The High Price of Love
July 2006



Supporting the weight of a heavy idiot at my backside and feeling his firm cock at my ass, I have to wonder why the Hell Seifer is here.  The only thing I can figure is that I must have somehow pissed off Irvine in the recent past.  Why else would he fail me and allow Seifer to come back last night with an unexercised dick?  Although, truth be told, I can't be certain if the escort would have been satisfied by an easy fuck.  For all I know, it would have just made this asshole even hornier and more excited for a challenge.

That settles it - neutering is the only option left to me if I'm going to survive the rest of this week.

As if hearing my thoughts, Seifer whines behind me and presses a cold nose against the back of my neck.  He really is pathetic like this, a man who does sex for a living, and yet he cuddles more than he should for someone in his line of 'work'.  But what is worse is the feel of heated skin against my back and the strong arms wrapped around my body, his overwhelming presence creating a sensation of comfort that isn't really mine.  It's too easy to get lost in this man's warmth and wonder what else he could offer me.

But of course, once that wandering hand of his begins to move into forbidden realms, I remember the reality that Seifer is a master at pretending to be something he's not.

Since it worked so well yesterday, I free an arm from his clinging hold and I happily drive my elbow back into his exposed stomach.  Seifer yells out in surprise at the attack and promptly releases me while rolling away from what had caused him pain.  I immediately take advantage of my restored freedom and hurry out of bed to adjust my boxers back into their proper placement.

"God dammit, princess," Seifer drawls out in sleepy anger.  "Why'd you do that?"

"You're lucky I didn't aim lower," I mutter while moving to the closet.

"Huh?" is his intelligent reply until he glances down at his aroused state.  "A-ah, shit, sorry about that.  It's just that you really were a sex kitten last night.  Ears, tail, and all."

"And that's why I gave you permission to go fuck someone else."

Seifer scoffs.  "I'm your boyfriend, remember?  I don't cheat."

I direct a withering glare to the blond, a silent reminder that he is a purchased boyfriend and I really don't give a shit if he goes and fucks somebody else.  If that's what it takes for me to wake up normally for once, then so be it.

"It wouldn't help, princess," Seifer argues with a broad grin, completely unaffected by my glare.  "I'm dreaming of you, which means that there's only one cure for this aching body."

It's hard to resist a roll of the eyes, but it's obvious that he gets great pleasure out of irritating me and the last thing I want to do is encourage him.  Instead, I step into the closet to quickly exchange my sleep wear for a tank top and running shorts, all the while ignoring the muffled complaints from Seifer that he couldn't 'appreciate' me with the door closed.

Once fully dressed, I step out from the closet to find that Seifer had kicked aside the sheets and was lightly stroking his erection beneath silky boxers.

"Not in the bed," I remind him coldly.

The blissful expression wiped from his face, Seifer frowns pitifully.  "A-aw, come on.  Do you know how embarrassing it is to hop across the hallway while in full salute?  What if your father was to see me?  Or worse, one of your sister's friends?  I could become a rape victim!"

I glare at him for the dramatics.  "Even if that did happen, maybe it would solve this morning wood problem of yours."

"How cold, princess.  I wouldn't leave you hanging like this," he says with a lustful shine to his eyes.

"I don't need nor want your help, Almasy, so I'll say it again - not in the bed."

His eyes darkening in disappointment, Seifer offers pleadingly, "What if I promise to wash the sheets?"

I don't dignify the question with an answer and move for the doorway.

"I wash my own sheets all of the time.  I swear that you won't be able to find a stain."

My hand on the doorknob, I don't look back at the blond when I reply, "Then go back to New York and jerk off in your own bed."

Before I manage a full step into the hallway, Seifer calls out in a serious tone.  "Hey, wait a second, would you?  I've got a question."

Despite my better instincts, I pause at the plea, but offer no guarantee of an answer.

"I just wanted to know if we have any plans for the day."

Frowning, I glance back over my shoulder.  "Why?"

"Just curious.  Personally, I wouldn't mind some alone time with you."

"... ..."

"You see, here's the deal - my price includes the fee of a nice dinner where I handle the arrangements.  Since we're busy with that family and wedding crap for the rest of this trip, I thought I'd take you out to lunch today."

"That's not necessary."

"I'm afraid it is," Seifer argues with a cheshire's grin.  "I promised Kinneas to treat you like royalty."

I scowl at the blond, not pleased with the implied 'princess' comment.

With a sigh of disappointment, the humor vanishes from his expression.  "It's just lunch.  Would it be so horrible to spend that time with me?"

The pathetic tone of voice undoes me, and really, it's not like I can avoid Seifer by refusing this request for lunch.  If anything, it would just make him that much more determined, something that can't lead to any good given the fact that we share the same bedroom.  The additional fact that Seifer gets on my nerves when hardly trying makes me concerned about what mental distress he could cause when he is truly motivated.

My reluctant decision made, I turn my back to the blond before telling him, "Do whatever you want."  And when I can practically hear the widening of his grin behind me, I quickly add, "But not in the bed."

