First Round:  Irvine vs. Squall

Shin nodded, moving in front of the screen.  "The next battle will take place immediately.  The combatants; Irvine Kinneas and Squall Leonhart."  The two
young men looked up a second before they were transported back onto the rocky terrain.  The young sniper smiled at him, and Shin nodded in return.  
"There was a serious question of allotment for the two of you," he began.  "As with Sephiroth and Vincent, you both have the ability to use Guardian
Forces, and neither of you were at your maximum when you were taken."  The two glanced at each other, but he continued.  "We've decided to give each
of you the same magic, and your weapons," he waved a hand to the two items a few feet behind him, "have been upgraded to the highest level.  Now,
there's only the question of GF's.  What we've done is taken the Guardian Forces at their highest level, as they were junctioned when you defeated your
final enemy."

"Are you saying you took the GF's from our *future*?" Irvine asked, his eyes wide.  "Why didn't you take us then, too?"

"This was easier," Shin admitted, his gaze flicking to Squall when the dark-haired teen crouched next to his sword.  "As I was saying, in the final battle each
of you fought, you were junctioned to certain GF's, and you'll have those same GF's for this battle.  In future battles against the others, you will have the
choice of which GF's you use, or all if you prefer."

"They don't like that," Squall commented, glancing up at the lavender-skinned male.  "Guardian Forces get jealous easily if they're switched, or forced to
share with others."

"That's true," Irvine nodded, frowning at Shin.  He didn't have nearly as much experience with GF's as Squall did, but he'd noticed how attached the
creatures were since joining up with the SeeD.  "Are they going to be aware of us switching them around like that?"

"As you are healed between battles," Shin said, "so are the Guardian Forces renewed.  For them, it will be as if no time passed. They will not be aware of
what is going on around them."

"That's good," Squall frowned, "because if they were they would never come to attack one of us.  They're more loyal than that."

"I'm aware of that," Shin said, his voice clipped.  "Now, since we are junctioning each of you the way you were in your final battle, the question you should
ask is who receives Eden.  That is your-"

"Irvine can take it," Squall interrupted, lifting his sword.

"What?!"  Irvine's eyes widened and he shook his head, not sure what to make of the teen's blank expression.  "You *want* me to take Eden?"  The
dark-haired SeeD nodded, and he frowned darker, glancing at Shin.  The short creature was staring at Squall with an odd smirk, and it made Irvine
decidedly suspicious.

"I see," Shin said slowly, his black eyes sparking when Squall raised an eyebrow at him.  "In that case, junction how you see fit.  We were afraid there
would be contest over who held the strongest Guardian Force, but if not, then there's nothing left for me to say."  His gaze moved to Irvine, and he nodded
to the teen's gun.  "Take your weapon," he prodded lightly.  Wary violet eyes blinked at him, but the tall youth moved toward the gun.  

Exeter was definitely Irvine's best weapon, but even with it in his gloved palms, he couldn't help but feel he was being set up.  Squall wasn't the sort to
share his thoughts, and those dark blue eyes seemed devoid of anything besides a hint of interest in the battle about to take place.  Shin had moved
aside, and Irvine frowned, stalking over to Squall.  "So," he said, a light sarcasm tinting his voice, "which GF's are *you* going to use?"

"Ifrit, Siren, Leviathan, and Doomtrain," Squall said quickly.  He didn't have to think about it at all, and the moment the choice was made, he became aware
of the junctioning, just as he'd said.  Shin nodded to him.

"And you?" Shin asked, catching Irvine's eye.  The boy really did look confused, and he almost felt sorry for him.  After reading Squall's mind, he knew the
dark-haired teenager had planned this battle out ahead of time.  But Shin wasn't too surprised at that.  From watching Squall, he'd become accustomed to
the boy's manner of thinking.  He didn't like to be unprepared, and he did think his battles out very well.  Irvine was scowling now, but the brown-haired
teen finally shrugged.

He didn't really know what Squall had planned, but Irvine was just as capable of choosing as him.  At least, he thought he was.  It really wasn't fair
considering he had less experience with GF's, but he wasn't about to admit it.  "I guess I'll take Eden," he sniffed, shooting a look at Squall, "and Cerberus
and Cactuar."  He was half tempted to take all the remaining GF's, but he remembered what Squall had said about them not 'liking that.'  He wasn't sure
what the boy had meant by that, but he figured it was better not to risk it.  Another glance found Squall junctioning his magic, and he hurried to do so
himself.

This battle would be quicker than any of the others, Squall was sure of it.  He still didn't see much point in the tournament, but after watching the other
fights, he'd decided on a simple enough plan.  They couldn't be killed.  And there were no hit points.  It was easy to guess he'd be set against Irvine when
his turn came, and he was sure the boy would cast Eden immediately.  Normally that attack would have killed him three times over.  But the battle was
rigged.  He wasn't worried about that.  Thinking of his own method of attack, he only bothered to junction a few abilities, namely Item and the ever-useful
Darkside, though he did increase his strength and add two automatic additions.  The Auto-Protect wouldn't help much, but the Auto-Haste was absolutely
necessary.  He was certain Irvine would use it as well.

Irvine was at something of a loss.  Since leaving Galbadia Garden and joining up with the SeeD's, he'd only fought in a few actual battles.  And then, Squall
or one of the others had given him tips on junctioning.  But he didn't think it would be too hard.  He set his abilities to GF, Item, and Magic, leaving the
additions of Auto-Haste and increased Vitality as an afterthought.  

Shin waited patiently as the two youths set themselves up, and he straightened when they moved to stand a few feet to either side of him.  He waited a
moment, looking at one, and then the other, and he nodded sharply.  The next second he was back in the main chamber, watching the two on the screen.

