The High Price of Love
March 2006




Smiling at the soft call of my name, I brush aside dark silken hair and proceed to lick the inner curve of the revealed ear.  The body trapped within my arms squirms at the assault, a purring moan escaping the pleasure-starved man.  Encouraged by that unexpected noise, I let my hand journey down across smooth flesh, but I fall short of my ultimate target when a cold hand grabs my wrist in a clawed hold.

"Seifer," the voice calls out again, the soft purr replaced by a harsher growl.  "Wake the fuck up."

"I'm awake," I murmur into cool skin, and then prove my point by grinding my hard-on against the beauty's uncovered hip.  "I'm very awake..."

Without warning or reserve, a sharp elbow lands hard at the center of my chest, the strike painful enough to steal away my breath as I'm forced to release my partner.  Blinking at the escape of the slim man, I watch as Squall crawls clumsily from the bed, his hands busy at the task of adjusting his boxers back into their proper placement.  It's with grave disappointment that I notice that he's hardly aroused after being molested by me, not at all like the eager sex kitten in my dreams.  Well, that sucks.

Spinning around, Squall pins me with a frozen glare.  "You... You..."

With a sigh, I place an arm over my face to block out bothersome light and consider the chances of going back to sleep.  "Sorry 'bout that.  You were more receptive in my dream."

A deep throated growl sounds in response.

I smile, wondering how I managed to transform that angered rumble into a seductive purr.  "Hey, it's not my fault that you bring out the creative side of my subconscious.  And with you being so fucking cold, I'm not left with many other options."

Replying with a simple snort, Squall moves away from the bed and steps to the closet.  Curious, I lift up my arm far enough to view the dark-haired beauty and watch as he removes his tattered shirt with a vicious tug and an incomprehensible mutter.  Given the fact that I wasn't awake last night to witness his undressed state, I'm impressed with my imagination's accuracy about the flawless skin and lean muscles.  But then the moment is ruin as, in a surprisingly quick move, Squall looks over his shoulder to glare at me.  I wince apologetically, not really sorry, but certainly disappointed that I had been caught too quickly.  His scowl deepens at the action before he steps into the closet and shuts the door for momentary privacy.

"Lord, if only that ass wasn't frozen shut," I say to myself as I curl to the side and pull the sheets in close to my body.  And then, with sadistic interest, I glance over to the alarm clock.  "You've got to be fucking kidding me.  Squall, it's six in the fucking morning!"

The closet opens with a quiet creak.  "I know."

"Who in their right mind gets up this early?" I ask while rolling over, but my question is answered without a word from the dark-haired annoyance.  In the brief time hidden from view, Squall had changed into a tank top and tight shorts that hide little from the imagination.  Groaning quietly at the sight of muscular thighs, I'm reminded of my unsatisfied libido as I'm forced to adjust myself under the sheets.  "Never mind.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised that you're one of those people."

A dark eyebrow raised with interest, Squall asks, "What is that supposed to mean?"

"You're a clean freak with an anal streak.  That you also get up too damned early to run or whatever else you do in those gay-ass shorts, well, it just fits."

Sighing at my logic, Squall moves to the door.  "Breakfast is at eight o'clock sharp.  If you want food, I suggest being downstairs on time.  And Seifer," he adds with a hand on the doorknob and a glare focused in my direction, "Don't even think of jacking off in my bed.  The bathroom is just across the hall."

"That's cold of you, princess.  I wouldn't leave a mess if you'd give me a little help," I suggest with a touch of true hopefulness.

"The only help I'd give you is with a pair of dull scissors," Squall mutters in reply as he leaves the small bedroom and closes the door behind him.

I laugh deeply at the harsh reply, finding true enjoyment in the exchange of words.  It's been a long time since I've been given a chance to be myself with a customer.  Too often I have to play the perfect man, whatever that means to the person paying my price.  And though I enjoy the benefits typically involved, I also get drained from playing the refined doctor or respected lawyer that I'm supposed to be.  This is certainly a first to be introduced as exactly who I am... well, aside from the sham of being the dark-haired beauty's boyfriend.  It almost feels like I'm on vacation.

Moving under the sheets, I quickly realize that it's pointless to try and ignore my hopelessly aroused state.  Unfortunately, I'm not feeling brave enough to masturbate here and now.  Squall seems the type to not believe my word and check the sheets for stains once he returns, but while I can assume that far, I can't even begin to imagine the subsequent punishment once I'm found guilty.  All I know is that it won't be the good kind of punishment.  Groaning with irritation, I get out of bed and grab my pants to better cover myself in the chance that someone is wandering in the hallway outside.  Heaven help me if one of Rinoa's friends had decided to wake up early this morning.  But apparently Squall is the only insane person in the house since I don't hear anyone stirring as I limp in the direction of the bathroom.

