Author's Notes: This fic goes in the happy fluffy LxS arc. ^_^
Worth a Thousand Words
By Black Rose
"So," he asked me once, over lunch, "is the sex actually that good?"
I could have died. I could have just fucking died of embarassment, sunk straight through the floor and kept on going. My face was so hot it hurt and I choked on my last bite until he had to reach across the table and thump my back to get me to breathe. And him looking casual and innocent the whole damn time.
Don't *ever* buy that act. That whole suave, elegant, exotic look and the butter won't melt in his mouth routine. Kiros has a tongue like hot drops of acid thrown on you once he's set off and I've been on the receiving end of that often enough to know.
Like now. For *months*. I had been hoping I might finally be off the hook - the endless jabs and arguing and sarcasm had finally trickled away and we had almost gotten back to normal and I had *hoped*... until he brought it up again. In the middle of a restaurant during the lunchtime rush. While I was trying to eat.
He pounded my back while I coughed. If anyone was too concerned that the President was possibly choking to death over his lunch you couldn't have told it by me. When I could breathe again my first gasp was, rather understandably, "Gods damn it!"
Kiros shook his head, leaning back in his seat. "Don't be so touchy. I'm serious. I want to know what the hells has been going through your head."
"According to you, three weeks ago, absolutely nothing," I snapped. "Don't tell me you all of a sudden had a change of heart and approve."
"Fine," he shot back. "I won't, because I don't. But give me some credit, Laguna. Let me hear your side of it."
"I don't know why I should," I replied sourly. "You've already made up your mind."
"And your speciality is changing people's minds," he responded mildly. "So do your best. Change mine. Make me understand." His smile might charm everyone else but I've known him too long to let that smooth look get to me, not when he's ticking points off on his fingers like sliding bullets in a clip. "Why? Because I've been at your side longer than he's been alive. Because I stood witness at your fucking wedding, old man. And because if I fall over of a heart attack tomorrow I want to be able to face Raine in the afterlife and try to explain to her why her former husband is in bed with her son. That's why."
"You're not going to have a heart attack," I growled, "because the gods aren't that nice to me."
"And I'm in better shape then you are," he added, then sighed. "You owe me, Laguna. If not for anything before then because I haven't said a word while he's visiting. Not one fucking word. For that alone you damn well *owe* me."
I shoved my plate away; the food was suddenly no longer half as appetizing as it had been. "You know, Ward took this a hell of alot better then you have."
"Ward," Kiros replied, "is very good at ignoring things he doesn't want to think about too closely. Now *talk*, Laguna. I'm all ears."
"You're all *something*, that's for sure," I hissed across the table. "Why the hells ask me *now*? Why not months ago? And why," I added, trying to keep my voice down, "like *that*? I can not fucking believe you actually asked..." but I broke off because the corner of Kiros' mouth was twitching in a dead give away. Swearing, I picked a crouton out of my salad and threw it at him. "Fuck you."
"Your dance card is a little busy already," he replied dryly, the grin he had been trying to hide breaking through. "You should have seen the look on your face."
"So glad I could provide free entertainment."
"Tst. You're no fun to tease when you're like this." Kiros pushed his own plate away and signaled for a refill of our drinks. "Fine. We'll be serious. *Talk* to me, Laguna."
"Now?" I demanded but Kiros wasn't going to be swayed. Sighing, I leaned my head back, shaking my hair out of my eyes. "What am I supposed to say? What do you *want* me to say?"
"Whatever you need to say," he said firmly. The waiter came by with our refills, whisking away the old glasses in quiet efficiency, and Kiros waited until he was gone to rap his knuckles against the tabletop. "Stop spazzing on me, Laguna. I'm not liable to say anything I haven't already said, for Hyne's sake. So explain it to me." His grin, that time, was more heartfelt, startlingly white against dark skin. "Small words, one syllable, just like back in boot camp. Explain to me why you're fucking your own son."
Putting it like that, no matter what tone he used, made me twitch. I covered it up and pretended to consider for a moment. "I don't think we had words for that in boot camp."
Kiros' grin turned wry. "We had plenty, we just didn't use them in real conversation. Now stop getting sidetracked."
"Laguna." The problem with old friends is that they know all of your tricks just as well as you know theirs.
"Fine," I growled. "I already told you. Weeks ago. What else can I say?"
Kiros sighed, that sort of long suffering sound he seems to use most around me. "You can stop acting like a school boy hauled in for detention and *talk* to me. Why *him*?"
