Disclaimer: All the characters, places etc., are the property of Square, not me (::sniffs::). I'm just borrowing them for my own nefarious purposes. I promise they'll be tidied up, and sent home all clean an' sparkling.

Summary:On an enforced break from Garden, Squall comes face to face with the past in the most unexpected way. Is it too late to make up for old mistakes? Dark, angsty SXS smut. What more could you ask for?! POV is all Squall's, with a minor interruption just for scene-setting purposes.

Rating: NC-17

WARNING: ***YAOI***. PLEASE HEED THE RATING. THIS FIC FEATURES **HEAVILY GRAPHIC M/M SEXUAL SITUATIONS**. IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT, PLEASE DON'T READ. (If you do, enjoy ;) Flame if you must, but please be aware that you won't be acknowledged in any way (Y'know, it's NC-17, there's a clear as day warning... pretty obvious what you're getting, I'd imagine.) Would have classed this as a PWP if it wasn't so damn long. (16,000 words, and - brace yourselves - 3000 of which is smut!!) Also features heavy angst, some violence (both self-inflicted and otherwise), enough cussing to turn the air blue, and a Squall who talks too much. Oh, and Rinoa-Bashing. Literally!

Wish You Were Here...

By Seshat

The air in the headmaster's office was quiet and heavy, the stillness broken only by the steady, rhythmic beat of the ornate clock on the wall behind the vacant desk.

Quiet. Just like the cafeteria had been. The only blessing was that here he didn't have to endure all those accusing stares - accusing and pitying - or the hushed, nervous giggles as he'd walked away.

"He's lost it. But then, it was always only a matter of time... "

All things considered, he'd kept it together pretty well. Anyone else would have snapped months ago. They should be thankful for that...

The door opened smoothly behind him, the footsteps too light and measured to be Headmaster Cid. He glanced up disinterestedly as Quistis sat down behind the desk, folding her hands tensely on the polished surface.

"Are you all right?"

He stared at her for a moment, a little taken aback by her question. It hadn't been quite what he'd expected her to say. He shrugged, noncommittally.

She sighed. "And I don't suppose you want to talk about it either, do you?"

"There's nothing to talk about." he crossed his arms, looking away. "Even if there was, it's hardly official Garden business."

"And you know as well as I do that neither of us are here in an official capacity." She shook her head, offering him a small smile. "Maybe I've just misread the situation, but I thought we were friends. And as your friend, I wanted to let you know that I'm... that we're all worried about you."


"Why?" she blinked. "I could be wrong, but I'd have thought that was pretty obvious, Squall... "

"For Hyne's sakes Quistis, it was just an argument... "

"`Just` an argument?" she frowned. "Do you have any idea how long it took us to calm Rinoa down? When I left her with Selphie she was still hyperventilating! I don't think she sees it as `just` an argument." Quistis sighed. "I suppose you'll be glad to know she's packing her things as we speak."

"Yeah, well... it's probably for the best."

"Probably." She agreed. "Probably better that she finds someone who doesn't blow up at her for absolutely no reason, and starts laying into her in the middle of the cafeteria in front of the entire Garden! And yelling at her is one thing, but was there any justification at all for slapping her?" Quistis asked, exasperated. "Gods... what in the world got into you?"

"Sense?" he suggested, dryly.

"That's hardly an appropriate excuse! Okay, I admit that you're probably not the only one around here who's considered beating the hell out of her before now. But there's a world of difference between thinking about it, and actually... " she shook her head. "There is no excuse at all for that kind of conduct. You're damn lucky she isn't lodging disciplinary action against you as it is. But I'm not going to play the fairer sex card on you, because we both know that if you'd ever raised your hand to Selphie or to me, we'd kick your ass to Centra and back."

"I would never have done that to you." He couldn't be sure, but he thought he saw a flash of relief in her eyes at the vehemence in his tone. "Or to Selphie."

Because neither of you would ever have dared suggest...

"So why did you do it to her?" Quistis asked gently. "What on Earth did she do that warranted that?"

"I don't want to... "

"Talk about it, yeah, I know. But it's not just about what happened today... your behaviour over the past few weeks has been erratic to say the least. I'm not the only one who's noticed... Zell told me about that incident in the Training Centre the other day... "

"I've already filed a report about that... I thought I had Encounter None enabled. Okay, I should have checked, but... "

"But you didn't, did you? What you had was one angry T-Rexaur who must have thought his birthday had come early, and five traumatised junior classmen! We've had parents threatening all kinds of action against Garden, Squall... one of the kids is still on medically advised leave! How do you expect us to reassure them that their children are safe when our own SeeD Commander is acting like a ditzy, irresponsible little cadet?!"

"I... " he shook his head. "I've been pre-occupied. I can handle it, it won't affect Garden again... "

"It isn't that simple, Squall... "

It never is.

"What are you saying?" he frowned. "You don't have the authority to fire me, Quistis... "

"No-one's firing you. But no-one can help you either, if you refuse to talk to us about whatever it is that's bothering you." she sighed. "We want to help you Squall. I know you, I know how important Garden is to you, and how seriously you take your duty to SeeD. This... isn't like you. At all. Like I said, we're all concerned... "


"I will admit, people have been suggesting that the responsibility and pressure of your position is affecting your judgement. That you've been gradually succumbing to some kind of post traumatic stress disorder after the war... "

"That's insane... "

"I know. That's what I told them. But when you... snap, like you did today... it adds weight to their theories. So... " she leant back in the chair, a faint smirk on her lips. "I've been speaking to the Headmaster, and he's agreed to grant you full, paid leave, for as long as it takes to work this thing through. The proviso being, that if you don't, if you come back and nothing's changed... then he'll have no other choice but to ask for your resignation."

"I don't need leave... " he argued.

"Oh, yes you do. Everyone needs a break sometimes Squall, and to my knowledge you've never taken a holiday in your life. So, here's your chance."

"Great... " he rubbed the bridge of his nose absentmindedly, trying to ward off the stirrings of a headache.

On the surface, it seemed like a very magnanimous, considerate act. But he'd been around the bureaucratic workings of Balamb Garden long enough to recognise the offer for what it really was. A way to get him as far away from Garden as possible without a) facing the scandal of sacking a hero, and b) risking him doing something else that would embarrass SeeD. In the meantime, the PR machine would kick into high gear, reassuring and insincere, just in case student admissions would be down next year. When he came back, it would all have blown over.


All because his meticulous control had begun slipping inexplicably from his grasp.

All because he couldn't fucking pretend anymore.

But if he didn't have his work as a distraction, then everything he'd kept beaten down would be able to fight back, unrestrained. His duty to Garden was probably the only thing that had stopped him from going insane a hell of a long time ago...

Fourteen months, nineteen days, and... almost seven hours ago. Since he got out of bed the morning after the defeat of Ultimecia, knowing that this was going to be - this had to be - his life from now on. Garden, and friends, and Rinoa...

He'd tried. Honestly tried as hard as he knew how. Tried to put up as little resistance as he could when he realised how determined they were... she was, to change him.

It would have been better all round if she'd succeeded. Better if he'd been able to see past her self-righteous pushiness, tried to forget the way she'd audaciously insinuated herself in their lives. In his life. Wormed her way in with a combination of blind optimism and utter stupidity. She was just another client for Hyne's sakes, a ridiculously ignorant one at that, and would have stayed that way if she hadn't insisted on getting herself into one dumb scrape after the next.

"You were all hired. It's not like you were one of us."

You sure as hell changed your tune, didn't you princess? When we had to keep bailing you out of your own crazy mistakes. You sure as hell wanted to be one of us then. But you aren't, and you never will be.

But then again, neither would he. Not really. And he couldn't truthfully say that he minded all that much. One thing he had realised during her crusade to turn him into her idea of perfect, was that he liked his life the way it was. Liked the loneliness, and the hurt. They were... comforting. It was the one thing that had never, ever let him down. People mess you around. At least pain is straightforward, black and white simple.

"Rinoa forces herself into your world, no matter how many walls you put around yourself."

He wondered if Quistis even remembered saying that. Wondered if Selphie, probably still trying to convince Rinoa everything would work out, would remember pointing out that she and Squall were complete opposites. Which would have been fine, if they were. But on a fundamental level they'd played out the tired charade for the same reasons. If they'd ever been a match made in anything, it was more in desperation than heaven. She was afraid, he wanted to forget. They were both terribly lonely, unsure where they fit in with the people around them, if they fit in at all. Scared of being left behind. The only difference was that she admitted it. But it had been nice to be needed, nice to be of use to someone... to matter to someone. Even if it was just her.

And the one he wanted might someday by some earth-shattering miracle like him, care about him, want him, even love him, but would never need him that way.

Is that why you kept her around? Is that why you saved her life? Is that why you can't stand her, but can't stand the idea that she'd leave you alone, either? Fuck it, you don't even want anyone depending on you, why was her need such an ego-trip?

Because no-one else did. He hadn't mattered to anyone else before... been so insignificant that they'd been able to walk out of his life without a backward glance. He'd long since learnt that people only hung around when they wanted something.

If they need me for something, for anything, then they'll stay. I won't have to ask, won't have to beg, won't have to explain. They'll just stay.

And maybe it wasn't fair, wasn't real, but even a fake relationship was better than the alternative. Lying about wanting to be with her was easier than telling the truth about why he didn't.

So he figured he might as well accept what he had, be grateful that he had anything at all.

Amazing how long you can live a lie.

But now the lie was falling apart around him, cracking, shattering, splintering, melting... and he didn't have the heart to stop it, even if he knew how.

"Where would I go?" he protested feebly, knowing he'd already lost the argument. Lost the argument around the time he lost his mind, and brought the back of his hand down across Rinoa's cheek.

She had no right to say those things... it was none of her business... she had no idea what the hell she was talking about...

"Esthar's meant to be really nice this time of year. Their tourism industry's been booming since they rejoined the known world, there's some really pretty resort towns along the east coast. And if you got tired of that, you could always go and visit your father... "

"Oh, that's a fantastic idea!" he rolled his eyes dramatically. "I think I'd rather be fired."