After I dump my travel bag onto the counter, I turn on the shower for a nice warm flow.  My pants and boxers are quickly stripped off before I grab my necessities from the small bag and jump into the still heating water.  Facing directly in the lukewarm flow, I start into the ever fun processing of deciding on an image to use for whacking off.  As of late, I have been using memories of newest bunny at one of the bars I frequent.  Shiny brown hair, a body that stops traffic, and enough energy to tire out any sex addict.

But as I wipe water from my face and blink at the tiled wall ahead of me, I find myself thinking of pressing a different dark-haired beauty to the wall, Squall's hard, muscular legs wrapped securely at my waist.

"Thank God the prude isn't psychic," I mutter as I press a hand against cold tile and place my other hand at my cock.  It's almost too easy to envision Squall leaning against the wall before me, memories of last night giving me just the right imagery.  I can still taste him, the warm sweetness of strawberry cake an interesting contradiction to the icy facade of the sultry brunet.  A shame he had to pull away and look at me with that terrified gleam to his eyes.

Shaking my head, I rid myself of the interfering picture and go back to the sex kitten I need to finish the job Squall had inadvertently started.  I figure he would squirm and hold back his cries, typical of a man who deprives himself of too much, but he really wouldn't want to escape.  No, he's a man who needs to keep up appearances no matter how much he really does need a cock up his ass.

With firm hold and strong strokes along my erection, I picture lifting Squall up against the tile, one of his legs encircling my waist as he finds his balance with his other foot propped on the edge of the bathtub.  He'd flush at the awkward positioning, probably not accustomed to the more adventurous side of sex.  Good thing I'm around to show him new tricks.  I tighten my hand further, knowing the reserved man must be tighter than most, but I have a feeling he can take it.  With every thrust and draw back, the muscles of his legs and anus would squeeze painfully tight around me, the cautious brunet afraid of being dropped at any moment.  But despite the water and steam, I wouldn't let him fall.  It'd be a sin to let sex end on a bad note like that.

Eventually, Squall would tire on me, his head lolling forward onto my shoulder where he'd surrender to the urge to taste me.  He'd be meek at first with simple licks and soft kisses, but as we both near completion, he'd want to show his anger at me for exposing this side of him, for making him want this.  Lips at the base of my neck, he'd bite to the point of making me groan in bliss and pain, until...

Lost in the visions of my aggressive princess, I reach my peak in a fast and unexpected explosion that leaves me briefly disoriented and short of breath.  Glaring down at the spots of fluid on my hand, I mutter tiredly, "Fuck, he'd probably kill me if I was the one to come first..."

Once regaining some energy, I go through my daily rituals to polish up my appearance for the hours ahead.  Unfortunately, the mix of little sleep and soothing hot water saps the last of my energy.  Wrapping a towel around my waist, I curse my forgetfulness for leaving my clean clothes back in the bedroom, but I can't imagine offending anyone in the short trip across the hall.  At least this time I don't have my flagpole raised.

With no trouble I get to the small bedroom and toss my old clothes in the direction of my suitcase.  Flinging aside sheets from the bed, I plop down onto the bed and decide to steal back an hour of sleep that Squall had taken from me.  I'm clean and presentable at this point, so Squall can wake me whenever he gets back from doing his thing.  Sighing and curling into cool sheets, I silently hope that the difficult guy doesn't decide to let me starve.  Things can only get worse if I get hungry.

"Holy damn," I grumble while lounging back into the wide and not-so-fluffy couch.  "I think I need a nap after all of this."

An amused breath sounds behind me, Squall apparently never one to be sympathetic to my pain.  Pressing a hand against my forehead, I dully wonder if there is actually a chance for me to catch some sleep before the little demon wakes up from her nap.  With everyone else leaving to see some boring college football game, I had inadvertently signed myself up for babysitting duty along with Squall.  I didn't mind at first, thinking it'd be easy to watch over a four-year-old girl.  How in the world I ended up playing 'horsie' for nearly an hour, I don't know, but it has to be Squall's fault.  And after that, there was the chaos that resulted from Raine's brilliant idea to make a wedding cake for 'Auntie Rinoa'.  Let it be noted that children and frosting do not mix.

"Move your hand."

Following the order before thinking about it, I stare at the brunet and watch him bend down closer to me.  Sinful thoughts enter my mind before I notice the wash cloth in his hand.

"Half of your face is blue," Squall states before rubbing the warm cloth against my cheek.  "I think Raine managed to stay cleaner than you with that frosting."

"Hey, she was the one who attacked first."

"You instigated it."

"But she called me a 'doo-doo head' and you let her get away with it," I argue, wincing as he finishes his task with hard scrubs.

"I can't scold her for being right," he replies seriously.

"You're a cold bitch, Leonhart."

