and curled his right hand around Squall's left forearm in order to steady it.

He wasn't the least bit surprised that Squall wouldn't look at him, despite his urgent and genuinely concerned inquiry; instead, the seventeen year old simply froze his erratic movements and snapped his heard around to stare bleakly out the front windshield as if he had completely forgotten about everything and everyone around him.

"Squall...? What's the matter?"

Squall's front bangs were falling smoothly into his dark, blank eyes, almost hiding them from Seifer's view. Finally, the brunette shook his head from side to side, as if banishing painful shadows that were plaguing him, and he brushed the offensive strands of hair out of his face.

"It's nothing."

He gave his arm a sharp tug and Seifer released it, although his sun tanned features were still littered with a worried frown. This entire situation was seriously starting to confuse him. Squall had become much more agitated ever since they had crossed into the posh neighborhood, but Seifer couldn't possibly figure out the reason for that change in the brunette's behavior.

Of course, that didn't mean that he wasn't going to try.

'You tellin' me he's scared of going home...? Nah, no way. Hm... I guess it would explain him hiding out in the playground, if that was the case. Maybe he doesn't get along with his parents? I wouldn't exactly be surprised...He seemed pretty fussy over his mom, though. But what about his dad, anyway? He hasn't mentioned his old man once. Didn't that Selphie chick at the restaurant say he was a lawyer or somethin' like that? Don't really remember. Well, I'll find out here in a minute, I suppose. Still... I wish he'd tell me what's wrong.'

"Nothin', huh? Right... whatever floats yer boat, Squall," the older blonde murmured in an indistinct tone of voice, before releasing Squall's seatbelt with an effortless push of his thumb. "There you go."

"... Hrn."

Feeling more serious and prudent now than he had all morning, Seifer turned off the engine of his truck. He watched Squall opening his door and easing out of his seat, before silently following the younger boy's example. As he slammed his door and activated the car alarm, quietly listening to the familiar beeping sound of the locks kicking in, he suddenly registered Squall's eyes on himself. The brunette was standing on the other side of the flame red hood, studying him with a strange, detached expression on his pretty face. Instinctively, Seifer hitched an assuring grin onto his lips.

"Relax, kitten," he purred with deliberate arrogance, "Your parents are gonna love me."

A rush of unsorted emotions and hastily jerked up barriers flickered across the dim, smoke grey surface of Squall's eyes. The sight granted Seifer an interesting glimpse of the brunette's disheveled state of mind, before the younger boy finally whisked his head to the side and broke their visual contact.

There were certain thoughts and feelings stirring within him that Seifer definitely did not need to know about.


After grunting his trademark "I-really-don't-give-a-shit" reply, Squall briskly marched up to the front gate to open it. Seifer traipsed along behind him, fascinated by both Squall's enticing rear view and the breath-taking residence that was obviously the brunette's home. As they passed through the iron wrought gate, however, Seifer stopped in his stride to turn around and blink at a polished brass plate that was embedded into a tall stone pillar.


'... "Kearan"? The hell? Rewind that. I thought his last name was Leonhart?'

"Uh," Seifer piped up, one hand on the back of his head and one in the air in a futile attempt to catch Squall's attention, "Not to sound like a complete moron or nothin', but... you sure this is the right house?"

Squall halted on the sand colored, flagstone path that wound in intricate twists and turns all the way to the front door to cast a narrow-eyed glare over his shoulder.

"What kind of dumb question is that?" he hissed with the gentleness of ice cubes coating his voice as he fastened his hands around his hips and shifted his weight onto his right foot.

Seifer snorted mutely to himself at the picture.

'Oooh, bitchy, aren't we just? If looks could kill, he'd have it made...'

"Well, this shiny lil sign here says 'Kearan' and then there's me, thinking your last name was Leonhart," Seifer shrugged the brunette's frostiness off and pointed at the pillar. "That sorta makes it a valid question, doesn't it?"

Something in Squall's ominous expression seemed to change, though Seifer couldn't quite describe what exactly he was seeing — it was practically impossible to tell whether the brunette looked more or less like he wanted to kill him off once and for all. When a low pitched hybrid between a grunt and a moan escaped Squall's throat, however, it had lost its former hostility to be replaced with an edge of discomfort.

"It is Leonhart," the younger boy answered evasively as he darted directionless looks all around the yard.

"Then why-"

Another drawn, almost agonizing groan ensued.

"... Kearan is my stepfather's name."

Unwilling to elaborate on the sensitive topic any further for the time or lifespan being, Squall simply ignored Seifer's questioning face and continued walking. His eyes discreetly scanned the paved driveway to his left, and he was admittedly relieved to discover only his mother's dark blue van and his own black Honda.

'Guess he's already out playing golf. At least something's going well this morning.'

He heaved a grateful, almost inaudible sigh and flicked another look at Seifer, who was following him with visible reluctance.

"Are you coming, or what?" the brunette asked, his tone almost kind now as some stress had left him. "Trust me, I live here."

'... Whether I like it or not.'

Seifer only nodded curtly in response; his typically so open features gave away nothing — neither feelings nor thoughts on Squall's sudden adjustment in attitude. Despite his misleading display of indifference, however, Seifer was quite moved by the picture of an intoxicatingly beautiful brunette waiting calmly for him in the midst of blooming trees and sakura petals that seemed to surf the currents of the wind. The younger boy's eyes were mostly obscured by wispy strands of dark brown hair swaying softly in the summer breeze, but the blonde could tell that some of the hardness had yielded from their grey-blue surface.

If Seifer had needed any kind of incentive to keep moving forward, this surely did the trick.

"I know - I believe ya," the older teen declared in a warm, baritone voice that had coarsed with emotions, before he finally picked up his pace.

By now, Seifer had learned that the act of prying for answers to his burning questions wasn't going to get him anywhere with this guy — obviously, his current situation called for exactly said newly acquired sensibility and he would utilize it in the best way known to him. After all, he was quite happy that Squall had lead him to his house and revealed this private, thus far secret side of himself. Trying to force too much from the brunette at once would result in nothing but failure and one thing was for damn sure — Seifer had never been one to fail at anything.

As they stepped up to the front door, Seifer was given some time to admire the numerous colorful flower baskets and antique patio furniture that was arranged elegantly across the white, spacious porch which seemed to wrap around the entire mansion like a ribbon. He casually tried to peak through one of the countless windows that were set into every single stucco covered wall, but the breezy lace curtains didn't allow much sight into the house. Instead, the blonde noticed a pair of wild songbirds floundering about noisily in the clear water of a birdbath, just off the right side of the steps that lead up the porch.

'Guess someone likes animals, huh. Ah... that's right, Squall said he used to have a dog. I still have no idea what the hell happened to it. He sure seemed upset when he told me about it, though. And what's with the whole Kearan and Leonhart thing, anyway? Hm... his "stepfather" he said... man, doesn't that ever sound like fun, huh? Yurgh. Having a real father is bad enough, lemme tell ya. Kinda explains why Squall never mentioned him before. The dude must make bank though, that much is for sure. Looks like little Selphie knows her stuff alright.'

Out of the corner of his jade green eyes, he saw Squall nervously tugging on the hem of his shirt sleeves. His slender hands disappeared almost entirely within the creases of scarlet red fabric, revealing nothing of the white bandages that were hidden beneath, but a deep furrow had etched itself into Squall's forehead all the same.

He looked worried.

"It's alright," Seifer whispered in an attempt at reassurance as he sashayed to the brunette's side and tilted his head down to him. "Nobody's going to notice."

"Whatever," Squall snorted, no emotion touching his eyes, but he sounded skeptic.

