Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VIII is property of Square Enix.

Betareader: Angel of Enigma

Warnings: Yaoi (boy love with the pairings Seifer x Squall), language, non-con (rape), self-abuse, angst, violence, fluff, AU (Alternate Universe).

Whispered Screams

Chapter Eleven - The Edge

"Why do you do this? Why? Why...?"

By Angry Angel

I feel just like I'm sinking,
And I claw for solid ground.
I'm pulled down by the undertow,
Never thought I could feel so low,
Oh, Darkness
I feel like letting go...

(Sarah McLachlan, "Full of Grace")

Wet. Smelly. Hairy. Annoying.

None of these were adjectives that Seifer would have liked to associate with a wake-up call in the middle of the night, thank you very much. Yet, he could feel someone breathing into his face heavily, spangling it with beads of warm, musky drool. Groaning fiercely, he tried to push the invader away and roll onto his side, but in consequence, he felt pointy teeth being plunged into his bare forearm demandingly.

"Ow-ow-ow! Wha... the fuck... Shiva! Knock it off!"

Still slurring with the drowsiness of painfully severed sleep, the brawny blonde dug his face into his pillow and fought to keep an impatient Shiva at a distance. His dog was standing next to the bed on her hind legs, her black front paws placed firmly upon the mattress while her tongue was lavishing the side of Seifer's face with greatest wetness and vigor. As the eighteen year old felt trails of drool snaking their way into his ear, he finally catapulted himself into a seating position and glared at her for all he was worth.

"Fuckin' dumb ass mutt, leave me the fuck alone already! I'm tryin' to sleep here! What's going on?! How the hell did you get in here anyw--"

When his mind finally came to a complete wake, Seifer's vocal outburst inevitably came to a screeching halt. He couldn't see much, because it was still the midst of night, but the dim picture of Shiva sitting next to the bed, baring her sharp, white fangs at him and growling warningly caused something within him to snap.

Why was she in his bedroom?

Gradually, the memories came pouring back to him and he threw his head around. Frantically, he searched the room. There was a whole lot of darkness around him — darkness, tousled heaps of black satin sheets that pooled around his waist and a bed that shouldn't have been empty.

Shouldn't have been, but was all the same.

'Aw, fuck.'

His tired but sparking viridian gaze flew around the pitch black room, finding nothing unusual but the formerly closed door to his living-room, which had been pushed ajar just wide enough for Shiva to squeeze through. His dear classmate and reluctant company for the night, Squall Leonhart, however, was nowhere in sight and except for Shiva's relentless panting, the whole apartment was perfectly quiet.

'Fuck! For fuck's sake, I knew this was going to happen! I'm a fuckin' idiot!'

Certain that his frigid brunette visitor had stolen himself away during his sleep and was now likely stumbling down some nocturnal street of Deling City, Seifer leaped out of bed and onto his feet with numerous, nasty curses caterwauling from his lips.

"Christ fuckin' dammit, I can't believe how goddamn na´ve I am! I've gotta be the dumbest motherfucker ever!"

Trampling across the carpeted floor with no consideration whatsoever towards his neighbors, a half-naked Seifer charged for the bedroom door. He tore it wide open and flung his hand to the light switch, growling thickly with the spiteful frustration of somebody who had just been played for a complete fool.

He never did turn on the light, though.

As he glanced down his dark living-room and open-faced kitchen, looking for nothing in particular but a stationary target to unleash his directionless anger upon, his breath jarred dry in his throat when his narrowed eyes focused on a sight that they had no longer expected.

Next to Seifer, Shiva was growling softly.

"What the..."

Inevitably, Seifer's fiery voice trailed off into the darkness. He recognized the slim figure clad in black shorts and a long sleeved, black t-shirt that was standing in the far corner at the kitchen window; the recognition took little longer than for a heart to strike a beat. Pale moonlight was streaking through the blinds that Seifer never bothered to draw shut, splashing all over the figure's milky skin and dark brown, messy hair, while bouncing off the short, slender blade that it was holding in its hands.

The figure was none other than Squall, but the blade...

It looked like a cold slash of silver in a shell of yellow plastic — nothing more, nothing less — and yet it was one of the most unsettling things that Seifer had ever laid eyes on in his entire life. Deep within, he knew that he was looking upon an image of death itself, and the thought caused an icy tingle to lance up his spine, nearly petrifying him with shock.

But in all reality, Seifer had no time to be shocked.

Within a second, he was by Squall's side. Seifer took no time to further analyze the situation; instead, he flung out his arm and curled his hand around Squall's left wrist. He pulled tight immediately and yanked the brunette around, forcing Squall to drop the cutter he had been clutching in his fingers. The cheap blade connected with the tiled floor with a hollow, clattering sound that echoed loud and profound within Seifer's mind, before it finally disappeared somewhere beneath the kitchen table.

