24/M/Del

BY : darksquall
Category: Final Fantasy VIII > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 2120
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VIII, nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

24/M/Del.




Disclaimer: The characters herein are the property of squaresoft. I am making no money for this work of fiction, and I do not claim any ownership of the characters.

Dedicated to Race Ulfson for all her putting up with me and beta work, you still keep me sane baby.

This fic also makes use of “chat room” speak – it is limited as far as possible, but it might put some of my regular readers off.


Squall hated it when his friends hung around his dorm while he wasn’t around. It seemed weird, even though he had nothing to hide from them, it almost felt as though there were some great secret he were sure they would stumble upon.

He especially did not trust Selphie anywhere alone in his dorm. Irvine and Zell knew not to search in certain places or look too closely at certain things whereas Selphie was a girl, and a shameless one at that. He’d never felt quite safe around her ever since she’d seen fit to sit him down and discuss his choice in pornography. Somehow he’d never thought he’d wind up discussing his choice in ‘whacking material’ as she’d so delicately termed it, with a girl he half thought of as a sister.

Still she managed to wheedle her way in more often than not. She’d wait and duck in behind him while talking about the latest mission she’d led. Though he’d be receiving a report sooner or later, he could usually gauge how well it had gone better by listening to how excited she was when she talked about it.
This time he made agreeing noises as he gathered his towel, shower bag and a pair of garden issue sweats – he’d been training when she’d shown up and he could feel the sweat drying on his skin.

“Squally, can I use your laptop while you’re in the shower?” she asked while doing her very best impression of someone innocent - which she definitely hadn’t been for a very long time, if ever. It was the lesser of two evils so he agreed. If he had said no, she would have asked to watch him shower instead.

So he said yes and showered quickly. When he returned to the bedroom, he found her sitting cross legged on the chair at his desk, watching lines of text roll across the screen and giggling when something she liked caught her eye.

Squall tried to ignore it, rubbing his hair dry with a too thin Garden towel. He sighed – sometimes he wondered if he should move out and find a place of his own but he doubted he’d ever manage it. Money wasn’t a problem. The salary Cid had issued him was more than adequate but his hours were long and sometimes it was nice to just have to drag his ass downstairs and struggle to his dorm whenever he made it out from behind his desk. On the other hand it would be worth it to have somewhere to escape Selphie when she was in one of her “Squall needs a lover” moods.

“You’re not in that chat room again, surely,” Squall groaned, tossing the towel aside. “Who are you being tonight?”

“You,” Selphie replied, grinning over her shoulder. Her fingers rushed over the keyboard, the clicking of the keys blurring together.

He never knew whether to believe her or not. Sometimes Selphie seemed utterly determined to drive him insane. Even though she was probably the closest one to him these days, she had never lost the ability to ignore anything that Squall attempted to tell her aside from direct orders. The word ‘no’ was not in her vocabulary and when trying to get her to stop… he might as well have been speaking ancient Centran.

Finally, Squall decided that she was most likely being honest and therefore he would have to kill her and find somewhere to hide the body. “If you’ve put my name in there, Elf, I will reassign Irv to Trabia. You’ll never see him in a thong again,” he threatened somewhat half heartedly. It was no use making such threats really, she shrugged everything off and gave him a guilt trip in the form of a wounded look and pout any time he looked at her for an hour afterwards.

“You’d never be able to get him there, Squally. He’d barricade himself in his room.”

With a long suffering sigh, Squall slumped down on the bed and ran a hand through his damp hair. “Okay, you’ve reported in and had your fun,” he gestured to the door. “Now, out. I need to do some work tonight.”

“Spoilsport,” Selphie stuck out her tongue at Squall, swivelling in the chair to slip her feet back into her sneakers. “Look, there are some nice guys in there. You could try talking to them. What harm could it to?”

What harm? What good could it do? He didn’t know them; they were just jumbled names of letters and numbers that could have been anyone. Selphie thought it was fun to go into those little rooms and pretend to be someone else, so how could he ever think that the people there were anything but more Selphies? Rubbing the scar on the bridge of his nose, he sighed. “Please, Elf.”

“Okay already!” she exclaimed, padding over to press a light kiss to his cheek. “Next time I’ll just set you up on a blind date with someone.”

Squall blushed. Not from the kiss, he was more than used to Selphie’s open affection, though at first he’d hated her overly fond and familiar nature. He’d come to almost enjoy the little kisses goodbye over the years and the way she saw fit to maul himself and Irvine until she could stretch out over their laps on the sofa when the old ‘gang’ met up to watch a movie. The flirty and friendly little facets of her nature made Selphie – they were as much her as her bright yellow clothing or vibrantly green eyes.

The blush was for the thought of another blind date. The last time she’d tried that he’d ended up leaving halfway through the movie they’d gone to see because his other choice was to feed the little bastard she’d set him up with his chair, just shut him up.

Having long since come to the conclusion that he just didn’t work in relationships, Squall had been alone for almost three years. He just didn’t know how to treat someone like Rinoa with her little princess complex or Nida who’d been so obedient it had made Squall feel guilty to sleep with him. Twice he’d had to break up with someone and face being alone again. But his friends were still around and still content enough to be his friends.

Looking up when he heard the door to his dorm click shut, Squall realised that he had gotten lost in his thoughts again and that Selphie had gone without closing the chat room. Perhaps in some vain hope that curiosity would get the better of him.

Ignoring the insistent flashing of the window as more and more people typed into the abyss of information of the net outside Garden, Squall closed the window and headed for the kitchen. He needed coffee. The day had been long and he had a good few hours before he could head for bed. Reports to write, mission statements to summarise.

By the time he returned, the program window was flashing again. He had closed the room but not the program itself and someone had sent him a message.

Sipping his coffee, the scalding hot liquid almost strong enough to stand a spoon in, Squall frowned. It would be rude to ignore the window and just close the whole thing without at least saying goodbye. He rarely cared about appearing rude but Selphie would no doubt scold him and give him hours of the wounded pout…

Anything for a quiet life.

He bought up the window.

[Soundsmith] Has she gone yet?

Surprised, Squall set the mug aside. “Yes, she’s gone, why?’ he typed. The name Leo23 flashed up next to his words.

[Soundsmith] Oh thank Hyne, you can type. If I see one more Ur tonight I think my eyes would start bleeding.

[Soundsmith] Is this where I start trying to chat you up? Oh did you hurt yourself when you fell from heaven? What lovely eyes you have? …Wait, I need to have a red riding hood nick to use that.

Squall smiled. At least whoever it was could type, he’d seen Selphie write in places like this and had trouble reading more than a few words. Still he had work to do.

Opening his email, Squall groaned at the sudden flood of new messages. Sometimes the commander’s position seemed like a never ending cascade of yet more work. He’d managed to feel his way around the job enough to find what he definitely needed to do and what things could be offloaded to his secretary or other SeeDs. What remained was still more than enough to keep him occupied throughout the day and half of the evenings as well.

The window with the conversation flashed up with another message again.

[Soundsmith] Did I scare you off, Leo?

[Leo23] No, I’m just working. I’m not really the type who chats like this.

[Soundsmith] Lemme guess. You’re one of those quiet types, maybe not too tall, big coffee addict. People look at you and see a pretty face and think you’re going to be a walk over but you’re stronger than you look.

Squall frowned and leant back in his chair. The way the stranger was talking almost made it seem as if he knew Squall. It was too close to the truth for comfort. It was a set up. It had to be, it was too close to home to be anything but that. “Do I know you?” he wrote cautiously, as though the stranger were somehow in the same room.

[Soundsmith] Your friend, Elf, was giving me the Leo23 crib notes before she disappeared. She also said you worked too hard and that I should try and get you to take a break.

[Leo23] Great. I must remember to drown her tomorrow. Why you?

[Soundsmith] My cool nick, obviously. That or the fact I’m the only person in that room who types properly. Unless you would rather deal with me saying “omg u 4r3 s0 k3wl!’ …Except my fingers hate me now.

He found himself smiling again. He couldn’t help it even though it did feel weird to be smiling at a computer screen. Well, he supposed that he could always sate Selphie’s continued desire to get him to interact with someone outside of work and work at the same time. “No, I’ll let you off. You can type properly. Who are you?”

[Soundsmith] 24/M/Del. I’m tall, tanned, and blond – I swear I’m not lying. I work as a DJ for a radio station in Deling at the moment. I’m not looking to pick you up; I was just looking for some intelligent conversation.

[Soundsmith] Elf was the only one typing anything I could understand. Then she told me she was looking for someone for her friend. I guess that’s you, Leo?

