Squall squinted at the map, the light was getting bad now as the sun went down and the taller shadows were not helping either.
Just an easy mission he said won't take you more than a few hours.
Damn Laguna and his stupid eligible map and these stupid, stupid forests that make you walk round in circles.
It was Christmas Eve for crying out loud, everyone was supposed to have tome off but his father had asked for one little favour. Some giant behemoth had been spotted in the forests and was scaring off tourists. Laguna asked them to look into it; they had arrived in the forest at 0800hrs with a map and compass, which turned out to be broken. They had expected to get down by now, home in time for the Christmas party tonight but no nothing involving Laguna and the Esthar plains ever was that simple. It was 1800hrs now, no sight of this behemoth and they should be back in the city but now but instead they were horribly lost.
Squall strained to see the map in the darkness when a hand landed on his shoulder.
"Don't bother; we'll never get back to the city tonight."
The brunette wanted to argue with the cowboy but the large trees were blocking out the remaining light there was making it impossible for him to see.
"Thought you were desperate to get back." Another voice said from behind them.
The cowboy looked back at the other two, Seifer who perched on a trunk of a felled tree and Zell who leaned against it beside the older man.
"Well of course I am, I was looking forward to this party." He sighed. "All the hot women…"
"And men." Seifer added.
The cowboy chuckled. "Yeah and men but we've got one of them here." He turned to wink at Squall who rolled his eyes.
"It's Christmas I should be at the party getting drunk and getting laid." He leaned on a tree. "But noooo. How come you never get stranded in the forest with any hot women?"
"Because this is real life not some twisted little fantasy made up in your sick mind." Squall hissed.
Irvine flinched. "Okay, okay but you know not all my fantasies are sick and twisted, I had the cutest little one the other day with the girl from-"
"We don't want to know!" The commander snapped.
"God Irvine you and your women, honestly I don't know what you see in them." Seifer said pushing up off the tree trunk he had been sitting on.
"So? Where are we going to spend tonight?"
Zell glanced around. "Please don't tell me we're going to move on. I can barely see the ground in front of my feet."
Squall shook his head. "This'll do." He sat down in front of a tree and gestured to the others. "Get comfy."
"Oh man." Zell whined. "If I knew this was going to happen I'd have worn trousers and a sweater. Hope it doesn't snow."
"If I'd known this was going to happen I wouldn't have come." Irvine added, sliding down to the floor next to Squall.
"What do you think you're doing?" Squall asked the cowboy when he tried to get too close.
"Oh come on Squall, its freezing out here I'm just trying to keep warm."
"I'm not cold."
"You have Shiva; you're always like a frigging block of ice."
"I-It's f-fucking f-freezing." Zell hissed, curled up on his side, an arm under his head. He started when something warm and heavy fell over him; he pulled the thick material closer to himself unconsciously. He noticed the red crosses on the grey coat that was now wrapped around him.
He looked back and stared at Seifer "Don't you need it."
"Not if you get your little Chicken ass over here to keep me warm." He opened up one arm for Zell to curl up beside him, the coat opening to cover both of them.
Irvine sighed. Perfect, the only thing worse than being cold was when other people were warmer and happier than you.
Since Seifer got back he'd seen those two get closer in a teasing, annoying each other sort of way.
He glanced at Squall again, wondering if he was willing to risk his life enough to try and cuddle with the iceberg. Squall didn't seem to understand the meaning of the word, even after Rinoa when everyone thought she'd be good for Squall he didn't want to act like a couple in public; he even refused to hold hands. Maybe that was the reason she left, she went back to Timber one day no one knew the reason but she seemed very upset. People had said maybe Squall cheated on her but others laughed it off Squall rarely looked at another woman.
"Squall?" The cowboy whispered.
Harsh eyes turned to look at him. "What?"
The cowboy shivered. "Come on Squall, I'm cold." He nodded to the two blonde. "They seem to be getting on okay."
"They're close." He glared at Irvine. "We're not."
"I know, I'm not asking you to fuck me I just want to keep warm, body heat and all."
Squall frowned and turned away to lie on his back facing away from the cowboy. "Fine."
"Hurry up before I change my mind." Squall heard a rustling noise behind him before solid warmth pressed up against him, he tensed up instantly.
Irvine dropped an arm over Squall, feeling the other man go as stiff as a board. Did Squall mistrust him that much?
