Just keep walking.
I've come a long way. I've been to a lot of places. I've met a lot of people.
Killed some. Made friends of some. Heh.
And it's over. Isn't it?
We killed her, didn't we?
What happened to Seifer?
My first memory of Seifer, appropriately enough, involved a bed and a battle. It was the day after laundry day, and Matron had asked us to put clean sheets on all by ourselves, and when we'd done she said mine was the neatest.
He spent the next hour remaking his and asking her, again and again, if it was better than mine yet. Eventually she said it was. And I hated him. So I hit him.
I hit him first.
Not many people know that.
It took Matron and Irvine and Quistis to separate us. Yeah, of course I remember Irvine. I lied, that day, back in Trabia. Well, I couldn't give that much away. It would have meant too much to him, and I didn't want to draw attention to how I felt. Even then.
I've come a long way. I can go a bit further.
Is this about a choice, a decision?
What path to take?
Decisions. I'm used to those.
So, what happened with Seifer?
I remember the first time I saw Seifer at Garden. I'd been there a week or so, I guess. I'd gotten into a routine, of sorts. Got up, went to breakfast, ate alone, went to class, extra training at lunchtime, afternoon class, more training, shower, dinner, back to my room. Read. Think. Sleep.
Seifer took it upon himself to disrupt my routine whenever he could. He waited for me after class, teased me, goaded me, made it his mission to force me to lose my temper. I hated it. I hated him. I didn't want to fight anyone. I didn't want to be near anyone. I just wanted to be alone. Seifer dragged me out into the nightmare of society. He made me fight with him, talk to him, think about him. And other people saw us, heard us, and then they suddenly had an opinion about me. Noticed me.
Hated me, probably.
Eventually I got used to it. I never avoided it, funnily enough. If the disciplinary committee was where I wanted to be, I never changed my mind and went a different way, like Zell. I just worked through it, whatever Seifer had in mind to make me mad. Got through to the other side.
Until one day, a year to the day before I became a SeeD, he found a new way to make me hate him.
He made me feel good.
It was a rest afternoon, and I'd managed to sneak back alone after lunch without bumping into him. Or so I thought.
He was waiting for me in my room, sitting on my bed, bold as anything. Somehow Fuujin had found out how to hack the entry code, and let him in.
I told him to get out, of course.
I was always telling people to get out of my life. Still am, really. Only they never listen.
He refused. He said he wanted to talk to me, which I found hard to believe. He would have got more back from a blank wall. But he must have known that. Maybe that's what he wanted, someone to listen to him without talking back. Without talking at all.
I took my clothes off first.
Not many people know that.
I just told him I was getting changed, whether he liked it or not. I half hoped he would go away. But only half. I'd seen how he looked at me, and for all that I wanted to be alone, I wanted him, too. We'd got to a stalemate on the battlefield, and I was tired of bruises and sprains and getting in trouble for fighting. This was a new place to go.
Another step. Another choice.
I could have undressed around the corner of the room, by the closet, out of his sightline. But that wasn't gonna happen. I stood in front of him, and took off my uniform jacket, slung it over the back of my chair. Watching him, all the time. I crossed my arms in front of me, picked up the bottom of my shirt and pulled it up, dragging it over my head in slow motion, like a stripper. Shook out my hair, all messy and ragged and falling in my eyes. Teasing him.
I didn't take my eyes off him, not once. I started to undo my pants, paused with the fly just open, crossed over to him and stood there. Challenged him.
"You're not talking, Seifer," I said.
He made this weird kind of strangled noise in his throat, and grabbed me, ripped the pants down to my knees and looked. Just looked.
I waited. My cock was hard, twitching under his gaze. He had a kind of sneer on his face; somehow he'd managed to convince himself he was superior to me, whatever the evidence might have been. It shouldn't matter that I'm bigger than him, and hell, it's not by much. But it did matter, then. I was barely sixteen, after all. And he was taller than me, so it counted double. Heh.