"Because..." Two word question. Very simple. But my mouth stumbled over an answer - any answer - when dozens of them sprang to mind and tangled all together, tripping over my tongue. /Because I need him. Because he needs *me*. Because it's right, because it's good, because it works... Because I didn't mean to, because it was an accident, because it happened before I knew what hit me, because we were both a little drunk... because it started like that but turned into something more.../
Kiros was staring at me, dark eyes steady and level, and I choked on the answer around a tongue that felt too thick in my mouth. "Because I love him."
"Lots of people," Kiros replied evenly, "manage to love their sons without leaving hickies all over their necks. Which," he added, considering, "you might want to stop doing before his vacation is over and he goes back to Balamb. Garden uniforms don't have high collars."
"Kiros!" He waved at me to quiet down, which I had to force myself to do.
"Sorry," he said, and for once he actually sounded like he meant it. "Laguna... I've honestly been trying to understand. But I don't. I don't like it, I don't understand it, and I can't make any sense out of it." Kiros shook his braids back, the beaded ends clattering against the back of his chair. "Doesn't mean I'll say shit, you know that... but if you want me to understand you're going to have to explain it to me so that I can."
He sat there, waiting, and I stared back. The bustle in the restaurant went on around us, voices and the clink of silverware and the rush of sound from the kitchen as waiters went back and forth through the doors. Kiros just looked at me.
And there we sat.
I had to try twice to find my voice, croaking the words out thinnly. "I can't." Pushing my chair back, I tossed my napkin down beside my abandoned plate and got to my feet. I could still feel his eyes on me when I walked out.
Hours later and those same two words were still haunting me. I scrawled a note on a page without seeing it, hard enough to make the pen tip spatter blots of ink across the paper that smeared when I swiped my hand across it.
/I love him./
My secretary took one look at my face when I walked in after lunch and transfered my line to her own desk in the outer office, fielding my phone calls. I shut the door of my office, rolled up my sleeves, and sat down at the mountain of paperwork that seemed to perpetually occupy the greater majority of my desk.
/Lots of people love their sons without.../
My hands went through the motions, note, sign, type, all without much concious input from my mind. The words were spinning through my head like dust across the salt flats.
It isn't right. It isn't any kind of right, and don't think for a moment I don't know it.
/Make me understand./
It's none of his business. It's *my* business, mine and Squall's, and that's it. Period. End of discussion. People can make all of the judgements they want, from the outside looking in, and words alone aren't ever going to really explain it to them.
It can't be explained. They're not us and they're not going to understand. What the fuck does Kiros expect me to say?
I love him. Can't that be enough?
I don't know any more. I just don't know. All I know is that when we're together, it's *right*.
But I can't fucking explain that. There aren't words for it. How do you put words to feelings? All of the god awful sappy poetry of the world aside... you don't. Not really.
How the hell can I explain it to Kiros when I still don't understand why *he's* with *me*?
It wasn't until the door chime sounded that I realized the light was coming more from my desklamp than from the windows, the afternoon gone and disappeared into early evening when I wasn't looking. There was a crick in my back that protested - loudly - when I straightened and my fingers were starting to cramp. "Come in!"
I was, I realized, half tensed for round two with Kiros; he has an uncanny knack for knowing how long to let me cool off before starting in again. But the door slid back for Squall and one look at him clicked everything back into place in my head and I had my mouth open, the words tumbling out, before he could even draw breath. "Oh... *fuck*! Squall, I'm sorry, I totally lost track of the time..."
He let the door shut behind him with a half shake of his head and held up a bag. "Relax. Michi said you were busy, so I brought dinner."
"But..." I glanced around my desk as though it might have the answers but all there were was stacks of paper and the chronometer, which was glowing with an accusingly late hour. "I'm *sorry*, we were going to go out..."
"Relax," Squall repeated. "We can go tomorrow. Here, clear a spot..." I hastily dumped one pile of papers onto the top of another, baring enough of my desk's actual surface for Squall to put the sack down. "Barbeque," he volunteered, before I could ask. "From that place you like down by the park." He pulled a container out of the bag and cracked it open, looking inside critically, then passed it to me. "Hot. That one's yours."
"You didn't have to do this," I tried to protest, but the scent of the sauce, sweet and spicy all at once, was filling the office. "Hyne, that smells good. Didn't eat much at lunch."
Squall snagged the chair from the other side of my desk, sliding it around to sit beside me. "Michi mentioned that," he remarked mildly, grabbing the other container and cracking it open. "Said you had lunch with Kiros, came back in a snit."
I almost choked on a piece of extra spiced torama. "My *secretary* told you that?"
He just shrugged, indicating it should have been obvious. "I asked."