"Just a suggestion." She grinned, mischievously. "So you'll take the time off?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"No." she shook her head. "But if it makes you feel better, this place will be in good hands. I'll be taking over the administrative side while you're gone, Zell's taking over your combat duties."

"Oh, hells yes. That makes me feel a lot better... "

"Didn't anyone ever tell you that you've got a damn annoying sense of humour sometimes?" her blue eyes narrowed into a frown. "Sarcasm doesn't make up for not talking, Squall."

No, but hopefully it makes you wish I'd kept my mouth shut after all.

The heavy rain had turned the Galbadian desert into an uneven sea of congealed mud. Even the shelter of a craggy hillside did little to spare the small makeshift camp from the downpour.

Makeshift. It had been `makeshift` for almost a whole damn year, and many had already left in that time. There was well below a hundred of them here now. If the General ever launched his supposed attack, they would be hopelessly outnumbered.

General. Hell, that was a joke. The kid was just that; a confused, scared little boy.

Of course, no-one would say that to his face. Just like no-one was quite sure what they were fighting for anymore, or why they were still staying loyal to a commanding officer who hadn't exactly gained his position through usual means.

Besides, it seemed a little stupid to complain about what was overall, if you ignored living in the middle of nowhere for a year, a damn cushy job. They hadn't faced more than a few puny monsters in months, and their pay and treatment was threefold better than it had been under the Sorceress. The General's resources seemed to be limitless, as did his resolve. Access to some formidable technology, even more formidable magic, and high level clearance codes of every military division on the planet.

It seemed like awful overkill simply to assassinate the Commander of SeeD.

The soldier stomped through the mud, to the ramshackle building that served as the main office, rapping on the door once before walking in.



The power generators they had were inadequate for even their small base, but having anything stronger out here would begin to look suspicious. As a result, the `office` was lit by a single, dim lamp, perched on the edge of the table. The General stood by the small window, staring blankly out at the rain.

Yeah, just a kid. A kid that could still manage to intimidate an experienced platoon of Galbadian paratroopers, simply by adopting a certain stance.

Talk around the base was that the General hadn't been quite right after the war.

Kid's never been right, if you ask me...

"We've received word from our sources in Balamb. Unconfirmed reports that Commander Leonhart has departed from Garden, sir."

"A mission? What use is it to me if he's got two of his lackeys in tow?"

"Negative, sir. No reports of any new requests for SeeD. We took the liberty of cross referencing both Galbadian and Estharian security databases."


"Not quite, sir. What we did find, was um... " the soldier paused, wondering how the General would take their slightly... offbeat findings. "A reservation at a hotel in Cambria Bay, in the name of Commander S. Leonhart."

"Cambria Bay, Esthar? A reservation for how many?"

"Just for one, sir."

There was a minute of silence, before the General began to laugh.

Incongruous, how such an innocent, young sound could come from a man with more lives on his conscience than his entire platoon combined.

"Um... sir?"

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, sir. It doesn't appear to be an undercover operation either. Seems like the good Commander is just taking a little vacation... "

"Not by choice, I bet." The General mused, continuing to stare out of the window for a moment. "He wouldn't do something as frivolous unless it was on pain of death. And maybe not even then. I suppose I'll find out... " Shadowed eyes flickered towards him. "Tell me something, soldier... "

"Yes, sir?"

"What the hell are you all still doing here?"

"I... excuse me, sir..?"

"Do you have a family, soldier? Someone waiting for you back at home?"

"Well, yes sir, but... "

"Then go to them. And tell your men. You're all dismissed." The General turned from the rain-battered window, the faint lamplight catching on a striking profile, deep jade eyes, and the worn ridge of a scar.

"But sir... "

"Didn't you hear me? You're all dismissed, soldier. Leave. Go home. This mission is over bar the shouting, and... " the General's lips curved into a smirk. "I'm the only one who can do that. Leonhart might just find his nice little vacation becoming a permanent one."

If he could think past the circumstances that brought him here, Squall had to confess that the resort Quistis had picked out for him was beautiful. The small hotel was balanced on the edge of a gentle cliff, a short walk from the town itself, nestled between the mountains of Esthar to the west, and the ocean to the east. A steep, winding path led down to a private beach that curved between the cliffs like a sunbleached bone.

There were a number of small settlements along the coast that had benefited from the opening of Esthar's borders with the rest of the world. Most of them had been immediately over run with thoughtless tourists, and the allure of their Gil. Cambria Bay was still relatively untouched, and the majority of the other hotel residents were native Estharians.

It was picturesque, tranquil, perfect.

And two days into a two week stay, Squall was bored out of his mind. There were only so many more walks along the beach he could take without screaming.

The situation was only exacerbated by the fact that a number of his fellow residents at the Cambria Bay Hotel were couples.

The walks along the beach would probably be a lot more tolerable if he wasn't alone.

Always so fucking alone... even when he was with her, with them... he always felt like he was outside the loop, looking in on something he could never have. "It's not like you were one of us". Someone they had to work at involving in their lives. It came so easy to everyone else, conversation, friendship, trust.

Trust... he barely remembered what that was anymore. He'd thought for a while that he'd learnt to trust the others, in battle if nothing else. But faith in them backing him in a fight wasn't the same thing. Odd, how he could place his life in their hands, but not his feelings, his heart.

Maybe his life wasn't as precious to him. Maybe his heart had been stolen a long time ago. Taken, unwanted and unused, but yet to be returned. Exchange, refund, goods to the value of...

"You've got to open up... you've got to talk to me!"

Her words would haunt him till he died, he was sure. They might end up being the goddamned cause of it, if he couldn't get them out of his head. He would have loved nothing better than to have poured his heart out to someone, anyone, tell them how much he hurt, how terrified he was, just to hear someone say `everything's gonna be okay`. Say it, and mean it.

But he couldn't do that, because he knew in his heart that none of them could make those kind of promises. None of them...

It's better to say nothing, and be thought a fool, than open your mouth and prove it.

He knew his conduct of late had been on the unpredictable side. And Quistis was closer to the truth than she knew with her wacky post traumatic stress theory. The truths he'd been forced to face up to during, and immediately after the Sorceress War had been slowly chipping away at his mind, becoming harder and harder to push aside, ignore. And while the Training Centre incident was probably the worst transgression, it was by no means the only one. He'd begun lying to his so-called friends about pressing plans he had, just to avoid spending time with them. Forgot about classes and combat demonstrations he'd apparently agreed to take. Started accepting missions for just himself, for just the thrill, taking on potentially dangerous battles without consulting the others.

"This isn't like you... "

The incident with Rinoa proved that much. He'd reacted for Hyne's sakes, since when had he...

Of course, that probably owed more to her topic of conversation, than her. He'd have beaten the crap out of anyone who'd said such a thing. In that respect she'd been lucky she was who she was. In the unlikely event that anyone else would have had the gall to question him in such a way, they would have had an intimate date with the business end of Lionheart.

So what was I meant to do? To say? The truth? That the chasm you left in my life has been getting wider and wider, sucking everything into the abyss like some devouring black hole? Bet she'd have loved that...

The truth would only hurt them, disappoint them. They wouldn't like it, wouldn't understand... wouldn't care. Maybe that's what frightened him the most. If the anxieties and nightmares that plagued him just didn't matter to anyone else. That he could strip all his defences, show them all his fears, and all for nothing. No-one could change anything, no-one could help. They'd just leave, everyone else did. He couldn't be sure that any of them would ever understand, and it wasn't worth the risk finding out.

He'd done that, once. And the hurt was still as bright and vivid now as it had been then.

Open up, show someone your true, flawed, vulnerable self, offer them your world and everything you have to give, and watch while they shrug and laugh and you have to listen to their eyes say it's not quite what they're looking for...

He wouldn't be doing that again. Hell, he wasn't even sure he could do that again. Not when it had taken all he had to shut back down. Locked up with a hideously complex set of locks, and he'd forgotten where he put the key.

Or he'd lost the key. Same difference...

You know, of all the people that have walked out on me, you're the only one who took a piece of me with you.

The sun was setting low behind the mountain peaks as he trudged back up the inclined path towards the hotel. Cool blues and lilacs seeping into bright reds and pinks, the sinking orb setting the glassy ocean on fire with colour, and long flickering shadows.

Not that he noticed. Or cared. Just wondered dimly what time the hotel bar closed the the night.

Turned out, the bar closed suitably late. And even then, he'd been the last one in the room, studiously ignoring the bartender's none too subtle coughs, and pointed stares at the clock.

Screw you, my good's as gil as anyone else's. No, wait a second, that didn't sound right... ah, whatever.

He didn't usually drink much. Hated that sense of being out of control. But since he was getting that way on his own whilst sober, it wasn't as much of an issue. Besides, he doubted anyone here even knew who he was. Wasn't as if he was leaking top secret Garden intelligence or anything. Security wasn't a priority, and that was oddly liberating. It was a quiet, out-of-the-way hotel, and the only one who knew where he was, was Quistis, and only because she'd made the booking.

She'd accompanied him to the train station too; just to make sure he got on the thing. Just to make sure he left.

Huh. If I didn't know better I'd think they were trying to get rid of me... oh, that's right. They were trying to get rid of me. I'm an embarrassment, a disgrace to Garden.

Heh... that sounded awfully familiar.

The hotel corridors were sleepy and oppressively warm as he staggered back to his room, travelling up and down in the elevator a couple of times until he recalled which floor he was on. When he eventually locked the bedroom door behind him, he flung the balcony doors wide open, kicked off his boots, and collapsed onto the extravagantly large four-poster bed - dammit even the furniture's fucking romantic! - falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing onto the rocky shore below.

Squall woke less than two hours later, with a groggy, disorientated start.