Of all things, that comment makes the complicated man smile as he begins to move away.  Not done with him, I wrap an arm around his waist and drag him close once again.  He stares down at me with neutral gray eyes, and I find myself lost for a moment when Squall decides to not fight out of my hold.  Given his hostilities and ruthless words, I tend to forget how handsome this guy is, better than average by far.  Everything about him is refined and delicate with his skin made paler by dark chestnut hair, his movements made graceful by his slim frame, and his words made entrancing with a soft tenor voice.  But his eyes alone add the touch of ice that hardens each of his expressions into something harsh and cold, something the fire in me hungers to destroy.

"Was there something you wanted, Seifer?"

I smile at his bored tone.  "You know what I want, princess."

"Didn't you get enough this morning?"

"Hey, I apologized for that.  What will it take for you to forgive me?"

His eyes narrow into an impressive glare that causes a chill to crawl all the way down my spine.

Removing my arm from his waist, I move back against the cushions and lift my hands in a sign of defeat.  "Alright, I admit that I'm a horrible person.  But you can't blame me for being friendly when you look so good in silk."

"... ..."

"Pale blue is definitely your color," I add, enjoying the way his right eye twitches slightly in irritation.

Apparently beyond words at this point, Squall renews his attempt to reach the kitchen and get rid of his cloth currently stained blue.  With no reason to be subtle, I watch his departure and focus on the slight sway of his ass.  It's with some surprise that I realize that, had Squall walked into a club before this whole messy situation, I would have been on him before he could order his first drink.  And since I know that I have good taste...

"Hey, Squally-boy."

Though there's a delay at my call, the dark-haired beauty eventually shows himself and leans against the framed opening between the rooms.  Arms crossed and tightened lips ready to scowl when necessary, Squall glares at me in a silent 'what?'.

"Sorry to interrupt your Suzie-homemaker moment, but I've been wondering something.  Why didn't you bring your real boyfriend here?"

Dark eyebrows knit in confusion.  "I don't have a boyfriend."

"Come on, with an ass like yours?  You must have some guy you keep on a leash.  I'll bet you even have him trained to hump your leg on command."

An incredulous gaze focused on me, Squall asks, "How can you possibly function in the real world?"

"I manage," I state with a smirk.  "And I notice that you aren't denying anything."

With a barely heard snarl, the stormy-eyed man replies, "Then listen closely - I don't have a boyfriend, or a fuck-buddy, or anything else that your damaged brain can come up with.  There is no one."

"Why is that?"

Squall straightens at the question, most likely because of my suddenly serious tone.  It's fun to tease him about this situation, but now that I'm here and suck with a sore back from activities not related to sex, I have to wonder why I was hired in the first place.  There has to be a good reason this pretty boy doesn't have a lover, especially when he seems to be a family oriented man who would want to attach himself to someone.

After a long time of silence, I prod, "Well?"

Eyes lowered, Squall declares, "It's none of your business."

"Of course it isn't, but how does that stop me from wanting to know?  You have to admit it's strange.  You're fucking gorgeous, too damn smart, and apparently successful if I can believe your father's bragging.  Why hasn't some high-class queer claimed you as his bitch yet?"

"... ..."

I sit up straighter on the couch to show my true interest in this matter.  "There has to be a reason, princess, and I'm going to find out sooner or later.  Why not make this easier on yourself?"

His lips press firmly together in thought, and after a long moment, he turns his head toward the kitchen, efficiently hiding his face from me.  "I won't let myself."

"You won't let yourself do what?  Answer any of my questions?"

"No.  I won't... I can't be with anyone."

For a stunned minute, I stare at the brunet who seems smaller than usual as he hugs himself even tighter with slim arms.  "You can't...?  What kind of fucking answer--"

"Uncle Squall..."

The quiet call from the stairs cuts my rant short since I technically shouldn't swear in front of the little one.  It doesn't matter, anyway, as I've already lost my tenuous connection with the stubborn brunet, his attention now completely focused on Raine.  Squall moves quickly across the room, meeting his young niece just when she reaches the bottom of the stairway.  With one fisted hand rubbing her eyes, Raine stretches out her other arm to grab onto her uncle's hand.

"Raine, I thought you were going to take a nap."

"But, Uncle Squall, I just took a nap.  I'm not tired no more," she declares with pleading eyes, as if being sent back to her room would be worse than a prison sentence.  The fact that she was upstairs for, at most, twenty minutes doesn't seem to matter.

Squall smiles softly, already won over by the little girl despite the weak argument.  "Alright.  Then what did you want to do?"

"Can we watch my movie?"

I look in the direction of where she points and I pale at the sight of the blue box with shiny silver lettering.  My horror deepens when Squall simply nods his permission and Raine rushes to the couch.  With some effort she climbs onto the end opposite of me, but my attention is more focused on Squall and his opening of the DVD case.  And though I'm blessed with the perfect view of his ass when he bends over to place the disc into the player, I still question him the moment he sits on the couch between me and his niece.