"Calm down I'm not going to rape you." Warm breath ghosted over the back of Squall's neck causing him to sigh quietly, trying to remain cold and rigid until the movement behind him stilled and the cowboy's breathing evened out in sleep.
The brunette carefully turned around even though his brain was telling him this was a bad idea, his heart wanted to see.
Irvine had one arm bent at the elbow under his head, mouth parted slightly, his hair falling out of the hair tie that it had been confined in all day.
A traitorous finger reached out to brush a stray piece of hair off the cowboy's face. Irvine was breath-taking as usual and it really bugged him when the cowboy would talk about all the women he'd been with, the ladies he'd dreamt of, all his chat-lines etc. It annoyed him at this was what Irvine mainly talked about except when he was busy flirting with Squall. This annoyed him almost as much because the brunette was convinced the other man was only trying to get him into bed and then he'd be added to the long, long list of one night stands. Squall didn't want a one night stand he knew if he got hold of Irvine he wouldn't want to give him up. The cowboy shifted in his sleep causing Squall to roll over facing away from the other man again, not wanting the cowboy to catch him looking at him.
The next morning Zell awoke first laying on his side his back to Seifer with the trench coat covering both of them. He turned over sleepily bumping foreheads with the other blonde, smiling as he groaned.
"Sorry." He whispered.
Emerald eyes blinked open at him, widening slightly before he remembered how they ended up cuddled together.
"Merry Christmas." Zell whispered.
"Oh yeah, wish I remembered to pack the mistletoe."
The shorter man chuckled, glancing over his shoulder. "Hey look."
"Aww, aren't they cute?"
Squall was wrapped in Irvine's arms, both lying on their sides facing each other, arms tightly wound around each other.
"I'd hate to be Irvine when Squall wakes up." Seifer sniggered.
"Don't." Zell hit his friend on the arm playfully.
"Ow, what? You know what they're like, Squall's frigid and Irvine's a horny bastard."
"Shush they're waking up."
Seifer cuddled back up to Zell so he could appear asleep and still peer over Zell's shoulder at the other couple.
The cowboy stirred first not opening his eyes at first just tightening his arm on the solid warmth pressed against him. Warm breath ghosted over his skin, hair tickled his chin. He lazily opened one eye getting a face full of chocolate brown hair when he turned his head slightly. His eyes widened. Squall Leonhart was cuddled up to him. He slowly smiled, may as well make the most of this. He put his arm back around Squall and lay back down holding the other man close.
The brunette murmured in his sleep, shivering from loss of heat when the cowboy had temporary pulled away from him, he buried his face in the warm thing in front of him. Irvine chuckled at the action causing Squall's eyes to snap open. His vision was dark and he was pressed against… something. He pulled back to get his bearings, eyes widening in horror.
Irvine grinned at him. "Morning beautiful."
The brunette looked down to see how they had been lying together, his left arm wrapped around the cowboy, he glanced up at Irvine who was still grinning at him Squall suddenly jumped back from him, sitting up as it sunk in.
"Aw come on Squall don't be like that, I was cozy."
The brunette glared at him.
"Hey it's not my fault who was cuddled up to who here?"
Maybe it was the light but it looked like Squall blushed faintly, drowning it out with a deep glare quickly. He stood quickly. "I think it was time we got going, wake the others." He walked off, not waiting for them.
Irvine sighed, sitting up against the tree behind him, he glanced at the blondes seeing them awake and watching him.
"What are you looking at?" He snapped.
Seifer smirked. "Maybe you should set your sights on someone more attainable." He got up, putting on his trench coat and helping Zell to his feet.
"Whatever, let's go before we lose him."
They had been walking for a couple of hours in what they hoped was towards Esthar. Squall at the lead of course and quite a way ahead of the others holding the map. Irvine followed trying to fix the compass. Seifer brought up the rear of the group.
"I spy with my little eye something beginning with… T."
"Zell if it's Tree again I'm going to throw you in that stream we passed a second ago." Irvine said in annoyance.
"Um…. N-No it's not tree." He said quickly, glancing around for something else that began with T.
Seifer chuckled. "Well. What is it then?"
"You have to guess."
"I'm done guessing, tell me what it was."
"Um…" He quickly looked around. "Trousers." He said finally, pointing at Irvine. Looking slightly proud of himself for finding something other than Tree.
Squall had stopped up ahead.
