No Matter How Long
August 2003

 

[Squall]

With my hand skimming along the wall of the corridor, I try to make it look like I'm not using the wall for partial support.  It's a stupid show to put on, but I hate revealing any type of weakness.  While others may label it as manly pride, I just don't want to deal with the load of questions about how I'm feeling or that I should visit Dr Kadowaki.  Really, it's just stomach pains.  Nothing more than sore muscles which happen to make every movement an agonizing event.  I can handle this.

Abruptly there is the warning of an opening door, but not being quick on my feet today, I can't avoid the collision I knew was coming.  After the hard impact of the smaller body and a swinging fist hitting my stomach, I drop to the carpeted ground and wrap my arms tight around my midsection now inflamed with pain.

"OW, shit!  What the... Ah, crap, Squall?  Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Zell," I managed through clenched teeth.

He moves from his fallen position on the ground and kneels closer to me.  "Damn, I didn't even see ya.  I mean, it's gonna be dinner time soon, and you know how fast those hotdogs go... Um, sure you're okay?  You look kinda pale."

"No, he's isn't okay."

Both Zell and I look sharply to the side, finding Seifer standing in the open doorway of his room.  A long list of curses sounds in my head as I stare into those bright green eyes that see too much.  I could kid myself that I wasn't purposefully avoiding Seifer today, but I know that I didn't want to deal with the one person who can easily see past all of my masks.  While I appreciate that ability of his when I don't feel like speaking my every thought, it's also a pain in the ass when I just want to be left alone.

Zell stands up from the ground and reflexively goes into a defensive stance, the move making Seifer chuckle.

"Get moving, Chickie.  I'll look over the princess here for you."

Blue eyes shift to me in a silent question.  It is rather amusing that Zell is still suspicious of the larger blond, despite the fact that Seifer has been a resident of Garden for a week now and there hasn't been a moment of trouble from him.  Well, unless you count him riling up everyone with sarcastic threats.  Of those in the upper SeeD ranks, Zell is the only one left who is still easily upset by the childish taunts.

Sighing, I force myself to stand.  "Just leave, Zell.  I can take care of myself."

The short blond hesitantly follows the order, but once he steps out of sight, the sound of running echoes down the empty hallway.  As if anything could keep him from hotdogs for long.  Meanwhile, I continue to avoid the steady gaze of green eyes, their sharp examination clearly felt along my body.  Fuck.  He isn't going to let this die.

"Are you going to come in willingly, or do I have to get rough?"

"This is none of your business."

"That's nice, but it doesn't answer my question."

I make the mistake of facing Seifer after his sarcastic comment, my urge to argue lost once I glance at his face which hides none of his worry.  I can't remember the last time someone looked at me with such an expression and I didn't get angry or frustrated over being pitied.  For some reason, I only feel tired.

"Come on.  You know you'll just be here in the morning, or else me in your bed."

I hesitate as he holds out a hand, the sight of the still shackled wrist bothering me.  I've already made a bet with myself that the day Ifrit leaves his body, Seifer will run from Garden as fast as he can.  Only then he'll remove the shackle, and he won't even think twice about leaving me behind.  Again.

"Hey," Seifer starts as he steps forward and places a hand beneath my chin so that our eyes meet once more.  "That has nothing to do with you.  It's just my pathetic war against Garden and nothing else.  Understood?"

I glance to the side, confused by my own annoyance about this topic.  It shouldn't matter to me what Seifer decides to do with himself.  I already told him everything I wanted to say and put my offer on the table.  If he doesn't want me, then that's that.  This shouldn't bother me ... or at least, not as much as it does.  Hyne, I was an idiot to waste my time thinking about this man for the better part of a year.

Seifer sighs at my silence, and then moves his hand to my back to gently push me forward into his room.  It's strange how I haven't remembered walking into this room before, and yet, three times now I've found myself in his bed, the large man always blocking me from an easy escape from the mattress top.

"Lie down and let me look you over.  That is, am I right that you haven't visited Dr K yet?"

"There's nothing wrong."

He laughs lightly.  "You're too predictable, princess.  Get on the bed, and take off your shirt for me."

I probably shouldn't trust such an order, but I find myself going through the movements of removing my jacket and shirt as I sit down on the unmade bed.  I automatically bend over to remove my boots, but forgotten pain erupts through my body and stops me in mid-action.  Without a word but a smirk in place, Seifer kneels down to undo the lacing and takes off my boots for me.  I probably should be offended, but I just don't have the energy to fight him.

Lying down on the cool sheets, I close my eyes and attempt to prepare myself for painful poking and prodding.  At the press of fingers, however, I can't stop my body from flinching at the gentle touch.  Light tsking noises sound from Seifer, him then moving away.  Reluctantly I open my eyes and glance over to watch him as he pulls something out of his top drawer.

"Potions don't help," I tell him.