[Leo23] Are you sure you’re not trying to pick me up? Tall tanned and blond sure as hell sounds like it.

[Soundsmith] That depends, am I your type? I promise everything is true. What about you? Elf didn’t get around to telling me what you looked like.

That was considerably harder to reply to. Squall took a sip of his coffee before setting the mug down again and absently reached for a shirt. There was a faint chill to the air that he could feel even with Shiva – he blamed the heating. It had always been temperamental, just one more ‘perk” to the job. Better him than someone else who would just complain about it to him over and over. “I’m 23, brown hair, blue eyes. 5’10”. Not telling you what I do though.”

[Soundsmith] Aw, c’mon. I told you, what are you, a celebrity?

[Leo23] I said I wouldn’t tell you, not yet.

[Soundsmith] So long as there’s a chance. So, you’re still talking to me even though you said you’re not the type to chat like this. Is that a good sign?

It was. A very good sign. It was probably the most he’d talked to someone, willingly, outside of his circle of friends in a long time. Of course he had to speak in public because of his job and inter garden relations but that was the job – he had no choice.

Still, he wasn’t sure if he was doing the right thing. He didn’t only have his own safety to think of anymore of course; there was that of his father as well. He couldn’t say for sure if everyone he spoke to was out to prove something by harming either him or Laguna. “Maybe, what if it is?”

[Soundsmith] You sound like my type.

[Leo23] So much for not trying to pick me up.

[Soundsmith] I’m still not trying! If I were, you’d know about it, believe me, Leo.

He didn’t doubt that at all. And it was nice to get the attention for what he was saying rather than who he was if he were truly honest with himself. So few people bothered to look past the scar, the name, the family… In Esthar he was Laguna Loire’s son, and in the rest of the world a hero. Naturally some of his friends had lapped up the attention all it brought them over the years but Squall would have given anything to just slip into obscurity again.

Sadly, the evening was dragging on and Squall hadn’t done a damn thing since he’d started talking to the stranger and there just wasn’t time to keep it up. He was already tired, even if he was enjoying the company, he couldn’t stay.

[Leo23] Look, I need to get some work done before I sleep. I should go.

[Soundsmith] Aw, sure. Will I ever see you again?

[Leo23] Maybe. I’ll think about it.

[Soundsmith] You don’t like people much do you?

[Leo23] I like you as much as I like anyone.

Squall’s reply was honest at least. There wasn’t enough to go on yet and while he might admit to liking this stranger enough to think of contacting him again, he couldn’t bring himself to tell the Soundsmith that just yet. So he wasn’t the most social of creatures, so what?

[Soundsmith] Doesn’t fill me with the greatest of confidence but I’ll friend you anyway. At least you’re honest.

[Soundsmith] Goodnight Leo.

‘Goodnight,” he typed and closed the connection.

Sitting back for a moment, he stared at the screen as though the program would magically reconnect him to Soundsmith, whoever he was. Nothing happened of course. Finally he sighed and returned to the mound of unopened email awaiting him, half hoping that he would find the courage and time to speak to him again. It was nice to have an escape, regardless.



********




Seifer Almasy was boring. He would admit to it, even though it sometimes pained him to do so. He was boring through necessity – still, it annoyed him that life had come to this.

Once again he’d spent the evening alone. After a meal for one he’d flicked through the mindless chatter of the television, keeping one eye on the laptop sitting open on the couch beside him. How such tripe could have started dribbling into the programming when it had only been back for a few years was beyond him. Perhaps more importantly, why the hell he was watching a program called ‘When Brides attack’?

With a mutter of disgust, Seifer turned the set off and tossed the remote onto the nearby armchair, pulling the computer into his lap again.

He was bored. Bored and boring, a double whammy. He could have gone out with his coworkers but the few he could stand outside of the station were either working or sleeping before their shifts. So Seifer spent most of his evening at home, reading, listening to music and occasionally surfing the web.

His phone rang; it was just a normal ringing sound. He hated the weird and less than wonderful tunes that his colleagues had and continually tried to push onto him. It was a crime to reduce some of his favourite pieces to snippets of tuneless noise just for the sake of a damn phone call.

When he finally deigned to answer, Selphie’s excited voice blasted out of it. The words merged into one long jumble. Seifer couldn’t make it out, wincing at the intensity of her mixed up squeal.

“Selphie, slow down,” he ordered.

“Squall liked you!” she yelled again, slower this time. There was actually a tiny pause between the words, so he had half a chance of making it out. “And he’s logging on now.”

Seifer’s heart leapt into his mouth only a heartbeat before a new message window popped up on his laptop.

[Leo23] Are you around?

‘Yeah, just a sec. I’m on the phone,” he typed. Squall liked talking to him. Squall had contacted him again. “Selphie, I gotta go, he’s messaged me. I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know how it went, okay?”

“Yes! Please! Night, Seify!”

She ended the call before he had a chance to reply. At least that allowed him to go back to Squall faster. “Hey, sorry about that.”

[Leo23] That’s fine. I apologise if I interrupted anything.

[Soundsmith] No, not at all. Just a pal updating a pet project.

[Leo23] Ah.

Seifer chuckled. He could almost see Squall sitting at the computer. He’d have a report or something to hand so he could make the excuse of having some other reason to be there. Not for anyone else, but for himself. He’d have to ask Selphie if he were right the following day.

He’d run into Selphie accidentally while she’d been on a mission the previous week. When she’d completed her objectives – not that she’d told him what they were – she tracked him down to talk. Seifer’s first thought had been of Trabia, of the lives that had been sacrificed and that the girl had finally come for her revenge, but he should never have doubted her. In fact they’d spent a few hours and two bottles of wine catching up, during which somehow Selphie had worked out that Seifer was gay and had a thing for a scarred brunet who liked leather way more than was healthy.

He’d never been able to quite forget Squall Leonhart. He’d never even admitted it aloud to anyone before either.

If Squall wasn’t using her for interrogation, he really was missing a trick. Or Seifer was getting soft now he was a civilian.

…Nah.

Selphie had sworn, admittedly somewhat drunkenly, that she would get him a chance to speak to Squall without him judging Seifer. He’d blamed the drink and completely underestimated Selphie’s drive to meddle with other people’s affairs.

[Leo23] You’re quiet tonight.

‘I’m so awed by your presence I can’t think of a damn thing to say,” he replied. Selphie had told him Squall had changed a little but not much. That he was still quiet but better than he had been. Enough of the boy he’d fallen for to keep Seifer’s interest piqued but enough change to give him hope of actually having some sort of chance with the younger man. If he could just get through to Squall without him finding out that he was talking to Seifer Almasy, then maybe… just maybe…

[Leo23] Hyne, and I though Elf’s boyfriend was a flirt. Next you’ll be telling me that you didn’t see any stars in the sky because the only heavenly body you could see was mine.

The line was so cheesy that Seifer couldn’t help but laugh. It had to be Irvine. Zell would never make it through a line that long without spontaneously combusting and Nida was too quiet. Besides, it was hard for Seifer to imagine Selphie with anyone else. “Okay, that’s pretty bad. Will you forgive me if I don’t try to out do him?”

[Leo23] Oh I think I’ll manage somehow.

[Leo23] Isn’t it late there?

Deling was a few hours ahead of Balamb. It was getting late but Seifer's shift permitted him time to sleep in during the day time - in fact he rarely rose before noon whether he was awake or not. "I don't start work 'til two, or are you trying to get rid of me already?"

[Leo23] Oh no, not yet. I can't stay long again tonight though.

Squall would be wearing the thoughtful little frown. The one that verged on a pout the more he struggled to hide whatever he was thinking. "I think any time with you would be worth it, Leo," he typed honestly. He'd wanted the quiet brunet for so very long that even the chance to talk to him again had Seifer's heart pounding. "So, did you get all the work done that you needed to? Do I have all of your attention this evening?"

[Leo23] Yeah, no distractions tonight.

Settling back against the arm of his couch and turning to stretch his legs, Seifer got as comfortable as he could. He was hoping it would be a long night. "Oh good."

********



“Leo23 has invited you to view his webcam.”

Seifer had to read the window message four or five times before he finally managed to comprehend it. Squall Leonhart had a web cam and wanted him to see it. Of course, Squall still didn’t know who he was. They’d been talking on and off for almost a month – not quite every day but often enough to keep Seifer’s hopes up. And although he hadn’t told the commander of Balamb Garden just who he was, he had been careful not to tell him any outright lies.

When he clicked okay, it took a moment or two for the window to load but then, there he was.