After that, it was silent once more.

Seifer's breath was coming hard and fast, wheezing in his lungs as he tried to compose himself despite the raw panic that was jolting in his bloodstream. He held on to Squall's wrist as if he was never to let go, while the brunette was facing him with a solemn expression that was bleached of any kind of emotions. Squall Leonhart just stood there, bathing in the cold moonlight and gazing empty-eyed at the blonde youth that was panting before him.

Fortunately, it didn't take long for Seifer to regain his composure, or at least his will to utilize his most effective organ of all — his voice.

"Squall," Seifer barked the brunette's name right into his ears, but Squall wouldn't even bat so much as an eyelash at his hysteria. "You fuckin' idiot!! What the fuck do you think you're doing?! What's wrong with you, goddammit?!"

The dark haired teen stoically refused to acknowledge the older boy's presence and anger. He didn't even make any efforts at freeing himself from Seifer's hold; instead, his lucid features had become like those of a precious porcelain doll — fragile, beautiful and lifeless.

Squall seemed to care about nothing at all, least of all for his own existence.

When Seifer finally dared to lift Squall's wrists in order to investigate the harm that the brunette had done during his absence, his fear almost choked him unconscious. With a raw sigh that was borne by infinite relief, however, the blonde found both limbs still enveloped by the same bandages that he himself had wrapped around them so carefully only hours before. They were untouched, but even so, the dispelled look in Squall's face told Seifer that the brunette was far from unscathed.

Squall's hair was cascading into his dark grey eyes in thick, sweat-drenched chunks and his breath came disturbingly flat from his chest whenever his lungs managed to unclench. Seifer wanted to touch him, to pull him close and soothe him with all his desperate might... but he didn't know what to do anymore. Squall wanted to destroy himself, gradually so, and Seifer had no idea why or how on earth to stop him.

"Why do you do this...?" Seifer breathed, helplessness weighing down each of his words as the image of Squall's somber face burnt itself into his mind forever. "Why? Why...?"

Squall's gaze flickered to the ground, to the cutter that he knew was laying there, somewhere. A shudder rocked through his thin body, but his lips phased into a false, broken smile that looked nothing short of displaced on his typically emotionless face. His poor wrist was aching with strain in Seifer's crushing hold, but Squall wasn't going to complain; by all means, if he couldn't have the sharp caress of a razor's blade that night, anything would have to serve as his last anchor to sanity.

Of course, Seifer would know nothing of that.

"... You wouldn't understand anyway," Squall eventually replied softly, shrugging and chuckling faintly like he didn't care, even though his throat felt coarse and parched like sandpaper.

Seifer frowned darkly, both saddened and frustrated by Squall's statement. This wasn't the same brunette he had met on his first day at Deling City High — this wasn't the cold, careless, cunning loner that couldn't be fazed by anything or anyone. His eyes were dead like shattered glass and his face was that of a person who no longer had a desire to cling on to life. Instead, Squall seemed sickly amused by the concept of Seifer asking him for his motives, as if everything was just a sadistic, cruel game that the brunette could only win by losing.

"Then tell me, Squall," Seifer finally commanded, his voice as firm as it would be. "Tell me. At least try. Maybe I would understand!"

Squall continued to smile that deceiving, twisted little smile, but his brows had begun to crease in thought. Seifer stood merely an arm's length from him — so unnaturally close - and those hypnotic green eyes of his fixed him nearly desperately, demanding an explanation of some kind. Somehow, that sight caused a nearly unbearable pain to claw at Squall's heart, making it sting like none of his physical wounds ever had.

The psychotic grin finally died clean on Squall's lips when he wordlessly dropped his head in defeat. Frankly, the brunette himself didn't even understand why he needed to violate his own body to banish the pain that threatened to drive him mad, why he had to fight fire with fire and throbbing anguish with even greater torment, but it worked — that was all that he knew, and it was all the reason that he needed.

With his throat tight and constricted, he lifted his right hand that Seifer wasn't holding captive and glanced upon the white gauze bandage and the crimson-spotted black fabric of his shirt, tentatively tilting his wrist from side to side.

Even that small, unimportant motion hurt in so very many ways and places.

"To... make the pain... go away."

Across from him, Seifer froze at the sound of Squall's soft, vulnerable voice that lingered even after the words themselves had long faded away. For a seemingly endless moment, he forgot how to think and how to breathe, and he drowned in the absurdity of Squall's explanation.

..::: "To make the pain go away." :::..

It was downright ridiculous. It didn't make any sense what-so-ever. People took medicine to rid themselves of pain, at least of the physical kind... they sought comfort from their loved ones or they simply cried their hearts out until they could feel no more. For fuck's sake, they didn't cut themselves! And yet, no matter how much he wished he could, Seifer couldn't deny that Squall was telling him the truth, because the blonde would have seen any lie written in the filigree lines of his very face. Evidently, Squall slit his wrists to endure some sort of greater pain, some kind of greater evil, and the thought was nothing short of excruciating for Seifer.

