Riot Sands

Squall/Zell. NC-17. ~4600 words. For Pond and Sonny.
Escape from D-District Prison, and out into the harshness of the desert itself.

Heavy boots pounded on violently bucking metal stairs. The building shook, metal ground and screeched, an enraged beast trying to rid itself of unwanted pests. He missed a step and was sent sprawling forward, almost tumbling off the narrow space before catching himself on his hands and surging to his feet again.

“Zell!” Selphie’s cry echoed.

He quickly shook his head as she slowed. His shin throbbed from the abusive edge of the stair. Just another reminder.

Ahead, Squall ran on, either oblivious or trusting his team to take care of themselves. One hand gripped the rail, the other clutching the gunblade, its fine edge scored and coated with blackened gore. Zell had avoided looking down at his own knuckles; he could feel the wetness through the leather. One after another, they whipped around the final curve and burst into searing desert light. Eyes accustomed to dimness watered, stung as sun and sand assaulted them.

“Two GIMs,” Squall called back, his voice whisked away by the wind.

A split second later, Zell heard the sharp clank of metal on metal. “Don’t have time for this,” he shouted, digging fast through the things he’d lifted from the guards. “Duck and cover, man!”

“Damn it, no!” Again, Squall’s shout was unheard. Cursing, he scrambled back, dived behind a pillar and grit his teeth against the harsh explosion.

The acrid stink of burning circuits scorched Zell’s nostrils, sliced into his lungs as he opened his eyes to see ones of furious and deadly grey focused on him. He felt his stomach lurch but answered the look with a cocky grin. “Path’s clear.”

“You blew the bridge,” Squall snapped as Selphie stumbled back into view, palm pressed against the side of her head in an effort to stop the ringing.

“Take a little jump, it’s still good. Better than having a droid skewer you,” Zell replied.

Letting out another snarl of frustration, Squall gestured curtly at the smoking pile of metal and the path beyond it. “Move out.”

Selphie muttered darkly about giving men grenades, moving swiftly to the skyway and running across, bending low to reduce target area. The sound of gunfire and combat boomed behind her.

“Go,” Squall ordered, his voice harsh.

Eyes on the other’s pale face, with the memory clear of what had been done to him, Zell began to refuse. “I’ll take rear guard, you-”

“Shut the hell up and take the order. You keep telling me I’m the leader here. Act like it.”

Zell snapped his mouth shut and immediately followed after their third. The anticipated crack about finally finding a way to quiet him wasn’t made, and he glanced back to check on Squall’s progress. He was already halfway across before Squall’s boots touched the skyway; already out of target range before Squall had made a quarter of the trip.

Selphie was at his elbow. “Shit.”

“Go,” Zell said, keeping his gaze fixed on the black outline of Squall running across the skyway. “See if you can find us a transpo outta here.” When she hesitated, he added, “I’ll cover our fearless leader.”

With a sharp nod, she turned and dashed into the darkness behind them, pausing only long enough to wedge the door open. Seconds later, the floor lurched and the painful shriek of grinding metal shattered the pale desert sky. Sand and grit billowed up around him in a mushroom cloud, blocking his vision. The hideous grinding was unending, and as the sand began to thin, he saw Squall hanging from the skeleton skyway. The bridge itself had vanished.

Another sudden rush of dirt exploded into the sky. Zell threw his arms in front of his face as his footing slipped again. Everything was shuddering, madly convulsing, and it was a moment before he realised that he was moving. The entire complex was sinking into the dunes, crawling away from the bright sun. Whirlpools had formed around the giant spearing towers, sucking sand and plants underground.

“Fucking hell,” Zell muttered, trying and failing to spit out the grit that crunched between his teeth. “Squall! They’re going down! Get the fuck over here!”

He heard no response and hadn’t expected one. The ground crept steadily closer as Squall inched hand over hand toward him.

“C’mon, man – we gotta get inside.” Zell paced, and waited. Seconds were hours as he watched Squall race against the sinking, prayed for him to hurry and not fall.

