Living Life
January 2003

 

[Part Two]

[Squall]

They say women have multiple children only because of some gene or hormone that makes them forget the agonies of pregnancy.  It's been seventeen years for me, and while some things had become fuzzy over time, with my first mad dash into the bathroom, everything came back to me with crisp clear detail.  That was eight oh so fun weeks ago.  With the first trimester not even over yet, I'll have at least two more months of all day 'morning sickness' to go, not to mention the other 'joys' of childbearing.  Hyne, I hate being pregnant.

After washing my face with a cool, damp towel, I more stumble than walk out of my personal bathroom connected to the office.  One more week.  One more week and I'm out of this damn Garden.  Fuck, how did I fight an insane sorceress in this condition?  Wait, no, by this time I was dealing with my 'new' father, which in some ways was infinitely worse.

From behind, strong arms encircle my chest and pull me against a hard body. 

"Seifer, don't you have a class to be teaching?"

"Today is a holiday."

"... ..."  There are at least three things wrong with the statement, foremost being the fact Garden classes don't get off for holidays, but since he most likely has a detailed excuse all lined up for my torment, I decide to let it pass.  I really don't want to hear about national chocolate covered cherry day and its deep history, or whatever else he would manage to come up with.

"How you holding up?  Sounded pretty bad in there."

"Nothing worse than usual."

"If you say so," he says, kissing lightly behind my ear.  "I notice you've been letting your hair grow out."

"Nothing intentional, I assure you."

He chuckles quietly.  "What do you say to me kidnapping you and letting me treat you to lunch in town?  Or if you don't want to go out, maybe I could draw you up a bath for two."

Damn him for mentioning a relaxing bath.  "You do realize that we aren't released from our jobs until Saturday."

"Officially, yes.  Unofficially, no one would dare stop us from being lazy fucks for our last days here, unless they really want a gunblade up their ass.  Come on, be irresponsible for the first time in your life."

"I have a meeting."

"Cancel it."

"Can't.  It's for the SeeD exam tomorrow."

"Shit, is that really tomorrow?  No wonder our cub was a bit jumpy today."

I sigh.  "Seifer, you're in charge of the frontal team.  Please don't tell me you haven't planned out your attack strategy yet."

"Then my lips are sealed."

Leaning back against him, I silently remind myself that he has done this almost every time in the past fifteen years, and there hasn't been a disaster yet.  Well, not a major disaster.  ...Why is it again that I trust him to not get anyone killed from his stupidity?

"When's the meeting?"

"Any minute now.  Quistis sent us a cadet who she swears is the best hacker she's ever seen."

"A cadet, hmmm?  Think I'll stick around, then.  That way I can drag you out of here once the kid runs screaming."

Before I can consider scolding the most likely smirking man, the intercom beeps to life as a woman's voice informs me of a 'Mr. Zehrou' arriving for his appointment.  Shrugging out of Seifer's hold, I go take my place at the desk and open the office door with a push of a button.  The large blonde is to my side by then, leaning against the window behind me while probably doing his best to look intimidating.

A young man walks into the office, his manner serious and calm unlike most of the nervous cadets that pass through that door.  Long white hair is tied loosely at his back, swaying slightly with his determined stride.  He stops properly before my desk in a stiff pose, waiting for my permission to do anything more.  When he meets my gaze with reddish eyes, I try to place the familiar face.

"It's the lab rat our cub wants to fuck," Seifer whispers into my ear, recognizing my hesitation.

With the utmost effort, I keep my expression neutral while waving the grinning man back.  Questions will come later, but at least now I vaguely recognize the boy before me.  "Please relax and have a seat, cadet Zehrou."

He nods, but first takes a couple of steps forward to hand me a disc.  "Headmaster Trepe asked me to give this to you, sir."

I take the offered disc, glance at the 'Zehrou, Seveyn' written on the plastic cover, then place it to the side for review later.  I wait for the boy to sit before I speak.  "Do you know why you're here, cadet?"

"Only that I'm to complete my SeeD exams here, sir."

