Title: In The Interests Of …
Chapter Rating: Er… PG13 for some making out… I must say, it's about time.
Author's Notes: I apologize for the wait… I hope this chapter makes it somewhat worth it but I'm beginning to doubt that anything's enough to make up for the wait… I hope though, that, because this is probably what most of you want, that it's enough to convince you to think about carrying on reading?
Draco: What are you blabbing on about, woman?
Harry: (wide-eyed) Um… (tugs on Draco's sleeve) Draco…?
Draco: (pulls his sleeve away) Good grief Harry! This is a designer top! What is it?
Slut!Harry: (pops up out of nowhere) I live! I live!
Harry: Hey?! What the?!
Slut!Harry: Bow down before me! Hear me now! I live!
Harry: (snorts) Yea right. I'm hardly ever like that. You're just a solid lump of caffeine.
Slut!Harry: Wha? I'm melting! I'm meltiiiinnnnggg…. (proceeds to melt to a puddle on the floor)
Draco: Pity. I rather liked him.
And now back to the normal part of the show O.o;; Er… yes.. And also, if you don't know about FF8, Esthar's a strange city. It's got walkways above it until you reach the rough center of it, where you can catch rides on these traveling pods that look like hovering teacups. Seriously. They sit about six or so, I'm guessing… Good number.. Anyway, these pods go to the Presidential Palace, where Laguna lives (glomps Laguna) He's so pretty and funny and goofy and daft and silly…. . er… anyway, SPOILER if you haven't finished the game: Laguna is squall's father, which is why there's so little security around them, and which is also why Squall dreads going to Esthar. He doesn't like Laguna much. He thinks Laguna's an idiot.
Squall: Well, he is!
I_nv_u50: But he's so nice and sweet and cute and funny and silly and adorable and idealistic and ….
Squall: (snorts) Whatever.
Hmph. So anyway, there's a bit of info on that for you… So... Enjoy the chapter, and please review!! ^^
Once the Ragnarok had landed outside the Estharian walkways, there was nothing left to do but walk. They had landed just on the borders of the reclusive city, and Zell had explained that the only car rentals were further in – where no cars would be needed. Since they needed to go straight to the Palace anyway, and that was in the center of the city, there was no urgency to get a car. All the walkways ended up within reach of the little transporters that traveled around the city center.
Rinoa and Draco walked between the four knights, with Squall and Zell in front and Seifer and Harry behind. Rinoa was a bit annoyed to this, but was also resigned to her fate, and accepted the single-minded protection that her knights gave her. Since Draco was still preoccupied by his own knight's continued avoidance, he didn't say anything about the arrangements that he probably would have taken exception to.
They fought off the monsters easily, the most dangerous ones being a few elnoyles, but since those were rare anyway, they didn't have to fight too hard. Harry alone could have beaten most of them without help, and he was the least experienced of the SeeDs. Luckily though, there were more experienced SeeDs around, because Harry had not dropped out of his daze yet.
Squall knew better than to show his exasperation at this, and Zell and Seifer wisely held their tongues as well, not willing to risk either the spoilt blonde sorceress' action, or their own beloved sorceress' reaction. They left Harry in peace, and the walk towards the traveling pods was spent in relative silence, with only a whispered, one sided conversation going on between Zell and Squall in front.
Harry was indeed lost in the turmoil of his own mid. He was trying really hard to analyze his own feelings, but they were confused at best, and bizarre at worst.
He could admit to himself that he was starting to care for his sorceress; that was probably the easiest thing to understand that he had to work out. What was harder was determining how deep his caring went, and what was difficult was finding out if he wanted to care that much. The fact that he might want to, the fact that he was beginning to long for a chance to show that he wanted to… It wasn't scary, as such… It was just strange, to think that he had found someone to want to care for with such depth. And the fact that that someone was an arrogant, manipulative, spoilt, conniving bastard… Well, it might be somewhat humorous in that light, but still. It didn't bear thinking of. Stranger than that was the fact that he didn't really care. If he sometimes felt like laughing about those traits, then there was obviously something wrong with him. Or something right with Draco.
After all, how could anyone fall in love with someone who was truly wrong for them? Draco wasn't really any of those things, not to the full evil extent that they could go… And quite honestly, how wrong could love be? If that was how he really felt about Draco – and he wasn't saying he was – then would that really be so bad?