This wasn't how life was meant to be.

This wasn't right.

This was fucking unfair.

Without saying another word or wasting another breath, Seifer simply closed the space that separated their bodies. He released Squall's wrist as his hand found the brunette's neck instead, and when Seifer wrapped his other arm around the younger boy's shoulders in a powerful embrace, he pulled him as close as was humanly possible. He tilted his own head down to bridge their gap in heights, cherishing that unique scent of Squall's that had nearly driven him mad on so many occasions.

"There are ways to put an end to your pain, Squall," he whispered into the brunette's ear, the fierce urgency in his voice almost corporeal. "Other ways. Ways that don't involve you bleeding or hurting even more than you already are. Ways that won't scar you."

He could feel Squall's limp body shifting in his arms as the brunette looked up at him sadly, his eyes impossibly deep and dark at such close proximity. Seifer could have counted every single, coal black lash that rimmed those orbs of fathomless grey, Squall stood that near; he could watch the brunette's pale lips twitching and felt his erratic heartbeat against his own chest, pounding with the forcefulness of despair.

"What do you know, Almasy..." Squall snorted cynically as he lowered his head again and tried to disguise his vulnerability with arrogance, "You know nothing."

There was bitterness in those frail, almost inaudible words that Squall thrust against the naked skin of Seifer's collarbone... and there was pain. So much pain. That was the moment when Seifer finally understood. This act of self-abuse was Squall's last resort, his last valve for relief from the agony that threatened to destroy every part of him. The blonde didn't know what could possibly cause such hurtful longings, but he did know one thing:

There was no pain of Squall's that he would not try to cure.

Not one. Not ever.

Silently, he edged their bodies apart just far enough to where he could cup Squall's chin with his hand and tilt it upwards gently, forcing the brunette to listen to what he had to say.

"What I know is that I want to help you," he murmured, decisively so, while his eyes never strayed from Squall's. "Because... I really care about you."

Squall's features curled resentfully at that statement and he gave another snort of purest scorn, secretly wanting but not daring to believe.

"I don't need your pity," he spat coldly as he crushed his hands to fists and tried to back away, but even so, there was no bite in his voice.

The confusion over Seifer's actions and Seifer's words was slowly eating away at him.

Seifer felt him writhing in his grasp, trying to whisk his head away and escape to wherever, but the older blonde kept holding on, trapping Squall by his waist and jaw. The brunette's storm grey eyes were sparking now - sparking with frustration, shame and an unsettling kind of emotional damage that seemed so far beyond repair.

The blonde shook his head in a gesture of disapproval.

'Pity... you really think I pity you? ... You're wrong, princess. Someone other than me might feel that way, but... for some reason, I don't think that you're pitiful in any sense or form. I don't feel... sorry for you, I guess. Not like that, anyway. I like you. I want you. I've wanted you ever since that day that I first saw you in the parking lot. The fact that you're broken doesn't change anything — it only means that I have to steady you. And I will.'

"You've understood nothing."

Squall flicked up his gaze to meet with Seifer's once more - and for rawest bewilderment to ultimately collide with dead set determination. Seifer was smiling at him, sternly and sadly as he finally drowned out all of his doubts and restraints. His eyes held Squall's in mesmerizing captivity, and ever so carefully, Seifer moved his right thumb to the dry surface of Squall's bottom lip, tracing it languidly, while at the same time giving the brunette fair warning before he leaned in to kiss him.

That simple kiss was like a white hot flame that struck Squall's nerves, shutting down even the most primitive mechanisms of his body as his breath was crushed clean inside his lungs by the surprise. He just stood there like one of those beautiful ice statues, every muscle in his limbs snapped painfully tight while his saucer-wide, disbelieving grey eyes were nailed to the blurriness that was Seifer's face. The fluttering warmth of Seifer's lips against his own seemed marginal compared to the scorching heat that had erupted in the center of his chest - both sensations that boiled into an intriguing mix of emotions he had never felt before.

Nevertheless, Squall was slamming up resistance. He wasn't even quite so sure what was going on, but he felt light-headed and vulnerable in this intimate embrace. He didn't know why Seifer was suddenly so intimately close, why he was kissing him of all things...

'W-what am I doing?! What's he doing?! Why am I letting this... him... why am I letting this happen, why--'

Why, deep within his heart, it felt so good, despite everything.

Seifer could feel Squall tensing in his arms, semi-consciously struggling against the intrusion, but after having ventured this far the blonde was not going to simply give in. After all, he had no intentions of hurting Squall, nor did Seifer believe that he was doing anything that the younger boy wouldn't be able to handle.

It was just a kiss. Squall was seventeen years old, he must have received at least a couple of these ever since he had hit puberty.