"Hn.  So you drank one?"

I nod, though it was actually four potions I tried throughout the day.

He returns to the bed and sits next to my side.  "Well, I'm not going to have you drink this one.  Sometimes it works better to directly apply it to the injured area."

And that serves as his warning before he pours some of the potion onto my stomach.  How can that feel so damn cold when it's been sitting in his dresser for days?  But I don't have the time to complain about such treatment before warm fingers are on my skin with a feather light touch and carefully rub in the healing liquid.  Amazingly, the sensation of repeated flare spells being cast on me slowly subsides as the massage continues and grows firmer.  In time, the full vial is used up and the touches change to something else... not seductive, but almost examining in the caress.

"I know you aren't going to listen me, but you really should see Dr K.  You could have an appendix really to burst or something serious wrong with you."

"... ..."

"Right.  Thought so."  He removes his hands from me to sit up straight and rub his temple.  "Fuck..."

"Ifrit wants out," I say, sympathizing with the headache Seifer must be feeling.  I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner.

Scowling, he closes his eyes.  "Piece of shit bastard.  Hyne forbid I get a few minutes alone with you."

"Let him come."

Green eyes bright with anger focus on me.  "Like hell I will.  I haven't had a single fucking night to enjoy you.  And while I do mean fucking, I haven't even gotten a decent conversation out of you yet.  Anyway, you're injured.  You shouldn't be doing anything tonight."

I smile vaguely at the possessive tone of the blond.  "Then let me speak with him.  He'll win no matter."

"I hate this," he says in a odd voice.  But before I can question him, he bends forward to press his lips gently against mine, the kiss slowly deepening but maintaining the same almost careful touch that seems against his nature, and yet feels utterly amazing.  As he breaks the kiss and leans back, Seifer tells me, "Don't let him touch you."

I almost laugh at the absurdity of the order, but I nod instead, understanding the odd logic that Ifrit can have his ice demon, but never me.

With a reluctant slowness, his eyelids close for a brief moment.  Upon opening, the strange coloring of reddish orange has replaced the green that I am accustomed to.  The possessed man says nothing straight away, his oddly concerned gaze focusing on my bared stomach.  His hand moves over that part of my body, just barely not touching exposed skin.

"You are injured?"

The rougher version of Seifer's voice makes me smile vaguely.  "It's nothing.  Seifer already treated me."

Redden eyes lift up to meet mine.  "Is this our fault?"

I shrug, but it's hard to imagine some other reason.  Although there is the potential of my body simply breaking down, which Selphie and Irvine like to warn me about constantly.  As if someone could truly die from too much paperwork.

"I will ask Shiva to examine you.  She is very knowledgeable about the healing arts."

"Who are you?"  When I receive a blank stare at my abrupt question, I continue to say, "I know your forms as Ifrit and Shiva, but I can't see demons... acting like this."

He smiles bitterly.  "What, demons wishing to help humans?  Or worse, being in love with one another?"  At my nod, he sighs and rakes a hand through his hair.  "It is not an interesting explanation, and I'm not good with words."

"That's fine.  Tell me what you can."

He sighs again, obviously uncomfortable.  "I do not remember how long we have been this way, but we weren't always demons.  I was a human warrior, and Shiva..."  He smiles, his eyes losing their focus as he thinks about the past.  "...Shiva was an elven priestess.  I don't believe their kind exist anymore on this world, but in our lifetimes, we were at war.  In the end, we discovered that the entire war had been provoked by a dark evil.  So many lives lost...  After an important battle within our war, I had been captured by the elves.  Their guiding priestess, Shiva, decided to spare my life.  She said she wished to have a large human as her pet.  Hyne, I hated her at first."  He suddenly frowns, and glances my way.  "Forgive me.  I must be boring you."

I shake my head and hopefully manage a somewhat encouraging smile.  Truthfully, it amazes me that the demons we summon time after time could have had other lives.  But I can already clearly feel Shiva within me, reaching out for her partner.  I resist her, wishing to understand more about these cursed people, to understand what I have given my body for.

"Well, I won't bother you with stories, but Shiva is still the only one who can easily defeat me by her own power.  In time, my hatred turned into respect, and that into love.  But by then, we were already on our journey to destroy the dark sorcerer who was behind the chaos of war.  It took all of our strength and life energy to defeat him.  As we laid near dead, Hyne spoke to us and asked for our continued support in battles against dark magic.  We could not deny a request of Hyne.  It was an honor beyond all honors ... but we didn't expect such a great demand to be asked of us."

When he falls silent, I say softly, "Eternal demons of ice and fire, never to touch again..."

"Not exactly.  Long ago, Hyne spoke to humans to have that temple built.  We are allowed our times to be together."

I scoff.  "Days within centuries mean nothing."

He shakes his head.  "They mean everything."

"You aren't even touching her.  It's just stolen bodies."

