Author's Note: This is just pure drama fluff whatevers. I needed something to distract me from Calc 2 homework and couldn't get the image of them drinking together out of my head, although I never meant for it to get so melodramatic. Just blame the booze. One-shot only.

Disclaimer: Nothing is mine…except maybe that bottle of cognac.

Music that was obsessively listened to while writing this: "The Bonds of Friendship" from TLR OST and 1000 Words (piano solo version) from FFX-2 Piano Collections. Seriously might gag at if any more cheese makes it into this fic.

On with the pointlessness…

***

Bounce

Rush bounced nervously on the balls of his feet. It was the night before their departure for the final confrontation with the Conqueror, but that was not the reason for his agitation. While the others were making preparations for a trip they knew they may not return from, Rush had found himself leaning against a pillar in the castle garden for over an hour, waiting.

I must be crazy, he thought to himself, kicking nervously at the stone floor below his feet.

Still in denial? A voice in his head chimed in. It sounded unmistakably like Irina.

Shut up, he snapped back.

You really shouldn't care about what the consequences would be; you know what most likely will happen tomorrow-

Enough. He snorted through his nose. Similar bickering had been occurring in his head for days, since he realized what it would require to defeat the Conqueror. And now, during possibly his last day alive, he had already wasted an hour leaning against a damn pillar, alone.

Lately, Rush had been trying to place himself in certain spots of the castle at certain times. Unnoticed by everyone else, he had done so with the intention of putting himself along Dave's route from one place to the next, in hopes of any kind of interaction; anything to spend as much time as he could with him. He knew Dave's schedule, and was cautious to space out these "random meetings" to make them seem, well…random. Tonight had been one such attempt which to Rush's annoyance, had failed.

He pushed himself away from the stone column and moved towards the hallway that led towards Dave's office. He was fairly sure that was where he should be, unless he had slipped out early. On the way there, Rush began to try to think of an excuse for seeking out what he considered his closest friend.

You shouldn't need an excuse if he's your closest friend, the voice piped up again.

He's a busy guy, Rush replied, coming to a stop outside Dave's office door and raising his fist to knock.

And you're about to die for him.

Rush's hand froze. He felt his stomach give a familiar lurch at the thought.

I know, he replied, his mind falling silent.

Breathing deeply, Rush finally tapped his knuckles on the wood of the office door. He glanced down in slight surprise as he realized the door had been slightly ajar this entire time, and it swung open a little more at his touch.

"Dave?" he asked cautiously, slowly pushing open the door. When he received no reply he stepped further into the office, clearing the doorframe and looking around. His eyes quickly found Dave, who was seated at the fireplace with his back to him. Disappointment made Rush's features fall as he began to think that Dave was possibly asleep, and he had missed out on a last opportunity to spend time together. He began to turn to leave when he suddenly heard Dave's voice from across the room.

"You can come in, Rush."

"Oh…okay," Rush replied quietly, his heartbeat quickening. He turned back towards the room and closed the door behind him. As he neared the fireplace and rounded the empty chair next to Dave's, he noticed a glass bottle on the table. Inside it there was a light brown, almost honey colored liquid that still filled most of the container.

"Having a little drink, are we?" Rush asked, lifting the bottle up to inspect it.

"Forgive me," Dave replied, leaning his head backwards against the back of the seat as he peered up at the younger boy. Rush met his eyes and seemed to consider him a moment, before raising the bottle to his lips and taking a swig from it.

"Couldn't think of a better time, honestly. Cheers," Rush said, raising the bottle to Dave before placing it back on the table. He then sunk into the second armchair facing the fire as they both fell into silence. Somewhere in Rush's mind, he heard Irina giggle.

"I've never done this," Dave's voice cut into his thoughts. "But I admit to being a bit nervous about all this. I feel as if there is something I still don't understand; a detail I've missed." Rush's heart pounded in his ears. He had never been one to keep secrets, and now here he was, with one of the first real friends he had ever had, keeping the biggest secret of his life from him. Dave knew something was being kept from him.

Probably never thought it'd be you keeping him in the dark.

Rush shook his head slightly and relaxed further into the chair as Dave took the bottle from between them and took a small drink. "Don't worry about. I'm sure everyone will be fine. Look at how far we've come already," he heard himself offering false assurance to Dave. His chest constricted at his own words.

Dave broke the silence after a long moment. "Do you think we're doing the right thing?" he asked Rush, his eyes never leaving the fire.