"You'll learn more about the specifics tomorrow, but the operation is an information run.  In other words, everything will be focused around your ability to get what we want from a heavily secured computer system.  Do you think you're prepared for such a responsibility?"

"If I'm supplied with the proper equipment, then yes, sir."

I lean back in my chair, somewhat amused and yet relieved at the unfaltering tone.  "Quistis gave a high recommendation for you.  I hope you don't disappoint her."

"I won't, sir."

Abruptly the office door opens, and a dark haired figure takes a single step in before standing at attention.  "You wanted to see me, sir?"

"Good timing.  This here is Seveyn Zehrou, a cadet from Balamb Garden that will be assisting us tomorrow."  Looking back to the white haired boy, I notice a bit of tension in the narrow shoulders.  "Zehrou, this is cadet Isan Almasy.  He'll show you to your room and whatever else you'd like to see within Esthar Garden.  Until tomorrow night the time is yours to do as you wish.  You're both dismissed."

Seveyn stands stiffly from the chair and salutes before turning to face the amused looking teen.  The white haired boy nods slightly, making Isan smile even broader when he steps aside and motions for the other to exit ahead of him.  His actions seem a bit too familiar for my likes.

The second the door closes behind the two silent boys, Seifer lets loose an exaggerated sigh.  "Ah, the love of youth."

I shake my head.  "Would you please explain that previous lab rat comment?"

"The kid has white hair, a pale complexion and basically red eyes.  Looks like a lab rat just like Zell will always be the chicken."

"And our son...?"

"Don't tell me you didn't notice his 'let me fuck you' grin back near Balamb?  I've sent the same one your way plenty of times."

"Never noticed."

"Phft, figures."  He turns my chair around to face him, green eyes glinting with determination.  "I do believe it's bath time, now."

I tap the disc.  "I have information to look over."

Seifer leans in close, lips against my ear.  "If you dare start into a load of work, I'll bring up a plate full of bacon and sausage."

"Bastard."  Even the mention of such greasy meat makes me feel about to vomit, those type of foods first on the list to go while I've been pregnant.

"Come on.  You can look over that shit in the morning.  Not like it means anything with the mission already scheduled for tomorrow night.  And call me crazy, but I think we can trust Quisty's judgment in this matter."

Maybe I can convince myself that it's the hormones making me weak against his persuasions.  "Fine."


[Seveyn]

Walking along side the brunette, I can only think that he seems taller than I remember him last.  Rather, I doubt it's his physical height that has changed, but instead the way he holds himself is different somehow.  Then again, at our last meeting I wasn't too interested in studying the dark haired teen, so it could be my imagination.  But dressed in a black Garden uniform with the torn jacket left unzipped and a large weapon dangling at his side including various bullets displayed along his two belts, Isan Almasy certainly appears more threatening than I recall.

Perhaps noticing my examination, he turns to look at me, the wide grin disarming.  "Ah, sorry for the outfit.  I was fooling around in the training center and lost track of time.  Didn't have enough time to change."

"No, it's fine.  I'm sorry to be a bother."

He laughs.  "You are no bother whatsoever.  I finished off my caverns test over two months ago and I've been bored since.  I think the Headmaster got sick of hearing about the troubles I've been causing around Garden and decided to give me a harmless task to keep me busy."

"Oh?  I never heard that you were a troublemaker."

"Someone has to keep my parents on their toes."  There's an unusual glint to his soft green eyes as they narrow in amusement.  "And should I assume by your statement that you've been checking up on me, or is that going too far?"

I shrug, trying to look unbothered.  "Just what normally pops up in the news involving your family."  As well as the bits of information I managed to pull from the Garden system.  Unfortunately there was nothing extremely useful for me in the attempt to understand this person, to figure out why he'd bother helping someone he knew nothing about.

"Hmmm."  Reaching an elevator, he ushers me inside.  "So what brings you to Esthar?  The Headmaster only mentioned that you should be with us for a week or so."

"I'm completing my SeeD exams here."