"What is it?" Irvine asked as he walked up beside their leader.
Squall pointed to his right to a small building with the downstairs windows boarded up.
"A hotel." Squall pointed out the broken sign that looked about ready to fall over in the mud.
"A hotel? Out here in the middle of nowhere?"
Zell stared at it. "You're not going in there are you?" He asked as Squall walked up to the door.
"Looks spooky if you ask me."
"Well we didn't ask you."
"Don't be such a Chicken Wuss."
The little blonde whirled round and glared at the taller blonde. "Shut up Seifer."
Irvine followed Squall up to the small building. "Hello?"
They peered inside, Squall walked in the darkened dusty building.
"Looks like." An empty reception desk sat on Squall's left with cobwebs all over it. The floor creaked as Squall walked over it, he wiped a finger over the desk grimacing at the dust on his hand. "I'll go have a look around."
"I'll come with you."
Squall opened his mouth to protest but then just nodded, looking back at the others. "You two stay here."
Zell snorted. "You don't have to tell me twice, it might be haunted."
Seifer rolled his eyes, steeping inside as soon as Squall and the cowboy had gone upstairs.
"Where are you going? Squall said to stay here."
"And when have I ever listened to orders? Come on, it's cold."
Seifer teasingly hugged the little blonde from behind. "Don't worry Chickie; I protect you from any spooks that might want your body."
Zell jumped and gave the older man a shove. "Get off!"
Seifer smirked, moving ahead of Zell to look into a small room with nothing in it but a mop and bucket. The little blonde walked past and peered carefully round the doorframe of a large room. Seifer smirked, not being able to resist jabbing the other man in the ribs quietly with behind causing him to make a very unmanly shriek that echoed through the whole place. Seifer laughed.
"You ass-hole!" He punched Seifer in the arm.
The older man just laughing, trying not to show that Zell had actually hurt him.
"Why are you so jumpy Chickie? There nothing in this old place."
The shorter man glared at him. "Stop playing around and help me look for something to stop us freezing to death.
"Like a fireplace?"
"Yeah that'll be-"
Seifer pointed into the big room behind Zell, it was huge hall with large clear glass doors and a large fireplace sat along the back wall in the centre.
"Wow, think it works?"
"Don't see why not." Seifer studied the pile of firewood beside the fireplace, old but dry and useful.
The windows were all boarded up in the end bedroom that Irvine was looking around in. A blanket covered the single bed, maybe if they planned to stick around they could use this, it was a pink and frilly blanket though. He smirked, Zell could use that one. He hoped they would be hanging around though the place was deserted it seemed better than wandering around the Esthar plains on Christmas day.
He wandered into the next room that seemed to be an office or study or something. The cowboy walked straight over to a dusty radio. He extended the aerial and switched it on. Nothing happened.
Maybe Zell or someone could play around with it and see if they could get it to work.
"Hey Squall." He called out, knowing the brunette was somewhere nearby.
The brunette walked in holding up a flowery woman's summer dress.
He smirked. "Suits you."
Squall frowned. "Not for me. I found a cupboard full of them in the next room." He dropped the dress walking over quickly when he saw the radio.
Irvine smiled at Squall's sudden interest. "Yeah I know how you feel. It doesn't work but maybe we can get Zell to look at it, he's good at this stuff right?"
Squall nodded. "Take it downstairs."
The cowboy saluted. "Yes sir." He chuckled when Squall rolled his eyes. He paused in the doorway, setting the machine down in the hallway to turn back to Squall.
"Are we planning to stick around here for the night? I don't fancy spending Christmas in the freezing cold."
He leant on the doorframe, watching Squall cross the room to stand in front of him, back to the wall.
"I mean if we stay out there at this time of year we'll freeze." He took a step towards Squall, making him back up until his back hit the wall.
The brunette watched with a blank expression, not sure whether to be intimidated or turned on.
"Thought you were desperate to get back."
"I was but that's not going to happen, we could always have a micro party."
"With no alcohol, no girls, no heating, no music, no-"
"Okay so not a good party…" He chuckled, stepping forward filling Squall's personal space. "I got you a present how about I give it to you when we get back to garden." He grinned. "Had planned to give you it on Christmas day when we were all supposed to be at Selphie's." He sighed. "She brought a huge tree and everything."
The brunette's lips twitched. "At least we avoided having the sing carols."