“I hope this is okay…” Squall said, running a hand through his hair and looking almost sheepish. “But I dislocated my shoulder this morning. The doctor ordered me to rest my arm so I can’t type. Well, I could, but it would have taken me half an hour to say hello.”

Seifer wanted to type “Hells yes its okay!” but he managed to restrain himself. Really, Squall hadn’t changed all that much. His hair was longer and he was just a little leaner than Seifer remembered. More grown up. He was all hard angles and delicate lines, like the feral creature he could only vaguely remember from their battles during the war. That scar remained, silver white and cutting between those intense grey-blue eyes just like it had years before. His shoulder - Squall's right in fact, so he'd be unable to lift his blade for days, maybe even weeks since that was the arm that braced the weapon while he cast and summoned - was bandaged and his arm was cradled in a sling. "That's fine with me. Why didn't you tell me you were so hot?"

A blush coloured Squall's cheeks lightly, but he smiled at least. "Whatever," he shrugged, just as Seifer had expected him to, and he couldn't help but laugh at it. Hearing Squall say that took him right back to the arrogant eighteen year old he'd been. It felt like a lifetime ago. Hell, it had been a lifetime ago. He was a different man now, an adult. Squall seemed just the same as he'd always been. Maybe a little more open, after all the moody teenager he’d once known would never have spoken to a complete and total stranger - as far as he knew - over the internet. Hell, he hadn't even bothered with the Garden BBS.

"You're quiet tonight, Soundsmith. Am I doing something wrong?"

"Not at all. I'm just trying to figure out why someone as hot as you is indoors on this chat program all the time," Seifer typed. He couldn't take his eyes off Squall, admiring all the little nuances of his manner and features that had changed since he'd been that seventeen year old quiet little bastard.

"Oh. I don't really deal with people well," he admitted grudgingly, chewing on his lower lip. With a frown, he fell back against the black pillows. The camera shook faintly as the laptop shifted on his thighs. It felt weird, almost wrong to see Squall in such an intimate environment, even though they'd shared a room as kids. Still..., it was good that Squall trusted "Soundsmith" enough to allow him this private moment. "How are you tonight?"

"Bored. Until now, of course. Now I feel privileged. How did you hurt your shoulder?"

Squall picked at the edge of the sling, wearing a petulant little look - he was embarrassed and Seifer was laughing at him. He was wearing the same expression he used to when he was a kid and got caught stealing cookies before dinner. "I wish I could say it was something exciting, but I was helping The Elf decorate and I fell off a fifteen foot ladder. Another one of our friends bumped into it and..."

Seifer shook his head. Had to be Zell. Squall would have named Selphie - or Elf as he called her - and it wouldn't be Quistis. She was too graceful and from what Selphie had told him, the only way Irvine would be anywhere near a ladder was if the person on it was wearing a skirt. "I hope you kicked their ass."

"Not yet, he feels too guilty. Took all afternoon just to kick him out of my dorm. It's nothing, really. I've had much worse; I just wish they'd go for the other shoulder once in a while."

Of course. It was the same side that the icicle had struck him on the parade float that night.

He'd almost managed to forget about that. The way Squall had tumbled backwards off the float, his eyes already beginning to dull. A shiver of revulsion ran through Seifer before he could prevent it, memories of what he'd done, said and been to Squall. How could he even begin to think he had a chance of forgiveness, let alone anything else from the Commander? He had to believe it was possible, he'd forgiven himself after all and Squall was a lot more reasonable than he was.

Most of the time.

…Some of the time.

"Has anyone ever told you that you have a sexy voice?" Seifer asked, wanting to add ‘And give me their names, so I can kick their asses for even daring to breathe the same air as you.’ His words bought a twitch of a smile to Squall's lips and made him blush again. Faint but enough to let Seifer know that no one ever had. At least, no one who mattered to Squall.

"No," he said at last, dragging his good hand through his hair, smoothing it back from his eyes only for it to fall into them again. "I haven't even been on a date in a couple of years."

Selphie had told Seifer as much, that Squall had ended up as lonely and, to be honest, as pathetic as Seifer occasionally felt himself. That while he wasn't the only one with designs for Squall's body, Seifer had no rivals for the quiet commander's affections. The regular phone calls he received from Selphie gave him hope. Squall talked about him. Granted, not often but habitually. Enough to have her giggling like a school girl on the phone every other night.

Seifer didn't know how Squall could keep her around. Even though she spent less than an hour over the week on the phone with him, that was enough to have him fearing for his safety and his sanity.

Covering his mouth, hiding a yawn, Squall stretched again.

Painful as it was to Seifer, now he'd finally gotten a chance to see Squall again, he couldn't make Squall stay if he were exhausted. Seifer was already feeling enough guilt from the memory of the float, and everything else he'd done before when they were still children playing war games. "Tired? Maybe you should take a break. I'll be here tomorrow."

"I have a few days off, the painkillers the doc made me take always make me drowsy."

"Are you sure it's the painkillers? Maybe it's just because you finally stopped running long enough to acknowledge you are tired," Seifer pointed out bluntly. Every time they talked, he was busy. Work work work, even if Squall had been rather more lackadaisical in his studies when they’d been children. And Seifer worried about the ever distant, ever quiet commander; he was pale and drawn and not all of it could be because of the drugs Kadowaki had him on. “You do work a lot, Leo.”

Squall scowled at the camera. The petulant little expression that had once been the driving force behind half of their duels at least – just because it had made Seifer want to kiss it away. “Don’t you start too; I get enough for that from Elf.”

“Well you do. Let’s change the subject. Where’d you get the scar?”

Of course Seifer knew. But it seemed the right thing to ask.

“You… don’t know me?” Squall asked, a mixture of relief and disappointment in his voice.

“Not well enough.”

Thoughtfully, Squall touched his scar. He closed his eyes just for a second, perhaps a thought to the sorceress’ knight and old rival that he hadn’t seen in five or six years. “I work for Garden,” he admitted quietly, letting his hand fall away to his side. “I got this scar in a duel. It’s a dangerous job.”

‘Yes, too dangerous. I don’t know how you do it, Squally-boy,” Seifer thought, touching the silver white scar that cut over Squall’s face on the screen lightly. The memory of that morning was as clear as day but the weeks that followed were still half blurred and confused.

“Sound?” Squall said, tilting his head. “Is something wrong?”

He’d been quiet too long. The compulsion to touch the handsome man on the screen had been too much and he’d gotten distracted like a love sick puppy. “Sorry, just wondering why someone would want to scar up that face.”

With a brief shrug, only the faintest lift of his good shoulder to respond, Squall half smiled. “I don’t know. Does it really matter? It’s all ancient history now anyway.”

It shouldn’t have mattered. Seifer should have been able to forget everything just as Squall seemed to have done. “Guess so. Kinda suits you, but you were lucky they didn’t take out your eye, looks pretty close.”

“He was a good shot.”

Seifer set the laptop on the low table beside the sofa, stretching out on the cushions to type one handed on the keyboard. Squall could hardly keep his eyes open and Seifer was beginning to feel the effects of the long day himself. “Hey, baby. Put the computer down and lie down. Don’t want you dropping off and dropping it.”

Wiping his eyes as though he could ward away the sleep so easily, Squall scowled but did as he was told. “I don’t want to go yet.”

“Click the little wizard thing and it’ll read what I say so you don’t have to read the screen…,” he paused for a moment, watching squall fumble with the touchpad mouse. Even if he did have a crush on the younger man he couldn’t help a little smugness at Squall’s clumsy fumbling. It was nice to know he could still one up Leonhart in a few areas. “Is it talking?”

Squall gave a soft, breathless little laugh. “Hyne, that’s awful.”

“Yeah, but at least you can hear what I say. Now lie down, I’ll be here with the volume turned up so you can wake me up when you wake up, okay?”

Pouting like a scolded child, Squall propped himself up on his good side against the pillows, setting the laptop somewhere on the other side of the bed. “I bet Elf put you up to this too…” He yawned. “Damn pills.”

“Leo, I promise it’s only my concern for you making me tell you to sleep. Wake me up when your painkillers wear off and I’ll distract you ‘til they kick in again. Okay?” Seifer paused, watching Squall’s eyes flicker closed and his body curl up, ready for a few hours sleep. “And Elf’s bribery has nothing to do with this, even if you do look hot in a thong.”

One eye creaking back open, Squall offered the camera a one fingered salute.

Seifer was laughing as he wrote “Goodnight, Leo,” and watched the quiet young man drifting off to sleep. He drank in every detail, Squall’s soft breathing, the peaceful expression and the way his fingers rested against his pendant. Finding comfort and reassurance in the presence of Griever.

And as he finally drifted off, Seifer hoped that some day he’d be able to see it in person.