"Then I guess we're going on the same mission.  Heh, who knew.  No offense, but I never considered that you'd be a Garden cadet.  Balamb, is it?"

I nod, looking aside briefly to control a rising blush.  It's embarrassing as a SeeD cadet that I had needed someone my younger to save me from untrained idiots off the street.  But I'll be the first to admit that my physical training has been sorely lacking.

"What's your specialty?"

"Information."

The elevator halts then, Isan walking ahead of me distractedly.  "Hacking specialist from Balamb...  Then it'll probably be you, Lee, and myself on a team with a fourth.  Maybe a SeeD if it's important enough..."

"Excuse me?"

He starts a bit at my voice, then looks back.  "Ah, sorry about that.  I've been trying to figure out for awhile now what team I'd be on.  Since you've been sent in, I have to assume it's an information run.  You'll need heavy protection, so that's where I come in with another skilled fighter.  And Lee can get us in any room, as well as play backup."

"You sound rather certain of yourself."

He waves a hand.  "Just trying to out guess the Headmaster.  Pure conjectures.  Anyhow, this is your room right here.  The code is 2468 by default, and I guess you know the drill about changing it."

The door slides open once I punch in the code and I'm momentarily surprised when I look inside.  "Is this a SeeD room?"

Isan leans against the doorframe while I walk in.  "With you here for such a short time, it's easier to place you in a single than a typical dorm room."

After a quick glance over my delivered belongings to make certain everything arrived intact, I examine the relatively large room.  The main section is filled by bare necessities of the bed, a single nightstand with lamp, and a small dresser.  Cattycorner to the entrance, there's a second doorway to what should be a cramped bathroom area.  Well, this is certainly a nice surprise to have a place by myself for once.

"Did you eat on the train?"

"No."

"Great.  Let's go get lunch, then.  I'm starved."

"That's all right.  Thank you for showing me to my room."

"Oh, no.  You aren't getting off that easy.  I still have the wonders of Esthar Garden to show off, and really, the monsters in the training center have learned that it's safer to run from me.  At least take pity on my boredom."

I lock gazes with the taller boy, fully intending to refuse politely.  Then he smirks at me, a silent promise of persistence that will get me into the cafeteria one way or another.  "Very well."

"Let's hurry then, before the good pickings are all gone."

Normally I avoid the cafeteria, or at least wait for the low flow times when I can eat in peace.  Too many people bother me greatly.  This fact comes directly to mind when we enter the bright room half-filled with students, a group of them waving at Isan's entrance.  Of course the son of the Commander would have his groupies and the like.  As we wait in line, he chats with a couple of girls that ran up to tell him about their completed caverns test.  He congratulates them, smiling in that disarming way.  But there's something different about the light of his eyes while he speaks with them, more of the grayness showing through.  Or maybe it's just a trick of the lighting of this cafeteria.

While he loads up on a couple sandwiches, a mound of fries, and some kind of cake dessert, I settle for a simple salad.  He eyes my selection with a hint of annoyance, but doesn't comment.  The larger teen in the lead, we head to a far corner of the room, Isan refusing every seat invite along the way.  He eventually chooses an empty table that seats four and motions me to sit next to him.

"A couple friends should be here in a little bit.  Hope you don't mind, but I want them to meet you.  They still don't think you exist," he states before taking a large bite into a sandwich.

I stare at him, baffled at the idea that he spoke about me to his friends.  We were together maybe ten minutes months ago, and yet he still felt it was worth mentioning to friends.  Then again, I'm the idiot that spent a week looking for information on the boy.  This situation... to say I'm not used to it would be an extreme understatement.

"Holy Hyne, he's hot!"

I jerk up at the loud statement and then blink at the sight of a young woman with very bright, very green hair.

Isan chuckles to my side.  "Perhaps I should've warned you about them first.  Seveyn, this is Miss Arisu Murai, but she's going through one of her phases right now and demands to be referred to as Nuala."

The girl pouts.  "I happen to like the name, thank you.  Has a more magical quality to it."  She sits at the table with a tray of her lunch placed loudly on the table, and then light brown eyes focus on me intently.  "Isan, he's gorgeous.  The complexion and hair... damn, he'd be an angel given a set of wings."

