The High Price of Love
January 2007


[Epilogue - six weeks later]


Seated at a table for two, I gaze out the nearby window and look down at the crazed city street one story below.  It's shortly before five o'clock and everyone is already hurrying to their respective Friday night event, whether it be spending the evening with their families at home, or going out to the darkest corners of the city to drink hard and do whatever else it takes forget the problems of the week.  It doesn't help that today is the first freezing day of the year, forcing them to bundle in forgotten coats and speak with misty breaths, most likely complaining about it being too early for weather as bad as this.

Gaining a chill from the view below, I return my attention to the mug of black coffee cupped between my hands and stare at the reflective surface of the dark liquid.  But even with my attention on the mug, I can still see the corner of a white envelope that can't be fully hidden beneath my bent arm.  Damn, it's pathetic to be terrified of a rectangular piece of paper and it's entirely Seifer's fault that this unexpected fear has overwhelmed me like this.  Everything is Seifer's fault.

As if summoning a demon, my thoughts make the green-eyed man appear.  It's disturbing, really, how I can tell the moment when Seifer enters a room without even seeing him.  One by one, heads turn to view upon the tall man of golden hair and disarming smiles.  And though my back is to the entrance, it's an easy task to track the former escort's progress through the cafe judging by the awed and disgusted whispers that follow him.  It's for that reason I don't react when, without greeting or warning, Seifer drops directly into the chair across from me.

His green eyes bright and dangerous, Seifer flashes a cheshire's smile as he unbuttons his trench coat.  "I've got news."

I don't bother to respond to his excited tone, knowing that we will be interrupted before I could get out a full sentence.

"Evening, sir," our dark-skinned, dark-eyed waitress greets brightly, right on cue.  "Is there something I can get you to drink?"

Without looking in her direction, Seifer waves aside the menu she tries to hand him.  "I'll have the café mocha with extra chocolate.  The smallest size, whatever you might call that here."  The order makes me gaze amusedly at the idiot blond, Seifer knowing very well that I occasionally enjoy the taste of coffee and chocolate.  Damn bastard, he'd do anything to ensure that our kisses will last a little bit longer.

The waitress pouts as she nods and leaves with a murmur that she'll get it right away.

"She's rather beautiful," I mention lightly.  "Large-breasted, too."

Seifer frowns as he turns sharply to look at the retreating woman, and then back at me.  "What, are you straight all of the sudden?"

I breathe a laugh while shaking my head, impressed how the blond grows a set of blinders whenever he has his mind set on me for whatever reason.  Strangely enough, this absolute attention of his bothers me more than when those expressive jade eyes wander to view upon the other 'sights' of the city.  In those moments, I'm fine with him looking around and deciding that he still wants to stay with me.  But when he focuses on me and sees nothing else... I feel like I've sold my soul to this man and I just don't know it yet.

Seifer continues to scowl.  "I don't see what is so damned funny.  Was she flirting with you before I got here or something?"

With a scoff, I inform him, "I had to wait ten minutes before she took my order.  Meanwhile, you walked in ten seconds ago and she's ready to have your babies."

The blond blinks at my dry tone, his pale lips slowly curling into an inevitable smirk.  "Well, that's your own fault for looking so gay.  She knew she didn't have a chance the moment she set eyes on you."

I sip at my coffee, allowing Seifer his smug moment before prompting, "So, what's your news?"

"Hn...?  Oh yeah, the news - I got a second interview next week for a position within Senator Deling's staff," he announces with true pride.  "And from what I could get from the secretary, I'm one of the top candidates."

Unable to hide my surprise, I ask, "When did you have a first interview?"

"Last week," Seifer answers with a conspiring smile.  "I didn't want say anything until I knew I had a real chance at this job."

Though well hidden, I can hear that hint of anxiousness to his voice, a touch of worry that contrasts greatly to his arrogant nature.  I try not to smile at the knowledge that I've heard that tone once before, when he offered me his 'monthly payment" option.  He must really want this, more than he probably realizes himself.  "I wouldn't worry about it, Seifer.  You seem to always get what you want."

Green eyes brighten in pleasure at my comment.  "Thanks, that really means something coming from you.  But you know, if I do get the position, the pay is going to be shit since it'll be a government job and all.  I'm going to have to rely on my sugar daddy to buy me gifts whenever I have a bad day."