"Do I really have to sit through 'Cinderella'?"

Gray eyes shift in my direction, and with a vindictive purposefulness, Squall lifts the remote in plain view before hitting the 'play' button.

"Oh Hell, no.  I'll go watch porn or something in another room," I say as I lean forward in an attempt to escape, but a surprisingly strong hand on my thigh stops me in mid-motion.

"I give her ten minutes before falling asleep," Squall whispers past my ear, his unexpected closeness creating deep shivers throughout my body.

"Even if you're right, then what?" I ask, my voice low and rough.

He seems startled by the question as he moves back and jerks his hand away from my leg.  The corner of his lips twitch into a disapproving frown, but for once, it's not directed at me.  His blue-gray eyes focused inward, Squall stares at his hand as if he had been betrayed by a loyal servant.

Well, fuck me - I didn't think that the overly serious brunet was actually being affected by my persistent closeness.

Feeling smug, I decide that I can suffer through the kiddie version of a chick flick at least this once.  But more importantly, I realize that I can't give Squall the spare moment to collect himself and become colder than ever.  Grinning to myself, I slump back into the pillows and place an arm at the back of the couch, happily ignoring the irritated look from Squall.  Soon enough, I'll change his attitude into something far more amiable.  It's just a question of time.

~ > < ~

"Oh, please, as if that could ever happen."

With a roll of blue-gray eyes at my comment, Squall lifts the remote to turn off the DVD player, that being his full extent of movement allowed with the sleeping girl on his lap.  Against his belief, Raine had managed to stay awake throughout the movie until the final roll of the credits.  Granted, she did fall asleep a couple times, but whenever the movie was halted, she bolted awake and whined with peevish anger at her movie being turned off.  And thus, I had to sit through the whole animated thing.

"Don't tell me that you believe in that 'love at first sight' bullshit?"

Surprisingly, Squall hesitates before saying, "It's possible."

"You've got to be kidding me.  I thought you would be too smart to fall for that kind of romantic crap."

With a slight frown and his gaze avoiding mine, he brushes stray hairs from Raine's face.

Scoffing, I continue to say, "It's never really love, but lust when you first set eyes on a person.  Love can't happen until you actually talk with the guy or gal, and I'm not talking about that stupid sing-along between Cinderella and her closet-fag.  What happens when Cinderella discovers on their wedding night that Charming actually prefers fucking sheep?  Do you think she 'loves' him enough to bend over and say 'baaa'?"

A choking breath sounds and I watch Squall cover a hand over his mouth, not quite fast enough to hide his smile at my random statement.  Proud at the nearly impossible accomplishment, I smirk broadly as I risk moving my arm closer to him, a bare inch from wrapping around slim shoulders.

"Well, that's my argument.  Why do you think it's possible to find love that easily?"

Squall removes his hand, all traces of his previous smile gone.  "I don't really, but sometimes... it's just nice to think it does."

And right there, his voice matches his previous tone before we were interrupted by the unexpected movie break.  It's so tempting to use this chance and ask again about his earlier comment, but by the cold sheen to his eyes, I know that I won't receive an answer with a direct question.  Everything seems to be about timing when it comes to avoiding this man's walls.

Instead of questioning him further, I comment, "Sure it's nice to believe in finding love without any effort, but I have a feeling that both you and I have learned the lessons which teach otherwise."

Stormy eyes narrow in vague hurt before Squall suddenly says, "The others should be back soon.  I need to order the pizza."

It's a cheap and obvious ploy to avoid my questions, but I give the brunet that escape, hoping to catch him off guard another time.  Making certain I brush my arm against his neck as I stand, I watch as Squall readjusts his niece so that he can escape and she can sleep directly on the couch cushions.  How she can remain asleep during that awkward maneuvering, but wake the second her movie was stopped before it finished, I'll never know.

We then both walk to the kitchen, myself needing something to drink and Squall wanting to hunt down the coupons for pizza which his father mentioned were 'in a drawer or something'.  With a bottle of beer in hand, I briefly watch Squall riffle through a couple of drawers that were packed with junk, a fact that made the brunet grumble about three-year-old wire and half-dead batteries.  Eventually bored with that, my eyes are then attracted to the middle island of the kitchen where most of our morning was spent.  I can't remember how it came about, but shortly after 'horsie time', Raine had asked if we could make her aunt a wedding cake.  I was in mid-scoff when Squall had agreed to her suggestion, the bastard apparently unable to deny his niece any request that didn't involve ponies.

Made of two-layers of simple white cake mix, the true character of the dessert comes from its decoration.  It's hard not to smile at the painfully bright blue flowers that Raine had drawn onto the cake with her fingers.  I sadly admit to adding the butterfly to one of her flowers, but it was hardly by my freewill.  The combination of Raine's pleading gaze and Squall's deadly glare ensured my reluctant cooperation in the mess of a cake.