The possessed man smiles.  "It matters not.  I can still feel her spirit, and her words are always the same no matter the voice."

I consider to argue further, but my growing headache becomes too much for me.  Rubbing my temple, I look into the redden eyes and silently inform him that I think he's an optimistic fool.

"You are kind to worry about us, young lion.  I didn't believe Shiva when she told me that you hide a warm heart."

I scowl at him, but he remains unthreatened.

"Sleep.  Your love will be here when you wake."

~ > < ~

It is with a great sense of urgency that I wake, and then nearly fall to the ground when I find myself in a completely different position than I had been in since my last conscious moment.  Clutching onto the object before me in support, my sleep confused mind slowly works out the identity of the desk.  Carefully, I release the edge of the desk and straighten to find myself sitting in Seifer's chair with a blanket wrapped around my naked body.  As my eyes quickly adjust to the moonlit room, I discover a single piece of paper before me.  I nearly overlook the sheet as something unimportant, but then the header catches my attention - "To My Gentle Lion".  Eyes wide, I first glance to Seifer, but find the blond completely dead to the world as he hugs a pillow tightly to his bare chest.  Returning to the letter, I read the words written in a flowing style that I never imagined my hand could produce.

"To My Gentle Lion ~ It is with a pained heart I write this message.  We have stolen your bodies, and yet you give us your forgiveness.  We use your bodies for our selfish purposes, and yet you give us your blessing.  We deserve neither for this additional burden we have placed on your life.  Though it can give no comfort, understand that I have never borrowed the body of a man before, and therefore, I never realized such a miracle was even possible.  As you are a straightforward man, I will say this plainly - you are with child.  Your pains originate from the changes that are taking place to support this blessed life, for only Hyne could make this possible.  While I hold great joy for this new life, I fear for yours.  I cannot assume to what extent my presence within your body is supporting this change, nor can I presume what may happen after my eventual disappearance.  I beg of you, my lion, visit your healers.  I will pray for this new life, for he cannot help but to hold your kindness and your lover's strength, but your own life must come first."

Feeling cold, I pull the blanket tighter around my body as I stare at the letter for a long time before rereading it, and then rereading it a final time.  I want to laugh at this ridiculous, this impossibility, but waking Seifer wouldn't be worth that release.  Recognizing the panic starting to interfere with my thoughts, I stand up from the chair and take the sheet of paper within hand, crumpling it into a tight ball.  I then step into the bathroom and close the door behind me.  After tossing the ball into the sink, I immediately cast a fire spell on the paper and watch as the words are destroyed, but the reality they spoke of unfortunately remains true.  The returning soreness of my midsection makes certain to remind me of that.

The sink cleaned of ash, I step out of the bathroom to look at Seifer's sleeping form.  I should probably leave to my own room, to avoid the potential of questions in the morning, but I still feel cold inside and the temptation of his warmth is too much to resist.  I walk to the bedside and tap lightly at a bare shoulder.

After a quiet grumble, Seifer wakes to sleepily glare at the pillow still within his hold.  He then looks up at me.  "Squall?"

"Move over."

With a lazy smile, he slides to the other side of the mattress.  The moment I slip beneath the loose covers, Seifer wraps his arms around me to pull my body tight against his.  Hiding my wince was impossible.

"You still hurting?"

"A little.  Nothing that can't wait."

"It'd only take a moment to--"

"I'm tired, Seifer."

"... Fine.  In the morning, I'll treat you.  But you really should see Dr K."

I reply nothing as I close my eyes and promptly reject his advice.  Dr Kadowaki is the last person I feel like seeing.  Denial is the only thing keeping me from doing something incredibly stupid and I really don't need her ruining that for me.


[Seifer]

After the second attempt of pounding on the door hard enough to break it down, I decide to throw manners aside and just use the code I watched Squall punch in over a week ago when he thought I wasn't looking.  The door slides open, and I half expect an alarm to sound or a gunblade to suddenly be at my throat, but neither happens as I step inside of the room identical to my own.  Not bothering to walk lightly, I move over to the bed and sit on the edge of the mattress.  Even though it worries me that I still haven't managed to wake the normally light sleeper, I take the spare moment to watch Squall in peaceful slumber.  Hyne, I forget how young we are at times.

Reluctantly, I place a hand at his shoulder and shake roughly.  "Come on, sleeping beauty.  It's wakey time."

An arguing moan sounds before his eyelids crack open, and then promptly close once he determines who is annoying him.  "G'away.  'm tired."

"It's dinnertime, Squally-boy.  I let you miss breakfast and lunch, but you have to eat something eventually."

"Dinner...?"

I have to laugh.  "Would you just wake up already?  Shit, what were you doing last night?  I know you weren't with me."

He frowns vaguely.  "They're weakening, aren't they?"

