By Darksquall and Race Ulfson

Disclaimer: The characters contained herein belong to SquareEnix and we aren't making any money from this.
Warnings: Eventual Yaoi, teenage boys being teenage boys. This is our epic, guys.
Rating: PG for now. We’ll get it to a mature rating eventuall

Summary: Seventeen, lost and alone, Squall Leonhart is on the run from his father and Esthar - he never expected to run straight into the arms of Seifer Almasy. This chance meeting gives them a chance to bury the hatchet (Seifer/Squall eventual).

Chapter Six

“It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.”
Albert Einstein

March 21st.

The squeal was still echoing in his ears after over an hour. Even Selphie hadn't made that much of an impression on him in her most hyperactive coffee, sugar, and explosive fuelled moments - Squall was beginning to wonder if the headache would ever leave. He was also beginning to doubt it would.

The worry that he would be recognised had always been there, of course. Squall’s name had been plastered on the Estharian media enough to even reach some parts of the Galbadian continent, though not in such abundance, so he'd let himself become too complacent. He'd taken too many risks. It was his own fault for being so stupid as to let his guard down. He'd been too comfortable with Seifer, of all people, and now his worries had finally been realised. The maid from the damn hotel had realised who Squall was and screamed it so loudly that a nearby picture had fallen off its hook and crashed to the floor.

The walls were so thin that the entire hotel would have heard it. So, while Seifer was out getting coffee, Squall had bolted.

He'd had to take the bike. If it hadn't been for the bike Squall would have been stuck there until he could get a bus. That just wasn't an option given the price on his head - especially if the press were going to be involved. It was bad enough that she'd spotted him and screamed without Esthar finding out to boot. As it was, he hoped he could fool them into thinking he was heading to Deling, and Rinoa. Squall had even driven in the wrong direction at first to attempt to put them off his trail before doubling back to head south just as he and Seifer had been the previous day.

Hopefully Seifer would understand. He had half a mind to double back again to see if he could pick Seifer up along the road somewhere but Squall didn't want to get any closer than where he'd stopped - a couple of miles outside of the town. Too great a risk. At least he'd managed to grab Seifer's bags as well, so he wouldn't believe that Squall had abandoned him and stolen his bike.

It had been over an hour already though, and still no sign of...

Squall finally noticed a figure walking along the side of the road toward him. At first it was more of a trudge, feet dragging and every step, seeming to be struggling under the weight of the world. Then whoever it was saw him, and the pace became easier, more relaxed.

It had to be Seifer. Anyone else would have had reason to run; only Seifer Almasy would try and look cool as he approached the so called "Prince of Esthar." Prince of Esthar. Lion of Balamb. Squall Loire. Hyne, what was wrong with just calling him by his damned name? He turned the bike angrily and coasted towards Seifer.

“I knew you’d be out here,” Seifer smirked as soon as Squall was close enough to hear him. “Darlyne was in raptures about a real prince being at the Park and Nap, so I got the clue.”

“Sorry,” Squall shrugged. It was odd to apologise to Seifer, especially when he hadn’t really done all that much wrong. He’d saved himself - that was all. However making Seifer walk in the already substantial heat for a couple of miles meant that he needed to diffuse any anger before it surfaced, or they’d be duelling until the press arrived. “Did she notify anyone?”

“The whole world. We need to hit it.”’

Squall cursed under his breath, jerking his head in a beckoning motion. “Get on.”

Clambering on quickly and already looping one arm around Squall’s waist to hold on tightly, Seifer grinned. “On the upside, we stiffed them for the roo…!”

The sudden acceleration meant Seifer’s words were lost on the wind. Squall wanted to be out of the way as quickly as possible, even if he did owe Seifer for running out on him, he wasn’t up for listening to his bitching, whining or whatever he was going to be calling it that day. They had to disappear. Seifer could put his helmet on later, when they had at least another thirty miles between themselves and whatever reporters could be bothered to roll up to the hotel in a decent amount of time. “They can put up a little plaque and charge extra,” he yelled over the thrumming of the engine and the whistle of the wind.

“That’s what I thought!”

They fell into silence for a while. Squall concentrated on the road as Seifer clung to him tightly, ignoring everything but the world around him. As long as he could feel Seifer’s arms around him, he could let loose – just let the road and the adrenaline take him. He barely slowed down at all, avoiding the next town and continuing onwards.

He realised at last that Seifer had been quiet for almost an hour. Very not like him, especially given that he’d had to walk for so long under the already baking sun. Squall was at least concerned enough to slow a little. “I admit,” he called, the whine of the engine softening as he slowed. “I was expecting more bitching. You’re getting mellow with age.”