"Down, girl," comes a softer male voice.  A young man of short black hair sits next to her, his grin warm.  "Sorry, this is what happens when we let her out of her padded cell."  He gets an elbow in the side for his comment.

"And this is Berkeley Trevelyan, my roommate and best friend.  Lee, this is Seveyn Zehrou."

Dark eyes examine me from over his silver framed glasses at the perfect angle to give him the appearance of a critical instructor.  "Hmm," he pushes up his glasses while sitting back in his chair.  "Fine, I believe you now.  I'll give you the fifty tomorrow."

Isan snorts in disbelief.  "Yeah, and what guarantee do I have that it won't be my fifty you're handing back to me."

"Really, I'm offended.  I haven't stolen from you in weeks."

The longer I sit here, the more uncomfortable I've gotten.  Aside from the look-overs, I feel like I've intruded into their world where it's so easy to laugh and make fun of each other without worry of insult.  I don't deny the envy as well, never knowing such relaxed friendship.  Perhaps I've already overused Isan's welcome and should leave at the next chance.

There's a pat at my shoulder to gain my attention.  "Anyway, this is the guy I told you about who should be on your team even if I'm not."

A dark eyebrow rises at that.  "You're doing the mission with us tomorrow night?"

I nod.  "Headmaster Leonhart had requested for an information specialist."

A quiet sigh sounds from the girl.  "Even his voice sounds like an angel..."

Berkeley smirks at that.  "Should I be jealous over here?"

"I don't know.  Do you prefer guys or gals, Sev?"

"I... excuse me?"

"Nuala."  At the low tone, I glance to the side at the serious expression on Isan's face.

"Uh-un.  No escaping from this one.  I won't be able to sleep if I don't know."  The glint in her narrowed eyes makes me feel like targeted prey.  "Would you prefer a man or a woman as your one and only?"

"I've never thought about it..." I reply quietly.

Her expression is full of disbelief.  "You haven't-- OW!"

Berkeley continues to hold the ear within his pinching grasp.  "Enough."

"But-- ow, ow, ow.  Okay, already.  I'll be good, I'll be good."  She jerks out of the loosened hold, then glares at him.  "Spoilsport."

He only smiles as if it were a complement, dark eyes then focusing on me.  "So, information expert, huh?  I dabble a little with computer systems.  Just enough experience to get past a secured door.  I think the worst one I've dealt with was REC-24."

"That's not bad for someone who dabbles.  How long did it take you?"

"Ah, that's the rub.  Over three hours."

I try to swallow my laugh.  "Oh."

"Go on and laugh.  The Commander was chuckling for days over that one.  So, how long would it take you?"

"Five minutes."

He drops his sandwich, his eyes wide.  "Five?"

Inwardly I cringe, wondering if I've already succeeded at insulting one of Isan's friends.  "Depends on the equipment I have, but given a HAVOK with software I designed..."

Slowly a broad smile spreads on his face.  "I need to borrow you later."

"Eh?"

Isan sighs, pushing aside his tray now empty of food.  "He's been trying to break into my parent's room for about five years now with no success."

"Why would you want to break into the Commander's room?"

"He's been the one instructing me, so it's kind of like that whole 'student trying to best his master' type of thing."

I consider this a moment before asking, "And using me wouldn't be cheating?"

"Fuck, at this point I just want to know if it can be done.  You breathe on that door and alarms go off."

"Maybe after the test..."  It's hard to resist a challenge like that, but I'd rather not risk my chances at becoming a SeeD.  More so, Headmaster Trepe's disapproval in my actions would be harder for me to bear.

"Of course.  Heh, the Commander won't know what hit him."

Shaking his head, Isan stands up and looks down at me.  "If you're done, how about I take you on the grand tour."

I nod and get up from my seat.  "It was nice meeting you both."

"Don't worry, angel.  You'll certainly be seeing more of us."

