July '03'

Disclaimer: All the Final Fantasy characters in this fic belong to those talented people at Square. Lucky them. The main pairing will eventually be Irvine and Squall, possibly some others showing up later on…not sure yet.

This is YAOI - boys with boys, caring, desiring, kissing, hugging, groping…um, yeah…but that’s why you’re reading this, yes?

In The Cards - Part Five
By Garden’s Gnome

Squall followed Seifer through the door and into the kitchenette of their motel room. While the blond had been meeting with Irvine, Squall had been waiting across the street in the shadows, waiting to catch a glimpse of the man who was turning his emotions on their head.

Seifer had left first and headed in the direction of the motel. About five minutes later, Irvine had strolled out of the pub and wandered off towards the station to catch the next train to Esthar. Under the brim of his hat, the cowboy’s eyes had looked troubled and deep in thought. Squall would have followed him all the way to the train but with his own train leaving for Dollet within a few hours, he had to get ready.

“Well?” Seifer asked, bringing the brunette out of his thoughts.

“Let’s get this over with,” Squall said and opened the bag, pulling out neatly labelled packages and setting them on the table.

When the bag was emptied of it’s last item, the two men surveyed the three piles before them. The first pile contained stuff that would be used shortly for Squall’s disguise and had clothing, make-up, hair dye and an assortment of other things. The second contained mostly clothing that would be needed for the duration of the covert operation to maintain the disguise.

Seifer eyed the items in the third pile before asking. “What the fuck is all this stuff?”

The last pile consisted of five items not normally found in one of the infiltration kits. Picking up the closest package, Squall read the label: from Selphie. Quickly picking through the other things, the brunette concluded that each member of the gang had sent an item to help him. Or not, he realised as he opened Selphie’s ’gift’ and began to laugh softly.

“What is it?” Seifer asked as he was handed two photos that had been in with a small bag of mints. The first photo was of Quistis’ munchies jar as it had been a few weeks back when they had first found out about drugs within the Garden. Obviously from the date on the photo Selphie had yet to refill the jar. The second photo was of the same jar, but empty with a small bag of lollies next to it and written on the photo in the petite brunette’s handwriting - ’Tee hee!’

“She’s living very dangerously,” Seifer told Squall, handing back the photo and opening the bag to grab out a mint.

“Probably had another bag to refill the jar with fresh lollies,” Squall said, picking up two envelopes.

The first was from Rinoa and contained a note telling the brunette to go to a particular shoe shop and get himself a decent pair of boots. Boots? Squall thought as he looked at the footwear provided with the kit. Good idea. The second envelope was from Zell and contained some long-lasting tattoos. Seifer raised a blond eyebrow but said nothing.

Two packages remained. Seifer handed the one from Quistis to Squall first, which they recognised as one of the containers that Quistis used for her contacts. Knowing what it would contain the brunette put it aside and stared at the last item. If everyone else had given him something, obviously the last was from Irvine.

Reaching out, Squall gingerly grabbed the sea-green velvet bag. Opening it, he carefully tipped the contents onto his gloved hand and gasped. The ball was a swirling blue-green with a golden glow in its centre. A summoning orb, and not just any orb but Irvine’s most treasured. Siren.

“Holy Hyne,” Seifer whispered across the table, awed by what the cowboy had sent. Sending Siren was the closest thing to Irvine being there himself, and by the look in Squall’s eyes, he knew it too.

Taking off a glove, Squall placed the hand on the glowing orb. “Siren,” he whispered and immediately felt warmth flood through his mind and a whispering echo beloved of my master. Squall gasped at the words and then gasped again as he felt the air around him begin to throb with an unknown pressure that was steady like a heartbeat. He could feel his body begin to sway gently and could see mist like shadows with lights reflecting off them. One broke away from the others and headed towards him.

Then abruptly he was back in the motel room with a concerned Seifer shaking him gently.

“Squall??…Squall! Dammit, answer me!”

“Nnh.”

“Squall, look at me,” Seifer commanded, still looking very concerned as grey-blue eyes focus on him. “Finally…what the fuck just happened to you?”