"Yeah, but it's been longer than they said.  Nearly a month wasted when I could've had you all to myself."  I lean over to brush some hair out of his face, noting the warmer feel to his forehead.  "You feeling okay?  You've seemed tired lately."

He mumbles something intelligible while pulling the sheets tighter around his body.

"Hey, I'm not letting you go back to sleep, and like hell I'm serving you dinner in bed, so let's go."  I grab his arm to drag him out of bed, but I stop when he inhales sharply.  "Your stomach is still hurting you?"

His eyelids open partway, the action making him appear completely exhausted.  "Some, but not as much as before."

"Damn it, Squall, you shouldn't be hurting in the first place.  And it's not a good sign that you slept through the entire day.  What's keeping you from seeing the doc?  You know she isn't a closet sadist or anything like that."

"... I'll go in the morning."

It's strange that finally getting my way only makes me more worried.  "So you're actually going to admit that something is wrong with you?"

"I haven't decided that yet."

"You are something else, Leonhart," I say while shaking my head in disbelief.  I don't think someone could prove to him the sky was blue if he didn't want to believe it.

He moves back a short distance on the mattress before muttering, "If you're staying, lie down and make less noise."

"Oh, no.  Dinner first, play later."

"Not hungry."

"Well, I am."  Glancing into hazy blue, I finally surrender with a sigh.  "Fine, I'll bring up some food for the both of us.  Anything you want?"

Squall looks about to decline, but then his eyes widen vaguely with a sudden idea.  "Ice cream... if they have it..."

That's when I really know he isn't feeling well.  How many times did Matron give us all the ice cream we wanted when we felt like crap.  And with Squall always trying to put up that damn front of his, trying to prove that he doesn't need the little joys in life, he never let himself have the frozen treat unless he had a decent fever going.  Such a stubborn tight ass. 

"Leave it to me, Squally-boy.  If you promise to be good, I'll even hunt down some sprinkles."

He frowns and mumbles into his pillow, "Don't like sprinkles..."

~ > < ~

Fuming, I make my way into the cafeteria and, though it probably isn't the best idea given my heated state this morning, I automatically go to the counter to get myself a mug of black coffee.  Distracted as I glare at nothing since the object of my anger is elsewhere, I drink from the cup of steaming liquid and earn myself a badly burnt tongue.

Light laughter sounds from behind me after my loud curse, and I turn sharply to find the source of the laugh.  It's a disappointment to see that it is the petite brunette still chuckling at my pain and not the long-haired man to her side.  I really have the urge to punch someone.

"A-aw, come on, Seify.  We all have bad mornings.  Why don't you join us?" Selphie offers while pulling out the chair next to her.

Wary of her suggestion, I glance over to the cowboy hoping for an argument on his part, but instead, I find him completely relaxed with the idea as he smiles lazily at me.  Looking back to warm green eyes, I realize that I have little choice in this matter.  Proving my annoyance with growl, I walk over to their table in the nearly empty cafeteria and sit down heavily in the offered seat.  All the while, Selphie continues to smile at me with that infinite amusement of hers.

"So what bit you in the butt this morning?  Or should that be 'who'?"

I smirk, mildly amused that she was trying to catch me off guard while drinking my coffee.  She'll have to do better than that to see a reaction.  "Unfortunately, my little snow kitten wasn't feeling very playful this morning.  Ask me tomorrow."

While Kinneas continues to amaze me by smirking at the comment, Selphie pouts.  "That's no good.  I swore he was going to pounce you the first moment he got, but with this guardian force nonsense getting in the way..."  She sighs, "Have you two done anything yet?  It's been three weeks, already."

"The hell... I don't think that's any of your business."

Instantly a scolding finger appears in front my face.  "You have no say, mister.  Irvy and I were the ones to watch over Squall for you this past year, so we deserve to know every - little - detail," she says, tapping my nose for added emphasis.

I pull my eyes away from her finger to then stare at her incredulously.

"I'd give up now, Almasy.  You can't win over this spitfire."

I turn my glare to the sniper.  "Advice, Kinneas?  Didn't know you cared."

"Yeah.  Been meaning to speak to you about that.  Listen, when we first found you, we couldn't be too certain about your state of mind and all.  So, really, you can't blame us for being cautious.  Especially when we know how much Squall trusts you."

With a small smile, I lean back in my chair and sip at the bitter coffee while I try to imagine what it must have looked like to the kiddies to find me kneeling over the limp form of their leader.  I'm surprised Kinneas didn't shoot first and ask questions later.  Placing the mug on the table, I look directly into violet eyes and silently question if he really thinks I'm sane.

The brunette sighs.  "Oh, don't play the big tough guy with us, Seify.  We saw you sweet talking the caf lady into getting you a bowl of ice cream last night."

"So?"

Selphie smiles knowingly.  "You hate chocolate ice cream."