The dark-haired teen had begun to search for something in the pocket of his jeans and Seifer guessed that "something" to be his set of house keys, but he never really found out for sure, because the heavy, expensive looking cherry wood door with the colorful stained glass mosaics before them already creaked open from the inside.

"Nii-chan! Nii-chan's home! Mommy!"

Seifer had heard the girl long before she had stuck her cute little face through the crack of the door, which she assertively pushed ajar even further, despite the obvious physical struggle that the task opposed her with.

'Wow. Man, she's a tiny lil thing.'

And indeed, tiny she was. To Seifer, the chocolate-haired girl that had appeared before them looked like a most precious, fragile china doll in her silky blue shirt, white shorts and adorable green socks. Her physical resemblance to Squall was striking, and there was no doubt in the blonde's mind that he was faced with Ellone — Squall's younger sister.


She suddenly fell silent in her excited chanting as she noticed the huge blonde boy towering next to her older brother. With a somewhat reserved expression, she retreated a little ways back into the house to stare at Seifer out of wide, hazelnut-colored eyes from what had obviously struck her as a safer distance.

"Hey, Ell," Squall greeted her with an encouraging smile as he lowered himself onto his right knee before her. "Thanks for getting the door, Sis."

Seifer listened in wonder to the new, much brighter tone in Squall's low, mesmerizing voice as he spoke to his sister. He seemed to be glowing from the inside, as if the fragile little girl standing in front of him was the one source of all his strength and self-confidence.

"What's up? Not gonna say hi to me now?" Squall asked, a sudden hint of playfulness to him that was entirely unfamiliar to Seifer.

To their amusement, Ellone looked straight past her beloved brother and pointed at Seifer with the genuine, carefree bluntness that only children possess.

"Who's that?" she asked in a bubbly voice and curled up her nose. "He's big."

Squall turned his head slightly and glanced at Seifer from over his shoulder. His lips were twitching in the semblance of a perfect smile, and a bright light was dancing in his fathomless blue eyes which no shadow, no matter how dark, could ever snuff out.

"That's Seifer," Squall explained kindly as he veered his head back around to Ell. "He's a friend from school. Seifer, this is my sister Ellone."

The blonde smirked at the formal introduction (as well as the fact that Squall had just labeled him a friend for the second time in less than 24 hours) and angled himself down to the girl in a playful bow.

"Nice to meet ya, lil lady," he cooed huskily.

To his surprise, Ell opened the door even wider to step forward and hold one of her hands up in the air with all of her small fingers extended.

"I'm five," she declared proudly, which caused both Seifer and Squall to chuckle under their breath.

"Really?" Seifer grinned, mocking amazement as he happily played along. "Five already? Damn! Now that you mention it, you do look all grown up. You're a little lady alright."

When Ellone giggled ecstatically at the compliment, Squall couldn't help but feel a strange fondness towards Seifer capturing his formerly so desolate heart. This guy... although he seemed like a stupid, insensitive oaf at first sight, Squall had to admit that he was far from it. Despite his brute strength and frequent fits of blatant idiocy, Seifer was no less kind and gentle — almost loving in his own way. On top of that, his passionate kisses and the touch of his hands back at the apartment had held enough infliction upon Squall to turn the brunette's spinal column into a pitiful puddle of goo.

The mere memory of Seifer's intimate caresses alone caused a shudder to race across Squall's skin.

'Dammit, pull yourself together. It's not like it was all that great! I mean...'

Squall cast a quick glance at the blonde from his kneeling position, afraid to be caught, but when soft blue met with powerful emerald green, the brunette came to realize that Seifer had been watching him all this time.

'What am I thinking?' Squall groaned inwardly as his heart skipped a series of beats in his chest and he quickly dropped his gaze like a stone. 'I can't be doing this! So what if he isn't the brick-headed football jock that I originally took him for? That doesn't mean anything. Not a damn thing, okay?'

He knew he was lying to himself the moment that his cheeks tinged crimson under Seifer's intent stare, but even so, the truth was far too scary to acknowledge. In some sense, Squall was right — he couldn't be doing this; he couldn't allow himself to be affected by Seifer's sweetness or his bold charm, because if he did, the consequences could be dire enough to destroy everything that he had suffered and bled for these past years. No immature infatuation was worth such a risk.

And yet... he had never before been so tempted.

Shaking his head in disapproval with himself, Squall stood up. His sister was still gazing at Seifer in childish awe and the blonde was smiling back at her tenderly, full of patience and good natured humor as he was holding a conversation with her like a real grown-up.

"... Barbies you say? Why, of course I love Barbies! Do you have some?"

"Yeah! Lotsa Barbies!" Ell exclaimed with a bright laugh that rang profoundly in Squall's heart, before she suddenly turned to her brother. "Ohhh... Nii-chan, I like your shirt!"

Squall smiled helplessly as she placed one of her tiny hands on his thigh and utilized the other to tug on the hem of his flame red shirt in awe. He saw Seifer's lips smoothing into a grin as their gazes clashed, causing Squall's pretty features to produce just the tiniest of frowns.

'Don't look so content with yourself. She's a five year old whose favorite piece of clothing is a striped pink scarf with green bobbles. Of course she'd flip over a red fucking football jersey.'

"Ell, honey, I told you not to open the door on your... Oh, Squall! You're home! No wonder your sister was so excited."

Both Squall and Seifer turned their heads to blink at the slender, dark-haired woman that had appeared behind Ellone. She wore a white summer dress of equal simplicity and elegance, a colorful apron slung loosely around her lithe waist and the most gentle, heartwarming smile that Seifer had ever laid eyes on in his life. He no longer had to guess where Squall had obtained his mind-boggling beauty genes from, because this attractive lady could be none other than the brunette's mother herself.

Even if, at second glance, Seifer had to admit that she looked almost too young.

"Hey, Mom," Squall greeted her quietly, eradicating any kind of doubt that Seifer could have had over the woman's identity.

"Hi sweetie, how was your sleepover?" she asked blithely and her smile grew even wider as her cobalt blue eyes fell onto Seifer as soft as a feather. "Oh, you must be Seifer, right? It's so nice to meet you! Squall doesn't bring home friends very often, you know."

She winked at him, as if letting him in on a secret, and her auburn-colored hair poured smoothly over her shoulders as she leaned forward.

"I think he must have taken quite a liking to you," she chirped.

Squall cringed visibly and groaned in embarrassment, but his pained "Mom, please..." only caused the dark-haired woman to giggle in amusement. Laughing, she pulled the door wide open and offered her pale, slender hand to Seifer.

"I'm Raine, Squall's mother," she explained with a lively melody to her voice that made her seem even younger than she was. "Please come in and make yourself at home!"

Seifer shook her hand with a winning grin that he knew could make any girl swoon, regardless of age or marital status.

"Thanks a lot for the invitation, Misses, uh, Leonhart."

'... It is Leonhart, right? Kearan maybe? Ah well. Don't think it matters, anyway.'

For a second, Seifer thought that Squall had shot him a warning glare out of the corner of his eyes, but his attention was already diverted by Raine breathing another small laugh and shaking her head vigorously.

"No - no, please — just call me Raine," she said before motioning all of them inside the house with a beautiful smile. "Please, come in!"

Nodding sheepishly, Seifer followed the three brunettes inside. Ellone was bouncing along behind her mother, occasionally peeking at Seifer from over her shoulder and smiling brightly as she did so. Seifer only looked around the vaulted, marble tiled entrance hall briefly before he caught up with Squall and whispered to him.

"Your mom's the bomb," he declared. "How old is she, anyway? She looks really young."