For several seconds, he just sat there, blinking at the dark. He couldn't even decipher why he'd woken, what had snapped him so decisively from that deep, floating stupor where he didn't have to think, didn't have to remember. Part of him just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, to shrug it off as a forgotten nightmare, just one of those things.

But he couldn't. He'd been rigorously trained for years to hone his instincts, a sixth sense that had probably saved his life innumerable times. A strangely calm anxiety, unfailingly familiar - something he could understand, control. That instinct was ringing alarm bells of migraine-inducing proportions right now, and he couldn't just ignore it.

He'd woken for a reason; he couldn't explain why, but he was overwhelmed with a sense that he wasn't alone.

But the cool, dark room around him was still. Just the muslin curtains stirring in the ocean breeze. The balcony doors were as he'd left them, and the bathroom door was ajar. Nothing disturbed, or suspicious.

He stood too quickly, the resulting head rush forcing him to lean heavily on the bedposts for support. Once his vision cleared to a more acceptable level of fuzzy, he walked gingerly to the bathroom, flipping on the lights before venturing through the door. All that greeted him was the whirlpool corner bath, the complimentary fluffy white bathrobe, and his own wild-eyed reflection in the mirror. Gods, he looked like hell. And while much of that could be attributed to the alcohol, he knew it wasn't to blame for the prominent dark shadows beneath his eyes, or the vaguely unhealthy pallor of already too-pale skin. They'd been there before.

Hyne, I need a holiday.

He turned on the cold water tap until it ran ice cold, before splashing a good few handfuls onto his face, not bothering to dry it off. He glanced around the bathroom one last time, before stepping back into the bedroom, shutting off the light, and the door.

The curtains still billowed softly, like ethereal white clouds, as he carefully peered around the corner of the shuttered doors. Nothing. Just the huge full moon bathing the narrow balcony in an pure white light. Letting out the ragged breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding, he moved out into the night.

The moonlit sea breeze circled him like a curious animal, ran it's cool fingers through his hair like a lover's caress, dried the tapwater on his face like a comforting hand brushing away a child's tears.

Funny, that he'd imagined someone was here. Staring out over the black ocean, the indigo sky, and diamond-bright stars, he could easily believe he was the only soul left on the planet. Just him, and the darkness, and the tide, and the jagged rocks, eight storeys and one sheer cliff-side below.

Alone. Always alone...

In a moment of sudden capricious whimsy - probably the last couple of whiskey shots finally reaching his brain - he picked out the brightest star in the velvet sky, and made a wish.

I wish you were here...

Stupid, he berated himself, turning back into the room, pulling the balcony doors closed behind him. Almost as stupid as thinking some unimaginable horror had found its way into his hotel room. To the best of his knowledge, all was relatively peaceful in the world. Not quite as peaceful as the world outside his window tonight, but quiet nonetheless. Just a couple of low level rebel factions making trouble, more noise than substance. Nothing that would have given him pause to consider his safety outside Garden.

And anyway, it wasn't as if he couldn't take care of himself. He was a skilled fighter for Hyne's sakes, he still had Shiva somewhere in the back of his mind, and despite the looks both Quistis and the taxi driver had given him, he still had his gunblade. He turned from the window, glancing casually to the corner where he'd propped Lionheart's case.

To find it gone.

Heartbeat quickened, eyes widened, mouth dry, adrenaline beginning to pump, and that instinct - unfortunately - dead on.

His gaze darted around the room again, somehow unable to comprehend that it was still empty.

A cold chill coiled up his spine, as a colder bead of sweat tricked down his back, when his stare finally landed on what lay in the centre of the rumpled sheets of the bed.

Lionheart's case. Open. Empty.


For a moment, his mind went blank. He didn't know whether to run, to summon, to fight, to scream. In the end, the decision was taken out of his hands.

Something hard, and heavy was smashed into the back of his head. His knees swayed, then buckled in response, a feeling not dissimilar to the one provoked by the whiskey sending him crashing to the richly carpeted hotel room floor.

Distantly, he thought he heard a soft chuckle, before his ears rushed with a sound like the crashing waves, and everything went as cold, black as the fathomless ocean.

It was the nature of mercenary work, a risk you took. A hell of a lot of people hated you, blamed you, feared you, any or all of the above. Enemies were made with abandon, faceless, nameless people to whom you couldn't trace your connection if you pored over every mission you'd ever been on. People with a grudge, without any discernible reason.

And, it was the same risk that made situations like this, while hardly desired, unsurprising. Annoying, rather than frightening.

Even so, there was a strange, undefinable something wrong with the current scenario. Something that upped his anxiety a notch or two. Something apart from the pain, and the cloying scent of blood, and the small matter of not being able to move.

Fighting past the pounding agony in his head, he forced his eyes open.

He was still in the hotel room. That was odd enough in itself. He'd expected to find himself spirited away to some remote, godforsaken compound somewhere. If not blindfolded, then at least placed in some deliberately disorientating bland location he wouldn't be able to identify. But no. Still in the hotel room. Albeit trussed up on the bed like a barbecued Geezard, feet bound to one of the bedposts, his arms tied painfully behind his back. Tight enough that he couldn't get any slack into the binds, but still loose enough that he wasn't losing sensation. Quite the professional job. Almost like the restraining techniques they taught SeeDs.

And there was that dumb fucking instinct again. Telling him he really should give serious consideration to panicking.

Instead he struggled at the restraints, trying to get enough leverage to sit up.

He froze in his efforts, as an achingly familiar chuckle shattered the silence.

"That's it puberty-boy, fight!"


No. It wasn't possible, wasn't...

As common-sense and logic retreated, screaming, the only surreal thought that remained rattling around Squall's mind, was that maybe wishes came true after all.

Only like everything else he longed for, it became a malevolent, twisted version of the original.

Yeah, right. He's always been malevolent and twisted. This is the original version, in it's purest form.

And you still want it, don't you?

He tilted his head, wincing as the back of it clung stickily to the sheet. Great, yet another hotel where he'd wind up having to explain why there was blood all over the linen. Even if he didn't honestly know this time.

Although the room was spinning nauseatingly, he could make out a figure sitting in the overstuffed easy chair in the furthest corner. Could make out the beacon glow of a cigarette held between long, black leather clad fingers. He watched the hand move, the faint orange light dimly illuminating the shadowed planes of a face that was probably more familiar than his own. The one he saw everytime he closed his eyes. Watched the lips around the cigarette curve into a smirk, when he finally found his voice;

"Seifer... "

The cigarette glow moved, then disappeared. At the loss of that tiny pinprick of light, the room suddenly felt plunged into darkness. Dark, cold and quiet, the silhouette in the chair only just visible, a minutely different shade of black than everything else.

And for the first time in almost forever, Squall Leonhart was afraid.

Afraid, because he knew he wouldn't win this fight. He lost this battle the moment he realised who his captor was.

"We... I thought you were... "

"Dead?" the shadow asked, in a tone of bored amusement, and... something else Squall couldn't define. Something wry, ironic. "No, Leonhart. Not yet. That'd be too convenient for you, wouldn't it? No, I've just been biding my time."

"What... what do you want?"

"What do I want?" he could just about hear the quirked eyebrow, the mild smirk. "The usual. Peace on Earth, that gil grew on trees, flashy red sports car." The shadow shrugged one shoulder, the movement oddly jerked. "And to see you suffer even a fraction of what I've been through."

"What?! What the fuck did I ever do to you, you asshole? You're the one who always... "

"Hyne, I knew I should have gagged you. I don't know what the fuck the rest of them complain about, you never shut your goddamn mouth around me." Seifer growled. "Don't make me change my mind. I've been looking forward to hearing you scream... "

"Fine, and no doubt bring half the fucking town running!"

"Won't matter." There was that stiff shrug again, accompanied this time by a dreamy quality to Seifer's voice. Frowning to himself, Squall wondered if his captor was under the influence of... whatever. Alcohol, drugs, a spell, he wasn't exactly in the position to try and figure that out. "By the time anyone got here, you'd be dead, and I'd be... gone."

He struggled feebly against the binds again, just for the feeling of doing something, a fallacy of trying to avert whatever Seifer had adjudged would be his fate. He wondered if the errant blond actually realised how long he'd held Squall's fate in his hands anyway. Probably not.

He never realised it before, did he? Or he'd never have...

"How did you know I was here... ?"

"Is that important? Let's just say that the nightmares and the irrational phobia of crowds weren't the only things Ultimecia left me." Seifer laughed softly. "But imagine my shock, finding out you actually deigned to do things that normal people do. Squall Leonhart, on vacation." He shook his head. "So... are you having fun yet?"

"It's a riot."

"Oh, it will be. I promise." The shadow stood from the chair, and watching the movement made the room tilt again. What the hell had Seifer hit him with? A boulder? "Do you have any idea how long I've been waiting for this moment, Squall?"

"Since we kicked your ass, and your sorry bitch of a Sorceress's while we were at it?"

"You see, that's exactly what I mean!" Seifer frowned, raised voice suddenly hostile. "Just goes to prove that I'm right! You've had your pretty little head so far up your own ass, for so fucking long, you can't even see anymore!" he paced slowly around the room.

Squall listened to various items he'd left scattered around the room being idly raked over by soft black leather. Then Seifer was nothing but a fuzzy blackness in Squall's peripheral vision, and he doubted he could move his head again without being violently sick, or passing out. Or both. And if that happened, it would be over. If Seifer was going to kill him, then the least he could do was tell him why.

He flirted with death on a daily basis. They all did. Just another part of the package. But damned if he was going to die for no good reason. Seifer owed him that much.

He owes you? What about everything you owe him?

"I've waited for this... " Seifer went on, "from the day we met."

Those words shouldn't have been the shock they were. Shouldn't have hit him even harder than the blow to his head. He'd known for years that Seifer hated him. But knowing it and having the other admit it... were two different things.

"Do you want to know something, Squall?" the tone was amiable now, like they were old friends catching up over a beer. "I still believed, right up till the end. The part of me that was still me, still believed."

"In what?" he mumbled.