Before Seifer gets out more than a grumbled, 'prude bitch,' I step out into the hallway and close the door behind me.  Leaning back against that door, I take a few deep breaths and manage to find some calm after seeing the fit blond sprawled out on the bed with his large hand settled on his cock.  I wouldn't be gay if I couldn't appreciate a sight like that.  But it's all too easy for me to remember reality, that he's a whore who has perfected his acts of seduction.  My attraction to his body and words can't result in anything satisfying.  I'd be a fool to believe otherwise, and I refuse to be a fool over a man like Seifer.

It's with some denial that I find myself following Seifer to the entrance of a clearly overpriced restaurant located next to the ocean.  Though not a 'tie required' type of place, Seifer still chose to look his part by wearing a dark green dress shirt and a thin black tie that would give any other man the typical 'I work in a cubicle' appearance.  How the blond looks like he's ready to loosen his tie for a good fuck at any moment is beyond me.

A younger man smiling too fondly greets us at the door, and after ushering us inside, he hurries to the podium once learning that Seifer had made reservations.  Given the early hour for lunch and the small crowd, I'm somewhat surprised when we are led to a back corner of the restaurant instead of something with an ocean view.

"As you requested," the host states while directing us to a table for two.  "Something secluded and away from windows."

"Perfect, thank you," Seifer says, purposefully avoiding my gaze as he sits and accepts a leather-bound menu.

With apparently no choice in the matter, I take my seat across from the large blond and mutter a thanks to the host for my menu

Once alone, Seifer continues to glance over the lunch selections when he mentions, "You look confused, princess."

"Not particularly.  I just didn't realize you had something against windows."

"Only when it gives you something to look at aside from me."

"... Excuse me?"

Seifer smirks without looking my way.  "I noticed it on the drive from the airport - when the ocean is in plain view, you don't hear or notice a damned thing around you.  But unfortunately, all of the good restaurants that are open for lunch also happen to have a view of the ocean, and so I had to settle for a table in the back corner and away from any interfering windows."

I stare at the arrogant blond for a time, somewhat impressed that Seifer had bothered to notice that habit of mine during the length of the half-hour drive.  He doesn't look up during my examination, and with no particular desire to talk, I redirect my attention to the short menu of mostly seafood items and not a single listed price.  Figuring that whatever meal I order will be too expensive for the taste, I consider getting the steak and shrimp.

My decision made, I set down the menu to discover that Seifer had turned his focus to me.  His green-eyed gaze is sharper than usual, and while I would typically be offended, I was instead curious about what could make this man appear thoughtful for probably the first time in his life.  Allowing him his thoughts, I look to the side and feel some regret that the windows are indeed blocked from my view.

"Why are you alone?"

I simply shrug, already tired of hearing the question from Seifer.  It's not his business, and really, what does it matter?  It's not like me being single affects the rest of the world.

"Is it because you haven't found the right person?  Or are you purposely avoiding the chance that the right guy is sitting directly in front of you?"

A dark eyebrow raised, I glance at the blond without moving my head.

Seifer grins at my disbelieving gaze, but he doesn't get the chance to vocalize his amusement as our waitress makes her cheery appearance.  I turn down the offer of wine, but Seifer doesn't seem to mind that it's only a little after eleven in the morning and asks for a gin and tonic.  With a server's smile and a very unsubtle wink in Seifer's direction, our waitress promises to be right back before hurrying off in the direction of the bar.

"Does your hermit status have anything to do with your ex?"

Though surprised by the question, I manage to keep my expression neutral.  "And what makes you ask that?"

His smile smug, Seifer leans back in his chair.  "During my talk with Kinneas last night, he let it slip that your ex had fucked up your life and I don't mean in the literal sense."

I scoff and redirect my attention to the bar.  "Irvine didn't tell you anything."

"I'm afraid that he did.  There was alcohol involved, after all."

"That doesn't matter.  He wouldn't have had more than his limit and he knows not to talk about my business."

There's a moment of quiet before Seifer laughs quietly.  "Damn, I never would've guessed that you trusted him that far.  I think I might be a little jealous."

Not concerned about interrupting our conversation, the waitress returns with Seifer's drink and some water for the both of us.  The glasses placed onto the tabletop, she straightens with a faked sigh of exertion and asks if we had decided on our lunch orders.  Seifer happily takes the lead as he orders for himself and moves directly into my order, the bastard somehow knowing the meal that had I decided upon.  By the sheen to his eyes, I know it wasn't a simple matter of guessing.  This man gets more dangerous with every minute that I know him.

Our menus taken away, I glare at the blond.  "Stop treating me like a woman you want to fuck."

Seifer grins at my demand as if to say that I may not be a woman, but he certainly wouldn't mind the fucking part.  "So, we were talking about your ex."

I roll my eyes at the fishing statement and return my gaze to bar area.

"Hey, you may not believe me when I say this, but I'm a pretty good listener.  And trust me, I've probably heard it all when it comes to bad relationships.  Many of my clients are people who want to forget the pain associated with love."