“A memory…I think,” the brunette said, pressing a hand to his temple as his mind again became his own. Was it a memory?

Yes, Siren answered.

About what?

You’ll know when it’s time, she told him and then her presence was gone.

“Squall, don’t you dare go off and talk to yourself. Tell me you’re okay,” Seifer said, running a hand through his blond hair.

“Yes, Seifer, I’m okay. Just asking myself if it was a memory. Siren says it was but won’t tell me anymore than that.”

“Damn secretive women. Anyway, if you’re sure you are okay now; we should start to get you geared up. Need any help?” the blond asked.

“Only with the hair dye and the tattoos,” Squall said, gathering up the mentioned supplies. “The rest I’ll have to do myself or I won’t be able pull off my disguise.”

“Okay, then into the bathroom with you,” Seifer said looking at the clock on the wall. “We haven’t much time before we have to leave.”

About half an hour later, Seifer exited the bathroom and went to the kitchen table. Picking up the envelope from Rinoa, he headed for the door.

“Let those tattoos set for a few more minutes before getting in the shower, Squall,” he called out towards the partly open door. The brunette stuck his head around the door and nodded.

“Where are you going?” he asked Seifer.

“To get your boots. We’re running out of time. I have to get back to the Garden before Irvine leaves with that card player guy.”

“Tobias,” said the brunette, rolling his eyes at the blond’s lack of memory.

“Yeah, him. You said yourself that you should’ve told the guys to send your rare Triad cards. Plus I really need to be there,” Seifer grinned wickedly.

“So you can kick Irvine out,” Squall guessed, trying not to smile at Seifer’s obvious glee at having some fun with the cowboy.

“Gotta make it look realistic, ya know,” Seifer said, shrugging as he opened the front door.

“Seifer, the boots. I want a pair that go up to here,” Squall told the blond, indicating a place just above his knee. Seifer’s eyes widened.

“You sure?” he asked, slightly shocked by the request.

“Yes, very sure. Now get going or I’ll never catch the train on time.”

Squall shut the door and Seifer heard running water. Shaking his head, he left the room, hoping his best friend knew what he was doing.

When the blond returned with the boots, he almost fell over in the doorway from the shock of seeing the transformed Squall. Gone were the brown locks that usually fell into the brunette’s eyes. Black hair streaked with red now fell into dark green eyes. But that wasn’t what made Seifer stop and stare.

Facing away as he did up the laces on a pair of black suede ankle boots, Seifer could see the tattoo that he’d put on Squall’s lower back peeking out from the long black skirt that the other man wore. Slits to mid thigh up both sides showed off the commander’s long, smooth legs, and the long-sleeved top hugged his slim form, moulding itself around the fake breasts he wore. As a guy, Squall was gorgeous but as a girl, he was breath taking.

“Woohoo! Squally-boy in a frock. Didn’t know you had it in you,” he said, whistling in appreciation then snickered as he asked. “Did you have to shave your legs?”

“Shut it Seifer or I’ll find a way for you to wear a skirt…permanently!” Squall growled back, adjusting the choker around his neck for comfort and quickly checking the neutral style of make-up he‘d used in a small mirror. “Did you get the boots?”

“Yes, plus a little something extra. Two something’s actually,” he said handing over two small packages and dropping the boots near the travel bag Squall would use.

The first contained a pair of small silver daggers, which were to go into any boots that Squall was wearing, seeing as taking Lionheart would be impossible. Squall opened the second package and raised a now black brow at the blond. “A vial of perfume?”

“Not just any perfume…open it,” Seifer urged him.

Opening the vial carefully, Squall immediately breathed in the familiar scent, one he hadn’t smelt since he was a child. “It smells like…”

“Matron. She used to wear this all the time and as soon as I smelt it I knew you’d need it. Think of it this way, if for some reason the cowboy doesn’t recognise you, he should remember that scent.”

“He’s not that bad. Besides, I have Siren and he’ll be able to feel her aura,” Squall told the blond, slipping the daggers into his boots and dabbing on some of the perfume. “There, do I pass inspection?” he asked, turning around slowly.