"I've been trying to find the words to explain how it feels... " Seifer continued, as though he hadn't even heard the question. "Having to watch while she made me do those things... trying not to choke on the words put in my mouth, hearing my screams in my head when she tore around in what's left of my memories, looking for something she could use... but there aren't any. Nothing I can say that could ever make you really understand what that was like. But right up until the moment she let go of me, I hoped. Told myself it must be part of some bigger plan, there must be a logical reason for it. So, I kept waiting, kept hoping." From the corner of his eye, Squall could see the blond turn to face him. If he tried hard he could imagine those green eyes blazing down at him. He didn't have to imagine the tangible wave of accusation that radiated from his captor. "But you never came."

"I... " Squall blinked. That knock to the head must have done more damage than he thought, because he could have sworn... "What?"

"You just fucking left me there, let her do whatever the fuck she wanted with me!" Seifer raged. "Guess what, I don't even blame her for what she did to me, I blame you! Like fuck would you have done that to anyone else! If she'd taken the Chickenwuss that day, or our dear Instructor Trepe, or the little messenger girl, you'd have fought hell and high water to get them back! But not me. What did you do Leonhart, just chalk it up to experience and move on?"

"Seifer, what are you... ?"

"Was I just an expendable loss, huh? Fuck, he ain't even SeeD, who give a shit what happens to him? Or did you do it to teach me a lesson? The asshole thinks he's such a fucking hot-shot, lets see him fight his way out of this one! Did you hate me that much?"

What? You're the one who hates me, remember?

"No! It wasn't... "

"Don't fucking lie to me Leonhart! I know it's difficult to change the habit of a lifetime, but try for me, okay?"

"I'm not lying! And do you expect me to believe that you'd have graciously accepted any help we offered? Mr `Teamwork means staying out of my way`, you were too stubborn to ask for help, and too arrogant to accept it!"

"Maybe. At first. I was Seifer Almasy. I could take on the fucking world, single-handed if necessary. And I believed that, too. At least, until she forced me to watch surveillance footage of the missile attack on Trabia... " his voice trailed off. When he spoke again, his voice was soft, tired. Older. "Fuck, they were just kids. Younger than us, most of them. And maybe it was her order, but it was my finger on the launch button... "

"You hand on that fucking torture device in D-District. If you're trying to tell me that was just a cry for help, then you're more fucked up than I thought... "

"It's not a matter of help! It isn't even about the fact that we both know I'd have made a stronger ally than the Princess, than the Messenger Girl, fuck even the cowboy! It's about the way you all just decided I was just another monster, that I wanted to be a part of all those things! That I'd gone with that evil bitch willingly, that I... killed, willingly... " Seifer shook his head. "Where the fuck did you make that connection, huh? How the hell do you make the leap from teasing the Chicken to some twisted plan for world domination? Do you have any fucking idea how it felt, knowing you all thought I was capable of that"...

"It's hardly as if you were playing the victim Seifer! You had your chances, we all tried to make you see... "

"No." Seifer glared at him. "Fuujin tried. Raijin tried. The rest of you just fought me as if I was your goddamned mortal enemy!"

He couldn't help it, couldn't hold back the short bark of mirthless laughter.

"You were."

Even as he said it, long-forgotten fragments of memory suddenly forced their way to the forefront of his mind. Painful, sharp, clear as day.

"Stay away from me... Stay back... I'm not... Stop calling me a boy... I am not a BOY!"

But it didn't make sense, it couldn't be... it hadn't seemed that way at the time, but now, maybe...

"I think he came to help us... please... don't think too badly of him."

To help? But if that's true, then...

"He was so angry when he found out it was only the three of you dispatched to Timber. 'What!? They might end up fightin' the whole Galbadian force! And all they dispatch are three rookie SeeD members!? Dammit! I'm going to Timber!' I never would have guessed he was serious about it."

Angry? But by then we already thought he was dead... I didn't *know*, I didn't realise *why*...

'That guy's always serious. You should know that by now... '


"He was from Garden... He was one of us. If I can, I wanna get revenge."

One of us? One of us, and I just let him go... ? He's right, if it had been Zell, or Selphie, or Quistis...

`If I were to face the sorceress... Would I have to go through Seifer?... That's the way it goes as a SeeD. You can't choose your enemies... `

Can't choose your enemies, can't choose who you fall in love with, either... sometimes, no matter how hard you try, they end up being one and the same...

"Seifer was a kid who always needed to be the center of attention. But Squall always used to ignore him... "

Damn it, I didn't *know*!

"There's no way you can run from him... It's kind of like your destiny to face him."

Destiny. He's my destiny. Always...

The room started swaying crazily again, like a carnival ride, weirdly shaped shadows seeming to liquefy, bleed into each other, until everything was just a mass of swirling black.

"It's too late Seifer... To us, you're just another enemy, like one of those monsters."

Oh, Gods no... so fucking stupid...

"Worthless child... worthless fool... "

So stupid, so blind...

"I've always gotta be doing somethin' big! I don't wanna stop. I'm gonna keep running! I've come this far... Can't go back now! I can't go anywhere!"

Can't go back... can't ever go back. If only he could, then maybe...

Maybe it had all been for nothing, the past months. The lies, and the hurt. If only he'd seen back then, seen what was really going on instead of...

Oh, God...

He needed me. Needed me, and I wasn't there. But I didn't know... I didn't...

Then the swirling blackness engulfed him in a cold tide, dragging him under. He tried to speak, tried to do anything, but couldn't. So he was the only one who heard the words, echoing faintly in his head.

I'm sorry...

It could have been anything from a minute to a year later, when he came to again. He noticed with some relief that the room was stationary this time. And he was drooling on the sheet.

"Hey there, sleeping beauty. I was starting to wonder if you'd miss the show after all."

He blinked, afraid to raise his head, afraid to lose the sliver of hold he had on consciousness.

Maybe I could cast cure before he kills me...

The room looked a little lighter than it had been. The moonlight through the muslin was grainy, greyer. He already knew from bad experience that the full beams of sunrise hit his room head on, at an unearthly time of morning. Understanding the intricacies of time was a little too much for his head to take, but he tried to figure out when he'd left the bar, when he'd woken up, how long he'd been standing on the balcony staring at the sea...

This whole thing couldn't have been going on for longer than an hour. Probably much less.

An hour, a lifetime... whatever.

Instinct was running around his bruised head, screaming at the top of it's little lungs in a playground sing-song voice;

Something's wrong, something's wrong...

If he could just stop thinking long enough to work out what it was...

A wave of dizziness washed over him the second he lifted his head, he was forced to keep his eyes closed until the feeling subsided.

When he opened them again, he was overloaded by several things occurring to him at once.

His feet had been untied. Actually, no... one foot had been untied. Untied, and retied to the other bedpost. There was a little more slack in the ropes this time, but not enough to do much more than struggle weakly. Any leverage he had before was massively reduced by this new position, and while the binds weren't cutting off any circulation, the awkward way he was lying back on his arms was.

Those weird shadows were still there. A few on the walls, long and feathery, like water-colour brushstrokes in the rain. Some on the sheets, more defined, more symmetrical, dark and pronounced against their rumpled white canvas.

Something's wrong...

There was a faint blue glow coming from the floor near the bed. He craned his neck over, to see Lionheart lying innocently on the carpet. With more of those damned shadows, one smeared along the handle, one clinging to the pulsing edge of the blade, the sapphire light making it look almost... purple.


His head began pounding painfully again, cutting short the odd epiphany he felt tugging at the corner of his mind. He squeezed his eyes shut, watching red starburst explode behind his eyes like fireworks. Before he realised he was doing it, he heard his own voice, loud as gunfire in the quiet room.

"S... Seifer? What are you... ?" "Isn't it obvious?" the reply was irritated, impatient, a tiny bit slurred. "You're gonna pay for everything she did to me. Everything you let her do. You're wrong Leonhart, I wasn't your mortal enemy, not back then. But you better fucking believe that I am now."

"No, I don't mean... "

"I told you before, shut the fuck up!" from almost nowhere, a gloved hand clamped down roughly over his mouth. So rough, Squall must have bitten into his own lip, or his tongue. He could taste the blood. Taste blood, and feel the clammy sweat of adrenaline soaking into the neck of his shirt. "The only sound I want from those pretty little lips are screams, do you understand?"

He was about to nod, about to acquiesce - if I can't speak, I can't ask, and I have to know... - when he felt a weight settle between his parted legs, and the partner of the hand against his mouth started unbuttoning his pants.

No... Oh God, Seifer, don't...

The panicked protest was nothing but a muffled mumble against the glove. But as his eyes flew open, he knew the words would have died on his lips without making a sound.

Seifer didn't look a year and some loose change older. The golden blond hair might have been an imperceptible fraction longer, the predatorily handsome features a little sharper, a little paler... though that could have just been an illusion of the semi-darkness. Same cold, mocking smirk. Same old Seifer. Everywhere apart from his eyes. What had once been glittering chips of emerald, lit from within by some passionately determined inferno, were lifeless. Dull, haunted, blood-shot and red-rimmed. And no sign of that blaze that had always raged just below their surface. No passion, no pain... nothing.

Oh my God... I did this to him. No Sorceress, no war. Me...

He knew the shock was clear on his face, bright in his eyes. Still, Seifer must have mistaken the reason for it. Must have thought...

Hyne, I've wanted you to do that for years. Please, Seifer... it doesn't have to be this way...

"C'mon Squally, you didn't think I'd just kill you, did you?" a gloved hand slid beneath the half-undone waistband of his pants, seeking, finding, fingers digging into flesh painfully. "Without breaking you first? Where's the fun in that?"

I don't want you to break me... I'm already broken, can't you see? You're supposed to be the one who can put me back together again...

"Cause it's no fun unless I've got you screaming my name, Leonhart... " Seifer whispered, leaning closer. "Until you're screaming for me to make it stop, to take all the fucking pain away. You're gonna learn the meaning of hopeless before you die, Squall... " the gloved hand was moved from Squall's mouth, soft leather dragging sinuously across his dry lips. "Just like me."