He wanted it. I could tell.
But like everything with Seifer, it had to be on his terms. He wouldn't, ever, be taken. He always had to take. He told me to finish stripping, as he pulled his own clothes off. He pushed me down, between his knees, watched me as I took his cock in my mouth; it tasted better than I'd expected: good, even, salty and warm. He wouldn't let me move much, he clutched my head to keep it still while he slid in and out, jumped about a foot when I cupped his balls in my hand. I thought he'd come down my throat, I was trying to decide whether to swallow, or to pull back; but he had something else in mind.
"Shit, you're good at that. You ever been fucked, Leonhart?"
I didn't answer. Of course, I hadn't. I hadn't been touched, anywhere, except in combat, or by the Doc, for months, years maybe. Plus, to be honest, I was still reeling a little from the fact that he'd paid me a compliment. That was a whole new experience.
"You wanna be fucked?" he asked again.
I shrugged. "Whatever." I knew that would wind him up, and sure enough, there was the flicker of annoyance across his face. It didn't last long, though.
"I'm gonna fuck you, Leonhart, and I'm gonna make you care. And that's a promise." I wondered why he'd used that word. Care. It seemed alien on his lips. Maybe he meant to say come and it just came out wrong. Guess I'll never know.
His grip on my head slackened, he pulled his fingers almost gently though my hair.
I looked at him, his eyes glittering at me, his body all muscle and strength. I've always been leaner than him, just as strong but less bulky, a lion to his bull. The difference was appealing. I wanted him.
He kissed me, then. Pulled me to him and took my mouth, his lips and tongue firm and tellingly desperate. I'd found what I was looking for. I knew, now, why he followed me round all the time, why he fought me at every opportunity. I made him feel vulnerable. He cared about me. He wanted me.
This was the ultimate weapon, all I could ask for. So I kissed him back, moaned a little and pressed my body against his. I let him push me on the bed, on my front - that was a surprise, I'd thought he'd want to see my face, but I guess he didn't want me to see his, frightened that I'd know too much. He pulled my hips up, so I was on all fours, greased me with something - I didn't know what, I was a virgin, after all, I didn't know how it all worked, exactly. He was considerate, really, but it still hurt. It hurt a lot. I made damn sure not to let it show, but I think he knew. He slid in slowly, and waited for me to adjust to him. Eventually, I started to relax and it got better; he reached round and took my cock in his hand, and, with surprising gentleness, started to stroke. That distracted me, as he started to move, and I started to get into it.
"Fuck, Leonhart, you're so tight so good so hot damn, but this feels good "
He was right. It did feel good. It didn't take long, for either of us. I came first: he knew what he was doing, jerking me off in strong, even strokes, whispering in my ear, kissing my neck, pulling my head back by my hair to make everything feel tight, forcing my eyes open. I spattered over my own bed, not caring, and it must have pushed him over the edge because he was right after me, pulling out at the last minute and spurting over my naked back.
He collapsed on top of me for a moment, before I threw him off and he landed on the floor.
We laughed. Well, he laughed. My shoulders shook a little, which is as close as I get to laughing, most of the time.
We fucked like rabbits for the next couple of months; everywhere, the riskier the better: the showers, the training centre, the chocobo forest I still can't believe we never got caught. We did it in bed too, sometimes, and once, just once, he talked me into staying the night.
I didn't sleep, couldn't sleep, with his body next to mine. Warm, breathing, living. I longed to be alone, frightened of losing myself altogether in all that warmth and breath. I realised, then, that I was close to loving him.
That scared me more than anything I'd ever fought; suddenly losing my advantage like that. Somehow the tables had turned: without noticing it, I'd started to look forward to the touch of his fingers on my naked skin, the sound of his voice when he crept up on me, his laughter. He laughed a lot, back then.
I couldn't let it happen.