"She's thirty-five," Squall answered evasively, before he suddenly stopped in his stride and glowered at the bright red jersey sleeves that covered his arms with thinly veiled disgust. "... I have to go upstairs and change."

"Change...? Oh. Uh, okay?"

They looked each other up and down silently, as if neither of them was entirely sure how to approach this entire "You really piss me off, but you're in my house, so what the fuck am I gonna do with you?" kind of situation. To Squall, simply abandoning the blonde downstairs to fend for himself seemed like the simplest and most enticing of options, but he knew well enough that his mom would start asking questions if he treated his newly acquired "friend" so rudely ("Hell — she should know better," Squall thought defiantly). Not to mention what disturbing ideas Seifer would come up with if he was left alone just long enough...

Finally, Squall heaved a broken sigh and slumped his shoulders in defeat.

"Mom?" he called out to his mother, who had already disappeared in the kitchen. "Uh... I'm gonna take Seifer upstairs and show him my room."

"Okay, Squall," she shouted back lively, "I'll start making the pancakes."

"Right..." Squall groaned, but resisted the urge to rub his forehead in distress. "We'll be back in a minute."

Squall knew he was going to regret saying that with Seifer in earshot the very moment that he leveled his cold gaze with the most annoying prick on the entire planet, who had a smirk plastered on his face the size of the equator.

"Oh la la... you're gonna 'show me your room', huh?" Seifer snickered knavishly, preening himself in a prissy kind of way that made Squall want to punch him for it. "I dunno if I'm ready for that yet, babycakes. I mean, this is goin' kinda fast... I'm a decent girl, y'know."

"You will be a girl if you don't shut the fuck up," Squall hissed back testily, and there was no doubt in Seifer's mind that he meant it.

"No threatening my crown jewels please, thank you," the blonde winced and cupped his crotch. "Hurts just thinking about it."

"Then can it, asshole."

Seifer gave him a long, thoughtful look-over in the middle of the Leonhart's... Kearan's... well, whoever's entrance hall, before he tilted his head to the side and cracked a misleadingly innocent grin.

"... You really are into the whole S&M thing, aren't you?"


There was no way in hell Squall was going to bother giving any kind of reply to that — short of another well-placed death glare that seared right through the blonde but had doubtlessly been aimed to nail him to the next best wall.

Finally rolling his eyes and grunting in despair, Squall made his way for the long, carpeted stairway that led up to the first floor. He didn't care whether Seifer was following him or not, but judging by the irritating sound of sneakers being dragged on marble floors, he obviously was.

"So, she's thirty-five, huh?" Seifer piped up, annoying as ever.

Squall breathed what felt like the hundredth sigh that day.

"... As you heard."

"Wow, that's young alright... My mom's like, gee, I dunno. Sometimes, I think she's a leprechaun or something because she never looks a day older than forty," Seifer contemplated, scratching his chin in thought. "Then again, she is a beauty surgeon..."

'Don't tell me that. I don't want to know. Your family is none of my business, okay?'

"... Thanks for that useless anecdote."

"Anytime, cupcake. So, tell me - if this is your stepfather's pad, where's your real dad at?"

Squall had been marching upstairs brisk like a drill sergeant on steroids, but he slowed down considerably at that question — in fact, he actually stopped on one of the steps and whisked around, something very close to bloodlust flaring in his eyes.

Seifer gulped and took a precautious half-step back, realizing that he had crossed into dangerous territory.

"He's dead, alright!" Squall lashed out at him, but there was no hurt in the way he caterwauled those words — more like quickly incensed, long-nurtured anger. "And unless you wanna find your-fucking-self in the same condition, you'd better not ever mention him again!"

Seifer watched the seething youth from about an arm's length distance (which couldn't be considered safe by any means), his own expression genuinely blank and taken aback. He really had never meant to upset Squall — well, not this time, anyway.

In any case, he had seen psycho killers on the FBI's Most Wanted list sporting friendlier expressions.

'Geez, that must be one sensitive spot I struck there. That vein pulsating by his temple looks scary as shit! Note to self — unless you're wearing riot gear, no mentioning the kitten's old man because he'll turn into a fuckin' saber tooth in no time.'

In a temporary fit of wisdom, Seifer decided not to say a single word and look as guiltless as practically possible. The brunette was still glaring at him from his elevated position, until he eventually took a very short, hard and audible breath and turned around once more, ascending the stairs. Seifer thought that he heard him mumbling something in a choked voice that sounded vaguely like "I'll fucking kill both of you, fucking good for fucking nothing imbecile fucks," but in all honesty, he was a bit too intimidated to inquire what exactly that was supposed to mean. If Squall used the f-word four times in one sentence, it was probably safe to assume that he was royally pissed off.

When Squall continued to stalk upstairs in his blind rage, past the first floor and up to the second, Seifer followed him loyally, but figured it wise to keep his distance. Their physical separation gave him just enough time to ogle the dozens of framed pictures that lined both the stairway and just about every wall that Seifer could view from his unfavorable position. They weren't just any kind of pictures, either; considering that the one and only subject was lions (in every form, color and shape imaginable), they were obviously pieces of art that Squall had created at various points in his life.

'Art... that's a safe subject, right? Right? Fuck, nothing's safe with this guy. Say the wrong thing and he'll pummel you down the stairs without even so much as batting a lash. Ah well, I have to at least try, right? Just have to make sure that he doesn't get into close proximity of my balls when he's handling any kind of sharp object. I wouldn't put it past him to make true of his threat.'

"... Did you draw all these?" Seifer dared to ask, ensuring to smile innocently, just in case.

"What do you think?" Squall snapped back snidely without stopping once. "If you can think at all, that is."

'... Here we go again,' Seifer snarled to himself. 'Fuck playing it docile — I've never been the submissive type anyway.'

Well, admiring Squall's art had sounded like a brilliant plan alright, but Seifer had never been one to stick to plans, no matter how clever they might have been.

Real men improvised, or so he liked to tell himself, anyway.

"I think you're being a bitch, Squally-boy," he thus 'improvised' cockily.

"See what I care, Seifer."

Seifer sighed placidly in response. In all actuality, this wasn't doing him any good. Why was it that all his attempts at 'improvising' never quite got him anywhere but straight into the deepest pits of trouble...? The only thing he had accomplished was to find out just how exactly his name sounded with as much bare hatred and cynicism poured into it as possible.


"... You're hopeless," he drawled in defeat.

"And you're an asshole. Your point?"

Well, on second thought, maybe it was about time to show the touchy lil bitch that he wasn't the only one with an attitude!

"... My point? Let's fuckin' see here... Oh — my point is that if your tight little ass wouldn't look so goddamn hot strutting up these stairs, I wouldn't even bother to put up with your snooty girlie-girl attitude! I mean, what the fuck are you, PMSing?"

... Then again, maybe it wasn't.

Wincing and sorry already, Seifer readied himself for another death glare from hell that surprisingly never came. Instead, Squall had veered around to him once more and let his right arm slice the thinning air between them like whiplash. He was still glaring, of course, but in an agitated way more so than anything else.

"Keep quiet, idiot!" Squall ordered in a subdued, strained hiss. "Don't say shit like that!"

"Why not?" Seifer shrugged nonchalantly, apparently oblivious to what was good for his health. "Who's gonna hear us? The lions on the walls? Tche. You must've never watched the Discovery Channel. They fuck like horny rabbits, so no need to be shy."

"... I hate you."

Seifer smiled evenly. "I know."