Instinct was jumping up and down now, like a thing possessed.

It's wrong! For Gods' sakes can't you see that it's wrong?!

He wasn't sure if that was what compelled him to turn his head, to follow the hand Seifer had removed from his mouth, that was now pressing into the bed, next to his ear. To follow the line of Seifer's shoulder, past the elegant drape of the trademark trench coat...

Maybe it was concussion that hadn't let him make the obvious connections before. Maybe. Or maybe it was just that he hadn't wanted to.

I didn't know...

The dark smudged shadows, that magically appeared wherever Seifer touched. The jerky movements, the occasionally spacy speech.

"Won't matter... You'd be dead, and I'd be... gone."

The coppery taste that still lingered in his mouth.

His gaze followed the crease in the silk where two angry slashes of red met in a cross. Followed the other splotches of red, watched them multiply, until the cuff was nothing but wet, red...

Lionheart. That's what had been brought crashing down on the back of Squall's head. The blood on the handle was his own.

The blood on the blade was Seifer's.

Oh, God...

The trench coat's sleeve rode up a little, and while he'd expected the wide, messy gash in the space between the cuff and the edge of the glove, he still didn't believe it.

No, please... please don't leave me again...

"Seif... Seifer... "

"Don't tell me I've shocked you?" Seifer scoffed. "It doesn't matter to you, either way, does it? Not when you've considered me dead for over a year. And at least this way, I can take you with me."

"I... "

His vision distorted suddenly. It took a second to realise it was because of the tears in his eyes.

"Aw, poor 'lil puberty-boy's all upset. Ain't that sad... "

"Seifer, please... " even to his own ears, his voice sounded choked and more that a little hysterical. But Hyne alone knew how long Seifer had been slowly bleeding to death in Squall's hotel room, and unless he did something fast... No. I won't let you, you selfish asshole! "I've got Shiva, if you let me junction, I've got magic - cures - and I can... "

Seifer blinked, a tiny edge of confusion seeping into those flat, emotionless eyes. The hand down the front of his pants stilled. He wasn't sure, but the cuff of that glove felt sticky and wet too.

Never one to do things by half, huh Seifer?

"Why would you want to do that Leonhart? It'd be a waste of good magic, I'd only do it again after I kill you."

"Waste of magic?" he struggled frantically against the binds, ignoring the shrieks of protest from his muscles. "What about the waste of a good life you dumb fuck?!"

"What, you honestly expect me to believe you give a shit?" Seifer frowned down at him. "You've never given a fuck about me before, you think this changes anything Leonhart? You think it'll help any if you ease your conscience before you die?"

"No! For gods sakes Seifer, I don't want anyone to die!"

"Don't keep fucking lying to me!" Seifer snarled. "All you've ever fucking done is lie to me! You don't mean any of it, you don't really care, so why don't you just shut the fuck up and stop lying to me!"

"I don't care?" Squall stared at him, incredulous. "You're the one who walked away from me!"

"What?" Seifer frowned, seemingly genuinely confused. "When the hell did I ever walk away from you, Leonhart? The way I remember it, I've spent my whole fucking life trying to get close to you, trying to mean something to you. If I ever walked away it was because you pushed me away!"

"Only because you always pushed me too fucking far!"

"Too far? Are you trying to tell me about too far, puberty boy?"

"Oh, and what would you know about it, huh? How would you know anything about being ridiculed, put down, treated like shit every time you try and get through to someone?"

"More than you'd know, Leonhart! At least I did try to get through to you!"

"Beating the crap out of me, insulting me, torturing me, isn't what I call a gesture of friendship Seifer!"

"And point blank ignoring people, like they just ain't good enough for you, is?"

"I never ignored you! How the fuck was I meant to ignore you?! When you march around like the whole goddamned world revolves around you, and if it doesn't then it damn well should?!"

"At least I acknowledged that there was a goddamned world, and that I lived in it, not inside some fantasy land in my head! I didn't stalk around staring at everyone like they were some insignificant piece of monster crap that trailed in on my boot! At least I fucking spoke to people now and then!"

"Yeah, usually just to knock someone down, make them feel like dirt just to boost your shallow ego!"

"My ego?! What about you, who the fuck do you think you are Leonhart? Some bigshot world hero? Or have they realised by now what an icy little bastard you really are?"

"Whatever. Seeing as they saw through you a hell of a long time ago!"

"What's that supposed to mean?!" Seifer glared at him.

"You were nothing but an immature, insecure bully Seifer, just an asshole who got his kicks from knocking other people down!"

The adrenaline was flowing again, and so was the unfamiliar mechanics of words. Lots of them. It felt like something in his head had just snapped, and everything it had held back came flooding out in an unrecognisable torrent.

"Why did we think you were capable of those things? Because you're petty, and conceited, and you would never, ever have admitted you were wrong! You knew better, all the fucking time, didn't you? Always had to be right, had to be better. So yeah, we figured it was just like you to side with her, just to prove some stupid point. To prove us wrong, even when you knew we were right. Cause you aren't always right, don't always know it all, and when you look at us, when you look at me, that's all you see and it fucking kills you, doesn't it?!" he watched with no small measure of satisfaction as the confusion in Seifer's eyes deepened, joined by just the tiniest, smallest flicker of defiance. "Well, you want to know what kills me? What kills me is having to stand around watching while you threw everything you had away, just because of your stupid, stubborn pride!"

"What... ?"

"Watching you go through screw up after screw up, knowing that you'd never listen to me, never give me a chance to help you... and I wanted to, so much. All you had to do was ask, because I'd have offered, you'd just laugh at me, tell me how pathetic I was. Watched a brilliant fighter, an intelligent mind, and a passionate heart go to waste, just because you could never stand being wrong, being weak... "

"But I don't... "

"Would it have made a difference? If I'd tried talking to you when you picked on me, instead of walking away? Is that where I went wrong Seifer? Is that all you wanted? Did you just need someone who wouldn't turn away... ?" he blinked past fresh tears. "I know it's my fault you're doing this, and I'm sorry, but please... this is one point you don't have to prove. You don't have to work so fucking hard at getting my attention Seifer... you've always had it."


"You don't care half as much about me as you do about him! He doesn't matter anymore, he's gone and no-one cares about him! And here you are, talking about him all the time as though you were best friends or something! You hate him, remember? For all the things he did to us? He turned his back on you! I'm your girlfriend, you're supposed to talk about me, worry about me, not about some worthless, evil traitor!"

"How... " Seifer frowned, shook his head. "How the fuck was I meant to know all that when you never told me? I'm not psychic Leonhart, I can't just tell. Not when all you did was stare your cool, indifferent little stare, and make me feel about two inches tall. It didn't matter what I did, how clever I tried to be, it was never good enough for you, was it? Even all the times I was right, even all the times I worked my ass of so that I could be better than anyone else, so that I could be worth something... What the hell did you want from me, huh? Cause everything I ever did was for you, but nothing was enough... "

That can't be right... Seifer had turned down his attempts out of spite, or fear, or anger, or Hyne knew whatever else went on in that amazing head of his. It sure as hell wasn't possible that he'd done it because he just hadn't realised, had simply misunderstood...

Yeah, right... and since when are you an open book, Leonhart?

"I... I thought you knew... I'm sorry."

"Yeah, well. It's a little late for that now Leonhart... "

"It doesn't have to be. Please, Seifer... I don't want to lose you... "

"Why the fuck not?"

"Because one more thing that kills me, is knowing that you think I don't care... "

"I told you, don't lie to me... " the threat carried little conviction.

"I'm not."

"It's too late, I... "

"No, it's not... " he shook his head. "I know I wasn't there for you before, but I promise, you can believe in me now... "

"I believed before, but it didn't change anything... "

"I was wrong then, I didn't know... I'd never have left you if I'd known... I can't ever make up for that, but I can stop you making the biggest mistake of our lives... you're so wrong Seifer... you are good enough, I've always known that... And I don't deserve you."

"But... "

Squall turned his head, watching more blood slowly soaking into Seifer's sleeve, into the bedsheets. Seeping though, he noted, not pumping. But while the gash might not have severed anything incredibly vital, all that information bought him was a little more time, and since he had no idea how much, he had to assume that the blond could go into shock at any second. Curative magic did absolutely nothing for blood loss, and if he couldn't cast sooner than now, then it would be pointless...

No, he can't leave me! I won't let him leave...

Not while he still had a choice. Not while he could still change things. And the terror of the truth had paled into insubstantial fluff when faced with the desperate fear of losing the one person he didn't think he could live without. The one person who'd sneaked in past all his forbidding defences, who's memory haunted his days, who's voice filled his dreams. Apparently, all without realising he could.

"This isn't like you."

Of course not. How could it be, when he could never be himself without this missing part of his soul? The missing part he'd tried to ignore, hide, run from, push down, but could never, ever forget.

He hadn't been complete without it. Hadn't been anything that was close to real.

But his wish had come true, hadn't it? He'd been given back the key he thought he'd lost. A second chance, if he could grab onto it in time.

He wouldn't ask, or beg, or explain for Rinoa, or for anyone else. He'd rather lose them than face the truth. But for Seifer, he had to. Had to try, because otherwise he would be lying, and honesty was the only thing he had left. If he just closed his eyes, and said it, then... maybe...

I don't think I want to be alone anymore...

"I'm not gonna let you die Seifer, not without making you see how much I love you... "

Silence. It almost felt like his heart stopped beating, that the tide, and the sunrise all stopped.

And waited.

Please, Seifer... please... you can't just quit, not because of me...

Then there was a fist curling into his shirt front, hauling him up to a sitting position. Then Seifer's chest against his, the blond's chin resting on Squall's shoulder as the binds behind his back were untied.

For a moment, neither of them moved, time graciously holding it's breath, giving them a luxurious second to catch theirs.

