Title: Exact Curriculum
Fandom: Final Fantasy VIII/Final Fantasy VII
Disclaimer: No implied ownership, no financial gain, only fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Squall, Vincent, Vincent/Squall, Full Cast
Summary: Once upon a time, except maybe not that long ago, Squall settled into his role as leader of Garden. And all was well for a little tiny while though sometimes Laguna phoned at odd hours. With strange stories about having made incredibly poor decisions. Which meant Squall was going to have to...
...hire a very strange fellow named Vincent Valentine to work for him?
Notes: 2013 Edit. This chapter contains OMC/Squall
Squall was thankful for his jacket as a chilly wind wrapped through the elevated sidewalks of Esthar and attempted to settle into his bones. But familiar leather thwarted that, and Squall kept walking, unsure of just where he was walking to. But he had to get out of the palace and outside of the palace was, well, someone out on the high sidewalks, nearly to the mall so entrenched in his memories.
Stopping to sit on a bench outside the shopping center, Squall looked upwards, wishing he could see the stars that rested beyond the neon haze of the city. The semester had ended well - everything was going well. Vincent had earned the respect of the rest of the faculty. At least one of his students had completely turned around in the course of just a few months, looking to actually pass his exam at the end of the next semester.
Esthar was not his idea. But he was there anyway, because Laguna wanted it and because saying no to Laguna wasn't really an option. Not after Laguna had delivered Vincent to his doorstep. Not for a lot of reasons.
When he'd wandered out to roam the darkening streets, Squall had left Vincent with Laguna, their conversation rich and animated. Almost painfully, Squall admitted to himself that he'd forgotten that Vincent was much closer to Laguna's age than his own. They had more in common.
It looked as though everyone was shopping, leaving with great fluttering bags of what had to be gifts. For Esthar, it was rare - shopping was usually done from home. But there was no longer time to wait for deliveries. Three holidays in a week in Esthar, two celebrated worldwide, and Squall found himself not wanting to care. He'd left trinkets for his friends and staff already and had something for Laguna. All of that was something clockwork that took little thought. Years before he did all the shopping, be it for weapons or medicine or things for GFs. Shopping was not as hard as people made it out to be.
But something for Vincent was difficult and now it was only three days before the Darkest Night festival, the ages old night of reveling and lighting candles against the dark as well as passing along gifts to those to bring them joy - to stave off their own darkness.
As if somehow there was something that could hold a figurative candle to the blackness that Vincent hid within that wouldn't immediately be snuffed out. Vincent didn't open up, didn't speak about his own past. Squall felt as though he was an open book in comparison, telling tales of the Shumi and space, hoping that Vincent might say something in return.
Not since the moment before the semester, when Vincent had lamented the falling of a god, had Squall heard so much as two joined sentences about the world Vincent was from. It was nearly infuriating, because Vincent still made him stupid, doing things better or more effectively. Never mind that Vincent was three times his age and some sort of physically mottled demigod.
It really was getting cold. Squall got up and turned to head back. At least the wind would be at his rear, blowing him onward and attempting to freeze other parts of his anatomy. A pair of blond boys passed him almost incidentally, but his mind was already wanting to turn them into Seifer and Zell before wondering about everyone he hadn't seen lately.
Selphie was still rebuilding Trabia Garden, making it stronger and better than it had been but certainly letting the memory of those lost live on within its walls.
Rinoa had cryptically refused an offer to come to Esthar, making Squall worry more but keeping it in the far back of his mind. Certainly just because he couldn't sleep with her didn't mean he didn't still care about her with a different sort of passion. The threat of another Sorceress War was something Squall didn't want to think of, so he didn't. He couldn't be any more prepared, after all, so worrying was not going to get him anywhere.
Zell was with the Shumi, studying craftsmanship and art in ways that he'd always wanted. And a sabbatical from battle was something Squall felt strongly about. Zell wasn't the strongest emotionally and still bore quite a few non-physical scars from the final showdown with Ultimecia. And certainly, Squall had never forgotten the blond clinging to him back at the prison years before.
Seifer was still living off the sea, unwilling to take up arms again, something Squall never wanted to admit that he admired. Somehow, he didn't think he'd ever be anything but a soldier and looking at Seifer and company so easily going off to do something else... Squall looked up at where he wished the stars would be and wondered what else he could ever do.
Quistis never left his side, save for times like these. She was his confidant, and despite him never saying a word about Vincent to her, he knew she knew. She would know. She was good at sensing his deeper motivations.
And Irvine... That was a bit funny, but in the growing cold as Squall realized he was nearly back to the palace, it was not something to actually laugh over. For the right amount, Irvine had been contracted off as a bodyguard to a wealthy merchant who had specifically asked for a very pretty boy. Letters came on occasion, but little more.
Yes, nothing short of another Sorceress War would ever get them together again.
Squall turned at his name, the wind whipping his face as he was met with an unexpected sight.
"Bekele", he said softly, meeting the gaze of the younger, blond Estharian soldier. They'd met as a result of Laguna's meddling, assigning Bekele to act as half-escort, half-tour guide a few years before when Squall had taken an extended vacation to Esthar to study their military's structure.