As Squall had expected, Irvine summoned Eden the moment their mediator disappeared.  That effectively made the longhaired sniper vulnerable until the
Guardian Force arrived.  And, as he'd expected, the GF did *not* come immediately.  It was Shin who'd clued him in.  If the odd man had planned to give
them the same GF's they'd had in the final battle, then Eden would have the most compatibility with him, not Irvine.  That was the man's first mistake.  It
would take minutes before the Guardian Force would obey the summons and until then, Squall had an open window to cause his opponent damage.  The
moment he darted forward, he knew Irvine realized that.

Irvine's eyes widened when the dark-haired SeeD moved on him, but he was mostly unable to do more than raise an arm in defense.  Casting a summon
required he remain in one spot until the Guardian Force could arrive.  He couldn't have dodged even if he wanted to.  Squall's gunblade arched over him,
burning a strip down his shoulder and arm, and he wavered on his feet.  The attack only lasted an instant, but it was strong enough for his blurred eyes to
widen as he recognized what that was.  The teen wasn't just attacking him, he was using Darkside.  He knew for sure when Squall winced immediately after
the darting blow.  That attack returned one tenth of the damage back to the one using it.  And Irvine understood.  Squall had given him Eden for a very
good reason.  While he was caught waiting for the GF to arrive, his opponent was weakening himself enough to use his limit break.  Fury blazed over his
face, but he couldn't do anything against the next attack, the combination of blade stroke and explosion knocking him to his knees.  "Damnit, Squall!"

The angry curse surprised him, and Squall blinked for a second before ducking his head again.  Obviously Irvine hadn't expected him to fight him as he
would an enemy, but he had no intention of sitting out the next round.  As far as he was concerned, an opponent was exactly that, no matter the boy's ties
to him.  And it wasn't as if either of them would die.  With cold eyes, he moved again, striking a blow seconds before the retaliation of Darkside struck him.  
He knew Shin had said there were no hit points in this tournament, but as far as limit breaks were concerned it didn't matter.  He'd need nine hits to knock
his defense down to the point where he would have a good chance at winning this, and he knew he wasn't going to have the time.  Irvine's head snapped
back, and Squall glared, halting in place as he waited.  If Eden couldn't kill him, the Guardian Force would work for him.  The real question was whether
he'd be able to stand after it hit.

Shoving to his feet, Irvine felt a wave of strength wash over him.  The boy's attacks had hit hard, but the Guardian Force had sustained the damage, not
him.  That was one benefit to having a GF who wasn't too compatible to him.  They took longer to arrive, but in the meantime they were the ones who
received the hurt.  The only danger was if they received enough damage to die themselves.  But Eden hadn't, and finally the GF was ready to move into
action.  Five feet separated him from Squall, and he stalked forward a few steps, his left arm rising in front of him.  Familiar green bubbles of light circled
him for a second before spinning off and he threw his arm down, leaning hard on his right leg.  Then he disappeared, transported to safety while the attack
crashed down.

From within the chamber, it seemed the boy had merely gone invisible, very similar to when Vincent and Sephiroth had cast their 'summons.'  Squall
remained, but it was difficult to tell if he were immobilized or not.  The dark-haired teen stood looking above him, and the view on the screen shifted to a
dark point in space.  At first it was hard to say what the thing was, odd colors swirling over its form.  It had a tail of some sort, a pointed shape that paled
into a light blue point behind it.  The closest resemblance would have been some sort of huge larva without a visible face or arms of any kind.  It was
surrounded in a webbed tube, sparks of green and blue visible at the top of it.  And a golden fire burned down from above, flowing through the large
creature and down, past it until that sparking beam cut through the sky above Squall.

The pale tan rocky ground around the teen was blackened by the shadow as the large thing moved along with that beam of light.  Ripples of amber ebbed
around Squall, widening as the color darkened to burgundy, blue, and lightened to coppery orange and green.  Then the odd webbing that had seemed to
surround Eden appeared in the darkness beneath those ripples, the sectioned squares widening.  The watery ripples disappeared, replaced by billowing
flames of the same color, but they seemed trapped beneath that odd sectioned fence.  And the teen was moving abruptly, the webbing curved as the view
shifted back.  Suddenly it wasn't apparent whether Eden had moved, or if that pillar of squares had merely shifted down and pulled his target up to him.  
But either way Squall was carried on that tunnel of squares until he was standing above Eden.  The creature no longer looked like a mammoth larva so
much as a living ship, with the boy upside down above its main energy source.  The teen was small enough in comparison to have stood easily on the tip
of the wide, pointed blue crystal that aimed up at him.  And the crystal burst into slow life.

Sparks of white crushed together within the pale blue circle before shining out, a rainbow pillar of energy seeming to flow gently over the boy still standing
above it.  The colors dispersed into vibrant green as the energy struck the webbing, and symbols appeared over the squares.  Circles, inscribed with some
sort of text formed beneath Squall's feet, marking him, targeting him within a deformed pentagon.  Then the view shifted suddenly, showing the truth as
Squall remained standing on the rocky plain.  Only his image had moved to Eden, allowing the GF to target him.  But the planet seemed to change now,
that odd symbol emblazoned over the sphere.  Circles appeared at the edge of the shape, numbers as if it were a giant clock rather than a planet, and a
glowing triangle sparked in the center, marking the target point as it originated around Squall.  The giant ball, for it no longer seemed to be a planet at all,
spun slowly, as if rotating both halves to line up the marks that appeared around its diameter.  It was a combination lock, and a few turns lined the symbols
in a perfect match.

A flash illuminated the sphere and that triangular center ebbed outward, glowing golden as the funnel webbing etched through space to form a tunnel
between Eden and the planet.  And a beam of white energy shot through that path, seeming to come from the planet more than the Guardian Force.  The
light carried Squall into space, beaming energy shifting tints as the boy was swallowed in a rush of movement.  Eden, for it had to be the GF that formed a
huge billowing circle of energy, pulled the target in, the energy colliding into a dark purple bubble that drew the boy in.  And just as it took in the motionless
figure, it dropped him.  The view of the attack didn't follow quick enough to take in the boy's decent again, but it was clear by the crater his fall made that
only magic would allow him to live through that fall.  Irvine reappeared immediately after the impact, leaping back with his gun held loosely in his right hand.