"... ..."

"You do realize that it's okay to move on with your life, don't you?"

I close my eyes, irritated by the question and the fact that he won't leave me alone about this matter.  "And do you realize that I've already had a father and several friends tell me that exact same thing?"

"I'd be disappointed if they hadn't, but sometimes it helps to hear these things from an outsider."

"The last thing I need is help from you."

It's with some surprise that I realize Seifer isn't going to argue my comment, and it's due to his continued rare silence that I'm tricked into glancing at him.  He smiles the moment our eyes meet, declaring that minor victory of regaining my attention without really trying.  But even with that firm hold of my eyes, Seifer doesn't say a damned word, apparently satisfied with this new game of playing mute.  Whatever.  That's fine by me.  It'll be nice to get a moment of peace around his moron.

But when our salads come and go without anything said, I inwardly grumble at my inevitable loss in this matter.  Asshole.  How is it possible that this man can be loud and irritating when his mouth isn't even moving?  And though his stray foot may have a small part to play in my overall frustration, I know that I can better handle his pointless words than his cat-like eyes focused solely on me.

"I'm over him."

An eyebrow arched in disbelief, Seifer props his chin onto folded hands in a classic 'psychiatrist listening to a nut' pose.

"He was an ass and I stopped loving him the moment I dumped him."

"It's never that easy," the escort argues.

"He made it easy."

Lowering his arms to the table, Seifer loses his air of amusement as he frowns with concern.  "What did he do to you?"

"Only four other people, including my ex-boyfriend, know that particular answer.  Why should I tell you?"

The blond shrugs.  "Why not?"

Irritated, I look away from piercing green eyes and glare at my goblet half-filled with ice water.  Why can't this bastard understand the obvious, that I don't want to share my problems with every idiot in the world.  It's simple enough for everyone else to figure out that I need my peace, but Seifer still has to ask, 'Why?'.  Fingering the stem of my water glass, I briefly consider how difficult it would be to strangle the large blond.

"I just want to help you," Seifer insists in a low tone.

It should be easy to tell him that I don't want his help, nor do I need it, but the words won't form.  Instead, I focus solely on the glass stem and the wetting of condensation over my skin.


Thankfully he's interrupted by the approach of our waitress and the arrival of our main course.  With a broad smile, she meets Seifer's gaze while setting down his plate first, her attention far away from my plate and the steak knife placed precariously on the edge.  And when her hand tilts the plate just a touch too steeply, the knife takes little time in sliding off.  I don't pull back my hand fast enough, the fat blade just catching the skin of my pointer finger.  Startled and unable to move, I stare down at the shallow cut that begins to ooze bright blood.

"Shit, are you okay?" Seifer asks while reaching forward to grab my hand, almost knocking aside my water glass in the process.

Everything seems to slow down as I watch my hand in his, the warmth of his skin a strong contrast to the chill of the water glass.  Seifer scowls at the sight of blood, but doesn't waste time examining the obvious cut as he tenderly lifts my hand and the tip of his tongue peaks into view mere inches from my finger.

"Don't!"  The demand explodes from me as I jerk back my hand and cradle it safely to my chest.  Seifer stares at me with wide eyes for the strong reaction, but I don't give him the chance to question me.  "That's disgusting," I state lamely, and then stand with a muttered pardon as I head quickly for the restroom.

Rinsing the finger under cold water, I silently curse the obvious shaking to my hand.  It's something Seifer would notice in a heartbeat and I really don't need to give the bastard another excuse to harass me.  But at the sound of a door opening behind me, I know that I'm screwed.

"I got a Band-Aid for you," Seifer says in an unreadable voice.

I don't move while watching the water flow over my finger.

He sighs loudly before pulling some paper towels free from the dispenser.  Without asking for permission, Seifer steps close behind me and turns off the water before gently drying my hand, the move oddly comforting despite his arms wrapped around me to do the task.  A trickle of blood still flows when he stops patting with the coarse material, but he quickly covers the cut with a generic Band-Aid.

I think about thanking him for the silent treatment, but then his hands are on my shoulders and I'm forced to turn around.  Seifer hugs me close at that moment, his cheek pressed against my hair and his arms strong around my back.

After a stunned second, I try to pull away.  "Let me go."

Seifer shushes quietly.  "You're shaking.  I doubt you want anyone else seeing you like this."

I stop my struggles at the serious comment, hating that the man was right.  Reluctantly, I rest my head against his shoulder and breathe in the scent of mild aftershave.  It's difficult to let myself relax while in the arms of the person who got me into this state in the first place, but as Seifer waits patiently without a movement or sound, I slowly begin to accept the support he's offering.  And when his hold vaguely tightens, I know that Seifer easily senses my surrender.  I won't hear the end of this one.

When I exhale away the last of my shaking, I push back from the blond.  Seifer freely loosens his hold, but only to the point of resting his hands at my waist.  Despite that lingering contact, I manage to meet his gaze without embarrassment and nod my thanks.

Pale lips curling into a half-smile, Seifer says, "Hey, no problem, princess.  It's my fault for being 'disgusting', after all."