********

When he returned to work a week later, Squall was buried under the usual flood of paperwork. He’d tried to keep an eye on it but Selphie and Quistis caught him time and time again. So eventually he’d just given up and spent as much time talking to Soundsmith as he could, between calling his father, catching up on whatever he could do without the girls sighing at him and dodging Zell, who still felt guilty.

Just as he was about to toss a pile of remarkably poor reports into the trash through sheer frustration, the now familiar sound of a new message burbled from the speakers.

[Soundsmith] Is it safe to talk?

Squall smiled, pulling the keyboard into his lap. “Yes, you just saved someone from having to resubmit six months worth of weekly reports,” he said, returning the offending pile to the “in” tray and making a note to pass them along to Quistis for review. Let her deal with whoever had written them. “Going to work soon?”

[Soundsmith] Hey, don’t spare idiots on my account. …Yeah, just thought I’d see how you were getting on. Your shoulder okay?

Apart from the odd twinge, it had been fine all day. He was a fast healer and he’d been very careful to avoid heavy work and any training while recovering. Even if he had tried to sneak in paperwork. It just felt stupid to fight a sorceress and make it out in most of one piece and end up getting hurt in such a mundane and normal setting. “It’s fine,” he wrote, pulling over another folder to check while his friend replied.

If he was completely honest with himself, Squall could almost admit that he liked Soundsmith enough to be more than a friend. He was thoughtful, amusing… bright enough to be good conversation and never made him feel like just another grunt. Squall was even getting a crush on the guy, and he didn’t have a clue what he looked like, who he really was. It was dangerous to fall for someone like that but he couldn’t help it.

[Soundsmith] Good, I miss hearing your voice though.

Squall sighed. Even if he hadn’t heard Soundsmith’s voice, that struck a chord in him. He wanted to get to know the stranger better. Wanted to know him as well as he did his friends and more, but the strange man who’d become a friend just through a computer screen always had an excuse when Squall wanted to hear his voice or see a picture. ‘“I’ll be around tonight, you can hear it then, okay?”

[Soundsmith] I’ll try and make it through the day.

“Or I could call you now,” Squall offered cautiously. His hopes were swiftly dashed again as the response came all too quickly.

[Soundsmith] Can’t. I’m on the network at our work’s café. Gotta go in ten minutes to prepare for the show.

The quick reply did nothing to reassure him. Squall sighed again, setting the folder on the desk. “Ah. Well, maybe later,” he sent in return but didn’t hold out much hope. Soundsmith seemed so good at dodging contact that wasn’t on his own terms. Until he got some real answers, some proof that he wasn’t being taken for a ride, he had to continue to be careful. Not that Squall couldn’t take care of himself, but he couldn’t risk his father or SeeD. Captured, he provided more influence over both SeeD and Esthar than anyone.

[Soundsmith] Leo?

“Sorry, paperwork attack,” Squall wrote. It was a lie, but hardly compared to the ones Soundsmith seemed to have told.

[Soundsmith] That’s okay. I gotta go, I’ll play a song for you.

The thought was touching, even if he wouldn’t be around to hear it. “Maybe someday I’ll hear these songs you keep playing for me.”

[Soundsmith] Hope so. Don’t work too hard, okay?

The window greyed out as Soundsmith signed off again. The brief interlude had made Squall realise that the stranger had a greater effect on him than he’d first estimated. Those few minutes had been enough to lighten his mood and cheer him up, and enough to keep him smiling. The brief disappointment had been enough to send him right back down again.

Maybe he felt more for the mysterious man than he had any right to. Maybe there was nothing he could do about that.

Maybe he was crazy.


********

"I haven't had sex for three years."

On the video screen, Squall was stretched out on one side of the double bed, the laptop at the other end. He was still half dressed from his evening out, only wearing a pair of low cut jeans and an open shirt, his hair coming loose from his pony tail. Wisps of dark brown hair curled on his cheek where he lay, the deep colour against his pale skin a beautiful contrast that Seifer still wanted to brush away to kiss that cheek. He'd been drinking, his movements a little exaggerated and clumsy as he talked. Still he managed to be one of the better drunks to talk to that Seifer had ever encountered.

The confession had come when Seifer had asked if there was anyone he was interested in. He had answered no hesitantly, and when Seifer had pressed for further detail, Squall had shook his head and admitted to that.

“I hope you whack off, at least,” Seifer typed. He’d convinced Squall to start up the agent again, letting it read everything he typed aloud so Squall could lounge there.

“Only when I’m not too tired, or talking to you.”

“But you do it the rest of the time? What do you do for a living again? Wait, never mind, I’ll get jealous. Or not,” Seifer was a little disappointed to find out that Squall didn’t whack off while talking to him, they had managed some pretty deep and meaningful flirting. “Why don’t you whack off talking to me? Aren’t I sexy enough for you?”

Squall laughed that soft, breathy laugh that made Seifer grin like an idiot. “What are you expecting, me to do it on camera?”

“If there is a god, yes.”

He stretched and unfastened his belt slowly. “Anyway, I never said that I whack off all the time. I don’t know what you look like either.”

Seifer sent one of the promotional images from his job, a picture of himself bare chested and wearing a Stetson, with his head tipped so that his face was obscured. It had been from a rodeo themed competition, with two of the female station presenters being the main focus of the image in their little cowgirl outfits that left very little to the imagination. “There.”

Looking surprised, Squall tilted his head as though he could somehow get a peek under that hat. “You’re going to tell me you’re the blond girl now, aren’t you?”

“Hell no, and no cowboy jokes, or I’ll mention how you should have a nicer tan for being a gardener.”

“Garden, not gardener,” Squall laughed again, shaking his head. “I’m a SeeD; didn’t I tell you that before?”

“And breaking out of your shell?” Seifer watched as Squall pulled the belt from his pants and dropped it over the side of the bed. Finally he unfastened his pants, peeling himself out of them slowly and kicking them off the same way the belt had gone.

He was having trouble not just drooling.

Squall stretched languidly, almost sighing as he finally released it. The little ghost of a smile stayed on his lips, a sweet little expression that belied the picture he provided naked and half hard. “Just because I don’t date doesn’t mean I’m in a shell.”

“Why don’t you date? From what I can see, you are damn fine.”

Sliding a hand down the hard plane of his belly, Squall shrugged. “I don’t socialise outside of work. Can you see okay?”

“Not sure, the screen keeps steaming up,” Seifer joked, but he could see everything. The way Squall’s abdominals flexed as he moved, the way his head fell back against the pillow as he wrapped his hand around his cock and stroked himself just once. His eyes closed with a satisfied hum, and Seifer wanted to fold his hand over Squall’s so very badly.

“Are you breathing heavy, Soundsmith?”

Breathing heavy didn’t begin to describe how much Squall was affecting him. For now, Seifer simply watched, amazed at the show he was being given and the gentle movements Squall was employing as he teased himself, fingertips brushing along the underside of his sex in the lightest manner before returning to the firmer, languid strokes that made Squall’s breath catch in his throat and his lips part in a silent moan. “When I remember to breathe at all. Hyne, you’re gorgeous.”

“Now you’re just trying to flatter me,” Squall smirked at the screen again before he gave in to a husky little noise of pleasure, his hips bucking into his hands just once.

Stretched out on his back, Squall slid one arm under the pillow beneath his head, propping himself up just a little more, just high enough to be able to watch himself and the way he moved. His gaze flickered between his hand and the camera, as though inviting Seifer – or rather – Soundsmith – to comment.

“Flattering you is not what I’m thinking about at all.”

“So much for wanting me for my mind. Why aren’t you out tonight, anyway?”

This was a million miles from the boy he remembered. The anonymity of the web camera, the false courage from whatever he’d been drinking while out for Zell’s birthday had combined to fill one of Seifer’s fantasies in the most perfect way only for him to realise that the fantasy had never had a chance to stand up to the reality. “No one to come out for. And I like your mind fine, I really like that it’s attached to what I’m seeing now.”

“What next?” the younger man almost sighed as he redoubled his efforts.

“I think a little belly stroking and nipple pinching.”

“You’re too far away,” Squall murmured, shifting into a more comfortable position. He planted one foot flat on the bed, the other still stretched out. It was so tempting to ask for him to slide his hand between his legs and do something much more intimate… but Seifer resisted. He wanted to be the one to do that, he didn’t want to just watch. “Or I would.”

“Yours, do yours. If we were together, I’d be doing it.”

And it wouldn’t be just that he’d be doing. There was so much he longed to do, just to touch Squall, to be able to feel his skin. Even beyond that, if he lived long enough to move beyond that, he had enough desires to keep Squall busy for weeks.