“I am too fucking hot and too fucking pissed off at the moment. You are so buying dinner,” Seifer huffed. He sounded like a petulant child, and Squall couldn’t resist responding in kind.

“I’ll even get you an ice cream.”

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately – Squall was never sure if he wanted to fight with Seifer or not now they were travelling together – Seifer didn’t notice. Either that or he was really suffering from the effects of the sun, in which case, the sooner they found some place to rest, the better.

“I’d settle for a cold beer,” he replied at last.

He sighed. Squall wasn’t entirely sure he was ready to deal with Seifer drunk again. Once had been more than enough, and he didn’t plan on making it a regular encounter. “Beer then. Maybe we should stick to the back roads?”

“Yes. Hell, we should go hang with the Tonberries after that last fiasco.”

Seifer was right. Not that Squall was about to admit that aloud but he didn’t particularly want to run off and spend time with Selphie’s favourite creatures. Not only were they cute – a sure sign of being completely evil – but they were as randomly violent as Selphie herself could be at times. However, very few people disturbed them, and that would help with their current state. Still, it wasn’t an idea Squall was willing to entertain until every other avenue had been exhausted. “She screeched at me.”

“Who knew you were afraid of maids?” Seifer was grinning – Squall could hear it in his voice. Strangely, that didn’t have the usual affect of making him tighten his hands into fists, and not just because the handlebars were in the way.

“More the squealing, jumping and yelling of ‘you’re that guy!’ Ugh,” Squall rolled his eyes, even though Seifer wouldn’t be able to see. Some habits were so ingrained that he couldn't help himself. Eye rolling had almost become a hobby, especially while he'd been in command.

Affecting a high voice, Seifer gestured daringly considering the speed they were going and his abject hate of the way Squall drove. “The one who dumped my sister!”

“No, that would be if I was Irvine.”

Seifer hummed in thought, loudly enough to be heard over the thrum of the engine. He had to be over the top when Squall couldn’t see him, just so he’d have the same effect as when Squall could see him. Still unable to remember just why he’d agreed to come with Seifer aside from certain parts of him urging him into it, Squall had to resign himself to the grandstanding. “The one who saved the nuns from the quick sand?”

“…do you have sun stroke?” he asked, glancing back just quickly enough to catch a glimpse of Seifer’s slightly reddened face before returning his gaze to the road ahead.

“Yes, and it’s all your fault.”

“I apologised!”

“Which doesn’t make it any less your fault,” Seifer poked his driver in the leg firmly, “But I do forgive you.”

Unable to move away from Seifer’s hands or face him long enough to be sure that he was okay, Squall resigned himself to driving again. So what if he’d finally learned to apologise to Seifer without pulling a blade on him or heading for the training grounds for a sparring session? It obviously didn’t make much difference. “Hyne, at least it isn’t far to the next town. If I get you some water, will you be okay to keep moving?”

“Skip the next town, like we did the last,” Seifer ordered, his voice taking on a truly serious tone for the first time in days. “We need to hit a larger city and let you be seen again. Maybe at the train station.”

While some odd part of him was thrilled that Seifer cared more about keeping Squall safe than his own potentially dangerous health issues, the majority of him was pissed off that Seifer could just ignore his own safety like that. Grandstanding as usual. “If you have sunstroke, you need to rest.”

“No, I’m tough. Just hot and crabby.”

“Seifer…” Squall had the urge to rub the scar on the bridge of his nose. It was only the potential fiery crash that kept him from doing it. That and his helmet being in the way. At least the war had helped him with his priorities.

“Squall, even a bone headed first year cadet can triangulate and figure out where we are going. I’m serious. If you don’t want to head for the city, head for the ruins or something.”

“Fine, whatever.”

“Isn’t there a draw point near there?” Seifer gestured to the remains of an old church of Hyne on the horizon. Squall could barely see it, the heat haze rising to make it seem a watery mirage far away. He didn’t recognise the landmarks here, couldn’t even remember seeing them on a SeeD map so he shrugged. “I have a couple of water spells left, I think, but we need to hide out.”

“Fine, but we can’t risk if for more than a couple of nights. I don’t want to get stuck out here without oil or water.”

Seifer peered over his shoulder. Squall shifted away just barely, not wanting to upset the bike’s balance but entirely too aware of how Seifer felt to remain composed with Seifer that close to him. “Fuel is going to be a problem. I’ll leave you in the desert and go in and get supplies, okay? That would be better – they didn’t really see the bike did they?”