Squall was on his hands and knees, his eyes closed to the bits of rock settling around him.  Standing now was impossible, and he knew that without a
doubt.  It would be impossible to attempt a normal attack.  He didn't even feel capable of sending magic at his opponent.  But his limit break was flashing in
the back of his mind and his lips curved despite the impossible pain of the attack.  Irvine had just ensured his own defeat.  Even if the boy had the
Auto-Haste ability, limit breaks worked faster than anything else.  The fingers of his right hand were still closed around Lion Heart's hilt, and he clenched
his fist, head tilting back to look at his target.  He gave the boy a second for realization to simmer in those startled violet eyes before he moved.

There was time to jerk back a step, but Irvine knew he wouldn't get more than that.  He could see the wind sweep around his opponent's feet, golden
amber light shooting up from beneath him, and he clenched his teeth.  Calling Eden should have disabled the boy, but he might have expected this.  
Squall had wanted to use his limit break from the very beginning.  And even if there weren't hit points, Irvine was fairly sure the damage was enough that
his opponent would definitely be using one of his extra attacks.  And he was fairly sure which attack that would be.  While Squall's limit breaks changed
randomly depending on his weapon and how much damage he'd sustained, Eden's assault had definitely knocked him down enough that Irvine knew which
extra attack would result.  Watching as the SeeD prepared his limit break, Irvine could tell by Squall's small tight smile that the boy was hoping for his
strongest limit break.  And he had set him up for it.

It only took a few seconds to build for his initial attack, the Renzokuken consisting of a series of blows.  Holding his sword with both hands, Squall darted
forward.  The number of actual hits varied according to the enemy, but he managed to get five off before Irvine collapsed.  The limit break was like a wash
of pure energy, using the last of a person's strength, and Squall didn't even waver when he jerked back to the edge of the crater he'd caused.  As he'd
hoped and expected, he was far from finished.  Irvine didn't know enough about him to have realized the mistake summoning Eden was, but Squall was
certain he'd realize it in a minute.  As much damage as he'd taken from the GF's attack, there was no chance of his finishing move being a weak one.  No,
he knew before it started, the odds had been wiped away.  Using his Lion Heart limit break was a rare thing, but thanks to Eden's power, it came just as
expected.

Pale blue light sparked around Squall, shooting up from below as he lifted his sword diagonally across his chest.  For a moment it resembled the ki Trunks
had used earlier, but it disappeared too quickly, leaving the black-clothed boy revealed.  He was standing with his feet apart, that long pale blue-bladed
sword held over his shoulders, both gloved hands curled over the hilt.  As if collecting his strength, he paused a moment, Irvine motionless across from
him, then his hands fell, the sword held out to his right side.  A white wind seemed to swirl down over him, sparking on the clear seemingly crystalline blade
as misty red fire clouded around Squall's feet.  Dark blue eyes glinted at his target as the hot red fire rose to envelope him, a ball of golden light forming
on his blade.  The colors mixed, seemingly sucked into that sword until they disappeared in a shocking flash.  Squall was revealed again, and he ran
forward suddenly.

A blaze of golden light swallowed Irvine as he was struck, tossed into the air, and Squall leapt up after him.  A blue afterimage followed the sword as it
arched upward, striking another blow that starburst over the gunman's chest.  A fiery inferno bubbled where they'd been as Irvine was thrown higher, the
dark-haired SeeD following in a flurry of blows.  Each one cast a spark of light and burning impact on the immobile youth, the flowering blaze swamping
over both forms until they were bare shadows within it.  As if dancing on air, Squall moved on his opponent, the sword flashing in a darting, slashing
pattern nearly too fast to follow.  The number of blows blurred until the dark image shifted back, glowing gunblade held above his head.  Bloody fire
dissipated below the two figures as all the light again collected within the pale blue blade, forming a white nova of energy.  It was held for a long moment,
until the boy was nearly eclipsed, then disappeared into the sword.  In the next instant the screen flashed white, holding for a second before falling into a
single line emblazoned across Irvine's midsection.  The white mark faded into the boy's tan coat, then exploded outward in sparks of golden red, a circle of
power that eased into small starbursts before finally clearing.  

Squall landed in a pained crouch, his Lion Heart gunblade angled so the tip touched the ground, just as his opponent crashed down across from him.  Now
that the limit break had burned itself out, his legs did their best to fail beneath him and he staggered across the way to stand over Irvine.  The
brown-haired teen's eyes were closed, and Squall moved his gunblade, remembering the first battle as he started to press the point to the boy's neck.  But
his legs faltered before he had the chance.  A groan lit up from his opponent when Squall hit his knees and he glared at dazed violet eyes.  "Move and I'll
do it again," he warned, pushing his blade onto Irvine's chest.  "I mean it."

His gun wasn't in his hand, and Irvine scowled, lifting his head painfully to look for it.  The glaring blue eyes near him darkened and he shoved Squall's
sword aside absentmindedly.  If the SeeD had the energy to use his limit break again, he'd have done so already.  In the meantime, he'd taken more than
enough damage to use his own.  Assuming, of course, he could find his damn gun.

"Irvine, be still."  The teen didn't even glance at him, and Squall groaned, shoving his gloved palm against Irvine's forehead and pressing it back to the
ground.  Blurry eyes blinked angrily at him, but he shook his head, aiming the tip of his gunblade directly at the boy's neck.  "I might not have the energy to
hit you with the sword," he muttered, "but I can pull the trigger."

For a moment, Irvine scowled in surprise, then he sighed.  "I never thought you were such a dirty fighter," he muttered back.  "Rinoa would be shocked."  
The teen snorted but didn't move.  "Fine, whatever, I concede."  His words were immediately followed by the announcement of Squall as the winner and he
rolled his eyes, shoving the gunblade aside.  "I'm not fighting you anymore."