I blink and stare before cautiously asking, "You... remember that?"

They both laugh, but Kinneas is the one to answer.  "How could we forget?  Damn, I still can't believe you almost managed to eat two of those huge containers of ice cream.  If Matron hadn't shown up, you would've probably won that bet."

Snickering, Selphie says, "I just remember your tongue being so numb that you couldn't talk back to Matron when she scolded you.  And even though you were really sick, you still made Squall's bed for that week."

I shake my head, amazed that they bothered to remember anything about me from the days back in the orphanage.  I was such the little prick, doing whatever I could to gain attention.  Especially if someone preferred to ignore me.

"So," the brunette starts, "Squall isn't feeling well?  He always seems to get a craving for ice cream when he's sick."

I hesitate while looking into curious green, but reluctantly decide to trust her.  "Something's wrong.  He's getting a checkup done by Dr K as we speak."

Her eyes widen.  "Wow, he went willing?"

I nod.

"A-ah, and he kicked you out of the infirmary, didn't he?  That's why you're so upset."

At the reminder, my hand automatically clutches tightly around the mug of cooling coffee and I glare into the dark liquid.  I had to practically carry that ass to the infirmary, and then he had the nerve to tell me that nothing was seriously wrong with him, that there was no reason for me to stick around.  Fuck him.  Once I've cooled down here, I'll just break into Squall's room and wait for him there.  Then I'm not leaving his side until I get some damn answers.

"He'll be fine, Seifer.  He always is.  And we trust you to look after him for us."

I look up at her with narrowed eyes.  "What are you two to him, anyway?"

Selphie straightens, then glances to her cowboy before meeting my eyes again.  "Uh, has Squall told you anything?"

"Just that you showed him that he's a fruit."

She pouts, obviously not happy at my tone.  "I'll let that pass since I know you're in a bad mood.  Anyway, I take it that you know nothing about Rinoa, then?"

Curious, I shake my head.  "I remember them appearing a bit too close for my likes, but I wasn't exactly in a position to know for certain what was happening between those two."  Meanwhile, I remember clearly when I tossed Rinoa into Adel's hands.  Damn, that had felt good.  But the perfect high had been quickly destroyed when Squall decided to rescue the two-timing slut.

Selphie sighs.  "It's our fault, really.  We wanted Squall to be happy, you know?  And we thought he was just being shy about his feelings for Rinoa... well, instead of helping him out, we accidentally pushed him into a relationship he thought he was supposed to be in.  He was just the good little soldier boy doing what others told him to do.  Anyway, after the war, Rinoa started wanting more intimacy from Squall, and the poor thing tried to makes things work.  Probably tried too hard..."

At her hesitation, Kinneas smirks.  "He had to make like a chocobo on fire to the bathroom and puke his stomach out their first time."

I know I shouldn't smile, but it's too hard to stop myself.  "'First time'?  You mean that there were other times?"

"Just one other.  That time, she wouldn't let him run off and he threw up all over her."

I laugh at the sweet imagery, Kinneas soon joining in with me while Selphie attempts to pout at us in a scolding fashion, but the corners of her lips twitching into an almost smile belie her true thoughts on the matter.

"Now, boys, this isn't something to laugh about.  You know better, Irvine," she says, slapping the back of her hand against his chest.

"Sorry, sweet pea, but she was a bitch after that, so I'll laugh all I want at her misery."

Selphie sighs.  "Of course she was upset - her fairy tale had been ruined.  But truthfully, I think Squall was hurt worse though he never really said anything."  She looks directly into my eyes and smiles bitterly.  "He started to really look for you after that day.  It was almost scary how obsessed he was about it for the first few weeks, but you always managed to stay one step ahead."

I don't know whether to laugh or scream at the reality that it was my fault for not being here for Squall, that if I had just sucked it up and returned to Garden, I could've been his first.  And to think that it was for this reason he had originally decided to hunt me down...

"Irvy and I eventually cornered him and forced him to explain things.  And, well, we eventually offered to... help him.  To see which he preferred..."

That wakes me from my sulking moment.  "His first time was a fucking threesome?"

Selphie shushes me loudly while green eyes look around to make certain no one heard me.

Not caring about anyone else, I stare at the two of them.  "How many times?"

"Twice," Kinneas says, looking a bit uncomfortable.  "I couldn't go all the way the first time, and the second time... well, we had information that you were dead, and Squall was really shook up over it."

I huff, remembering the time they were most likely talking about.  There I was, bleeding half my life away while Squall was getting fucked.  Is that supposed to be ironic or something?

"Don't hate him for it, or the others he has been with," Selphie pleads.  "You were so good at staying hidden that Squall was beginning to believe that you weren't just avoiding the bounty hunters but him as well."

