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More Than Words Can Say

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I miss you more than words can say
A part of me is torn away
China hearts will always break
A fracture to a twisted face
But things are gonna heal again
Eyes once blind will see again
I miss you more than words can say
I miss you more than words .....
Quickfade...fade, fade, fade...

Glide, Glide over tides
And waves that pull you
Oceans divide us once and bring you home again

Love will survive

[From Quick Fade, by Feeder (Feeder, 2002)]

***************************************

The mornings were always the worst.

Irvine lay awake, knowing he was awake, and not wanting to open his eyes. Because once he did, once he could actually see his surroundings, he couldn't pretend anymore. It would be real again, and he couldn't pretend that Selphie was curled up next to him, that it was her bed in Balamb Garden he was lying in, that there was a desk against the opposite wall covered in glitter and Garden Festival Action Plans and yellow socks that weren't quite pairs.

He knew the pain would fade, later in the day. He'd get caught up in the practicalities of day to day living again, and think about the future. It had been months now, and it was bearable, most of the time. But he was still haunted by memories dressed up as dreams, and that made it so hard to come back, at the start of each day.

He could hear birds outside the hotel window, singing songs that still sounded strange and out of place, and the distant roar of aircraft taking off from the airport. The rumble of traffic from the street. All unfamiliar sounds, so unlike the gentle hum that permeated the whole of Garden, the whine of the Ragnarok, the squawk of distant chocobos. The only familiar thing he could hear was Squall, snoring gently at his side, the one, precious constant in his life.

It would get better. He'd open his eyes, and feel the pain of being here, and then it would fade, and by tonight he'd almost have forgotten.

Yesterday morning had been better.

Yesterday morning he'd woken in a huge, soft bed he'd known not to be his, and with a lean, sensuous body scrambling over him. His first sight had been of Squall fucking Aya, Aya's soft crimson hair trembling with every gentle bump against the wall, both of them strong and beautiful and completely oblivious to their surroundings.

Now that was something worth waking up to. But it was temporary, like everything of their life here. Much as he would like to see Aya and Yohji again, he wasn't sure it would work out, or even if he and Squall would really be welcome in their lives.

The grief welled up in his throat like bile, and threatened to choke him.

It will pass, he told himself. This, too, shall pass.

He couldn't stop his thoughts turning back to Garden, imagining the others, and what they'd be doing. It would be the ball soon, the memorial ball Selphie had been working so hard to bring together, to celebrate the lives of those who had died during Ultimecia's attack. He wondered if she'd carried on organising it, without him.

Of course she would, he told himself. Above all else, Selphie was brave and selfless, so what else could she do but carry on? But she'd be sad, he knew. Even with Rinoa to share her grief, and Quistis and Zell to comfort her, she'd be sad, and worried, and he was so fucking powerless, just stuck here in this godforsaken dimension, waiting for Odine to get his shit together and put right his mistake. And what if he never did?

"Irvine?"

He opened his eyes at last, and released a cascade of tears, blurring the vision of Squall's beautiful face looking down at him.

"Irvine, man, what's the matter?" Squall kissed and licked away the dampness from Irvine's face, and Irvine could almost laught, then, thinking that Squall was like nothing so much as a big cat. "Shhhh…"

Irvine couldn't trust himself to speak, the hysterical mirth trembling into grief. This was the first time since their arrival that Squall had caught him in his early morning despair. Usually either Squall had already gotten up or was still fast asleep, leaving Irvine time to collect himself, to get these stupid, pointless feelings out of the way.

But not today.

"Irvine?"

"'s okay," Irvine mumbled. "Be alright in a minute."

Squall kissed him, lips soft and comforting, before pulling back to catch Irvine's eyes.

"What is it?" he persisted. "Bad dream?"

Irvine looked into Squall's cloudy grey eyes. Anchoring himself.

"No," he whispered. "Not bad. Good. Too good."

"Oh," said Squall quietly, recognition dawning.

"I'm okay," said Irvine, struggling to stop the tears and get himself back under control. Squall had enough trouble dealing with his own feelings, never mind anyone else's.

"Tell me," said Squall gently.

"Nah," Irvine tried to smile. "No point, babe. Won't make it real, will it?"

"Tell me," Squall repeated. "Please." He stroked Irvine's bangs back from his face with long, slender fingers.

