Sobriety

BY : KNW
Category: Final Fantasy VIII > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 506
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.





Disclaimer: Not mine, though they would’ve
made a great Christmas present.

A/N: A little belated Christmas cheer.
Please R&R, put a lot of effort in to this so seeing what people think
would be great ^_^

 

 

Sobriety

Squall arched an eyebrow,
grey gaze flickering to the clock in the corner of his computer screen as he
wondered exactly how long she was going to procrastinate, before he returned to
the written report he was in the process of typing up. Nothing
more fitting for sending one to sleep than the evaluation of a thrilling
account concerning a level eight SeeD eradicating a brood of red dragons to the
north of Esthar.

He really should have
found something more involving to feign interest in while he waited for her to
leave.

Reaching
out, he carefully moved the blue duster currently obscuring the scrawled
handwriting on the form, folding the material closer against the owner’s thigh
distractedly. His complete disinterest and lack of emotion in the effort was
evident as the second set of gloved fingers continued their ceaseless tapping,
eyes staying focused on the sheet he copied from. He’d really never seen
handwriting that looked more like an inebriated spider’s inky trail.

For long moments nothing
changed, the press of keys the only noise to fill the room aside from breathing
and the restless rustle of clothes from his companion. Pausing briefly to push
wayward strands of chocolate silk out his eyes, he let his glance wander
momentarily to the doe eyed girl occupying his desk before it returned to the screen,
a faint frown creasing his forehead as he backspaced, “I can’t help but notice
you’re still here Rinoa.”

“How
very observant of you Mr. Leonhart.”

Again he raised an
eyebrow, finishing the line he was retyping and hitting the full stop key
perhaps a little harder than he needed to, before turning to face her. Leaning
back in the luxurious leather swivel chair and pressing his fingers together
like a steeple, he enquired, “Was there something you wanted?”

“Well…” She eyed her
perfectly manicured nails before those pretty brown eyes returned to him, an
entreaty to acquiesce to whatever request she had in store, “There was one
small, positively tiny, little
thing…”

“I’m
not going.” He was trying not to be amused, but they’d been at this for days
now, each taking a turn to try and convince him. It was becoming an effort to
keep his tone firm and expressionless, so amused was he inside at their antics.
It was much like, he thought, school children in the playground with their
little plots and plans and ‘infallible’ methods.

“Squall!”
The petulant pout she was favouring him with nearly
did him in, he wasn’t sure why it was women were so convinced pouting would get
them whatever they wanted… Perhaps it usually worked, that is to say, as far as
he knew straight men could well be suckers for pouting, but he was about as
straight as an over cooked noodle wrapped ten times round a fork, so it really
wasn’t doing Rinoa any favours.
Nor had it done Quistis any favours
yesterday, or Ellone the day before, or Selphie the
day before that.

“No.”

“Squall
Leonhart!
Are you trying to impersonate the bloody Grinch?!” She had her hands on her hips and there was a
slight gleam in those doe eyes that made him pause for at least point four of a
second before he responded.

With a hint of challenge,
his gaze moved pointedly to the top of the computer, eying the trolls dressed
as Santa and his wife that Laguna had insisted on buying him to bring some
seasonal cheer to his admittedly stark office. Unfortunately, from this angle
one often got a lovely view, up the dress like red ‘coat’ the Santa troll was
adorned in, to the complete lack of genitalia that made Mr. Claus and Mrs.
Claus not all that much different without their outfits, “It may just be my
opinion, but I severely doubt the Grinch would allow
Santa trolls in the vicinity of his office.”

By the time he looked
back, she had a twitch at the corner of her right eye as she glared at him. It
was actually quite a frosty glare for the darling dog-owner,
that was what keyed him into the fact she’d stolen--oh sorry, ‘borrowed’--the

glare from him. Smoothing down the duster, calm again, she affected a tone
devoid of impatience; “Those are only there because Laguna super glued them to
your monitor Squall.”

How did she know about
that? Well, that question had an easy enough answer, Laguna had probably told
her directly after he’d committed the gross vandalism of SeeD property. It made
sense, the way he’d pranced out of the office only seconds before Squall had realised
and stormed out after him; he’d had every
intention of exchanging strong words with his ditz of a parent, only to be
distracted by the greeting chorus of insipid girly giggling.

Giggling.
That was another reason he liked men, unless they were as camp of Julian Clary
crossed with Graham Norton, they didn’t giggle. Chuckling or laughing softly,
that was fine, but the Tinkerbell giggle that Selphie in particular possessed, that made the hairs at the back of his
neck stand on end.

Narrowing his eyes
slightly, and knowing the most unpleasant scowl was twisting his lips, he
snatched the Santa troll and gave it a yank, hoping he’d break it free and be
able to prove that there wasn’t actually any glue holding it down, “They are
not—“

He cut himself off
abruptly from claiming they weren’t stuck down as the monitor began to tip with
the troll, “So maybe they are…”

She looked so smug as she folded her arms beneath her breasts, leaning
towards him and swinging her legs back and forth in that irritating way she
had, “You are the Grinch, aren’t you?”

“I wasn’t green and furry
last time I looked, no.” A retreat as he reemployed the dull monotone,
and the incessant tapping of keys sounded as he began the next paragraph of the
report; it was truly amazing how much a person could manage to write about a
few simple battles with very low-level red dragons.

“Not furry, you’re right.”
A faint tinge of laughter in her voice as she hooked her
highlighted bangs back behind her ear.

“So I’m green?” He didn’t
look up as he asked, but there was an element of curiosity to his tone that he
couldn’t quite conceal. He assumed she didn’t mean literally green, but what
she was getting at was a mystery to him. Most things about the female of the
species were a mystery to him really, and to be quite frank, in many respects
that was how he’d like it to stay.

“With
envy.”
At that he glanced up at her, expression momentarily
bewildered before he collected himself and slid back behind the cool, calm
mask. She looked positively delighted at his slip, a smile playing on her lips,
tugging the corners of her mouth in an attempt to evolve into an all out grin.

“Of
who?”
Just the right degree of disinterest, or at least it
would’ve been if she hadn’t seen his expression moments earlier.

“Selphie.” She murmured, reaching
over to play with the pens in the holder behind her.

“Selphie?” That hadn’t been what he
was expecting. He knew his eyes had widened in surprise, and he found himself
unable to frame an appropriate reply beyond echoing her claim back to
her.  How on earth?
Half-heartedly he swiped at her hands, shooing her away from the biros that so
mysteriously kept going missing.

“Selphie.” Confirmation.
The grin had escaped now, and she dropped the pen she’d picked up, slipping off
the desk while he was still blinking. Smoothing down her clothes in that
self-conscious way she had, she turned and sauntered toward the door, as if
that would get his attention normally, never mind when he was reeling. Pausing
with the door open, she leaned back a little, hair swinging out of her face as
she flashed him a dazzling, if impish, smile, “Come to the ball and you’ll
see!”

Selphie?”
he repeated blankly as the door-clicked shut behind her. He hadn’t the faintest
clue why he should be remotely envious of Selphie Tilmitt
. True, she had a lot of things he didn’t, but he
didn’t want those things; the entire point of the differences was just how
distinctly dissimilar they were.

Running his hand through
his hair, he groaned. She’d succeeded. He was sitting there actually
considering going to the Hyne damned ball just to see if he could understand
why she thought him envious of Selphie. In all
likelihood she didn’t, she quite probably only said it so he’d feel he had to
go and check he wasn’t jealous, and had no reason to be. Surely if he was
jealous of something Ms. Tilmitt had, he’d have
noticed it himself by now wouldn’t he?

Tapping his fingers on the
desk, a small frown marring his pretty face, he contemplated the options
available to him.

One, he could remain
locked away in his tower like the wicked witch of the west, only emerging to
descend on hapless students or appropriate some kind of nourishment while he
slowly went insane with not knowing; it was niggling things like Rinoa
had left him with that could succeed in driving him
mad where Zell Dincht couldn’t.

Two, he could swallow his
pride, find his smartest clothes, which would be his leathers, trot along to
the ball like a good boy, get an earful from Selphie
for wearing his leathers to any ball never mind hers, and then live with the
eternal humiliation of being told off in front of all those whose respect he
should command. But at least with that option he might retain his sanity and know
.

Then there was the third
option, and it was this he seized upon. He could go down and see Selphie
now on the pretext of checking the decorating was
well underway, if not done, and while at it, he could figure out what Rinoa could have meant, if anything, and avoid any
attendance of the ball.

Smiling faintly to
himself, he abandoned the half-done report, vacating his chair with one fluid
movement and collecting his coat as he headed for the door, pausing only once
to ensure he actually had time for this little endeavour
before he had to run and greet Laguna for dinner. Bonding exercises Laguna
called it, while torture was Squall’s name for their little meetings designed
to encourage father-son relations. The only thoughts Squall had on the topic of
Laguna were decidedly not of the regular father-son love variety, but that was
his dear daddy’s own darn fault for being so damned hot. It was entirely not
right, in Squall’s view, that a man of President Loire’s age should look like that
, not that he’d complain too much,
as, with any luck, he’d inherited the genes for it.

Tugging the door shut
behind him, the click brought to mind Rinoa’s
mischievous smile as she’d left with an identical sound only minutes earlier.
It inspired a feeling of dread within him to see that smile on Rinoa
, it always meant something he’d hate was about to
happen, indeed, he felt much like a rabbit about to boldly, blindly, charge
into the fox’s den.

Glancing around the area Xu, now his secretary, occupied, he was pleased to see no
one of importance waiting, less pleased to recognise
a familiar golden crest bobbing behind the potted palm, and displeased at the
sheer amount of Christmas decorations clustered into such a proportionally tiny
space. Surely all this could decorate the entire cafeteria!

“Thought
it might inspire slightly more Christmas spirit than your office holds,
Scrooge.”
Xu smiled
sweetly at him from behind her desk a little way off, obviously catching where
his gaze had wandered. He couldn’t believe the transformation the festive
season wrought in some people, most evident in stricter individuals like Kadowaki
, Quistis, and Xu too… Laguna had indicated even Odine
was being scarily nice… It made him shudder to think of it.

“Bah, humbug.” He
responded. It was about as playful as he was ever likely to get, and Xu
was very efficient in her role, with surprisingly little
resentment, if any, of his superiority to her, so being vaguely nice on
occasion seemed only fair.

Laughter was his reward
for the effort, and a smile, as warm as the previous but less sickly sweet with
teasing, “A little early for meeting Laguna isn’t it?”

Squall nodded
distractedly, silvery stare trained on the martial artist behind the potted
plant… Zell did mystify him sometimes. Shaking his head, he looked back at Xu
, “I wanted to check on progress… Is there a particular
reason Zell’s behind the palm?”

“Damn it! How’d you know I
was there?” Blue eyes bright as ever, the blonde bounded out from behind his
rather inadequate cover, teeth poking out in a fangy
little grin that many girls reportedly found adorable. In particular it
apparently appealed to the notorious library girl who had supposedly been
stalking the martial artist for some months at one point. He was rather
relieved to see the grin though; it said ‘I’m not being serious’. If Zell had
really been wondering why the Commander of SeeD could spot one of his supposed
friends behind a potted plant in the middle of a very familiar office, he’d
have been worried.

“Must be psychic I guess.”
His tone carried the faint inflection of amused sarcasm, grey eyes glinting
with the same humour as he folded his arms across his
chest, arching an eyebrow, “What can I do for you Zell?”

“Well…” Squall had to
admit his curiosity was captured as the blonde’s cheeks reddened and he shot Xu
an uncertain look before he continued, “…It’s kind of
private, if you know what I mean?”

“No, I don’t think I do
know what you mean…” It was evil to say that; he knew what Zell wanted, but the
way those blue eyes widened and the blush deepened… Sometimes Zell was just
irresistible to tease, he had to sympathise with
Seifer on that.