Squall gave a shuddery little breath as he rolled one of his nipples between saliva slicked fingers. “Shame you’re not here, then.”

“Hyne, I know. If we were together, I could lick down your flat belly and kiss all around your navel…,” he lost his train of thought as he watched Squall’s free hand slide down between his legs, moving out of his sight.

Renewing his efforts, stroking himself almost roughly, Squall half growled. His voice was thick with need as he slumped down against the pillows, spreading his legs wider and shivered violently. “Don’t sa… type stuff like that. I can hardly concentrate as it is.”

“Whacking off isn’t about concentrating, it’s about letting go.”

Finally Squall turned his head to look right into the camera, his eyes barely open and his mouth slack with pleasure. “Then let me,” he whispered.

Squall tossed his head back, his eyes squeezing shut as he bucked into his hand and spilled over his own belly. His moan was so loud, so deep that Seifer swore he could feel it in his bones. He almost came just from the sound of it and the vision of Squall flat out and boneless like a rag doll with that flush of pleasure still evident on his skin. “Nn, Sound…”

“Damn, I need a cigarette and I don’t even smoke,” Seifer wrote, sitting back. His jeans were uncomfortably tight, but he didn’t want to sit back and do something about that until Squall was asleep. He wanted to drink in every detail of Squall’s face while he could.

“You need to get a mic,” Squall smirked at the camera. “Listening to this agent thing is off-putting.”

“I have one, I do that for a living, remember?” he asked, half wondering whether the GFs had absconded with that piece of information as well.

“Then why don’t you use it?”

“I have one of those cheap crap connections that downloads stuff - what you are saying - fast but is slower than a fat woman putting on a rubber swim suit to upload - me talking to you.” It was the only lie he could remember telling Squall. His connection was fine, but if Squall ever heard his voice, he would never have the chance to speak to him again. “If I tried voice or vid, it’d just fuck up.”

Lifting one corner of the covers, Squall slid under them, only pulling the thick blankets high enough to cover his modesty, leaving his bare chest on view, much to Seifer’s pleasure. This little exhibitionist streak, even if it was entirely due to the alcohol, gave Seifer a little hope. He’d changed more than Seifer had suspected. “Shame.”

“The real shame is that I’m in Deling.”

“I don’t know if I’d do this if you were closer,” Squall stretched and tossed the shirt away. Squall would be sleeping naked that night, and Seifer just wished Squall could have done it in his bed instead of the cold, lonely one over in Balamb. In the awful spring weather, he’d be sure to keep Squall warmer than those damn blankets.

“Someone hurt you?” Seifer hoped desperately he wasn’t about to be named.

“No one but myself. I have lousy taste in lovers.”

Seifer was relieved. The scars may have faded from Squall’s pale skin, they may have almost disappeared from sight, but he didn’t know what lay in Squall’s head. Especially with how Squall over thought so much. “You deserve more.”

“You don’t even know my real name, Soundsmith. I like this because you don’t know me.”

Of course, Squall was wrong, but he wasn’t about to correct him. “Maybe you like it because you don’t know me.”

“Maybe. Are we keeping it that way?”

“Tough call,” Seifer mused. It was only a matter of time now; soon enough Squall would know who he really was. It was easy to keep the act up, and word everything carefully so he wouldn’t be forced to lie to the surprisingly sweet young man in Balamb, but he was getting tired of being just “Soundsmith” to Squall. He wanted to hear Squall gasp his name when he came, not ‘Sound” or any other fake name. “I don’t want you to ditch me, but I don’t want only to get to look and not touch forever either.”

“You think I’ll ditch you?” Squall honestly sounded surprised. That boded well at least, now if he could just keep Squall from killing him in the first five minutes of their meeting again, everything would be fine.

“Well, if you only date guys you don’t know, you’d ditch me sooner or later.”

“I worked with the last guy I dated,” Squall admitted quietly.

And he hadn’t even mentioned Rinoa. Seifer wondered if she was still his sorceress, or if she’d managed to find someone else. He wondered who else Squall had been with – he was sure Selphie had only mentioned one name but that had been months ago. If Squall didn’t kill him in the first five minutes of their meeting, Seifer could at least claim that it was third time lucky. “Dude, never dip in the company inkwell.”

“Where were you when I needed that advice four years ago?”

“Probably making the same mistakes.”

“You don’t have anyone? At all?”

Seifer detected that little thread of hope in Squall’s voice, the cautious little hint that it would make him very happy if that were true. He’d been alone for a long time as well. Not quite as long as Squall, but long enough. “I have friends, but they are not friends you have sex with, they are friends. I have people who would strip and spread for me in a heartbeat, but I hate getting the feeling I should leave a tip.”

“Yeah, you never know how much is appropriate when that happens.”

“Sure you do, it’s on the back of the door.”

“I thought that poster was a joke.”

“Not when your date points it out. Twice,” he added quickly. That had been a rather disappointing night, and one he’d much rather forget if he was honest. But still, it had been an experience. It had made Fujin laugh.

“Is that the voice of experience?”

“Soured me on picking up guys in bars, that’s for sure.”

Squall gave that breathy little laugh. He pulled the laptop closer carefully, letting Seifer get a better look at his face and those captivating eyes. The deep blue grey, the flecks of silver on the dark irises enchanted him for a moment, but still he wanted more. “And that’s what turned you to the web to pick up dates?”

“Well, you don’t have to sit through a dumb assed movie, or buy some loser a steak. Hell, you don’t even have to shave,” he admitted, rubbing his chin as soon as he’d hit send. He had to shave before work but he wasn’t too bad, but if no one was going to see him, what was the point?

Squall copied his gesture without realising it, rubbing his chin. Seifer could hardly believe that Squall ever had to shave, if he was honest. “Unless you’re on camera.”

“Another reason you can’t see me.”

With a small pout, Squall pushed his hair back out of his eyes and let his head fall onto his arm. “I still want a real photo of you sometime. When you get over yourself.”

“I’d like to see you in the flesh.”

Squall gave a sigh that sounded like he had the world on his shoulders. “You live in Deling.”

“They have these wonderful things called trains. They are like chocobo, only they smell a little better.”

“We both work, Sound. I work six days a week, I barely know you.”

“Don’t make excuses,” he replied carefully. He wouldn’t rise to Squall, they were both too tired, he was still too hard and hadn’t the heart to argue where he couldn’t see the passion in Squall’s eyes in person. “Just let it go.”

Falling silent again, Squall frowned to himself. He slipped into the too familiar ‘I’m thinking again’ expression, the cogs almost audibly turning away inside his head. Finally, with the heaviest sigh Seifer had ever heard from him, he shrugged. “Maybe, alright? I’ll think about it.”

It was the most Seifer could have asked for, really. He had expected a flat out no, maybe was an incredible achievement and proof that they actually could do this – that he could at least meet Squall. Maybe. Of course, he couldn’t ignore that disappointment from not getting the yes he’d secretly hoped for. “Fair enough.”

On the screen, Squall yawned. He rubbed one eye with the heel of his hand – the booze and the little scene he’d given Seifer were getting to him. “I should get some sleep, Sound.”

“Yes, you should. Dream about me licking you all over.”

“I’ll try,” Squall reached over to the keyboard to shut down the program but paused. “See you tomorrow?”

“Day after, I have to go to East Hyne’s Ass for a promo thing for the station.”

Squall at least looked disappointed at that. In fact, he pouted again. “I’ll be late. My father’s visiting.”

“We’ll just hook up Thursday.”

“I’ll be here. Have fun at the promo.”

A chance to play DJ with tweedle dumb and tweedle dumbest, the girls from the cowboy promo again did not sound like fun. Especially when he was so caught up with thoughts of Squall Leonhart - Commander of Balamb - instead of the ample cleavage of the girls from the station. “I’m as excited as can be.”

The window greyed out as Squall closed his connection and disappeared from his screen. Seifer sighed heavily, closing the laptop slowly and leaning back to pop the button on his jeans and take his own problem in hand.

Why did Thursday suddenly seem so very far away?


********


Squall felt like an idiot sitting alone in the restaurant. He’d known it had been a set up, so why had he let himself fall for it? Why had he let Selphie talk him into it?

Each step through Balamb with the wind whipping the rain into constant sheets of water had seemed to soak him to the skin. The bitterly cold wind had cut through his clothes as though they were nothing. Everything seemed to be warning him against the idea of meeting the stranger.

When Soundsmith had mentioned that he was going to be in Balamb for a couple of days, Squall’s heart had leapt into his mouth. Finally he could meet the real thing, find out what his friend had been hiding for so very long. In the same breath, he didn’t want to know the truth.