It's a confusing moment while I try to decide if I should be happy or worried about her statement.  Isan saves me, gently pushing me towards the exit of the large room.  Soon I'm following a step behind as the larger teen leads the way, my mind wandering a bit as we walk.  I feel unbalanced here, and I have to wonder if this is merely a dream I've created while my true body is asleep on the train to Esthar.  I never speak to people when I don't have to, and I've certainly never mingled like that with people I don't really know.  The oddest point being that boy, Berkeley asking for my help.

"Hey, watch out."

Before I can process the warning, unexpected warmth is around me, pulling me to the side.  Pressed against Isan with his arm tight around my waist, it's suddenly very hard to breathe.

"Heh, you're worst than the Headmaster, zoning out like that."

It's then that I notice a group of people running past us, perhaps where I had been walking earlier.  "Sorry," I mumble out.

"No prob," he says while loosening his hold on me, fingers raking along my lower back.

Eyes wide, I stare at him and only get a grin in reply to my silent questions.

"How about I show you the library first?  It's twice as large as the one in Balamb."


[Isan]

Standing back in the shadows of some trees with Seveyn and Hari, we wait for Berkeley's signal that the coast is clear for us to follow.  Taking a deep breath of salty air, I savor the amazing feel of being out on a real mission, especially since I think Mom has placed cadets in the focus position when he normally wouldn't.  Hari is the only SeeD member with us, thus the leader of our team, but he doesn't have the specific expertise like the other two members of our group.  As for myself, Mom either trusts me too much or else recognized how relaxed Seveyn is with me around.

Thinking of the white haired boy, I glance at him in the darkness, resisting the desire to toy with the long braid at his back that stands out from his black clothing and cap.  The surprisingly older teen looks serious and focused at the moment, much more so than the last couple of days.  He doesn't like people, that's easy to tell.  I can't really tell why, but I'm not too certain that it's a case of simple shyness.  Rather, he gets this vague expression that makes him look prepared for an attack of some sort whenever anyone approaches.  Seveyn is also very skilled at not letting people touch him even by accident, except his defenses seem to exclude me as a danger.  I wonder if he realizes that.

My attention is pulled back into focus when a green light flashes a few times from the building and the three of us crouch low as we approach the side door.  Berkeley doesn't wait for us long, stepping inside to lead the way and scan for traps.  It's fast and easy through the building towards the alternate control room, our information apparently accurate concerning guard turnover times.  When Berkeley gets us into the room without trouble, I silently remind myself that it's a good thing that we didn't need to fight our way inside.

After a sweep of the room for alarms, Seveyn goes directly to the terminal and takes an odd laptop from the black bag he was carrying.  Opening it up, there are two screens that immediately come to life and two levels of keyboard space that Seveyn never glances at once he begins typing at rapid pace.  I watch him work for a short time until I get a minor headache at viewing the fast scrolling numbers and random windows opening and closing on the screens.  Instead I look to Berkeley, the guy watching his palm-sized computer intently for security breach signs.

"How are we for time?"

"Going as predicted.  Depends on Sev and any surprises there might be on the computer system."

I nod, perfectly understanding how things rarely go as planned.  Relaxing against the wall next to Berkeley, I notice a slight frown from our SeeD overseer.  Poor thing, probably worried about me taking his role as 'leader' in this mission.  Whatever.

Time passes with only the sound of continuous typing.  If I didn't know better, I'd say he was just randomly beating on the keypads to make a sound like that.  Berkeley squats in place, dark eyes never leaving the small screen.  Hari, on the other hand, has started to fidget a little under the stress of waiting.  I'll have to ask Dad later just how many missions this guy has been on.  ...Or maybe that's what has our leader worried - Almasy's little boy is within his protection.  Fuck, that better not be the case.

"...five, four, three, two..." Berkeley whispers just before an alarm blares along the outer hallway, lights suddenly going dim.  "And it looks like your daddy is in action."

I roll my eyes at the statement.  Berkeley is the only one allowed to get away with such phrasing, and the bastard knows it.  Anyone else would be halfway across the room by now, wondering what hit him.  Even his currently green-haired girlfriend is smart enough not to test her limits with mentioning my parents in such a way.