No, I could never blame Squall for my stupidity which led to those events.  He had his right to live a real life, and it's not like he knew I would want him like that.  Truthfully, I don't think I really knew until I had him naked at my side.  It felt so... 'safe' is the only word close to that feeling.  And I never realized how much I craved that sensation.

"He needs you, Seifer."

I smirk and shake my head.  "No, he doesn't.  He's a big boy who saved humanity despite me."

Tilting her head, Selphie hums out her disagreement.  "And what about you?"

I stand with a sigh.  "Isn't that a bit obvious?"

The young woman smiles knowingly.  "Take care of our sunshine, and be certain to have details next time."

My mind full of new information and self-pity, I walk out of the basically empty cafeteria and make my way through Garden until reaching Squall's room.  It's no surprise when there isn't an answer to my knock, and after punching in the entry code for the door, I step into the empty room without second thought.  Kicking off my shoes, I then walk over to the bed and fall flat on the mattress.  Instantly surrounded by the scent that is clearly Squall, I realize too late that this was probably a bad idea.  Smirking into the pillow, I wonder how the tight ass would react if he found me masturbating on his bed.  It'd probably be a disappointment.  He'd just wait for me to finish and then order me to clean his sheets.

Sighing, I roll onto my back and stare up at the ceiling as my mind wanders back to the talk earlier.  Squall wanted to ask me first.  He didn't run to just anyone, but tried to hunt me down first.  Hyne, he's such an idiot.  He still hasn't asked me about anything - the war, the torture session, or my time on the run.  It doesn't matter to him.  I have a feeling he convinced himself that we're all mercenaries for hire, so it meant nothing that we fought each other.  Sadly, it's close enough to the truth.  But I also could never pass up the chance of witnessing Squall's true potential, something he showed me only once when we sparred.  How I hunger for that look of fire in his eyes.

Eyes closed, I bring up that fond memory of heat flaring within the orbs of ice, but I easily transform the setting from our favorite sparring spot and imagine Squall looking at me as we lie in his bed.  While it's a common fantasy, I smirk at the realization that I am in his bed at this moment.  Oddly enough, most of my fantasies aren't about all out sex with the lion.  No, they are mostly about thorough caresses with those hands of his...  He should've been an artist of some sort, that's for certain.  His fingers are too long, almost too delicate for their calluses.  It's sad that he wears gloves all the time to hide them from view, but I don't mind having privileged knowledge about the feel of his fingers caressing my skin.  A shame that we haven't had much of a chance to experiment.

The recognizable hiss of the door sliding open interrupts my day dreaming, but I don't bother opening my eyes just yet as I smile at the ceiling.  After a short pause, Squall steps further into his room and approaches the bedside.  I continue to wait him out, forcing him to speak first.

"What are you doing in here?"

"Waiting for you," I state, as if it were a normal thing for me to break into his room.  Then again, I did it last night and had no complaints from Squall.  Maybe it was a bit too easy to get that lock code by simply looking over his shoulder.  "So, what did the good doctor have to say?"

"... I'm leaving for Timber."

I open my eyes to look up at him, but the stormy blues remain focused on a corner of the bed.  "Why Timber?"

"She suggested a specialist she wants me to visit."

"Then, is something seriously wrong with you?  Is it life threatening?"

He scowls.  "Stop saying it like that."

Confused by the irritated tone, I ask, "Stop saying what like what?"

"That something is wrong with me."

I almost argue, ready to ask him exactly what is right about his current state of health, but then his eyes glance over to me for a brief second before returning to the apparently interesting corner of the mattress.  Even so, that moment was enough to see the hurt clear within his eyes.  Hn.  Never seen him upset over words before.

"Fine by me, Squally-boy.  So when are we leaving for Timber?"

"I'm going by myself."

"I'm going with you."

"... ..."

"It's either that, or I guess you were bullshitting me about where I belong."

More slowly this time, Squall looks over at me and stares for several long moments before saying, "Tomorrow morning.  The first train out of Balamb."

I smirk.  "That's pretty damn early.  Need me to wake you up?"

Not looking away, his expression softens.  "If you want to stay, you should just ask."

Closing my eyes, I savor those uncomplicated words that imply so much.  "Can I stay?"

"... I guess."

~ > < ~

I try to relax in the overly stiff chair, but it's too hard to breathe while waiting for what I can only assume would be an execution squad.  I know I should trust Squall when he says I'll be safe with him, but I can't convince myself that I'm not in Esthar sitting in the very office of the man who issued the first warrant for my capture, dead or alive.  Shit, of all the places in the world, why did that crack pot in Timber suggest that Squall had to come here to see yet another doctor.  And what in the world could be wrong with this lion that can't be solved by an antidote or an elixir or something easy?

A side door slide opens with a loud hiss to my heightened senses.  Hands clutching the armrests, I resist the reflex to get up into a defensive position and fight my way out of here.  Next to me, Squall stands slowly and faces the two approaching men, one dressed in a casual suit and the other in a robe that would be hilarious in a different setting.