I refused to sleep with him again. We still fucked, from time to time, but I made sure I was damn busy training, and when we were together I concentrated on the physical pleasure, the joy of getting off. I had rules, to keep my love locked inside. I never made the first move. I never touched him skin to skin except when he was naked. I never kissed him before he kissed me.
Eventually, even that wasn't enough to save me, he was getting through to me and I was nearly ready to surrender, to throw myself into his arms and live.
And then, just before I was finally his, he ended it.
He never knew how close he'd been to getting what he really wanted.
It made it easy for me to hate him again.
It's just another road.
I can do this. I can survive, if I want to.
Do I want to survive?
So, what happened after Seifer?
It made it easier, Seifer dumping me like that. Everything closed down, like a tortoise going into hibernation, or a slightly leaky tap just turned off; the feelings slowed down, bit by bit, drip, drip and stopped. I went back to my routine, avoiding Seifer unless there was an opportunity to try beating the crap out of him. Threw myself into training like a man possessed, dragging Quistis out for extra practice whenever I could.
Quistis. Oh Quistis, what have I put you through? Or Zell? Bright little Selphie?
Poor, brave Selphie, determined not to give into Ultimecia. Even when she couldn't stand up anymore, she wouldn't stop fighting, casting spell after spell through gritted teeth, until finally she had nothing left.
I wonder where she is now? Is she OK? Are any of them OK? Did I fail them?
Do I care, really? Or is it just fate?
Will they remember me?
I don't want to be just a memory.
I'm not sure when I realised I had friends, it crept up on me, unbidden and unnoticed. Quistis had always been around, but she was my Instructor, so that was to be expected. It was a shock to find her still around after I made SeeD, though.
I couldn't save her from Greiver, either. I had to choose: she was wounded so fast, up and fighting one minute, almost unconscious on the floor the next. And I had to choose. I had a perfect shot, Lionheart buzzing in my hand, I knew I could finish Greiver forever or I could heal Quistis. Rinoa looked at me, I knew she couldn't get a spell ready in time.
So I took the shot, and let Quistis go down.
And Zell, who I only encountered in the hotdog queue before, was suddenly by my side every waking minute. Driving me insane with his constant chatter. Like he was supposed to be an antidote for me, or something. Like Selphie, with all that cheerful bouncing around all over the place.
Zell went down with one blow from Ultimecia. My choice. Again. Him or Rinoa: both of them bleeding to death in front of me, and only time for one cure.
Sorry, Zell. It had to be her. She had the power we needed to finish the thing. You only had your fists. It wasn't enough.
I hated them, at first. They were just all so damn nice. I didn't want nice. Didn't deserve it. I knew I'd miss it if it wasn't there. And I couldn't face that kind of hurt again. But they persisted, and persisted, and insisted on being so nice
Rinoa was a pleasant surprise, at first. Hopelessly incompetent, but at least she didn't get on my back all the time. Well, not to start with.
That soon changed.
I still don't really know what Rinoa wants. I understand better how to be her knight, than her friend, or whatever else she might want. I could be her knight forever; it's not that different from being a mercenary. Or a hero.
Am I a hero? I don't feel like one.
There are rules, to being a Knight. It's like a mission: anchor your sorceress, whatever happens. She is linked to you, no matter what. You use that link to keep her tied to reality, to the good person inside all that power and magic. I found that I knew instinctively what it meant, I never had to worry about it. She wears my ring, a reminder of the link between us: not love, not that sort of love. Loyalty, friendship, balance. And hell, I can even talk to her, sometimes. She's a good listener, she'll listen forever, even if you don't say anything.
Which is what listening to me usually involves.
It's not that I've got nothing to say.
I'm coming to the edge, I know it. This is an island.
There's no way off.
No escape, no exit, no long path leading through the stars.
Is this it, then?
I'm not walking anymore.
This is decision time.
I don't want to be just a memory.
I don't want to leave them behind.