Irvine sighed. "We were in the Shumi village," he said. "You remember, that weird little sculptor guy? And we were all there, the orphanage gang, Rinoa, and the sun was shining. We'd found the last stone, and we were sitting watching that stupid frog and… that was it, really. It was just so absurd and…"

"Home," Squall murmured.

Irvine nodded. "Home. Crazy, weird, home. And then I woke up and…"

He swallowed hard and squeezed his eyes shut, but the tears came anyway.

"Selphie," whispered Squall, stroking Irvine's hair, not knowing what else to say.

"Oh, Squall, I miss her so, so much…"

"I know, man, I know. I miss Rinoa too. All of them. All of it."

A sob escaped from Irvine's throat, despite his determination to fight it down.

"It's okay, Irvine," said Squall, his voice deep, trembling with his own sadness. "It'll be okay. We'll get back. You remember what you told me? Odine's a genius. Just as soon as they figure out what the fuck he's talking about, they'll come and fetch us. Remember?"

Irvine managed a brief flash of a smile. "That could take a while," he said. "The man talks in riddles." But the smile faded too soon. "I just can't bear to think of her, hurting and not knowing where I am and…" the tears came again, with another sob.

"Shhhh. Don't think about it. Just.." force it down and freeze it in your heart with everything else and… no, dammit, no… Squall tried hard to think, to work out what Irvine needed and how the fuck he could give it to him.

"It's just the mornings," said Irvine. "It's just when I wake up and the feelings are there, and I can't do a damn thing to make them go away."

Squall looked at him, his heart aching at the sight of the tears, the pain in those violet eyes; he felt the tremble in the strong arms that had comforted him so often.

"Maybe not," he whispered, "but I can."

Irvine just looked at him, plainly wondering what he was talking about.

"Let me make it go away," said Squall, softly kissing Irvine's neck, sucking briefly on his earlobe, tugging on his earring with his teeth.

Irvine didn't say anything, just held Squall tight, so tight he could barely breathe.

"It's okay, baby. It's okay," Squall rocked Irvine in his arms, a little awkwardly. "It's okay, baby. You're not alone." He pressed his lips to Irvine's neck. "You're not alone. You'll never be alone. I'm here baby. I'll make it better…"

Irvine buried his face in Squall's neck, and cried.

Squall bit back his own tears, holding Irvine in his arms, stroking his tangled burnt-copper hair. Slowly, as the tears subsided a little, he slipped his fingers underneath his hair, to touch the soft skin of Irvine's back, the ridges of his spine. He kept kissing Irvine's salty, tear-stained face, flicking out his tongue from time to time to taste him, to lick away the evidence of his hurt.

He moved his kisses along Irvine's jaw and down to his neck, sucking gently over his adam's apple.

"It's okay," he whispered, "It's okay, baby. I'll make you feel good. I'll help you forget…"

Irvine moaned softly as Squall's caresses started to break through the pain and warm his body; he sank into the comfort of Squall's familiar, reassuring touch. He had no words, but he pressed his body close to Squall's, and when Squall's lips met his he opened his jaw and pulled Squall inside.

Squall rolled him gently onto his back, and kissed patterns on his chest, grazing over muscles and nipples, pressing his lips firmly into Irvine's belly and tonguing the sensitive skin. He pushed the blankets down, and turned his attention to Irvine's cock, just starting to stir in its nest of copper curls. Squall took the rare opportunity to take it all in his mouth at once, running his tongue along the length and around the head as it stiffened between his lips.

Irvine gave a soft cry, weaving his fingers through Squall's hair, his world contracting until there was just this moment, this place, this glorious feeling of Squall's mouth on his cock.

Squall licked up the shaft as it bobbed fully erect, sucked the head into his mouth and tongued the foreskin aside to kiss away a bead of precome, watching Irvine from under long, dark lashes, one hand resting reassuringly on Irvine's belly, the other whispering over his balls.

"Squall, I…"

"Shhh…" Squall let Irvine's cock fall from his mouth, planted kisses on its head, nibbled the foreskin with his lips and kissed down the shaft, taking each of his balls in turn into his mouth, rolling the smooth, swelling orbs gently on his tongue. Just as Irvine's fingers started to clench tight in his hair, he resumed his journey, spreading Irvine's legs further apart with firm hands to reveal the puckered dimple of his anus. He flicked out his tongue, tasted soft skin, felt a lifting of his heart at the groan of pleasure that came with the twitch of Irvine's abandoned erection, and then started to tease in earnest, licking Irvine's fluttering hole as he breathed in his musky, male scent.