I scoff lightly, fairly certain that Seifer has more cash hiding away than I can imagine.  Aside from nice clothing, occasional drinks, and a high priced apartment, I haven't noticed any other indulgences where he could waste his money.  I don't know why, but I've never really questioned his statement to my father about making a nice nest egg for the future.  Truth be told, I probably figured that the man's main goal in life was to retire early at the age of thirty.

At that moment, the waitress appears with his drink and attempts to gain his eye, but Seifer has already lost his attention to another sight.  His green eyes focused on the envelope hidden beneath my arm, he waits until the woman leaves before he says, "You got yours, too, huh?"

I glance down at the envelope, stunned to notice that I had completely forgotten about the thing ever since Seifer had shown up.  But with that passing surprise, I suddenly realize what words he had used.  Looking back at the blond, I watch as he removes an envelope from the inner pocket of his coat.

Holding it out, Seifer asks, "Shall we trade or open our own?"

I hesitate while staring at the envelope that looks so plain, so innocent in nature.  I can't remember how it came about or if alcohol was somehow involved, but two weeks ago, I had stupidly made the comment that I wanted to be tested for HIV one last time.  The following day, I found myself in the waiting room of a clinic with a pair of nurses asking me where my 'future husband' and I were planning to go for our honeymoon.  Seifer has yet to explain exactly how that rumor was spread.  And now here we are, the results sitting in our hands and I haven't a clue why I feel this anxiousness when it never mattered before.  I've always known the truth despite the words written on paper, but this time feels different for some confusing reason.

"Well?" Seifer prods, impatient for an answer.

I lean back into my seat and take my own letter in hand.  Using a butter knife, I slice open the top portion of the envelope to reveal the papers within.

"Alright, our own then," Seifer mutters while tearing open his envelope with his thumb.  He removes the papers without hesitation and scans the results of his various tests, the former escort wanting to be certain of his health beyond the chance of being infected with HIV.  Staring at him without thinking about it, I realize that the man looks good right now - dressed in causal business clothes and an expensive trench coat that accentuates his broad frame, he appears a lawyer or the like mulling over important paperwork.  While I know differently, I can't help being reminded of my attraction to this person who can be whatever a person wants for the right price.  One of these days, I should figure out how and why I ended up with Seifer himself.

"Fucking shit, I can't believe this," Seifer says abruptly, startling me out of my dazed state.  "It was one time and we didn't even have fucking sex.  How is this possible?"

My heart dies in that instant as I stare at the blond, unable to speak or question what he is talking about.  I fear that I already know.

"Squall," he begins softly, setting his paperwork on the tabletop.  "I don't know how to say this, but... I'm pregnant."

"... Wh... what?"

"I know, I know, you haven't fucked me yet, but I haven't been with another guy in months and they say penetration isn't necessary--"

I reach over the table and smack him directly against the ear, the man dodging before I can inflict even more pain.

"Ow, that hurt, princess," Seifer states while trying to hold back laughter.  "I don't care how much you abuse me - I'm not getting an abortion."

"You asshole, do you really think this is funny?  I thought that you... that you..."  A hand clenched into a tight fist, I resist the desire to cause real damage to the large blond, not really caring that we've already attracted too much attention from the other cafe patrons.  But my hand is quickly covered by Seifer's, his skin warm and consoling when he speaks quietly to me.

"No, it's not funny, but why haven't you looked at your results yet?  You already think you're sick, so what's left for you to fear?"

I stare into sharp green eyes, startled by the question I haven't asked myself yet.  In that moment, I know why I've been terrified of a mere letter, of a result that can't be any worse than the taint I already feel.  And sadly, Seifer must have guessed it first.  How pathetic, I've been outsmarted by an idiot blond.

Sliding my hand out from Seifer's, my voice won't sound louder than a whisper when I say, "I can't be with you if it says I'm HIV positive."

His frowns slightly, not pleased by the words that he was probably expecting to hear.  "Yeah, I know."

I look away from his intense gaze and focus on the opened envelope resting on the tabletop.  My hands are surprisingly steady when I remove the papers and unfold them.  I stare for a long minute, not wanting to read the printed words as I think about the years I've lived like this, certain of my disease and impending death.  For the first time, I had started to feel a measure of hope, a desire to live beyond the stain that Piet had placed on my life.  And now my life is to be determined by a piece of paper.