As naturally as blinking, Shiva filled his mind, powers linking to junctions linking to magic in a heartbeat, like plugging in a sophisticated electrical gadget. He drew slightly away from the suddenly awkward weight leaning against him, pressing trembling fingers from one gunblade scar to the other, whispering the words of the spell. The beautiful blue light illuminated every darkened corner of the room.

Curaga might not have been completely necessary for the actual wounds, which whilst being deep, were clean. But he had to make sure.

As the last sparkles of magic faded, the weight against him slumped, limply.

"Seifer... ?"

No... I wasn't too late, I know I wasn't...

Squall grabbed the blond's shoulders, shaking him a little harder than he'd intended.


With hands that were still tingling with renewed sensation, he searched clumsily for a pulse, whimpering his relief out loud when he found it. Fast and thready, but there.

"Hold on... please... "

He had no idea what he would do if Seifer's recovery required more than high-level magic, and frantic hoping. Had no idea where the closest medical centre was in this Godforsaken place, how long it would take to get there.

For one desperate moment he considered calling Garden, getting someone to send the 'Rok to pick them up. Considered it, before figuring Seifer was probably safer in this precarious situation, than back there.

Bits and pieces of training they'd been given for those highly unlikely occasions in the field where restorative magic wasn't available, clicked in his mind. From the horror-movie mess Seifer had made of his hotel room, the blood loss seemed to have been more steady than acute, which was a small comfort. The human body could withstand an amazing amount of gradual bleeding before it gave in, but a massive, sudden loss would have probably rendered Seifer unconsciousness a long time before Squall was in any position to help. Chances were that the site and manner of the cuts, while dramatic, would already have begun to clot.

And while cures wouldn't make much difference, there were beneficial side effects from other magics that could help. Regen for energy boosts, the cleansing of Esuna, Haste to kick-start the metabolism to recover the lost fluid volume.

Not the most appropriate use of such potent spells, but these were extreme circumstances.

He lay the blond gently back against the wrinkled, stained sheets, before casting cure on himself. He'd be no use to Seifer if the concussion he figured he had, turned out to be something a lot more severe. He'd made a promise he intended to keep.

"See? You've got to be okay... you've got to hold me to that promise... I won't let you down this time Seifer, I swear... "

He spent several wasted minutes untying the complex knots that bound his ankles to the bedposts, cursing under his breath at his still shaking hands, and Seifer's ingenuity. He'd been right about one thing - standard SeeD emergency prisoner restraint protocol.

"You would have to be paying attention in that class, wouldn't you?" he muttered, unwinding the last of the ropes. "You know, you might be right. Maybe she did take you because she knew better than to make you her enemy."

Either that, or she was as kinky as that awful dress implied.

I really didn't want to think that...

Finally free, he shuffled higher up onto the bed, pulling Seifer back into his arms, tucking the golden head beneath his chin so he could feel those feather-light puffs of breath against his neck. The first laser bright beam of sunrise hit the shaded glass of the balcony door, casting a gauzy shaft of light across the room.

"It's all right now, Seifer... " he whispered into satin soft hair. "Everything's gonna be okay... "

Sometime, during the hours he spent watching the sunlight and shadows waltzing each other across the floor, Squall must have fallen asleep. A combination of alcohol induced stupor, and gunblade-across-the-head unconsciousness apparently weren't all that restful. Added to that was the natural sedating effect of recovery magic, a luxury they couldn't succumb to in battle, where the mind wasn't allowed to compensate for the unnatural physical pressure placed on the body.

No real wonder then, that most of them had slept for three straight days after the defeat of Ultimecia.

Most of them. He'd spent those three days wandering around Garden, revelling in the sheer peace, and generally making a nuisance of himself with the monsters in the Training Center.

For one, sleepy split second, he panicked at the strange, unfamiliar body in his arms, had actually begun to wonder how drunk he had been last night, before the awful events came back to him.

But things weren't exactly as he remembered leaving them when he fell asleep...

He must have shifted position in slumber. He was curled against Seifer's side, one arm wrapped across the blond's waist, his head on Seifer's chest. But hadn't Seifer been wearing his trench coat when he passed out? And hey, wait one second, if Seifer had passed out, then...

Who's fingers were running gently and repeatedly through Squall's hair? Who had pulled the top sheet of the bed over them?

He raised his head in time to see Seifer guiltily lowering the wrist he'd been staring at, impassively.


On around the third attempt, Squall finally remembered how to speak.

"H... How are you feeling?"

"Like I came that close... " Seifer held his thumb and index finger a hair's width apart. "To fucking up big time. Again." He shrugged, looking away.

"Seifer... "

"What? There's nothing left to say, Squall... "

"You can start by letting me apologise... "

"Apologise?" Seifer frowned. "Remind me again, who tried to kill who?"

"No-one did. And for what it's worth, I don't think you'd have gone through with it."

"You don't know that... "

"No, but I know you. Better than you think... " he shook his head. "Which just makes it worse... "

"Makes what worse?"

"That I never realised it until now."

Staring what he could so easily have lost in the face, suddenly brought the crushing weight of relief, and the suffocating opressiveness of guilt crashing down.

Without a second thought to holding back, protecting what was left of his pride, his mask, his heart, he tightened his arms around the blond's waist, and buried his face in Seifer's shirt, helpless to fight the wracking sobs.

"Squall... " Seifer pulled him close, one hand running in soothing circles over his trembling back. "Ssh, sweetheart, it's not your fault... it's never been your fault, baby." He whispered against Squall's hair. "Don't matter which way you look at us, you've always been right, and I've always been wrong. Fuck, if I told you I'm sorry till the day after forever, it wouldn't begin to make up for what I did... but I'll do it, if that's what it takes... "

"I am sorry. For everything. I can't turn the clock back Seifer, I can't take the past away. I can't change the fact that I couldn't even see how much I hurt you... "

"Hey, I did more than my share of that, too. Way more than the acceptable limit... "

"Only because of me... because of the way I was. You never answered me before, but I want you to now. Would it have made a difference, years ago, if I'd have just given you a little attention... a little acknowledgement?"

"I don't... " Seifer sighed. "Maybe, I don't know... it still didn't give me an excuse to be a complete bastard."

"Not an excuse, but it was a reason. One that I never... I know it doesn't count for anything now, but you've been dominating my mind for as long as I can remember... "

"Why didn't you tell me before?"

"Fuck, I could barely speak to people who asked my name, asked how I was. Telling you that you drove me crazy... " he shook his head, feeling the embarrassed blush creep across his face. "I thought about it. Worked out all the things I'd say, but... I'd see you, and I'd freeze... "

"You're doing a pretty good job of it now... "

"Yeah, well... you didn't exactly give me much choice. Besides... " he looked away, feeling the blush deepen. Pathetic idiot "If I... 'd have told you how important you were to me, then you'd just have left... everyone else does... "

"I'd never have... not if I'd known... " Seifer stared at him, frowning. "Is that why you told me now? Because you didn't think I'd make it?"

"Maybe. I guess I figured I had absolutely nothing to lose, and... I wanted you to know."

They were silent for a moment, Seifer's hand still in his hair, his heartbeat a reassuring, steady rhythm against Squall's cheek. The room was draped in shadow, the sunlight outside the window a warm evening amber.

Hyne, how long was I asleep?!

"So you meant... what you said?"

"That I love you?" he glanced up with a wry smile, wondering idly how much blood his face could physically contain without something bursting. "Yeah. I meant that... "

If anything, Seifer's frown deepened.

Oh, God... idiot! All he told you was that he cared, that he wanted your attention, wanted your praise, your approval. That he needed you. And maybe he was stroking your hair, maybe he held you while you cried, but none of that means...

Squall could almost feel the blood draining from his face as he stared down at the arm he still wrapped possessively around Seifer's waist. He snatched it away as though he'd just been burnt.

Fuck, in a way, he had been...

"I... I'm sorry, I shouldn't have assumed... "

"Huh?" Seifer blinked, puzzled. "What are you... Oh!" the wide, slightly smug grin seemed a little out of place. "I get it! You think I don't... "

"But... " he began, before strong arms snaked around him, pulling him back down.

"No, sweetheart, it's nothing like that... I was just... surprised, I guess. Gotta tell you, that ain't exactly what I'd expected to hear you say after I'd nearly... " Seifer sighed loudly. "Not what I'd ever expected to hear you say. And I have no idea why you'd want to love someone like me, after everything I've put you through... "

"Because nothing you've ever done has made me stop... nothing's ever made me think about stopping."

"Bet there were times you wished you could though, huh?" Seifer looked away, but not before Squall saw the D-District prison flash in his eyes.

"No. Not once. Not even when I knew... thought, it was pointless. Not even when loving you was killing me."

"But what about... ?"

"Rinoa? The others? None of them can get to me the way you do... "

"None of them have tried to kill you either... "

"Not in as direct a way as you have, no."

"So you two aren't... "

"No. Never really were, it just seemed... expected, after everything settled down. But she wanted things from me that I'd already given to someone else... "

"Heh... that's the second time she'll have heard that excuse, then... "

Hyne... did she know? Has she known all along? Is that why she...

"I swear Squall, the way you go on about him sometimes... if I didn't know better, I'd think you were in love with him, instead of me!"

"They won't be happy about this... " Seifer went on. "Not least that their golden boy's gone and hooked up with the evil enemy, but unlike you, they aren't gonna be glad I'm still alive. And they won't give me a chance to explain. Then again, I'm pretty certain no-one else back there is harbouring secret desires for me."

"They'd better not." Squall muttered against Seifer's collar bone.

"Jealous, Leonhart?" he heard the smirk, felt it in the vibrating purr, rather than saw it.


"Good... "

The tone was so uncharacteristically tender, Squall raised his head, breath catching in his throat at the expression in those beautifully vibrant emerald eyes.