“Look, I’ll book a table in the harbour restaurant, if you join me, you join me. If you don’t, at least I tried.”

It had been worded so carefully. Just enough to have him keep thinking about it for days, and just enough to have him heading for Balamb on the evening of their “date”. He had been deliberately late, only by five minutes, but Soundsmith had been even later. He felt stupid asking for his friend’s nickname but the maitre d’ had just smiled and shown him to the table.

So Squall waited, ordering a bottle of wine and starting the first glass. He’d been alone and feeling like a fool for a good twenty minutes.

Then someone covered his eyes from behind him. The stranger brushed his hair back from his neck, pressed the softest kiss to the skin just beneath his ear and nuzzled against him…

Squall had shivered, not only from the chilled skin touching his face, but habit had his hand already on his blade junction.

“Hello, ‘Leo’. Sorry I’m late.”

It took a few seconds to place the deep purr of the man’s voice. It had mellowed over the years, but when it came to him, Squall froze for a moment, with Lionheart humming in readiness on his hip.

Seifer kept his hand over Squall’s eyes. Leaning over him, his nose pressed to the faintly damp dark nutmeg waves of Squall’s hair, he was dripping onto Squall. “Do I have to give you three guesses?”

“I know who you are,” Squall growled, his free hand tightening into a fist on the table beside the glass of wine.

“You sure?”

Twisting in his seat to face Seifer, shaking his hand away, Squall glowered at the older man. He was hurt, closing up as quickly as he could to cover the pain and the sense of betrayal he was feeling. If only he’d stopped to think, if only he’d seen some sign that Seifer was someone he’d known. Maybe deep down he had, but… “Tell me, was it worth it?”

Seifer had changed. He didn’t have the same bulk he’d had as a gunblade specialist, but he was still muscular. His skin was tanned, making his green eyes seem that much brighter, and the water had slicked back his hair, darkening it to a red gold. It was almost as long as Squall’s had been the last time he’d faced Seifer. “That depends on you.”

“Is this some kind of joke?”

He shook his head, a few strands of his hair coming loose from the sopping mess of red and gold locks and tumbling down in front of his eyes. “No, Squall. I wouldn’t come out in this weather just for a gag.”

“You,” Squall gestured at the man he’d once fought, and shook his head. It wasn’t possible, he couldn’t have fallen for Seifer Almasy, he couldn’t have spent all those weeks, months having fun just talking to him. “It can’t be you.”

“No one else can pull me off,” Seifer straightened at last. “I’d let you try though.”

“This isn’t funny.”

Strolling around the table, Seifer draped himself in the chair opposite Squall’s. He snatched up the linen napkin, doing his best to dry his face and hands at least – it would take a towel the size of the table cloth and a small miracle to dry the rest of him before dinner arrived. “It’s freaking hilarious.”

Seifer might as well have pulled Hyperion out of nowhere and stabbed Squall. It hurt, and he felt like an idiot for even turning up. He should have known it was a bad idea; he should have listened to his head instead of Selphie. Standing up, he pulled his wallet out of his pocket, looking anywhere but at Seifer, glowering down at his hands. “I’m so glad I could amuse you. This is low, even for you, by the way.”

“Sit your ass back down and listen for once in your stubborn, boneheaded life. If I were anyone else in the world, would you be standing up right now? Anyone?”

“If they’d convinced me to come just to laugh at me, yes,” Squall spat back, slamming his fist on the table hard enough to make the red wine in the glass slosh over the side and trail down onto the white tablecloth.

Seifer shook his head and tossed the damp napkin back onto the table. “Untrue. I could be a Grat, and you'd at least be polite, for the sake of what we had online if nothing else.”

“What we had online? You lied to me.”

“You just proved you won’t listen to me once you know who I am. All you see is the name,” Seifer shrugged, brushing an errant strand of blond hair back to the rest. The deliberate nonchalant air to Seifer’s gestures, if not his words, was enough to have Squall gritting his teeth to keep his temper in check. “And I never lied to you. I pretended I didn’t know who you were, but you never asked and I never lied.”

All too conscious that other eyes in the restaurant were turning towards them in curiosity, Squall reluctantly returned to his seat. He rested his head in his hands, covering his eyes – his cheek felt hot, flushed with embarrassment. “If you’d told me who you were in the first place, I would have listened. Hyne, what game are you playing?”

Seifer shook his head. “No, you wouldn’t have. I tried talking to you a few times before, remember?”

“That was years ago.”

“And seconds ago,” Seifer smiled, sadly.

The way he said it made Squall falter for a moment. There was real regret in Seifer’s voice and for a moment, just a moment and no more, he wondered if Seifer really did feel remorse. Still, Seifer had the uncanny ability to find his last nerve and tap dance on it. “Seconds ago, you told me this was hilarious.”

“It is, but not for the reasons you think. Look, can we at least eat dinner? Order coffee?” Seifer gestured to the deep windows that stretched along the front of the restaurant where the storm still lashed the windows; it was a particularly awful night. “I damn near had to swim the last quarter mile.”

Squall watched the dash of raindrops against the window. Beyond the windows, the sky was already pitch black, and it almost felt cold enough to be winter. “Why? And don’t give me any shit about the weather; you know what I’m talking about.”

“You know…,” Seifer leant forward, resting his elbows on the table just to close the gap between them. “When we tell everyone about this at our tenth anniversary, they’ll laugh their asses off.”

“You’re assuming you’ll live ‘til the end of the night.”

Seifer simply smiled. Alarmingly.

The smug look was almost enough to have Squall back away. At times Seifer’s ‘nice smile’ reminded him more of a shark than anything else. “Hyne, you made me do all that stuff on camera and you knew who I was the entire time!”

“Made you? You volunteered!” Seifer reached across the table to steal away the glass Squall had been drinking from. He gave a pleased hum as he sipped the drink, obviously approving of Squall’s taste in wine. “And that was the night I returned to the church of Hyne, Giver of Miracles.”

“You acted all hurt when I said I didn’t do that while we were talking. You might as well have asked.”

He was prevented from wiping the smug look off Seifer’s face by the arrival of the waitress. She offered them each a menu – her gestures hesitant and cautious enough to have Squall school his anger and avoid her eyes. “Would you like anything to drink, sirs?”

“Coffee,” Seifer said without even looking at the menu.

“Arsenic.”

“You have to chew that, Dumbass,” Seifer shook his head, adopting the tone of speaking to a small child. “It’s a heavy metal.” The timber and pitch of his voice changed slightly; Squall realized he must be hearing Seifer’s professional, DJ voice. He was performing for the waitress.

Levelling a glare at Seifer that would have a lesser man running for his life, Squall ground out “It’s not for me.”

Unfortunately, Seifer had never been fazed by Squall’s glowering or glaring. He seemed to be encouraged by it more than anything else, than anyone else, and he hardly wanted to encourage Seifer. The waitress giggled nervously. “I’ll be back to take your order shortly.”

“Thank you,” Seifer smiled at the waitress. When she’d retreated, he eyed his dinner companion, he tone returning to ‘normal’. “Nice going. Should we get the food to go and continue this fight in private?”

“Why shouldn’t I just leave?”

Seifer made an exasperated noise, rubbing his temple. For just a moment, there was real disappointment on his face, real sorrow and anger – Squall shuddered and ignored it. “Is it so wrong to want to talk to you?” he asked, rolling the almost empty glass in his fingertips, sending the deep claret colour of the last few drops of liquid scurrying along the crystal.

He shook his head. Despite the emotion he’d witnessed on Seifer’s face all he could focus on was his own disappointment. And yet, there was some satisfaction in the knowledge that Seifer wasn’t putting on the show with him. If Seifer had only told him, he would have understood. It would have taken him a while, but Squall was sure he would have understood. “You could have talked to me online.”

“I did. We hit it off. We had fun. We liked each other,” Seifer shook his head. “What’s different now?”

“You didn’t tell me who you were.”

Leaning back in his chair again, Seifer let the glass drop gently onto the white tablecloth again. His green eyes turned away, watching the thunder of raindrops on the window. “You never asked.”

Squall’s hands tightened into fists in his lap. He wanted to leave, retreat long enough to gather his thoughts and get his head straight. However, it felt cowardly to want it so badly; especially when he’d finally been faced with what he’d wanted for so very long. “I asked who you were. You told me Male, 24, a Disk Jockey in Deling. And not a liar.” And he really should have known better than to believe that last one.