I choose not to argue even though I hate lies in general.  Sometimes, the truth can be far worse than a misleading lie.  "I can't stay here."

"I figured as much.  Our frantic waitress is currently placing our complementary meals into takeaway boxes, so we should be able to leave once you're steady again."

"I'm fine."

Grinning, Seifer places a finger at my chin and lifts gently.  "You're more than fine, lovely, but I was referring to your mental state."

I'm ready to bite out a response before insistent lips are suddenly against mine.  Really, I should've known better with his closeness, but I'm beginning to learn that Seifer is an expert at identifying and exploiting even the briefest moments of weakness.

Leaning back, Seifer flashes a satisfied smirk.  "Shall we reschedule for tomorrow?"

"... ...?"

"Well, not only was our meal ruined, but I also didn't fulfill the contract by treating you to dinner.  It doesn't count when the meal is free because you're stabbed by the waitress."

"I don't care."

"But I do.  Call it a matter of pride."

I glare at him, not concerned in the least about his inflated sense of pride.  "Right now, I just want to go home."

Seifer loses the determined glint to his eyes at my words, finally recognizing that I wasn't in any mood to play.  "Alright, I hear ya.  Let me get our food and we'll head straight home."

I watch his retreating back for a moment, distracted by the disappointed tone to his typically confident voice.  Idiot, I bet he had something else planned for this afternoon.  And though I'm curious about his apparent surprise, it's better not to know since otherwise I might accidentally let myself be seduced.

Turning off the ignition to my father's car, I glance over at the silent blond and debate asking him if he was alright.  It's a stupid thought, really, since I'm the one who could've gotten his finger sliced off today, but a large sulking man isn't something easily ignored, especially within the confines of a sedan.

"Do you hate me?"

I blink at the abrupt and childish question.  "What...?"

Seifer turns in his seat and pins me with serious green eyes.  "Are you really disgusted by me?"

Once recognizing the point of his question, I sigh and open my door without a reply.  When I avoid his grasping hand, Seifer hurries to exit his side of the car and blocks my path to the garage entrance to the house.  It doesn't take much to realize that he isn't going to let me pass without some kind of answer to his idiotic question.  Even so, I don't feel like surrendering to such juvenile games.

"Just tell me the truth, Squall.  Since the beginning, have you been revolted by the idea of spending your time with a whore?"

I close my eyes with a sigh.  "That isn't true."

"Then why are you so fucking cold to me?  And that whole thing at the restaurant--"

"I have a problem with blood," I state plainly, already tired of this line of discussion.

Seifer stares blankly at the reply, apparently bewildered by my perfectly logical answer that had nothing to do with him.

"If you're done, can we go inside now?"

The large blond steps back to allow me enough passage to slip by him, and I'm dense enough to fall for that trick.  A muscular arm wraps around my waist and pulls me close in one smooth motion.  His lips brushing against the sensitive tip of my ear, Seifer asks, "What will it take to break through your ice?"

There's no safe answer to give as any word of discouragement would only make him more determined.  And so I say nothing when I place a hand at his shoulder and push him away.  Seifer yields too easily to my touch, but I welcome the space he allows to form.  I glance into searching jade before I turn my back to the blond and head for the entrance to the house.

The intensity of Seifer's gaze doesn't dissipate when I step inside and cross the kitchen area with the intent to head directly upstairs.  I know that I can't escape Seifer that easily, but I also can't help this returned instinct of mine to run to my bedroom and hide from the world.  But apparently I'm not allowed to escape this world as I step into the living room and set eyes on two unexpected forms.

"Dad?  Irvine?"

The older man sits up at my call, his dark green eyes focusing on me with a sorrowful gleam that I recognize all too well.  At the other end of the couch, Irvine stands up and waves a small 'hello'.

Though I hate stating the obvious, I'm forced to say something when no one else decides to speak first.  "Shouldn't you be at work, Dad?"

Laguna rubs a hand over his thigh, a clear display of anxiousness from the man.  "I could say that I finished sharpening all of the pencils in my office, but..."  His weak smile disappearing after his failed attempt of a joke, my father offers, "Squall, why don't you sit down?"

I stare at the hand that pats the cushion and, hesitantly, I shake my head.  "I prefer to stay standing."

"So you say every time," Laguna says with a bitter smile.  He pushes up from the couch and walks across the room to stand close to me, his gaze lowering as he frowns.  "When did you hurt yourself?"

"At lunch.  Now stop stalling and tell me why you and Irvine are here."

My father nods, lifting his eyes to meet my cooler gaze.  "Irvine called me at my office.  He read something in the newspaper today and he... we both know that this isn't something we should keep from you."

Despite a deep sickness building in my stomach, I stand calmly as Laguna reaches for his back pocket and retrieves a folded scrap of newspaper.  His reluctance is obvious when I'm forced to jerk the printed material from his hand, but I wouldn't expect anything else of my kindhearted father.  It doesn't take long to understand what I'm reading, but my mind refuses to accept the meaning behind the two short paragraphs.  It doesn't help that I'm distracted by the fact that 'Piet Veerman' and 'valiant' do not belong in the same sentence.