Shaking his head, Squall proceeded to the second floor without saying another word. He had to pull himself together; allowing Seifer to toy with his mind was absolutely unacceptable. He'd have to keep his cool, no matter how difficult it proved to be. This was just a test of his faltering patience, nothing more, and there was no way that he was going to fail.

In all honesty, he wasn't even really angry at Seifer — not as much as he was angry at himself, anyway. The blonde had an undeniable effect on him, and by all gods ever worshipped by mankind, it scared the shit out of the brunette. The very last thing he needed was for Seifer to make a provocative comment like that in front of his mother or sister... or, worst of all, his stepfather.


Instinctively, his body tensed at the name, which rang cruel like a curse inside his head.


'He shouldn't be home until this afternoon... he shouldn't be. Don't panic - it'll be alright. I'm sure. I just have to get Seifer's ass outta here by then or else we'll both be in very deep shit. There's no way I'm getting him involved in this...'

Totally entangled into those troublesome thoughts, which caused him to worry much more than he liked, Squall was almost shocked to suddenly find himself standing in front of his bedroom door and gazing at it with vacant, unseeing eyes.

"Even your door is black, huh?" the blonde behind him leered. "How fitting."

"About as fitting as my fist'll be in your face," Squall quipped, before he called himself to mind that he was supposed to act friendly.

'Friendly'... every syllable of that term had him shuddering with disgust.

'... I hate him. I really do.'

"Whatever," Squall murmured, his defenses rising, and the sudden discomfort in his voice was painfully evident. "Just shut up and come in."

The urge to add a warning "but don't touch anything" was burning keen in Squall's soul, but he figured that after spending all night at the blonde's apartment, such a request was probably out of the question. Therefore, there was little for Squall to do but take a deep breath and curl his fingers around the stainless steel handle before him to unconsciously lift the covers off a heart-wrenching story that had commenced almost seven years ago.

Seven years...

Seven years of lies told too easily, illusions conjured up too hastily and a reality that had claimed Squall's innocence and tainted his faith into the basic goodness of mankind. Ever since the tender age of ten, he had experienced pain in all its countless facets, as well as the bitter taste of betrayal with the looming shadows of fear always in the back of his mind. He expected nothing and wanted nothing, and yet some unscarred, oppressed part of him was willing to take a chance that he had never believed in to begin with.


His jaw tightened as he ground his teeth together and his thoughts suddenly orbited around one particular person alone.


A low, husky voice suddenly ghosted the nape of his neck with a soft chuckle that caused those fine hairs to stand and his heartbeat to skip, while the warm, moist breath against his skin was weaving a soothing, sacred symphony.

"Geez, always so dead serious. You really are cute, Squall..."

Squall's head began to spin in a pandemonium of emotions — hate, anger, fear, despair, loneliness, hopefulness, desire — and in the end he was so entirely lost that he no longer knew which feeling to grasp and claim as his very own. Maybe they were all his, but how could one person possibly be so split apart in who they were and what they wanted? How could all these sentiments be flitting through his mind like fireflies, threatening to smolder his soul if he dared to get just a little too close, too attached?

..:"Say a word to anyone and you will forever regret it. Your thoughts and your body are mine, kid, don't forget that. Don't you ever forget that.":..

'How... how could I? Ngh. Dammit... my chest... hurts...'

Somewhere through this unsolvable jigsaw puzzle of nightmares and confusion, however, Squall noticed Seifer's arm curled loosely around his waist and the blonde's chest flat against his back, breathing evenly onto that uncovered, ivory slash of skin that connected the brunette's shoulders with his neck. The sudden bodily contact caused Squall's natural defenses to flare up and impulse drove him to reel backwards with a stifled yelp. Unfortunately, that abrupt motion only resulted in both him and Seifer having to wrestle gravity for the ability to remain standing as their legs became dangerously entangled.

"W-whoa, Squall-"


The back of Squall's head almost collided with Seifer's chin as the brunette tumbled against him in his disheveled state of mind. Luckily, Seifer was in full custody of his senses and managed to stabilize himself as well as the brunette. His arm never strayed from Squall's lean torso; in fact, he even tightened his hold around the enticing body that fell against him so powerlessly.

It was only thanks to him that they didn't collapse to the hardwood floor, but the brunette in his embrace proved to be rather ungrateful of said heroic "rescue". Jerking to the left and right like a slippery eel, Squall finally succeeded in struggling free from the arms that bound him, and out of Seifer's immediate proximity. He swiveled around hastily and backed against the wall next to his closed bedroom door, his face flushed and his chest tight with anxiety.

Seifer merely regarded him with a calm look out of spellbinding peridot eyes.

"What the hell was that for?" he asked demurely as he brushed some wrinkles out of his olive green shirt, cocking his eyebrow in question.

He could see Squall fighting to wrench down the lump that had clogged up his throat. The brunette had his hands placed palm-down against the burgundy-colored wallpaper behind him and he pressed himself unto it as if his dear life depended upon that hard, unyielding surface.


Ignoring the screaming stop signs, Seifer took a thoughtless step into the younger boy's direction, which Squall credited with a small, but terrified wince. As a result, the blonde halted again almost that same instant and his handsome features creased deeply in discontent.

'What the fuck is the matter with him? For real, I don't get it. How can one person go from being a sarcastic hardass to a shivering wreck? He looks like he's about to fall apart. I better calm him the hell down before he does just that...'

"Squall," he repeated the brunette's name slowly, putting careful emphasis onto every single letter. "What's wrong?"

..: "What's wrong, Squall? Not liking it? Aww. Am I hurting you? Do you want to cry for your mommy? By all means, please do - it'll make this all the more enjoyable. Come on, Squall. Do it - cry for me." :..

"I... I..."

The dark-haired boy's heart chilled as his breath came in painful thrusts from his lungs, short and fast. His knees were trembling as if they were about to cave in and his eyes had an expression of pure fear latched to the steely grey swirling within. Seifer had seen something like this before, twice now — once when he had jokingly straddled Squall in bed and a second time in the kitchen, when the brunette had cowered beneath him on the table. This guy was so frightened of physical closeness that his eyes flared white around the rim and his skin became pale as if cast into the light of a full moon.

'Why? Why is he so scared?'

Suitably worried, Seifer edged closer. Squall saw him moving and cringed again, this time followed by a whimpered "Don't...".

"'Don't' what, Squall?"

The blonde tried to keep his cool; they were at the Leonhart's house and most certainly couldn't make a big scene, no matter for what reason. He couldn't allow Squall to spiral into that frightening world that he had created within his mind - he didn't want him to. Thus, he spoke patiently to the younger boy, entwining softness and kindness with his typically insensitive voice.

Squall, however, stared at him out of shadowed, dull grey orbs that saw nothing but horrifying images that had been carved brutally into the brunette's memory from early adolescence on...

... Over and over and over again.


The darkness that surrounded him, choked him and poisoned his dreams.

The white feather pillow that readily swallowed the raw misery in his cries.

The blood rushing in his ears like coursing, never halting streams of crimson.

The bitter tears that tasted like droplets of salt on his quivering lips.

The weight crushing him against the mattress beneath him, rendering him immobile.

The sharp pain lancing up his spine, spreading inside his body like a disease.

The feeling of being torn to shreds from the inside by a power that he could never oppose.

The cramps in his hands when they wrenched the sheets for salvation that would never come.

The voice echoing in his ears even long after its bearer had already become one with the shadows.

The voice...

"Cry for me."

"Cry for me."

"Cry for me."

Cry for me.