A warm hand once again settles on mine, it being Seifer's form of silent support and impatient prodding to know if I'm going to get rid of him.  And with his thumb stroking my chilled skin, I have the sudden overwhelming need to know the same and I focus on the words that will decide everything.

"Damn it," I say in a shaky breath, the curse causing Seifer to squeeze my hand tightly, painfully.  I lift my eyes to look at him and find the most pathetic pleading expression on his face, one I imagine that he had used many times as a child.  With a slight shake of my head, I complain, "I can't believe I'm stuck with you."

After a moment of stunned silence, Seifer breaths a disbelieving laugh as he presses his free hand to his face.  "Holy shit, princess, you really had me going there.  I don't think I've ever been so fucking scared in my life."


"Heck yeah, scared.  I thought I was losing you in two different ways there."

I manage a shadow of a smile at the relieved sound to his voice, but that moment fades quickly as I set down the papers.  "Seifer... Listen, I know what it says here, but..."

"Hey, I know better than to expect too many miracles at once.  You're HIV negative for another day and you've admitted that you love me.  I can wait until tomorrow for you to believe that you aren't damaged merchandise."

While comforted that Seifer isn't expecting the impossible from me, I'm forced to point out, "I never said that I love you."

"Of course you did," he insists while lifting my hand and pressing it against his cheek.  "You took this test again when you've said that it isn't perfect and that it didn't matter how many times the results said you were negative.  You took it again and decided to believe in this result.  You did it because you love me."

"Bastard, quit assuming things about me."

"It's not an assumption," Seifer argues with a pleased smirk, refusing to release my hand when I try to pull it back.  Poisonous green eyes focused solely on me, the former escort kisses the back of my hand before asking, "Are you going to come to my apartment tonight?"

I don't reply immediately, not entirely certain that I'm ready for the real question that he is asking.  It's been six weeks, but I have yet to visit his apartment, that somehow becoming the defining line of when I was ready to give him the last of myself.  Considering his lecherous past and obvious hungers, it's incredible that Seifer has waited this long because of my fears.  But that only makes it harder to remind him, "The test could still be wrong."

"It could be, but I still want you."

"Hn, so you tell me daily.  You shouldn't have quit being an escort if it would've given me some peace."

Seifer scoffs, his hand tightening.  "I don't cheat, Squally-boy, so stop suggesting it and just tell me, 'Why yes, honey bunny, I'd love to have long, hard monkey sex in your bed.'  Got it?"

I should be offended, I should want to kick him in a place that would make him rethink sex tonight, but instead, I find my mouth moving and my treacherous voice asking, "You'll play it safe?"

"Always," he replies immediately, the gleam to his eyes and the smirk on his lips not overly assuring, but I still find myself believing in his word.

"Alright, then show me why people pay good money for an idiot bastard like you."

~ > < ~

My lower back pressed uncomfortably against the edge of a countertop, I smile into the sudden kiss forced upon me.  The kitchen was the second stop in Seifer's tour of his apartment, and though I had caught a glimpse of an amazing view beyond the windows, I doubt that I'll be allowed to see anything else aside from the bedroom tonight.  As if to confirm that thought, the large hands cupping my ass squeeze tightly before sliding up and grabbing onto my sweater.  A sharp tug is my only warning before Seifer steps back and proceeds to remove the warm material without managing to strangle me.

The sweater dropped to the tiled ground, I'm once again trapped within the strong arms of the blond as he renews the broken kiss that expectedly tastes of bitter chocolate.  I can hardly remember to breathe, let alone consider how easily things could go wrong tonight as Seifer continues to steal away my sense with every harsh kiss and heated touch.  I know I should stop, that I should take a moment to think, but instead I place my hands deep into his styled hair and do my best to free the strands from hardened gel.  God, I'm in trouble with this seducer.

The sudden ring of the phone makes me jump, the reaction drawing a laugh from Seifer as he moves his attention to my neck.  I think to ask him if he should be answering that, but when a deft hand unbuttons and unzips my pants before the second ring sounds, I figure Seifer would know if he should be expecting an important phone call.  And if I wanted to be entirely truthful with myself, I didn't want to stop either.