He paused for a moment, stole a glance at Irvine's face. His head was thrown back, his hair waves of sun-streaked auburn against the white pillows, his lean body stretched taut, hips flexing slowly with the mounting tension in his body. He looked beautiful, and strangely vulnerable, his soft, almost feminine features flushed with crying, his lips a little swollen, his hair framing his pretty face with a few stray curls.

Squall kissed his way back up Irvine's body, wanting suddenly to cover that vulnerable flesh with his own, to shield it, protect it, possess it. He felt under the pillow for the ever-present tube, and stroked Irvine's sex with one hand while he flipped the cap with the other. Irvine lay unusually passive and still except to pull his legs up and back as Squall shouldered between them, gasping at the chill of the gel, an almost-smile flickering across his lips.

"Sorry," said Squall, squirting a generous blob of lube into his palm and rapidly slicking his own erection.

He settled Irvine's legs onto his shoulders, and hesitated. It was so unlike Irvine, to let him take control this much. He'd taken Irvine before, lots of times, they'd always switched. But this passivity was different. "Is this okay?" He rubbed Irvine's thigh smoothly, patiently, honestly uncertain as Irvine's jaw clenched with what might have been pain.

Irvine's eyes fluttered open, and he smiled, for real this time. "Yes," he said. "Please."

There was real need in those words, as urgent as any move he might have made, and that was all Squall needed. He gave his cock a couple of quick strokes, settling his foreskin comfortably around the swollen head, and positioned himself carefully at Irvine's entrance. He pushed slowly inside, meaning to pause and feed himself in, inch by inch, but finding it irresistible to continue the slide, deeper and deeper inside Irvine's welcoming body, until he was buried to the hilt. Irvine let out a gasp, and Squall felt a brief but painful contraction around the root of his cock, before Irvine got control of his body and relaxed. Then his insides were a hot, slick sheath around Squall's cock, perfect fit, perfect suction, and Squall paused there for a long moment, just breathing, feeling shocks of it quiver across his skin and down his spine, eyes squeezed shut with it, just breathing.

Irvine pulled Squall down, wrapping his legs around his waist, and Squall kissed him, sliding his tongue inside his mouth and drawing it out again as he pulled his cock slowly out of Irvine's ass, almost all the way before he slid back in again. He settled to a rhythm, and wrapped his slick fingers around Irvine's weeping erection. He set about fucking Irvine into the bed, fucking the sadness and the pain away, fucking the memories and the dreams and the wanting clear out of his mind, until there was just Irvine and Squall, and this bed, and this moment, and this fucking, which was different, nothing to do with Selphie or Rinoa, or Balamb, but was just Kinneas and Leonhart and here, and now, and good, so, so good…

Then Irvine gripped him hard around the neck with one arm, and moaned long and hard as he spurted over both their chests and bellies, his come warm and slick on their skin, the shudders and clench of his body pulling Squall over the edge, spilling deep, deep inside his lover's body, chanting his name like a mantra.

Squall collapsed, panting, on top of Irvine, and buried his face in his hair.

"I love you," he gasped. "You'll never be alone."

Irvine hugged him weakly, his body still convulsing gently in the aftermath of his orgasm.

"Thank you," he whispered. "Better," he added. "So much better."

"I'll make you happy," added Squall. "If I have to spend the rest of my life fucking you senseless, I swear I'll make you happy."

Irvine rolled Squall over onto his back in one swift movement, managing somehow to stay impaled on his shaft.

He brushed the curtain of dark bangs aside, and gazed into Squall's clear, almost-blue eyes.

He grinned, a wide, sexy, Irvine grin, and Squall couldn't help but grin back, his heart full with the relief of seeing his friend start to look something like himself again.

"Squall, babe," Irvine dipped his head to kiss him, nibbling his lower lip a little, "that's an offer I just can't refuse."

* * * * * * *

His own fears were a bit more difficult.