Xu
was hiding a grin behind some papers she was sorting when he glanced her way,
mirth clearly evident as Zell gulped audibly, a note of pleading entering his
voice, “Squall, you know right? Come on.”

Sighing, Squall shook his
head to get his bangs out his eyes and started toward the lift, taking pity on
his hotdog-loving friend, “I know. We’ll talk on the way.”

There was a sigh of relief
behind him, as audible as the gulp, which made him half-smile, slipping into
the lift with a vague sort of wave in response to Xu’s
goodbye. Settling himself into the corner, back against one wall, shoulder and
temple pressed to the adjacent one, he watched the blonde follow him inside,
glancing about furtively before jabbing at the buttons for lower floors.

“So…” He began, causing
Zell to look up at him sharply. It was then he guessed the martial artist had
been planning out what he wanted to say in his head, so Squall let silence
descend again until he was ready to speak.

By the time Zell started,
they were nearly at the ground floor, and Squall had been beginning to think
he’d bottle out, “Well, you know I tried that new club that opened up in Balamb
over the weekend?”

Squall raised an eyebrow,
not having expected that in the least, “Yes?”

“I err… I met Sei-- I mean this guy; yeah, I met this guy there. I knew
him already you see, and we never used to get on and all, but there he was,
drunk, and there I was, drunk, and we got to talking... In fact we were getting
on quite good and all, I thought, though I was very drunk, and eventually he
suggested we go in the back and all… And I think he knew I hadn’t done it
before ‘cause he laughed and stuff, and said he’d be
gentle and… and shit did he ruin the moment calling me chicken and all right
then, the jerk!”

“Zell!”
It wasn’t until the fifth or sixth time that Squall reached sufficient volume
to gain the blonde’s attention and was able to gesture to the open lift
doorway, which he swiftly stormed through. Following his angry friend, Squall
briefly looked to the heavens for help and wrapped strong slender fingers
around the martial artist’s upper arm, pulling him up short, mid-tirade, “What
else happened with Seifer?”

“I— Shit Squall, you
weren’t meant to know it was him! It’s just he made me so angry after we’d been
getting on so well. Why’d he have to do that, baby?”

Squall sighed, releasing Zell’s arm to rub the bridge of his nose. He couldn’t
believe the blonde possibly still liked Seifer Almasy, after all
the
arrogant prick had put them through, but evidently it was true. Zell
Dincht was a glutton for punishment. Pausing for a
moment before he responded, he tried not to be too harsh, “Because he’s Seifer,
Zell. If I asked you not to eat hotdogs, you’d be lost; if I took Rinoa’s credit cards away, she’d be lost. Seifer,
unfortunately, lives with bullying an ingrained part of who he is and that will
take time to change. Now please tell me you didn’t come up to the office to
tell me you scored with my ex-rival.”

“That’s just it, I didn’t
score. I mean I was getting all pissed off and he kissed me before I could
start shooting my mouth off and dragged me into the back and then… Nothing…”

Squall stopped almost
mid-step, looking at Zell uncertainly, “Qualify ‘nothing’.”

Zell’s
hands curled into fists in agitation, sneaker clad feet wearing a path back and
forth before the Commander as he pressed balled hands to his temples before
raising a searching baby blue gaze to Squall’s steely silver one, “I mean
nothing, I mean he couldn’t… you know? I mean, d’you
think it was me, baby? Am I that, ya know, horrendous?”

The brunette found all he
could do for long moments was stare. It lasted so long
Zell felt the need to wave a gloved hand before his eyes to make him snap out
of it. Softly and slowly, not trusting himself to resist the call of hilarity,
he asked, “Are you telling me Seifer Almasy couldn’t get it up?”

“Y-yes.”

The corners of Squall’s
mouth were twitching with the effort to suppress his laughter. Seifer Almasy!
Seifer fucking Almasy, couldn’t get it up, it was really too much. Pressing
cool leather encased knuckles to his eyes; he tried to halt the silent hysteria
that had him trembling in place, his breaths coming in soundless whimpering
gasps as he fought for enough air to sustain his mute fit of giggles. There
were tears of laughter in his eyes, he knew that, and great choking snorts of
amusement threatening to burst from their confinement in his chest.

It was the despairing hurt
he saw in his friend’s eyes, when a light touch to the shoulder captured his
attention, which sobered him up completely. Much as the slight stunted laugh
still bubbled up from deep in his belly, a response to Seifer’s
plight, the blonde before him had suffered a huge blow to his confidence it
seemed, and somehow Squall had to make it all ok again. It was times like this
he missed being the monosyllabic anal bastard no one in his or her right mind
would come to for advice. And of course all this meant he might not have time
to see Selphie before seeing Laguna, so he’d have to
talk fast or face the ball.

Now, how to sound convincing
when he’d never once in his life gotten hard from thoughts about Zell Dincht
, “Look… It’s not necessarily anything to do with you
ok? Some guys just have that problem. He might have been too drunk; he might
already have someone and have felt guilty,” He paused after that. Suggesting
Seifer would feel guilty about someone he was cheating on, to the extent he
couldn’t get it up, was ridiculous. More seriously he continued, “It could be a
medical condition for all I know Zell, and to be honest I don’t really want to
know. I do doubt it was you if he was all for it until then though.”

He was relieved when he
received a hesitant nod in return for his efforts and a small shaky smile,
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Maybe I should talk to him or something, thanks
baby.”

Squall waved him off,
glancing toward the quad entrance just a few short steps from where they’d
halted, “Anytime Zell, but now I should get going.”

Zell blinked, looking in
the direction Squall was a bit blankly before getting a knowing look, “Oh, I
get you, say no more, I’ll see you later.” That said,
he was gone with the squeak of trainer-clad feet against polished tile.

The brunette was under no
illusion that everything was as fine as Zell made out. His contribution hadn’t
exactly been rousing, but at least it’d make the blonde consider other
possibilities. Presently though, he was more concerned with what Zell had ‘got’
that he’d completely missed. First the ditzy sorceress, now the hyper martial
artist; did everyone know something he didn’t today?

Gaze returning to the quad
walkway, he eyed the vividly decorated entrance with sudden trepidation. The
feeling he was walking into the fox’s den again capturing him in its grip.
Something was going on and a lot of the answers lay with Selphie,
or so it seemed, and for anyone who knew Selphie by
reputation, let alone personal experience, they’d understand this wasn’t
comforting knowledge to possess.

Taking measured steps,
attempting to feign self-assurance in the face of the unknown plots of a yellow-clad
imp, he moved closer to his destination, distantly wondering just how much of
the budget had been blown on the entryway hangings alone. He was marginally
prepared for what he might see inside; he knew the FH workmen had converted the
quad so it could be an indoor venue when required, and as such there was a
ceiling and walls to hang things on, but still…

Poking his head through
into the prospective ballroom, he barely had time to widen his eyes at the
sheer number of streamers and tinsel, brightly coloured
baubles and laden trees, before a shriek of delight announced that he’d been
spotted. A hesitant glance over and he saw the figure in question, dressed in a
disgustingly bright shade of sunshine, waving him over and calling his name.
Gaze slowly moving to where Selphie stood, he
couldn’t help noticing every few feet, a sprig of
mistletoe had been attached to some overhanging decoration. In his eyes, the
room had magically transformed into a veritable mine field of indignities.

“Squall!
Come over here! You have to tell me what you think!” She was giving him that
entreating look that never actually worked per se, but which he usually gave in
to before she started on something seriously annoying to convince him instead.
Like the song that ‘got on his nerves, got on his nerves, got on his nerves,
all day long’. He felt a migraine descending just from the thought of it.

“I can’t tell you from
here?” He almost cringed at quite how much of a wuss
that made him sound, but still, he’d rather fight Ultimecia
again than be caught under the mistletoe with the wrong person while Selphie
was around.

“The place is near empty
Squall, no one’s goin’ to catch you off guard now.”
The sexy southern drawl pre-empted Irvine’s
appearance from behind a Christmas tree Squall could only assume he’d been
putting the finishing touches to. Seeing Irvine also brought about the realisation
that Selphie was, in
fact, not alone, and his cowardice at entering a room full of meaningless
greenery (oh how he wished that was a shared view) was known not only to the
smiling faced demon, but also to the man he’d been fantasising
about for the past few months. He’d please like the ground to swallow him whole
right about now.

Opening his mouth to
respond, though with what retort he wasn’t sure, he froze and rewound those
last thoughts before cursing himself for being quite such a blockhead. It was
suddenly becoming clear quite why Rinoa had thought
he was jealous of Selphie, and why Zell had been
giving him knowing looks before he went into the quad. He wasn’t jealous of Selphie
of course; he knew she and Irvine
were friends and no more, but it still raised the questions of how the hell
they knew he liked Irvine,
and what if the cowboy did too?

This was not a good thing.

“Earth
to Squall, come in please?”

Blinking, he looked up and
involuntarily took a few steps into the room toward the pair. Running a hand
through his hair, feeling unusually flustered, he queried what had been said
with a vague, “Sorry?”

“I asked if you were
coming to the ball tonight.” Selphie’s tone was
making it quite clear that the answer no wasn’t an option that was available to
him, “You are coming, aren’t
you Squall?”

Gaze straying back to Irvine, he met teal eyes
that were glinting with amusement at his predicament shortly before he was
distracted by what the cowboy’s mouth was doing to the candy cane in his hand.
The brightly coloured candy was slowly being slid in
and out between full, awfully kissable--to his mind at least--lips, with the
occasional glimpse of pink tongue evident as the Galbadian
indulged in the flavour. The corners of that
delectable mouth curving into a smile, Irvine
slowly drew the sticky candy out again, rolling and rubbing the end across his
tongue with apparent ignorance of how Squall’s gaze had become riveted upon
him. “Oh yes…”

“What did you say Squall?”

“Uh…” The brunette blinked
a few times, trying to get his brain working enough to remember what he'd said
to Selphie that had managed to elicit such a
surprised tone in her response. He was really having a hard
time thinking about anything beyond Irvine’s
mouth licking and sucking at the moment though, hard being the operative word,
“I said yes?”

“So you’ll come to the
Christmas ball?” She sounded overjoyed.

His reply came quickly,
along with a large desire to bang his head against the wall, “No!”

He was seriously beginning
to regret coming down, and the fact that Irvine
was clearly having a hard time not laughing at him didn’t improve matters at
all. Making a hasty escape back to his office until Laguna arrived was
beginning to appeal to him more and more. Especially since he now knew what Rinoa
, and the rest of Garden, unfortunately, seemed to
have cottoned onto making his presence no longer required for the purpose of
finding out… Still though, his feet were refusing to obey his command to exit,
and instead he was standing there watching them like a dummy. Eventually he
managed a weak, “I should go meet Laguna…”

Selphie
chose that point to give in to the giggles she’d been holding back; barely
managing to gasp out that she’d see him later.

Closing his eyes and
deciding his mortification for the day was now complete, he turned on his heel
and started toward the door. Now that his feet were co-operating, he intended
to get as far away as he possibly could. Again though, his plan was not to be,
foiled by a golden hand closing over his shoulder, causing him to slow as his
would-be companion caught up, “I’ll walk with you, have
some things to pick up.”

Squall managed a slight
nod before he started forward again, not trusting his voice. Trying to ignore
the tingling sensation Irvine’s
touch had caused, and the disappointment that accompanied the loss of contact
when he moved away, he was too distracted to realise
quite where he’d walked until it was too late, and Selphie
was whooping in delight. With great apprehension, he looked up, and there, sure
enough, was a mostly innocent looking sprig of mistletoe, right above himself
and the cowboy.

Oh shit.