After the fourth ring, the answering machine clicks on with Seifer's voice saying, 'Obviously I'm not going to answer the phone, so leave a message.'  It's a little surreal to hear that cocky voice when his mouth is busy at the task of teasing one of my nipples in the determined attempt to draw pathetic sounds from me.

<"Uh, Seifer, it's me,"> the caller says over the answering machine, the voice instantly stopping me cold.  For his part, Seifer groans and rests his head against my chest as the moment is effectively ruined.  <"I mean, it's Laguna.  I know you told me not to call tonight since you'd be out with Squall, but... well, I still thought I'd try just in case you were around.  Anyway, once you get the chance, please give me a call.  I'll be up late and there's that whole time difference, so... you know, call back.  Thanks.">

As the answering machine clicks off, I glare down at the blond.  "Why the Hell is my father calling you?"

Sighing, Seifer straightens from his hunched position and meets my angered gaze.  "Listen, say whatever you want, but that guy really worries about you.  We talked a few times while in California and... What's the problem with me giving him my number so that he can call and check up on you every now and again?"

"But he's calling you."

"Yeah?  What's strange about that?  Have you ever considered that maybe, just maybe, he wants some real answers about how you are doing and about what's new and wonderful in your life?  Sorry, princess, but you aren't any easy stone to talk to."

I want to be angry at him and to yell at him for getting involved when he has no right, but instead an odd sense of relief fills me.  Though I'd never admit it out loud, Seifer is probably right.  I can remember far too many phone calls that involved me listening to my father and never answering in detail to his various questions.  He had stopped calling as often, our talks happening maybe once a month at most, and even then I couldn't bring myself to say anything that could trouble him.  God, I'm hopeless.

"You are so fucking lucky to have a father who cares," Seifer says as he brushes aside my bangs and gazes at me with a fond look to his eyes.  "And he's really proud of you right now."

It takes a moment of thought before I realize what the blond means by that.  "You told him about the HIV test."

"Yeah, I talked to him this afternoon about getting my results and mentioned that you had probably gotten yours.  I'll bet he's on pins and needles waiting to hear about the big news."

It's all too easy to imagine my father pacing the length of his house, waiting to hear about the result and how I was taking it.  Shaking my head in disbelief, I place my arms around Seifer's neck and press my body against his.  "He'll have to wait until morning."

"Are you sure?  It'd only take a minute."

"No conversation with my father takes a minute.  In any case, he deserves to suffer for using you as his personal spy."

"Is that so?" Seifer asks with an interested look to his eyes.  "Then what sort of punishment do you have planned for the spy himself?"

With a slight smile at his fast mind, I place a knee between his legs and rub the length of my thigh against the bulge easily felt through dark slacks.  "You did mention that you have a 'well-stocked' apartment, didn't you?"

Seifer's reply is a throaty hum as he attempts to initiate another kiss that would too quickly take away my control.  I dodge the kiss and slip out from between his arms, though a large hand still manages to grab onto my wrist.

Allowing him that hold, but refusing his attempt to pull me closer, I ask him, "Where's this bedroom of yours?"

~ > < ~

Some time later, I find myself still without my sweater and mysteriously without pants, seated at the edge of a king-sized mattress and lazily riffling through the drawers of a nightstand.  I'll have to admit that Seifer wasn't kidding about having a nice supply on hand, though I didn't expect him to be quite this well organized about it.

"Uh, Squall...?"

I ignore the blond behind me and continue exploring through the packed drawers.  The top drawer held all of the typical things expected of an escort - condoms, lubricants, flavored condoms, fresh cloths, and even more condoms with a supposed warming effect.  The second drawer is a touch more interesting with vibrators, realistic dildos and other anal toys of all varieties.  And to think, there's another nightstand on the other side of his bed that is intended for the ladies he more commonly brought home.

"Hey, princess, maybe a little help here?"

I smirk at the sound of chains scrapping against the metal bars of his stylized headboard.  "Not yet.  Still looking."

Seifer growls out a quiet curse, then muttering to himself, "'You have handcuffs?  Do they really work?'  Fucking shit, I can't believe I fucking fell for it."

I ignore his intentionally feminized version of my voice, feeling more amused that he had let himself be handcuffed without an ounce of struggle.  Then again, I wasn't much help while distracting him with a firm hand and an exploring tongue.  Curious at a very blue toy, I lift it out of the drawer and accidentally switch it on.  The vibrator bouncing in my hands, I must look foolish with the damned thing, but shit, I can't believe these things have become so... flexible over the years.  Really, when did they start making these things such that they flail at nearly a ninety degree angle?