"Squall... Son, if you want to talk..."

Lost in the printed words, I instinctively recoil from the touch of my father's hand at my shoulder.  It suddenly becomes too much to gaze into his eyes filled with worry and hurt, so with a whispered excuse, I step around him and head for the stairs.  Once on the second floor and at my bedroom, I quickly try to close the door, but a large hand slams against the wood and knocks me back a pace, giving Seifer the perfect opportunity to slip inside my room.  Verdant eyes are oddly hard and angry as he glares at me, and with the door closed and locked behind him, Seifer makes certain of our privacy.

"What the Hell was that about?  Do you like upsetting your father?"

"Get out, Seifer."

"No, I don't think so.  I can see from here that you're shaking again and I don't like that one bit.  I want to know what's in that article."

I turn and wrap my arms across my chest, not pleased to learn that I was physically reacting to the news.  But as I stare at the corner of the room and the clothes strewn over Seifer's luggage, I consider this chance to be rid of the escort and his games of seduction.  When he steps closer with intimidation, I take a breath of resolution and hold out the scrap of newspaper.  Seifer hesitates, but still accepts the silent offer of an answer.

It doesn't take long for him to read the short obituary.  "Shit, was this 'Piet' a friend of yours?"

I scoff, still not looking in Seifer's direction.  "Piet was my boyfriend.  And his 'valiant fight against a terminal disease' was him living with AIDS."

Seifer curses in surprise.  "How long...?"

"How long did he have AIDS?  I don't know, but he was diagnosed with HIV six years ago.  Or are you asking how long it's been since we were together?"  Glancing at the blond, I tell him, "As of last month, it was six years ago."

Unable to respond to my words, Seifer simply stares at me with an unbelieving gaze.  I imagine I looked much the same when Piet showed up completely drunk for a date and told me about the test results he had gotten weeks earlier.  The bastard said he had been in denial about it and that he was sorry, but an apology wasn't nearly enough, not when there had been several sessions of sex within that time period that didn't include condoms by his request.  God, I was so stupid back then.

"You weren't infected," Seifer says confidently, not hiding his relief.

I glare at him for the crude assumption.  "He fucked me when he knew he had HIV and only God knows how long he had it before then."

"But I know people who have HIV and I've seen those drug cocktails they have to take.  In the past three days, I haven't seen you pop a single pill, and trust me, I would've noticed."

"That doesn't mean anything."

"Well, since you don't seem like the type to submit to a death sentence without a fight, I think it means a whole lot."

"... ..."

"Squall... you've been tested, haven't you?"

My fingernails bite into the flesh of my arms as I anticipate the flow of this conversation.  "Of course I have, but you don't understand."

"What's there to understand?  These days, if you get tested after six months and you're still negative, it's practically guaranteed that you don't have HIV."

"It's not perfect!" I argue as I face the arrogant man.  "Nobody can claim that those tests are perfect."

Though startled, Seifer continues to disagree, "There are plenty of doctors--"

"Don't say anything else," I demand, realizing too late that I had placed my hands childishly to my ears.  In an attempt to cover-up that reaction of mine, I rake my fingers back through my messed hair.  "I've heard it all, Seifer, but nobody can understand..."

"Understand what?"

I shake my head, unable to put words to my torment.  The plain truth is that I had let Piet fuck me without any protection.  I was in 'love', I trusted him, and I blindly accepted his diseased semen into my body on several occasions.  To this day I can feel that sickness within me and I've accepted the reality that it will never leave.  I'm being punished for my naivety.

Seifer moves forward, gaining my attention as I glare at the large blond.  He stops after the single step, but it's not his closer presence that bothers me.

"You're smiling?  This is funny to you?"

His lopsided grin widening, Seifer says, "It's not funny in the least."

"Then stop smiling," I demand, my hands balling into tight fists as I resist the desire to punch the taller man.

Not heeding my implied threat, the escort shakes his head.  "I can't do that, princess.  I'm still savoring the fact that you didn't lie to me."

"... ...?"

"Earlier in the garage, you said you weren't disgusted by me," he states in a purring tone of pleasure.

My body seems to react on its own as I don't become consciously aware of my thrown punch until my fist is safely palmed within the large hand of the blond.  Though at first surprised, I'm quickly disappointed that Seifer had defended himself effortlessly.  I didn't even manage to wipe the grin from his face.

"Now, now, that's not how a grown man should show his affection."

"You aren't my boyfriend!" I remind him forcibly.  "You're a hired cock with a face and that's it, so stop these games of yours!"

Though his smile softens, it doesn't disappear completely as Seifer opens his mouth to spout more of his nonsense.  But thankfully he's interrupted by the sound of knocking and the rattle of the locked door.

"Squall, are you alright?"

Welcoming the sound of my father's voice, I jerk my hand free from Seifer's hold.  "Just a moment, Dad."  I glance to the blond, and with renewed calm, I say, "I'm going to tell him everything, so you don't have to pretend anymore."