But do they need me, really? Without me they could live their own lives, be happy, without a storm cloud always over their heads. They could be friends to each other, without me always spoiling the party. They'd look after Irvine.
What would happen to Irvine?
First time I met Irvine, I wanted to smile. Really, really smile, foolishly, like Zell does when he's got the last hotdog in the canteen, or Selphie when she's just blown something up.
It wasn't just his looks, although the whole cowboy thing is pretty irresistible, and the hair, oh that hair, and the eyes it was more than that. It was the sheer audacity of the man, so proud of his skill with a gun, all over the girls like a rash. He was larger than life, a living fantasy.
Which was okay. I'm only human, after all. I like a little eye-candy around as much as the next man.
It was in the tower at Deling, though, that I started to fall in love.
I couldn't believe he could choke like that, after all we'd been through. I hated him for making me help him. I didn't want to help him. That meant I had to get inside his head, and damn but it felt good in there, hearing him, a wash of empathy and compassion that nearly drowned me. I respected him, for being able to talk about his fear in a way I could never even imagine doing.
Of course, later I realised it was a lie; he had never choked before, and he's just fine under pressure.
Fuck, who wouldn't freeze if they'd been asked to shoot the first person they ever remembered loving them?
But anyway, true or half true, it pulled me in.
I don't know if he knew then, or if that came later. I think it came later. But I knew, and it tortured me, whether I was awake or asleep; he'd turned on the tap, my feelings were flowing again, sputtering at first, choked and intermittent, until the first time I saw him nearly die.
We were in Galbadia Garden: his old home, ironically enough. He showed me his room, bare now, abandoned. He didn't seem to have many happy memories of the place, but he did appear to have had a lot of friends; friends he'd recently had to fight and maybe kill. It hurt him, more than he knew, that he always seemed to be asked to kill the people he loved.
It was Seifer who almost killed him.
I think Seifer knew, about Irvine. Even though I didn't, properly, then. Seifer could tell I'd changed. Hell, it was plain to see, I was there, challenging him, with a posse twice the size of his.
Irvine told me later he'd seen Seifer and me in the desert prison. Watched as Seifer made me go down on him, one last time. That's why he ran, why Rinoa had to make him turn back. He has a jealous streak a mile wide. But I didn't know that, then.
I was ready to face Seifer, that day in Galbadia, I wanted it to myself, I didn't want to share the fight. But by then I was used to the others butting in. I told them to use magic, to steal his, anything, but to leave the fight to me. They did as they were told, mostly.
That's what almost got Irvine killed.
I forgot them, in that blind rage I always feel around Seifer. I'd been getting pretty good at the teamwork, up to that point, but Seifer always brings out the worst in me. I just forgot there was anyone else there.
Seifer was always more imaginative in his cruelty than I could ever be. He knew we could fight dawn 'til dusk and neither of us win. The balance of the equation was the people with us. He had no-one, then. I had Irvine and Quistis by my side, Rinoa, Zell and Selphie backing up. And, of course, he knew.
So his best shot, his most damaging spell, never came my way at all. He took down Irvine, slash, shot, bang, on the floor, bleeding, still trying to fire his own fucking gun, the idiot, wanting to kill Seifer back more than he wanted to live himself.
It turned out to be a big mistake, for Seifer. Irvine's shot rang true; how, I'll never know, but it brought me out of white hot anger and into calm, icy hatred. Quistis threw a spell at him while I cured Irvine, filling his beautiful body with my magic, and then I turned to Seifer and savaged him.
This time I didn't forget I wasn't alone. I set up openings Seifer wouldn't expect, goaded him into position, making him think he had me beat, drawing all his focus to me, just to me
Bang. Crack. Down.
I looked at Irvine, pale but breathing, wonderful, warm breath, alive. He grinned at me. Not a grateful smile, no pathos or irony. Just that damn wide sexy grin that makes me want to pull him down on the ground and
That was when the tap went full on, and the flow was strong, and steady, and timeless and endless.