Squall blinked, leaning back as he felt himself healed.  "Whatever."

* * *

"Squall is the victor," Shin said, turning to look from the screen to the others.  He waited for the accustomed questions, but they seemed to be talking
amongst themselves.  Blinking in surprise, he sidled closer.

"It definitely looked like some sort of robot to me," Duo was saying, a frown written over his features as he looked at Lloyd.  The silver-haired wingly was
shaking his head.  "That had to have been a magnetic field or something.  And the targeting system-"

"But they said they were alive," Lloyd interrupted, waving a hand when Tsunami nodded.  The tall white-haired man stood near them, listening.  "That must
have been a cannon."

"You're thinking of the Divine Dragon again," Albert said, "right?"

"Yes-"

"But that wasn't a beam *from* the thing," Duo argued, "it was more like a tractor beam pulling him up to it."

"Actually," Tsunami said softly, his lips curving when the longhaired boy frowned at him, "you're both right.  Eden is alive, but it's more of a bio-engineered
Guardian Force than a natural creature.  Scientists in their world created it to be stronger than any living Guardian Force, so it is a combination of
technology and magic.  Our observations have shown that while the 'beam' does pull the opponent to Eden's location in space, it also has the effect of a
beam cannon, or," he said, glancing at Lloyd, "your Divine Dragon's cannon.  The actual damage of the attack is a combination of that cannon pulling the
person into the heat, and the drop from such a high altitude."

Heero frowned at the man, remembering once again, how they'd met.  "Was it your magic that kept him from dying in space?"

"Our magic kept him from dying on impact, or from the heat of the beam," Tsunami explained, "but the actual field that pulled him into space was not
designed to kill.  It draws oxygen from the planet along with the person."

Moving closer to the group, Trunks frowned.  "Why would they do that?  If they made the thing to kill, wouldn't it be easier to simply drag the person into
space and let him die?"

"The Guardian Force was engineered for monsters," Tsunami explained, "more than for humans.  The stronger monsters in their world can survive in
space."

"But that thing can kill them?" Trunks asked, raising an eyebrow when the man nodded.  "Then how could he have gotten up after it?  I know you've made
it so no one dies, but..."

"Any normal attack Squall might have tried wouldn't work after being struck by Eden.  His defense simply isn't high enough for that.  What he used, was a
limit break."  Tsunami glanced over to where Vincent and Sephiroth remained near the wall, but the black-haired man simply looked at him with a blank
expression.  Turning back to the males around him, he shook his head.  "Limit breaks function regardless of the condition the person is in.  The worse one
of them is, the stronger the limit break.  That," he nodded to the screen, "was Squall's strongest limit break, the 'Lion Heart.'  As far as offensive power
goes, Lion Heart is much stronger than Eden."

Leaning against the wall, Kamui watched the men for a moment before raising his voice.  "But they can use the GF any time.  He has to be severely injured
to use a limit break?  It sounds like a gamble."

Tsunami blinked, glancing over at the young man.  Kamui's expression was still bored, but at least he'd contributed.  "That's true.  One thing to keep in
mind about their GF's, however, is that they *are* living creatures.  As they said earlier, Guardian Forces bond with the people using them.  The reason
Squall was able to get a few attacks in before Eden arrived is because Irvine had never used the GF before.  If Squall had junctioned it instead, it would
have come immediately.  Keep that in mind when he fights again.  You can be sure he'll use the Guardian Force then."

Quatre frowned, thinking about the two attacks.  Either one was just as bad as the other, but Squall had definitely chosen his limit break.  They'd all heard
him give the GF to Irvine instead of taking it himself.  He glanced at Heero, since the Japanese pilot would be facing Squall next, and his frown darkened.  
"He chose the limit break because it was stronger than the GF?" he asked, sighing when Tsunami confirmed his question with a nod.

"One thing you should know about his limit break is that the finishing move is random," Tsunami put in, his eyes flicking to Heero.  The dark-eyed boy was
watching him carefully, no doubt thinking of his upcoming battle.  "Once Squall or Irvine takes a certain amount of damage, he's able to use a limit break.  
Squall's true limit break is nothing more than the Renzokuken, that first series of blows.  After that, there's no certainty whether he'll be able to use a
finishing blow, or which one it will be.  He has a number of them.  Lion Heart is the most rare of them all.  The *reason* he wanted Irvine to use Eden wasn't
just because the GF was weaker than his own attack.  He knew that it would cause enough damage to let him use Lion Heart.  Only when his damage is
severe is he able to use that finishing move."

* * *

Irvine sat up once he was sure he'd been healed, and he smirked at Squall, noting the boy's seemingly bored expression.  "You know, I never wondered
what it was like to be on the receiving end of that attack.  But I *still* can't believe you stood up after being hit by Eden."  Squall shrugged, and he shook
his head, his smirk faltering for a second before widening.  "So, Squall, how are we going to do this?"  

The brown-haired boy had the same look he wore when flirting with Selphie, and Squall frowned at him.  "I won."

For a second Irvine stared at him in surprise, but he shook himself out of it quick enough.  "Yeah, you won, but...have you ever done this before?"  Dark
blue eyes stared at him and he raised an eyebrow.  "You don't really expect me to just sit around while you figure out how to do it, do you?  I mean, who's
the expert here?"

"You're not an expert," Squall said evenly, not moving when the teen's eyes widened again.  He'd been around Irvine long enough to know that most of his
bragging was simply a show.  The 'cowboy' played at being a ladies-man, but when it came down to acting, well, Squall still remembered how the boy had
panicked the last time he'd been forced to act.  Even if he hadn't planned to win from the very beginning, there was no way he'd leave this in Irvine's shaky
hands.  "You just talk a lot."