"Yes," Rush replied assertively. His confidence drew Dave's eyes away from the fire to meet his. "Yes we are." Their eyes remained locked on each other's for a long moment, and Rush watched as Dave's face slowly relaxed. Rush gave him a soft smile which was returned, and Dave finally broke eye contact as he reached over the table to hand Rush the bottle.

Rush took another sip as he watched Dave rise from his chair and begin to pace in front of the fire. "What are you thinking about?" he asked the Marquis after a moment.

Dave stopped pacing and turned to face his friend, crossing his arms in front of him. "I was just wondering," he started slowly. "What is going to happen at the end of all this?"

"You mean when we get back?" Rush replied. Dave nodded and leaned sideways against the mantle of the fireplace, arms still crossed over his chest.

"Well," Rush began, "as you know from my extensive experience in politics and society, you've come to the right person for this discussion."

Dave's demeanor broke as he burst in laughter. The sound made the constriction in Rush's chest lighten as he rose from his chair, extending the bottle toward Dave. He took it without hesitation.

"For real though, I'm sure you'll have a lot of angry people, but they just need to understand. They can't blame you for defying orders when you're doing it to save their asses, you know?" Rush said, not returning to his chair but instead beginning to pace around the room, pretending to examine the various artifacts and documents around the room. He saw none of them, for his mind was consumed with listening and sensing Dave's presence.

"I feel you are right. Obviously I asked the right person, experienced or not," Dave replied. "But might I ask why you're speaking as if you aren't going to be here to see it?"

Across the room, Rush froze on the spot. His back had already been to Dave as he'd wondered around, and he remained like that as every hair he had stood on end. He slowly raised his eyes to the wall in front of him as his mind began to panic. He knew he couldn't win against Dave; trained from a young age to be sharp and charismatic but with that underlying determination to achieve your goals at all times. Rush had seen these skills used on others and had been impressed, but now that he was at the other end of them, he wished they were not so perfected.

"I, uh.." he began to stammer nervously, searching desperately for an excuse. Idiot! Say something! He screamed in his mind, when suddenly he felt a harsh tug on his sleeve. He was spun around in a way that was almost violent, and found Dave had closed the distance between them in only a few seconds. Rush's eyes fell hesitantly on his friend. Dave's body language was rigid and authoritative; his hand was still on Rush's arm and his neck was stiff as he held his head at its full height.

"Why wouldn't you be here to see it?"

When Dave finally spoke, Rush felt it go straight to his heart. Although Dave stood here, appearing strong and immune, his voice gave him away. It had shaken as he spoke. Rush raised his eyes to his friend's, and saw fear there.

"Dave I didn't mean it like that, I just-"

"No Rush," Dave cut him off. "I know that something is escaping me…is being kept from me. Please don't tell me you're the one keeping secrets," Dave said with the same tone as when he sat in disbelief at Rush's willingness to go face the Conqueror alone.

Uh oh, she whispered.

"C'mon Dave! You think I'd do that?" Rush asked, trying to smile and ease the tension between them. He twisted his arm free of his friend's grasp and moved toward the fireplace again, having noticed the bottle left by Dave on the mantle. He snatched it and took a gulp far too large, the cognac burning his throat. His eyes stung at the feeling but he swallowed it, grimacing.

"You know," Rush started, still desperately trying to return the mood to as it had been a few moments before. "I don't know why you think that, we're all here to help you succeed and-"

"I am not your Lord!"

In the stillness that immediately swallowed the room, Rush could hear Dave's voice still ringing in his ears. His heart felt like it had stopped in his chest. He saw Dave slowly raise his hand to his face, pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and pointer finger.

"Forgive me," he said so quietly that Rush barely heard him. "It's just…since Emma died, I feel like you are the closest person to me. I don't have any family, and the generals are bound by duty even though I know they care for me. You're the first person that has ever stood by me as my friend. I hope you understand what that means to me."

Rush could only stare at the floor for a moment as his words sunk in, shocked by the naked honesty that had just poured out of Dave. Although he knew his parents were gone and he had no siblings, he'd never actually thought about how lonely that must be. Family was the most important thing to Rush, and he'd run around in front of Dave with his mom and dad and Irina for months, never realizing.

Finally raising his eyes to Dave, he felt like he saw him differently than before. He realized that beneath the polished and refined surface, Dave was really only a teenager, just like Rush. He had been forced and molded into the Marquis of Athlum whether he wanted to or not, and had done so with grace. And from the moment they met, Dave had done nothing but support, console, and guide Rush over the past year without asking anything in return.