"Holy mother," Seifer groans lowly as he shifts behind me.  "Stop playing with those things before you break me."

The vibrator still going in my hand, I turn to look at the partly naked and very aroused blond.  Dressed in an unbuttoned shirt and unzipped pants while chained to the bed, Seifer still manages to hold up his 'I'm a high priced whore and you know it' facade.  It's almost cute that he thinks it'd work on me.  "Don't you mean 'stop before I break something'?"

"Yeah, me.  I'm hurting here, princess.  Give me some pity before I do something drastic."

I manage to switch off the vibrator, but I don't set it aside just yet as I finger the length of the object.  "I don't know.  With all of these toys, I could pleasure myself without having to deal with your needs.  It'd probably be more satisfying, too."

Seifer actually looks worried for a second, his eyes shifting to the open drawer with a hint of jealously to the green irises.  But then a slow, interested smirk overtakes his expression as he focuses on me.  "I'd still get to watch, right?"

"I'm supposed to be punishing you," I remind the sex-crazed man as I put away the vibrator and close the drawer.  "If I were to do anything with a toy, it would be in my own bedroom and with you left here to mull over your situation."

"You aren't that cruel," he says, though the slight crease of his forehead suggests that he isn't too certain about how terrible I can be when motivated.

Opening the top drawer of the nightstand, I glance over the available selection and breathe in relief that it isn't too creative.  I remove a tube that I recognize from too many years ago and also grab a cloth and a couple of plain condoms that don't state anything about 'tasteful fun'.  Seifer's expression certainly brightens at my actions, but I don't say a word that could give him a reason to assume the best.

With my final barrier in the way, I remove my briefs without much thought, but I can clearly feel the heat of green eyes tracing every line of my bare body.  I still remember the first time I had laid naked beneath the handsome blond, maybe a week after returning to New York.  I was certain we were going to have sex that night, but instead, Seifer only gazed at my body as if it were the first time he had seen a naked man.  Then, several minutes later, he told me that I wasn't ready and that he wasn't about to hurt me to sate his libido.  I was offended and humiliated at that moment, but I think I now understand what Seifer was waiting for that night, what I hadn't seen myself.

Shifting positions onto my knees, I move in front of the bound man and make a point of placing a good dose of lubricant onto my fingers.  The tube set aside, I reach back and spread the greasy material around my anus before slipping in a single finger.  Seifer jerks forward at that move, the action horribly predictable, but still very satisfying.

"This isn't fair," Seifer mutters as he glares at one of the metal cuffs.  "Why the Hell didn't I buy the trick ones?"

"Because you don't think of consequences," I remind the large blond, his sour expression drawing a light laugh from me.

Preparing myself further, I realize that I'm growing closer to punishing myself instead of Seifer, so I decide to move forward with tonight's plans.  With my free hand, I pull down on his boxers and release the strained erection from soft silk.  I wet my lips before directing the attention of my tongue to the dark red head of his penis, somewhat frustrated at this recent hunger of mine to taste every part of Seifer.  The arrogant man has yet to complain, his lips curling into pleased smirks whenever I can't seem to stop myself from licking and biting his skin, especially whenever I become fixated on that damned nipple ring of his.  God help me if he seriously considers a piercing for his penis.

Not the first time I've pleasured Seifer in this way, I know some of the tricks he prefers most, but I don't want him to find his release before I've enjoyed him a bit more.  My tongue leading the way, I lick and suck down the length of his erection, then moving further back to his sensitive balls and the area hidden just behind.  Seifer squirms at the intimate touch, a surprised gasp escaping him when I place my teeth around a vulnerable nut and flick at the trapped flesh with the tip of my tongue.

"Holy fuck," Seifer curses in a hoarse voice.  "If you want to do anything else in the next few minutes, I suggest not doing that."

Heeding his warning, I release my mouth's hold from his sack and lap at the remaining salvia before I push up from the mattress.  The change in position makes me inhale sharply at the greater pressure of my fingers against the walls of my anus.  Satisfied that I had prepared myself enough, I remove my fingers and wipe the mess onto the cloth I had removed from his bedside chest.  Given the lingering lubricant, I have to use my teeth to remove the condom from its wrapper, something about the action causing Seifer to grin brightly.  I briefly consider wiping that smile from his face by trapping a few pubic hairs within the latex, but I instead play nice and correctly roll the condom over his length.