Besides, Harry thought and smiled secretively to himself and Draco glanced behind to look at him, would it really be so bad? Falling in love with the one person you were closest to in the world, one who, supposedly, you'd understand more than anyone else ever could… It was a lot more than some people ever got. The bond itself was something special that couldn't be recreated without what he and Draco shared.
On the other hand though, knowing too much about a person might not be a good thing all the time. It could lead one to be just as scheming and devious as the person one was claiming to love.
Harry sighed silently, and rubbed his forehead in confusion. He wasn't getting anywhere. He remembered his conversation with Dumbledore all too clearly, and while it helped somewhat, it also managed to confuse him further. He just didn't know what he wanted.
Draco remembered to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Harry's thoughts were whirling around until they were all muddled, and all that the bond sent him was perplexion. It was beginning to affect him personally, and that he couldn't allow.
He whispered a request to Rinoa, hoping Seifer wouldn't hear it. She merely gave him a concerned and sympathetic look, and kept walking when he stopped. Seifer hesitated, but Rinoa obviously told him mentally to get a move on, because he snorted and grumbled to himself.
Draco caught hold of Harry's arm before Harry could unthinkingly keep walking, and Harry started, blinking at Draco as if he had never seen the blonde before.
He glanced around to look for Rinoa presumably, and seeing her and her knights a short distance off, jokingly pushing each other around, he blinked.
Then he turned back to Draco. "Why did we stop?"
Draco massaged his temples in a vague hop to relieve the headache Harry had given him. It didn't work. He dropped his hand and sighed. "Look, I'm sorry if giving you the ring was the wrong thing to do. I thought you'd like it. If it would help you settle matters in your head, through it over the walkway, whatever. Just stop thinking so hard. You're giving me a headache, and I have better things to do with myself than worry ceaselessly about how some trinket affected you." Draco paused, seeing Harry's eyes widen and get darker with anger. He held up a hand to stop the angry flow of words before it started and stepped closer, knowing it would silence the knight. "I'm sorry. Just… I didn't mean for it to confuse it so much. Take it as you want it, don't wonder about my reasons. I don't know them myself, to tell you the truth. Just… don't torment yourself about it."
Before he could lose his advantage, Draco leaned closer and brushed his lips gently across Harry's forehead. Smiling slightly at Harry's somewhat stupefied expression, Draco turned and went to go catch up with the others. It was all up to Harry now.
Squall was beginning to feel a familiar feeling of dread rise up within him. He valiantly tried to stifle it before the others realized who the vague sense of unease belonged to, but it was obviously failing, given that he now had a hand in Zell's, and Rinoa's arm was around his waist with her head on his shoulder.
Damn. That was the last thing he needed. He wanted the comfort, oh Hyne did he want it, but if anyone were to see them like this… If Laguna were to see them like this…
It would be beyond embarrassing. It would be plain annoying. Zell chuckled beside him and Squall glared at him from the corner of his eye.
Zell winked. "Don't worry about it Squall. We'll protect you."
Squall snorted, not placing too much faith in his words. They would probably end up laughing, especially if Seifer clued in. And by the way Seifer was smirking, Squall knew he had clued in.
They were in a traveling pod by now, making their way speedily to within walking distance of the Palace, where one of Laguna's advisors would meet them. Squall found himself hoping it was Kiros. Ward was just too hard to understand, although Zell seemed to have picked it up quickly. Must have to do with the strange events of six years before… He turned his thoughts away quickly. Ultimecia was gone. No more. It was stupid to live in the past. Zell squeezed his hand silently, and Squall ignored him, knowing Zell would understand.
No more of that now, they were stopping, and from there it would only be a short walk to… Laguna.
Draco had never seen anything like this city before. It was the exact opposite to Winhill; huge and full of technology to Winhill's small, primitive village like setting. He was so busy looking at his surroundings that when he almost tripped over someone, he very nearly went flying into a stranger.
Following the stranger's dirty look, Draco looked down at his feet to find Harry blinking up at him bemusedly, adjusting his glasses.
Draco smirked in amusement, a smirk that widened to a smile when Harry shot him a dirty look and held out a hand wordlessly. Draco obligingly took it and pulled Harry to his feet before returning his gaze to the stranger that Harry had obviously bumped into.
The older man had black eyes, and slightly greasy hair of the same color. Draco smiled politely and offered his hand. "Hello. I am Draco Malfoy."
The man glanced at him, a swift look of approval disappearing as soon as he looked back at Harry. He took Draco's proffered hand and gave it a firm shake.
"Severus Snape. Am I correct in assuming you are the sorceress?"