"Look," Irvine managed, forcing a calm expression, "I admit I've never messed around with a guy, but you, you've never even *kissed* a girl.  You probably
don't even know *how* to do it, much less-"  The SeeD dropped his sword and Irvine blinked when Squall's hands moved to his tan coat.  "Hey, are you
listening to me?  I said-"

"You're still talking," Squall commented, not bothering to look up as he pushed Irvine's coat off his shoulders.  "I'd say at the moment our 'skills' are even in
this area.  But I'm the quicker learner.  So be quiet."

"If you're trying to reassure me, you're doing a lousy job at it," Irvine scowled.  The boy glanced up at him, and he blinked when Squall's lips pressed
against his.  It only lasted a few seconds, but the poor excuse for a kiss made him even more wary of what was to come.  In fact, he was starting to feel
downright skittish.  "You don't even know how to-"

There was only one way to shut him up that didn't involve a hand over his mouth, and Squall grabbed the boy's long tail of hair, pressing their lips together
again.  He caught Irvine in the middle of his sentence, so it was easy enough to move his tongue between those open lips.  And the words died as violet
eyes widened.  Irvine may have been right about his past experience, but Squall was convinced he'd seen enough in the last hour or so to do this.  The
outspoken sniper hadn't even watched the screen once the fighting stopped.  But he had.

Irvine didn't know if Squall were enjoying himself or not, but the boy certainly seemed to be.  As for himself, he was still mostly convinced that he didn't want
to enjoy himself.  He didn't want to take the submissive role in this.  It went against everything he stood for.  What sort of playboy would he be if he let
Squall, of all people, dominate him?  Not that he honestly thought he could do any better.  It only took a few seconds to realize the normally reticent SeeD
was at least a good a kisser as he claimed to be.  But that wasn't the point.  Squall didn't even know the basics of how to do this.  He couldn't know, not
when Irvine didn't.  And that was the very base of his denial.  If he didn't know what to do, there was no way Squall would.  And all he'd ever heard about
this sort of sex was that it could get quite painful on the 'submissive' one's side if it wasn't done right.  That reminder was enough to make him shove
against Squall's shoulders, pushing the teen back enough that the hold jerked on his hair.

Squall frowned a little, but Irvine didn't give him a chance to complain.  "How about we compromise a little," he said quickly, a faint grin tugging his lips
when the boy raised an eyebrow at him.  "I mean, there's no reason to-"  Hands moved to his vest and Irvine scowled, smacking them away.  "Will you just
listen for a minute?  I know you're about as stubborn as they come, but-"

"You just keep talking, but you're the one who won't listen," Squall commented, focusing his attention on undoing the buttons on that dark vest.  "You
forget that all it will take is a thought from me, the winner, and you will be immobilized.  I don't think you'd like that very much, but I'll do it if you keep
talking.  You're just stalling for time.  I'm not going to compromise about this."  He paused for a moment, glancing up and giving a sharp not to Irvine's wide
eyes.  "You're the expert," he said, a tiny sparkle the only hint of mirth in that statement, "so stop acting like you're afraid.  There's no reason to panic."

"I'm not panicking," Irvine shot back, blinking when those dark blue eyes fell again.  His bottom lip made its way between his teeth and he chewed on it for a
second before frowning.  Squall glanced up again when he finally let out a loud sigh, and Irvine shook his head at the boy.  "If you're so set on being an
ass, then there isn't much I can do about it.  But keep in mind that I don't appreciate having some rookie experiment on me.  If you screw this up-"  A dark
flush heated his face when Squall smirked, and he closed his mouth with a pained scowl.

The young sniper actually looked rather cute when he blushed, and Squall shook his head at him before finishing his work.  The self-proclaimed 'ladies
man' didn't have anything on beneath that dark purple vest, leaving a clear expanse of tanned skin when it was pushed aside.  Squall spent a long
moment simply looking at him.  He'd done so before, in passing.  It wasn't as if he went out of his way to 'scope out' men or anything, but Irvine tended to
make himself noticed more often than not.  Usually the teen wore an irritatingly self-confident grin, so his uncomfortable expression looked out of place
now.  Irvine was staring at him with a blatant frown, and Squall held his silence, pushing the vest over the youth's shoulders to join the coat bundled near
his elbows.  "You can take that off," he commented, noting that Irvine's arms were limp at his sides.

"Thanks so much," Irvine muttered, sending the boy a dark look before shoving the coat off.  He was still sitting on the bottom half of the long tan coat, and
he blinked, noting suddenly how well the color matched the earth beneath it.  But he didn't have long to think on that.  Scowling when hands moved to his
waist, Irvine shifted a little away from the SeeD.  "Come on," he groaned, not quite glaring when Squall blinked at him, "at least take off your coat.  Do you
have any idea how bad it is to be half naked while you're still fully dressed?  It's humiliating!"

That comment actually made a light warmth rise to his cheeks, and Squall let out a little huff.  He hadn't thought about it.  He'd been thoroughly distracted
by that honey golden skin, and he was surprised by his reaction to it.  But Irvine had a point, and he leaned back, looking the longhaired boy over.  "I didn't
mean to embarrass you."

For some reason the absolute calmness in Squall's voice made his lips twitch into a smile, and Irvine gave into it.  "I was hoping you didn't, but it's hard to
tell with you.  You're being so adamant about this whole 'winner' thing, I though you might *want* to make me feel like an idiot."

"No."

Irvine smirked sitting up a little so he could catch hold of the furry collar of Squall's coat.  "Then allow me."  Dark blue eyes frowned a bit when he pushed
the black coat off, and Irvine sighed, shaking his head.  "Don't worry, I'm not going to take over.  I just don't want to sit here like an object or something.  I
mean, I never said I was against this."  Squall was definitely frowning at him now, but Irvine's smile widened a bit as he helped the teen out of that short
black coat.  "I don't want to be submissive, that's all.  Plus I'm a little worried about your methods, but you already know that."

The little flashes of panic were gone from his comrade's eyes, and Squall noted that as he removed his shirt, letting it fall near his discarded coat.  "You
don't have to worry about that," he said slowly, his eyes trying to fall over Irvine's chest instead of meeting his eyes.  He didn't want to talk anymore.  "I've
seen enough to know what to do, I'm not going to...screw it up."