He left Irvine asleep in their bed, crawling out onto the thin carpet with shaking legs to wash the dried semen from his belly and thighs. His lips were swollen, his muscles lax with release, his soul heavy with Irvine's grief.

He would try. He was the Lion of fucking Balamb, he would not give up on this. But...

He stopped, quarter-turn from the open window, bathed in the warmth of the Tokyo sun. Odd thing to feel, warmer and slicker and closer, like this world was older, closer to its end, its sun nearing supernova. Irvine had snuggled into the blankets when Squall had moved, and was little more than a tangle of russet strands and a closed profile of kiss-swollen lips and thick lashes and perfect nose. As Squall watched, Irvine's eyes squeezed together; he moved restlessly, and rolled over in a sweeping motion that wound him neatly in the sheets.

A smirk tugged at Squall's lips. He gave in, and smiled, his heart swelling with some undefinable emotion that reminded him inevitably of Rinoa and Selphie and home. His eyes fell shut, and he swayed a little. Home.

Irvine was the hopeful one, he reminded himself bitterly, stalking through their extended-stay suite into the traditional Japanese bathroom. Irvine was in touch with his emotions, and cheerful, and he was supposed to keep Squall from falling apart, not the other way around.

No.

Squall squeezed his eyes closed, pressing them, wanting the pain in his unhealed scar, his reminder of home. He sagged against the cool tiles, and imagined he was home, and Irvine was his usual confident self and never fell apart unless faced with killing the woman who'd raised him. And Rinoa was here, and Selphie, and Quistis was running Garden with her usual iron fist, and Zell was eating hotdogs before noon for his own bizarre reasons, and even Seifer had come back, and they were all together, and nothing was wrong, nothing was...

It wasn't enough.

He wasn't enough. Irvine deserved better than this. Irvine should be comforting him?! Hyne! "Selfish," he muttered, banging the back of his head gently against the wall, just a reminder. "So fucking selfish."

His head fell forward to rest on his knees. This was not typical behavior, he knew this. He just needed a plan...

Irvine needed him, that at least was certain. And he'd promised to make Irvine happy, no matter what. But... he couldn't, not by himself, not all the time. Not when he spent nearly every morning like this, lost in his own idiocy. At least Irvine had never noticed, he'd become even more worried about Squall and forget about himself and never get better.

Squall dragged himself to standing and stepped into the shower,not planning on a soak this morning, feeling cool tile beneath his bare feet, the cold metal faucet beneath his fingers. It all seemed distant, remote. Foreign. Nothing like home. The water came out cold, spattering his sleep- and sex-tangled hair, beading in the chestnut strands briefly before they dampened and darkened and sleeked to his skull. He closed his eyes as the water warmed, and steam climbed the walls of the tiny in-suite bathroom. Irvine would be awake soon. Time to reapply the mask.

He shouldn't. He knew that, knew that Irvine needed him far more than an artificial representation, an emotionless icon that could stand strong for them both. Irvine had never liked that icon. He'd never approved of the emotionless Squall, Leonheartless, the Ice Prince of Balamb. Irvine had been the one to wake him up... break his ice... Squall knew that it must be hurting Irvine now, to see the ice return, creeping slowly into Squall's looks and sighs and lack of affect. He sighed, and flung bubbling suds from his hand, shaking it from his hair.

The door opened.

He froze, hastily wiping shampoo from his left eye, moving to peek around the edge of the opaque shower curtain.

"Irvine?" he called, sticking his head around a curve of plastic patterned in bright tropical fish and abstract geometrical designs, unaware of the absurdity of the image. Irvine was standing by the door, smiling faintly, apparently over his earlier doubts and fears. Squall returned the smile, and opened the curtain wordlessly. This he could do. This he was good at.

Irvine padded across the tile and stepped carefully over the slick edge of the tub. He was already naked, warm and slow from their bed, his violet eyes bright with morning. Squall drew him under the warm spray, spilling more shampoo into his hand as Irvine's auburn hair darkened to gold-streaked russet. Irvine had insisted upon some outrageously expensive American shampoo called Herbal Essences. It smelled like strawberries and honey and some sharper herbal scent like thyme, and it was wonderful. Like a more mundane Elixir, and Squall smiled a somewhat secretive smile as he worked the sweet-smelling stuff into Irvine's overlong hair. He always did love having a solid plan.