It was just a kiss.

And indeed, some unscarred part of Squall seemed to respond to the way that Seifer was hugging him, eagerly swallowing his ragged breaths with his mouth and generously offering a kind of comfort that the brunette hadn't experienced in a long, long time. Maybe it was to blame on the ancient, carnal instincts that slumbered even within the ice princess' consciousness, or perhaps merely the brunette's initial confusion over Seifer's approach, but either way, Squall's body was losing its rigidness and slowly easing into the brawny blonde's touch. His lips were clumsily copying those movements that Seifer had just introduced him to, and altogether, it didn't feel quite so bad.

As he finally seemed to ditch all restraints and permitted the blonde's skillfully demanding tongue entrance, Squall had to admit that it tasted good, too. He noticed a faint trace of mint — probably the blonde's mouthwash — and a musky, strange sweetness that Squall just knew he could easily become partial to. Their bodies were only separated by ridiculously thin layers of clothing, allowing for an intimacy that was unperturbed by physical barriers as Seifer ground their hips together, letting Squall feel just how deeply this kiss was affecting him.

It was a wide array of sensual impressions that, once united, made Squall believe to be the sole passenger on an out-of-control rollercoaster ride as he clung to Seifer's neck for dear life.

'Unh... My head... is spinning... Dizzy... Why... are we...'

When he realized that Squall's defenses were caving in at last, Seifer encircled the brunette's lean waist with greater vigor. Squall was shorter and thinner than him, almost frail in semblance, yet he felt nothing like a girl. The strings of muscle that glided beneath the fabric of his black shirt were supple and strong, but perhaps they were also a bit misleading where Squall's emotional strength was concerned.

Unfortunately, Seifer was too caught up in the passion of the moment to think much on that issue.

As he crushed the lithe frame against his own, he snaked his right hand beneath the hem of the brunette's shirt, patiently traveling upwards. Squall shifted slightly at the contact, trembling softly as Seifer traced every arch and hollow of his hips, spine and shoulders with his large hands. Seifer noted with satisfaction how the younger teen was squirming now, apparently undetermined on whether he wanted to recoil or linger for more. Squall's body was responding quite hungrily to the blonde's experienced touch, starving for affection and acting entirely on its own as it blended into Seifer's arms. When Seifer ultimately guided the brunette to the kitchen table without breaking their lip contact for even a second, Squall followed his lead all too willingly.

Seifer hooked his hands under Squall's bare thighs, feeling powerful muscles contracting as he hitched the brunette upwards and onto the table. Immediately, he stepped in between Squall's parted legs, not ready to sever their passionate kiss just yet; he was enjoying this far too much. His hands skillfully worked up and down the smooth skin of Squall's back, pulling the brunette as close as was physically possible without their bodies melting and becoming one. Squall had curled both of his hands around the edge of the table top, wrestling it for support against Seifer's conquest. He could still taste the blonde's mouthwash, feel his tongue entwining with his own impatiently, and the emotions that those sensations issued right to his heart had him almost in tears. He couldn't help but want more of this, want it to fill his very soul, and when Seifer gently broke their kiss to lower Squall's back onto the hard table, the brunette did nothing to resist.

Squall lay panting heavily as Seifer pushed his shirt upwards and trailed his fingers along the brunette's sensitive sides, caressing his pale skinned, finely chiseled abdomen with only his fingertips. They had both lost their sense of reason and reality, submerging themselves entirely in this one moment that seemed drawn out of time and out of place. All the while, Seifer's emerald gaze searched Squall's tightly grimacing face, marveling over the younger boy's intoxicating beauty. Once grey eyes that were now blue with lust narrowed feverishly as they were locked upon the ceiling in a sense of embarrassment, and Squall's porcelain skin was slicked with beads of sweat that Seifer was dying to taste.

When Seifer slowly pulled Squall's body closer to his hips, his expression that of a famished predator stalking its prey, the brunette let out a cracked, broken moan — one that the older blonde swallowed with yet another kiss as he moved over Squall like a panther. Squall had closed his eyes in blind, uncharacteristical trust, while he was almost driven over the edge by Seifer hovering over him and teasingly brushing his tongue up his jugular and across his earlobe. He saw sparks of white light even though his eyes were shut, and Squall didn't open them again until he felt the blonde retracting. Silently, he gazed up into orbs of purest jade and a gorgeous, heated face that was stretched into a blissful smile so free of worries and insecurities.

Then... Squall remembered.

The looming shadow that was borne by moonlight and Seifer's heavy body - the heat, the sweat and the chest that was pushing hard against his own in an echo of ragged breaths that were drawn whenever Squall's mouth was not covered by a set of hungry lips; lips that had no business touching his body - had no right to. Lips that would snap into a nasty, cruelly satisfied smirk - feeding on Squall's borderless hatred, the agony buried deep within his wounded soul and the resistance in his eyes that had not shattered, ever, even after years of maddening pain.

