Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to the Final Fantasy series. They belong to Squaresoft.

Let Me Make It Alright

Chapter 32: Here... Always

By Angry Angel

Seifer had spent the following ten or fifteen minutes simply steadying Squall through flows of tears, choked whispers and frantic breathing. There wasn't much more for him to do than that. He didn't have much experience in comforting others, so he could only hope and pray that he was doing the right thing.

In the end, Squall's energy didn't last and he once again fell silent and calm in the blonde's strong embrace. Seifer remained motionless a little longer, his arms firmly locked around Squall's wet and shivering torso. Finally, he removed his head from the place on the brunette's right shoulder that it had been resting on, and he withdrew his hands.

"Squall," he whispered croakily through the water that had been running all throughout Squall's weeping, "Hey..."

With all the gentleness he could muster, he placed his hands against the rounds of his friend's shoulders and carefully maneuvered him with his back against the slippery walls. To his surprise, Squall didn't avoid eye contact and was staring at him out of wide, tear-reddened pools of liquid steel. The glow that Seifer had noticed in them earlier was still there, and had in fact intensified. Like the setting sun reflecting in the still depths of a dust blue sea, Squall's eyes were glowing so forcefully that it was starting to unsettle the blonde.

"Squall?"

He cocked his head and impatiently swiped away some droopy strands of hair that hung into his tanned face. Squall merely stared at him, his legs now drawn to his chest and his arms curled loosely about them. Seifer shifted his weight into a more comfortable position, not bothering much to retain at least some privacy. His sole concern was Squall, not how much of his privates the brunette could or could not see. It didn't look like his younger companion saw much in the first place, anyway. His eerie gaze was blank and out of focus.

"Squall?"

Hesitantly, Seifer wrapped one hand around Squall's chin and jaw, moving his head up as he carefully leaned into him to examine his friend's condition further. Squall's eyes did follow his movements, but the brunette remained silent. Just as Seifer's anxious face was only inches from Squall's, the younger suddenly broke his stupor and cocked his head aside too, mirroring the older's curious expression.

"Shit, Squall!"

Seifer jerked his hand and face away immediately at the unexpected reaction and almost slipped on the wet tiles. Growling, he looked up at his friend, finding him in the same unusual position and sniffling rather loudly through his nose. Something was definitely not quite right.

After a brief struggle for his equilibrium, he kneeled down in front of the SeeD commander again and sighed.

"Man, you are one weird..."

And suddenly, it dawned him.

Immediately, his eyes narrowed to slits of emerald green as his hand lashed back out and found the slicked skin of Squall's forehead. The brunette rolled his vision up curiously to watch what the blonde was doing, but bounced back to Seifer himself the moment that the older broke out into an angry gush of curse words.

"Fuck! Fuck, you are such a fucking dumbass, Almasy!"

Still swearing, Seifer scrambled onto his feet with harsh, uncontrolled movements. Without hesitation, he bent down and pulled the sitting SeeD up, ignoring Squall's confused protests. As soon as he was able to steady Squall with one arm and rest assured that he would not slump down again right away, he used his other to turn off the stream of hot water.

"He... hey..." a croaky voice suddenly whispered with just the slighest shading of protest.

His head swivelled around to stare at Squall, who had wrapped his arms around his upper body and stood shivering while his lips were jutting into a pout like Seifer had never seen one before.

'Oh my god.'

"Squall, fuck, you've got a fever! You can't stay in the hot water."

The whole concept of a fever was apparently beyond the delirious boy's understanding, since there was no change in either his posture or his expression.

"C... cold."

"I know, I'm sorry, just stay here, I'll be right back!"

Sighing (and twitching at the cold air), Seifer jumped out of the shower. He let the curtain fall close behind him and grabbed a pair of towels. One he wrapped around his waist, the other, a particularly fluffy one, he unfolded and held in one hand. With his other, he drew aside the curtain, much to Squall's disapproval.

"I..."

"Shhh, just come here."

He spread the towel and curled it around Squall's slender frame, gently rubbing his arms and back. Squall was still pouting while he stepped outside the basin, but at least he willingly followed the blonde's ushering.

"Come on."

As quickly as Squall's stumbling steps allowed, he led him into the bedroom and to the only dry bed that was left: Seifer's. The brunette's own was still damp from Squall laying on it, smelling faintly like rain and mud.