Or so I thought.
What am I supposed to do now?
I thought after we killed Ultimecia, that would be it. Home, safe, dry. I even dared harbour a hope that Selphie and Zell and Quistis were okay.
Are they okay? I didn't leave them to die.
I didn't expect this.
What am I supposed to do now?
Is it a choice?
Is this because I don't love Rinoa?
Is that what I did wrong?
Is it Irvine?
It wasn't long after Seifer nearly killed him that I first ended up in Irvine's bed.
Not many people know that.
I felt bad about Rinoa, I wasn't sure what to do, and it all got to me, big time. I hadn't even seen her go to Seifer, I was lost in Irvine and that grin
Irvine found me in the Infirmary, by Rinoa's side. I knew I had a bond with Rinoa, that our lives were tangled together somehow. I missed her, probably more than I should have done. But I didn't love her, and that felt strange, somehow. Too many fairy tales as a kid, I expect. Waking the sleeping princess with a kiss
I might even have tried it, just to see if it worked.
I told Irvine that, when he asked me what I was thinking. I thought he'd laugh at me. But he didn't. It wouldn't work, he said. It only works if the prince loves the princess with all his heart.
He knew I didn't love Rinoa.
I just wanted to hear her listening to me again.
He wrapped me in strong arms, and kissed my hair. It didn't feel like it was the first time he'd done it, more like we were already lovers, had been forever. It felt right, good, comfortable, and at the same time more scary and exciting than anything I'd ever felt before.
Corny, eh? But then, the best feelings often are, aren't they?
He led me back to his room, not far up the corridor from mine. It was bare, back then; he'd only slept there a few times. Irvine collects clutter, I found out later. He loves souvenirs; ordinary stuff, really, like keeping the label from a bottle of beer after a good night out, or old bits of gun that have been replaced during an upgrade. He prints out emails from his friends and pins them on his corkboard, with photos and postcards and silly doodles that Selphie does for him. He has a lock of my hair in an old cartridge box, in his drawer.
But back then, it was bare.
I didn't feel in control, but I don't think he did, either. We had the conversation, about who'd done what before, and I guess he'd done more than me. Well, sex with girls, for a start, not just men. Not just Seifer.
He told me I was a virgin. That sex with Seifer didn't count, because Seifer couldn't possibly have known how to love me.
That was true, I found out later. I didn't know what love was, when I was with Seifer.
Irvine showed me.
He wouldn't let me hide. He unwrapped my body from my clothes like a gift, telling me I was beautiful and sexy and he loved me. He got in my head and made me believe it.
I didn't know what to do with any of that, then. But he taught me.
He kissed me on the lips first, soft, almost chaste, just the faintest hint of his tongue. I would have died for those kisses.
I would have died.
I would die.
I came to live for those kisses.
He ran his hands over my body, bringing every nerve ending to life, pressing every button, including all the ones I hadn't known I had: like the ticklish spot at the back of my neck, the sensitive flesh of my belly, the base of my spine. When he'd done with his hands he covered the best bits all over again with his mouth, kissing and licking until I squirmed under him, the tension building to such a height that I had to stretch my body out, just to cope with it.
When he finally touched my cock, I thought I'd come right away, but he knew better. His wrapped strong fingers around me and bathed me with his tongue, sensuous as a cat, licking and sucking, hot, wet, perfection.
He didn't ask me if I wanted to be fucked.
It wasn't like fucking, anyway. Not like what I thought fucking was.
He asked me if I'd ever used Elixir, and when I looked confused, he was delighted. He loved initiating me. In anything, from food sex to Trabian brandy to harmony singing in the shower.
He liked doing things with me that Seifer would never dream of.
He poured Elixir over his beautiful cock, then he held his erection over mine and kept pouring, so it cascaded from him to me in glorious multicoloured streams, tingling and warming our flesh. We rubbed our fingers in it, and gods, but his cock felt good in my hand, curving naturally to nestle in my grip, like it was made just for me.