He was about to put the shampoo back on the shelf, but Irvine took the bottle from him and poured a dab onto his fingers, smiling a wicked smile that excited and unnerved Squall all at once.

"Irvine?" He regarded his lover curiously, squinting through his sopping fringe.

"It makes the hair all soft," he said, waggling his soap-slick fingers.

Squall hissed in breath as Irvine stroked the shampoo into the dark curls around his balls.

"Shit, Irvine!" he squeaked.

Irvine chuckled softly. "Though it makes other things hard, looks like."

"Bastard!" Squall snatched the bottle from him and poured a generous blob into his palm. "I'll show you hard…" He grasped Irvine's half-erect cock, working the slick stuff up and down his rapidly stiffening length. He allowed himself a smug smile as Irvine leaned back against the tile with a gasp, his eyes shuttering closed.

"Oh gods, babe… oh gods…"

"You like that?" husked Squall, shivering with pleasure himself at the feel of Irvine's heavy cock nestling into his palm.

Irvine's eyes opened a crack, a slit of violet gleaming at him. "C'mere," he growled, and pulled Squall close, so close that their cocks were pressing against each other, slick with shampoo. He wrapped his hands around both of them, twining his fingers through Squall's, and started to jerk them off together. Squall quickly caught his rhythm, slow and steady, and matched it easily.

"You want to come like this?" Irvine breathed in his ear. "Hot 'n' sticky, all over our hands…"

A memory shot through Squall's mind: a narrow Balamb bed, rough Garden-issue sheets, a stack of cards on the nightstand and a drawer full of Galbadian condoms. He gasped with the sudden, unexpected pain of that memory, squeezing his eyes shut before Irvine could see, fighting it down, quick, before it showed.

"Babe?"

Damn Irvine's perceptiveness. He could always see through him. Always.

"It's nothing," he said dully, ducking aside to fiddle with the shampoo or something, he never quite figured out what because then Irvine stepped in, crowded him into the wall, and grabbed his chin. Gentle fingers pulled Squall's head around, forcing him to meet violet eyes.

"What's wrong?" Irvine said levely, dead serious in spite of his straggling hair and soapy erection. Squall bit his lower lip, flicked his eyes away, tried for a smile. Nothing.

"I'm fine," Squall insisted, cupping one hand over Irvine's forearm, Irvine's fingers warm against his cheek. "I just get like this in the mornings, sometimes. No different than you."

"So it gets better," Irvine continued the thought for him, still peering intently into his half-hidden eyes. "Through the day, it gets better. Like mine."

"Yeah," Squall nodded, squeezing Irvine's forearm gently, feeling a crooked smile pull at his lips. "Definitely getting better before," he continued, glancing at Irvine's cock and raising one brow suggestively.

Irvine's lips thinned suddenly, eyes narrowing at Squall's words, and strong fingers tightened. "Don't," Irvine said thickly. "Don't try that with me, don't..."

"Irvine, I..." Squall began, still not quite meeting his eyes. Irvine shook him slightly, muscles rigid all down his arms and back and he wasn't erect anymore. Squall stilled, a tiny dart of pain rolling his heart. "Irvine?" he questioned breathlessly, seeing the pain behind violet eyes, pain that welled with every passing breath, pain that he had caused.

"You don't want to talk about this?" Irvine growled. "Fine. But tell me," he continued, voice breaking. "You can just fucking tell me that, I..." He blinked, looked away. His grip loosened, fingers sliding away. The shower rattled, began to run luke-warm. Neither man moved.

"Sorry," Squall whispered, staring carefully at Irvine's bleeding eyes, watching the hurt and guilt and anger roll through violet fading to grey. Squall reached out a tentative hand, biting his lower lip when Irvine made no move, let it drop. "I'm sorry, I just ..."

"Lied," Irvine said, voice almost lost beneath the water. Squall winced, but the tiny movement went unnoticed as Irvine continued, "Lied about the one damn thing that still helps us, that still feels like home, and you lied? Do you always lie about wanting me?" He looked up then. There were tears in his eyes, and Squall felt pain well in his breast. Some fucking plan.

"I'm sorry," he said again, louder, voice still monotone but he was trying. Irvine stared at him for an endless moment, then looked away, sort of laughing, once.