"Hey, Squall."

The serious voice catches my attention, encouraging me to look up into sharp green eyes.

"Unlock these fucking cuffs."

Smiling softly at the demand, I move forward on my knees and straddle his hips before wrapping my arms loosely around his neck.  I lean forward to place a light kiss on his lips and say, "No."

With a rattle of chains, Seifer growls, "This is our first time together and you won't let me touch you?"

A chill courses through my body at his voice and message, and though I enjoy this momentary control over the arrogant man, he does have a point.  I retrieve the key from the nightstand and use it to free his right hand, but then quickly toss the piece of metal to the end of the mattress.  Before Seifer can question me, I inform him, "Just one hand.  The other stays until we're done."

Though at first showing his annoyance, Seifer smirks at the condition and immediately abuses his renewed freedom to slap my ass.  "You'll pay for this, Leonhart."

Silently arguing that he'll be the one who'll suffer for the undeserved spank, I lift up onto my knees and reach behind to grab his hard length.  His arm promptly slips around my waist to steady me, the feel of quiet strength helping to soothe away the tension I didn't even recognize.  Placing him at my entrance, I lower carefully onto his erection, my muscles at first rejecting that invasion, but I've wanted this for too long for me to quit after some pain.  My breaths coming faster, I can't go all the way with that first move, so I instead sit in place and try to will my body to relax.  His arm tightening around my waist, Seifer leans as far as he can and manages to place a kiss on my forehead.

"Take your time and make it feel good."

A breath of laughter leaves me, the shake of my body impaling me even further to the point of feeling his unzipped pants against my bare skin.  "Is this how you treat all of your lovers?"

"Does it matter?"

I lean back to better look at his face, interested at the cautious gleam to his eyes.  "... No, not really."

Pale lips slide into a lopsided smile as Seifer lowers his hand and squeezes my ass.  "Then don't waste your breath with meaningless talk."

I mutter an amused, "Hypocrite," before settling my arms back around his shoulders.  I lift up such that Seifer nearly slips free, but quickly drop back down to bring him further within me, the sharp jab of his cock making me hiss out from something that wasn't quite pain, nor something entirely pleasurable.  I don't stop to consider that sensation, but instead repeat the action again, again, and again.  Seifer helps as best he can with one free hand, but it's the creak of the bed and the scrape of chains that creates a type of beat that seeps into my head and fills me with the desire to make it go faster and harder.  My fingernails dig into hot flesh in the need for more purchase and leverage, the action drawing a groaning purr from the large blond.  The pleased noise affects me like a physical caress in all the wrong places, almost bringing me to the edge before I'm ready for that quick end.

Unexpectedly, Seifer's hand moves from its supportive position and slides up the length of my back, the gliding touch making me arch back against the press of fingers.  A low growl comes from the blond, Seifer apparently not wanting that reaction from me as he buries his large hand into my hair and tries to bend me forward.  I resist that forceful suggestion, not particularly interested a position that would make it harder to move, but a whispered plea telling me to come closer undoes me.

Once within reach, I'm attacked by a hard kiss that steals away my breath for several seconds.  Like with all of Seifer's kisses, I lose my sense the instant his tongue entangles with mine, and in that moment of distraction, I forget to keep track of his wandering hand.  The brush of his fingertips against my erection is apparently the last stimulus my sensitized body can handle.  Forced to break the kiss, I breathe out a frustrated groan of release, disappointed that the former escort had beaten me once again despite his previously aroused state.

"Give me a minute," I say in a whispered breath, needing a moment to regain my strength before helping Seifer to find some satisfaction.

"Take all of the minutes you want," he teases with a pleased smirk.  Placing his hand back into my hair, he encourages me to lean forward and rest against his bare chest.

While unable to resist the comfortable position, I still point out, "You're not done yet."

"I came while we were kissing, kitten," Seifer says with a chuckle.  "You probably didn't notice because of the condom.  I was just about to help you finish off, but damn, I guess you get pretty responsive once you've decided to enjoy the pleasures of sex."