"And she just tells you anything you ask?" I sputtered. "And... wait... since when are you on a first name basis with her?"
"I'm not," Squall replied around a mouthful of his own dinner. "She calls me 'commander'." He swallowed, a grin glinting more in his eyes then on his lips. "Michi has a fondness for candied Galbadian roko fruit and the seasonal ales from the Palesand brewery in Balamb. Both of which I can get a hell of alot cheaper then she can from the import shops around here."
I blinked. "You're *bribing* my secretary."
"We have an understanding," Squall said succinctly. "Somebody has to keep an eye on you when I'm not here."
He tapped my ankle lightly with one boooted foot under the desk. "Joking," he assured me. "So what did Kiros want?"
I bit back a groan. "Nothing," I said firmly, putting the container down to rummage around in the bag for a can of soda. Squall just nodded, not pressing, and I sat back with a sigh, retreiving my dinner. "Thank you," I added, belatedly, indicating the food.
"You're welcome," he replied shortly. A minute passed in silence that was broken only by chewing as we both ate, and then he shifted slightly in his seat, his elbow slipping across the bridge of the chair arms to rest against mine.
Subtle. Unspoken. Just a warm presence at my side, silent but there. Comfortable.
I relaxed, letting the entire afternoon and all of the fretful tension of it slide away. Leaning over, I pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. "Thanks," I repeated quietly.
He twisted his head, catching my mouth against his own; spiced hot, grease and sweet soda, all overlaying the brief taste of his tongue against my own. "Welcome," he whispered, and the smile was on his lips, warm and smooth.
Because I would do anything to make him smile like that. Because I'll never get tired of the taste of him.
Because it's right.
Just that simple, and his smile makes everything right again. I gave in to temptation and licked a smear of sauce off of his cheek, right beside the smooth curve of his smile, and settled back with a smile.
We polished off the rest of the food without talking, Squall finishing his own with habitual haste and tossing it neatly back into the bag. Leaning against my shoulder, he reached out to nudge a stack of papers. "How much more do you need to do?"
I regarded the pile with narrowed eyes as I sucked a splash of sauce off my thumb. "Give me another two hours or so. I've got that cabinet meeting tomorrow and I've been putting it all off..."
Squall made a disparaging sound. "Like you always do." Snagging a page off the top of the stack, he flipped it over to scan through it. "What needs doing? I can forge your signature."
I plucked the paper out of his hand and put it back on the stack. "Squall, there are illiterate toddlers in nomad caravans in the desert who can forge my signature. It's not that hard. And I am *not* going to subject you to this shit."
"Can't be any worse than the paperwork I do," he replied as he reached for a pen. I grabbed it and tugged it away from him.
"You," I said firmly, "are on vacation. Vacation means *not* working, especially not on someone else's work. You are not going to read, sign, file, or pick up so much as one piece of this, and that's final." I'm no class instructor - I've heard Squall put fear in the hearts of SeeD cadets with the tone of a single word - but I'm perfectly capable of putting my foot down and keeping it there, in the face of any amount of workaholic enthusiasm.
Squall just stared at me while I glared, but in the end he shrugged and leaned back in his chair. "Stay with you?" he offered.
Smiling, I leaned over to claim another kiss. "If you want. I certainly won't say no." Squall looked startled when I shoved my chair back, standing, and more startled when I shoved a stack of papers into his hands. "Here. Take those over to the couch."
"I thought I wasn't working," he said dryly as he got to his feet.
"You're not working," I clarified, "you're being useful." A quick hunt through my desk turned up two more pens; I scooped them up, along with my laptop, and followed Squall to the small couch shoved against one wall of my office in a sort of pseudo informal sitting area with a chair and low table. It was almost never used for its intended purpose but the couch, I had found, was just about perfect for catching short naps on in the afternoon.
Right then the table, pulled closer to the couch, served for holding the papers while my laptop balanced neatly on the arm of the couch and I was more then capable of signing just about anything against my own thigh with one foot propped up on the table edge. Which, conveniently enough, left plenty of room for Squall to sit next to me, his shoulder resting against mine as he watched me work. Which I did, probably with more industriousness for that warm presense against my side then I usually managed while sitting in a proper desk chair alone.
I counted two and a half reports and three quarters of an hour by the time display on my laptop before the shoulder resting against mine conceeded that reports were one of the more boring things invented by man and slipped down, finding a more comfortable position against my hip that didn't involve watching me pen notes on scraps of paper. He didn't say anything and neither did I, but he didn't protest when I reached to smooth his hair back from his eyes.