Squall's stomach coiled as the warm passion seeped away and cold reality rebound back to him.

Gagging, he rolled onto his side, trying to escape from this sudden, terrifying feeling of confinement. Seifer, who had his hands placed on either side of Squall's body, pulled back immediately. The dark haired boy beneath him was now coughing throatily, his body rocked by convulsive shivers as he tried to buck Seifer off.

"Squall?! Squall, what's wrong?!" Seifer asked with a startled hiss, trying to steady them both against the brunette's mindless struggling.

But Squall managed to push him away, and he jumped off the table with one hand clasped before his mouth. Neither of the boys even noticed the cup of water that Squall swept off the table; it loudly connected with the kitchen floor and shattered into countless splinters of sharp glass. Wide-eyed and unsure of what to do, Seifer could only watch how the brunette stumbled for the guest bathroom by the living-room and dropped onto his knees before the toilet — a frightening image that was quickly followed by the sound of violent regurgitation.

"Squall!"

Within seconds, Seifer was by the brunette's side. Squall was shuddering heartbreakingly as he emptied what little content his stomach had held into the chlorinated water before him. Seifer knelt next to him on the cold, tiled floor, and he moved one hand across Squall's back in small and soothing circles. He softly murmured disjointed, unimportant words that sounded vaguely reassuring in his own ears, but that did nothing to calm the miserable brunette cowering on his bathroom floor.

"Squall... It's okay... It's alright... You're fine... You're fine, I promise... It's alright, Squall... It's okay... Shhh..."

When Squall finally stopped vomiting, his gagging had transformed into hoarse, wet hiccups. He tried to suppress his childish, helpless weeping as both of his hands cramped around the toilet seat, but something within him was trembling so brutally that he had no idea how to stop it. Images and feelings thus far mostly suppressed now came crashing down on top of him, burying beneath them his breathing and sense of rational thought.

He felt like he was dying.

Seifer watched how the brunette's knuckles went as surgically white as the ceramic toilet before them. Immediately, he cupped them with his own hands and carefully pried them loose — the vomit and urine he spoiled them with didn't even faze him. Robbed of his only means to steady himself, Squall practically collapsed in Seifer's arms. The brunette wanted to scream and cry and hit someone, anyone, but all he could do was hitch oxygen to his lungs and tremble like a leaf caught in a hurricane while his legs shuffled across the tiles.

Seifer squatted behind him, crushing the younger boy against his chest while trying to understand what on earth had just come to pass. All the while, he continued to mutter senselessly, his voice warm and gentle while his thoughts became more and more incoherent.

It took a long time before Squall finally calmed down. His muscles stopped spasming and his tearless sobbing ceased, but Seifer found the sudden stillness of his body nearly as disturbing as the brunette's previous hysteria. The air was laden with the sharp, sour stench of vomit, snaring at least parts of the blonde's attention; Seifer figured it best to move Squall into another room before he'd get re-acquainted with his dinner yet again.

"Squall," Seifer whispered, unsure whether his voice would hold, "Hey... you're gonna make yourself sick again if you stay in here. Let's go to the bedroom."

Squall showed no physical sign of recognition at the blonde's words; his head was drooping low and he still twitched every now and then as flashes of memories licked through his mind like flames through a burning building. He hardly even felt Seifer hooking his arms beneath his own and hauling him upwards, but he did notice that his legs clearly wouldn't support his weight. His knees buckled beneath him and he closed his eyes to ready himself for the impact with the floor, but fortunately, Seifer had never actually let go of him. In fact, he kept Squall in an upright position quite effortlessly, though he wasn't entirely sure as to what to do next. He had never been the vomiting type (minus those nights when he had been so drunk that his condition had bordered to alcohol poisoning), hence he didn't quite know how to make his friend more comfortable.

Well, maybe his best bet was to start simple.

"You should rinse your mouth," the eighteen year old suggested, already ushering Squall in the direction of the sink. "Come on. I'll help you."

Squall mechanically took a few steps, still dependent upon the blonde for support. Seifer was mirroring his motions as he walked behind him, one arm slung around his waist like a much needed safety belt. The more Squall tried to think a clear thought or understand what had happened, the more his head threatened to spin itself senseless. Thus, he simply followed along Seifer's guidance like a puppet on strings, willingly pushing his hands into the gush of water that erupted from the faucet that Seifer had turned on for him. The coldness felt impossibly good, even if his body already had a much closer resemblance to an icicle than he liked. He was freezing despite the warmth offered by Seifer's closeness, but he splashed his face and rinsed his mouth with the tap water all the same. It chased the blurriness from his head, at least by a little, and as he cast a weak, half-lidded glance into the mirror before him, he studied his own, ghostly looking face and the taller blonde standing right behind him. Seifer wasn't saying a word, but he was monitoring his every movement apprehensively out of hawk-like, sharp green eyes.