"Are you certain that's best?" he asks with obvious disappointment, sounding much like a child who was told playtime was over.

"I won't demand for a refund if that's what has you worried."

He scoffs and mentions, "I don't offer refunds, anyway.  It's in the contract."

I walk past the muttering man and unlock the door to allow my father inside.  Laguna smiles gently at the invitation, and though his arm twitches in the need to reach out for me, the long-haired man shows rare restraint in keeping his hands to himself.  After a brief look-over to assure himself that I was fine, Laguna glances to the blond escort and becomes unusually serious in his posture and words.

"If you don't mind, Seifer, I'd like to speak with my son alone."

The large man shrugs with indifference, his green eyes moving to me when he says, "I'll be downstairs with Kinneas."  The implied meaning of 'we're not done yet' is obvious in his tone.

When Seifer closes the door behind him, I don't waste time in announcing to my father, "He isn't really my boyfriend."

"Hn?  Oh, I know that."

Somewhat startled, I stare at my father for a long moment before I realize how he could've know.  "You were listening outside."

"Well, I can't deny that, but I knew about your 'relationship' since the beginning."

Officially stunned, I'm speechless while I focus on the man whom I've always considered wholly oblivious and naive about the world around him.

With a soft smile and a hand at my shoulder, Laguna says, "I'm sorry, son, but you're like your old man - you can't lie to save your life.  When you first introduced Seifer, I recognized how you couldn't stop yourself from saying that he was an escort.  You wanted us to catch on from the start, and though you almost had your way, Seifer has a quick mind.  I imagine that you didn't count on that."

"No, I wasn't thinking..."  I press a hand to my forehead, not really certain what I had been thinking to reveal Seifer as an escort instead of lying, but that isn't the point here.  "You couldn't have known, Dad.  Otherwise, you would've..."

With a knowing smile, he says, "Otherwise I would've, what, stopped you?  Truthfully, I wasn't certain how to handle the idea of you bringing home a sham boyfriend, but I eventually realized that it was my own fault for pressuring you lately.  I hope you can forgive me, but with Rinoa's wedding on the horizon, I couldn't help thinking about you living alone and so far away from home.  When I said that I wanted you to find a boyfriend, I didn't imagine that you'd hire someone for the sake of relieving my worries."

Though I think to argue and reveal the entire plan that began with Irvine, a different and far more important detail comes to mind.  "You had us share a bed!"

Laguna grins without a hint of embarrassment when he says, "Well, I assumed that Seifer wasn't hired to merely play your lover, and I couldn't bring myself to ruin your plans like that.  Actually, I was a bit relieved to see that you're, uh, active again."

Dumbfounded, I stare at the man's pleased expression and wonder why I have never before noticed this... conniving side of my father.

His smile fades as the older man lifts his hand to my hair and strokes the longish strands.  "How are you handling the news?"

Briefly confused by the change in topics, I reach for his hand with the initial thought to brush aside his touch, but then my eyes focus on the scrap of newspaper that Seifer had left on the dresser during his exit.  Intertwining my fingers with my father's, I squeeze lightly and shake my head.

Instantly his other arm is tight around my backside and his forehead is pressed against mine.  "God, Squall, I swore you were over him."

A bitter laugh slips from me.  "I don't give a shit about Piet.  I thought he died years ago."

"Then... you still think...?"

I bite my lower lip, not wanting to hear yet another lecture from my father.  It's too hard to explain to him how I freely gave myself to a man Laguna never liked.  Granted, I was a minor dating a college student, but I should've known that my father wasn't the type to dislike someone for a reason like that.  When he told me that there was something he couldn't trust about Piet... I wished I had listened.

With a deep sigh that sounds a lot like one of my own, Laguna squeezes my hand and says tiredly, "I know that I can't make you believe that you are healthy and incredibly lucky, but even if you do become HIV positive someday, you have to understand that it's no longer the death sentence it once was.  Just because this bastard died, it doesn't mean that you have to start planning your own funeral."

Hearing those words out loud, I feel like a fool.  Though not an entirely conscious thought, I had read those cliché words associated with Piet and wondered if my own obituary would read the same way.  ... But no, I can't imagine my father being rote in that regard.  And suddenly, with that thought of Laguna grieving over my death, it comes to mind that I'm not the only one suffering from this.  First my mother and now me...  Damn it, when did I become this blind and selfish man?

"Squall?  Is anything of this getting through?"

Moving my head to his shoulder, I press my face against soft cloth.  "I'm sorry..."

"Shhh, you have nothing to apologize for.  This is who you are."

I breathe a laugh that sounds too much like a sob to my ears.  "It's in me, Dad.  I can feel it."

"I know."

"But I won't give up.  I promise you that."

Hardly a moment passes before the older man hugs me without holding back on his youthful strength.  It's an awkward hold since he refuses to release my hand, but I can't deny how much I crave these overt displays of love and support from my father.  ... Well, only in private, of course.  It's a shame he doesn't share my same sense of discretion.