"But you don't have to be. Cause even if they found a way of getting into my soul, and managed to create the ultimate, perfect match for me, I'd have to tell them they were too late. I've already found him... "

"Seifer... "

The kiss was soft, chaste, nothing more than a slow brushing of closed lips. They drew apart for a second, stormcloud blue meeting meadow green. Then their lips met once more, sweetly fierce, Seifer's darting tongue dragging an electric tingle along Squall's lower lip.

We could have lost this... could have lost it before it ever had a chance to begin, you stupid, dumb, beautiful fool...

That knowledge made Squall impatient, and made Seifer gasp against the insistent little nibbles that teased at his lips, begging permission, demanding entrance that was immediately granted.

Like fuel to fire, the moment the kiss deepened, it became a soul consuming blaze, hot and uncontrollable. Lips parting, mouths slanting, tongues engaging in an ancient, primitive dance. Squall's fingers tangled in Seifer's hair, one of the blond's arms banded around his shoulders, the other sliding beneath his shirt, warm fingers tickling the hollow at the small of his back.

Warm. And alive, and here, and... oh, god, Seifer...

After a while, the inquisitive touch crept lower, under the waist of pants that were still half undone from earlier, the palm curving gently around the swell of a buttock, fingertips dipping teasingly into the warm valley in between.

Squall's breath hitched, the whimper swallowed by another sweet, yearning sweep of Seifer's tongue over his. The hand beneath him tightened, drawing him closer, lifting one of Squall's thighs over the blond's.

He did break the kiss, with a soft, breathless moan, when Seifer moved against him experimentally. Seemingly pleased with Squall's reaction, strong hands pulled him further astride Seifer's hips, until one of the brunette's knees was pressing into the mattress, the other was tucked up above the blond's waist.

He felt a sudden, overwhelming need to move, to create some kind of friction, something, anything that would assuage the urgent ache building in his groin. An ache that was only being heightened by Seifer's lazy kisses, and gently kneading hands, and the way this goddamn position pulled the soft leather of his pants right across his rapidly growing erection, the taut material rubbing mercilessly.

It didn't help much that he could feel Seifer's answering hardness against him, could feel the sheer heat of it, even through black leather on grey denim.

Didn't help that Seifer was holding him still, wouldn't let him move, wouldn't do a damn thing to slake the sparking tension that coiled through Squall's nerves like an overwound guitar string.

At least, not until Seifer thrust against him, gently, just once.

Hyne, once was almost enough...

"Seifer... !" he cried out, hips grinding down reflexively onto the body beneath his.

"Easy... " Seifer murmured into his hair, as Squall panted heavily against the strong column of the blond's neck. "Someone's kinda eager... "

"I'm sorry, I... " he tried to avoid that piercing jade gaze, as Seifer tilted his chin up.

"Hey, did I say that was a bad thing?" Seifer smiled, pressing a light kiss to Squall's forehead, the tip of his tongue tracing the scar he'd inflicted. "And maybe it is sexy as hell, but I'm guessing leather's a bitch to dry-clean... " While one hand still held Squall firmly against him, Seifer's other hand returned to the task he'd begun hours ago, fingers lingering agonisingly over the heated skin beyond Squall's zipper.

Their hands brushed as Squall reached down to return the favour, desire making his already trembling fingers even more clumsy.

But his hand froze, with just a single button unfastened on Seifer's jeans.

Froze, unable to do anything but moan helplessly into the swiftly descending kiss, as his throbbing cock was released from its tortuous leather confines, and into Seifer's teasing, waiting grasp.

"... Seifer... "

"Ssh... " the blond continued to kiss away the anxious gasp, his fingers slowly closing around Squall's shaft. "It's okay, sweetheart... just keep doing what you were doing... I want to feel you against me, baby... "

It was difficult enough to keep breathing, feeling those skilled hands around him, but he somehow managed to command his jittery touch to comply with the seductive order. The last couple of buttons seemed to take forever. He cursed the damn things under his breath, hearing Seifer chuckle softly against his temple.

"Don't you fucking dare think about ripping them, Leonhart. Or you can buy me a new pair."

Hmm... …okay, that sounds reasonable.

Any indignant protests Seifer was about to make melted into a rumbling groan that began deep in his throat, escaping his parted lips in a sweet, uninhibited cry, as Squall pushed the rough denim as far down the blond's thighs as he could reach.

Oh, sweet, fucking tap-dancing Hyne...

The moment their erections touched, Seifer arched up against him, pulling Squall even closer, effectively trapping their aching arousals between their quivering bodies.

But even that wasn't enough, wasn't close enough, didn't satiate the wild intoxication running rampant through his bloodstream, screaming at every nerve ending.

One arm clinging desperately around Seifer's neck, Squall reached his free hand down between them, making them both gasp when his questing fingers met hot, slick flesh. Even with his hand stretching as wide at it would go without dislocating something, it was still barely enough to press their hard shafts together as he thrust uncontrollably against the blond.

Hell, no wonder you need two hands on your gunblade, Leonhart...

Already teetering on the edge, he distantly heard Seifer cry out his name, before his vision turned to swirling monochrome, flecked with tiny multicoloured stars, and he felt his climax spill over his fingers, surging over their stomachs. His climax, then Seifer's a moment later.

Hyne... that must be the most fun you can have with your clothes on...

They lay there for a moment, a little dazed, and only partially sated. Squall drew his hand back, staring mesmerised for several seconds at the sticky white substance that coated it, until Seifer grabbed his wrist gently. Squall watched, wide-eyed and dumbstruck as the blond delicately sucked on each of his fingers in turn, licking his hand clean before leaning down to kiss him, the heady cocktail of their intermingled tastes still on his tongue.

But far from being dissipated, the intensity in their kisses just seemed to have been banked to full flame, mouths hot and demanding, the embrace bringing their bodies as close as physically possible.

Not close enough...

Not unless...

"Seifer... ?" barely even thinking, he broke the kiss breathlessly, needing to be able to see those fiery eyes.

"What, sweetheart?"

"Make love to me... "

Green eyes blinked, then narrowed. Not with hesitation, or uncertainty, but... with something that looked an awful lot like concern. The intent gaze searched his own eyes for a long moment.

"Are you sure... ?"

"Yes... "

A familiar spark glinted in those emerald depths, curved the corners of full, kiss-bruised lips. If he didn't want Seifer so badly, that look would have scared the shit out of him. An intrinsically predatory expression that made Squall suddenly feel as though he'd just gone and painted a bullseye target on his ass.

I'm the prey, come and get me.

He was a second away from repeating his demand, when he found himself flipped onto his back. Seifer's lips nuzzled against his throat, his hands sliding beneath Squall's shirt, dragging the soft fabric up, letting go of the brunette long enough to tug the offending garment over his head. Then Seifer's kisses were trailing along his throat again, teasingly edging lower, slow wet nibbles travelling down Squall's chest.

His fingers raked restlessly through Seifer's hair, winding ruthlessly in the golden strands as a probing tongue circled one of his nipples, teeth grazing carefully over the sensitive nub. A frustrated moan escaped Squall's lips, as the infuriatingly light touch moved on way too soon.

"Liked that, huh?"

"... yeah... so shut up and keep doing it... "

Seifer's soft laugh was a warm breath across his abdomen that made him shiver, made already tense muscles twitch of their own accord. The blond's hands rested on Squall's hips, Seifer's head pillowed against his stomach for a moment, almost in a quiet kind of reverence.

Funny, he'd never expected Seifer to be this patient, this tender... this loving, even though he hadn't actually said the words...

But before the doubts could take root, every coherent thought was blasted from his mind, as Seifer bent his head, administering a slow, deliberate lick along the length of Squall's erection, the warm wet tongue swirling over the swollen head, pressing knowingly into the slit at the tip.


Squall tried to thrust up, yearning to feel that delicious warmth surrounding him completely. But Seifer had already drawn away, busying himself instead with peeling the tight black leather from Squall's legs.

It might not be intentional this time, but I swear to Hyne, he's going to kill me, one way or another...

The blond gently bent one of Squall's legs up, trailing butterfly kisses from the crease behind his knee, up along the vulnerable, velvety skin of his inner thigh, lips brushing maddeningly close...

Not close enough.

"Seifer... please... "

He hadn't expected his tormentor to relent quite so enthusiastically. Squall's back arched clear off the mattress as Seifer took his entire length into his mouth, enveloping his penis in an exquisitely sweet vacuum, while long, elegant fingers cupped his balls, squeezing fondly.

Somewhere in the back of his delirious, foggy mind, Squall wondered dimly when, where, how Seifer had learnt precisely how to drive him insane.

And if Seifer had been thinking of him at the time...

He could feel white-hot electricity arcing in his veins, beginning to cloud his vision, when Seifer pulled away. Stunned and confounded, Squall tried to sit up, fully prepared to bawl like a petulant child if he didn't get his way... if he could actually speak...

The glazed look in almost glowing green eyes stopped him dead. Seifer's eyes were dark with unbridled desire, and he was breathing hard through parted, swollen lips. He leant back on his heels, hands rising to the collar of his own shirt, unfastening the buttons, his gaze never leaving Squall's as he whispered;

"Touch yourself... "

Squall blinked, swallowing hard as he contemplated the words he must have just imagined, must have dreamt up in some wanton fantasy...

But several seconds later, by which time he'd convinced himself this wasn't a dream, Seifer was still watching him, expectantly... hungrily.

Unconsciously, he felt his hands skirting over his flushed skin, one ghosting across his nipples, rubbing the already tightened peaks, the other dropping to his lap. His fingers closed around himself, still slick from the blond's ministrations, the grip automatically moving in familiar strokes. His eyes fluttered shut, that electricity beckoning at the edges of his senses...

Seifer laughed softly.

Squall's eyes snapped open, his hand stilling self-consciously. Acutely humiliated, he was suddenly aware of what he'd been doing... how the fuck had Seifer managed to convince him to... ?

"No... " the blond grinned wickedly, with a slight shake of his head. Something about that smirk made Squall's heart hammer against his ribcage, his breath quicken. "Touch yourself... show me where you want me to be... "

"W... what?"