“You have to kiss now, go on!” Selphie was positively vibrating with excitement, small
feet spending more time off the floor than on as she bounced around, hands
clasped. He should’ve known better than to let down his guard around her: he’d
seen her collection, he knew what she was into… and he’d borrowed certain pictures
more than once--but that wasn’t the point.

At last meeting Irvine’s eyes, he found
amusement and what he could only hope was desire. It left him wondering whether
to be disappointed that it meant Irvine wouldn’t be his get out, or excited
that he was about to get at least a taste of what he’d been craving. Who was he
kidding? He couldn’t have been disappointed he had to kiss the Galbadian
if his life depended on it.

“Pucker up Squall,
wouldn’t want to disappoint the lady now.” He could feel the blush spreading
across the bridge of his nose as Irvine
cupped his cheek and cursed himself for it, but didn’t pull away, instead
watching as the cowboy leaned in to kiss him.

It was a scene he wouldn’t
forget in a hurry, the warmth and want in those beautiful eyes trained on his
with a faint wariness of what his own reaction would be. He remembered the way
a stray auburn lock had escaped its tie to fall across the cowboy’s face, a
nice contrast to smooth golden skin, and the way those inviting lips had curved
into an amused smile as they were pressed to his gently.

The sensation was
something else. It wasn’t teasing, it wasn’t an obligation; it was a sweet and
gentle exploration, testing the waters to see how he was going to respond
before it was deepened. Slow, coaxing and sinfully sensual while still
maintaining some air of innocence, Squall found his knees going weak at the
first swipe of agile tongue. Irvine’s
hand burning against his cheek, an arm at his back offering support, he opened
his mouth to the invasion, welcoming it. It was only when he heard a low needy
moan accompanying their duelling tongues, and recognised
it as his own, that he came back to himself and
pushed the taller man away, stumbling back as the
cowboy looked at him in surprise.

Cheeks flushed, a
combination of his desire and embarrassment, he mumbled something about being
late again and left the quad as quickly as his shaky legs would carry him,
unwilling to face what had just happened. He’d completely lost control,
magically morphed from self-assured commander into some needy little uke
in the arms of a man who in all likelihood had only
been kissing him for joke, whatever he wanted to believe, and was now probably
laughing his ass off with Selphie at his expense. Not
that Squall was being optimistic about the situation or anything.

Nonetheless, his decision
was made; he would meet and dine with his father, then hide away in his office
and get through some of his backlogged work. He would not, under any
circumstances, be attending Selphie’s Christmas ball
for an extra dose of humiliation.

Hyne, what the hell had
happened? It wasn’t like he’d never been around a guy he found hot before,
never kissed a guy he found hot before… So what was it about Irvine that had the cool, collected mask
going straight out the window and him acting like a bitch in heat? Oh shit, he
didn’t rub did he? Rewinding the memory, he sighed in clear relief that, no, he
had not started grinding mindlessly against the cowboy. The tone of relief
didn’t stop him drawing concerned looks from the SeeDs
who’d witnessed his far too audible sigh. Hopefully they’d all put it down to
the stress of Christmas. There wasn’t a soul in Garden who’d failed to realise
his hatred of the festive season.

Glancing at his watch, he
altered his route slightly to take him to the front gate, Laguna was due to
arrive any minute, and with a tiny bit of luck his father would provide a
welcome distraction to this self-analysis. Also an unwelcome headache, but it
was a small price to pay.

He barely registered his
surroundings as he passed out of the gate, the look on his face coupled with
his reputation for being even more of a disagreeable and sadistic bastard than
usual during the holiday season was enough to deter even the most courageous SeeDs
from enquiring as to his health, or worse yet,
wishing him a Merry Christmas. It was rumoured that
the last time Squall had been wished a Merry Christmas, all the plants in a
hundred metre radius had withered at the power of his
glare, and the SeeD who’d dared to utter the words dropped in a dead faint
missing the ball arranged for that night. In short, no one dared to approach
the frosty Commander and many said soft prayers to Hyne to protect Laguna
through the night.

Squall usually revelled in his reputation, but presently, although his
expression was set to a scowl his heart wasn’t in it, instead he breezed past
those loitering in the landscaped stretch between the gate and entrance,
intense gaze searching the shadows for his over enthusiastic father who all too
often arrived early for their little sessions.

“Squall,
my boy!”

Squall mentally face
palmed. That at least answered his question; Laguna had arrived and was
currently bounding towards him in a style reminiscent of Ms. Tilmitt
fully intent on squeezing the life out of him in a
hug if he knew his father at all.

“Laguna.”
Murmured in acknowledgement as he neatly sidestepped the impending embrace and
left the president stumbling a few steps and windmilling
his arms to avoid falling on his face or crashing into the wall. He chose to
ignore the drama, suppressing a faint smile at what he regarded as just revenge
for the man being such a tormenting, forbidden temptation, “Safe journey?”

“Eh?” Laguna blinked as he
recovered himself to look at Squall, “Oh, it was fine. Now give your old man a
hug!”

Squall narrowed his eyes
and levelled his best death glare at the advancing
president. Unfortunately for him, genetics seemed to give Laguna some kind of
invulnerability to The Glare, and The Look, and anything else he could school
his expression to… so he ended up backed against the wall as Laguna grinned at
him, pressing forward with outstretched arms. So much for revenge…

Glancing around to check
there were no witnesses to the humiliation, he allowed his father to hug him,
lip curling slightly and body remaining rigid in the older man’s grip. It was
one thing to melt against Irvine;
it was quite another to risk an unsuitable reaction to his father. What would
he say? “Happy Christmas Dad, yes that is my dick, I have nothing in my pocket,
no, want to go for dinner now?” Somehow he doubted that would work…

Laguna seemed pleased
enough though, which was understandable since Squall nearly never let him get
away with a handshake never mind a hug, “So tell me everything!”

Arching an eyebrow, the
brunette echoed his father softly, turning with a gesture for Laguna to follow
him back inside Garden after a brief glance at the president’s silent,
unobtrusive companions as they departed now their charge was secure,
“Everything?”

He somehow doubted Laguna
really wanted to know his son had fantasies about him, or that his son had just
frenched the resident womaniser,
or that Seifer was apparently impotent, if Zell’s
story was to be believed… He had to resist a snicker at that thought. Oh, who
was he kidding? With the exception of Squall’s views on his father, the older
man would likely want to know it all, hanging on every word with the
appropriate assorted gasps and laughs at the right intervals. He had to admit,
be it grudgingly, when he did talk, Laguna was a good audience.

“The
ball?
Your friends? SeeD business?
Any young ladies you’ve met?” Laguna threw the ideas out, one after the other
before Squall could respond, evidently hoping the brunette wouldn’t notice the
last comment he’d slipped in and would answer it by mistake.

Giving his father a look
to let him know he’d been sussed, Squall slid through
the barrier into Garden silently, gaze resting on the elevator with longing.
All he had to do was walk up those few steps, dart inside and press the button
for third floor and hey, presto, he’d be secure in his ivory tower for the
duration of the evening. Unfortunately fate had other plans in store, the most
immediate being his commitment to his dearest daddy.

Taking in the expectant look
on Laguna’s face as he checked over his shoulder to see the man hadn’t gotten
lost yet, he realised he would have to come up with
some form of answer, even if small talk wasn’t his specialty. Pausing, he
turned to pass the library, and in so doing, lower the risk of seeing Irvine or
Selphie leaving the quad, before at length
responding, “The ball appears to be all set to kick off later on, Selphie’s
been working very hard on it, as have all the
friends she’s managed to rope in at varying points. As a result, friends are
all in the festive mood, if looking forward to the break Christmas provides and
SeeD business is as usual.”

There was no small trace
of amusement in Laguna’s tone as he murmured, “That’s very… concise.”

“Whatever.” Returned
easily as Squall resisted the urge to do something
childish such as stick his tongue out. On his right, both the training centre
and parking lot were passing by, the dormitories coming closer and closer. He
couldn’t help wondering if this dinner would ultimately end in their ploughing
through their individual meals in silence as
conversation ran out, or if Laguna would find some magic words that would
generate a witty and flowing exchange… Stranger things had happened after all,
as Zell’s story earlier showed.

“So…” Squall slid another
glance at Laguna, as he turned toward the dorms and the man continued, “You
didn’t tell me about the ladies…”

“That’s because there are
none.” Brief and to the point, maybe, just maybe, he’d drop it now. Maybe hell
would freeze over too.

“What about Rinoa? You two get on so well…” Laguna trailed off,
presumably due to the utterly horrified expression Squall was wearing.

“Me? Rinoa? No. Very, very not happening.” Ack… He
just sounded like one of those despicable teens on the nasty daytime soaps Zell
had a penchant for watching. Maybe he should see a therapist like Kadowaki was always recommending…

Stopping outside his room,
he keyed in his code, shooting a sidelong look at his father as he cautiously
tuned back in to Radio Laguna Heart FM,
“But she’s such a lovely girl…”

“I’m gay, dad.” It was out
of his mouth before he quite realised he’d said it
and managed to halt the verbal flow. Oops.

Warily he turned to fully
face the man who was currently gaping at him like a landed fish in time to hear
a rather squeaky, “Oh…”

He held the shocked jade
gaze as the man floundered, head moving about in the oddest of motions as
though interpreting ‘getting your head round it’ in the most literal sense,
before, “Well, makes no difference does it?” The grin was back, Squall couldn’t
decide if that was good or bad, “Tell me about the blokes.”

The second mental face
palm of the night occurred as Squall turned sharply and slipped into his
quarters. He knew he was colouring because that
phrase couldn’t help but provoke thoughts of earlier with Irvine. Hyne, it was like being a teenager
again.

He could hear Quistis somewhere declaring in exasperation, “Squall, you are a teenager.” He was spending far too
much time with those people… His friends.

“There is someone! Tellmetellmetellme!” That
was Laguna, back in the present, no doubt about it. A very
bouncy, excited present.
Argh. And he’d thought the embarrassment of the day had ceased. Fat chance. He did note however, there were far too many
similarities between his father and one Ms. Tilmitt
for his own comfort. They couldn’t be… related somehow, could they? He really
didn’t put it past Laguna to have sown his oats so far. And it wasn’t exactly
beyond the capabilities of Laguna’s looks… Oh Hyne. He sat down hard at the
small table where dinner had been left for them.

There was one plus side to
this sudden turn around in his behaviour he noted
through the panic, he had successfully distracted his now frightfully concerned
father from the topic of Irvine.

“Squall?
What’s wrong?” Laguna was actually flitting about him. It was enough to bring
him to his senses and wipe the look of dismay from his face.

“Nothing, sit down.” He
was calm again now, which in turn appeared to calm Laguna, though the president
was still eyeing him circumspectly.

Sliding into the seat
meant for him, his father shot him another assessing glance,
uncharacteristically serious, “Care to explain?”

Squall shook his head,
uncovering the dinner left out for them. Tikka masala
, one of his favourites,
and that almost, almost, elicited a smile.

Glancing around, he
pondered if his rooms had changed at all since Laguna’s last visit. The front
door still opened into the sitting area, which also contained a small dinning
table and kitchenette. The bedroom and bathroom both had doors leading from the
room they presently inhabited. That kind of layout wouldn’t really have changed
though.

Still the table he sat at
was metal and glass, highly modern supposedly. The seats similarly metallic but
surprisingly comfortable for it, not that he sat in them for any length of time
very often. The kitchen area continued the theme, silver metallic faces to his
oven and fridge-freezer while the cupboards were stonewash grey with darker but
matching surfaces; the walls were white and almost redeeming. In fact, the
walls of the entire apartment were white, the standard colour
used in the most recent redecoration of the entirety of SeeD dormitories.