“Because we’d just met, and because I knew you would disconnect if you knew it was me. And because you asked who I was, not my name,” he shrugged. His eyes strafed Squall briefly, an inherent sadness to his expression. “I know you, Squall. That wasn’t a mistake of syntax. You didn’t want to know my name.”

Slamming his fist on the table, Squall hissed “Yes, I did.”

“It’s Seifer Almasy. No middle name.”

Squall folded his arms over his chest to avoid another outburst. No one had affected him so drastically in years. “It’s not…,” he paused, not wanting to admit to what he was feeling. “I can’t believe I’m pissed off that I won’t get to talk to Soundsmith anymore.”

“Why won’t you?”

Flinching as though he’d been struck, Squall sighed. The thought of not talking to someone who he’d incorporated so intimately into his daily routine as a friend – and even a potential lover – left him feeling hollow and sick. “Because you’re not him. Not now.”

The waitress chose that exact moment to bring Seifer’s coffee, waiting politely with her pad to take their order. Squall once again wished he hadn’t come, that he’d listened to his head and not other parts of his body.

“I’ll take the lasagne with meat sauce and a small salad,” Seifer gave her one of his sweeter smiles and returned the menu. “And more coffee.”

“Same.”

As she wandered off again, Seifer huffed. “You know what this is like? Telling everyone you hate eggplant then eating three helpings of ratatouille and getting pissed off when someone tells you what it’s made of.” He stirred his coffee angrily, adding sugar just as violently as he agitated the deep brown liquid. “Well it’s made with eggplant. You going to deal or never eat it again?”

Squall ignored the smile that he felt twitching at the corner of his mouth. Seifer always could win any argument with his distraction tactics. He wouldn’t give the other man the satisfaction of seeing him smile. At least, not yet. “You’re comparing yourself to eggplant.”

“Oh please, At least call me an aubergine.”

Still trying to wrap his mind around the situation, Squall said slowly, “Selphie knew, didn’t she?”

“Yes, he said, throwing Selphie to the wolves,” Seifer grinned, and took a sip of his drink. He made a pleased sound, huddling around the cup as though he would be able to steal the warmth it provided. “I forgot how miserably cold this place was in Springtime.”

The sense of betrayal rushed back, overwhelming and oppressing. For a second it felt like everyone in the world was laughing at him, revelling in his own stupidity and his embarrassment. “I’m going to kill her, too.”

“Why not just kill her? Then we can live happily ever after.”

“Because. I’m still pissed at you.”

Seifer laughed, but there was very little humour in his voice. “And this changes our relationship how?” he asked, tipping his head. When Squall didn’t respond, instead favouring silence and glaring at Seifer to get his point across, Seifer sighed. “I knew I should have bought the damn laptop.”

“That won’t help.”

“No, I can see that,” he sighed. Seifer stood, glancing out of the window as he fumbled for his wallet and threw a few notes on the table, just so he wouldn’t have to look down at Squall as he did it. Squall recognised the signs, the tension in his shoulders, and the hard line of his mouth. “I had to try. See ya, Squirt.”

“I’m not letting you pay for this.”

“Gotta pay for my sins somehow. Give it to the waitress, I don’t care.”

And with that, Seifer left. Striding across the restaurant, brushing past the waitress who was just bringing their salads. Squall watched every single step, his hands balling into fists in his lap until he felt as though his fingers would break from the pressure.

He couldn’t let Seifer go. Not without knowing for sure…

Standing up, Squall matched the gil on the table and headed briskly for the door. Outside in the atrocious weather, Seifer was a short way down the street, sheltering under an awning, though it did little to keep him dry. “Why me?” Squall yelled after him.

“It rains on the just and unjust alike, you egomaniac!”

“Why do you never give me a straight answer?”

“Because I never know what the fuck you are talking about.”

The restaurant had been too artificial, too contrived and impersonal for them, with their history. Shouting at each other in the middle of a down pour was oddly familiar and more strangely still, comforting. As nonchalantly as he could manage, Squall strolled towards Seifer, doing his best to ignore the cold rain that still thundered onto the street. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to hear from Seifer, but he feared that if Seifer failed him, it could very easily be a wound he would not be able to recover from. “Why me. Why did you start talking to me?”

“You,” Seifer said, jabbing Squall in the shoulder angrily as soon as he was within reach, “are witty and interesting and can spell and use whole words instead of abbreviations invented by losers trying to communicate over a telephone by typing with their thumbs.”

Squall eyed Seifer flatly, the look of disbelief wavering into place. “Wait…,” he tapped Seifer on the chest. “You watched me jerk off because I can spell?”

“Oh no, by that point I was mesmerized, captivated and utterly in your thrall.”

Shrugging, squall stuffed his hand back into his pocket rather than be tempted to poke him again. Or even worse. “That’s better than just because I can spell.”

“Talking to you is like throwing pennies at a plate. Half of what I say just skitters off and is lost.”

He studied Seifer for a moment, cool, collected. Perhaps there was something that could be saved from the already flawed evening, but… he resisted suggesting that out loud. He just didn’t quite understand it, he needed time to think. Or maybe not to think. “You’re much easier to read when I really do have to read it.”

“Maybe you just need your hearing checked,” and the smirk returned. The old one, the one that had always left Squall feeling faintly worried, or at least needing to check the bulletin boards for any reports of explosions or violent activity.

“I’ll see you online,” he stated, half relieved, half disappointed when Seifer nodded and turned to go. He made it all the way out into the rain again before he stopped. The little thrill of hope that threaded through his brain when Seifer did stop caught him completely off guard and Squall had to struggle to keep his voice even. “What is it?”

“When you type,” Seifer looked over his shoulder, a few too long strands of his hair falling down to brush his scar. He turned to look at Squall slowly, keeping every movement deliberate and measured so that Squall hardly noticed when he took a step towards him to close the gap between them. “It’s easy to forget that in real life, your communication is all non-vocal. I should just ignore everything that comes out of your mouth.”

Squall barely had time to comprehend what Seifer was saying before the older man grabbed him by the shirt front and hauled him closer. Then…

Seifer kissed him.

Seifer kissed him so hard and so deep that his legs really did buckle under him, leaving Squall hanging onto Seifer. And for a moment, all there was, was Seifer. That kiss, those arms locked around him, the pulse of Seifer’s heart where their chests pressed together.

When he broke the kiss, trying to remember which way was up, which was down and what his name had been; Squall struggled back into an upright position. When he did at last manage to stand up straight, all he could feel was Seifer’s breath against his cheek, hot and coffee scented. His lips were barely millimetres from Squall’s skin, paused and waiting for a sign.

Lost, unsure of what to do or how to feel anymore, Squall waited as well. The rain dripped through his long dark hair, under his collar and trailed down his back. He was getting wetter by the minute and still he didn’t know what to do.

Seifer had been right. He hadn’t lied, just omitted certain things that would have revealed himself too soon. And Squall hated the fact that his former rival had been so right, and he had been so easily hurt.

Finally, it came down to the kiss. That incredible kiss that had done more for him than a year of Rinoa, or anything that Nida had tried. That single kiss had been enough to change his mind.

Cupping Seifer’s cheek with his hand, Squall waited. Just for a moment this time, feeling the rain cooled skin against his palm, still smooth from whenever Seifer had shaved. Then, he turned Seifer to face him again and caught his lips in a second hard kiss, just as intense as the first, as well as the third, fourth… then he lost count and lost track of time.

He jumped when he felt Seifer’s hands, hot as Ifrit’s fire slide under his wet shirt and along his back to draw him as close as possible.

“Hotel,” Seifer murmured, breaking the kiss to nibble on Squall’s earlobe and give them both the opportunity to catch their breath again. “I have a room.

“A room?” Squall repeated dully, not quite comprehending what he’d said for a moment. When it finally clicked “On our first date?”

“What, you gonna tell me you’re not that kind of girl? Look, it’s somewhere dry and people won’t be able to stare at us.”

Before Seifer had even finished speaking, Squall was urging him back towards the steps that led to the back of the hotel rather than make the long trip around through the streets of Balamb to the main entrance. They stumbled along together, more interested in kissing and touching one another as they made their way towards the building than anything else, almost tripping over half a dozen times before they made it to the door. Barely acknowledging the girl shooting them worried looks from the front desk they rushed for the waiting lift.

As soon as the doors closed behind them with the button for the fourth floor pressed, Seifer had Squall pressed against the wall, already struggling to unbutton his soaking wet shirt and stroke Squall’s belly. “You’re cold,” he murmured against Squall’s lips, smothering any reply and coaxing a moan from him instead.