The cowboy chuckled. "Getting to see everyone in their PJs makes it worth it." He laughed at the look Squall gave him.
A hand cupped Squall cheek.
"Never knew seeing Zell in boxers did it for you."
The cowboy grinned. "I was thinking more like girlies in little pink frilly nighties." He paused. "Unless you're willing to show me your-"
"Don't count on it cowboy."
"Oh come on Squall, don't tell me you don't notice all the attention you get when you walk through a crowded area in those tight leather pants you wear?
"Every pair of eyes will be on your ass!"
His friend blushed.
"And not just the girls too." He smirked. "Nida looks at you a lot." He grinned. "Trust me; he'll make you a nice boyfriend, gives good head."
Squall stared at him. "I don't go in for one night stands."
Fingers stroked across Squall's jaw line. "If I got you there's no way I'd let anyone else so much as touch you."
"Sure you could cope without the many, many other people you share your bed with?"
Blue smirking eyes flicked up and down his body. "If I could have you every night I'm sure I'd manage."
"Every night huh? You do realize I have to work sometimes?" He remained stony faced but his eyes danced with mischief.
The cowboy smiled. "Well you know I have always wondered about the possibilities of you, me and your desk.
Squall's lips twitched. "You're a horny bastard Irvine."
"Thanks you." The cowboy chuckled and leant in to kiss the brunette.
Lips mere inches from each other, eyes closed he had one hand on the back of Squall's neck and the other on his cheek.
"Hey anyone up there!" Seifer called up the stairs.
Irvine sighed and dropped his eyes to the floor, pulling back to look at Squall. "Remind me to kill him."
The brunette offered him a small smile. "Let's go see what he wants."
Squall walked to the top of the stairs and glared at Seifer who stood on the bottom step. "I thought I told you to wait outside."
"You expect us to freeze our asses off waiting for you in the snow."
Seifer smirked. "Oh yeah by the way it's snowing."
Squall looked up at Irvine as the cowboy walked past him down the stairs carrying the radio. "Here." He handed it to Seifer. "See Zell to have a look at it, maybe he can get it to work."
"The Chicken? Doubt it."
Squall frowned at him.
"Okay, Okay I'm going."
"Hey Irvine?" The cowboy paused and headed back down the stairs when Zell called him.
Squall wandered off into a room to explore some more.
A posh looking ladies room sat at the far end of one of the corridors with a large dusty pink dressing table, a light sprinkling of dust over it unlike the rest of the house that was covered in dust.
The scarred brunette walked over to the large oak wardrobe, opening one of the doors. On the inside of both the doors were mirrors and he blinked in shock at the reflection of a woman on one of them. She was dressed in a white night dress and had red eyes, her mouth falsely gentle. Squall spun round but there was nobody there. Never the one to believe in ghosts or anything silly he frowned in confusion.
He walked to the spot where the girl had stood and looked back in the mirror, only his own reflection stared back at him. He looked up at the ceiling; there were gaps in the wooden planks where light peeped through.
He jumped when the door opened ad Irvine looked in.
"Sorry didn't mean to scare you." He looked at Squall's expression. "Are you okay?"
Squall blinked at him then looked in the mirror. "Irvine, come here."
The cowboy stood beside him. "What do you see in the mirror?"
"I see you and me, why? What else am I supposed to see?"
Squall didn't answer instead he walked up to the mirror. "Now come here."
Irvine obeyed. "Now what do you see?"
The cowboy gave him a worried look. "Are you okay Squall? Maybe sleeping out in the cold did you some harm."
"What do you see!"
"I see you and me again. What do you see?"
"Go back and stand in the doorway."
His friend hesitated but did so.
Squall continued to look in the mirror but she didn't come back.
"She was here."
"Who was here?"
"A woman. I saw her in the mirror; she was over there where you were standing."
"She had on a white nightie with black curly dress and her eyes were… red." He glanced up Irvine concerned face. "And you think I've lost the plot."
"I didn't say that."
"But you think it."
"I didn't think you believed in…"
"Ghosts? I don't but that is something funny going on in this place Irvine."
A hand pressed itself to Squall's forehead. "You do feel a little warm."
"I'm not crazy." He paused and looked back at where the girl had been. "At least I don't think I am."
"Why don't we go down stairs? I took a couple blankets down there and Seifer got a fire going so it's nice and cozy."
"Don't baby me."