But the real surprise for me was watching Squall both bake and add his touches of decoration to the cake.  The bastard actually knew what he was doing.  And while I was tied up defending myself from a child with frosting, Squall had created a fairly complex border for the flowery scene.  He had even added a few details to the butterfly I had done.  It made me briefly wonder if he was trying to impress his step-sister, but when Raine's eyes had brightened at the sight of 'her' cake, I instantly realized the reason for his extra effort.

Afterward, however, was the real pain.  Raine sent upstairs, I was enlisted to help clean the kitchen that was an absolute mess after a storm of flour, several runaway eggs, and the battle with frosting.  It's almost disappointing that there aren't any signs left to prove all that had taken place.  We should have taken pictures.

The sound of light steps redirects my attention from the cake and I notice Squall about to leave the kitchen.  "Hey, where are you going?"

"The coupon isn't here," Squall replies without stopping.  "I'm going to check his study."

I watch the dark-haired beauty disappear around the corner, and after a quick swig of my beer, I decide to join the man.  It's not like I have anything better to do than to stare at the handsome brunet.  Since he had gotten a head start on me, it takes me a couple of tries before I find the right room where Squall has already continued his search behind a large oak desk.  Not wanting to interrupt his hunt, I glance around at the several tall wooden bookcases that surround the room, but when I recognize a few books that I had read during college, I quickly decide to not bother examining the overly dull titles.

Soon enough, my eye is caught by the open wall closest to the desk where a large number of framed photographs are displayed.  Stepping to the wall, I don't waste much of my attention on the professional photos of the family, though I do find some amusement in Squall's refusal to smile in the pictures that seem to date back to the awkward middle school years.  Of more interest are the random selection of photos, most of Squall and his father.  Again, Squall doesn't reveal that rare smile of his, but instead of a stiff pose, he appears relaxed with the touch of his father, Laguna holding his son close in nearly every photo.

My eyes journey down the collection of pictures and I hold back some laughter at the idea that Laguna was able to convince his son into everything from fishing trips, to marathons, and even into joining boy scouts.  But soon I'm distracted as I notice a frame that had dropped to the floor, a corner on the back printed neatly with the description of 'Raine and Squall'.  Picking it up, I'm stunned for a moment when I don't see the expected sight of Squall holding his niece.  Instead, it's a picnic scene with a brightly smiling boy being held in the overly thin arms of a woman smiling with absolute delight.  So, there was a time when Squall knew how to be happy.

"Is this your mother?"

The sounds of shuffling paper ends before a reluctant grunt comes from the brunet.

"I figured - you got some of her better features.  Why didn't you mention that little Rainy was named after your mother?"

"... ..."

"Alright, stupid question, but it still would've been nice to know.  Anyway, how old were you when this was taken?"

"... Almost nine."

"Looks like you were actually a cute kid," I say as I bend down to place the photo onto the nail it had fallen from.  Turning around to face Squall, I notice a pained gleam to his eyes and the slight bobbing of his adam's apple as he swallows hard.  It's not difficult to guess the reason behind his new mood swing.  "Hey, I'm sorry.  I didn't know that your mother was still an off-limits topic for you."

"No, that's not..."  Lips tight, Squall works his jaw slightly before saying, "I hate that photo.  I thought Dad got rid of it."

"That's kind of cold.  It's a great picture of you and your mother, and you seemed really happy back then.  Why would he get rid of something like that?"

"Because it was a lie," he states while standing up from behind the desk.  "And I can't find that fucking coupon.  I'll just look up their number in the phonebook."

I move quickly, trapping Squall behind the desk before he can run away from yet another conversation with me.  "Forget the pizza.  Why is a picture of you smiling with your mother a lie?"

Eyes of cutting ice glare at me and silently demand for me to get out of his way.

"Don't give me that look, princess.  You can't say something like that and expect me to let it go."

His right eye twitches, but his scowl lightens into something more resigned as he acknowledges that he was at fault for making the comment.  His eyes shifting to the desk top, he fingers an expensive looking pen before saying, "That picture was taken when my father brought her home from the hospital.  They never bothered to tell me that she came home to die."

A whispered word of 'shit' leaves me, a curse at myself for not guessing that only something truly terrible would bother Squall after all of these years.

Looking up at my swearing, Squall glares at me with brilliant blue-gray, his eyes flashing with cold anger.  "The me in that picture thought that the doctors had finally cured my mother, but she died a month later.  That's why it's a fucking lie.  Are you happy now?"

A spark of irritation ignites something within me and I step close to Squall, quickly grabbing onto his wrists before he can think to push me away.  "Of course I'm not happy, you idiot.  How could I be happy about something like that?" I ask while pinning his arms at his back, the action placing us chest to chest.

"Let go of me," Squall demands without attempting a struggle.