His face definitely tried to heat at that reminder of his earlier slip, and Irvine almost missed exactly what the boy had said.  It smacked him a second after it
was spoken, though, and his eyes widened.  "You were watching," he accused, his voice soft in surprise.  "You were!"

"Of course I was," Squall nodded, shifting so he was kneeling close to the boy's side.  His gaze had almost literally locked itself on Irvine's neck, and he
leaned toward it without thinking.  "I like to be prepared."  Soft warm skin met his lips and he moved his hands over the teen's shoulders, barely hearing the
surprised gasp.  He could feel a rapid pulse as he kissed Irvine's neck, his hands sliding down over a lightly muscled back.  Attraction skittered down his
own back to coil in definite arousal, and he pressed forward, one hand flat against Irvine's chest.  He'd thought this part of the act was meant to stimulate
the receiver, but he quickly learned otherwise.  There was something delicious about the feel of that silk brushing his tongue.

Any doubt as to Squall's ineptitude vanished the moment that hot mouth met with his neck, and Irvine closed his eyes, hands moving to clutch the teen's
shoulders.  He didn't know how a simple kiss could make his nerves light up, but the calloused hand running along his back sent shivers through him.  And
even the brief vertigo of being tilted backward was too vague to pay attention to.  The hand on his chest rubbed over one of his nipples and he flinched,
eyes snapping open in surprise.  Squall was kissing his shoulders, a line of liquid heat trailing along his collarbone, but that hand was playing with him
regardless.   The two conflicting sources of pleasure distracted him to the point where he jerked the moment his bare back touched cool earth.  That soft
impact seemed to coincide with a marked change in pace, and Irvine's eyes widened when Squall shifted over him, dark gaze simmering before lips slanted
over his own.  And if he'd thought the last kiss was well done, this one was much better.  As he'd claimed, Squall certainly was a fast learner.

It was getting harder to concentrate, and Squall pressed against his comrade, his tongue darting into the kiss as he rubbed close to Irvine's chest.  He'd
thought the boy attractive before, a little irritating, too loud at times, a tall lanky but sexy form, and lovely hair and eyes, but now he wanted to devour him.  
As if he were incapable of rational thought he found himself wanting to hear Irvine panting, crying out even as he couldn't tear his mouth away enough for
any sound to escape.  He had a brief image of how lost Irvine had looked during that failed sniper attempt on the sorceress, and his dark lashes parted to
search the teen's face.  Those violet eyes were half-closed and clouded, but it wasn't the look he'd hoped to see.  And then he knew what it was he wanted
to do, he wanted to break away ever last bit of pretension and see that vulnerable teenager he'd glimpsed before.  With that realization, his plans shifted
considerably, along with his body.  

The kiss was broken as quickly as it had come, and Irvine gasped a quick breath, licking his lips.  That had been positively mind numbing.  His senses,
however, were still alight, and gasped again as hands caressed his chest, fingers circling his nipples and sending sparks of arousal along stimulated
nerves.  He still held an absentminded grip on Squall's shoulders, and his hands clenched sporadically as a hot mouth replaced those teasing fingers.  A
startled cry broke past his lips when teeth nipped at one of his nipples and he stared, blinking wide eyes down at Squall's glittering gaze.

A hint of panic was all it took to brighten those violet eyes, and Squall's own gaze burned hotter.  That was easier than he'd expected, but he wasn't about
to pause to think of it.  His tongue flicked over that hard nipple, teasing it in rhythm with his left hand, and he held Irvine's wide eyes as his free hand trailed
downward.  Caressing the heat through tan pants, Squall squeezed lightly, those violet eyes snapping shut with a quick gasp.  The teen's hips pressed up
into his palm, and he licked his lips to see how quickly Irvine's legs eased apart.  That quickly he'd gone from wanting to be dominant to accepting his
place as the loser in the match.  If he hadn't been very aware of his own rising eagerness, he might have smirked.  Instead, he shifted his attention to
undoing Irvine's belt with one hand, distracting the youth with the other.  The boy was definitely sensitive, a tiny squeeze of his fingers had Irvine letting out
a little muffled groan.

Air touched Irvine's waist when his pants were undone, but he didn't even bother with worry or embarrassment.  His eyes were still closed, and he shifted
his hips to let the boy pull the cloth off.  He wanted to feel Squall's hand touching him again, but without the separation this time.  The wanton thought
brought a tiny snigger of humor to his mind, his lips curving, just a bit.  Inexperience aside, he didn't just play at being bold, his fantasies tended to be
much worse than what he was thinking now.  Of course, he'd never imagined Squall before, and he certainly hadn't been in a non-dominant position, but
right now he didn't care.  The one reservation that remained was that it couldn't be so simple.  A brief hesitation had him opening his eyes, and he blushed
furiously to find Squall crouched beside him.  The young SeeD was scowling at his boots.  "I *knew* we forgot something."

The youth's face was a mixture of tan and blush, but Squall noted that somehow it went well on him.  At least Irvine was able to smile as he sat up and
removed his boots.  That was a surprise.  He'd completely forgotten the teen's shoes, and Squall took the moment to remove his own.  There wasn't much
point waiting till later.  He was a little disappointed at the interruption, but he couldn't blame himself.  No matter how well he tried to plan ahead, this was still
his first time doing something like this.  Irvine was pushing off his pants, and Squall's hands moved to his own waist, undoing his overlapping belts.  The
longhaired sniper remained sitting up, those long legs bent in front of him, and Squall blinked to find heat rising to his face at Irvine's interested stare.  
Somehow, he hadn't expected to be on the receiving end of a look like that, and he fumbled for a second before getting his hands back in motion.  It only
took a minute to kick off his shoes and remove his pants.