Alarmed by the haunted look in Squall's ghostly visage, the crystalline tears spangling his cheeks and the panic in his voice as he wept that desperate command, Seifer finally decided to ditch all of his confusion and cross the distance that parted him and the smaller boy. Without saying a word, he pried Squall from the wall and pulled the frail body against his own. His right arm came around the brunette's waist while his left hand buried the head covered in a mess of chocolate brown hair into the warm crook of his neck. Instinctively, he begun to mutter a gush of soothing, senseless things as he tightened his embrace when Squall began slamming up resistance.

"Squall, easy, it's okay! It-"

But it wasn't okay. It wasn't okay at all.

Because Squall was screaming.

"N-no! Don't! Let go! Let me go! Get the fuck off me! Get off!"

Kicking and sweeping out blindly at the blonde, Squall sent a large glass vase filled with snow white orchids to topple off a stand by his door and burst into a myriad of shards as it hit the floor. Unfortunately, the deafening noise did nothing to distract or hush the seventeen year old; Seifer could feel him sobbing against his skin and he tried to muffle the brunette's cries by nuzzling his mouth into the thick cotton of his shirt, knowing full well that Raine would hear her son even from all the way downstairs if he didn't do anything to prevent that from happening.

"Squall," he pressed rough and low, "For god's sake, you have to calm down! Your mom's gonna-"

"... Squall? Seifer? Is everything alright up there? What's all that noise?"

Too late.


Twitching in uncomfortable anticipation, Seifer hissed a quick "shhh" into Squall's ear and craned his neck around to be able to take a look down the staircase. Luckily, he couldn't see anyone yet, but the acrid urgency in his voice had muted the struggling boy in his arms and caused his body to freeze.

'Fuck, what now? She's gonna come up here and find him looking all psychotic and shit. Fuck! What the hell am I supposed to do now?'

Cringing in apprehension, Seifer settled on doing all that he could.

"I-It's nothing," he bellowed in the direction of the stairs, forcing as much reassurance into the words as humanly possible. "We're just being childish up here. Ain't that right, Squall?"

Pleading, he looked down into the dark blue, tear-rimmed eyes that were gazing up at him so full of anguish and raw terror.

"Say something," Seifer bit fiercely. "If you don't want her to come up and ask questions, then for fuck's sake, say something!"

He could tell that Squall had understood. The disturbing blankness had yielded from his gaze and given way to sanity, as well as a worried glow. Squall gulped once or twice before his eyelids clenched shut and he drew a wretched breath.

"Y-yeah," he shouted out as loud and firmly as he could. "Sorry about the racket. We'll be there in a minute."

The response came right away, lacking any kind of mistrusting pause.

"Alright, honey. Just be careful, okay? I know how boys are, but don't hurt yourselves, please! Oh, and the pancakes are almost done!"


Both guys remained perfectly motionless, clinging to each other without even so much as realizing it while they feared for their farce to crumble. Eventually, Squall started to tremble again, but he didn't recoil from Seifer's embrace. Instead, he rested his forehead against the blonde's collarbone and waited powerlessly for his tremors to subside. Seifer, more than just slightly perplexed by what had just come to pass, found himself unable to do much but massage the quivering nape of the brunette's neck with just the right amount of pressure and hold Squall close by the small of his waist.

Inwardly, he too was shivering.

'Shit... what on earth have I gotten myself into...?'

Standing there amidst a ring of shattered glass, Seifer realized, probably for the first time, that something aside from Squall's self-destructive habit of slashing his wrists was seriously wrong. The slender boy was shaking so violently that it broke his fucking heart, and he had seen pain in Squall's eyes that no medicine would ever cure.

"Squall," Seifer sighed, his voice crawling over the name with much effort. "Stop shaking."

It was easier said than done and both of them knew it. Squall finally lifted his head, but his eyes were obscured by longish, sweat-slicked tresses of hair coiling about his waxy skin in intricate patterns. Grunting lovingly, Seifer brushed the stray locks behind the brunette's ear, but he worried at the tormented look that he discovered on the finely featured face. Uncharacteristically insecure, he caressed the younger boy's damp temples and flicked the tears away from beneath his coal black lashes.

"Better?" he asked gently, but his heart was aching when he saw Squall's gaze dropping to the ground in shame.


Suddenly realizing that he was latched onto Seifer's body like a ship to its anchor, the brunette stiffened in the overwhelming embrace and half-heartedly attempted to withdraw. The strength of the arms that rooted him into place, however, surpassed his own by far and the blonde was unwilling to release him just yet.

"Squall, calm down. It's just me, okay?"

Squall forced his body to still, even if his panic would not. Part of him understood what the blonde had just said so sincerely — it was only Seifer, he wasn't going to hurt him, everything was alright — but there was another, much less trustworthy side to the frail brunette that just wanted to make a break for it.

"I'm fine," he tried, pushing against the hands on his lower back and neck once more in another futile attempt at escape.

"That's bullshit and you know it," Seifer snarled, his dark voice interlaced with irritation.

"I... just... I'm not used to... I... you... I..."

"What's there to be 'used to'?" the blonde interrupted Squall's senseless stuttering harshly. "You just totally freaked out on me! What's going on! Something's wrong with you and I wanna know what it is!"

Seifer cupped his fingers around Squall's chin and cocked it a few inches into the air, thus leaving the boy little choice but to look him straight in the eyes. Maybe the gesture was too dominant and uncalled for in its harshness, but Seifer had just about had enough; he wanted to know why Squall was being so skittish, why he was so goddamn afraid of everything that had to do with physical intimacy and why he would never tell him the reason for any of it at all.

"Squall, tell me what the fuck is wrong with you," he urged once more, his voice deliberately calm yet authoritative.

Squall's vision had blurred from the tears, but nonetheless, he could see the inquisitive frown that crumpled Seifer's angular features. His heart was still threatening to thrust through his ribcage in panic; frankly, he had no idea how to maneuver himself out of this one. Perhaps Seifer wasn't the brightest crayon in the box, but he certainly wasn't stupid, either. His obliviousness only went so far.


As reality finally got a firmer grip on him and the excruciating flashbacks retreated into the vast blackness of his memory, Squall quickly started to feel like the biggest moron of all time. He had busted his mother's vase, gone psycho on dear "Nosy Ass" Seifer Almasy and now he couldn't even produce a single coherent sentence anymore.

All jokes aside — this was downright scary.

"It... uh..." he tried and failed yet again at explaining himself.

"It what, huh? And don't even think about saying 'whatever' to me, you hear? Answer me!"

Squall grimaced wryly at the blonde's order, hating to be bossed around and having his business pried in. That dumb fuck. Seifer was in no damn position to make requests of any nature. Why was he even trying to make the blonde understand, anyway? He didn't owe him any kind of explanation. None whatsoever.

This was a complete and utter waste of his time.

'You have no right to talk to me like that. You don't even have the right to be here. Just who the hell do you think you are?'

"Let go..." he finally ordered in a low, semi-threatening tone that no longer sounded unstable.

The blonde, however, merely shook his head in response.



"First, I wanna know what's going on. The truth. No bullshit."

Growling, Squall tried to twist out of Seifer's grasp. When his endeavors proved to be in vain, his lips crushed to a quivering line and the slate blue tint of his eyes darkened a few virulent, threatening shades. Seifer noted the change and acknowledged it with frustration.

"Squall! Don't fuckin' blow me off, alright?"

"I don't even know what you want from me," the brunette barked back, sudden resentment thriving in his heart.

He had to get away from Seifer before he'd do something that he'd later regret.

"What I want from you?" Seifer hissed, still trying to keep his voice down. "Fine, let me spell it out for you — I want to know why the fuck you always flip when I touch you!"

"Maybe you shouldn't be touching me in the first place," Squall spat, furiously flicking a few astray wisps of hair from his face. "Who the fuck do you think you are, anyway!"