Draco grinned at that and gestured to his still scantily clad body. "I believe I am, sir."
Snape averted his gaze and coughed slightly, transferring his penetrating gaze to the other sorceress and knights. "Squall Leonhart I presume?"
His tone held nothing but cool, polite contempt. Draco watched in amusement, as Squall's eyes grew cool in reply. "Yes. Is Laguna available now?"
"Not at this moment I'm afraid, he is engaged in a diplomatic meeting with Fisherman's Horizon."
"Are they going to fix the railroad after all?" Harry asked curiously.
Snape looked at him with an expression usually reserved for something a cat dragged in. "Indeed," he replied frostily. Harry blinked then scowled.
Draco smirked again, beginning to enjoy himself immensely. "So we can all see the famous Esthar after they fix it?"
Snape turned enthusiastic eyes to Draco. "Exactly! And once that's complete, we'll start –"
"Excuse me," Rinoa cut in with a sweet smile.
Snape stared at her, having obviously forgotten her existence. "Yes?"
"I'm very tired, and it is quite late, judging by the sky color. My knights are travel weary as well, and I'm sure we'd all feel better after some dinner and a good night's sleep. We can see Laguna in the morning, is there any place we can sleep tonight?"
Snape hesitated. "Yes. Yes, of course. Follow me please. I will show you the dining room and instruct someone to serve you and then show you to your rooms. You can see Laguna in the morning."
With that, he whirled around and strode off quickly, leaving the other to follow him. Draco guilelessly returned Harry's scowl with another smirk, and walked off after the older man.
Sadly, he was also getting tired, having spent his first full day out of Winhill since he was too young to remember. Logically though, it had been a busy day – the busiest he could remember having for a while, and if that wasn't a reason to go to bed so early, nothing was. He thought he had sufficient reason. He didn't have to like it, but it was sensible. And who could avoid being sensible with Harry by one's side? A Harry who, supposedly, had put all his problems off without another horrible problem. That was something to be thankful for at any rate.
If it was too quiet at dinner, no one said anything, perhaps because it was too quiet. It was, however, a companionable silence, even Zell having nothing pressing to say. And if any of the knights besides Harry got a listening, preoccupied look on their face, Draco ignored it. It was obvious that they could hear something, but since he couldn't hear it… well, if they were going crazy, that was their problem. He didn't care very much for Seifer, and squall made him slightly uncomfortable most of the time… Not scared, just uneasy. But Rinoa was somewhat nice, if a little bit too pushy for comfort, and Zell was also fun to be around, even if he rarely shut up.
Draco thought about it, and reached the conclusion on his way to his bedroom. He liked being with them, most of the time. He enjoyed their company most of the time. He had fun watching Zell and Squall tease each other and then playfully gang up against Seifer. He… liked them.
That startled him more than anything did, the fact that he had made some friends, at least on his part, which Harry hadn't had first. Not that he would call Harry's friends his friends… But still. He pushed open the door the maid had gestured to him and walked in, still thinking about it.
He was startled out of his thoughts by the fact that there was someone on his bed.
Draco glanced up at that, and, on seeing whom it was, smiled genuinely, saving it from being a smirk just in time. Harry looked back at him, uncertainty in the very way he held himself.
"What are you doing here?" Draco asked; trying not to sound too pleased.
Harry shrugged noncommittally and fixed Draco with that searching gaze he had been using since the beginning of dinner. "They said it was my room."
Now the smirk came out, and Draco welcomed it, the searching gaze making him uncomfortable. He winked as well, and Harry flushed and looked down at the floor.
Draco pretended to act hurt. "What? What's wrong?"
"Draco," Harry said quietly, lifting his eyes from the floor to fix Draco with a firm, unwavering gaze.
Draco felt an impending sense of doom, but he let Harry continue. Or rather, he didn't stop Harry from speaking, although suddenly, it was the only thing he wanted to do. The room was starting to feel very hot.
"Do you love me?"
The question startled Draco and he stared at Harry in surprise, sure that he had misheard. The blood pounding in his ears would warp anything anyone said, so Harry couldn't have asked that.
Harry kept watching him quietly, his green eyes calm and dark with something that was almost hopeful.
And Draco was torn between two answers, both of which would be lies to an extent.
If he said yes, he would be lying, because he wasn't sure that what he felt could honestly be classified as love. If he said no, not only would Harry probably withdraw himself emotionally and physically, but also Draco would have been denying his feelings. Just because he wasn't sure it was love didn't mean that it wasn't something equally special and caring.