Though my anger passes at the defeated hint to his voice, I still shake my head.  "No, I don't think so.  I have some apologizing to do."


I don't give Squall the chance to voice his question as I press my lips against the corner of his mouth in a gentle kiss.  As expected, Squall jerks back at the contact, but there's nowhere for him to go with my hold on him.  I continue to place light kisses along the soft flesh of his lips, asking for him to relax and savor the minimal amount of pleasure I'm trying to give him.  Sadly, he remains stiff and unresponsive for a long, unsatisfying minute.  I'm on the edge of surrender before I feel a light breath against my skin.

"I hate the taste of beer," Squall murmurs while loosening his muscles just a touch.

I smirk at the comment and place another kiss against slightly parted lips.  "Sorry, I'll remember that for next time."

"Next time...?"

I chose not to reply with words, but with an attempt to deepen the real kiss I want to give him, hoping that this one doesn't end abruptly like our one from last night.  Squall doesn't really resist me, but I remain careful as I hold him close, waiting for signs of renewed tenseness that would lead to my tongue getting bitten in two.  It doesn't take long to realize that Squall has decided on a new tactic - to allow me what I want and maybe I'd go away.  Really, this guy is too cute sometimes.

Using my hold on him, I push against his lower back, encouraging him to angle his pelvis forward to place better contact between us.  He slips easily into the perfect position, and even rubs slightly against me, though I'm certain it's by accident.  Afraid of him bolting at any second, I'm extremely careful as I suck at his lower lip to further sensitize the soft flesh and to draw him into a chaste kiss that lasts for several heartbeats.  I then release his lips in a slow, purposeful act before I brush the tip of my tongue across reddened flesh.  It's simple to feel the slight shiver of the body within my arms, but I hold back the instinct to smirk at my win over his stubbornness.

With my fingers trailing along his cooler skin, I release his wrists and take a small step back to give him proper space.  My eyes directly focused on his gaze of softened gray, I say with complete sincerity, "I'm sorry, Squall."

He stares at me, the blue of his eyes sharpening as various thoughts fly through his overwhelmed and stressed mind.  I wait patiently for the reaction he will chose upon, an apparently difficult task as he opens his mouth twice to tell me something, but no words emit from the slightly swollen lips.  My smiling at his hesitant actions certainly doesn't seem to be helping much.

Eventually Squall bows his head forward, hiding his face from me before he says.  "You aren't my boyfriend."

"That's true enough," I agree, but not at all happy with his sober tone of voice.

"Then why do you keep... Why are you still doing this?"

"Because I like you," I state before really thinking about it.  As Squall lifts his head enough to gaze questioningly at me, I quickly try to explain my comment.  "Listen, I know this is a business arrangement, but you're an interesting guy and I'm actually kind of excited to spend more time with you.  And who knows, we both live in New York and have a mutual friend.  I don't see anything keeping us from being friends after we're done here."

"... Why would I want another idiot friend?"

Laughing at his overly dry tone, I wink at him and say, "What if I promise to not charge you for the privilege?  Hmm?"

Squall continues to stare at me, something glimmering in his eyes behind the stony front of gray, but that light is promptly smothered at the sound of a door being slammed open.  When a giggling call of Squall's name reaches us, I sigh at another ruined moment with the brunet.  I don't move except to cross my arms, allowing Squall the passage to escape.  He readily takes that chance, but as he squeezes past me, Squall rests a hand on my shoulder and lifts himself high enough to whisper softly into my ear.

"Your apology is accepted."

And then I'm left alone in the study, my eyes focused on the wall of photos.  Looking down at the image of his smiling mother, I shake my head and ask the woman's ghost, "Your son is an unpredictable bastard.  What the Hell am I supposed to do with him now?"

Seated on a completely uncomfortable bar stool, I lean forward on the counter and enjoy the moment of relative silence.  After an evening of Rinoa's constant whining, Raine's sugar-high yelling, and Ellone's all-around scolding, the typical bar scene with the occasional drunk is more like a monastery in comparison.  I savor the moment for what it's worth, but unfortunately, I soon find out that Irvine had chosen this place to make certain that I could hear his every irritating word while we share a drink.

"I thought I asked you to take it easy on Squall."

I glance at the long-haired man and raise an eyebrow, questioning his reproachful tone.  "I don't remember you saying that."

Irvine huffs while crossing his arms over his chest.  "I told you that he had issues and he didn't need you aggravating him.  But what do you do the moment I'm not around--"

I interrupt him with a harsh laugh.  "Give me a break, Kinneas.  I thought you invited me out here to thank me with a beer, not for a fucking lecture.  Just tell me what's up your ass and get it out of your system."

Violet eyes flash with an interesting gleam that I haven't seen from the mellow guy before.  "Stop making moves on Squall."

"And why would I want to do that?" I ask with a playful smirk.