"What's the time estimate, Seveyn?"

"Seventeen minutes."

Hari glares at the hacker.  "We don't have that much time.  There's less than ten minutes left in our limit."

Seveyn ignores him and continues his task without pause.

"We'll figure out what to do when the time comes," I offer.

"No.  I'm in control here and we'll leave at 100 hours on the dot."

I hold my tongue knowing there's no purpose in arguing now.  While the SeeD soldier watches the white-haired teen, I glance at Berkeley and meet the dark eyes with a silent question.  He smiles vaguely before returning to observe his screen, his answer given.  Well, looks like I'll be failing this round of SeeD exams, but it's worth it to get the information Mom wants.  Needing someone outside of Esthar shows how much he wants the info despite his typically apathetic appearance at the briefing.

Mentally counting down the minutes, I search within myself to feel the energy of the GFs at my call.  Carbuncle is always the strongest force, typically helping without bothering to wait for a specific order.  Hell, I have issues making the little guy return to whatever plane they come from.  Once I'm on my own away from Garden, I may just give in and let the furry demon roam as he pleases.  Several levels below him, but still strong to me are Cerberus and Bahamut.  I haven't had the chance to focus on the other demons as much, but they still loan me power when needed.  Shiva, however, is being the bitch of the lot.  Dad and I think that she is holding a grudge against Mom for choosing another as his lover and bearing his child.

"Time!  Shut down, cadet.  We're leaving."

"Then leave."  The voice I'm used to being shy is terse and cool in the demand.

"I said shut down.  This is nothing worth dying over."

"And no one is exactly pounding down at our door to get at our throats... sir," I add while straightening to my full height.

"That is the reason we should leave now, before it gets too risky."

"I'll stay.  Seveyn is nearly done and I can protect him just fine.  Meanwhile, you and Lee can run decoy for us."

"Cadet Almasy, I am responsible for your life--"

"No, we are responsible for our own lives.  You are responsible for the mission.  We can complete this mission and get valuable data that the Headmaster wants if you would stop trying to baby me."

"The Headmaster--"

"Knows all about the possibilities of me losing my life."

"Our orders--"

"Take Berkeley and get out, then you'll be following your orders.  I fully understand the consequences of me going against orders.  Fuck, I'm a year ahead of normal testing age.  Do you really think I care that much?"

The man glares at me, but we both know he isn't going to win this round.

"Sir," Berkeley interrupts the stare down.  "If we're leaving, we should go now to best divert attention from this hallway."

"Very well, cadet," he nearly spits out.  "You stay here and guard that girl.  When you're both dead, I'll laugh at your stupidity."

The man leaves in quite the huff, but I manage to hold back my laughter at his bit of drama.

"Take route H out of here.  I've already cleared that way for you.  Meanwhile, we'll go either B or C as decoy."

"Thanks.  Stay safe out there, big brother."

He smiles at the family reference before drawing out one of his revolvers, soon out the doorway to catch up with our leader.

"Why did you do that?"

I turn around to look at Seveyn, his slender fingers still flying along the keyboards without pause.  "I recognized your tone of voice.  Anything short of knocking you unconscious wouldn't have gotten you out of here.  The question is, however, why you are so set on getting this information."

"... The Headmaster seemed rather intent on wanting it."

"Oh?  You noticed that, too, did you?"

It's silent between us for a time, only the sound of typing echoing in the furniture-less room.  Closing my eyes while leaning next to the doorway, I try to focus my attention to the outer corridor, only once catching the sound of hurried footsteps that past the room by without checking for intruders.  Seems like the frontal team is doing a good enough job to draw guards to the main gates instead of just randomly wandering the halls.

Suddenly there's a click of a disc drive opening, Seveyn placing the disc into a protective case and then into an inner pocket of his jacket.  Less than a minute later, his computer is folded and packed away, the bag strap placed onto his shoulder.  Reddish eyes look up at me from under the rim of the black hat.