"Squall.  It's good to see you," the long-haired man says, and then surprisingly hugs the brunet without hesitation.

"Thank you for seeing me, Laguna."

The older man, apparently the president of this country, steps back to smile at him.  "Anything I can do to help you.  I'm afraid it's too late to see Dr Telford, but it looks like you could use some rest after traveling all day.  Would you like some dinner first?"

Squall shakes his head.  "We had some on the train."

At that, the long-haired then looks my way.  "Is that--"

"Seifer Almasy," Squall finishes for him.  "He's with me."

With that as the complete explanation, the president frowns and steps over to me.  Placing a hand under my chin, he tilts my head upward as his dark green eyes examine me closely.  Staring at him, I try to remember all the stories I've heard about this bumbling king, but here within his presence, I can only feel true fear that he may decide to have me killed for harming his city and country.

"You're younger than I imagined," he says, and then sighs.  "Kiros.  I want all warrants for the Sorceress Knight cancelled, and make this young man a protected guest of our country."

"Sir," I hear myself saying, unable to stop myself.  "I deserve a punishment equal to my crimes."

After staring at me with widened eyes, the man then smiles brightly, completely setting me off guard.  "Wiser, more experience men than yourself have followed the allure of sorceresses.  In fact, an entire country allowed a sorceress to rule Esthar.  If I can forgive them, I can certainly forgive you... this once," he adds with a wink.  "Anyhow, your crime was to follow orders.  How exactly does one punish that?"

With no answer to offer and my tongue back under my control, I only stare up at him.

"Well, I think that's settled for the moment.  Shall I show you to your rooms?"

Squall shakes his head.  "One room is fine."

The dark green eyes widen once more.  "O-oh, so you also meant that when you said he was with you.  Perhaps... is this the young man you were looking for over the past several months?"

After nodding, blue-gray eyes focus on me with a sense of both relief and possession.  I smirk vaguely at the idea that the lion has caught his prey and won't be releasing his claws from me anytime soon.

The long-haired man laughs lightly.  "I certainly want to hear all about this when you feel like telling me, but first, I think you need to clean up and get your rest.  If you wake up early enough, Dr Telford can see you first thing in the morning.  He seems oddly excited about the meeting, actually."

From there we are led to a higher floor of the building, and the entire time, the president talks as if he were having a conversation with Squall, but the younger man barely says three words in reply.  Even so, watching them, I suddenly remember that they are father and son in blood.  It's a strange concept, but apparently the two have managed to form some kind of decent relationship over the past year.  Squall actually appears comfortable with the man, unbothered when the president steals another hug when he leaves us to our room for the night.

Frowning at the man's retreat, I ask, "Doesn't he care at all why you want to see this doctor?"

Squall huffs.  "He tried on the phone.  Luckily, he knows when to give up."

Shaking my head, I follow the brunet into the room and, once our travel packs have been tossed aside, I promptly pull Squall to the bed.  Before he can manage a complaint, I drop onto the mattress and take him along with me, then rolling on top of him.  His glare is a halfhearted one as he meets my gaze.

"So," I begin while pinning his arms above his head, "first it was the single bed at the hotel in Timber, and now it's the one room under your father's roof?  You're getting bold, Squally-boy."

He smiles vaguely as he moves a leg to stroke the back of mine with his socked foot.  "Did I assume wrong?"

"No," I reply softly, and then put my mouth to better use as I gently kiss along his neck and slowly work my way up to that tender point just behind his ear.  It's strange to get to this point of tasting my lion and not have that bothersome fire demon make his presence known.  But it's too much to hope for a full night of peace from the demons.  And even if we had the chance, Squall is still hurting, so I would never push him into more vigorous activities.  While it's against my nature, I can be patient for this lion.

Moving his wrists into a one-handed hold, I continue to kiss and suck along the right points of his neck to make Squall moan softly beneath me.  With my freed hand, I gently rake my fingernails up pale skin hidden behind his loose shirt.  Reaching a hardened nipple, I roll it firmly between my finger and thumb, and I then smirk against his neck as the beauty stretches up against me with a pleasure filled hum.  Damn, he fits too perfectly along my body that way.

With the majority of my senses lost in the taste, smell, and feel of my lion, I don't immediately notice when his body movements change such that he tries to escape from beneath me.  As I straighten in curiosity, I release his wrists from my hold.  Instantly he uses his freed hands to push me aside, but apparently the rushed movement was a bad idea as my shirt is soon heavy with heated wetness.  The nauseating smell is the second thing I notice.

"Ugh, a warning would've been nice..."  Glancing up from the mess on my shirt, I look into blue-gray eyes that are wide in pure horror as he stares at me.  "Squall?  You okay?"