'He's... I... We... D-did we really... did I...'

Shuddering inwardly, Squall blinked at the toilet to their left.

'... Oh god...'

Groaning, he buried his face in the hollow of his right hand. His stomach was starting to revolt again, but to Squall's fortune, Seifer had a fairly firm grasp on the situation — and on him. The blonde had washed his own hands and was now using them to gently lead his younger classmate out of the sickly smelling bathroom and into the living-room. They discovered Shiva sitting quietly next to Seifer's couch, watching the odd couple out of patient, glacier blue eyes. Seifer knew that he owed her a thanks for waking him up, but there would be better times to shower her with doggie treats; for now, he was too busy taking care of his human companion.

He walked the brunette into the bedroom where he turned on a light and mutely ordered the dark haired boy to sit down on the tousled bed. Squall didn't seem entirely comfortable with the idea, but he was too worn out to offer much resistance. He sank into the sheets and trained his dull, empty gaze upon the floor, while his mind was being flooded with painful memories. Squall didn't know why he had been able to drown them out so effortlessly only a few minutes before, but now everything came snapping back to him like a rubber band.

And it hurt — so much.

"Squall," a concerned voice in front of him whispered, swaying only slightly. "Do you want some water? You should drink something."

Unsurely, he glanced at the blonde kneeling before him. Seifer's eyes were so ridiculously green, so deep and strong that it made Squall feel all the more insecure. This guy was obviously interested in him, a kind of interest that Squall seemed to share but nonetheless did not understand. For once, he had actually allowed himself to let go of his fears and forget what had happened to him in a past that was far from forgotten - only to end up puking all over Seifer's fucking bathroom.

He had never felt like a greater idiot.

"Squall."

Seifer was still talking to him, watching him worriedly, until Squall remembered the blonde's initial question. Very slowly, he shook his head.

"I don't want anything..."

"Sure?"

"Yeah."

"Okay," Seifer started carefully, while pushing himself up from his kneeling position and slowly sitting down next to Squall. "Then can you tell me what happened just now?"

Squall stared at some miniscule fuzz balls on the carpet before him, studying them with faked interest. His head was aching with the strain of trying not to think. He found himself wanting to look at Seifer, even wanting to lean against him for support, but he did neither of the two.

"... No," he finally answered, his voice grating with tension.

Seifer could literally watch him clamming up and shaking inwardly as the bit of trust and confidence that had built up between them seeped away like sand in an hourglass. The blonde didn't know exactly what had happened, much less why it had happened, but the change that Squall had undergone was worrying him deeply.

"Did I do something wrong?" he asked, trying to will Squall to look at him by use of sheer mind power.

It wasn't really working.

"No."

"Then what happened? Why did you break down like that? Did I go too far?"

"No."

"Fuck, I must have done something wrong or else you wouldn't be this way now!"

Squall sighed — a small sound that was echoing and aching methodically in both of their hearts. What of all things was the brunette supposed to say...? He wasn't upset over Seifer's approach in the kitchen, but there was no real viable explanation for his freakish behavior that he could have possibly ever presented to the blonde.

None that didn't entail the term "rape". Or "helplessness". Or "shame".

None.

There was nothing that he could say.

"Squall, I--"

And yet he wanted to.

"You did nothing wrong," Squall interrupted him quietly, while he massaged his forehead with the edge of his hand. "It's not your fault."

"But--"

"Look, I... I don't know what to tell you, except that I'm sorry. Sorry for what happened and for being such a bother."

Seifer blinked at that apology, but Squall wouldn't meet his gaze. The brunette seemed to have calmed down considerably, though he was still ashamed and haunted by fears whose nature Seifer could only guess. Gently, Seifer draped one of his arms around Squall's shoulder, and even though the dark haired boy flinched briefly at the unexpected touch, he did not pull away.

"You're not a bother," Seifer stated evenly as he tilted Squall's head against his chest. "You just scared the shit out of me when I saw you with that cutter. I don't want anything to happen to you, alright? I still don't know why you do it, but I like you too much to allow you to hurt yourself again."

Squall creased his thin brows at that remark, wondering at its meaning even if there wasn't much to wonder about. After all, Seifer had kissed him back there, in the kitchen, but by doing so he had filled Squall's mind with emotions that the brunette didn't understand and that confused him to a point where he questioned his own sanity. After all, the only other experiences with physical affection he had gathered up to that point had been far from pleasant...

In fact, they had been downright horrifying.

..::: "I like you too much to allow you to hurt yourself again." :::..