The furniture was sparse,
but then the space didn’t allow for much. A glass coffee table that matched his
dining table sat between the black leather sofa and television with its state
of the art DVD player. A matching armchair adjacent to the couch, if angled
slightly, so the occupants of each could enjoy the fire behind them. The
fireplace was the only specification Squall had made, and was accordingly the
only stark contrast to modernity in the apartment, holding real flames that
flickered and reflected in the glass of the window on the opposing side of the
chair. He liked to relax there with a glass of wine in the evenings, all too
often watching the rain with his favourite songs
playing quietly on the music system across the room.

The mantle of the
fireplace also held some of his few photographs, the rest securely hidden in
his bedroom. One, a concession to his enjoyment of their celebratory ball
following Ultimecia’s defeat: It showed all the
‘heroes’ together, arms slung about each other and smiles on every face, even a
half-hearted attempt on Squall’s own lips--which was more than he usually made.
The other was a picture of his father with his companions after they defeated
Adel. Squall liked the comparison… And Laguna did look very hot in that
photograph.

“You’re fine then?”
Laguna’s concerned enquiry roused him from his thoughts just as he decided that
no, nothing had changed.

Offering Laguna a
half-smile much like the one in the photo he scooped up a forkful of rice,
“Fine. Just seasonal stress.” He was silent for a long
moment, Laguna watching patiently, I…”

“You?”
The man really did know how to latch onto a subject and not let go. Ok, so he
hadn’t really latched on, Squall just didn’t want to tell him.

“I was wondering if you
were related to Selphie.” He finally admitted it with
a wry smile after moments had passed, reaching to pour them a glass of wine to
accompany the meal somewhat belatedly. The confession was rewarded with rich
laughter, Laguna’s eyes sparkling with mirth as he fought to regain control.

“You…? Oh Hyne, that’s
good!” Squall rolled his eyes as the laughter continued, a faint smile tugging
at his own lips even as an embarrassed flush spread across the bridge of his
nose.

“It isn’t that funny.” Oh
please someone say he wasn’t pouting over this. He had the awful feeling his
lower lip was indeed jutting however…

“Yes it is!” Gasped out
between bouts of giggles in such a way Squall had to sigh, a little annoyed at
the man. Fathers! Who needed them?

“I’m sorry Squall, but it
is…” The man actually had to dab his eyes with his napkin.

So maybe it was a little
amusing… In fact it was a lot amusing and Squall was barely keeping control of
his features. It was nice to relax with his father over dinner before he locked
himself in his office for the night, because he did still intend on following
through that course of action.

Eyes sparkling with humour, his father peered over his wine glass at him once
he had his breath back, “I can assure you that Selphie
is no relation. Is there anyone else you suspect me of?”

Squall rolled his eyes,
taking another bite of dinner as he pretended to deliberate over the matter,
forehead crinkled in thought before he eventually began, “Well…” He paused to
sip his wine and suppress the smile that was trying to emerge at the teasing
banter, “I did wonder about Rinoa… I know from when
Ellone took us back you and her mother were close…”

“Ah…” The brunette raised
an eyebrow at Laguna’s reaction, watching as the man settled back in his seat,
knife and fork abandoned on his plate momentarily as he laced his fingers on
the tabletop, “That is a good question. I’m not sure…”

Squall blinked, several
times, “Sorry?” He wasn’t serious was he? Please say he wasn’t… Rinoa
? His sister? He kissed her… Ok, no, she kissed him, and it was disgusting, but still… He was going to have
to bleach his mouth all over again. He was going to be sick.

It was only after he’d
gotten a fair way into working himself up that he noticed the twinkle in that
jade gaze, and the twitch at the corner of Laguna’s mouth. Narrowing his eyes,
he threw his napkin at the, by now, grinning fool, “You utter git
!”

Laguna broke down at that,
even the napkin hitting him in the face didn’t do anything to reduce the mirth
he displayed, “You should’ve seen your expression!”

“I hate you.” Squall had
to suppress a smile even as he said it though.

“Of course you don’t.” The
fool was still grinning, and Squall grudgingly returned the smile, rolling his
eyes in exasperation. His father really wasn’t so bad--a complete lunatic who’d
no doubt drive him insane if he spent more than a day or so at a time with the
man maybe--but not all bad. And, even if he hated to admit it, it was nice to
relax and laugh on occasion. Very rare, Selphie-free,
occasion.

He was still smiling
inwardly an hour later when he’d finally escaped the man’s clutches after
having convinced him that no, no matter what he said, promised or threatened,
Squall would not be joining him to attend the ball. After a brief stop at the
little boy’s room, he’d found himself taking painkillers upon entering his
office to ward off his impending headache from the constant attempts to trap
him into going, but even that couldn’t completely quash the good feeling Laguna
had left him with. That seemed to be his father’s gift really, the ability to
leave people feeling far more relaxed and content than they’d been when he
first arrived. It was a trait he’d certainly not inherited, but then he was a
soldier not a president.

His
lips quirked slightly as he recalled Laguna’s lengthy explanation as to why Rinoa
couldn’t be his daughter, Squall’s sister.
It was very convincing, especially when one considered he was only a little
over five months younger than Rinoa and he knew his
father had spent at least six months laid up with Raine
doting on him, unable to even attempt to procreate. That
coupled with travelling time to get near Winhill
after traipsing to the Lunatic Pandora, and then the time it took to win Raine
round, plan the wedding, have the wedding, and have
Laguna on the wrong continent when the birth occurred… Well, if Rinoa were his sister she’d have to be a good couple of
years older than him, not just six months. He couldn’t express how much that
knowledge filled him with relief, though he was mildly concerned, as Laguna had
obviously felt the need to put much thought into the matter at some stage in
order to explain why it wasn’t possible so well…

Relaxing back into the
luxurious leather, the room illuminated only by moonlight from outside, he
found he wasn’t even so bothered about what had happened with Irvine now. In fact, if he just thought about
how the cowboy’s lips had felt against his, it wasn’t a bad memory at all. It
could even be considered a very good memory.

For a moment, he allowed
himself a pleasure that he didn’t often indulge in, the chance to daydream
about his favourite men. First Irvine, then Laguna… Providing he didn’t get
interrupted anyway.

Long lashes fanning
against pale skin as he closed his eyes, his fingers clasped about the arms of
his chair and he immersed himself in the memory of Irvine’s lips against his. Mentally
reconstructing the scene so in the present things seemed to change… Irvine was now leaning
over him, breath warm against his lips, tantalising
with its hint of spice. An involuntary move forward to bridge the gap on his
part earned a rich chuckle from the apparition before lips were pressed to his,
as tentative as earlier, fast growing bolder. A quick and sure tongue mapped
his mouth, torturing him with teasing caresses only to flit away provoking a
whine of loss from deep in his throat.

The whine was soon
replaced with a low moan as that same hot mouth fastened onto his neck, sucking
and biting a fiery trail down to his collar that would show later. Sure fingers
deftly undid the buttons of his jacket, sliding inside to explore his chest,
exploiting every sensitive spot mercilessly until he was arching helplessly
into the touches. He was all too aware how constricting his trousers were all
of a sudden.

He was also all too aware
it had been nothing more than a fantasy as fireworks exploding outside the
window brought him back to reality with a bump. There were no lips on his, no
hickeys on his neck and no hands under his shirt. The only reality had been his
arousal, which reacted to realisation as it would a
cold shower.

Sighing softly, he spun in
his seat to watch the coloured explosions that had so
cheerily rent him from his dream world. It was sad really. Here he was, not
even twenty, sitting alone in his office on Christmas Eve with the
responsibility for the strongest militia in the world planted firmly on his
shoulders, fantasising about a teammate who should
have his utmost respect. Not that he could really complain about being alone,
he had gone out of his way to hide up here after all.

Reaching out, he traced
the path of one firework on the glass with a gloved finger, reflecting on the
night he’d seen the shooting star with Rinoa. What if
it had been Irvine
then? Not that Irvine
would dance with him in public; the man had his womanising
reputation to keep up after all. Didn’t he? Or was that just Squall’s own
excuse because he didn’t want
any relationship to be public knowledge? Did he even have any right to hope for
one if he was going to turn round and ask the man not to breathe a word?

Frowning and rubbing the
bridge of his nose, he considered. When he was lounging in bed at night with
his right hand doing all the work while his mind supplied the images, then the
question of being a public item somehow never came up. When it came to
fantasies about his father, it never would. You just didn’t come out and tell
everyone your daddy was fucking you, even if it did happen, which he highly
doubted it ever would.

Ok, so thoughts of Laguna
bending him over his desk and having his wicked way definitely resurrected his
arousal. It also confirmed that a SeeD uniform was not the thing to wear when
turned on.

He briefly entertained
quite how ridiculous he was being. The thought of Rinoa
kissing him had made him sick at the mere possibility
she was his sister… And yet, the thought of a man he knew
to be his father fucking him turned
him on. But then he dismissed the thoughts just as quickly, shifting
uncomfortably as he turned his gaze on the coloured
lights of the ball below.

It seemed like a world
away from him in his ivory tower. In truth, it was. He was up here because he
didn’t know how to exist down there. Rinoa had tried
to show him, and failed. He supposed Irvine
or Laguna could show him… Laguna in the more subtle, discreet
roles of father and son; Irvine
as a partner.
He was kidding himself, of course, that he’d ever have
either… Though he could hope it’d been real desire in those turquoise eyes
earlier today, it at least gave him a chance. His father, he knew, was a lost
cause. A very delectable lost cause, but one nonetheless.

Well, wasn’t this a very
Merry Christmas? He was beginning to question if it was true, if all he was
good at was brooding. Sexy, dark, mysterious brooding… But
still brooding.
Hn

Indulging in his second
whim of the evening, this one decidedly more childish, he pulled his feet up
onto his seat and spun the swivel chair around. Watching the walls speed past,
his desk whizzing by every few moments, he reflected that this very much symbolised
his life. A child caught up in a whirlwind of
occurrences. It was very poetic, romantic even to the point he was sure it was
a Laguna-gene behind the thought, but it was true in respects.

He was so caught up in the
motion that it took a while to realise the flashing
light he kept seeing was coming from the phone on his desk, not the sky
outside; everything had become such a blur of unceasing movement. He wasn’t
sure that meant he should thank or curse Zell for oiling the thing so well. As
it sunk in that there was ringing accompanying the flashing and he lunged for
the receiver only to be overcome by dizziness and fall out of the chair, he
decided maybe to curse him.

Landing with a crash
somewhere half-under the desk and smacking his head against the edge as he went
down, it was in an unsurprisingly groggy tone that he inquired, having
carefully lifted the receiver to his ear, “Yes?”

“Commander, you—Squall?
Are you ok?” Ah Quistis, something had gone wrong
already and he hadn’t even started any work.

Rubbing where he’d bumped
and wincing slightly he muttered a noncommittal, “’m fine, something wrong?”

“Well… Not yet, but I
think there might be soon. I’m sure I can clear it up if you’re busy though.”
In his opinion, she didn’t sound even remotely sure she could do such a thing,
or at least she didn’t sound as though she wanted to.

Trapping the phone between
his ear and shoulder, he reached out to tug the chair back where he could hoist
himself into it, at the same time gently prodding his scalp to assess the
extent of the damage he’d done. It didn’t seem much, and the dizziness from the
chair had passed, so taking a chance, he pulled himself back into the seat and
was relieved to find the world didn’t tilt at any odd angle, “Tell me what’s
wrong.”

“It’s just… Your father
has gotten a little inebriated. Or more, to use Irvine’s version of events, ‘he’s completely
off his face’. I think Seifer’s spiking his drinks.”
His first reaction was that this was decidedly not good. His father, the
president of Esthar, was down there with all the people he demanded respect
from, intoxicated and liable to make a fool of himself and of Squall by association.
Secondly, he, for some reason, had the mental image of her stood there in her
ball gown twirling the phone cord around her finger. It was absurd since she
was on her cell, but it did remind him of one thing…

“Is this a trick to get me
down there?” Yes, he was just that much of a suspicious bastard. Selphie
was also that much of a sneaky wench though.