His mouth moves as if to speak, but he chokes on his words.  Only by reflex alone am I able to grab an arm before he can bolt off of the bed and who knows to where else.

"Squall.  Squall," I say with a jerk to his arm, making him stop his struggles against me.  "It's okay.  Really.  This isn't the worse thing I've been drenched in."

Cautiously, he looks up into my eyes.  "You... don't...?"

"Well, I don't blame you, no.  But to say that I don't mind would be lying.  I'm going to take a shower in a minute here, but first...  Is it me or your condition that made you sick?"

Eyes closed, he says, "Not you.  Never you."

I grin, unable to contain how relieved his answer makes me feel.  "Then that's that."

Releasing his hand, I walk awkwardly to the bathroom while trying to not make a further mess of the room.  I don't even attempt to take off the shirt until I'm in the shower and partly clean the piece of clothing under a cool flow of water.  Of course, my now sopping wet clothes are just that more difficult to remove, but it's better than the alternative.  With the smell and image of the vomit clear in my mind, I'm more thorough than usual at soaping my body clean, getting a heavy lather going everywhere I can reach.  Then it's rinse and repeat.

Concentrated on my task, I'm startled when the shower door opens on its own.  Jumping back, I slip on the tiled floor and nearly land on my ass.  A strong hand catches my arm and keeps me upright.

"Damn it, Leonhart.  Warn a guy before you..." I trail off when I look at him directly, or rather, when I look at his naked and gorgeous body.

Releasing my arm, he says, "I asked a maid to handle the mess.  She'll be done soon."

"Hnnn, and that required you removing your clothes?"

He lightly glares at me as he steps fully into the shower and closes the door behind him.  When I reach out to pull him closer, Squall brushes the hand aside.

"I need you to promise me that you won't take responsibility for this."

"For what?"

"My condition."

"Why the hell would I promise that?  Is it something I did?  Did I give you a virus or something?"

He bites his lower lip.  "Just promise me."

"No."

"Seifer... let me give you an out."

I sneer at him.  "You say that as if I needed one.  I do whatever the hell I want, Squally-boy.  If that means taking responsibility for another load of shit I've dumped onto you, then I'll do just that."

"It's not your fault..."

Frustrated, I ask, "And just what the fuck isn't my fault?"

He sighs and closes his eyes.  "I... somehow, because Shiva is within me, I'm...  Hyne, I'm pregnant, Seifer."

"... Wh... What do you mean by... pregnant... exactly?"

He laughs humorlessly.  "Knocked up, with child, expecting, bun in the oven, mother-to-be... need me to continue?"

"But, how...?"

"Hyne knows.  We can only assume Shiva affected my body somehow."

I can't stop myself from staring at him, none of this information truly processing in my mind.  Fuck, he could also tell me that he's expecting a litter of kittens for how much I believe this situation.

Uncomfortable with my gaze, Squall looks to the side.  "You don't have to take a role in any of this."

"Like hell I'm leaving you."

A shadow of a smile appears.  "I'm sorry for earlier.  I was feeling nauseated all day and didn't expect it to suddenly peak like that."

My eyes widen slightly as I try not to laugh at the ridiculous notion that Squall could be suffering from morning sickness.  This just isn't right.  "Um, so, what have all the doctors been saying about this?"

Eyes narrowed, he says, "They want me to have an abortion."

Judging by his tone, I state with certainty, "And you don't."

"I won't kill a child."

Though I recognize the words and firm voice, it takes me a moment to remember when I've heard him say this before.  "Hyne, Squall.  You can't be talking about that pledge of yours."

"... ..."

I take his silence to mean just that.  "Princess, you made that pledge when you were dealing with being a killer.  You meant that you would never have a child's blood on your blade.  If the doctors think this... this pregnancy of yours could harm you--"

"I won't kill a child."

I'm stunned into silence by the look in his eyes, by that heated flame which I adore more than anything.  My entire body feels chilled as I stare at him, and slowly, very slowly, it seeps in that Squall is protecting his child... our child.  Glancing over his body, I realize that this child is just an abstract thought at this point, but eventually, he will be showing that apparent life hidden within him.  Fuck, what the hell am I supposed to think about all of this?

Despite my uncertainty, I reach out and take a hold of tense shoulders to pull the smaller man against my body.  Burying one hand deep into his hair and wrapping my other arm tight along his waist, I rest my cheek against the top of his head.  After a time of listening to the sounds of the shower while I hold Squall, I'm easily reminded that it is this which I want and need.  This is where I belong, and fuck the complications that may come.  Nothing else matters as long as this man is mine.

"Squall."

"... Hn?"

"Can I stay?"

There is a moment of silence before his fingernails dig into the skin of my back.  "Yes."

 

{Continued}

 

Author's Whining -- Eep, this chapter got too dang long.  I promise, promise there will be a lemon next chapter, which should also be the final chapter.  Thankies for reading. ^_-