Memory hit, violently. There was sand then, too. Spewed upwards by a huge iron monstrosity, demonic with its endless clanking. He waited, held the port open as Squall ran and dived. And pulled him, panting and soaking wet, out of the ocean.

And then, suddenly, Squall was there. Dirty and ragged, he grasped the metal by Zell’s feet with gloved hands. Instantly, Zell braced against one of the support beams and grabbed him. He ignored the sound of swirling sand and heaved, shoved him toward the wedged door and followed close behind. Squall gave him one quick glance, and Zell knew he remembered too. He kicked the door shut as the sand ate the sky.


Zell perched on a boulder, his back to the warmth of the fire. He stared out over the rolling dunes, the single road a black river in the distance. A small, dry twig was caught between his fingers, and he fiddled with it absently while he kept watch with his thoughts for company.

He knew it was partially his fault that they’d ended up in D-District Prison. Mostly his fault. He’d been stupid, blurted out Seifer’s association with Balamb G in the middle of a live broadcast. He didn’t know if there had been plans to assassinate the Sorceress before then, but somehow, he doubted it. Send the team of fresh fuck-up SeeDs to knock her off, you might get lucky. If luck wasn’t on your side, then at least Galbadia had the ones responsible for both attacks, against President and Sorceress. Some fancy footwork politics later, and you’ll be looking around, patting yourself on the back for a job well done.

The stick snapped in Zell’s hand. That didn’t explain Seifer and Edea. It didn’t explain Seifer being the one trying to torture an answer out of Squall that none of them had. It burned, knowing that. It twisted in his gut like a brand. Squall had looked at them, hard grey eyes ringed by red, and had simply said, “It was Seifer.”

Disgusted, Zell tossed the crushed twig to the ground. “Sucks, man, ” he muttered.

“You’re supposed to be keeping watch, not playing with sticks.”

Zell was halfway to his feet before his brain caught up with his reflexes. “Not keeping watch in that direction,” he said, gesturing back toward the fire and reseating himself.

He barely caught the movement of Squall’s shoulders.

“My shift doesn’t end for another two hours. What do you want? Checking to make sure I’m not screwing off again?”


“And fuck you too, man.”

Squall smirked, a small twist of his lips. “You fuck up enough for all of us, Dincht.”

Zell jerked his head back, pinned Squall with a look that contained none of his usual humour. “And you %know& that ain’t fair. I’m not a drag on this team. I helped get your ass outta there, didn’t I?”

Squall turned his back on Zell and the warmth of the flames, gazing out over the cold, empty expanse. “That’s the second time you’ve pulled me back up,” he said, his tone unchanged.

Zell was quiet now, wondering why Squall felt the need to voice that thought. “Yeah,” he said finally. “It is.” He crossed his legs, ankle resting on knee. “Surprised to hear you admit it, though.” Only quiet met his words. He’d thought the conversation ended until Squall spoke again.

“He wanted to know what SeeD was.” Squall tilted his head slightly, just enough to slide a look back over his shoulder at the other.

“We’re mercs,” he answered automatically. “Everyone knows that, even someone as self-absorbed as Seifer.”

“They seem pretty convinced that there’s more to it,” Squall continued, turning his profile to Zell and beginning to walk back towards the others.

“…and now you do too, don’t you?”

Squall paused for only a moment, and nodded.


“There’s activity over thataway, north-north east,” Zell said, gesturing even though Irivne was more than capable of finding the direction himself. “Don’t think they’ll bother us, seems like the bonfire you’ve got going back there is taking care of it.”

Irvine smirked and nudged up the brim of his hat. “I know what I’m doing out here.”

“Yeah. Right.” Zell left Irvine and his ego alone, and trudged across the sand to the makeshift camp.

Selphie had south watch; Rinoa was tucked snugly into a bedroll. She’d put up a half-decent argument with Squall, demanding that she be a part of the shift changes. Squall was just as stubborn as she was, though. The relief was nearly tangible when she’d finally relented and allowed Irvine to finish sweet-talking her out of the idea.