He hesitated in confusion, his mind dizzy with conflicting thoughts, and the spark of hope that was in Harry's eyes started to dim with uncertainty with the length of silence. Draco thought hurriedly. He needed strength to beat the rogue sorceress, and if this was the only way to do it… well, he could always tell Harry the truth later. And maybe what he was feeling was close enough to love to convince Harry that he spoke the truth… he hoped that wasn't it.
Harry stood up to go find another room to sleep in, his eyes dark with something that was almost anguish but wasn't really, and Draco stepped closer before Harry could move away. He stepped so close that their chests were pressed together, and Harry's hands came up automatically to hold his bare shoulders to keep them both balanced and on their feet.
Draco leaned closer, resting his forehead against Harry's. "Yes. Yes, I think I do."
Harry kissed him then, open mouthed and fast enough that Draco was pleasantly surprised, but the blonde quickly melted into the contact, deepening the kiss.
And immediately he rocked back on his heels, utterly stunned. Harry watched him, a smile playing about his lips as Draco stared at him silently, shocked, before slowly lifting a hand and pressing fingers to his lips as he visibly tried to slow down his breathing, which was coming out in short, stabbing gasps for breath.
Harry had opened his side of the bond during the kiss, completely and absolutely, hiding nothing and letting nothing be held back. And all that Draco had been able to read in the wide-open link was love; love and a simple joy that the feeling was reciprocated.
And since the bond didn't lie, couldn't ever lie, Draco would have to accept the fact that his knight loved him, was very nearly almost in love with him, and furthermore, was happy with the fact, having at last reached it.
Catching the astounded look still in Draco's eyes, Harry smiled somewhat shyly and stepped closer, narrowing the distance that Draco had put between them. He carefully kept his hands at his side this time.
"Show me you love me, Draco. Open yourself to me, please…"
It was the simple pleading tone that shook Draco out of his shock, and he shivered, one fine tremor that trembled through his body and was gone.
"I don't know how…"
"Let me in, Draco, please. You can trust me; I'm your knight. I love you. I'd never hurt you. I couldn't hurt you."
There was nothing but genuine sincerity in Harry's eyes, and the still wide-open bond echoed the sentiment and showed Draco how desperate Harry was to get some acknowledgement.
Draco, feeling helplessly cornered and seeing no obvious way out, answered that desperation and forced the link more open than he had ever let it go before. Harry's sharp intake of breath made Draco close his eyes in sudden fear that Harry knew about his lie.
Thus he was quite surprised when warm hands slid up his arms and down his chest to pause just above his ribcage. Draco opened his eyes slowly, carefully, and looked down at Harry's splayed fingers for a second before looking up into Harry's eyes.
They were warm and tender, fathomless in their depths, and they were smiling up at him as the hands continued down, sliding around Draco's waist; and Harry hugged himself closer, resting his cheek on Draco's shoulder, the lines of their bodies touching.
"It's all right, you know. It's okay to be scared I guess. I'm scared too, but it feels right, doesn't it? Like we're supposed to do this… Hyne that sounds stupid," Harry gave a breathless laugh. "I've never done this before either, you know. Do you think… it would be wrong to try it together?"
Harry's lips pressed against Draco's neck for a second, and Draco nodded silently, letting the bond speak his agreement for him. Harry lifted his head and smiled shyly, a hidden quality lurking beneath the uncertainty as Harry nudged Draco towards the bed, lying down next to the sorceress once he was down.
Draco blinked at him lazily for a second, then kissed him gently on the mouth. Harry opened his mouth to encourage and deepen the kiss, and a sliver of doubt began to make itself known, pricking the haze of sensual sensations that threatened to overpower his thinking.
"Stop," he gasped, not at all sure what he wanted anymore.
Draco ignored him and traced Harry's jaw line with a scrapes of teeth and tongue that likened to drive Harry mad. He tilted his head back to help Draco.
"I've never done this before," Harry whispered softly as Draco started kissing down his neck. "What if I do it wrong?"
Draco raised his head to look Harry in the eye. His eyes were glowing silver. "Trust in me. Trust in yourself. Trust in us both, we won't ever do anything wrong. We'll be great together."
Harry believed him and settled back again, lifting his hands to splay his fingers on Draco's back, delighting in the muscles rippling underneath his skin. Draco made a soft sound of approval and turned off the lights with an unsteady thought, and then there was nothing left but them, the bond, and the shared pleasure in the dark.