'What could you possibly like about me? I cut my wrists 'til I feel like the pain is going to kill me. I have sex with the man who's supposed to take care of me like a goddamn fucking father. I'm a freak, you understand? I flipped out even though all you did was kiss me... even though it was the only thing anyone's done to me in a long time that felt good. But of course I had to go and ruin it all... as if I didn't know how to handle something like this. After all, I should. Ngh... Seriously, I don't even know why you haven't kicked me out yet. Maybe that's just a matter of time. Nobody could ever be this patient.'

"Squall. Talk to me."

Squall could feel the other boy's hand brushing through his hair, gently de-tangling and sweeping away sweat-drenched strands that coiled like snakes into his face. Somehow, that gentle caress put him under the fierce impression that he had to justify himself and his actions, even if all of his explanations would turn out to be little more than lies.

It was all he could give, though, and Seifer deserved at least something.

"I think it was the sudden heat..." he started weakly, while performing a vague gesture with his hand, "Or the blood loss... or me feeling light-headed from the kiss... probably a bit of everything. I can't tell you why, because I don't know."

"... You didn't freak out because I made a move on you?"

"No."

While he was talking, Squall tried to ignore the fact that Seifer was hugging him and he focused on the carpet once more. The blonde was still caressing his smooth, chocolate brown tresses in that intimate, soothing way, but the sweet gesture only stirred in Squall the urge to cut off his hair with the next best pair of scissors he could get his hands on. The bodily contact felt good and at the same time, it didn't. It was like someone playing tug-o-war inside his head — pushing him closer to Seifer only to yank him away again.

Odd as it would be, Seifer felt the exact same way.

"You're not mad at me, then?"

Despite himself, Squall glanced at the blonde's face, or as much as he could see of it in his awkward position in Seifer's arms, anyway. No, he wasn't mad. He wasn't... anything, really. This night had drained all of his strength and willpower, leaving him incapable of feeling even so much as tiredness and stupor. He liked Seifer and he had liked that kiss while it had lasted, but he didn't want to talk about why he had suddenly changed his mind and backed off like a hysteric with more neuroses than any psychiatrist could ever cure.

For the time being, he wanted to talk about nothing, but he knew well enough that things just didn't work that way — especially when you were practically sitting in someone's lap, on their very bed of all places.

He'd have to say something, whether he wanted to or not.

"No," he finally replied with a frayed sigh. "I'm not mad."

He couldn't see the involuntary smile that sparked across Seifer's lips. Despite what had happened that night and the vast array of questions that inevitably had blossomed within his mind, Seifer was glad to know at least that much.

Unfortunately, he needed many more answers of that kind before he could be at peace.

"So... you're saying you only tripped out because of all the stress earlier tonight? How's that now? I mean, I don't even know why exactly you cut yourself in the first place."

"I didn't 'trip out,'" Squall breathed coolly, though he was fully aware of the fact that he had done exactly that.

Seifer arched a thin, golden brow accordingly.

"You didn't?"

With a frustrated growl, the brunette in his arms attempted to struggle free, but Seifer continued to root him into place by his shoulders. He just couldn't help the feeling that something was odd about Squall's explanation. He had seen Squall's eyes back then, on the kitchen table, right before the brunette had bolted for the bathroom; to say that Squall had looked downright scared and horrified would be a blatant understatement.

If he had enjoyed their kiss, why would he suddenly flip like that?

'Did he even enjoy it? Now that I think about it, I don't remember him gettin' hard at all.'

It was a question worth asking.

"... Did you like it?"

A frown pulled on Squall's fine features in response — it was the kind of question he most certainly did not feel inclined to answer.

'Why do you have to ask, anyway? After all... I kissed you back, didn't I? Of course, that was before I started barfing and sobbing like a little kid in elementary school, huh... Whatever. I do like you, but... I really don't want to...'

"... talk about this..."

"What?"

It took Squall a minute to realize that he had finished that sentence out loud, and he quickly slipped free from Seifer's embrace as if in embarrassment. His hands were kneading his bare knees now, shifting their hard, cartilaginous caps beneath his skin in a circular motion.

"Say what, Squall?"

"... Nothing."

"Nothing my ass," the blonde retorted with a grunt. "Talk to me. Don't just shut off like that."

"All I said was that I don't wanna talk about it."

"What? Fuck, you can't just pretend nothing happened!"

"Says who?"

"But--"

"I'm not pretending that nothing happened... okay? I just don't want to talk about it, that's all."

Sighing, Squall pushed himself onto his wobbly legs. He had endured enough conversation for the night. He hadn't talked to someone like this in months, years — hell, he didn't think that he had ever bothered to talk to anyone like this.

Honestly, he couldn't even say what had changed — why Seifer was different from everybody else.

Perhaps it only mattered that he was.

"Hey. You shouldn't walk yet. Where are you goin'?"

Squall cast the blonde a curt look over his shoulder and he couldn't help but feel moved by the open concern in those emerald green eyes.

"Laying down," he answered, trying to keep his voice at a level of monotony.