“No,” Squall shook his head. “I got out of there too fast. I made it look like we were going the other way.”

“Then we can risk it.”

Debating whether he should give away his greatest secret, aside from the gay crush thing, Squall revved the engine and hummed. “I have a disguise, you know,” he said when he’d finally decided to just go ahead and tell Seifer. So what if he laughed? “I didn’t just walk out of Esthar as I am.”

“Please,” Seifer grabbed Squall’s arm almost tightly enough to bruise. “Tell me it’s drag.”

“It’s not drag,” Squall admitted reluctantly. “You’d laugh less at me in drag.”

“My interest is piqued.”

Squall shrugged out of Seifer’s grip, trying to concentrate on the road ahead which Seifer was making entirely too difficult today. Why today, what had changed? “But since you volunteered to go and get supplies, I have no reason to wear it.”

“Oh, cruelty. No, I’ll get the supplies at the next stop and you can wear the disguise at the one after that.”

That sounded like a bad idea. He wasn’t entirely sure what Seifer’s reaction to the ‘disguise’ would be, particularly with how ‘not Squall’ it made him. Well as long as Seifer wasn’t drinking or eating at the time Squall was sure it would be fine. “Since you’re so kind and thoughtful, I don’t have to.”

“Oh no, you owe me,” Seifer poked Squall in the perfect spot in the ribs to make him squirm and swerve the bike almost dangerously. Choking back a laugh, Squall struggled to concentrate on the road and straighten in his seat again.

“Fine, Whatever.”

“...How did you get out of Esthar?”

“A boat.”

That gave Seifer pause long enough for Squall to get comfortable again – though it took a little squirming to get his ass back in just the right place. At least Seifer wouldn’t be suffering any adverse effects from that – he was way too straight to enjoy another guy squirming however briefly against his crotch.

“They have ports, idiot. They’re reopening up trade negotiations with Galbadia now they exist again.”

“Not in the city,” Seifer countered.

“Fine, transporter, bus, then boat. Dropped me in Dollet.”

“On your head,” he said, patting Squall on the head as if feeling about for a bump even though the helmet was in the way. Why did Seifer get so adventurous when he was the one in the driving seat? Was it boredom, affection or was Seifer just trying to piss him off? Not much of a question really, of course he was trying to piss Squall off - it was as inevitable as the sun rising after all. “Why not stay there? Contact Rin?”

“Loire knows about Rinoa, it’d be the first place he’d look for me,” That hurt more than it should have. He’d long since realised that any romantic feelings he had for Rinoa were nothing more than the knightly duties and worse still. He loved Rinoa in some way, respected that she’d tried to keep up with the stronger, faster kids who’d been training their whole life for a war and managed to almost keep pace but she was too young for him and for war. He’d always love her, but not in the way that she needed or deserved. At least she'd understood that.

“Okay,” Seifer shrugged, by some miracle recognising a raw nerve and changing the subject rather than tap dancing on it. Perhaps it was because he too knew the pain of having a sorceress far away - even further away than Squall’s own. “We’ll go until we have half a tank and then hunt for a place where you can hole up. If we had water, I’d say stay here for a week or so.”

“It’s not worth waiting that long.”

Then the comment from left field. Well..., not quite left field as Squall could see the logic in it but still getting from staying out to what came next took some tangent that Squall had trouble following. “You should dye your hair.”


“Get a poodle perm.”

Squall hit the brakes, stopping after a short distance as Seifer almost went right over his head and the bug shield. It was only by suddenly clutching at Squall that he was able to remain in his seat. “You really have got sun stroke. Maybe we should stop sooner.”

“What?” Seifer threw his hands out, grinning like an idiot. So it was mostly a joke and Squall could relax, there would be no perms and no hair dye, no matter how much they would change his appearance and keep him out of the Estharian eye. “It’s something you’d never have, right?”

“For good reason!”

“Work with me, here,” Seifer settled his hands on his hips and glowered at Squall. “What about that sun tan stuff girls use? To darken up your skin?”

“If we can find one that doesn’t make me itch.”

“There’s always drag,” he suggested helpfully.

With a sigh, Squall shook his head. “You just want to see me in a dress.”

“I could use the laugh, yeah.”

“So I have to suffer?” he rolled his eyes. Seifer was edging back into bully mode, make the smaller guy suffer for his amusement, and there was no Zell here to divert his attention so Squall had to be the one to take it like a man. Of course, this meant that Seifer was immensely bored and it was probably time to let him drive for a while. “I can’t wear women’s clothing. I have no cleavage.”