I'm eventually freed from the crushing hold and pushed back such that I become the direct focus of moist green eyes.  His smile proud and relieved, Laguna doesn't say anything before ruffling my hair, something he hasn't done since my mother passed away.  "No matter what happens in your life, I hope you realize that I'll always love you."

As I continue to indulge the man and his need for physical contact, I silently hope that he realizes that this is the best way I can tell him - 'I love you, too.'

Standing in the shadows of the wide balcony, I gaze out at the evening sky of sparse stars and a half moon.  Though I can still hear the post-rehearsal party from within the hotel, it's peaceful enough to be outside and in cooler air.  Laguna had suggested that it wasn't necessary for me to come tonight, but Rinoa pleaded that the entire family had to be present at the rehearsal.  After all, the wedding she started to plan at the age of five couldn't be anything less than perfect and perfection means practice.  How a rehearsal dinner became yet another party celebrating her impending wedlock, only Rinoa knows.

The quiet click of a door sounds, and without turning, I know the identity of the intruder.  I didn't expect Seifer to leave me alone as long as he did, but I imagine that Irvine had plenty to do with that fact.  Unfortunately, a waitress had caught the playboy's eye during dinner and I wouldn't be surprised if he had snuck away to reserve a room for the night.  Some days I wish that Irvine would just settle down already - it's tiresome to watch him fuck every pretty girl in sight.

After gently closing the door, Seifer saunters in my direction.  "You've been avoiding me."

I don't reply, both of us knowing that I wasn't going out of my way to avoid the blond, but I didn't reject the lingering presences of my father and Irvine either.

Seifer doesn't stop until he's directly at my side and the fabric of his open jacket brushes against my arm.  Proving to me that formalities mean absolutely nothing to this man, Seifer places a warm hand at my cheek to make me face him, and without a warning or request, he places his lips hard against mine.  For the second time this week, I'm startled by the moist feel and sweet taste to his lips.  Exploiting my stunned moment, Seifer encourages me into a better position such that I feel the solid weight of his body pressed against mine.  And it's not until I forcibly break that kiss when I realize that he had also backed me into the corner with that damn move.

"Why are you doing this?" I ask in a voice no louder than whisper, confusion and frustration overwhelming the typical anger I would feel.

Seifer doesn't answer directly, his hand moving such that his fingers rake deeply into my hair.  "You missed dessert."

"And what does that have to do with kissing me?"

"Nothing, really.  And everything.  I got the chocolate cheesecake and it reminded me of you.  Made me hungry," he mutters before leaning down to lick a heavy tongue along my throat, the hand in my hair ensuring that I can't jerk away and ruin his 'meal'.

Trying to ignore the sensitizing touch, I comment, "Apparently you had too much champagne, as well."

"Nah, just the two glasses you saw," Seifer says before grazing his teeth at my Adam's apple.  "I'm drunk for an entirely different reason."

I scoff at his flirtatious tone.  "I'm not like that waitress Irvine seduced."

"Indeed," the blond agrees while standing straight, reminding me of his greater height.  "She's a slut and you're a princess."

With a deep breath of restraint, I turn my gaze to the evening view of the harbor, but Seifer doesn't allow me that retreat.  Or rather, he makes me suffer for the move as he brushes aside my hair to attack a defenseless ear.  I always hated it when Piet would tongue my ear, the aftermath making me feel like he had given me a 'wet willy'.  But with Seifer, the move is pure seduction as his trained tongue traces every curve with a meticulous touch that doesn't suit the large blond.  So focused on his latest endeavor to annoy me, I don't notice his wandering hand until a moment too late.  With unbuttoned and half-zipped pants, I manage to jerk away before anymore damage could be done.

"What are you doing?" I demand while trying to redo my pants, but Seifer promptly interferes by trapping my hand in his.

"Just trying to get beneath the ice," he says with a broad smirk.

Incredulous, I stare into humored green eyes and wish that I could understand the mind of this unpredictable man.  "Why?"

"Why not?"

I glare at him for the response a four-year-old would spout.

With a sigh and the disappearance of his smirk, Seifer asks quietly, "What do you really think of me, Squall?  Am I simply a whore in your eyes?"

"... I don't understand."

"I can't make it any clearer."

Still confused, I reply, "Of course you're a whore.  It's what you do."

After a startled blink and a blank stare, Seifer breathes out a few restrained chuckles before deep laughter flows freely from him.  His hand tightens on mine, an annoying reaction as I'm still not entirely decent, but unzipped pants are the least of my worries.  Somewhat offended by his continued laughter, I think about his question and my response, trying to understand what was so damned funny.

Eventually regaining control of himself, Seifer smiles brightly at me.  "God, I'm in such trouble with you."

"... ...?"

"Confused?  I guess you have every reason to be," he says with a dangerous shine to his poisonous eyes.  Leaning forward to make certain he has my attention, Seifer reveals in a low voice, "I want you."