Irvine smirked at him, a vague hint of blush remaining, and Squall crouched with a light frown.  Those violet eyes were sparkling merrily at him, and he felt
a wave of irritation at how clear they were.  He'd definitely have to do something about that.  Crouching beside the teen, he grabbed a firm hold of that
long honey-brown hair and pressed their mouths together.  There was no resistance to the kiss, but he moved as if there were, tightening his hold until
Irvine's head tilted back.  His tongue moved forcefully, not giving the teen a chance to respond as his free hand pressed on one smooth shoulder, angling
him down.  Dark eyebrows drew together in a visible frown, but Irvine's eyes were already falling half-closed.  A sharp heated moment later and the lanky
youth was on his back again.  Squall drew back, a deep breath calming his pulse as he watched Irvine catch his breath.  The sniper blinked dazedly at him,
and Squall moved his hand down that tan chest, fingers spread as he slid his way to the boy's waist.  A flush rose, Irvine's hips jerking when he curled his
fingers around that hard length, and Squall dropped his gaze back to the boy's chest.

Leaning over the youth, Squall moved his mouth over one of those stimulated nipples, playing with it as he tensed his fingers.  He wasn't stroking, but
merely holding, his grip alternately tightening and relaxing as Irvine's hips shifted beneath him.  Sharp breaths lifted his dark brown hair, and Squall lifted
his head slowly, looking at the teen.  Those eyes were closed, face drawn in what looked like a tense, thoughtful frown, and Irvine's hands were curled fists
at his side.  So much for not wanting to just lie there.  With a fleeting smirk, Squall moved, his hand leaving that pulsing length so he could part those long
legs.  Irvine gave no resistance to this, his body seeming to pause as if he were holding his breath.  A heady rush of lust swept over him as he stared, and
Squall's hands tightened on the teen's pale thighs.  The skin was so soft over clenched muscles and he had an urge to make the boy wrap those legs
around him.  But a hint of control remained to tell him that would have to wait.  After all, he'd promised not to 'screw this up' and he fully intended to keep
that promise.  Hot eyes flicking over Irvine's pained expression, Squall smirked and closed his hands over that awaiting length.

Sexual experience was one thing that might have helped, but Squall was a seventeen-year-old male with a physically active life.  He was no beginner when
it came to some things, as he proved by caressing Irvine's erection in slow, tantalizing strokes.  The youth immediately groaned, his back arching inches
off the ground as he tilted his head back.  Squall's eyes fell to his hands and he twisted his right palm, fingers sliding over soft skin in smooth patterns.  
The boy's erection was actually a bit longer than his own, and he noted that with a detached interest as his hands continued their skillful manipulation.  He
ducked his head and took a fleeting taste of the dampness rising to the tip of that dark erection.  It was nothing so awful as he'd expected, and he licked
his lips thoughtfully.  

He was accustomed to denying his body's needs, having gone through the uncomfortable phase of puberty where he had to hide inexplicable reactions at
the most inopportune times, so he ignored the throbbing pulse between his legs as he focused on the boy beneath him.  If his hands were making Irvine
moan like that, he could just imagine what his mouth would do.  The idea made him glance up at the longhaired teen, taking in his flushed face.  On
second thought, it didn't look like he'd have that long to think about it.  Irvine shook, those legs tensing to either side of him, and Squall cupped one hand
over the boy's erection, the other one sliding faster.  Watching the youth's face, Squall wasn't surprised when the only sound he gave was a muffled moan,
his teeth clenched too tight to allow anything louder to escape.  He released the boy's erection slowly, noting how Irvine's body seemed to shiver as the
muscles relaxed.  His fingers moved over his palm, feeling the slickness, and Squall finally listened to his body's eager clamor for attention.

Despite how aroused he was, Squall knew he could easily have been satisfied merely by touching himself.  Just moving his slick hand over his erection
made his jaw tighten.  It took a bit of effort to keep his eyes open, and he forced his legs into motion, his damp fingers moving against Irvine in a quick test
of the resistance.  He didn't know enough about this to even try preparing the boy first.  From what he'd seen, all of the others had enjoyed themselves
once the act was in motion, so he assumed this would be the same as long as he didn't move too fast.  Shifting Irvine's legs a bit higher against his waist,
Squall leaned forward, not quite pressing into the youth.  Although he was certain the expression would be worth it, he didn't want to catch Irvine
completely off guard.  That would be a little much.  His hand moved to the boy's neck, tugging a bit on that long hair until dazed eyes opened a bit and
focused sluggishly on him.  Kissing him lightly, Squall pushed closer to Irvine, not quite entering him.  Dark lashes fell over cloudy eyes and a hot mouth
opened to him, those legs shifting around his hips.  That was all the encouragement he needed.

With one hand holding Irvine's hip, Squall moved into tight heat, not pausing until he was flush against the youth.  His vision tried to swim at the feel of it,
but he could see dark brows lower, a deep sound meeting his tongue as Irvine tensed beneath him.  He waited, a tense painful shiver passing through his
muscles has he held his body still, focusing all of his attention on kissing the boy.  He could feel Irvine's legs shift a bit, and he moved his hand from that
long hair to take hold of the youth's length.  Another breathy cry met his mouth, but he remained motionless aside from his hand, not following when Irvine
finally pulled his mouth away to gasp in a quick breath.  It wasn't until the sniper's length hardened in his palm that Squall allowed his hips a brief shift, just
enough to make his own lips jerk down in a pained grimace.  If Irvine didn't adjust soon, he wasn't going to make it.  But a quick look showed the teen
seemed to be reacting more to his hand than any pleasure his body was causing.  With a deepening frown, Squall shifting one of those long legs higher
until it was resting on his shoulder.  Another tentative movement resulted in a sketchy gasp a bit less pained than the last.  Encouraged, he arched the
boy's hips a bit more, searching for the right angle.  A sharp cry told him when he found it.