“Do you want me to just look or can I touch too?” Seifer asked, mock leering at the dark haired man. Squall rolled his eyes.

“That’s answer enough for me. And you shouldn’t be entertaining thoughts like that for me…I thought you liked Zell?” Squall asked, moving to finish packing his bag as Seifer slumped on one of the kitchen chairs.

“He would never think of me like that,” he said, burying his head in his hands. “Hyne, I teased him as a child and bullied him as we grew up at the Garden.”

“Only because you wanted him to notice you. You’re not the first to have problems asking a friend to be more,” Squall said gently, his voice now more feminine with the activation of the voice altering chip in the choker. “Just don’t do what Irvine has done and wait. Tell him.”

“I’ll think about it. It’s easier for you, you know the cowboy’s interested whereas I don’t have a clue.” Seifer looked up at Squall, smiling at the concern written on his friend’s face. “What are you gonna do about sniper-boy?” he asked.

“Not sure yet,” Squall said with a sigh. “We’re going to need a long talk but with this mission…I don’t know when we’ll get the chance. He’s only kissed me…”

“And given you Siren. That’s definitely a sign of something big because after his gun, Siren’s his most special thing,” Seifer said the looked speculatively at the other man. “But I guess that would be you now.”

“What? More special than the gun and the GF to Irvine? Sure, I’ll believe that when I see it,” Squall scoffed. Grabbing up his bag he turned to the blond. “Escort me to the train, ‘brother dear’?”

Seifer smiled into the green eyes of the ‘sister’. “Sure, wouldn’t want you to miss the train because some guy tried to chat you up. Big brothers have to protect younger, innocent siblings from the lecherous men of the world. Hmmm, wonder if Irvine can be fitted into that category somehow?”

“Oh, shut up!”

*****

Quietly walking through the Garden, Seifer cursed his luck at arriving so late. It was well after curfew and everyone would be in bed now. Including the gang.

After seeing Squall onto the train headed for Dollet, Seifer had driven towards Esthar to where the Garden now was. Everything had been going well until he’d arrived in Fisherman’s Horizon where he’s been forced to stop for half the day because of a freak storm. Calling ahead to let the others know he would be late, the blond had no choice but to wait out the bad weather. And now he was running very late.

Deciding to get Squall’s triad cards from his room first, Seifer bypassed heading for Quistis’ office and went straight to the dorm hallway where he and the rest of the gang lived. Keying Squall’s door code, the blond walked confidently through the darkened lounge room, heading for the bedroom. He made it to the bottom step before something warm bowled him over, both him and the other person falling back onto the floor, a beanbag breaking the fall.

“What the fuck?!?” Seifer growled out once he could get air in his lungs. He heard a gasp above him, definitely male. “Zell?” he asked, placing his hands on the other man’s legs waiting to see just who was sitting on him.

“Seifer? Shit man, thought you was an intruder or something. Idiot!” the other blond said, whacking Seifer’s arm. “You gonna…let me up?” he asked, an odd catch in his voice.

Am I going to let him up? Do I want to let him up? Seifer asked himself although he already knew that the answer to both questions was no. With a flare of brightness, the lights in the room suddenly came on before he had a chance to answer the question. “Hope I’m not disturbing anything,” a voice drawled.

“Fucking hell, Irvine. Where have you been?” Zell asked the cowboy, getting off Seifer quickly and helping the other blond to his feet. Seifer immediately turned and went to get the cards. That was too close, he thought as he listened to the two men.

“Around,” was Irvine’s reply.

“Quistis and Selphie have been looking for you all afternoon. Surely you saw them at some point,” Zell said sounding slightly frustrated. Could the tattooed man have been affected by the closeness too?

“I saw them but really didn’t want to be found. You know what Quistis wants to do to me.”

“You have to take Shiva to Squall and this is the only way. It’ll only be for a day or so and then she won’t be in your mind ever again.”

“Sure, and what happens if Squall’s not where I’m going? What then?”

“He’ll be there, Irvine. You may or may not recognise him but he’ll be there,” Seifer told the sniper as he returned to the main room. “Nice gift you gave him too.”