"Just what are you so fuckin' scared of? What is it? Tell me!"

"Nothing," Squall snapped almost hysterically — the topic of this conversation, which bordered to a full-out yelling fest, was clearly lacerating his nerves.

"Oh, is that so?" Seifer asked slyly, challenging the smaller boy in front of him. "Guess you won't mind me doing this then."

With a sharp tug of his arm, Seifer pulled the brunette into him once more. When his lips collided with Squall's without warning, he could feel the brunette tensing surprise. Still, Seifer kissed him with nearly bruising power and pinned the brunette against the wall that he had torn him away from only minutes before.

'Serves him right,' Seifer thought dimly as he fastened his right hand around Squall's neck tighter to deepen their kiss. 'He's really starting to piss me off with his attitude... I'm tired of him messing with my head... Goddamn, that little fucker tastes good though...'

Indeed, he was tasting Squall — breathing him — and it felt so unnaturally amazing. The brunette's skin was smooth and cool as water beneath his touch, smelling faintly of an ocean that Seifer had never even seen. Moaning as he surrendered control over his rational thought, he ground his hips into the brunette's and seized each of Squall's thin wrists to press them flat against the wall. He perceived neither cooperation nor resistance from the smaller youth — not until his palms suddenly closed around those delicate, utmost wrong parts of Squall's body.


With a hitched outcry that was muffled only by Seifer's kiss, Squall managed to throw his head to the side — away from Seifer's demanding tongue and the potent, but sweet taste of coffee that still lingered there on its rasp surface. Motionless, Seifer was glaring at him out of narrow, viridian green eyes that held a gaze as hypnotic as that of a basilisk.

Rightfully petrified, Squall barely managed to govern his ability to speak.

"My... wrist... ow," he forced his throat to form strenuous words, and he was relieved to find that Seifer finally understood.


The burning pressure around Squall's aching wrists subsided immediately as Seifer took a quick step backwards. Forgotten was the bitterness that had echoed between them only seconds ago; the knowledge of having caused Squall pain was enough to rid Seifer of any kind of hard feelings that he could have possibly been harboring towards the brunette.

Somehow, they each had that kind of perplexing effect on the other — anger would turn into desire that would always cause them even more anguish and frustration, which, in return, Seifer would eagerly try to alleviate. Their tempers were ignited and quenched with equal ease, only to leave behind two very puzzled young men who had little to no experience on how to treat a person who, deep down, they truly cared for.

"Squall," Seifer muttered, guilt streaking the beautiful name. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"It's fine."

With an almost disturbing calm ensuing that solemn reply, Squall pushed past the blonde and kneeled on the floor without another word spoken. Thunderstruck, Seifer's gaze raked over the boy's blanched face as he collected shards of glass with his bare hands to pool them in his open palms.


Seifer quite didn't know whether to feel angry or sad over the younger boy's distant behavior, but when he whispered the brunette's name as if he was afraid to break him by the mere use of his voice alone, Squall's right hand closed shut around one long, curved sliver piece that was once a fraction of a ridiculously expensive vase.

Hissing, Seifer quickly squatted down behind the brunette and cupped the violated hand with his own, wrenching its fingers apart. As the piece of glass connected with the floor once more, blood was oozing out of two cuts that joined the ones already caused by shoelaces tied much too forcefully.

"You idiot," Seifer breathed, the trembling words only the husk of a sound. "What the hell are you trying to prove?"

He closed Squall's right hand to a fist and turned his left one upside down to dispose of the fragmented hazard that the ivory palm had been treasuring almost dearly. Then, he pulled the brunette into a standing position, his chest spooned against Squall's back like a second skin.

If this was what happened to the dark-haired boy whenever Seifer let go of him, then he'd never let go again...

Squall stood before him like a perfect statue; only his chest was heaving in a dull rhythm. The brunette stared blankly down the hallway that stretched out in front of them — the colorful pictures, decorative stools, musical clocks and fluffy carpets.

Was this really what his own, personal nightmare looked like...?

What it felt like?

His hand stung slightly. The blonde's strong arm around his waist, however, was almost unbearable. If he had ever truly felt like ending his own life, it was right then, that very moment, when he was burdened with emotions that he could no longer understand or stomach. He would have gladly accepted Seifer's caring, protective nature and the gentle caresses that the blonde doled out so willingly... hadn't he known that it was impossible to permit sentiments like love while shutting out the memories of what had been done to him throughout the years before Seifer's appearance — or rather, what was still being done to him now. Those recollections came pouring in to him like black water over a golden seashore, luring everything good and nice into destruction.

Not that he had ever been the type of guy to build beach castles or write 'I Love You's in the sand.

"You can let go," he informed the taller boy matter-of-factly, emphasizing the emotionless order by shifting in his restricted position.

"At this rate, you'll wind up dead if I do," Seifer murmured close to his ear, sending inevitable shivers to ripple across Squall's skin at an excruciatingly slow speed.

'... I was already dead long before I met you.'

"... Tsk. Whatever."

He ignored that flame of anguish licking through his mind and took a determined step towards his door, frowning when he felt Seifer resisting and pulling him back.

"Squall, wait, I..."

Seifer paused, wanting to choose his words carefully. What was this unknown feeling blazing inside his chest, elicited by the very smell and touch of Squall's frail body against his own? He had noticed it before when in the other boy's presence, but something about it had definitely changed.

It was as if things had suddenly become very, very serious.

'I think I...'

"My mother's waiting and I have to clean this up, so get off me."

Squall was as chilling as he was beautiful. He snapped his right hand around to loosen Seifer's grip on it and slipped out of the blonde's captivating hold as if it was nothing. Had he turned around, he might have wondered at the hurt and defeat that had obfuscated the ungodly green of Seifer's eyes, but he suppressed what little interest he held in the blonde's feelings. Instead, he finally pulled down on the handle of his door and decisively pushed the black surface away from himself for it to swing open in a quiet, almost foreboding half circle.

"... Come in or stay out. I couldn't care less either way."

Seifer watched him disappearing inside the room with an odd sense of unhappiness clawing at his heart. Squall's coldness affected him far more than it had before, and his constantly changing attitude was enough to confuse the blonde for two lifetimes. For just one moment, he seriously debated whether to carry on with his quest for Squall's trust or turn around and never look back, but some wiser part of him already knew that he had gone just a little too far to ever turn back without finding out what lay behind the black, impenetrable pathway to Squall's life and past.

For now, however, the doorway to the brunette's room would have to serve as a start, satisfying or not.

Thus, he followed the boy, fine glass crunching beneath the soles of his sneakers as he treaded lightly across the hardwood floor. When he finally set foot on soft, pale grey carpet, he let out a small sound of surprise.

Squall's room was huge; in fact, it was about the size of Seifer's living-room. Light streamed through four large, west-faced windows right across from him, framed by pull-down blinds and white curtains that fluttered in a quiet breeze. A rotating chair and a long, aluminum desk were positioned right in front of those blinding sources of light, and the gleaming silver surface of the desk was laden with a closed laptop and numerous sketches that were secured only by glass paperweights refracting the sunlight in intricate rainbow waves. Squall had stepped up to the black office chair and spun it around slowly, an odd expression on his face that Seifer could merely study in profile.

"You've got... a nice room..." the blonde commented awestruck as his gaze traveled to the pale walls on his right and left.

Apparently, Squall had randomly pinned up unfinished sketches and framed photographs, as well as fleeting snapshots of animals and landscapes. Of course, nothing about Squall was random in any sense or form, but Seifer could see no pattern in the way that those countless pictures were scattered across the ivory colored wallpaper.