Somewhat confused, I shift slightly in the attempt to determine if the blond was lying to me, soon surprised to notice that he was speaking the truth.

"Oh no, don't do that, kitten.  Not if you want to walk tomorrow."

I glance up at his face, and after a moment of thought, I decide to offer, "Tomorrow is Saturday and I don't have to be anywhere."

Green eyes brighten in the dim light of his bedroom, Seifer then bending down to initiate another kiss, this one soft and coaxing in its caress.  Though he is still deep within me and the desire is apparent in his body, I know by his kiss that he won't allow anything else tonight.  At some point in the past several weeks, Seifer has decided that since he can't pull off being a prince, he's going to be a knight who will always be there to protect me.  It's an irritating mindset, especially in times like these, but I haven't been able to tell him to stop being an idiot.  Something always stops me before I can find the words, and though Seifer's kisses may be a large part of that, I have the sneaking suspicion that I'm tongue-tied about the matter for an entirely different reason.

"Squall..." Seifer breathes against into the kiss, his voice soft and seductive.  "Can you release my other wrist now?"

At first bewildered by his request when I expected more nonsense from the blond, I glance at his bound wrist and immediately straighten when I notice the thread of blood slipping down his skin and past the cuff of his shirtsleeve.  In my rushed motions, I can't prevent a wince as I lift up onto my knees and free myself of his softened length.  Once able to properly move, I reach back and find the tossed key amongst the folds of the bed sheets.

Placing the key into the shackle, I scold him, "Why didn't you say something sooner?"

"I can't really say that I noticed the pain until just now," Seifer says, flexing his wrist the moment it's freed.  "Anyway, it's just a little cut, nothing serious."

"Idiot," I mutter as I take a hold of his wrist and lap at the minimal amount of blood.

With a purring hum, Seifer places his hand at my neck and massages firmly.  "That feels better."

The taste of his blood on my tongue, I stare at the arm in my hands and try to figure out why I become a thoughtless fool whenever I'm around the former escort.  "You should clean it properly.  I don't want to know what else these handcuffs have been through."

"Hn, I need a shower, anyway," he states with a smile that is hardly innocent and very suggestive of him thinking about what exactly these cuffs have seen.  "And you're going to join me, right?"

My nod of agreement spurs the larger man into quick action, him jumping from the bed and removing his soiled pants, boxers, and condom before offering a hand in my direction.  At my hesitation, Seifer encourages, "I've been wanting a shower with you for a long time, princess.  Don't disappoint me now."

I reluctantly accept his hand, not quite certain of his intentions and somewhat curious about why he hasn't dragged me along for a shower in the weeks before tonight.  When I stumble with my first steps from the bed, Seifer places a steadying arm around my waist and presses a kiss against my temple.  He leads me into the large bathroom decorated in dark green and tan, a combination that gives a vaguely jungle feel to the room.  Once certain that I can stand by my own power, Seifer releases me to turn on the hot water and remove his unbuttoned shirt.  I find myself staring at the handsome form in front of me, desire stirring in my chest once looking at the fingernail impressions visible along his broad shoulders.  The choice to look lower ends up being a bad one, Seifer turning around and shamelessly displaying his manhood that wasn't as limp as it should be.

"Ready to feel clean?"

I gaze into entrancing jade eyes, the odd thought coming to mind that I don't feel filthy anymore, not like I once did.  I'm still afraid of what could be lying dormant within me, but my stain doesn't seem as dark anymore.  More importantly, it doesn't seem to matter, not compared to whatever this is between Seifer and me.

But I don't say any of that to Seifer, not quite certain I could put words to my thoughts anyway.  Instead, I step into the shower and feel relief at the flow of warm water.  Seifer moves quickly behind me, his arms wrapping across my chest in a possessive and demanding manner.  I place a hand at his arm, careful to avoid his injury despite its minor nature.

"I have nothing left," I state quietly, almost hoping for the shower to drown out my voice.

"What are you talking about, princess?"

"The price you want from me... I have nothing left to give you.  This is it."

Seifer rests his chin on my shoulder before laughing lightly.  "You really think that's all you have left?  Well, that's disappointing."

"You've taken everything," I argue defensively, not appreciating his mocking tone.

"That's not true," he says with a kiss against my neck.  "You may have given me your trust, your love, and your body, but you have yet to give me complete ownership of your days, months, and years."