“Squall!”
Ok, so now she sounded offended, at least he knew… “This is serious! Seifer’s been pissed off all day and Zell’s
been irritating him for the last hour for Hyne only knows what reason and now
he’s getting your Dad drunk. I really don’t think it’s a situation to joke
about.”

By the time she was
finished, Squall was holding the phone a couple of inches from his ear and
trying not to wince at either her forceful reprimand or what he had to do,
“I’ll be right there.” He slid the assurance in quickly when she paused for
breath and hung up. He knew it’d annoy her, but if it was that serious a
situation he didn’t need to be on the phone up here while there was a problem
forming down there, anyway. Plus, she deserved it for prying him out of his
office on Christmas Eve when he wanted to mope.

He did have to question
why Seifer would be getting his father drunk. His initial idea was blackmail
material. It made sense since if Seifer was having such a bad day; the one
thing that always made it better for him seemed to be ridiculing Squall, or
those close to him. He had a feeling there was more to it than that though,
with Seifer Almasy there always was. The man was about as simple as solving a Rubix
cube would be for a child, after said cube had been
played with non-stop for five hours by Laguna. So here he was, bracing himself
to face his drunken, impotent, possibly raging arch nemesis on Christmas Eve
before the entire Garden. It was enough to make the bravest men feel first
sick, then struck by an attack of the giggles.

One thing he was thankful
for was that any dizziness had receded completely by the time he was ready to
go, and the abrupt movements as he stood and stalked from his darkened office
didn’t evoke any feeling of nausea that might imply a head injury. Running a
gloved hand through his hair tiredly, he rode the elevator down, silently
insulting Laguna in every tongue he knew, and Seifer in a few more he made up
especially. Between them they had succeeded where all the girls had failed; he
would have to set foot in the quad during the Christmas ball. Even the hilarity
of Seifer’s problems as related by Zell failed to
appease his annoyance. He just knew he’d make a fool of himself somehow, and in
all probability, Laguna would be the somehow by which he was a fool made. He
was even speaking gibberish in his head, Hyne.

So much for carefree
solitude, it may have been lonely and mope filled, but he liked it that way.
And yet it wasn’t to be; no, now it was bright lights, chattering people, and
appearances all the way. He truly hated the festive season with a passion at
that moment, a passion that had nothing to do with his loathing to face Irvine in a room full of
mistletoe, really…

Another thing he was
thankful for, he realised, was that no one was likely
to question him on why he might be reluctant to go into that room since he was
notorious for festive hatred. If anyone had had a clue and tried to pick him up
on the point, he doubted he’d manage to convince even the blondest of
individuals it was all just the crowds. Hn
He should probably stop using blonde as an insult when he has two of the for
friends…

Pausing in the entryway,
he resisted the urge to cringe away from the over-done decorations again, and,
gritting his teeth, took his first step back into the room he’d humiliated
himself in earlier.

He could already feel the
stares. The looks of horror spreading over previously relaxed faces like a deathly
shadow as it slowly dawned on them that their commander, their Scrooge
, their Garden Grinch,
was at the Christmas ball.
Squall supposed he might have felt remotely smug at the miraculously empty
semicircle that had abruptly formed about the entrance as he’d stepped inside.
Except for the fact that just now he was too worried about the location of a
certain cowboy and the minefield of mistletoe, both of which he’d have to
adeptly avoid in the search for the lost Laguna. Well, he would have if Quistis hadn’t materialised from
the stunned crowd to tell him where his father was anyway.

He had to admit, gay as he
was, she did look beautiful in the scarlet evening dress. It appeared a simple
affair, from what he knew about women’s clothing anyway, which wasn’t a great
deal, but he somehow doubted it was. A simple affair did not cling in all the
right places and yet fail to look stretched. It did not emphasise
all the curves, and fail to decree slut. She looked elegant and sophisticated,
and in short he could understand why any man with the remotest interest in
females could fall under her spell.

“You look lovely.” He
wouldn’t have realised he’d said it aloud if it
hadn’t been for the blush colouring her cheeks
despite the worry evident in her eyes. At least he seemed to have inadvertently
fended off her annoyance at him for hanging up on her.

Glancing at their audience
after she’d nodded to him, acknowledging him, “Commander, this way.” She turned
and led him further into the room, the crowds parting easily about them as they
walked.

Taking her arm, though his
posture remained stiff, awkwardness radiating from him, he leaned in slightly,
so as to have their conversation obscured by the music, “Where are they?”

A hand clad in a red
silken glove clasped his arm in return, and she shook her head, golden strands
of hair falling back out of her eyes, diamond stud earrings glinting in her
lobes, “Balcony. Irvine’s
keeping Zell’s attention away from Seifer, so you can
handle it without interruption, while Selphie’s
making sure the music keeps playing. Minimum fuss possible.”

Squall felt a faint smile
curve his lips despite everything. His glamorous second-in-command had always
been constant; sexy, sometimes even sassy, with a keen wit and intelligence
alongside her more renowned ordered way of attending things and polite modesty.
Her dismissal before the war from instructorship had not remained appropriate
following Ultimecia’s defeat, and she’d since
returned to her position and risen through the ranks at such a rate as to seem
alarming. Then again, he had no place to comment did he? He did suspect Ms. Trepe
would gain headship before long though, a belief only
reinforced by his murmured evaluation, “Efficient as ever.”

Their
lazy stroll through the ballroom gradually lost the interest of some, while
others remained riveted to the beautiful blonde and the gorgeous commander
whose arm she held. Squall ignored them, ignored the vivid colours
of the ball gowns, many in white, green and red. He ignored the smart suits
that clad the handsome young men who made up the other half of his militia and
student body also; he knew the location of the only two males he was interested
in and they weren’t visible. He put special effort into blocking out the
painfully cheerful Christmas music that belted from the speakers as bodies
moved on the dance floor, concentrating instead on the refined tones of his
companion. He tried to ignore the decorations as well; there was really only so
many baubles and tinsel --which seemed to have bred since his earlier visit to
double in number-- that a man could take before gouging his eyes out to escape
the festive nightmare.

“One of us has to be.” He
eyed her as she spoke, finding he was correct in his assumption she was
smiling, worry momentarily abandoned as she took pleasure in his suffering,
“It’s not that bad, Squall.”

“A matter of opinion,” he
returned shortly, unappreciative gaze straying across the room to the nearing
balcony. Tone becoming serious and the faint frown he was known for appearing,
he found himself mulling over how to deal with the impending situation, “Is he
armed?”

“Seifer?”
At his nod she continued, “No, yourself and the select individuals serving as
security are the only persons who’ve been allowed in with weapons. However
refined, this is still a military institution and the drunken brawls that may
occur will deplete our stocks of phoenix downs far less if the brawlers are
unarmed.”

He inclined his head
again. It made sense, both in terms of student and SeeD well being, and in
economics. The blonde woman at his side was adept at meeting both demands with
ease, another reason he considered her likely to succeed Cid Kramer as Head, “A
wise move, but what about martial artists?”

The smirk she favoured him with was entirely wicked, “They’re the ones on
duty.”

“Cruel.” But delightfully so. It had the added bonus of ensuring
those serving as security couldn’t be easily picked out too. He had, of course,
read a proviso plan for the ball’s security, but for the most part he’d left it
in the hands of Xu and Quistis
as it was at their insistence (on Selphie’s behalf)
that it went ahead and he already had enough work to do. As such, he was
intrigued by what they’d done, as obviously sensible as some of the moves were.

Mercury gaze suspicious,
his attention returned to the balcony ahead of them, and he wondered exactly
what Seifer was doing with his intoxicated father. His realisation
that it might be the same as what he’d
be doing with his intoxicated father managed to evoke a slightly pained murmur
from Quistis as he tensed, grip tightening. Somewhat
stiffly he muttered, “Sorry.”

He could feel her eyeing
him speculatively, lips pursed before she replied as softly, “I’m sure. I’ll
wait out here then…”

“I won’t be long.” He
smiled tightly, and from the way she blinked he guessed it was probably more
than a tad dangerously. Almasy would be paying for a lengthy period of time if
he’d dared to do anything to Laguna. However much of a fool, however much of an
embarrassment, he was still his father, and now that he’d forgiven the sod for
leaving him, that meant a lot.

Stepping up to the glass
doors, closed to keep the winter cold from seeping in, or the party warmth from
seeping out, he paused to wipe a small area of condensation clear and ascertain
the situation into which he was about to plunge. What he saw wiped any
lingering worries about Irvine’s
location from his mind, all his awareness suddenly keyed into the two figures
beyond the pane. There was Seifer sure enough, and Laguna was with him. He was
leaning back against the railing; a railing that Squall was suddenly oh so
eager to push him over. Laguna was kneeling before him, Almasy’s
hands grasping his hair to keep his head in place, a head that was obscuring
the blonde’s crotch from Squall’s view. The building rage within him did not
bode remotely well for his arch nemesis.

Pressing his hands to the
cold glass in preparation for pushing the doors outward, he drew in a shaky
breath in an attempt to quell the anger welling inside. An effort that became
void when he caught sight of his father’s head shifting ever so slightly and
found himself shoving open the doors before he’d had time to think.

It seemed as though time
were both speeding up and slowing down. His feet were carrying him forward of
their own accord as he watched the scene unfold, a sense of being removed from
the situation washing over him, as though he were an outsider witnessing his
own actions.

Sharp as his eyes were, he
easily caught sight of the sudden, if small, jerk of his father’s head when the
doors crashed open with his passage. He could almost see something travel from
that jerk up to Seifer’s expression as the blonde’s
features contorted in agony, a twisted, breaking howl escaping his lips. Then,
again, that something not quite there began to move, from Seifer’s
face, twisted into a snarl as it was, down through his
right arm rapidly as said limb began to rise with intent to punch the
inebriated man before him.

It was then that time
resumed it’s usual passage, and what seemed to have
taken minutes had to be acknowledged for the mere seconds that had passed in
reality.

Seifer’s
fist was captured without difficulty in Squall’s powerful, gloved grip, though
a faint grunt of exertion escaped the brunette as he halted the blow, free hand
closing about Laguna’s collar and dragging the hapless drunk backward, out of
danger. Unforgiving glare focused exclusively on Seifer, he growled, “What the
hell do you think you’re doing?!”

“The fucker bit me!” This
sworn as Seifer began to crumple into a foetal
position, curling around his wounded sex and forcing Squall to relinquish his
hold on his hand.

Something like a smile
danced over Squall’s lips, but there was a darker edge to it, “As if you didn’t
deserve it.”

Somewhere in the corner of
his mind, he was laughing at the absurdity of the situation. That his father,
his dad, the president of Esthar,
had been on his knees before the ex-sorceress knight when he got so startled he
bit down. That same distant part of him almost felt sorry
for Seifer. The blonde had already had trouble with Zell, and now, whether he’d
rectified the problem with Laguna’s aid of not, he was curled up in agony
having been bitten where it really
hurt.

“Fuck you, Leonhart.” Seifer near as spat at his
boots from behind gritted teeth, in absolute fury at his uncaring judgement
.

Squall really wasn’t
bothered though; he was too busy trying to work out what to do with his rival
that would be suitable. Under the circumstances, he thought it likely the
accident would be enough to discourage re-offending, but a suitable punishment
was also needed. Distractedly he murmured, “No thanks. I hear you can’t.”

Turning his head Squall
found himself faced with a rather attentive audience of SeeDs
from the ball that were being dispersed by those on duty while his friends
stepped outside, closing the doors and offering some privacy. Behind him a
keening whine of disbelief, perhaps more a howl of frustration issued forth
from the prone man, “I am going to rip that Hyne damned chicken’s head off and
spit down his throat. The little fucker, he’s so far past dead it’s not even
funny.”