"I know I asked you to help him loosen up, but after talking with him this morning, I realize that I made a mistake.  He isn't ready to deal with someone like you.  You're just making things worse, not better."

I roll my eyes, curious if Squall had made me sound like a rapist after the morning's event.  "Look, it's not my fault that he has a fucking gorgeous ass, and he knew damn well that I wasn't fully conscious when I molested him.  Anyway, that's old news.  We made up before dinner, so stop babying him."

Irvine continues to glare at me while I sip at my Black & Tan.  Eventually he sighs out a long breath before downing the last of his first beer.  He then motions for the bartender and orders a shot of vodka.

"Careful, pretty boy.  You should know the age old saying, 'beer before liquor, never been sicker'.  And there's no way I'm cleaning up your mess."

"Shove it, Almasy."

I chuckle, amused by this rare side of the casual man.  "Alright, but I thought you promised Squally-boy that you would be a good boy tonight."

"You heard that, did you?" he murmurs in reply.

I nod at the question, somewhat surprised by his sober tone.  We were leaving for the bar when Squall mentioned something about 'no more than three'.  Irvine had agreed without missing a heartbeat and swore his word to the serious man.

The bartender delivers the single shot, one that Irvine downs quickly before ordering another.  Watching him do so, I suddenly realize that I haven't seen this guy drink that much.  It's rather ironic since we first met at a club in New York, but it was his date who had smelled like she had fallen into a vat of tequila.  It was by accident that I had bumped into the blond bimbo, which then resulted in me being covered in puke from chest to toe.  It's ridiculous how that situation had led to Irvine and me becoming decent friends, but that was only after he had helped to clean the vomit from my clothes.

Irvine finishes off his second shot just like he had the first, but this time he smiles with a giddy curl to his lips.  The bartender hovers for a moment in anticipation of the next shot, but Irvine asks for a glass of water instead.

"Okay, I'm done," Irvine says while pushing his shot glass aside.  "I had my three, so don't let me have anything else tonight."

"Wait a minute, that's what Squall meant by three?  What is he, your mother?"

After thanking the bartender for his water, Irvine replies, "He keeps me from being an alcoholic like my parents were."

I stare dumbly at the man and watch him drink his water.  Once the shock has passed, I slump to the bar top and cover my face with a bent arm.  "God damn it, is everything related to that guy a fucking drama-fest?"

Irvine chuckles quietly, but it isn't a very humorous sound.  "I guess so.  His mother's cancer, my worthless family, his fucking ex..."

"Don't forget Rinoa," I mutter, but when I don't receive a sign of agreement, I look at Irvine and meet his confused gaze.  "You know, Rinoa and her fantasy based romance with our moody princeling?"

"Rinoa?  She hates Squall."

"Phft, she doesn't hate Squall.  She hates him for being gay.  It's ruining her plans for a 'happily ever after' type ending.  You saw her yesterday - she first hugged Squall within an inch of his life, but then got all pissy when he introduced me as his boytoy.  Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if she decides to stab me in my sleep for getting between her and Squall."

The long-haired man blinks, his eyes distant as he considers my observations.  Given his years of knowing Squall and his family, it's no surprise that it only takes him a few spare moments before his mind opens up to the obvious.  Idiot, he should have known about this years ago.

With violet eyes focused on me, Irvine's first statement about his revelation is simply, "Holy shit..."

"That's pathetic, Kinneas.  How long have you known Squall and you need me to tell you that his step-sister is dying to be to be fucked by him?  I'm disappointed."

He scowls, looking ready to argue, but then covers his face a spread hand.  "I deserve that, but I still don't know if I can believe it.  It's just... wrong."

"Then why are you considering it if you don't believe me?"

"... Well, I think... once... I caught her kissing Squall."

"You've got to be shitting me!  Squall let the bitch kiss him?" I ask with a laugh of true surprise.

Irvine scoffs while lowering his hand.  "It's not like that.  We were maybe fifteen.  I had spent the night and when I woke up, she... was bent over him.  Squall was asleep.  I don't think he ever knew she did it."

"And why didn't you tell him?"

"I thought it was a weird dream or something.  You have to understand - by that time, Rinoa was always harping on him for being 'abnormal' and ruining the family.  I couldn't believe that she would do something... anything like that."

I snicker loudly, very amused by the shear horror sounding in the man's voice.

"Shut up, bastard.  How did you find out, anyway?  You were just introduced to the family."

"Nothing special, really.  Her mood swings around Squall were like neon warning signs, but her mini-me-Squall fiancÚ sealed the deal."

Pressing a hand against his forehead, Irvine groans quietly.  "Nida.  I never thought of it, but he does look a bit like Squall, and he certainly acts quiet enough to be like Squall.  But at least Squall has something of a personality.  But fuck, just last night I asked Jonathon if he knew what Rinoa saw in the guy.  His best guess was that Nida has a long tongue."