"Yeah," Irvine whispered. "Everybody's fucking sorry."

"Irvine, I didn't mean to ... I was just trying to ..." Squall stopped, choking on the words, on his reasoning that had sounded so justifiable in his head. This was why he hated talking. Nothing ever sounded quite as good when said out loud.

"I love you."

Except for that.

"What?" Squall looked up, eyes wide and very blue. Irvine shook his head.

"I love you, you idiot. You don't have to ..." Irvine ran a frustrated hand through his hair, snarling a little as his fingers snagged on wet strands. "You don't have to distract me all the time, you can talk to me, damnit, I'm not ... Aren't we lovers?" he questioned desperately, pinning Squall with his eyes.

"Yes," Squall whispered.

"And aren't we friends?" he said in that same horrible, hurting voice.

Squall nodded, not daring to even blink but pushing Shiva down when she tried to calm the roiling of his heart. Irvine nodded in return, slowly, eyes sad.

"Then why can't you talk to me?"

"I ... you just ..." Squall paused, feeling Irvine begin to react to what would be lies, what they both knew would always be lies, and suddenly he was just so fucking sick of lying all the time, and "I thought I needed to be strong," he said, the words coming out in a rush of honesty so strong he couldn't force anything above a whisper.

Irvine froze, eyes widening and a smile beginning even beneath his angry eyes and he was stepping foward to crush Squall into a hug, cradle him against a strong chest and press desperate kisses into his damp hair.

"Don't lie to me, Squall. Don't ever lie to me." He squeezed Squall tight, painfully tight, to emphasis his words. "If you're hurting, for fuck's sake, tell me you're hurting. I want to know. I don't want you to be brave, I don't need a hero. I need you." His grip lessened, and Squall breathed again, his eyes flickering shut at the touch of Irvine's lips to his neck, his heart pounding. "Tell me," he whispered.

"I… I can't," Squall stuttered, wretchedly. "I'll…" I'll break, and you'll have to put me together again, and you deserve better than that.

"You can, you can tell me, please ..."

"No," he whispered. "No more, please, I just, I need, can't we, I don't want to do this!" he yelled into Irvine's chest, voice finally breaking like a dam crumbling within his chest, and he was so fucking cold ...

"I know," Irvine said, his voice almost sad beneath the reassurance. "I know." He laughed again, that same bitter chuckle, and Squall's heart rolled again. "We tried, right?"

Squall rolled his head miserably against Irvine's chilled skin, pressing his forehead into the hollow of his shoulder. "I'm sorry," he managed, clinging to Irvine like the world was ending, fingernails biting into the soft skin of his back. "I'm sorry. I can't be what you need," he confessed. Everything was so clear behind his eyes. So clear in the dark.

Irvine's hands paused in stroking through his hair.

"What do I need?" Irvine questioned, voice deliberately casual.

Squall's mouth opened, but there were no words, it just wouldn't ... It was a feeling, and ... "You need ... more ... and I ... can't be open because," I'll break, he thought, holding his breath on the final words, holding them close. Irvine nodded, chin scrubbing against Squall's hair.

"And that's all I need you to be," Irvine whispered. "You can't always be the strong one, Squall. I need you to ..."

"To what?" Squall asked, almost afraid of the answer, lips brushing Irvine's skin, taste of cold water.

"To need me." Irvine's hand cupped the back of his skull, prompted him to look up at the cowboy, cradling him away from the dark. "I need to feel like you need me. I, Squall." He blew out a breath, gnawing at the corner of his mouth. "Squall, I am tired of feeling like a burden, I need ... Can't you see that we're in this together? I need to be able to trust you, to feel like you trust me ..."

"I trust you," Squall said, caught in Irvine's eyes.

"With your emotions?" Irvine's hand slid down to grasp the back of his neck, an oddly familiar gesture, and the cowboy smiled faintly. "Cause that's what I need, Squall. Everything you've got."

"Even if there's nothing there?" His greatest fear. But Irvine didn't look away, didn't even hesitate, just nodded.

"I've seen the lie, and I know you've been slipping back into the lie since we got here, but," and he leaned in, pressing his forehead to Squall's, breathing the words. "Squall, I don't want the lie. I want you. All of you. Whatever that is, I want it."

"All of it?"

"Yeah, all of it."