I shiver at the breath against my wet skin, not expecting such words from the playboy.  The only argument that comes to mind is, "We only met two months ago."

"Mmm, very true.  It took a week to gain your trust and another month to gain your love, so I figure we're on track for me to propose to you on Christmas Day.  We're going to California for the holidays, right?  I think your father would love to be there when it happens."

Staring at the tiled walls of the shower, I find it hard to believe that Seifer is already thinking about marriage, with a man no less.  "You're insane."

The wet blond laughs at the comment before pressing his lips against my ear and warning me, "Wait and see, princess.  You'll love the ring."

I shake my head in disbelief of his arrogance, the man already assuming that I'd accept any proposal of his.  But stranger yet is that I don't feel particularly bothered or afraid of what he is demanding with his suggestion.  Instead, I feel stupid and naive that I ever believed my love for Piet was something real and lasting.  This is what it should have been, a partnership beyond the easy words of love and the physical bonding of sex.  I was a fool to believe that 'I love you' meant anything when something stupid like 'it'll be worth the price' means so much more.  It's an understanding instead of a platitude and I didn't realize how much I needed that until Seifer trampled his way into my life.

"You're smiling," Seifer points out, his voice shining with the smirk that must be plastered on his face.  "What are you thinking about?"

"Nothing that matters to you."

"Oh, I doubt that.  Maybe I can find a way to convince you to tell me?"

As large hands slide down the wet skin of my body, I feel myself drifting into a warm haze.  It's cruel of him to do this to me, changing me into a person who responds to his every touch.  One of these days I need to figure out how I can regain control over this relationship, even if it requires a preemptive strike to his potential holiday proposal.  It'd be amusing to see his reaction if I gave him a ring on his birthday, mere days before Christmas.  ... And that more than anything proves that I've been ruined by this blond bastard.  He should have warned me that his idiocy is contagious.

"Don't share that smile with anyone else, lovely," Seifer states lowly, the abruptly deep tone rumbling with a possessive edge.

"And why's that?'

"Because it'd make a smart man steal you away from me."

While I know he must be exaggerating, I decide to alleviate his obvious concern.  "It makes no difference.  You're at fault for doing this to me."

His hands move to my hips and force me to turn around in order to face him, his expression soft and serious when he demands, "Then it belongs to me, right?"

I don't bother to reply, allowing my expression to answer whatever question he is really asking.

A slow, pleased smile forms as Seifer places a hand at my cheek.  "And you said you had nothing left to give me."

"I suppose that I misspoke."

With a chuckle, the blond bends down to brush his lips against mine.  "If you continue to raise the price like this, I'm not going to be able to keep up, princess."

"... ...?"

"Don't you remember - I promised to make this worth the price you pay."

It's a surprise to see the vague concern in his eyes, almost hidden by the amount of arrogance shining in the jade depths.  I want to argue, to remind him that he has given me a reason to live after years of waiting for a death that wouldn't come.  But I don't want to belittle his fears, so with a hand placed on top of his, I tell him simply, "You've lived up to your promise thus far."

"Thus far, huh?" he prods with a raised eyebrow.

Brushing my thumb along the back of his hand, I say carefully, "I can give you my days and my months, Seifer, but give me time to decide on the years."

"I'll give you all the time you need, princess, just as long as you're here while you make that decision."

"You're being greedy," I state both in exasperation and in amusement.

"You have yet to see how greedy I can be," Seifer says in a low purr, then leaning back down to apparently prove to me the extent of his greed.

And though I already have good impression of his hunger and selfishness, I will allow him this demonstration for tonight and however many nights there are to come.  After all, I've paid a high price to be here with him - the least Seifer can do is prove that he values everything that I have given him.




Author's Whining -- And that's the end of this story, full of the cheese and sap that I adore way too much.  I have to thank Jess Almasy and Cicer for being my very helpful betas this time around.  They waded through two chapters so that I could post tonight.  Poor souls, they'll probably be in trouble with more chapters in the future.

Now with this story done, I can move onto other ideas.  I'm currently debating either the hockey fic or my original 'I Didn't Want to See'.  Both have been sitting around for a touch too long, so I don't know which I'd be more motivated to work on.  But first, FNFE is calling my name and demanding attention.  Hopefully that one won't take as long to update.