"That thing is waterproof, right?"

He frowns but nods.

"Good.  Be ready to hand that to me once we reach the dock.  No clue if a boat will be waiting for us, so we may need to swim."

Mor-uial drawn and ready, I step first out to the hallway.  Noticing no one, I start at a slow jog in the direction opposite of the way Berkeley and the SeeD had gone.  Seveyn follows at the perfect distance behind me, close but not close enough to be a bother during an unexpected fight.  It's relative easy going through the halls and to the lower level of the building, only general guards blocking our path at times and none survive my blade to alert others of our presence so deep within their territory.

The dock within the cavern of the cliff this building sits on is practically empty of everything once we reach there, and for the first time we can clearly hear the fighting outside.  I wonder if Dad overdid this mission a tad.  Well, I suppose it's his final mission as Commander, thus it doesn't surprise me that he'd want to go out with some kind of flare.  But because of that fact, the cavern is vacant of all decent boats and most anything with a motor on it that could be used for battle.  Sighing, I reluctantly choose a heavy duty jet ski that has a full tank of fuel.

"Hand over the bag, Seveyn.  It's time for some water fun."


[Seveyn]

Arms tight around the taller boy's waist, I bury my face into his back while trying my hardest to not think about how fast we're traveling over choppy water.  The sound of the jet ski's motor in addition to the splashes of water doesn't really help to cover the noises of battle behind us, a loud reminder that we'd be defenseless if attacked by those weapons.  Any minute we should be easily noticed in the relatively bright night, flares and explosions overhead driving away darkness.

I'm too much of an idiot to subject Isan to this.  While it wasn't my fault the system was harder to crack for the information the Headmaster wanted on Project MAGES, I should've forced the teen to leave with his friends.  Leaving with them before I finished my task wasn't an option with the building due to be destroyed sometime in the night.  But... I hate to admit I needed support to get out of the building.  And for the second time I was able to witness firsthand the skill of young Almasy, which was very impressive with his dark gunblade.  One day I'd like to see him fight a worthy opponent to better appraise his abilities.

"Shit."

When the jet ski slows, I push up slightly from Isan's back to look at the situation at hand.  Not seeing anything ahead of us, I turn to find our escape being followed by a small helicopter.  Before I can question if they are truly out to attack us, two missiles are fired.  One goes ridiculously wide, and Isan barely swerves around the geyser of water the second missile creates just before us.

"Don't know whether to be flattered by the overkill or not.  Hold on tight."

The speed of the jet ski drops rapidly as Isan makes a sharp U-turn and then accelerates towards the helicopter, just to make another insane turn while our pursuers are in the middle of their first turn.  Deciding it doesn't matter whether I'm looking or not, I press my forehead against his back once more and hold on tightly, grateful that he's too muscular to be bothered by my death grip.

We play this game with the helicopter for some time before Isan curses loudly at an odd jerk of the jet ski.

"Do you trust me?"

I barely hear the question over the noises around us, and nod against his back in reply.

"At the count of three, slide off to the left with me.  Got it?"

Eyes wide at the idea of jumping off into water while we're going so fast, I hesitate before nodding and patting his left side to show I heard which direction.

There's a sharp turn to the right as he avoids machine gunfire, the jet ski making a loud whine at the movement.  "Alright.  One. Two. Three."

The fast countdown didn't give me time to reconsider my hasty decision, and with my tight hold around the larger teen, I'm falling towards the ocean water before I can think about how much this should hurt.  I wince for breaking bones, but the landing doesn't happen as expected, a shimmering flash suggesting that a strong shell is protecting us from the plane of water.  Before I can consider the event, there's a bright explosion in front of us as the jet ski is destroyed.  Suddenly we're released by the invisible shell, and the dark water takes claim of us.


It's disconcerting to open my eyes and yet still be presented with darkness.  At a noise to my side, I look and discover a bit of light that helps me recognize that I've ended up in a cave of some sort.  A breeze of cool air from that direction reminds me of the dunk into the freezing ocean, clothes still soaked by the salty water.  As the sound of footsteps approaches, Isan soon comes around the corner with a green light stick in hand.