"Even the part that really wants to jump you right now?" Squall said shakily, finding his desire in violet eyes and water-slick skin.

Irvine pulled back, using the hand at Squall's neck to tilt his head back and examine silvering eyes for his truth. And he smiled.

"Especially that part," he grinned, almost purring, stepping back, pulling Squall with him out of the icy spray until he hit the back wall of the shower. "I always want that part, babe."

Squall groaned and let his eyes slide shut as Irvine's mouth pressed against his, shivering with cold despite the heat that was starting to build inside him.

"You're freezing," Irvine noticed, stroking a finger across Squall's blue-tinged lips.

"So warm me up," suggested Squall, his mouth curving into Irvine's favourite lopsided grin. He nipped Irvine's fingertip, and drew it slowly into his mouth, swirling his tongue around it and sucking gently.

Irvine growled, and pressed his hardening cock roughly into Squall's belly, slipping another finger into Squall's warm, wet mouth.

"Here?"

Squall nodded, looking at Irvine almost innocently as he fucked his fingers expertly with his mouth.

"You got it, babe," husked Irvine, and spun them around so Squall's back was against the wall. Irvine trailed a line of wet kisses down from his throat to his belly, lowering himself down to his haunches. He gave Squall's cock a few ice-cream licks, pressing his tongue flat along the ridge all the way up from his balls to the sensitive ridge around the head, pulling his foreskin gently back with his spare hand. Squall watched him, eyes steady even as his thighs trembled with pleasure, nipping and licking at Irvine's fingers all the while.

Irvine took Squall's cock in his mouth, sliding down the whole length of him, until his nose was pressed against dark curls, slicked soft with water. He could feel the tension coiling in Squall's belly already, even before he started to suck and move his head slowly back and forth over the whole delicious length of him. He tasted clean and warm and smelt of strawberries.

They watched each other, sucking cock and fingers, Squall running his hand over tangled russet as Irvine clutched his hip, encouraging him to move, to fuck, to feel.

To feel.

He was coming before he knew it, probably before he'd really wanted to, but he didn't much care. The pleasure was swift and bright, and as he spurted helplessly in Irvine's mouth, he was hit by the sudden conviction that this was a turning point. Right here, in this tiny bathroom in the middle of Hyne-knew-where, for one blinding second, he felt at home.

Things were getting better.

* * * * * * *

"Yohji, we have to get up any minute."

Yohji nuzzled his way to Aya's ear, and started to tease the sensitive ridges with his tongue. They were snuggled together in Yohji's huge bed, Aya spooned against Yohji's back. The sun had been up for several hours, and Aya could hear the familiar sounds of Omi and Ken moving around downstairs, making breakfast and getting the day started.

Yohji slid one long arm under the covers, draping it around Aya's middle and squeezing gently.

"Mine," he purred, happily.

"Second thoughts about sharing, Yohji?" said Aya dryly, twining their fingers together.

"Nah," said Yohji. "So long as you're still mine. Plenty of love to go round. And you and Squall looked so damn hot together…"

Oh yes. Aya smiled to himself, feeling a sudden twitch in Yohji's erection, pressed against his back.

"I wonder who the fuck they are," murmured Yohji, moving their hands lower, until they bumped into the slender arc of Aya's erection.

"Did Irvine say?" asked Aya, his eyes sliding closed as his fingers were curled around his own cock, Yohji gently encouraging him to move his hand slowly across the delicate skin.

"Said he was a soldier of some kind," said Yohji, "but I'm not convinced."

"They're killers." Aya continued to stroke himself as Yohji slowly withdrew his hand.

"You think?" There was rustling as Yohji reached behind him for something.

"I know."

Aya's hand paused for a moment as Yohji's fingers probed between his buttocks, slick and wet. He shifted his leg forwards, opening himself up, making it easier.

"And does that matter?"

Aya caught his lower lip between his teeth as the head of Yohji's cock popped inside him. He was still a little sore from his encounter with Squall the day before, but he didn't care. The pain dissolved to pleasure in an instant, and he relaxed.

"Not to me," he whispered.

Yohji drove all the way inside him, his breath ruffling the hair around Aya's ear in little puffs. He grabbed the edge of the sheets and threw them toward the foot of the bed, and sighed.

"God, Aya, you're so fucking beautiful when you touch yourself. I could watch you all day."