I laugh at the idea, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if it were true.  "I can't believe that the Navy man has some humor in him after all."

"Jonathon?  He used to be a lot worse, but Elle has mellowed him out over the years," Irvine mentions with a slight smile.  "I don't think anyone can stay the same after spending time with that family."

"Hmm, that's probably true enough," I murmur before sipping my drink, trying my hardest to not think about the afternoon spent watching 'Cinderella'.  I hope to God that Squall didn't let loose any dangerous information to our mutual friend here.

Drinking the last of his water, Irvine slams the glass onto the countertop and sighs loudly as if he had just finished off a shot.  "Enough of this crap before you give me even more nightmares about Rinoa and Squall.  I think it's time for us to find some ladies."

Humor gone to confusion, I ask warily, "Excuse me - did you say 'us'?"

"Yeah, 'us'.  You know, you and me and maybe a pair of fiery twins," Irvine says with a lazy smirk.  "Well, they probably aren't twins, but they are certainly both redheads.  Check out nine o'clock."

I don't bother to look at the pair of hotties that I had already spotted nearly fifteen minutes ago.  "They're fake."

"What?  Damn, really?" he states with vague disappointment, but the smug smile returns in due time.  "Well, it's not like we have to breastfeed to enjoy the sex, right?"

Matching his smile, I shake my head.  "Have your fun, Kinneas.  I have a 'boyfriend' waiting for me at home, remember?"

"Actually, it was your 'boyfriend' who asked me to find you some ass.  He doesn't want another wakeup call like this morning."

"Hn, I should've guessed he was behind this.  Well, forget it, Kinneas.  I'm too focused on his ass to care about some ten-cent slut."

Irvine blinks at me once before asking, "Are you being serious?"

I simply smile in reply, allowing the auburn-haired man to assume whatever he likes.  It'd probably be a lot more creative than anything I could come up with.

Unfortunately, Irvine disappoints me when he laughs and slaps my back.  "Good one, Almasy.  I actually thought you were interested in Squall for a minute there.  Maybe you are worth the cash people waste on your skills."  With a smooth slip from his barstool, Irvine stretches his sleek body in an inviting fashion for the women down the room.  By the soft tittering from the whores, he has succeeded in attracting their attention.  Before approaching them, he winks at me and says, "Trust me, we'll have a great time tonight."

Left alone for the meantime, I cringe when I realize that I'm still able to hear Irvine as he woos his latest prey from across the bar, his sugarcoated words and soft touches unmatched in the field of flirting.  It doesn't take long before he mentions his 'lonesome friend', causing a pair of hungry and alcohol hazed eyes to look my way.  At that point, I decide that it's insulting for Irvine to think that a night with a fake-breasted slut could make me ignore my contract to Squall.  Looking away from the obnoxious flirting of my lanky friend, I wave down the bartender.  Not really paying attention to him before, I'm thankful that the guy doesn't look too bad.

I fish out a ten from my back pocket and hold it out to the sandy-haired man.  "Be horrified for me."

The twenty-something kid shows his confusion at the quiet order, but goes for the ten anyway.

I release my hold on the bill, purposefully freeing my hand to brush my fingers up his arm and onward to his stubble roughened cheek.  In a deep, but loud voice, I tell him, "You know, you're a real cutie."

Brown eyes widen in terror as the man jerks away from me and nearly knocks down several bottles from the counter behind him.  With a squeaky declaration, he informs me, "This isn't that kind of bar, sir," and he runs off in the other direction, my ten amusedly still clutched in his hand.

It's hard to not smile at the rapidly retreating form, but I force a hurt expression, a mask that succeeds by the disappointed whines of the girls Irvine was trying pick up for the two of us.  Satisfied at the success of my escape plan, I stand up from the barstool and drop a couple of twenties on the counter, covering both the cost of drinks and the well-earned tip for our abused bartender.  But when moving for the exit, I unfortunately have to pass Irvine and his non-twins, and it's no surprise when he stops me.

"You aren't that gay," he growls quietly, obviously upset that I was ruining the plan to get me laid tonight and less horny for the morning.

With an impish smile, I brush the back of my fingers across his cheek and speak to him in my best queer voice.  "Honey pie, I'm sharing a bed with a man who looks absolutely stunning in silk.  Of course I'm gay."

Although the man should be accustomed with my taunting by now, Irvine still jerks away as if burned.  "Don't do that, you fag bastard."

Laughing, I continue to the door and wave to Irvine on my way out.  "Enjoy your ladies, Irvy.  I'm going back home to enjoy mine."




Author's Whining -- Ugh, it's so hard to write this type of story when it has no real direction.  But there you go, one more chapter down.  The next chapter should have a final dose of angst! before the boys are ready to say 'fuck it' and, well, fuck.  But of course it's never that easy for this torment writer. =P