"Up for a drink?" Bekele asked, gesturing off down another path.
Nodding, Squall watched the wind whip Bekele's shoulder-length hair, unusually unbound and not hidden by traditional Estharian garb. He could only wonder how strange he looked in all black when surrounded by robed natives and the occasional grey-suited soldier.
"Night off?" Squall finally asked in return.
"I wasn't out here looking for you, if that's what you're asking," Bekele replied, green eyes cutting the darkness.
"I know," Squall said, wondering how far into the depths of the city Bekele was going to lead him. The farther, though, was likely the better.
And in silence they walked together, ignoring the now-howling wind as they slid into a dive of a bar. The place was nearly empty but the barkeep seemed to know Bekele. Squall sat at a table in the corner, trusting Bekele to bring him whatever Bekele thought he needed.
Nida had propositioned him once, but that was when very drunk. And Squall had actually thought he was falling in love with Bekele. But Nida had bounced, thankfully.
Xu was Xu, unwavering.
He wasn't alone. No...
Bekele shoved a glass in front of him and without paying it much attention, Squall downed much of it in one go.
No, he did not love Bekele, nor could he. Other soldiers, other nights... He didn't want to fall in love, he just wanted someone who could be a constant who didn't demand much in return.
Was it so much to not really know what he wanted?
Instead of replying, he just let Bekele kiss him, lips hot on his own, tasting of a slightly different drink. They weren't going to stay in the bar long, not as Bekele kissed him again, deeper, eliciting lust with his tongue and letting a metal-veined hand slide beneath the lip of the table.
Bekele's hands were still on him as he shakily downed the rest of his drink. The barkeep was watching them, sending them along with a gaze.
Squall found himself stealing kisses on the walk back, not sure why he was agreeing to this but glad that someone wanted his company as a light snow started to fall around them.
No one batted an eye as Squall led Bekele into the palace, past guards and more advanced security. Commander Leonhart could do as he pleased in Esthar, Presidential Decree...
His mind bounced back to Rinoa, not wanting to be so distant from her, flashing back to the moments when his sexuality objected to their bond. He'd have to call her later and insist she come Esthar.
But Bekele made Squall file that away for later as he pinned Squall against a hallway wall, pushing leather away from warmth underneath and forgetting the metal in his fingers kept the cold in ways unfair.
Shivering, Squall returned kisses, fisting his hands in Bekele's hair and forgetting to wonder just how strong that drink had been, wanting to blame it but knowing that desire coursed deeper than alcohol.
Who... who did he desire?
Once inside his room, similar to any other guest room but reserved just for his visits, Squall stopped worrying about anything incidental and shed his responsibility along with his clothing. He nearly lost his footing as Bekele dropped to his knees in the middle of the room to pull inches of Squall's arousal into his mouth.
"Tease..." Squall muttered, trying to swallow a moan but failing. Bekele was still over-dressed, a strange contrast to Squall's near-nude. But that would change soon enough.
Parts of his nights with Bekele were escaping him, something he didn't want to admit. He was only keeping one GF with him most of the time, but it was enough to take small moments in large doses. But Bekele's tongue on the underside of his arousal felt familiar. No... he was not going to be able to stay on his feet for much longer.
"Bekele..." Squall pulled away, reaching for the bed and thankfully managing to fall onto it. A moment later, Bekele was naked beside him, pulling at the last of Squall's clothing before pushing Squall onto his stomach.
"Go ahead," Squall whispered, not really wishing for anything more drawn out than what Bekele was offering. They'd have more time, anyway, the rest of the week... Squall grabbed at a pillow as he felt the cool of Bekele's fingers slide over his hips.
Metal. Squall moaned as cold touched his opening, cool only for a second before his body threatened heat. Would Vincent be as cold with that claw? Would he even use it, sharp shining metal over sensitive flesh... As he was stretched by Bekele's strong fingers, Squall couldn't help but think of Vincent, wondering what it would be like to be in bed beneath that sort of raw power so cleverly veiled in willowy form.
Bekele thrust into him, not pausing as they both moaned, building to a quick rhythm matched by one of Bekele's hands shoved between Squall and the bed, stroking Squall's arousal roughly. Feeling much like he was being pressed down into the bed, Squall gasped for breath, clinging to the pillow as pleasure coursed through his body. He could feel every inch of Bekele's arousal penetrating him, delicious friction each time Bekele pulled back to thrust again. He could feel metal against his erection, thin strands and solder along with warm skin wanting to take him from his body and to a place of bliss.
"Come," Bekele urged, leaning close over Squall, moving slower, trying to prevent his own release. "Come..."
The pillow muffled his orgasm as he grabbed at it, feeling Bekele's release more than hearing it midway through his own release. Bekele didn't move, instead laying on top of Squall, kissing the back of Squall's neck and toying with the chain of Squall's necklace.
"You're heavy," Squall muttered, once he remembered how to do simple things like mutter.
"A true romantic," Bekele replied, rolling to the side and letting Squall turn to face him.
"Since when are you after true romance?" Squall asked, letting Bekele drape an arm over him. "We agreed not to..."
"You're too serious," Bekele interrupted. "I'll give you more booze next time."