"... Okay."

Seifer was anxious and nosy to a point where he wanted to either scream or choke on a fuckin' watermelon, but he did understand that Squall probably needed his rest. Cutting, kissing and puking was definitely enough action for one night. He didn't know how much he liked the sound of that, but who was he to judge? For once, this wasn't about him and what he wanted. He didn't know what was wrong with Squall (in fact, he had little to no clue at all), but he sensed that the brunette needed him to be supportive and understanding.

So he would be.

There'd always be another morning and another day to ask questions and figure out just what exactly was going wrong in the brunette's life. It wasn't like he'd be able to fix it all in one night, anyway. He wasn't usually the type to take things slowly, but just this one time he was determined to make sure not to ruin a good thing by demanding too much at once. There was no doubt in his mind that Squall would be well worth the extra effort.

Meanwhile, Squall had circled the bed and peeled himself out of his dirty shirt. Seifer found that the brunette's skin looked a lot paler than usual, but he pushed the thought away. After all, who wouldn't look pale after a night like this?

When the dark haired boy had haphazardly straightened out the covers and eventually crawled beneath them, Seifer shut off all the lights and returned to bed.

This time, he didn't close the living-room door.

As he nuzzled his head into the pillow and turned onto his left side, he could see merely the outline of Squall's body. The brunette was laying on his back, trying to breathe normally. He had to fend off the memories, the scents and the tastes of this night and all the nights that had preceded it; he knew they weren't the same, but they were similar enough.

This wasn't the first time he had lost control and ended up vomiting, either. Usually, he was glad when it didn't happen in school, the mornings after... like that one time when Seifer had...

'...'

"... Shit, your bathroom!"

For some odd reason, the realization of having vomited all over the blonde's uppity bathroom had thrashed into the memory of that one morning when Seifer had almost walked in on him puking his insides out in the school lavatory.

"... W-what?"

Seifer sounded a bit drowsy, but it was probably confusion more so than it was sleepiness.

"What are you talkin' about, Squall? What about it?"

Squall glanced at the brawny blotch of grey- and blackness still laying curled up in the covers, shifting unsurely. Was Seifer kidding him? He could have hardly forgotten what state his apartment was in.

"The bathroom... there's barf everywhere... I should clean up," he reluctantly elaborated after a long moment of silence.

Next to him, Seifer breathed an irritated, low-pitched grunt.

"... Are you fuckin' outta your mind?"

Squall frowned disapprovingly at that remark, though the disbelief in Seifer's husky tone had been sort of amusing. Nevertheless, the brunette gradually proceeded towards the edge of the bed, but before he could have set so much as a toe on the floor, Seifer had already trapped him by the waist and yanked him back with surprising gentleness.

"Just where do you think you're going, huh?"

Growling, Squall attempted to push Seifer's hand away — not so much because it bothered him, but because he felt the need to take care of this. He couldn't leave a mess like that and simply go and count sheep or the number of screws he had probably kissed good-bye that night. It just wasn't in his, Squall Leonhart's, neat and methodical nature.

"I didn't even flush," he protested, but found himself silenced when Seifer gave his waist a more determined tug and dragged him down into the mattress, spooned flat against the blonde's larger body. "Uh, I--"

"Squall, you really think I give a shit? I want you to get some sleep and not clean my fuckin' bathroom at three in the morning. Don't worry about it, alright? I'll handle it tomorrow."

"Maybe you don't care, but I do," Squall growled testily.

"Tough luck, princess. You're staying."

"But--"

"Look, Shiva ain't using it and we can go piss in this one. That's all that I am worried about as far as bathrooms are concerned."

Despite Seifer's fairly blunt expression of his opinion, Squall was still bristling against the thought of not taking care of the issue right then and there. He tried to free himself of the blonde's embrace, but Seifer's arms were like fucking vices. Snorting with a sort of stubborn frustration, he threw his head into the pillow.

"I don't like the idea of my dinner doing laps in your toilet, alright?"

Behind him, Seifer was shifting with a long, throaty sigh. Squall couldn't help but flinch when he suddenly felt the blonde's nose brushing against his ear and his breath ghosting his neck.

"Squall, I never thought I'd say this, but..." Seifer started, his voice rough and low as he breathed a soft kiss on the brunette's earlobe, "Shut up."

With that, he settled as close to Squall as he could, wrapping one arm around his lean waist almost possessively. Squall blinked blankly at the wall that was straight in front of him, not sure whether he should feel insulted or not. Seifer's touch registered with him, but this time it didn't set off any alarms. Some of his defenses had irreversibly been breached, if only because he was worn out and almost too tired to remember his own name.

"Shut up" were the last words spoken between them on that very first night, right before sleep took them over and frightening memories became meaningless shadows, while they laid loosely spooned together, weaving dreams of love that might or might not come true.

... And it felt good.

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