“I…” Zell’s
expression might have seemed comical in any other situation. Truthfully, it
still did seem comical in this one. It was the type of expression you responded
to by using your index and middle fingers to push the chin up while
reprimanding the expression bearer that they were indeed not a fish and could
they please kindly close their mouth. Collecting himself,
Zell shot Squall an ineffectual glare, the short blonde didn’t do angry and
intimidating very well, and finished rather lamely, “I’m sorry.”

Squall didn’t look to see Seifer’s reaction as Zell followed the apology with a cure
spell to sooth the pain, though the lack of sharp rebuke may have been a good
sign for the martial artist. Of course, it could simply have meant that the gunblader didn’t wish to air any further dirty laundry in
public; Squall knew he’d pick just about anywhere but Almasy’s
presence if he planned on a fight with any would-be lover. So instead of
following the blondes’ exchange attentively, his interest was drawn briefly to
his father, ascertaining that the man wasn’t affected by anything more serious
than intoxication, before almost automatically concentrating on the cowboy
attending to the president.

Irvine had his hair
pulled back, some tinsel, and a sprig of mistletoe that was quite obviously the
input of Ms. Tilmitt, entwined with the tie. If
there’d been a jacket at all, it was gone now. Exposed was the red silken
material of Irvine’s
shirt, the same brilliant shade as Quistis’ dress,
stretched across a broad muscular back he suddenly wanted very much to touch.
He felt guilty, his father and Seifer were just fading in the face of the Galbadian’s
presence. His eyes, as much as he told them to,
would not flick to see Zell and Quistis with Seifer,
or Rinoa and Selphie just
inside the door keeping everyone at bay. Rather they were trained on the
cowboy, trailing down the scarlet clad back that he daydreamed of dragging his
nails down as he cried out in ecstasy beneath the man. They simply wouldn’t be
deterred from tracing the curve of a firm ass in black, only too used to
receiving longing looks by many of both genders, before he moved on to admiring
those long, long legs.

He hoped he wasn’t drooling.

With far more effort than
halting Seifer’s blow had taken, he tore his gaze
away and tuned back in to the reality around him, taking in Quistis
quietly berating Almasy, Zell attempting to offer support, and Laguna grinning
at Irvine like the utter fool he was. Hand rising automatically to the bridge
of his nose, brow creased in a frown, he exhaled slowly, then
began, “Seifer, you have a two day reprieve.  Be in my office first thing
on the twenty-seventh. Until then, you are confined to Garden with a curfew of
ten p.m. and a ban on any alcohol consumption. Is that understood?”

“Bastard.”
Spat again, evidently the blonde’s pride had taken a beating.

Squall really couldn’t
care less about Seifer’s opinion of him right now
though; at the end of the day the blonde was just ensuring whatever punishment
he eventually received was worse and worse with every insult. Catching the
hopeful baby blue gaze trained on him, he decided to give Zell a chance,
whether to hang himself or salvage some form of twisted relationship with his prat
of a rival he wasn’t sure, “Zell, get Seifer back to
his dorm for the night please.”

The smile he received from
Zell was almost as blinding as Seifer’s expression
was pained at the thought, or maybe that was still from being bitten. It really
would be interesting to see how that turned out though… if
it turned out. He might well be
picking up severed body parts come morning--not exactly a pleasant Christmas
present for Mrs. Dincht. As they began to move, he
abruptly cut off the tangent his thoughts had been travelling
along, “Quistis, if you could do damage control on
how much of this gets out? Remind them of the regulations regarding the press.”
He even managed to favour her with a slight smile.

She nodded, obviously not
entirely happy with the situation having occurred, but approving of his methods
of handling it. Returning the smile, she followed the blondes back inside,
preparing to address the body of people inhabiting the Garden over Christmas.
There were far more than one would expect, but then most SeeDs
were orphans who’d chosen Garden over remaining in an orphanage, or simply as
the only certain career open to them. They would definitely get fed, clothed,
trained, sheltered and provided the opportunities for friendship. In the end,
they’d probably die prematurely too…

“Squall?”

Jumping a bit at the
interruption to his thoughts, he half-smiled at the gorgeous man who’d summoned
his attention, running a hand through his hair tiredly before approaching with
a gesture to Laguna, “I’ll take him. You can go back to the ball.”

The cowboy just shook his
head in reply, sending shivers down Squall’s spine as that Galbadian
drawl flowed over him, “I’ll give you a hand, Darlin’”

Squall felt quite
pathetic. He was SeeD commander, he’d defeated Ultimecia,
and yet his knees were about to buckle just because Irvine called him darling, well… ‘Darlin
’… something made all the more ridiculous by the fact
that Irvine
called people that as often as Zell called people ‘baby’. Pulling his teenage
hormones firmly under his control and trying to retrieve some semblance of his
ice cube persona, he moved to take his father’s other arm, so he and Irvine
were offering support from either side, “…Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it.”
Accompanied by a bright smile over Laguna’s head, eyes glinting slightly in the
moonlight before that vivid gaze he adored was turned
instead on the president between them, “Come on old man, bed time.”

“‘M
nosh old.”
Slurred and coupled with a quite adorable
pout on the older man in question’s lips.

“‘Course
not, young as you feel right ‘guna?”
Irvine grinned at Squall as he spoke, and the brunette
found himself reciprocating with a small smile, amused and maybe a little
impressed by the connotations of how at ease Irvine was in dealing with Laguna in this
state, how at ease he could be with all people in all states.

“My
name ish La-guna
.” Squall bit back on his
laughter as the oh so dignified president stuck his
nose in the air and announced the fact.

“Right you are dad, now
we’re leaving.” Squall murmured, adjusting his grip to ensure he was supporting
Laguna as best he could before nodding to Irvine and the pair of them started
half-dragging, half-guiding the drunken ruler back through the quad, ignoring
the looks they were getting. Laguna for his part spent his passage mouthing as
he tried to come up with what Squall presumed would be some kind of reprimand
or effort at resistance, mostly his father was just pouting though. He didn’t
like to admit how cute it looked, and settled for studying the floor until they
were free of their audience for fear someone would witness his amusement and
his reputation be ruined.

“In
his usual room?”
Enquired once they’d reached the corridor
and the blare of cheery festive music had sunk to a tolerable, muffled, level.
Still though, it took Squall a moment to realise he’d
been asked a question before he nodded his response. Then silence descended
again barring Laguna’s drunken mumble-singing as Squall sought for something to
say, anything that wouldn’t make him look like a complete idiot.

“You should’ve come you
know?”

“Come?” Squall echoed the
comment, apparently his ability to formulate sensible responses was taking a
holiday today, all he could do was parrot things back, well maybe not all, but
he’d done it twice and that was twice more than usual.

“To
the ball.”

Squall blinked and looked
over at Irvine
to see if he was serious, only to find the Galbadian
wasn’t looking at him, instead checking to see how much further they had to go
with the seeming deadweight with which they were burdened. Gaze returning to
the floor, he adjusted his support of Laguna before replying, “I’m not really
one for socialising.”

“You did fine after the
war.”

He supposed that was true,
he had enjoyed himself, but… “That was different.”

“How d’you figure that?”

Good question. He frowned,
trying to frame some kind of reply, something that really was getting harder
and harder today. He was almost relieved when they reached the suite Laguna was
to inhabit for the night and he could busy himself keying in the code and
slipping ahead of Irvine
to pull down the bedspread so Laguna could be unceremoniously dumped on the
mattress. Unfortunately, if the knowing glint in those eyes was anything to go
by, he’d been sussed.

“I’ll wait outside while
you get him changed?” Evidently it wasn’t really a question since Irvine failed to wait for
a reply, letting the door click shut behind him as he exited to the living area
of the guest quarters.

Squall stared at the door
for a long moment before heaving an exasperated sigh; everyone seemed intent on
asking him awkward questions. It was Christmas; didn’t he deserve a break along
with the rest of the world?

Turning back to his father
he couldn’t help but smile slightly at quite how rumpled the man looked, it was
adorable. Leaning over he attempted to help the apparently sleeping man into
sitting position so he could remove his shirt, “Little help here, dad?”

“Mmm, ‘k.” A sleepy, almost dopey
response as strong arms slid about Squall’s waist, pulling him close, “Love
you.”

Squall smiled faintly,
returning the hug since there wasn’t anyone to see, “You too, now let go, need
to get your shirt off.”

There was a faint muffled
disgruntled sound, and his father failed to relinquish his grip, tightening it
instead. Squall rolled his eyes and stayed still for a moment, enjoying the
embrace more than he really liked to admit and for once, not because Laguna was
gorgeous, but because of the comfort it offered. He did know Irvine was waiting though, so turned to look
Laguna in the eye, hoping that form of contact might help convey his message,
“I have---mmph.”

Anything he was going to
say was abruptly halted as Laguna’s lips were pressed to his own in a clumsy
kiss, tongue sliding into his mouth before he’d had chance to process what was
happening. He froze at first, and then found himself reciprocating. Laguna
unsurprisingly tasted of alcohol and that was the only reason he let himself,
because his father was never going to remember, and if he did, he’d started it,
not Squall. Hands tangled in his hair, attempting to pull him closer as his
mouth worked against the older man’s, tongue mapping territory it was never
going to gain access to again. He was as drunk from the sensations as Laguna
was from the alcohol, the feel of strong arms holding him was no longer
fatherly comfort, instead it was needy attraction that had hands clutching his
hair, holding his head in place. The feel of a well-built chest pressed to his
own was heady, the aggressive, almost possessiveness to the kisses excited him.
And then there was the thrill, the knowledge Irvine was only just outside the door, the
knowledge he shouldn’t be doing this at all. But then they weren’t really
father and son were they? It was only genetic; he’d never had the real relationship
that was father-son with Laguna…

He supposed one of them
must have moaned a little too loudly when he thought about it later, but he
couldn’t be sure, he certainly never asked Irvine. What he did know was that one moment
the intoxicated man holding him, his own father, was pulling him down with him,
lips never once parting; the next he was being dragged away bodily and shoved
out of a door that slammed behind him leaving him feeling inexplicably cold and
alone.

Floundering for a moment,
feeling very light-headed, he stumbled his way to a chair and sat down hard,
trying to work through what had happened. Laguna had kissed him. That much was
clear. He’d kissed back. Also clear. Then… Looking
around he reached the conclusion Irvine
must have caught them.

Well shit.

Covering his face with his
hands, he sank back in the seat, the ridiculous hope that the chair might just
absorb him into itself crossing his mind. Anything, just about anything, would
be better than facing Irvine
now. He felt like crying, or laughing, or maybe both. In short he felt
hysterical, and tried to concentrate on his breathing before he had to add
hyperventilating to the list too. Really, it wasn’t like Irvine would tell everyone, not beyond his
friends. Friends… Like they’d still be friends after this.
Hyne...

He didn’t know how much
time had passed when he finally heard the door open and shut with Irvine’s passage. He did
know he was suddenly acutely aware of his mussed appearance, of his still
flushed cheeks due to his inability to shrug off the humiliation, of his kiss
bruised lips and the lingering taste of alcohol and whatever it was that could
only be called Laguna on his tongue.

“He’s asleep.” Simple,
short, lacking disgust or anger or, well, anything really.

Hesitantly, without
looking up, he began, “Irvine,
I---“

“Don’t Squall.” He was cut
off almost before he’d opened his mouth. He couldn’t even be sure if he was
grateful for the gentle tone. It wasn’t harsh, the command wasn’t out of a need
not to hear, but rather it was an offer saying Squall didn’t have to explain
because… “I understand, you mightn’t believe that, but I do, Darlin
’, so I’m just gonna ask
you this one thing ok? Promise that was the first and last time.”

