Chapter 4: Eyes of Skeptics and Believers
Warning! This story contains language, violence and GRAPHIC descriptions of yaoi (sexual acts between two men), as well as some bondage and non-consensual stuff. If you are not 18 or if you are offended easily, please do not read this! If you chose to ignore this warning, I will not be held responsible for any psychiatric care you require. ^_^ I will also ignore any flames that you send because you feel that Squall and Zell do not make a cute couple or because you hate yaoi. (Face it: there's a LOT of us yaoi fic-writers out there who do what we like, and this IS on a yaoi site, after all! At least, it SHOULD be, unless someone else put it where it doesn't belong.) This fic is a MAJOR what-if; don't be surprised if almost nothing in here fits into the FFVIII storyline. Thanks to Miracle Shining for her inspiration on this one, too. You just rock, Miracle-san! Thanks also to Serdar for his inspiration; a little of the blackness of Dark Age got in here, I think! ^_^
Zell was just starting to get sick of being trapped in the same room all day and into the night, even after the regulars showed up, when Squall came out of the back room. He practically radiated fatigue, and his shades hid his eyes from view. He crossed the dance floor and sat at the bar with a tired sigh. Zell slid a glass of red wine across the polished surface. "You okay?"
Squall accepted the wine with a tense smile and drained it in one swallow. "Thanks." His voice was thick and hoarse. "Yeah, I guess I am, as long as everything goes the way I hoped. If not, I just spent all those hours arguing for nothing."
"What were you arguin' about, if you don't mind me askin'?"
Squall examined the glass in his fingers, turning it over and watching the colored lights of the club play off the smooth surface. "There are some things in this world that are so fragile, and yet they're not even aware of it. They need someone to protect them, to cherish them." He set the glass down gently, as if he feared breaking it. "To love them."
Zell raised an eyebrow. "You can't love a wineglass, man."
"No, but it seems I can love a person."
"Ahh... girl trouble, huh? Or is it guy trouble?"
"It's a man, yes. A very beautiful and special young man who has no idea of the nature of what's looking him right in the eyes." Squall looked up at Zell through his mirrored shades, and Zell shifted his weight uneasily.
"Uh, listen... I thought about what you said this mornin'. It does sound pretty temptin', but where the hell would somebody like me get a life like that?"
"It's right at your fingertips now." He reached across the bar and rested his cool hand over Zell's own. Zell didn't flinch away. "But do you want it?"
"I...." Zell stopped and reached out with his other hand, pushing Squall's shades up onto his head and blinking in surprise. Squall's eyes were red and swollen, and he gazed at Zell with a mixture of fear, anticipation, pride, and....
Man, he's been cryin' over me. But why?
"Once you've given your answer, that's it. You can't take it back."
"Squall, I... I need to know more about this. You haven't told me anythin' but the good stuff, and I know that everythin' comes with a price."
Squall sighed and dropped his gaze to the bar. "You're right, but these things... protocol is so tricky, and if I screw up, then we lose our chance." He looked back at Zell. "This is really breaking the rules, but if I show you something, will you give me an answer then?"
"What is it?"
Squall got to his feet. "Come with me."
Zell followed him down into the wine cellar, his nose twitching at the scent of age. Squall led him to a rack at the end of one of the long aisles in the back; Zell saw him flick a small latch at the edge of the rack, and it and the false wall behind it swung away with a gentle clinking of bottles. The tunnel was narrow and dark, and a wave of cold, damp air struck Zell as he peered in.
"Cool. Just like the movies."
Squall took his hand. "There are no lights in the first two-thirds of this passage, so I'll have to guide you."
"Then how will you see?"
"I... know the way."
They stepped into the tunnel, and the darkness swallowed them.
"It's not much further."
They were still in the dark section of the tunnel, and Zell blinked rapidly. He swore he was seeing things.
"Squall, I can see you."
Squall stopped. "What?"
"I said I can see you."
"You can't. It's pitch black in here. There's no light at all."
Zell reached up-- he swore he could see dim hints of Squall's face-- and pulled off Squall's shades. He cried out in shock and ripped his hand free of Squall's, staring at the small rings of cold blue light that he knew were the young man's irises.
His eyes are glowin'...!
"I can explain, Zell...."
"You'd better start now! What the hell are you?!"
Squall sighed; the blue lights flickered as he blinked. "Follow me to the lit area and I'll show you."
Zell hesitated. "Fine, but if you try anythin'...."
"I swear on my life that I will not harm you."
Zell felt Squall's cool fingers close around his again, and he let himself be led the rest of the way. He had to shield his eyes in the lamplight for just a moment, but then he backed away from Squall with an expression halfway between anger and fear. "Now spill it. What are you?"
Squall said nothing, but Zell watched as his eyes slowly shifted from blue to violet to a deep garnet red. His lips parted slightly, enough to show Zell that his unnaturally sharp upper incisors were twice as long as they were before. Zell reeled back, terror washing everything else from his eyes as he settled into a defensive stance.
"You are a fuckin' vampire!"
"Yes...," Squall whispered, unshed tears thick in his voice.
"You... you did kill those two...!"
Squall's eyes flooded with pain. "Please believe me... I had nothing to do with their deaths. They were friends of mine."
"Irons told me the girl had holes in her neck and no blood left in her!"
"Then that proves it wasn't me, or even a real vampire. When we bite someone, our saliva heals the wounds without a trace when we're done. The punctures in Dove's neck were probably made with thick needles."
"Yeah, right! That's impossible!" Zell tightened his fists threateningly. "You're just sayin' that so you won't look guilty!"
"Do you trust me?"
Squall sighed. "I know you don't mean that, deep down. I need you to trust me... please."
Zell hesitated. "Why? What the hell do you want me to do?"
"Give me your arm."