That tight feel of Squall inside him suddenly didn't seem wrong at all, and Irvine groaned when the SeeD shifted his hips higher.  The youth's hand was
stroking him in a way that was alone enough to make his body scream for release, but the delving motions touched something that was a thousand times
stronger.  His eyes were closed so tightly they burned, and he could feel rock beneath his arched neck, but he didn't care.  A strong hand was digging into
his hip and he found himself tightening his leg around Squall's waist, pulling the boy closer to him.  His arms moved so he could bury his fingers in thick
dark hair and he clenched the strands tight, gasping as the pace quickened.  He could barely feel Squall's face pressed to his neck, hot breaths warming
his moist skin.  He didn't note when the youth ceased to touch his erection, only feeling the hold angling his hips higher.  The movements were too direct,
sending bursts of pleasure one after the other until he let out an oddly mournful cry that he didn't connect with his own raggedly sore throat.

If he hadn't felt Irvine's hips moving in time with his own, Squall might have thought he was killing the boy.  He'd never heard such a cry, and he didn't
understand why it made him move faster, harder into that clutching heat.  A second cry followed the first and he panted against Irvine's neck, pressing his
face closer to the muffling warmth.  The sensations were too strong, rising too quickly.  He had no idea if Irvine were as close to climax as he was, and his
hand moved to the boy's length.  His control had shredded to the point where he was half afraid he'd squeeze too hard, but he couldn't help that.  The
teen shuddered beneath him when he stroked that length, and he groaned against Irvine's neck, feeling muscle clench around his base.  His forward
motion pressed through that tightness, and his body abruptly tensed in a painfully sudden release.  All strength seemed to pour out of him and he fell onto
Irvine, only moved by the teen's deep breaths.

Squall wasn't exactly heavy, but Irvine felt weighted down.  Every part of him ached with a sickly pleasant weakness, and he groaned, his legs moving to
fall on either side of Squall's hips.  The teen must have been as drained as him, but he didn't have much sympathy for him.  It hurt when Squall pulled out
of him, just enough to remind him that it hadn't *all* been amazingly wonderful.  His eyes were closed when the warmth lifted, and he sighed as he felt the
teen roll off of him.  It wasn't until something brushed the hair away from his sweaty face that he bothered to look.  The dark bang that fell near Squall's left
eye looked damp, and Irvine felt his discomfort slip away at his comrade's concerned expression.

His arm shook a bit when he put weight on it, but Squall was more worried about the longhaired sniper.  Irvine's face was pale with a light sheen of sweat,
and he remembered one of his last thoughts during that confusing climax.  "Are you all right?"  The question came out colder than he'd meant it to, but
those violet eyes crinkled in a hint of a smile and he sighed, leaning back on his heels.  He didn't know if the teen was as tired as he felt, but he offered a
hand to pull him into a sitting position.

Shaking his head, Irvine winced as he bent his legs.  "Aside from the fact that I feel like I've been run over by something, I guess I'm fine."  His friend was
scowling at the ground, and he blinked, leaning down a little to catch his expression.  "Hey..."

"I didn't expect to lose control like that," Squall admitted, frowning as he tried to remember exactly where he'd slipped up.  He'd assumed it would hurt a
little at first, but he could have sworn they were both enjoying it by the time it ended.  A glance found Irvine smirking at him, and his brows lowered into a
slow glare.  "What?"

"You weren't that bad," Irvine managed, patting a hand on the teen's shoulder.  The dark-haired SeeD blinked at him, but he moved away, groaning a bit
as he pulled his pants to him.  "It's *supposed* to hurt a little the first time, that's what everyone says.  And I can't really complain about the rest.  Hell, I
don't know if I could have done any better."  He saw the teen dressing from the corner of his eye and smirked, shaking his head.  "Okay, I'll admit it, you
were damn good."  Squall's head whipped around in surprise, and Irvine felt a hint of warmth rise to his face.  "Don't get conceited, though, I don't have
anyone to compare you with.  But what you did with your hands...damn.  Where the *hell* did you learn that?"

Squall's mouth opened for a second, but he closed it quickly, blinking as his face grew hot.  The youth definitely wanted an answer, and he dropped his
eyes, pulling his pants on.  "Practice."

With a laugh, Irvine shook his head, staring at Squall's dark blush in amusement.  To think the boy who'd just managed to make his entire body explode
with pleasure could blush over something so simple and natural...  "I guess you really *are* a quick study," he commented, moving to the teen.  He hadn't
bothered with his shoes, but he was still inches taller than Squall.  Dark eyes flicked to him as he threw an arm over the boy's shoulder, squeezing it lightly
as he threw him a grin.  "If I didn't know we'd forget this when we go back, I'd have to sign up for a few lessons."  The teen's startled and confused look
made him laugh again.  Squall obviously didn't know if he were serious or not.  But he didn't have a chance to enlarge upon his statement.

The difference in his previously shaky legs told him of the move first, and Squall slowly turned his gaze from those sparkling violet eyes.  Once again they
were in the white chamber, and he looked around, following Irvine's silent move to the back.  There were more people looking up than there had been last
time, but Squall found his eyes caught by one gaze in particular.  Sephiroth was smirking at him, the man's pale blue eyes seeming to laugh, but in a way
that didn't embarrass him, and Squall blinked.  After a long moment, he tore away from the odd hold and followed Irvine back to the wall.  The tall youth
didn't seem embarrassed when others finally raised their eyes, and Squall gave a tiny 'hn' when that friendly arm fell over his shoulder again.

Looking around the room, Shin moved from his waiting position.  Tsunami was actually seated near the wall, but he caught the man's easy smile, returning
his nod.  That one had gone well, also.  Oh, he'd worried for a moment that Squall might have really *wanted* his partner immobilized, but it hadn't
happened.  He was glad for that.  It was bad enough that he was participating in something so sordid as this, he didn't want to be forced to immobilize a
rightfully skittish virgin.  Hopefully, the next battle would go a bit smoother.  "The next battle will take place immediately.  The combatants; Trunks Brief and
Van Fanel."

* * *
TBC


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