“What gift?” asked Zell, watching Seifer’s every move as the tall blond sat on one of the couches.

“Shut up, Seifer,” Irvine said warningly but already knowing he was wasting his words. “They didn’t ask so they don’t need to know.”

“Oh, he didn’t tell you guys?” Seifer asked, a twinkle in his eyes at the cowboy’s discomfort as he ignored him. “Siren, Zell. He sent Siren.”

Zell’s blue eyes widened in shock as he looked over at Irvine. “Damn, you must be serious about him,” he said as he joined Seifer on the couch.

“Yes, I am. You have a problem with it?” Irvine asked, defensive of his feelings for the brunette.

“Ah, no. Not at all. Just if you hurt him…”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it already from blondie. I know what’ll happen if I hurt Squall and that’s if he doesn’t kill me first.” Irvine looked at the relaxed green-eyed man. “Did you give him my message?” he asked.

“Sure,” Seifer said with a mischievous smile. “Right as the train doors closed. The look on his face was priceless. You two really need to talk,” Seifer told the gunman seriously. “I do have a question though, what do you call Squall in your mind?”

Irvine gave the blond a piercing but slight confused look. “Why?” he asked slowly.

“Well, when he junctioned to Siren something happened. A memory or something he said. But right before that happened he gasped and his eyes turned the deepest blue I’ve ever seen them.” Seifer shrugged. “Just curious because for as long as I’ve known him, I’ve never seen his eyes that colour and I‘ve been exposed to his various moods.”

“You think Siren said something to him?”

“Yeah, whatever it was shocked the socks right off him. When you think about it, she didn’t have to say anything really; her being there was enough. Squall knows that you’re serious about him now so don’t fuck it up.”

“If you’re both through threatening me, I really must go before Quis…”

“Before I what, Irvine?” Quistis asked, standing in the doorway with Selphie and Rinoa.

“Um…never mind,” Irvine said, moving to collapse into a beanbag.

“Seifer, good to see you made it back safely. Why do you have Squall’s cards?” Quistis asked as she and her two companions moved into the living area.

“Squall wants them,” he told the blond woman, tossing the cards at Irvine. “Don’t lose them.”

“What is it with the lack of faith in me? You’re worried that I’ll hurt Squall and now that I’ll lose his precious cards. I’m not like that, really!”

“Oh yeah, and don’t lose this either,” said Seifer, tossing the velvet bag that had once held Siren’s summoning orb at the sniper.

“He gave this to you to give to me?” Irvine asked in a hushed voice as he pulled Squall’s Griever chain out of the bag reverently.

“Yeah, he did. Guess it means he likes you too,” the blond said with a wink. Irvine just smiled softly and put the chain around his neck.

“So, what’s the plan now?” he asked, addressing the question to Quistis.

“Well, now that we’ve found you…” Rinoa said, smiling gleefully.

“Shiva junctioning!” said Selphie happily; pulling the Shiva orb from the ice blue velvet bag she carried.

“Then we toss your sorry ass out of the Garden,” added Seifer with a wicked smile.

“Why me?” Irvine asked no one in particular, knowing that they all would have an answer.

“Because you volunteered,” said Selphie, moving closer with the orb.

“Because you’re friends with the enemy,” said Quistis, knowing that he was only friendly with Tobias for the mission.

“Because I want to kick you out for confusing my knight,” said Rinoa in mock anger before collapsing in a fit of giggles.

“Because you kissed Squall and he liked it.”

“You sound jealous Seifer. Wish it was you?”

“No, he’s my best friend. More like just wistful thinking.”

“Someone else then,” Irvine said knowingly as he stood to take Shiva‘s orb from Selphie. “My advice…talk to them about it and don’t fuck it up.”

“Easy for you to say, cowboy. Now hurry up so I can go to bed,” Seifer said to Irvine, although he made no move from the couch.

Irvine removed his gloves and held the white orb in one hand. Placing a palm over it, he watched as the ice blue light in its centre flared coldly and summoned the ice guardian.

“Shiva,” he whispered. Icy coolness reached deep into his mind as if searching for something. Then the coldness receded and he heard a crystalline voice whisper to him in greeting. Sniper.