We almost got carried away then, it all felt so good, we could both have come just from bathing in each others' touch, and died happy.
But Irvine knew it would only get better.
He slid into me with a groan that made me realise his restraint hadn't been as effortless as it had looked. He really, really wanted me. It wouldn't have mattered, actually. He could have come that minute, and I would have been five seconds behind him, and it wouldn't have mattered. I found out later that I could make that happen, that there are things I can do to him that even he can't resist, but that day, that first time, Irvine was determined to make it perfect. So he did.
He filled me with hard heat, looked down at me, panting a little, with such a grin on his face I realised I was grinning back, almost laughing just with the pure pleasure of the moment.
And that was before he started to move.
He experimented with different angles, different thrusts; just as his hands had explored me on the outside, he searched for the best places on the inside, the best pressure to hit my pleasure centre and make me writhe under him. He didn't touch my cock, though, and he wouldn't let me touch it, either. I was surprised, but I trusted him, even though my balls were threatening to explode.
When he came he only closed his eyes for a second, just that one involuntary blink. The rest of the time his gaze was locked to mine, so I could see every ripple of pleasure, every sound forming in his throat as he flooded me, his hair tickling my face, his body so strong and so vulnerable, all at once.
He slid out of me quickly, before he went soft, and I was disappointed at first; I'd hoped that he'd carry on long enough to make me come. But he had something else in mind. He rolled me over on top of him, kissing me deep, tasting of elixir and honey, and before I realised what was happening I was half kneeling between his spread legs and my erection was nudging at him.
I hadn't expected that. At all. I'd never thought much about being anything other than uke; Seifer would never have tolerated the thought, and Irvine was the experienced one here.
"Take me," he whispered.
I pushed a little, felt the delicious resistance, checked I wasn't hurting him. He smiled at me, pushing my fringe back from my face so he could keep those clear violet eyes on mine, and rolled his hips up to make it easier for me. I slid inside him thinking my heart would break, it felt so good, hot and tight and hard and easy and intimate.
He let me find my own way, my own rhythm, and I just watched him, learning more about him with every stroke. I didn't have long, I knew, but it was enough to start with. Next time, I'd be able to learn more. And the next time after that, and the next, and the next
When I came, buried deep inside his beautiful, hot, pulsing body, I spoke his name, and make sure he heard it.
Quistis told me at a drunken party, once, that the first time she'd made love with someone she'd cried, it was so beautiful. No, I don't know who it was, I don't think I even answered her at the time. That was in the old days.
Irvine and I didn't cry, or laugh. We just lay in each others' arms, stroking each other's hair, kissing from time to time, like we had just got home from a long trip, knowing this was where we were supposed to be.
I'm on my knees now. Can't stand any more.
Funny, I never thought it would end like this. I thought maybe Ulitimecia would kill me, and that's what I thought failure would taste like.
Not like this.
I can't just lay down and die, can I?
I want to go home
I thought I saw something, just then. A trick of the light? A feather?
Please... I want to go home...
Bring me home.
He clutched Squall's ring in his hand. This had better work. Rinoa had promised it would work. And she should know, surely?
Then he saw him, lying there, in the grit and dirt. This was all wrong. Squall surely wasn't meant to die alone. Of all things, he shouldn't be alone. Not anymore. Not now.
But he knew, deep down, that Squall couldn't be dead, even if he had stopped breathing.
He knelt down and cradled his head in his strong arms, lifted his shoulders a little.
He knew what to do.
He leaned over, and kissed his love on the lips, soft, almost chaste, with just the faintest hint of his tongue. He felt a little shudder of life in return, as the body in his arms came back to life; there was sweet, sweet breath mingling with his, lips coming warm again, sharing the kiss.
The grit and dirt faded to flowers, and Irvine brought Squall home.
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