Irvine was right, he
didn’t believe it; he couldn’t believe that the cowboy was just letting it drop
like that, let alone that he might understand
what had possessed him to kiss his own father in such a way. Even if this
apparent understanding was because Irvine
thought Laguna was hot too, it wasn’t really understanding
since Irvine wasn’t a blood
relation to the man.

“Squall?”
There was a slight pleading note to the tone now, and the brunette realised the Galbadian must be
taking his silence as a reluctance to confess it was far from the first time,
or something similar.

“I… It was. He was just
drunk… I shouldn’t have… It won’t, not again…” Well, he guessed coherency was
probably a little much to hope for while he was trying not to have a panic
attack, but he’d been aiming for something a little more articulate than the
mumbled junk he’d managed.

He could almost hear the
sigh of relief from the other man and curled up smaller, hunching over his legs
and trying not to cry. It really was stupid, absurd, ludicrous
even… That he was sitting there still hoping Irvine could like him, want him, that he
could meet those dazzling eyes and see the hopefully not imagined want from
earlier.

“What are you thinkin’?”

What was he thinking? That
Irvine was
gorgeous. That he’d screwed up. That he wanted his dad to give him a hug and
that was idiotic since that had started the whole situation, “That I want you.”
It was out his mouth before he’d begun to think the thought, whispered though,
so perhaps Irvine
wouldn’t hear, or would pretend not to, but wouldn’t that be all the more
humiliating?

There was silence. He
didn’t dare look up. Maybe he hadn’t heard? Maybe he had and didn’t know what
to say? How to let him down gently, how to explain that the
kiss earlier was just a joke, none of the emotion real.

“Squall…” That was from right
in front of him, wasn’t it? Maybe he was hearing things now too because Irvine would surely have
left by now, “Squall, look at me, Darlin’?”

After a long moment he
chanced a look up and met that brilliant turquoise gaze, a reassuring smile on
the full lips below that reached those eyes, “You have any decent drink in your
rooms sweetheart?”

Squall nodded dumbly,
wondering quite when he’d lost control of the situation, and whether he’d ever
had control to start with.  Probably not. The one
thing that had registered was Irvine
hadn’t left. Irvine
hadn’t left and apparently didn’t intend to, “I… Um, I have Galbadian
whiskey?”

“My
drink of choice.
Up you get.” Said as the cowboy rose from
where he’d been kneeling to speak with him, offering Squall a hand that he
accepted automatically, allowing himself to be pulled up. He was disappointed
when his hand was quickly released as soon as he’d found his feet; he was still
feeling a bit lost and it’d grounded him nicely.

“Where’re we going?” He
supposed that was a dumb question, a very redundant one at any rate since Irvine had been asking
about the liquor in his rooms.

The Galbadian
obviously felt no need to answer, holding the door open for Squall to exit
ahead of him. Some irrational part of the brunette wondered if he just didn’t
trust him not to turn and run back to Laguna’s bedroom as soon as Irvine was through the
door; he told that irrational part to shut up quite firmly.

Feelin
ok?”

It was a concerned look he
met with as he glanced over at the cowboy and nodded, smiling faintly, “Need a
drink.”

He gained a grin in
response to that as Irvine
walked beside him the short way toward his dorm room, “Never woulda
guessed that.”

Squall felt very childish
as he stuck his tongue out at Irvine,
but the rich chuckle he was rewarded with almost made the effort worth it and a
wry smile struggled its way onto his lips. At least he was feeling slightly
more himself now; he did still want that drink though.

Such a very strange day
one way and another, and only set to get stranger it
would seem. Rolling his eyes at the still snickering cowboy, he slipped ahead
marginally to open the door and let the man into his home, biting his lip at
sudden nervousness regarding what Irvine
might think. Much as they might have been friends, Squall tended to more often
visit than entertain so he could retreat to his solitude without having to kick
anyone out. As such, Irvine
had never had the pleasure of being in Squall’s quarters, and it concerned the
brunette how important the cowboy’s opinion of his home was.

“I like it.” Murmured at
length before the Galbadian looked back at Squall
with a grin and added, “It’s very you. Where’s the liquor?”

Squall gestured with
mumbled directions to indicate where the bottle and tumblers were kept, eyes
riveted to the sight of Irvine
standing in his rooms, looking perfectly at home. He found it was a sight he’d
like to get used to; Irvine
looking at his things, few as they were, touching the kitchen surface, the
table, running his hand along the back of the couch appreciatively, all the
while looking completely relaxed. It made the rooms feel warmer… Though he
guessed that might just have been his face. It was apparently his day for
blushing.

Running his hand through
his hair tiredly, he tore his gaze reluctantly from Irvine’s delectable backside, which it’d been
inexplicably drawn to, and closing the door, headed over to flop on his couch
since the cowboy seemed content to serve him in his own home. He half-smiled
and muttered a thank you as a glass of golden liquid was placed in his hand,
momentarily pre-empting the sharpshooter’s settling on the sofa beside him.

“Good drink you have.”

Squall made a sound of
agreement as he sipped his own, sighing softly when it burned a path down his
throat before coming to rest, fiery warmth in his belly. Looking over at the
man sprawled beside him, a thought flickered to life, provoking the enquiry,
“Aren’t you meant to be at the ball?”

“Had
enough.”

You had enough of a room full of pretty
men and women?” Squall smiled slightly as he teased. Smiling, in his own
limited sense, seemed to come naturally around Irvine, or maybe that was just the alcohol
taking quick effect like the warmth was in just his cheeks.

“That
so hard to believe?”
One elegant brow was arched as that
sharp gaze focused on Squall in such a way he almost felt the need to squirm.
He could count on one hand the number of people who could stare him into fidget
mode, though as a sharpshooter, Irvine
did have a fair advantage to most at making someone caught by his gaze feel
like prey. The intensity could also be due to the practice Irvine put in when hunting down one-night
stands in Balamb clubs though he supposed. Squall pondered that he was coming
out with an awful lot of alternatives and whether it was indicative of his
nervousness in any way.

“I guess not.” Mostly
because there wasn’t really any evidence to say Irvine should be chasing
someone down at this moment since if his ears were at all functional, he’d know
Squall was a fairly sure thing. Sipping his drink again he found he admired Irvine’s bravery, “Won’t Selphie
skin you alive?”

Irvine laughed, the same
rich chuckle Squall liked so much, “Nah, she can seem a bit pushy but she knows
not to overstep herself does Sef.”

That
Squall found debateable. In his view Selphie was a devious, sneaky, bossy little wench who was
perfectly willing to railroad you into whatever cheery celebration she happened
to be organising, even if she just knew you preferred
your nice, peaceful quiet to retain your sanity.

“She ain’t
that bad Squall.”

Oh dear. He blinked a few
times, “I said that out loud?”

“No,
just your expression.”
Irvine
paused, and gave the brunette a curious look, “What were you thinkin
’?”

“That she’s a bossy little
wench.” Taking another sip of the golden ambrosia in his glass, he wondered if
he could blame his newfound honesty on it. He supposed the fact his newfound
honesty had emerged while he had still been in Laguna’s rooms managed to flaw
the theory, but still…

The Galbadian
was laughing again, shaking his head as he smiled at Squall before downing the
remainder of his whiskey, “Can’t argue with that I guess.”

Smiling another faint
smile, the brunette downed the rest of his own whiskey, savouring
the feel of it as he sank back against the leather, eyes closed and fingers
loose about the tumbler making it easy to remove from his grip, which is was
shortly.

He was feeling remarkably
relaxed and sleepy when he felt warm, whiskey-perfumed air gust against his
cheek betraying that Irvine
had moved significantly closer. Opening his eyes, he found himself staring
straight into the cowboy’s, fascinated by the play of shades within the
blue-green. Barely remembering to breath, his acknowledgement came out mingled
with his exhale, “Hello.”

“Hey
there.”
The slow smile that spread over Irvine’s lips and to his eyes, crinkling at
the corners, stole any breath he may have had left to answer as the Galbadian
continued, “Did you mean it?”

Squall’s thoughts were
very fuzzy, whether that was due to the proximity of such a stunning man or the
glass of whiskey he wasn’t sure, he did feel the need to verify though, “What?”

“That you want me.”

Swallowing roughly, the
brunette wished Irvine
hadn’t used that tone of voice. Any blood that’d been struggling to carry
oxygen to his malfunctioning brain –it certainly wasn’t proving much help
today– had redirected and zoomed straight to his cock, “Mm.”

“Say it, Darlin’.”

Irvine’s lips were
temptingly close to his own, gaze locked with his. His every inhale was the
cowboy’s exhale and all he wanted was to close the gap. When he tried though,
he was met with a firm hand against his chest, provoking a low growl of
protest. There was also a silent insistence in that gaze that had the words
from between his lips before his brain had any say in the matter, “Want you, Irvine.”

Then Irvine’s lips were against his and everything
was all right, the day’s succession of bothersome events no longer rested a
heavy weight on his mind. He felt light-headed, intoxicated ten-fold what he
had been with his father. All that mattered was Irvine’s
lips, Irvine’s
tongue, the feel and taste of those pearly white teeth he’d seen bared in
tempting smiles and grins too many times. Everything was coming down to just
this one kiss, hungry and needy and fuelled with pent-up want on the side of
what Squall now knew was both parties. Desire that had been building too long
with no real outlet now exploded as a frenzied battle in the cavern of their
mouths. He was drugged on the tastes of whiskey and spice; there was something
inherently dangerous, intoxicatingly exciting and irresistibly addictive in the
flavour of the cowboy that he didn’t think he could
ever give up.

Impatiently, he tugged the
leather gloves from his hands, needing to feel the soft skin of Irvine’s cheeks against
his bared palms, the silken strands of freed auburn hair around his fingers. He
did mutter a breathless apology against the taller man’s lips at the grunt of
pain that greeted his tugging the hair tie free though, cheeks colouring
with as much embarrassment as arousal.

Irvine chuckled again,
and Squall wondered if that rich throaty laugh from deep in the man’s chest had
always automatically travelled to his groin or if
that was a new development. Then he wondered why the hell he was wondering
anything when Irvine
was this close and decided to cease thinking as the cowboy effectively melted
his brain with a tongue and teeth filled assault on his ear lobe; “You’re
adorable when you blush.”

All he could muster by way
of answer was a needy moan and tightening of his fingers in that beautiful
length of hair as a talented mouth tortured him with pleasure-filled attacks
from his ear to the base of his throat, lingering over areas Squall was sure
would be marked with possessive bruises by morning, “Hyne, Irvine…”

He wasn’t sure he’d ever
seen anything quite so breathtaking as the vision
presented when he managed to open his eyes again. The only lights on were those
in the kitchenette and so the creature leaning over him was bathed in
contrasting moonlight casting an ethereal glow on the scene, and golden light emphasising
the healthy tan of skin he longed to explore
with lips as much as fingertips. Eyes glinted, alight with a smouldering desire that seemed to have a direct link to his
arousal, pushing it up another notch as the gaze bore into him, the want
palpable around him. A silver wash from behind the open blinds coloured the cascade of auburn locks that fell about Irvine’s shoulders in a
shimmering curtain of well-maintained vanity. He was gorgeous and Squall wanted
him more than he’d wanted anything.

Leaning forward, he
captured that experienced mouth, so capable of drawling seemingly innocent
innuendos that left him a pile of goo. His nimble fingers, free of their leather encasement, also moved,
seeking to liberate the cowboy from his shirt.
However tightly it clung,
however sexy it looked, Squall wanted sun kissed skin
revealed for his perusal.