Then, his attention was diverted by two half-open doors which seemed to lead to a separate bathroom and a walk-in closet. There was a bookshelf, too, a couple of modern dressers, a small entertainment center with a TV and a granite colored couch set that was accompanied by a low coffee table. Lastly, Seifer noticed a large, queen-sized bed positioned at an odd angle between two walls, closest to the windows. Its fine aluminum framing almost drowned beneath the array of squishy down pillows and white linen sheets, which were shrouding the scene in a surreal glow as the spotless fabric seemed to reflect the light.

'Something's weird about this room. It's so bright... not what I had expected at all, aside from the fact that it's almost surgically clean. Still... there's something that's totally off about it. It feels... strange. I can't even really explain it. This... looks like the room of someone who's terrified of darkness...'

"I'll be right back."

Squall was holding his right hand clutched before his body now, and he turned away from his desk to walk through the door that joined his bedroom with the bathroom. Obviously, he'd have to tend to his fresh wounds before going back down for breakfast.

"I'll help ya," Seifer offered immediately, already taking a step forward. "I can-"


The blonde froze in the flow of his motions, unable to keep a look of disappointment from conquering his handsome face as Squall severed his offer cruelly and vanished out of sight. Arrogance had returned to the brunette's voice and aura, and Seifer didn't like it one bit. He was trying so hard to be accepted as Squall's friend or perhaps even more than that, but he seemed to be making no progress at all. His initial delight over the fact that Squall hadn't been grossed out by his sensual approach of the night before had long evaporated. Sure, chances were that the brunette wasn't entirely uninterested, but how much happiness could he realistically buy with that bit of fragmented knowledge?

'This fuckin' sucks!'

Honestly, Seifer had never been one to wonder or question other people's sexuality; what did he care? There were enough guys and girls who would readily flirt and come home with him for a night, maybe two. A few months, hell, even a few weeks ago, that simple fact had been all that his overly inflated ego had needed to know.

Somehow, the tables had been turned on him.

He did care, much more than he liked to admit. He found himself wondering if Squall was simply scared by the fact that they were both guys; in the end, that possibility was likely enough. Then again, perhaps there was more to the brunette's fear of intimacy than met the eye. Was Squall really as distant and cold-hearted as he portrayed himself to be, or was that just an act, meant to fool Seifer along with everyone else? He couldn't figure it out, and Squall would rather drop dead than tell him, which left Seifer frustrated like nothing else in his life ever had.

'Just how did I get myself landed in this shit again...? I don't even think I remember.'

Sighing through slightly parted lips, he paced along the walls to study the drawings and photographs that lined them. Most were just arbitrary, unfinished doodles or concept sketches, but some turned out to be quite interesting. Seifer wasn't surprised to discover lions being the main subject of Squall's artistic expressions, but eventually, he did find himself halting in front of a framed photograph and tilting his head slightly in awe.

A much younger Squall, probably around the age of ten or so, was kneeling on a patch of grass next to a tree, while hugging a fairly large dog. Kinking his right eyebrow, Seifer moved a bit closer to the picture. The boy was doubtlessly Squall, even if his hair was a bit shorter and his skin suntanned. His face was illuminated by one of the sweetest smiles that Seifer had ever seen. Considering the kind of person that Squall was now, that bright laugh seemed completely out of place. The small brunette looked so cute and carefree, it truly touched Seifer's heart. How could one person change so much throughout the course of a few years?

What had happened?

Frowning, he cast a look at the dog. He couldn't quite tell what breed it was, but it looked vaguely like a mix between a German Shepherd and a Husky. The animal's thick grey coat was dusted with specks of black and white, and judging by its bared fangs and protruding tongue, it seemed to be genuinely happy in Squall's embrace.

'I guess this must be Griever... I wonder if he has more pictures like this.'

And indeed, as Seifer continued his stroll along Squall's private gallery, he came across several other photos of the same, almost intimate kind. One showed Squall with a baby (which Seifer guessed to be Ellone) in his arms and a proud grin on his lips, another one portrayed baby Ell, Squall, Raine and Griever, and yet another showed an approximately sixteen year old Squall with his mother, both sitting at a table in a restaurant. That last picture was awfully crooked and out of focus, making Seifer wonder if Ell had been the one who had taken it.

Tracing it with his fingertips, he grunted softly.


He took a few more steps until he stopped before the brunette's bookcase. It was piled high with books concerning school, zoology, art and computers, as well as something else that immediately caught Seifer's attention.

A children's book.

It looked incredibly tattered and worn out, as if it had been in Squall's possession for many, many years. Intrigued, Seifer picked it up and moved it closer to his face.

"... 'The Lion and the Shooting Star'..."

Seifer whispered the title to himself quietly, while gazing upon the faded illustration of a small lion looking up into a black, star-strewn night sky. One particular star shone much brighter than the others, and eventually, Seifer realized that it also had eyes and a mouth that was curved into a smile.


The eighteen year old deemed himself to be quite past that stage where looking through children's books was considered appropriate, but he couldn't keep himself from flipping the cover open and skimming through the worn, yellow-tinted pages. He paused at a random page towards the back to read through the lines and glance at the silly drawings that always seemed to carry the story in these kinds of books.

Nonetheless, there was one part that inevitably made him stop and wonder if he had perhaps underestimated the power of that little, frayed book that he held in his hands so thoughtlessly.

"... 'Then the Shooting Star looked down at the Lion and said: "Don't worry, dear Lion. Ever since I was born, I have rested with the other stars in the endless skies above, forever waiting for that special day to come when I can fulfill a heart's desire. I've always wanted to ride the milky ways and say hello to the Moon, but more than anything have I been looking forward to making your dearest wish come true. For, you see, you are my most beloved friend and have been so ever since I've had a memory. Granting somebody their most important wish may be a great honor, but doing so for your best friend is the greatest of them all. Therefore, don't cry for me, dear Lion — because the moment that I will descend from heaven and soar towards the earth, your wish buried deep within my heart, I will be the happiest shooting star to ever light up the sky, in this world or any other."'..."

Still staring at the bittersweet lines, his vision blurred slightly, Seifer started at the sound of footsteps behind him. Snapping the book shut, he whipped around to come face-to-face with Squall, who was looking back at him with an expression that Seifer had never seen before.

"What are you doing?" the brunette asked, his voice unusually calm and pointed.

"Uh... eh... Just looking at your books," Seifer replied, while quickly setting the book back in its place.

Squall wasn't too impressed by his innocent smirk, although he did not show it. He didn't necessarily look upset or angry... he didn't look like anything, really. A tree swaying in the wind probably looked more emotional than Squall did as he stood there, carefully adjusting the position of that tiny book that Seifer had returned to the shelf almost panically. When he was satisfied, he simply turned around and walked back towards the bathroom.

Seifer followed him with his eyes, not saying a word. While he had been busy examining the boy's belongings, Squall had obviously cleaned up his wounds, put on fresh jeans and a short-sleeved black t-shirt, as well as strapped on a pair of his leather wristbands that covered up his bandages rather nicely.

Perhaps a bit too nicely.

'Wait a minute...'

"Squall, did you take off your bandages?"

The dark-haired boy stopped in his stride, but didn't turn. Instead, he stared into the bright cubicle that was his bathroom and knitted his eyebrows together.

"So what if I did?"

Seifer hissed flatly — angrily — and his face turned into a very dark, frightening grimace.

"You moron," he barked as he took a few, erratic steps towards the brunette. "Why would you do something like that? It's fuckin' stupid, you hear me?"