Is that all the hello I get? he asked Shiva.

I have found the information I seek. I will go with you to my master.

Irvine drew a deep breath as Shiva’s presence faded into the background. At least she wasn’t out for his blood like the others. He heard a light laugh.

Never think that, Sniper. I’ve seen that you realise what hurting my master would get you so there was no need. I also see that your intentions are true. But don’t ever think I’m not watching.

Irvine shivered with the implied threat as he returned his attention to the others. Seifer was watching him closely. “What?” he asked.

“Well?” the blond asked back.

Irvine waved a hand dismissively. “Hurt him you die. The usual.”

“Thought as much. So how do you want to do this?” Seifer asked Quistis, who frowned in thought.

“I’m not sure really,” she said, and then looked at Irvine. “What arrangements do you have with Tobias?”

“Well, we weren’t sure when Seifer would be back so we agreed to leave together unless I get chucked out first, in which case I’m supposed to meet him in Balamb.”

“Okay, I’m back now and I reckon that the Card Club knows it. We have to do this now,” Seifer said, standing up. “Go to your rooms, I’ll be there in about ten minutes. Hope you have everything packed,” he added with a grin.

“I’ve been ready since you left with Squall. Just been waiting on you,” Irvine told him. Tipping his hat, the cowboy sauntered towards the door. “Wish me luck guys. I’ll see you all shortly.”

“How ready for this is Irvine?” Seifer asked the group after the cowboy had left. Zell shrugged.

“Not sure. He’s been keeping to himself since you left. Or hanging out with Tobias. Guess we’re going to have to trust him.”

“He’s more prepared than it looks,” Rinoa pointed out. “I saw him talking to Doctor Kadowaki as soon as he got back from Timber. He’s got something planned.”

“Has the doctor said anything to you Quistis?” Selphie asked hopefully. “Some kind or note or report?”

“I knew nothing about it,” the blond woman admitted. “I’ll go see her in the morning.” Quistis headed for the door, motioning for the others to follow. “Let’s get this over with.”

“You guys head back to your rooms. That way you can say that Seifer and Irvine woke you up,” Zell said, opening the door for the three women. After they left, he closed the door again and leaned against it, watching Seifer.

If they hadn’t been disturbed earlier by Irvine when they’d been on the floor, Zell was sure Seifer was going to say something to him. The other blond had hesitated in letting him up. Did that mean something?

“A gil for you thoughts, Zell?” Seifer asked from right in front of him. So lost in his thoughts, the tattooed man had failed to see the green eyed blond cross the room. Zell looked up into those green eyes and licked his lips, suddenly very nervous as he shook his head.

“Ah, not really. I was…mmph!”

Being so close to Zell and watching him lick his lips had been all Seifer could take. Deciding to follow Irvine’s advice, Seifer placed a hand beside Zell’s head on the door and used his lips to silence the shorter man. Not pressing too hard to begin with, he felt the blond’s lips tremble beneath his before they opened with a small sigh. Feeling arms wrap around his neck, Seifer moved a little closer and added more pressure to the warm mouth under his.

Time had stilled. There was no mission, no Irvine to see to…hell, no Garden to worry about either. Only Seifer’s lips and his warmth. Zell tried not to go into shock as their lips moved together, slowly savouring the other and releasing pent up tensions. Starting to feel light-headed, he drew back slightly and looked into lust hazed green eyes.

Seifer smiled gently as he gazed at Zell’s reddened lips. He felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders with that one kiss. But before they could talk there were other things to be taken care of. Namely one Galbadian cowboy.

“I guess we need to talk,” he heard Zell say and nodded his agreement as the other man’s arms withdrew from his neck.

“Yeah, we do,” Seifer agreed quietly before grinning wickedly as Zell opened the door and both men moved out of the room. “But first we have a sniper to chastise.”

END PART FIVE

Notes from Gnome: And there we have it. Our second pairing - Seifer and Zell. Oh, and of course Squally-boy in a frock! Hope you all stick around because things are about to hot up a little! *cheeky grin* Some more IxS action soon. Bye ^_^

continued - part six