The lift gave a cheerful little ding to announce their arrival. “Stop,” Squall ordered, suddenly all too conscious of the hotel manager glowering at him. Of course, he wouldn’t say anything – garden bought too much business to the town and no one dared question his actions any more. Still, ignoring his embarrassment, he dragged Seifer onto the corridor.

Of course, Seifer found the entire thing hilarious, snickering as he steered Squall to room 404.

“You should get out of those wet clothes,” Seifer suggested, strolling into the room ahead of the younger man.

“You first.”

Squall slid his hands around Seifer’s waist from behind to tug his belt loose roughly, unfastening his pants and pushing those out of the way to wrap his fingers around Seifer’s cock. He stroked the taller man slowly, nuzzling against his neck and just listening to the soft, satisfied moan that his efforts coaxed from Seifer.

It took a moment for Seifer to find control again, let alone enough to tug his shirt off and toss it aside. He folded his hand over Squall’s when he kicked his pants away. “Your turn.”

As soon as Squall was naked, Seifer had him scooped up and almost tossed him onto the bed.

“Bastard,” Squall hissed.

Seifer just grinned. “Whatever.”

Seifer covered Squall’s body with his own, shuddering when his hard cock brushed against his lover’s. He gave a strangled sound of desire, burying his face in Squall’s rain dampened hair.

It was all the chance that the younger man had been waiting for. With junctioned strength and speed, the younger man rolled them both over, pinning Seifer firmly to the mattress and crushing their lips together again.

“Now what are you going to do with me?” Seifer asked with a rakish grin.

“I have a few ideas. I need…”

With a quick jerk of his head to indicate the denim jacket hooked over the end of the headboard, he silenced the request. Seifer was still grinning, painfully smug at either getting his own way as Squall patted down the coat and retrieved the bottle that Seifer had bought along, or at whatever he was planning.

Squall was almost entirely sure it was the latter and did not give him a chance to put any such plan into action.

Forcing a knee between Seifer’s legs to make him spread, Squall rubbed his slick fingers against his new lover’s opening. Although it was less than gentle, the older man did not recoil from his touch, to Squall’s surprise. That had been the last thing he’d expected – especially from the Seifer he remembered. Soundsmith really was different from the arrogant bastard of his past.

“What are you waiting for?” Seifer asked.

“The day you’ll learn to shut up.”

His expression didn’t falter for a second. “Make me.”

Squall did. Pressing his lips to Seifer’s in a searching, longing kiss, Squall pushed his fingers deep into Seifer’s body and silenced all comments. Even the husky moans and gasps that each movement coaxed from his new lover were stolen by the kiss as Squall stretched him slowly.

As he pushed the second finger into him, Seifer shuddered. “Can’t believe I’m letting you do this,” he gasped when he finally had a chance to speak and breathe.

Neither could Squall.

So he didn’t stop. He pushed his fingers as deep as he could, his movements growing more desperate and eager with every heart beat. “You’ve done this before,” he murmured almost absently.

“Don’t…” Seifer gave a keening noise that seemed to vibrate in every cell of Squall’s body, his head falling back onto the pillow. It took a moment for him to remember what he’d been attempting to say and find the strength to speak again. “Don’t sound so surprised. We’re not kids anymore.”

His fingers curled around Squall’s cock, already slick with the lubricant as Seifer watched him with heavy lidded eyes. Squall couldn’t ignore the way every sound and every insignificant little movement that Seifer made enchanted him. He could barely breathe; barely think of anything beyond Seifer. He didn’t say a word as he released his new lover and watched him for a moment.

With green eyes glittering slightly in the shifting light from the windows, Seifer gave him a look that was all challenge and passion. The late evening had given away to darkness, and only the faint illumination from the streetlights gave them the chance to see one another. Reaching to the side of the bed, Seifer flicked on the lamp and bathed the room in a too yellow light, before nodding his consent to Squall.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Squall stretched out over his companion, kissing him just one last time before he thrust into Seifer.

It had been so very long. So long since he’d been with anyone, since Squall had wanted it as much as he did at that moment. Just as he managed to reign in his lust briefly, Seifer nearly tore away all of the paltry control he’d garnered simply by lifting himself on one elbow and clutching Squall to himself, holding him there with his fingers tangled in Squall’s hair.

The gesture was intimate and loving, one he just hadn’t been expecting.

Maybe he could let himself admit it. Maybe he really could fall for Seifer Almasy. Again.

Squall braced his hand on Seifer’s hip, his fingers splayed on the tanned skin as he began thrusting into him almost desperately and incessantly. As though he could find some impossible way of forcing himself deeper into his lover’s body.

Lover. Yes, Seifer was his lover now and at least for a few more minutes. If he lasted that long.

Every time he thrust into Seifer, he coaxed a new little sound of pleasure from the older man. He could feel the flutter of Seifer’s eyelashes against his temple, the tremble of his body as he struggled to hold his position but he just couldn’t bring himself to speak.

Until he heard Seifer gasp his name, his fingers tightening in Squall’s hair hard enough to hurt as he came. He found his voice just in time to whisper “Seifer, Hyne.”

Squall forced Seifer back onto the bed, kissing him determinedly as he bucked into him just a handful times more, and spilled into him with a shudder and a silent cry of pleasure. Dizzy with the force of his release, he slid out of Seifer with a moan and collapsed at his side, drawing a blanket across the two of them with one arm.

He dozed for a few minutes, listening to Seifer’s breathing and the thunder of his own heart beat.

Seifer’s fingers brushed lightly against his cheek. It was such a tender little gesture that it would never have roused him had he expected it. However, being in bed with Seifer Almasy, it was enough to set Squall on edge, opening his eyes to watch the older man.

“Stop it,” he whispered. Suddenly, Seifer’s voice was very close. Squall could feel the heat from his skin and the brush of now dry blond hair against his cheek. He held his breath, shivering in anticipation, just waiting. “Stop thinking.”

“Easy for you to say.”

“You know, you didn’t say anything about the tenth anniversary line,” Seifer said gently, changing the tactics yet again.

With the softest of sighs and briefest of shrugs, Squall closed his eyes again. “You’re the only person I know who’d consider a threat to kill you not commenting on that. You’re reaching.”

Carefully, Seifer brushed Squall’s hair back and tilted his head up. “You must be feeling better about me being me if you didn’t try to make a crack at that,” he said thoughtful. Squall dared to steal another glimpse at the older man as Seifer looked around pointedly, at the clothes strewn about the floor and the haphazard way the blanket had been pulled across their naked bodies. “I can’t help but notice that you’re still here too. You didn’t exactly run screaming into the night.”

“Should I?” Squall asked, finally letting his fingers ghost over Seifer’s chest with the lightest touch he could manage. He was cautious as he explored the tanned skin – Seifer had so few scars compared to himself, so little evidence of the war they had fought. He thought of his own scars, from that time, and the ones he’d gained since from bullets, blades and blazes. They had both changed. Hopefully it was for the better in both cases.

“You’re only getting my hopes up by staying.”

Humming softly to himself, Squall hooked a finger under Seifer’s choker. “I want to tell Selphie,” he said firmly, then hauled Seifer down for another keep kiss. “And I swear if you ask me to go steady or something stupid I really will leave.”

Seifer chuckled. “I was just going to ask if I should order something from room service before I eat you.”

With a nod of approval, Squall watched Seifer to reach over and grab the phone. In a way, he’d been right to worry about Soundsmith. Still he didn’t regret anything except perhaps almost chasing Seifer away.

When Seifer returned to his side, half sprawling over Squall, he frowned. “What are we now?”

“Well I dunno about you but I make out that we’ve been dating for a week. But if you want to start over…”

A week ago he’d stripped in front of the camera and touched himself. With a blush on his cheeks, Squall waved his hand in a dismissive gesture, embarrassed by the memory of what he’d done even though he’d just slept with Seifer. It was weird enough to think that he’d done it in front of a stranger, let alone someone he’d known all of his life.

Granted, it was a weird way to start a relationship, but after being set up with both Rinoa and Nida, it seemed to fit.

Well…, there was no harm in at least trying. He wasn’t signing up for anything permanent, even If Seifer’s hungry gaze did make him feel possessed and wanted.

“Fine, we can try.”

A knock at the door interrupted their kiss before it had even really begun. Seifer grumbled but crawled out of the bed to drag his shorts back on and answer.

He pushed a tip into the kid from room service’s hand and took the tray from him, his stomach already growling its appreciation at the delicious aroma rising from the covered plates.

When Seifer turned back to Squall on the bed, stretched out like a cat with the covers pulled just low enough to expose the muscles of his belly and hint at what lay lower, he knew the food would be cold long before they finally got around to it.

Somehow, he really didn’t mind.


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