Aya felt a tiny smile creep across his face. "Fuck me," he said.

Yohji grinned, and started to move. He kept it slow at first, resting his head on Aya's shoulder, transfixed by the fluid movement of Aya's hand.

"Would you do it again?" Yohji asked, his voice strained now as his body flooded with pleasure.

"Yes," said Aya. "It helps," he admitted. "It's so unreal, it… helps."

Helps you forget, Yohji interpreted. It means you can be Ran for a while, not Aya who's sister's been kidnapped, not Aya who kills for a living. You can be Ran who loves beauty and pleasure and fun.

"I love you," Youji breathed, watching Aya's cock spasm at the words, his hand flying faster and his hips flexing back into Yohji. Aya turned his head blindly, eyes closed, mouth open on a gasp and Yohji covered it with his own, crushing Aya into his arms, convulsing around him in a final thrust and then Aya was coming, straining into his own trembling fingers. Yohji pulled back roughly to catch a quick breath, going absolutely still as Aya clenched around him, the muscles rippling down Yohji's length and it was just enough and he came.

Yohji collapsed slowly onto Aya, receiving an elbow to the ribs; he rolled over, groaning, flopping onto his back and pulling Aya with him, settling his lover on his chest and sighing happily.

"I love you, too," Aya whispered, lips barely moving against Yohji's chest. Yohji smiled slowly, and tightened his hold.

* * * * * * *

Squall leaned back against Irvine's chest, letting him rub the towel over his hair and damp skin. The warm sun was slanting across the bed now, the air gathering humidity as the day moved on. The heat seeped into Squall's chilled flesh, aided by the friction of the towel and the proximity of Irvine's body.

"I think perhaps we should plan to stay a while." Irvine's voice was soft in his ear, lips barely brushing the delicate outer rim. "What d'you think?"

"Yes," Squall said shortly, wishing it didn't feel like a betrayal.

"Not because we've given up," said Irvine, reading his mind in the stiffening of his shoulders. "But to survive. We can't do anything to get home. All we can do is wait, and while we're waiting…"

"We need to live," Squall breathed.

"Exactly." Irvine kissed his neck, looped one strong arm around him and hugged him close.

* * * * * * *

Manx pressed her glossy red lips around a tissue, and smiled at herself in the washroom mirror.

"Looking good, girl," grinned Birman. "Whose heart are we breaking today?"

Manx shrugged, popped her lipstick back in her purse and dropped the tissue in the bin. "Depends who comes along," she said.

"You're after that dark broody little thing we were following yesterday," observed Birman, taking a long drag on her cigarette. "The potential target."

"Maybe," Manx admitted slyly. "I thought we might do some more surveillance."

"Really?" Birman arched one cynical eyebrow. "You only want to watch, huh?"

Manx laughed. "I think it's time to move to stage two," she said. "Start the recruitment initiative."

Birman frowned, flicking ash into the sink. "Are you sure? They could still be a threat. We haven't actually found out anything about them, except they're hot as hell and fucking half of Weiss."

"Then what better way to find out more than have them work for us?"

"As what?" Birman smirked. "Rent boys?"

Once again Manx's laughter echoed off the polished tile of the washroom. "Now that's an idea."

"Well, I might have trouble not sampling the goods." Birman extinguished her cigarette under the cold tap with a hiss.

"I was thinking security. There's a club that came to Persia looking for protection. Could be just the thing. Couple of pretty bouncers."

"They don't look like bouncers."

"Bombay thinks they're fighters, apparently the dark one laid into Hidaka, was close to wiping the floor with him when he got interrupted. And he was all ready to take down that guy in the alley that was after Abyssinian, remember?"

Birman nodded agreement, pulling a comb through her short, sleek hair. "So what do we do? Go up to them and ask if they want a job? Sounds risky to me."

"I thought so to. So I had these made up." Manx pulled a clutch of glossy fliers out of her bag. "Just leave a few lying about where they're bound to look, wait for them to come along."

"And you know they're looking for a job because…"

"I happened to be in the diner where they have breakfast this morning and they happened to be talking about it."

"You've been busy," said Birman, admiringly.

Manx smiled. "I've got a feeling about those two," she said. "Makes me all tingly inside."

"I bet they would," said Birman.