“Neither did Quis, until about four years ago.”

“Seifer. I walked through Esthar with everyone who had seen me on news broadcasts and newspapers for weeks unable to recognise me. I’ll be fine with what I have.”

“Okay, then let’s see it.”

Squall revved the engine and pulled off the road towards the old ruined houses that lurked amongst the scrubby bushes and dust mounds. They would be reasonable shelter for the night, and a good land mark for Seifer to find him again, probably the easiest out here in the middle of nowhere. “Okay, you go and get supplies and I’ll change.”

“I’ll be back after sundown, so don’t panic. I’ll leave you with all the gear.”

Climbing off the bike and eyeing Seifer when he moved forward to take the weight of the machine, Squall couldn’t help one last order, no matter how futile he knew it would likely prove with Seifer Almasy. At last he could fully appreciate how pale Seifer was – for Seifer. The walk in the sun had gotten to Seifer more than Squall had realised if he still looked so sickly. “Be careful.”

“If I come back with a few billion cops after me, hide.”

“That’s why I told you to be careful,” Squall poked Seifer deliberately on his arm, at the point where he’d been injured at first night, then bent to grab his backpack out of one of the saddlebags.

Seifer just grinned. “That’s why I told you to hide.”

“Okay, get out of here.”

“I’ll be back,” Seifer revved the engine, spinning the bike in a circle. With a flash of a smile and a wink, he headed for the road again. “Don’t wait up!”

While Seifer heroically disappeared with the bike on the all important mission of “buy supplies and bullshit to the locals”, I built up a fire ready for the evening, which even in our reasonably good shelter of the ruined church of Hyne would likely be cold and unpleasant, and then changed into my disguise from my escape from Esthar.

I trusted Seifer to come back. He wouldn't abandon me unless something happened – if he hadn't turned me in already he was hardly going to leave me now. I suspected he needed me as much as I needed him. For company, for duelling, for the past we'd never quite managed to leave behind.

Seifer was gone so long that I even managed to get some sleep, which was good as I didn’t have him elbowing me in the ribs, pawing me or dragging me over like a teddy bear. I liked the guy a lot but Hyne it’d be nice to just be able to lie down for a night without him trying to use me as a blanket. He really didn’t understand what that did to me. I was human after all, a teenager physically and without Shiva I could only take so much of an attractive guy pawing me without reacting in some fashion.

The approaching juddering growl of the motorbike’s engine, one I already recognised too well, woke me from my nap. It wasn’t quite dark, though the sun was rapidly sinking below the horizon and the last of the light gave an already red desert an even redder hue, as though the rolling dunes were actually a sea of blood. It was nothing I hadn’t seen in my nightmares before, nothing I couldn’t handle.

The engine noise rolled through the air, though it was hard to tell from inside the ruined building, I was half sure Seifer was taking the bike around to the back of our makeshift shelter to park it out of sight of the road. I assumed that he’d have the brains to do that anyway. I stood; ready to greet him when he came in through the one surviving usable doorway.

In short order, he appeared, struggling with a couple of paper bags filled with – I guessed – our supplies and already digging around in the bags for something. “They threw in a pile of those blue freezer things so the beer is still c-”

He’d looked up at me and, with his eyes wide and his jaw hanging open, was just staring. Not that I blamed Seifer, I wouldn’t have even known it was me in the mirror if we’d had one. I was dressed like I should have been hanging around with Zell - like a T-boarder. I had wide, blue denim shorts with pockets on the thighs that came down past my knees, a tee-shirt three sizes too large for me with the logo from Zell’s board emblazoned on the front and a jacket that barely had arms longer than the arms on the tee-shirt.I hadn’t bothered to mess with my hair like I had during my escape from Esthar - I knew the outfit would be enough on it’s own and I didn’t want to gel my hair when we didn’t have a working bathroom where I could wash it out afterwards.

I folded my arms over my chest and said “Laugh.”

I watched Seifer’s knees start to buckle and rescued the beers before he dropped them. Moment later he was on the floor, laughing his ass off and twitching in place while I was cracking open the first cool beer of the evening. I hoped there wasn’t anything breakable in the other bag of supplies, the way he’d gone down I wasn’t sure anything would have survived.

“You...” Seifer wheezed after a good five minutes, “Are a fucking genius.”

“It’s taken you this long to notice?” I asked, poking him with the toe of my bright blue and black sneakers. He didn’t pull away; he was too busy trying to keep breathing on the dusty floor.