"Sit down."

Edgily, the young SeeD lowered himself onto the edge of the mattress, now clutching the towel tightly around his figure.

"Stay there."

Seifer was sick of giving orders, but he was too mad at himself for his earlier slacking. He should have read the signs better; staying underneath the hot shower for so long had probably only worsened Squall's condition. No wonder the brunette was acting like his former whiny five-year-old self, his temperature had to be sky rocketing high. Mentally and physically, Seifer wanted to kick himself.

He returned to the bathroom and retrieved another towel, with which he started to rub Squall's hair and every part of his body that was not already covered. The brunette merely stared at him curiously, every now and then stirred by a cough or a sneeze.

"Are you cold?" Seifer finally asked, while looking down upon the miserable heap.

"I... I don't know," Squall tried truthfully.

To Seifer, that was answer enough. The tall gunblader draped the extra towel around Squall's shoulders, then left to go through his own dresser. He whipped up a large, heavy blue sweater, then left the drawers open and proceeded to Squall's closet, from which he retrieved a pair of thick, light grey shorts. Both items he handed to the watchful boy.

"Here, can you put these on? I need to get dressed, too."

Squall nodded, but looked down upon the clothes in his hand.

"That's not mine..."

"I know, but it's the warmest damn thing I have. Just put it on, you'll like it."

Finally, Squall complied and clumsily managed to slip into the shorts, while Seifer had turned around and put on a sweater and long jogging pants. Still frowning, he took all of their towels and returned them to the bathroom, where he picked up a fresh set, a bowl with cold water as well as Squall's extensive first aid kit. When he stepped back and cast a look at his companion, his frown immediately softened at the sight of Squall sitting shyly in his much too large navy blue shirt. It was Seifer's favourite, terribly warm and cosy, and he didn't think that anyone could possibly look any cuter in it than the slender dark haired gunblader did.

"Silly..." he sighed, "Lay down, okay?"

While Squall complied with the calm order instantly and slipped underneath the covers, Seifer placed the bowl with water on the nightstand and adjusted his focus back to his friend. The sheets were blood stained where Squall had grabbed them, leaving crimson spots on the silken white fabric. Seifer lowered himself onto the edge of the bed and flipped Squall's arms over, revealing the oozing cuts in the palms of his hands.

"I'll take care of those in a minute," he explained, more to himself than anyone else, "Your fever is more important for now."

Gently, he placed a towel each underneath the brunette's hands, and then bent down to retrieve a thermometer from the first aid case. After pushing a tiny button, he motioned Squall to open his mouth and slipped the thermometer underneath the gunblader's tongue. Mere seconds later, the device gave a soft beep and Seifer took it again, looking at the display anxiously.

"Fuck."

The fact that he read the blurry digits "41 C" did not appeal to the blonde at all. In fact, he was downright worried. He had never treated a fever that high, and he wasn't entirely sure that he could. It was no surprise that Squall had been practically hallucinating, just because he hadn't been paying any attention. After trying so hard to raise Squall's body temperature, he could now struggle to lower it again. Seifer wanted to smack himself up the head.

In his flaring fever, Squall completely misread the upset expression on Seifer's glowing features and bit his lips painfully.

"I... I'm sorry..." he whispered.

Seifer tore his gaze from the thermometer and stared at Squall in a blank.

"What?"

"I'm sorry..."

The blonde groaned softly and placed the first aid kit aside. He grasped a wash cloth and dipped it into the bowl with chilled water, before placing it on Squall's forehead and zeroing his gaze in on the younger man's insecure eyes, which were probably drowning in the bluest shade that Seifer had ever seen them.

"You've got nothing to be sorry for, Squall," he smiled, "Just relax."

He cracked a small smirk and shifted around slightly to retrieve some gauze, bandages and antiseptic cream. Ever so carefully, he started to clean Squall's wounds, applied the cream and skilfully wrapped the SeeD's almost translucent hands with the white bandages. By the time he was done, Squall looked very detached from reality again, as if floating somewhere between sleep and consciousness. Seifer pushed the thermometer underneath the boy's tongue once more, only to find out that his temperature hadn't changed. While renewing the cold cloths, Seifer started to consider waking doc Kadowaki and calling her for help. Admitting defeat would suck, but Squall was more important than his pride.