Squall shook his head. Yes, this was the Bekele he knew. "We should sleep."
"We should," the blond cyborg agreed, smirking. "So in the morning we'll be rested enough for something more intense than five minutes..."
"Sleep," Squall reiterated, rolling over to prove his point. Bekele pulled a blanket over them both before curling up against Squall, still holding him.
Bekele's breathing evened out long before Squall even felt more than physically tired. He'd wanted to do that, but he hadn't meant to do that because he hadn't really wanted to do that. No, it was okay but he shouldn't have been thinking of Vincent.
He needed to call Rinoa in the morning. The Darkest Night she could miss, but something inside of him wanted her close for Sorceress Remembrance, the strange day that came just days after where children pretended to cast spells and the few good sorceresses of the world were remembered with praise.
And in Esthar, despite it not being any particular anniversary of anything, there was a glorious state holiday celebrating Laguna's triumph over Adel, of man over the wicked... It may have just been an excuse for a holiday, but it rounded out a week of celebration.
Not even realizing he'd fallen asleep, not that he thought he really could realize if he fell asleep, Squall opened his eyes to daylight pouring into the room through shades not closed the night before. Bekele had at least rolled to the other side of the bed, looking like some story book character sprung to life in a tangle of blond and white sheets over pale skin traced through by spun silver. Bekele deserved someone better, someone stable who would be there for him. No matter what Bekele had said, Squall was now fairly sure that his friend had been tipped off and had been out searching. After all, black leather was fairly conspicuous in Esthar.
The knock at his door wasn't too surprising. Stumbling from the bed, Squall grabbed at the floor for his pants, pulling them on just as he reached the knob. He just hoped it wasn't Laguna. That sort of cheerfulness would not be welcome just yet. And Kiros... Kiros would likely accidentally comment about Bekele and nothing good would come of it. Because Kiros didn't like Laguna trying to meddle in everything.
He remembered he actually had to turn the knob for the door to open. And in the second it took for his sleep-blurred blue eyes to realize they were looking into beautifully unnatural red, Squall just stood there, grasping at the doorframe.
"Good morning," Vincent said, snapping Squall to a more useful form of alertness. His head hurt, but not as bad as some of the hangovers he'd had. What had Bekele given him, anyway? Gasoline?
"Morning," he managed in reply, suddenly realizing that in no way could he close the door a little more without it being obvious. Not that it mattered -- no matter what the angle, the bed had to be in plain view. Vincent would know. Vincent would likely assume.
Squall imagined himself as his Garden telephone, impolitely dumped into his own garbage can to be retrieved later by Xu, only he didn't want to be retrieved.
"Laguna asked if I could rouse you and let you know that breakfast will be served in a half hour," Vincent said flatly. "I'm sure your company will be more than welcome as well."
"Vin..." No. Now was certainly not the time to say anything.
"Nothing," Squall said quickly. "See you at breakfast."
And he closed the door quickly, hoping that perhaps he'd get to wake up all over again and give everything a second try, an un-stupid second try.
So breakfast would have to be had -- likely the most awkward breakfast of his life directly after the breakfast after the night he and Rinoa had attempted to consummate their relationship. Save that by the end of breakfast, they'd both been smiling and agreeing that obviously things weren't meant to be for them.
There were no possible good notes to end this interlude on, though.
He needed a shower. Bekele... was still fast asleep. Some soldier...
Staggering beneath hot water, Squall washed away the last remnants of the night before and the stickiness of sleep-sweat. Not bothering to do anything with his hair, he grabbed the white fluffy robe from the back of the door and finally went to wake up Bekele.
The bed was empty. Rejected again...
His empty stomach sank at the thought that perhaps Bekele hadn't been asleep for the exchange with Vincent. Bekele had always been scarily observant. Oh... Sitting down on the bed, Squall wondered how he was supposed to face anyone now, whether it be Bekele or Vincent or even Laguna who would likely hear about everything from someone.
Ten minutes until breakfast, time zones be damned, Squall reached over and picked up the phone.
"Hello?" a groggy female voice answered. "Squall?"
"Rinoa... How'd you know it was me?"
"I felt you," she answered, sounding a bit more awake. "Like I used to."
"Come to Esthar... for Remembrance, at least," Squall said, wondering if Rinoa had been waiting for his call. She'd been so quick to answer.
"I haven't seen you in a year," Squall replied quickly. "And... everything you've been mentioning... The others... Rinoa..."
"I'll come," Rinoa said. "But you have to take me out dancing in return."
Squall groaned. Always, always with the dancing. But at least now he had something to dread more than breakfast with Vincent.
"The guards know you," Squall finally said. "Just come to the palace. I'll see you then."
"You're the master of small talk," Rinoa replied. "Later."
Instead of hanging up, he unplugged the phone and flopped back onto the bed, staring at the ceiling for a minute before deciding that the only thing he really could do was get dressed and go to breakfast.
Because as much as he didn't want to go, he did want proof that it really was a better option than taking Rinoa down to one of the free-form dance clubs populating the southern part of the city.
As long, of course, as he absolutely did not have to answer any questions or meet anyone's eyes.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!