He wiped away a tear, I wasn’t sure if it was from laughing or he was trying to make a point. “This is the first brilliant thing you did without me there to help you. I’m so proud.”

“Stay still; let me drop one of these blue things down the back of your pants.”

“Don’t waste it!” Seifer exclaimed, reaching for me with grabby hands. Or perhaps it was for the ice pack – however, a guy can dream occasionally, right? “Put it on my head.”

I pulled another beer from the bag and put that in one of his still grabbing hands and pushed the icepack into the other. He put the beer to his head first, then switched out for the ice pack and slowly inched himself into a sitting position to drink the beer. He still looked pale, but better than he had before at least. I hadn’t realised how much I’d been worried about the idiot until I’d noticed he really was okay,.

“All it needs is a temporary tattoo, cover the scar up.”

I didn’t want to draw any attention to the rough skin that cut drastically down between my eyes, not even if it was covered with a fake tattoo. The idea was valid but any attention on that part of me might have had questions asked. It wasn’t wise. “So, do I look like Squall Leonhart?”

“No, you look like a punk,” he grinned at me and lifted his bottle in a toast. “Wait, maybe that is Squall Leonhart.”

“I have this incredible urge to start swatting at flies,” I muttered. I wasn’t sure I’d been loud enough to hear until Seifer started actually, physically rolling around on the floor in the dust laughing again. I’d never seen anyone actually do that outside of a few Saturday morning cartoons, but there Seifer was, rolled onto his side clutching his stomach as though he were afraid his sides would split. “Enjoy it while you can, I’m changing back in a while.”

“No!” Seifer sat up, struggling for his breath again. “You need the road dust to look right.”

“I can’t carry out a conversation with you when I’m wearing this,” I paused for a moment to think. “I couldn’t before, but there was less laughing.”

That seemed to sober him up a little at least, he was finally breathing and though he snickered every now and then he was back to normal. For Seifer at least. I could practically see the gears whirring behind his eyes as he thought. “Yea, okay, but you should wear it all day before we hit the next burg. We can afford to skip a few, I got a gas can and some extra rubber bands.”

“I will. Enjoy it, after this beer I’m changing,” I shrugged and sat down next to him – I’d proved myself to him yet again, why did I keep forcing myself into doing that? It was ridiculous, he wasn’t my big brother and he wasn’t anything to me but an acquaintance. An old rival. Why did proving myself to him seem so big and important and vital all the time?

“To Zell,” Seifer lifted his bottle in another toast and I matched him. “May his hair stand forever tall.”

“May he always reach the hot dogs in the cafeteria.”

Seifer clinked his bottle against mine since I was close enough to reach this time. “Amen,” he grinned and finished his drink in one fell swoop. I watched him swallowing, resting my bottle on my knee. I noticed stupid things about him some times, like the way his throat moved when he swallowed or how deep the tan was and how far it went down beneath his shirt.

“You know the hardest part of this is wearing the pants,” I said at last just so I had something to distract me from the thoughts of how much I liked watching his throat move like that. Or to prevent me from thinking about what that meant. “I think I could jump off the roof and they’d act as parachutes.”

He tugged on the hem of one leg, noting how far that the damn thing moved when he pulled it. “We’ll have to tie them down or the wind resistance will blow you off the bike.”

I think my expression gave away how I felt about that. “I’m an air brake. How embarrassing.”

Seifer looked at me for a good thirty seconds and folded over, laughing yet again.

I couldn’t keep talking to or at him while he was laughing like that. Especially when he started to roll to the side, flopping down with his head in my lap. I had to push him away before I had an adverse and embarrassingly teenage reaction. “That’s it, I’m taking off my pants.”

“Returning the sails to the good ship breezy balls?” Seifer asked when he could speak without snickering again. He was still flopped down on his side next to me, his head almost close enough to touch my leg. Why did I only notice this stuff when it was dark, when it was late. Maybe it was the beer, after all I’d seen what it had done to Seifer back at the coach stop. Maybe I should avoid the alcohol for the time being.

“Yes. With Captain Wind-dick.”

“And his luscious first mate, Miss Whoosh-cooze,” Seifer nodded as though I’d proposed a very good idea. He hadn’t quite drunk enough to be worrying yet, fortunately for me.

I have no idea what possessed me to speak again. Perhaps I had been spending too much time with Seifer if I was assisting him with his flights of fancy and insanity. “Her face has never been seen, her skirt is covering it all the time.”

“But she remains the darling of the navy.”

Something told me if I spent more time with him, I was only going to be getting worse. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing any more.
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