Nevertheless, he went through the first aid kit again in the vain hope of finding something vaguely helpful, and he was delighted to find a bottle of pain killers that apparently also quenched fevers.

'Blabla... tablets... blabla... dilute with water... hn.'

Squall watched dozily how his roommate sat up from the bed and disappeared into the kitchen. He returned holding a glass with strange cloudy water that was fizzing playfully when Seifer dipped it against the SeeD's lips.

"Here, drink this," Seifer said while steadying the glass against Squall's mouth, "Helps against the fever."

He slipped a hand underneath Squall's head and gently helped him to raise up. Gingerly, Squall drank in small gulps until he couldn't possibly take any more, and Seifer let him sink back into the pillows mercifully.

"How you feeling?"

Seifer studied Squall's body, which was still shaking ever so slightly underneath the thin sheets. The glow hadn't yielded from his eyes and the fever was probably still raging, but the blonde didn't want Squall to be cold, either. Thus, he decided that another blanket would probably do no harm. He went to search his friend's closet, returning triumphantly with two thick comforters.

"There."

He draped one of the comforters across the bed, watching with satisfaction how Squall's shivers lessened and his breathing smoothed into a more relaxed rhythm.

For a moment, Seifer considered pulling up a chair, but the idea of risking to crash out in one of Squall's narrow dining chairs didn't strike him as too smart. Scratching the back of his head, he lowered his gaze.

"You mind if I sit in bed with you?"

The brunette looked up at him and slowly shook his head from side to side, causing the wash cloth to slip off his forehead. Seifer chuckled softly and picked it up, returning it to the bowl with cold water once more. Meanwhile, Squall had adjusted his position in the bed and moved towards the wall, thus granting Seifer more room. The blonde acknowledged it with a touched smile and sat down on the mattress. He leaned against the headrest, then brought his legs up as well. His naked feet had gotten quite chilly, and with a rough inner jolt, Seifer suddenly realized that Squall was pushing his comforter earnestly across his legs. Sure, Squall was in fever and probably had no real idea of just what he was doing there, but Seifer almost melted on the spot nonetheless. Eyes wide like large jade green gems, he forgot all about the second blanket he had brought and instead, savoured how Squall very hesitantly and unobtrusively snuggled closer against him underneath their covers.

"That comfortable for ya?" he finally asked, a small smile playing across his lips.

"Hnn..."

"Good."

Still smiling, he wrung the cold cloth and placed it back over Squall's forehead. The dark haired SeeD closed his eyes thankfully and moaned something that Seifer couldn't quite understand, but placed into his category of "Squall Thank-You's" all the same.

When Squall's shivers finally ebbed away, Seifer breathed a sigh of relief. He kept renewing the cold cloths until he was almost sure that the brunette had drifted off into sleep. Very slowly, trying to keep their bed from dipping, he reached for the thermometer once more and stuck it underneath Squall's limp tongue. Much to his satisfaction, he noted that the SeeD's temperature had dropped a full two degrees. Still, he went through the same cycle for a good further hour or so, until the brunette's fever had finally broken.

It wasn't until then that he realized how incredibly tired his body was, and he couldn't suppress a yawn.

Gently, Seifer removed the wash cloth from Squall's head, dried off the last droplets of water that slicked his skin and thumbed the button next to his nightstand that turned off the lights.

In the darkness, Seifer slid low beneath the covers and allowed his body to lie down instead of sitting up, like he had been doing for the past two hours or more. His muscles were sore and aching, but the feeling of Squall's supple frame pushing against his own and the soft rhythm that the brunette's chest was rising to made it all worth his while. Taking care of Squall Leonhart was a good piece of work, but no efforts had ever felt worthier. Gently, Seifer ran a hand through the brunette's soft mess of hair, then snaked his arm across his back and pulled him closer, which Squall acknowledged sleepily with a soft moan.

"Good night," the blonde murmured softly.

While Squall nuzzled into him, Seifer prayed silently that the man he loved would not have any nightmares that night. But if all his prayers would vanish unheard, he wouldn't even hesitate a second. He would get up and care for Squall all the same.

 

 

=To be continued!=

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