Every rational thought told him he couldn't. Every shameful fear told him he shouldn't.

And all those anxious doubts whispered that he wouldn't anyway.

But they were all silenced by the longing that raged in those emerald orbs, that called to an answering yearning in Squall himself.

The need to let go, the desire to lose control, the desperate urge to surrender. To give himself up utterly to the only one he knew for certain would keep him safe in his submission.

Supporting himself on one arm, he leant back slightly, spreading his legs wide, and letting his hand slip lower. His eyes never left Seifer's as his stroking fingers found that amazingly sensitive puckered opening, brushing over it a few times, before pushing a fingertip slowly inside.

They were barely even touching, but they both sucked in a loud ragged gasp at the same moment. Seifer stood unsteadily from the bed, and kicked off his jeans. Kneeling back between Squall's parted thighs, he brushed his hand over the brunette's own intimate caress, before pressing his finger against Squall's tentative touch, forcing them both deeper.

Squall's muscles clenched against the intrusion, but Hyne if it wasn't so damn hot, and tight, and the way it clung to their fingers...

"Oh, god... Squall... " Seifer pulled him fiercely closer with his free arm, burying his head against his shoulder, the lips against Squall's neck alternating between wet, open-mouthed kisses and shaky gasps. "Fuck... I want to be inside you, baby... "

Squall could do nothing but nod mutely, reluctantly disentangling his hand from Seifer's, wrapping both arms tightly around the blond's neck as another finger was added to the first, stretching him. He grimaced in pain as the third finger joined the others, his body tensing sharply in Seifer's strong embrace.

The blond pulled away slightly, watching him with concern.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, it's just... I've never... " he began, the incriminating words slipping past his lips before he could stop them.

The flexing fingers inside him slowed, but didn't stop, and the light kisses against his flushed face prevented Squall from turning his head away in embarrassment.

"... Never?" Seifer murmured.

"No... "

After a moment's considering pause, Seifer kissed him again, slow and deep.

"Then I'll make it perfect, baby... I swear." Seifer lay him back tenderly against the rumpled, sweat-soaked sheets. "It's gonna be beautiful sweetheart... Just relax... "

Squall reached up, brushed one trembling hand over Seifer's cheek.

"I trust you."

Seifer froze. Bewildered green eyes blinked, became unusually bright.

"You... you trust me? Even after... ?"

"Yeah, even after... I guess that's just one more thing I took for granted that somehow you knew... " Squall shook his head, offered the blond a nervous, rueful half-smile. "Kinda like the fact that I love you... "

"Squall... " Seifer held him crushingly close, kissing his hair. Squall wrapped his arms around the blond's heaving shoulders, whispering reassurances while Seifer fought ruthlessly against the barely restrained sobs that shook him.

But Seifer Almasy just doesn't cry. Seifer Almasy just keeps everything bottled up inside until it all breaks apart, and he thinks he's left with no alternative but to take his own life. His own, and the one who caused all the pain in the first place...

Sorry, baby... I can't let that happen again.

He reached up, pressing both palms to impossibly dry cheeks, and turned Seifer's face to his.

"It's okay. We've never had to pretend with each other Seifer, and you don't have to now. You're... we're allowed to hurt too... "

He kissed away the single tear that spilled from glittering green eyes, before taking the trembling blond tightly into his arms, rocking him gently, kissing, stroking every bit of flesh he could reach, telling Seifer how much he loved him over and over until the heartbreaking shudders eventually slowed.

So we've both seen the sights of hell. I packed his suitcase for him, he bought me my ticket. We're probably due a trip to heaven.

He glanced over at the nightstand, searching for anything they could use, finally settling on a small bottle of unscented hand lotion. Careful not to dislodge the zealous arms around him, he stretched a hand over to retrieve the bottle, flipping the cap open and drizzling a generous amount into his palm.

Seifer sucked in a surprised hiss, as the cool, slippery hand closed around the silken, feverish skin of his straining erection, and slowly began massaging the lotion into the hard flesh.

"Squall... ?"

"Please, Seifer... "

The lotion bottle was fumbled from his hand, before being discarded in the messy sheets.

Two fingers sunk back into him purposefully, with far less resistance than before. And, with far less pain, the strange sensation actually felt good. Very good. But although he squirmed, bucked, tried to push Seifer's long probing digits deeper, it was still a frustrating fraction from enough. Like reaching for something, feeling it brush against his fingertips, not quite being able to touch.

He moaned at the loss when the fingers were withdrawn, only to breathe the blond's name as he was pressed back against the bed, Seifer's hands gently bending Squall's legs up, and even wider apart.

"Relax, sweetheart... " a soft kiss whispered against his chest. "I'll go slow, but this might hurt a little... "

He tried to, but couldn't help from tensing, feeling the tip of Seifer's cock nudging against him, pushing into him with insistent persuasion. A sweet coercion that momentarily over-rode the fear, and the sharp radiating pain, as he was entered by something considerably thicker than the blond's fingers.


"It's okay... " Seifer murmured hoarsely. "It's gonna be okay Squall... gonna be perfect, I promise, just... just relax for me, baby... "

"I... " he shook his head, frantically, eyes squeezed shut. "I can't, I... "

"Sure you can sweetheart... " Seifer brushed back Squall's sweat damp bangs, pressing kisses along his jaw, down his throat. "You're doing great, baby... just... " his words trailed off into a groan when Squall did as he was told, taking the blond in just a little deeper. "Oh, God... That's it, baby... relax... " Seifer went on, setting a rhythm between soothing touch and gentle cajoling, until he was finally buried up to his hilt inside Squall.

The pain was rapidly fading, replaced by the feeling of being filled utterly, and the overwhelming sense of completion. Of being wrapped around the fragment of his soul he'd always known he was missing.

"Oh, Gods... I love you so much Seifer... "

"Squall... " his name was a whispery gasp from the blond's lips. "Squall, look at me... "

He blinked, hardly even aware that his eyes has been closed. But they had to be... he must have been blind not to see that passionate devotion in Seifer's eyes before. Eyes that burnt with more emotion than Squall could ever recall seeing before.

"I love you, Squall... "

Before his shattered mind could even begin to assimilate that information, Seifer started to move. Slow, measured thrusts, each one caressing something within him that made him want to scream in pleasure, that made stars explode and galaxies collide behind his eyelids. Reflexively, he wrapped his legs around the blond's waist, arching up, forcing the strokes deeper.

Seifer complied, entwining his fingers with Squall's, and pinning their hands to the mattress as his pace quickened. Hard, powerful thrusts that made the entire bed frame shake. Then strong arms were around him, lifting him up so that Squall was astride Seifer's thighs again. His fingers dug roughly into Seifer's shoulders, head lolling back in a silent scream as the simple gravity of the position drove the twitching erection inside him even further in.

"Squall... " Seifer kissed him, breathlessly tender. One hand slid down between their bodies, wrapping decisively around his pounding shaft. The brunette's muscles clamped down around Seifer in response. He felt a distinct throb, followed by the sweet, hot rush of the blond's orgasm flood inside him. One more graze of Seifer's hand around him was enough to send Squall plummeting into the beautiful void after his lover.

His lover...

He loves me...

They lay in each others arms for several long moments, listening to each other's heartbeats, each other's breathing. Idly, Squall's fingers curved around Seifer's wrist, delicately tracing the pale pink line that crossed it.

"Don't you ever, ever think about doing anything like that again, do you understand?"

Seifer grinned.

"And here I was thinking you'd enjoyed it... you know, we're gonna have to burn these sheets before someone sees them... "

"I didn't mean that." He fought weakly against the blush that tingled his face. "That was amazing... I meant... "

"Yeah, I know." Seifer nodded, suddenly serious. "Fuck... feels like another lifetime, doesn't it? Like it happened to someone else" he ... sighed, leaning down and brushing his lips against Squall's. "But I won't... I swear. Why would I want to? I might not have known it before, but I just realised I had something worth living for... "

"So you meant what you said... ?"

"That I love you?" the blond smirked, mimicking Squall's own earlier words. "Yeah, I meant that."

They kissed again, yearning and slow. There were probably a hundred things they'd have to discuss, decide... not the least, what the hell were they going to do, from now on. He doubted Seifer would want to go back to Balamb, and looking back over the past few weeks, Squall wasn't sure if he belonged there anymore either.

But that could wait. After all, they were still on vacation.

Briefly, he wondered how things might have worked out if he hadn't given in to Quistis's pestering. No, it wouldn't have mattered. It would just have been another, time, another place.

"There's no way you can run from him... It's kind of like your destiny to face him."

That was okay. He didn't want to run anymore anyway. He was perfectly happy lying in the strong, protective arms of his destiny, without a single care about anything more serious than how they were going to explain away the mess in the room before they left. Not a single care, he realised sleepily, and not planning the future any further than waking up in Seifer's arms in the morning. If he tried, he could just about hear the rhythmic flow of the tide lapping at the bay below.

Walks along the beach had never seemed so appealing.


~*~ FIN ~*~



Authors Notes: Yay!!! Shamelessly sweet Squifer!!! With a happy ending!!! Probably the most graphic thing I've done so far. And it was never meant to be this long... it just... kinda developed a twisted little mind of it's own (would have broken it up into chapters too, but figured I'll leave that until I work out FF.Net's new upload system!). And yeah, I know Squall talks too much. And I know the actual physiological effects of Seifer's suicide attempt are way off beam, but hell, if they can carry mystical god-like beings in their heads, then I'm guessing their physical make-up isn't exactly normal either. (that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it!) The basic theme is probably familiar to anyone who's read `Actions Speak Louder`, but I still can't get my head around the way everyone just LET Edea more or less kidnap Seifer, without batting so much as an eyelid. If I was Seifer, I'd be pretty pissed off about that ^_<.

BTW, Cambria Bay owes both it's name and landscape to Seshat's Welsh heritage. (Wonder if there are any Welsh people on FF.Net?)


Love reviews (*bats eyelashes in a winsome fashion*) Please? Pretty please?

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