I mentally choke on the words, unable to comprehend his meaning.  "If this is a game associated with your... contract--"

"No.  This has nothing to do with being a hired boyfriend.  It only has to do with me, you, and your seduction of sweet, innocent me."

"'Seduction'?  I'm sorry if I have a bad memory, but when did I ever imply that I wanted you in any way, shape, or form?"

"Never, really, but I can see it in your eyes."

I glare at the flirtatious idiot, hating his smug tone and the way I can still smell his faded cologne in the night air.

Chuckling lightly, Seifer says, "You're not going to believe me, so I don't know why I'm bothering, but... Can you imagine what it's like to do my job?  Every single day I deal with people who lie and I'm supposed to smile and make their lies a reality if only for a night.  I barely remember when it bothered me to play these games, but since then, I've distanced myself from the whole thing.  Hell, it's not like anyone has actually wanted me, anyway."

With a pause in his explanation, Seifer brushes aside free strands of hair from my face.  "Then Irvine came to me and asked me to play 'boyfriend' with a friend of his.  My first warning sign was that he didn't say much about you and his offer of bonus money wasn't overly comforting, but I had no reason to refuse.  When I met you, I figured you for an antisocial prick, but it took me longer to figure out what really bugged me about you."  Seifer grins at his thoughts before voicing them, "You're too damned honest."

For some reason, his hand still wrapped around mine begins to feel incredibly hot.  "Honest?  Have you forgotten about why you're here?  About why I brought you here?"

"Of course not, but I've also seen how much this has affected you.  You hate it, but it'd be worse to disappoint your father and your favorite sister."

"Maybe I just hate you," I bite out without thought, a defensive act that makes me sick.

Though taken aback, Seifer isn't discouraged as he continues to study me with sharp eyes.  "No... You wish you could hate me."

I glare at him for the dangerous assumption, something I don't want to hear since it may be a touch too close to the truth.  I'd have to thoroughly examine my feelings to know what I actually think about Seifer, but I prefer leaving things unknown, simple, and safe.  And right now, Seifer is ruining that blissful ignorance for me.

"Squall, what are you most afraid of at this moment - me or the chance to find love again?"

A harsh laugh escapes me as I shake my head.  "You can't love me.  It's been three days."

"And you're the one who believes in love at first sight," he reminds me.  Fuck him for using my words against me.

"Not with you."

"Oh?  Then is that what happened between you and Piet?"

I do my best to mask the emotions his question ignites in me, but I've already learned that this man sees more than others.

With a soft smile, Seifer leans forward to rest his forehead against mine.  "That's alright.  I know I'm giving you too much to handle.  Just promise me that you won't refuse me without at least thinking about what I've told you."

Uncomfortable in the position that I've only shared with my father, I feel exposed with Seifer this close to me without the intention to kiss or grope me.  Damn it, when did the whore vanish and be replaced by someone I can't ignore, someone who has figured me out?

Seifer squeezes my hand.  "Tell me what's happening in that head of yours, princess."

"I..."  Wetting my dried lips with a slip of my tongue, I say quietly, "I need time to think."

His smile childlike in his relief, Seifer straightens.  "That's all I want."

I think to argue and point out that he wants a lot more from me than that, but Seifer moves too quickly for me to find my voice.  Stepping back a pace, he keeps his hold on my hand and pulls on my arm.

"We better go back inside.  I'll bet if we ask nicely, we can convince a waiter to find a piece of chocolate cake for you.  I know it's your favorite."

Somewhat dazed by the change in topics, I accuse, "Irvine told you."

"Close, but not quite - your father did.  I think he likes me."

I scoff.  "I doubt it.  He knows everything about you."

The escort hums softly with a tilt of his head.  "How does that imply that he doesn't want you to keep me around?"

I stare at him for the suggestion.  It's something that would be ridiculous for anyone else, but it sounds entirely too much like my father for comfort.  And God help me, I'm stuck here another two days with Laguna and his kindhearted desire to make certain I'm not alone for the rest of my life.

"Hey," Seifer calls out to regain my attention.  "Do you want dessert or not?"

I gaze at the handsome man and note the way the gel in his hair seems to be weakening for the night, releasing golden strands over his forehead.  Wishing that I could deny my attraction and ignore my curiosity of what Seifer tastes like, I reply under my breath, "I don't know."

"Come on, I don't care much for sweets and I thought it was pretty damn good."

Somewhat startled that he had heard me, I thank my luck that the flirtatious man didn't catch onto my actual meaning.

"Trust me, princess.  You'll like it."

With a vague smile, I nod my head in consent, the only sign Seifer needs as he begins pulling me in the direction of the door.  Watching his back side, I think about Ellone's comment the other day, that Seifer didn't seem to be my type.  I wholly agree with her assessment, and yet, I also feel something drawing me to this irritating man.  If it were just his smile and body, I wouldn't be so worried about something that could be solved with a night of sex.  No, there's something else that only Seifer can offer me and I have a horrible feeling that the price of that 'something' may be too high for me to handle.




Author's Whining -- *snicker*  If you think I missed something, I didn't.  Seifer will pay for it in the next chapter.