"Ah, you're awake.  Sorry about the rough ride, but it looks like we weren't followed."

Before I can reply, I'm startled when something jumps onto Isan's shoulder.

"Damnit, why can't you behave?"  Against the harsh sounding tone, he scratches behind a large green ear, the creature making an odd purring noise at the attention.

"Is... that...?"

"A furry pain in the ass, that's what he is.  Otherwise known as Carbuncle."

"How?"

He sighs.  "Maybe another time I can explain it.  No offense, but I'm beat.  Think I'll just try to curl up for the night."

Of course, he must have pulled me out of the ocean and carried me to wherever we are now.  I then notice my computer safe to the side, Isan keeping it all this time when it would've been smarter to drop the unnecessary load.  And who knows how long he's been here, probably setting up some kind of defense while I've been unconscious.  It would be more surprising if he weren't exhausted. 

Shifting to get warm despite my sodden clothes, I notice the extra weight of a second jacket.  "Isan, your coat..."

He waves disinterestedly, the small GF leaping off his shoulder at the movement.  "You were shivering earlier.  It doesn't do much good being wet like that, but it's better than nothing."

"But you've been straining yourself.  I'm fine now, so you can take it."

After a silent moment, he strides forward and places a hand on the wall to lean over me.  "There's a third option if you're willing."

I frown, not completely certain of his meaning.

He smiles amused.  "Body heat."

"...oh..."

There's a quiet chuckles as he stands up straight.  "It's only the night, so don't worry about it.  I'm pretty sure this is the right meeting point for our pickup in the morning."

"No.  It's okay... if you don't mind, that is."

I can feel him looking at me intently before he squats to be at almost my eye-level.  "Seveyn, I know you don't care for people being in your space.  You don't have to prove anything to me."

But no one else has saved me so selflessly, or has been so tenacious at gaining my trust.  "Just the night, right?"

He frowns slightly at the question, but then nods.  "Move up."

Just after slipping behind me so that I sit between his long legs, Isan shamelessly pulls me close as possible to his body, his arms wrapped around my waist giving me a secure feeling.  Once I force myself to relax, I find myself with a far more comfortable backing than the stone wall of the cave.  The unusual sensation of experiencing every breath and shiver of the young man behind me is indescribable, almost warming beyond his actual body heat.  In time, I can barely feel weak tugs as one of his hands gently toys with my long braid.

"If this bothers you, let me know," he whispers, heated air brushing my ear.

I shake my head, suddenly feeling lethargic.  "Warm."

Isan chuckles lightly before resting his head against mine.  "Good night, Seveyn."

At the gentle squeeze of a hug, there's a moment of panic.  Loud heartbeats echo in my ears at the realization of what this situation might mean to the dark haired teen.  Strangely, I'm not really afraid of Isan or what he may want from me.  He's too kind and in control of his desires to be demanding about it.  Rather, I'm afraid of whether I want the same or not.  This stomach clenching desire is new to me, and I haven't a clue about how to tell if it's real or just a false crush for the first person that so simply gained my trust.

"Shhhhh."

The sleepy hush from Isan relaxes me almost immediately from the panicked state, tiredness once again clouding my mind.  Morning.  There's no reason to worry about it now when we'll need our sleep, and it's too warm like this for me to consider another position.  In the morning I'll try to figure this out, maybe ask Isan just how much he wants from me.  And more importantly, for what price.

 

{Continued}

 

Author's Whining -- Whoo, been awhile since I updated the actual plotline of the Life Series.  Sorry for the rather dull chapter, but some of this was needed as setup.  And as an FYI, Isan hasn't taken over the story completely yet, plenty of SxS fun coming in future chapters whenever I may get to them. ^_^;

Thank you to Miss Dincht for being my beta and motivator for this series (no, you don't get Isan as a prize for your help).  And thanks to everyone who has emailed me with comments.  Or perhaps that should be sorry to those of you I've dragged into the terrifying world of mpreg.