And Rush stood here lying to him, the night before he was about to abandon him.

Now that's going a little hard on yourself, don't you think? I don't really think abandon is the right word… the voice began again.

Then you don't understand what he's saying.

"Dave…" Rush finally signed, taking a few hesitant steps towards him. "I think I understand what you mean. And you mean that much to me too. You're the only friend I've had in a long time." He stopped just at the edge of Dave's space, and placed his empty hand on his shoulder. Dave still had his hand at his face with his eyes tightly closed.

"I'm sorry," Rush said quietly, squeezing his friend's shoulder. The tension in Dave finally eased, and he sighed as he lowered his head slightly.

"Don't be. I apologize for the outburst."

"Nah, you can't bottle everything up. Gotta get it out sometimes," Rush said, raising the bottle that he'd been holding to his lips, and subconsciously noticed that over half the contents had disappeared since they had started drinking. As he lowered it back down again Dave reached for it, and took the longest drink that he had so far that evening. The grimace on his face as he swallowed pulled a laugh out of Rush.

"That was so me five minutes ago," Rush said, clapping Dave a few times on the back. He finally felt the remaining tension leave Dave as he chuckled hoarsely and reached up to place a hand on the back of Rush's shoulders as well.

"Thank you Rush," Dave said, a genuine smile spreading across his face.

"Anytime," Rush replied, biting his lip as soon as he said it. He squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for an inevitable, sarcastic reply from within in his mind. Long seconds of silence passed when he suddenly felt a pressure against his temple. His eyes flew open in surprise to find Dave, eyes closed, leaning his forehead against Rush.

"Dave, you ok?" He asked quietly.

"Yes." Dave replied, and Rush saw a small smile still on his face. He turned towards Dave, so their foreheads were resting against each other's, each with a hand still grasping the other's shoulder.

"Booze getting to ya?" Rush asked after a few seconds of silence.

"I don't think so," said Dave. They remained like that for more than a minute, both silent and absorbed in listening to the other breathe, thumbs tracing random patterns on shoulders, when Rush reached for the bottle. His fingers connected with the back of Dave's hand and felt the white fabric that sat there. Surprising himself with his courage, he slid his fingertips down Dave's hand, letting them linger for a beat too long, before grasping the glass of the bottle. When he looked back up at Dave he found soft eyes boring into his, and he felt his face turn red.

A heartbeat later Dave's hands were cupping the sides of his face and his lips had blindly found Rush's, who stood frozen in disbelief. As he slowly recovered his senses he tentatively began to kiss Dave back, willing everything to be seared into his memory. He could taste the slightest bit of cognac still on his lips and could feel calluses on Dave's hands against his cheeks. He dropped the bottle carelessly as he brought his own hands up, one going to Dave's hip and the other tangling itself in blonde hair.

Finally, after a few long moments that felt like hours, they separated, eyes opening to search each other for reactions. After a few seconds of nothing but flickering eyes, Rush was first to react, making a round shape with his lips and blowing out a short breath.

"'Phew' is right," Dave replied, a smile spreading across his face. "I have a confession."

"Oh boy," Rush managed to croak out, finding suddenly hard to function.

"Earlier, when I asked what was going to happen after the war; I actually meant what was going to happen between you and I." Dave said slowly.

"Oh, well…" Rush began, but Dave cut him off.

"You don't need to answer. I'm sure it's a lot to ask of you to stay here when this is over. But, just know Rush, that you are very much welcome here, with me."

As quickly as the kiss had wiped tomorrow from his mind, Dave's words made it return. Thankfully, Dave wasn't expecting an answer.

"Thanks," was all Rush could say.

A little while later, after Dave had decided they both needed sleep, he stood at his bedroom door to say goodnight when Rush pulled him into a tight embrace.

"Everything will be fine, I promise," Rush said quietly into his ear.

"I know," Dave replied. Rush let go a moment later, and began the walk back to his own room. In the darkness of the night he walked slowly, replaying what had happened over and over.

In his mind, he finally heard from Irina as she drew breath to speak. Before you say anything, he interjected. Yes, he is worth it.

She was silent a while before finally replying.

Yes, and he'll forgive you for saving his life.

***

Author's End Notes: This didn't turn out anything like the very, very sketchy plan I had laid out for it. It was a serious struggle, deciding to have him tell Dave or not. And for clarification, I don't think Irina would say most of the stuff that was thought in here - she's just here to represent that inner dialogue we all have sometimes. At least not that that's out I can go back to calculus. Joy…