"I'm not; I'm worried about you that's all. Be Mister cold bastard all you want but it doesn't stop people from caring about you."
Squall pulled to the bed and pulled the quilt off it. "We can take this downstairs." Irvine nodded with a smile and grabbed hold of a leather clad arm and pulled him close so that their chests were touching.
"Wha-!" Squall managed to say before the cowboy crushed their lips together, arms winding round the smaller man. Squall hesitated for only a second before closing his eyes and returning the kiss. Irvine couldn't believe his luck when the ice prince melted in his arms and actually moaned when his fingers discovered Squall's nipples under his shirt.
The cowboy broke the kiss, grinning suddenly very pleased with himself.
Squall grabbed the other man's wrists and pulled his hands out from under his shirt. "Do try and keep your hands to yourself…. At least until we get back to garden."
"Really? What happens then?" He smirked.
Squall forced back the smile and shoved the cowboy towards the door. "Downstairs now."
The two men make their way down the stairs following the sounds of arguing.
Both blondes were in the large hall over by the fire, trying to share a blanket while sitting on another one.
"Chickie I think it's time we locked you up and threw away the key."
"I'm not crazy!"
"What's going on?" Squall asked as he and Irvine sat down in front of the fire.
"Zell's cracking up."
"I am not, you'll regret when you get killed by the house."
"What happened?" Irvine asked.
"Zell thinks someone tapped him on the shoulder from behind but I was standing in front of him and there's no one else here."
"I swear someone was behind me but when I looked they were gone."
"Zell, are you sure?" Squall asked.
"Of course I'm sure, why doesn't anyone believe me?"
"Because you're stupid."
Zell punched Seifer in the Shoulder.
"I believe you." Squall said.
Irvine frowned. "Err- Squall you're not talking about what happened upstairs are you?"
"Of course I am."
"I saw something too."
Zell turned on Seifer. "You see! I'm not crazy!"
"You're both nuts."
"I see a woman in the mirror she had red eyes and wore a night dress."
"Was she the one that touched me?"
"Wait, this doesn't make sense, why would a woman want to touch Zell?"
The little blonde glared. "Seifer will you shut up? This is serious, this place is haunted and we could all die."
"Don't be so stupid there is no such thing as gh-"
The wardrobe in the corner started to shake. Zell clung to Seifer like a limpet, the taller man tried to shake him off.
"Save me Seifer!"
"Get off; if ghosts come after us I hope they take you first."
The wardrobe started to wail in a ghost-like, horror movie type way. Squall walked up to it.
"Don't Squall, it might bite!" Zell yelled.
The brunette opened the door and a nine year old child fell out.
Zell sighed in the relief, Seifer rolled his eyes.
"What the hell?" Irvine said, moving to stand beside Squall.
The boy looked up. "Oops." He got up. "People don't usually do that, they normally run away."
"What were you doing in there?" Squall asked.
The kid looked a little sheepish. "I was just playing."
"You stay here to scare people?"
"Pretty much but I don't live here I live in the city."
"What you doing out here it's dangerous, glad he found us right Seifer?" Zell asked.
"Yeah you're real brave Chickie."
"Besides Ursula won't let me get hurt."
"She's the guardian that lives here she's very nice." He paused. "And good at scaring people."
Squall looked at Irvine. "See? I'm not nuts; she's the woman I saw."
Seifer walked up to the kid. "So you know how to get back to the city from here?"
"Of course, it's just through the trees behind this house."
The Seeds shared a look. "What!"
"We've been holed up in here and slept on the ground when the city is inches away!"
"Some leader you are!" Seifer yelled at Squall.
"It wasn't my fault, I had a shitty map!"
"Yeah right." He grabbed Zell. "Come on Chickie, let's get out of here."
Squall picked up the kid. "I think its time you want home."
The two blondes pushed through the trees to find themselves in front of a back entrance to the city. A couple of guards patrolled the gate.
Seifer flashed their badges at them and got past with no problem.
"God I'm hungry."
"Chickie you usually can't manage to go with food for an hour I'm amazed you went without for a whole day."
The little blonde turned to walk side-ways to cling to Seifer's arm. "So, can we go get some food? Can we? Can we?"
"I think so but first I need a shower."
Zell pouted. "Food first."
"Wait isn't there supposed to be a Christmas party in the palace, they have food."
"Oh yeah, let's go there."