Another half hour, the windows dark and reflecting the passing glow of the distant streets, found his head tucked securely against my thigh, his hand curved around my knee, and the soft rhythm of his breaths interspersed between the rustle of paper and the tap of my computer keys. A glance down proved his eyes were shut, the line of his brow relaxed, and a careful shift of my weight only ellicited a sleepy sort of murmur before he settled back down again.
Score ten points for the Loire stealth plan. Squall invariably showed up in Esthar with circles under his eyes so dark they looked like ink smears - it was my personal goal to make sure that two weeks of cajoled, bribed and enforced rest erased them before sending him back to Balamb, and if the minister of whateverthehellitwas reports couldn't put someone to sleep then I didn't know what could. I brushed his hair back again, the strands sliding through my fingers to fall once more in disarray. Squall barely stirred, eyelids flickering, and I held my breath and the papers quiet until he stilled once more.
I could stealth type with the best, especially when I was only using one hand to begin with. The noise of the papers didn't seem to bother him and when I dropped one pen, watching it roll beneath the table, I bit back the curse that would have woken him far quicker than the tiny muffled thump of the pen against the carpet. Despite that, it was one of the better ways of working that I could think of - Squall's sleeping weight against my side, and the chance to reach out and touch whenever I liked, just lightly, careful not to wake him. The sound of his breath was soothing and the easy press of his cheek against my thigh was a warmth that I didn't want to take for granted.
I was on the next to last report, reading through pages of text that said, as far as I could tell, absolutely nothing with as many words as humanly possible, when the door opened. I managed not to jump but Squall stirred anyways, half twisting, restless on the verge of waking, and I hastily put a hand against his shoulder to quiet him.
"Laguna..." Kiros began as he walked in, but he broke off when I hissed through my teeth, looking up from the papers he was carrying to glance at me. I watched him take in our cozy arrangement on the couch, his eyes flickering across Squall, and felt the tension of the afternoon re-emerge to sink cold into my stomach as he frowned. Beneath my hand Squall shifted and then settled back down again, his breath lapsing into a steady rhythm once more.
Kiros' jaw was tightening but whatever he was going to say I beat him to it, pitching my voice as low as I could and still be heard. "Whatever it is, leave it on the table. I'll get to it."
"I didn't think you were still here until I saw the light on," Kiros replied quietly. His gaze slid back to Squall, his frown deepening. I opened my mouth to cut off the inevitable but Kiros shook his head, the beaded ends of his braids clicking softly. He watched us for another moment, then stepped forward, gesturing to the report I was holding against my knee. "Here. Give me that."
I just blinked at him. "Wha...?" But he had already snagged the report, bundling it up with the others on the table, and neatly stacked them atop his own. "Kiros?"
"I'll finish them," he answered shortly.
"Don't worry about it," Kiros said firmly. He met my gaze, his own eyes darkened to black in the dimmed lights. Jerking his chin slightly, he indicted Squall. "Take him to bed."
My stomach was still trying to abortively tighten into knots in expectation of the sharp retort that apparently wasn't coming. It wasn't until Kiros slipped the pen from my hand that I found my voice again, the first thing I could reply slipping out without real thought. "I can't believe you just said that."
Kiros' smile was the same biting expression I had grown used to over the last months, but it didn't quite reach his eyes and his tone was almost amused. "To *sleep*, Laguna. He needs more of it. So do you. So take him to bed - I don't care whos - and both of you get some sleep."
"Generous of you," I replied, a bit testy. Kiros let the sharpness of my tone slide off him, shrugging.
"I'll have these for you in the morning," was all he said, gesturing with the reports, and then he turned to leave, the door sliding shut almost silently behind him.
When the door clicked shut Squall stirred, rolling over onto his back with a muffled yawn. "Think that was an apology for this afternoon."
"You think?" I echoed, then caught myself, frowning at him. "I thought you were asleep."
"I was, until he came in," Squall answered, the words punctuated with another yawn. "And you know him better than I do."
I sighed, sitting back. Squall caught my hand, his fingers slipping between mine. "Yeah," I admitted slowly. "That was Seagil shorthand for 'sorry I made a scene over lunch'."
Squall's fingers tightened over my own. "Don't worry about it," he advised quietly. "He'll get used to it."
I muffled a groan. "Eventually."
"Eventually," Squall echoed lightly and then smiled, the expression barely touching his lips. "So... you heard the man. Are you taking me to bed or not? This couch is too damn short for two people."
"Far be it from me to disobey orders," I replied. I leaned down to press a kiss to his forehead. "Come on. My rooms are closer."
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