Irvine was just watching
him with outward, and to Squall’s mind remarkable, calm and he knew his face
was beginning to heat again as he questioned what could be so interesting.
Fingers working their way down the column of buttons deftly, he found himself
looking just about anywhere but Irvine’s eyes, cursing himself for blushing
like it was his first time all over again. Pushing back the folds of material,
he found himself following the Galbadian as the man
moved to laze against the couch back, Squall poised over him, all but ready to
slide into his lap in the way Irvine must have felt he was about to when the
positions were reversed.

Finally meeting the
sharpshooter’s gaze he met with a mute challenge to let go, to give in, to
trust and play the bottom tonight. And he rose to the bait as he had every time
with Seifer, though under radically different circumstances. Completing the
motion, he found himself straddling the cowboy’s lap, pale hands braced, palm
flat, against a hairless golden chest. A chest he suddenly wanted to taste,
wanted to map with his tongue until he knew every ripple of muscle, every
contour and plane by heart. Indulged the desire, he licked a path up the
cowboy’s sternum like an overgrown cat. A dull purr that matched the groan of
pleasure from the man beneath him sounded low in his throat, only adding to the
image as he lapped at the salty skin flavoured with
hints of something metallic, he guessed from his gun? And strawberry, from his
shower gel maybe? So many questions rose in his mind as he continued to lick,
delighting in the murmurs and moans he was eliciting. He was fast realising
he wanted to know everything about the cowboy,
and with that realisation he had to face the fact
that he knew barely anything and still couldn’t stop himself from this. He was
trusting blindly in a way so out of character it both frightened and thrilled
him.

Working his way up the
column of Irvine’s
throat, he left his own assorted love bites in his wake, paying special
attention to ensure they’d last for days to come. If the low groan and arching
of the body below was anything to go by, the cowboy had absolutely no problem
being claimed by the Lion of Balamb.

“Mm, Squall…?”

Squall nipped Irvine’s jaw
lightly before looking up, a slow smile spreading over his lips as he ground
his hips against the Galbadian’s, forcing cloth clad
erections together just as Irvine was about to speak, rendering whatever the
cowboy had been about to say an incoherent moan of ecstasy.

“Yes?” At last the
blushing was over and the silky purr that issued from his lips as he tongued
Irvine’s earlobe in retaliation for the earlier attack was something he almost
couldn’t recognise as himself.

The hands that had been
resting on his hips harmlessly until that moment seemed to be prompted into
action by his query, sliding under his jacket and stroking his sides briefly as
that southern drawl he was coming to… No, that drawl he already adored reached
his ears, “You’re wearin
too much, Darlin’.”

“Mmm.” Squall trailed kisses
back to those luscious lips, a gasp catching in his throat as the cowboy rocked
against him, grinding mercilessly in a way that made his eyes roll back at the
pleasure, “M-maybe you should…” His breath caught again, and he clutched at Irvine’s shoulders, “Sh
-should do something about… bout it…”

He was shivering, and
clutching, and gasping in the cowboy’s hands. It was safe to say Irvine had stolen back
control. Kissing the panting the brunette lazily as gun-sure hands mirrored the
Commander’s earlier actions, he divested Squall of his jacket, casting it aside
to pool on the floor, neither of them caring quite where. Then those hands were
sliding under his tee, tugging it up and over his head, expecting his
compliance in unspoken commands, compliance he was only to happy to give.

Hair mussed, eyes glazed,
cheeks and lips flushed, bared chest heaving. He knew he must look a sight to
the Galbadian gazing at him, and yet the look wasn’t
one of amusement, or disinterest. It wasn’t even mild interest; it was raw
hunger suppressed behind quiet appreciation, as if he was looking on something
to be treasured, not the scarred and battered pale torso of his Commander and
friend.

“You’re gorgeous.”
Breathed with such an air of awe he knew it wasn’t a lie and yet hadn’t the
ability to believe it, instead he leant in for another kiss and was surprised
at the response. It wasn’t a heated and fiery meeting. The overwhelming need
and want wasn’t there. Instead it was tender and gentle and reminded him of
their kiss beneath the mistletoe just hours ago. For a moment, there was just
softness, almost innocence, in the joining of their mouths, and he could push
away the need concentrated in his constraining pants and focus on this
sweetness that seemed to matter so much more somehow.

And then that moment was
over, the searing yearning returned, and the passion increased, and everything
was suddenly so much faster and hotter. His back was arching as Irvine encouraged him to
lean back, a breathy moan echoing from his lips as a talented mouth abused his
nipples, licking and biting and sucking until he was sore and yet the pleasure
still felt so good, if not better, for that edging of pain.

He tried to suggest they
move, he tried to voice the idea the bed was a better place, and yet all that
seemed to emerge from his bruised lips were breathy gasps and purrs of
contentment at the attentions he was receiving. He could only presume the
cowboy must have had the same idea, for he was still trying to find his voice
as the sharpshooter picked him up, hands clasping his ass cheeks firmly and
squeezing in a way that would have seemed lecherous from anyone else. Limbs
entwining round his bearer, he found himself carried without hesitation through
to the bedroom where their explorations could continue.

He was unceremoniously
dumped on the bed, but a warm and willing body over his and eager hands freeing
his trapped sex put paid to any protests he may have voiced at the treatment.
He’d complain later, a lot later. Distractedly, he raised his hips as his
trousers were eased down, revealing the complete lack of underwear he wore. But
at that point, all he could think was ‘mm’, and that it may even be years until
he complained in any way, shape, or form if Irvine just kept doing that thing with his
tongue to his navel.

Irvine, unfortunately,
didn’t continue; he pulled away, taking the brunette’s trousers, socks and
shoes with him. Squall would later be grateful he was at the time too busy not
pouting at the loss of body heat to remember to feel self-conscious that he was
sprawled naked with a very obvious erection before his friend–or was that lover
now? Instead of blushing and feeling at all flustered, he went from annoyed at Irvine’s withdrawal to riveted
as the cowboy began to slowly slide his black
tailored trousers inch by inch down his lovely long legs. All the while, Irvine was studying him
and he knew it, yet he didn’t care. He was too busy exploring the Galbadian with his own gaze.

Propped up on his elbows,
he watched the slow striptease, licking his lips appreciatively as everything
came into view. He not at all disappointed by what was on
offer.
In fact he couldn’t be happier though the sheer size inspired
some awe. The whole cowboy-horse link should’ve had him prepared really he
supposed. Smiling, a real full one this time, he murmured, “You
are the beautiful one Kinneas.”

Irvine just smiled, the
slow sexy smile that melted just about every part of a man’s body but one,
which twitched to demonstrate it’s utmost interest in
the matters at hand.

For all the times Squall
had heard himself compared to a cat, the fabled Lion of Balamb, it was the
sharpshooter crawling over the bed towards him now who had the feline grace.
There was an utterly predatory air to Irvine’s
movements that made him groan all on its own. At that moment, he was content to
simply watch and admire the advance. A smile tugged at his lips as he noted Irvine, such a good boy
scout, had come prepared; a small tube being deposited on the pillow beside his
head before his would-be lover covered him once more and the blessed feel of
skin on skin captured him.

The kisses now were lazy
again, coupled with a slow grinding against one another fuelling their arousal
as mouths met with wet sounds, tongues tangling and parting in a tireless
dance. Squall thought for a moment, that perhaps he’d found heaven, and yet he
knew there was much more.

The pace suited him, the
build up each time, only to ease back again, savouring
their first coupling. Yet the need was still building, an ever-present itch
that had roots months old and demanded to be scratched. It was that which
provoked a noise akin to begging or pleading and yet not verbal from his lips,
that led his hips to grind up against Irvine’s
insistently, determined he’d be understood and his desire sated.

And he was, the gorgeous
man over him obliging. There was a lingering kiss imparted before Irvine shuffled back,
slicking his fingers and urging Squall’s legs apart. It was a request he could
easily comply with, lazy and relaxed as he was. The first finger slipping
inside didn’t pain him, the second caused only mild discomfort, and the third
little worse than the second.

Irvine, it seemed, wasn’t
to be quite as accommodating as he’d hoped though. Rather than withdrawing the
fingers and giving Squall what he craved, he seemed content to finger fuck the
brunette slowly, watching him writhe and moan as his prostate was hit repeatedly.

Squall could find no
breath, no voice to complain with. All that mattered was that it felt so good,
spots exploding in front of his vision with each brush and low almost desperate
sounds issuing forth from him. In that instant he just let go of any remaining
control, giving in to Irvine.

That, it became apparent,
was what the cowboy had been waiting for. With Squall’s surrender, he withdrew
his fingers leaving the brunette momentarily at a loss once more before he felt
the head of Irvine’s
shaft pressing against his stretched entrance. A slight push back, an
acceptance, was all the further encouragement the Galbadian
needed. Squall’s entire attention was focused on Irvine sliding forward, filling him and
leaving him feeling more complete than he ever had before. While it hurt, it
was as it had been before, that slight edge of pain making a beautifully
enjoyable contrast to the absolute pleasure he felt. Pleasure he was sharing if
the look Irvine
had was anything to go by.

It was obvious the cowboy
was holding back, trying to stay still and give Squall time to adjust, but in
truth, the brunette wanted none of it. He wanted the ache the morning would
bring because it would be a reminder that it wasn’t a dream. He wanted that
tracing of pain that accentuated the utter ecstasy having Irvine inside him brought. So he clenched his
sphincter muscles, tightening around the hot length that pierced him and
eliciting a throb in response. All that sounded from the cowboy’s lips before
he gave in and began to thrust was a low groan betraying his enjoyment.

Slow, deep, and angled to
rake over that spot with every stroke. Irvine
had found the perfect pace and Squall knew he’d never last long. Still though,
he greeted each impalement, rocking back to meet the cowboy as he was ground
into. Helplessly he let the moans and the sighs, the purrs and the gasps, the
groans and the softly spoken cries all escape without any effort at
suppression. He’d surrendered voluntarily, he’d taken Irvine’s challenge and he’d given in and he’d
let the man have his reward. Perhaps after tonight things might be awkward,
perhaps after tonight roles would reverse, perhaps it would be a battle of
wills on future occasions. None of that mattered in this moment, just this
once, on Christmas Eve, he was giving in. Every sound, every smile, it was all
there for the cowboy to take in and preserve if he wished.

Squall did smile too,
smiles as lazy as the pace Irvine
had set them, still visible in his eyes as the cowboy claimed his lips time and
time again. Their passion and fervour varied in a way
their lovemaking didn’t. The brunette found that his orgasm, so long held at
bay built slowly as they moved together. And for that unhurried build up he
felt it all the more when it finally hit him. When white
light seemed to explode behind closed eyelids and he felt himself tightening
and trembling about Irvine’s
length. Found himself spilling into the golden skinned
hand that had barely touched him before he was tipped over the edge.

He didn’t pass out. He did
know he’d come close though, and it was another smile, unguarded in the
afterglow, that bloomed on his lips as he felt Irvine’s release warm inside
him. The cowboy had come barely moments after Squall, pulled over the edge by
the rhythmic clenching of the channel he was buried in, and shuddering with the
force of it, a force that the brunette felt sure matched his own. He didn’t
think there were words to describe how incredible it had felt, and how dazed
and sated and indescribably happy he was as he lay there beneath the panting Galbadian
. His own breathing uneven, he gasped in air as he
came down from such a high he might’ve forgotten anything ever lay back down
below.

In some corner of his mind
he knew they should clean up, but really all he wanted to do was curl against
his new lover under the covers and sleep. So when Irvine shifted to his side, a strong arm
wrapping about his waist and pulling him into the taller body, he went without
resistance, burrowing into the warmth with a soft, “Merry Christmas, Kinneas
.”

He felt more than saw the
smile, eyes already heavy with sleep and drooping closed, a smile of his own
refusing to budge from his lips as he heard the response before he drifted off
completely, “Merry Christmas, Darlin’.”

~The End~






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