"So you can suck me dry?! Forget...."
"Please, Zell! I don't have much time to convince you! Look inside yourself. You know I won't hurt you."
The two stared at each other for a long time. Then, slowly, Zell relaxed his stance and extended an arm. Squall took it gently and lifted the wrist to his mouth. Zell flinched but didn't pull away, even though he yelped when Squall sank his fangs into the soft skin. The vampire suckled gently for a few seconds, then pulled away to let Zell see that the skin had in fact been broken. Zell bit his lip, whimpering when he saw his own blood welling from the twin wounds. Squall bent his head again, running his tongue slowly over the punctures. They felt warm, tingling slightly, and by the time Squall let him go, the skin showed no signs of ever having been damaged.
"Oh my god...."
"Now do you believe me?"
Zell nodded slowly. Squall wrapped his arms around the blond and pulled him to his chest; Zell leaned into him and tried not to cry. Being so close to such a powerful creature scared him, but not as much as what he felt in a deeper part of his soul.
"I have to protect you," Squall whispered. "I have to be near you... I can't let you go...."
"Why?" Zell asked softly, realizing that he'd slid his arms around Squall. "What am I to somebody like you?"
"Some say we lose our souls when we're made. Perhaps we just need to find them again in others."
Zell looked up at Squall's face and gasped. "You... you're bleeding...!"
Squall hastily wiped the crimson tears from his eyes. "I'm not hurt. That's just how we cry."
"Uh... right...." Zell swallowed hard. "Um... you said somethin' about being 'made?' What did you mean?"
"I wasn't born this way. I was changed when I was seventeen."
"Wait... how old are you now?"
Squall actually blushed faintly. "Um... in a couple of months, I'll be seventy-four."
Zell's eyes nearly fell out of his head. "What?!"
"We stop aging when we're changed. And while we can be killed with great difficulty, we don't die of so-called natural causes. Disease, toxins, and most types of injury mean nothing to us."
"So you're immortal?" Zell felt lightheaded; this "boy" was old enough to be his grandfather!
"For all intents and purposes, yes." He stroked Zell's hair softly. "Now do you understand what I'm offering you?"
"You... you wanna change me...?"
"No. It's hard to explain, but all I can say is that it would destroy both of us if I brought you over. You'd lose your soul."
"I want to make you a Chalice."
"You wanna turn me into a cup?!"
Squall shook his head, trying not to laugh. "No, it's a member of a society that are tied to the vampires, each marked by a special black tattoo. They've shared a distilled version of our blood, and so they have some of our abilities. They do age, but much slower than normal, and they're more resistant to physical harm. We can associate with normal humans in other ways, but we can only feed from a Chalice."
Zell thought he should pull away from Squall, but he didn't want to. He felt safe and secure in the boy's-- no, the man's-- arms. "Your friends... were they Chalices?"
"Yes. Claret class Chalices, which means that any vampire could feed from them. But that's not what I want from you." He kissed the top of Zell's head, which made the blond flinch ever so slightly. "Zell, I want them to make you an Absinthe class Chalice."
"I don't understand."
"Absinthe Chalices are tied to one vampire. No one else can feed off them, and they often share a very close relationship. And because of the way they're made, the Chalice and the vampire share a powerful telepathic bond. Those kinds of Chalices don't age, just like us."
Zell looked up at him, wide-eyed. "You make it sound like marriage or somethin'."
Squall said nothing, only staring back at him with anxious eyes.
"Oh man...," Zell breathed, finally pushing away from Squall. His heart wrenched at the hurt he saw in Squall's eyes. "It... it's just too much to think about right now...."
"You have some time to think about it, but if you choose to go through with it, you should know that it's forever... a contract that can never be broken, not even by death."
"Why me? Why'd you choose me? Besides that whole thing about lost souls and stuff."
"Because of your tattoo, I mistook you for a Chalice the night we danced, and I fed from you. Something in your blood... called me. That's why I thought about what they said... finding my lost soul."
"You fed from me?! Right in front of all those people?!"
"Zell, do you realize that every person in that club is either a vampire or a Chalice? If they were paying attention at all, they didn't care what we were doing. And it doesn't matter that we're both guys, because I've yet to meet a vamp or a Chalice that wasn't bisexual. It makes things a lot easier for both groups."
"But... but I'm not...."
Squall sighed. "I hate to say this, but you're wrong. You've already tasted my blood, even though you weren't supposed to, and the telepathic bond's started to form. I can see things deep inside you... things that you know at some level but are afraid to admit. You feel it every time you look at me, or even think about me, don't you?"
Zell hugged himself, shivering and looking away. "Yeah...."
Squall's gentle fingers cupped Zell's chin and directed his gaze back. "You've been attracted to men before, haven't you?"
Zell's eyes spilled over with tears. "Y-- yeah... but...."
"I know. I've seen in your mind how your father beat you when he saw you almost kiss a friend of yours."
"He... he told me I was sick!" Zell sobbed, letting Squall embrace him again. He buried his face against the vampire's chest and bawled like a child, all but muffling his words. "He knew I liked girls, too, and he said I was better off with 'em! And he beat me if I even looked at another guy the wrong way!"
"God, Zell... I'm so sorry...."
Zell looked up at him, the tears making shining trails down his cheeks. "I don't wanna feel like this anymore. I don't wanna be ashamed of what I am. Squall, please... I wanna be a Chalice."
Squall smiled, running the backs of his fingers down Zell's tattooed cheek. The boy in his arms had never looked more beautiful than he did at that moment. He bent his head toward Zell and their lips met, the blond yielding hungrily to the long, lingering kiss. When they finally broke apart, Squall rested his forehead against Zell's, their eyes still closed and their breath washing over each other's faces.
"I swear on my life you won't ever regret this," Squall whispered.
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