"Call it whatever the hell you want."

Shrugging coolly, Squall disappeared out of Seifer's sight. For a second, the blonde considered going after him. He just didn't understand it — did Squall enjoy hurting himself? What the hell was wrong with that guy? Squall made no sense to him whatsoever; Seifer had no idea what went on inside the seventeen year old's head. Whenever he thought that he had some kind of understanding of the dark-haired kid's state of mind, Squall always did a complete 180 on him, as if to keep him confused and guessing.

It was so fucking tiring.

Growling, Seifer darted a series of quick, aggressive looks around the room. He didn't want to lose his temper, but goddamn it was difficult. At this point in time, if he could have forced the truth out of Squall, he probably would have. He would have made the brunette tell him everything; why he was so scared, so unattached to his own life and why he wouldn't even give the blonde so much as a whiff of a chance when it came to the two of them and their very odd relationship.

'I'm fuckin' trying here, but he's so... garh! What's his problem? For fuck's sake, throw me a bone here.'

To his surprise, Squall walked back out towards him, the red shirt folded neatly in his hands. He halted a few feet in front of Seifer, giving the blonde a lowbrow look.

"I'll wash your shirt and give it back to you in school on Monday."

Seifer twitched at the cold remark, which clearly implied that Squall wanted nothing to do with him until after the weekend was over, before he heaved a careless shrug of his own.

"I don't care," he replied nonchalantly. "You can keep it."

Squall snorted in response, arrogance interlaced with the coarse sound.

"Why would I want to do something like that?" he asked snidely.

"I don't know," Seifer bit back in defense. "Why would you?"

"I wouldn't."

With that, Squall trudged away from him again. When he returned from the bathroom, he was no longer holding on to Seifer's shirt. The cold blankness hadn't yielded from his gale grey orbs or his face by even a little... it was a sight that Seifer could no longer stand.

No more, no longer. It was driving him insane.

"You know," he started as he languidly paced towards the brunette, careful not to advance too fast, "It's alright. You don't have to be scared, really..."

Squall narrowed his eyes and wearily studied Seifer's movements. Then, he plunged his hands into the pockets of his jeans and breathed a quiet, cynic laugh.

"What would someone like you know about me or what I'm scared of?"

Contrary to Squall's calculations, Seifer didn't flip at the derisive comment. Instead, he forced himself to smile.

"Not much, I'm afraid, since you're about as communicative as a fuckin' tomb," he murmured softly. "All the same... it's going to be alright, because you've got me on your side now. I won't let anyone hurt you... not even yourself."

Inevitably, Squall's eyes snapped wide at that comment. He watched Seifer walking up to him at an excruciatingly slow pace, and for some reason, the sight struck fear into his heart.


"I don't know why you always get mad at me so easily," Seifer continued stoically as he kept walking, "But it's really unnecessary. I'm not out to hurt you, okay? I just want to get to know you. That's all I ever wanted."

Before he could have trapped Squall between himself and the bathroom door, the brunette suddenly tried to slip past him, his face white as chalk. As Squall closed in on the bedroom door, he suddenly found himself flung around by a strong hand that had grabbed his biceps and severed his stride. Snarling, he wanted to lash out at Seifer, but something in the blonde's eyes stopped him. It was some kind of sadness that he had never expected to find there.

"You really hate me, don't you?" Seifer asked quietly, the infliction in his voice somewhere between hurt and amused.

Squall broke their eye contact and dropped his gaze to the floor. He glared at the carpet almost desperately, watching the complex play of sunlight on its uneven surface, and his throat was burning as he forced his tongue to produce a single, faltering word.

"... Yeah."

Squall's response was transparent as glass and the lie hiding within it evident enough. There were several people that Squall had encountered throughout his life of whom he could easily say that he 'hated' them — Seifer, however, wasn't one of them. It had nothing to do with the fact that he had only known the blonde for a mere five days; generally, Squall could determine whether he despised somebody or not in a simple matter of seconds.

To decide whether he liked somebody was a whole different story, however.

'I don't. I don't. I don't...'

He banished Seifer's presence into the back of his mind and clenched his eyes shut. When the blonde saw the wounded look on his face, he sighed softly. Of course he knew that Squall didn't hate him; the brunette could be mule-headed and sensitive to a fault, but despite his behavior, he couldn't hide the fact that he harbored some kind of feelings for Seifer.

The precise nature of those feelings, though, was something that the blonde still needed to figure out.

He said nothing as he stepped up to Squall and carefully wrapped his arms around him, pretending that the brunette had never admitted to hating him. The slender boy went stiff in the embrace, but Seifer didn't mind. The urge to yell and break shit over Squall's reclusive behavior had already ebbed away; perhaps he was getting used to it, he couldn't quite say. In any case, ever since he had set foot in the brunette's house and his room in particular, some part of him had realized that Squall was behaving the way he did for a very good reason.

'I honestly have no clue what's wrong with you or your life, but anyone who feels this fuckin' good deserves to be treated right. I'm not gonna turn on you, no matter what you tell me. I'm better than that.'

When Squall felt those strong arms encircling him, wrapping around his waist and shoulders with so much incredible patience and gentleness, understanding finally rippled through his mind like a peaceful lake that had been stirred by a rock thrown into its depths, changed forever by something so small and seemingly unimportant.

..: "You really hate me, don't you?" :..

His eyes snapped wide open and his heart was crushed inside his chest when he recalled the ridiculous answer that he had given to that question.

..: "Yeah." :..

He had lied.

He had lied to Seifer and himself, hoping that somehow, his lies would become reality.

But that wasn't the case.

'I'm such a... fool... Maybe he doesn't know it yet... but he will... In the end, he's far from stupid. I can tell that he's getting ideas. He senses it. If I keep sticking around him, he'll notice... He'll realize what I'm doing, what's going on... He said he's on my side, he said he wouldn't hurt me, but...'

All those happy, sweet emotions that had been elicited by Seifer's adept words and touches came pouring into him now, but they left him feeling hollow and sad like nothing else in his life ever had. That strong hand, pressing against the small of his back in a gentle caress... it was too much, and at the same time, it wasn't enough. The realization of how he felt and what he would have to do made him want to break down and cry.

He didn't hate Seifer. He never had. He never would.


Squall wanted to slash that thought, but he couldn't. He couldn't pretend that Seifer didn't feel nice; didn't feel right, despite everything. He couldn't pretend that the blonde's endeavors didn't move him or didn't make him question his own ways.

They did, and yet, it made no difference.

Because it couldn't.

..: "Tell me, Squall... how much do you think you're worth, hm? A stupid boy with a whore for a mother. It's almost laughable. Though, I suppose you do have a nice body. That's about all you're good for, isn't it? But I guess as long as you still provide me with some kind of satisfaction, I can let your mom live her fairytale a little while longer. So... just how much exactly is she worth, Squall? Tell me... because I'd really like to know." :..

Grinding his teeth together slow and hard until his jaw threatened to break, he nuzzled his head into the crook of Seifer's neck and, for the very first time, he reciprocated the blonde's hug. His arms slipped from Seifer's embrace and slowly traveled along the archs of his broad shoulders, where they eventually pulled tight. He dug his fingers into the thick, olive green fabric of Seifer's shirt, clawing for forgiveness as he tried to steady his breathing and silence the fell voice that constantly reminded him of how little importance his wishes and happiness really were.

..: "If you squeal, I'll ruin you and everyone who's important to you. You know that as well as I do." :..

As he waged his options, vague hope still clinging to his despairing heart, he finally realized that he had never had a chance to begin with.

'I'm sorry... I can't.'

And with that, he pulled away.

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