Quistis looked up as he neared the fire.

“Hey,” he greeted.

She folded the whip she’d been cleaning in her lap. “It’s odd out here, isn’t it?”

In the middle of deciding between digging out a blanket and getting more sand down his shorts, he said, “Huh?”

“Too quiet.”

“It’s night,” Zell pointed out.

“Even when the sun was up, all I heard were the jeeps.”

Shifting uneasily at the tone of her voice, he asked, “Where’d Squall go?”

“Somewhere out there,” Quistis answered, pointing with the whip’s handle at the darkness. “I told him he shouldn’t be out there by himself.”

“Squall can handle it.”

“Normally, yes. But you saw the burns.”

He winced at that. The memory of the scored flesh was painfully clear in his mind. “Squall won’t like me following him around.”

“Probably not.”

Zell heaved a sigh as his shoulders drooped. “Fine. I’ll go get him.”

“Thanks, Zell.”

“As Fearless Leader would say, whatever.”


It was another twenty minutes before Zell tracked down their de facto leader. Squall had managed to find a rock outcropping, and was sitting under it with only the stars and moon for light as he tended to the edge of his blade.

Without looking up, he said, “Are you following me around?”

“Hell, no. Took me a half an hour to find you. Quistis thought you’d gotten yourself chomped or something.”

“And here I am, bite-free.”

“Yeah, and pretty much brain-free, too.” Zell’s pose was straining towards casual and falling just short as the steady scrape of whetstone against steel halted, and Squall turned his gaze up. “Man, there’s god-knows-what out here. You could get some fat-ass worm poppin’ up beside you and nippin’ off your leg before you can blink.” Suddenly presented with an uncomfortably vivid mental picture of just that, he barely refrained from trotting off to find a nice, sturdy rock to stand on. Maybe right there behind Squall.

“The rockbed’s about half a foot under the sand here.”

“…that ain’t the point, Squall.” Thought he felt somewhat better about keeping his feet attached to his ankles.

Letting out a sigh, Squall rested a hand on the gunblade and flicked his fingers over the edge, clearing the dust from it. “I don’t want to be around the others right now.”

Zell wasn’t prepared for that sort of admission from a man who was only slightly less unforgiving than the rock he sat on. At a loss, he mumbled, “At least build a fire or something, man. It’s freezing.”

And not waiting for Squall to rise, he set about building it himself. If he was going to babysit Squall Leonhart in the middle of the desert, he’d need something to keep him warm. His companion wasn’t known for his warmth.

Squall watched him silently for a long moment before picking up his weapon and resuming his work. Zell felt eyes on him every now and then, but since the other voiced no objection to his settling in, he acted as if he hadn’t noticed.

“You use any more cures on that?” Zell asked suddenly.

The rhythmic scrape halted again. “No.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not that serious any more.”

“Like hell. I saw it.”

“We should save the supplies in case we run into trouble.”

“Bullshit, man.” Zell tossed a brittle stick on the pitiful fire he’d made behind them and faced Squall down. “That’s bullshit and you know it.”

“Alright. Shut up nagging and I’ll take care of it.”

Zell folded his arms over his chest, and waited.

Squall’s eyebrows rose slowly.

“C’mon. I’m waiting.”

“I said I’ll take care of it.”

“Yeah, and I don’t believe you.” Before he lost his nerve, Zell marched over and bravely set his hands on either side of the other’s head. Murmuring his wish, he had a split second to notice the softness of Squall’s hair and then the spell was spilling out in a delicate rush of power.

The air between them glowed, an otherworldly fusion of vibrant green and soft blue, swirling and twisting in near-seductive tendrils. Zell thought he felt Squall shiver beneath his touch. The light dimmed slowly, and his hands still held a nimbus of light as he drew them away. And started the mental countdown of how much time he had left before he’d need a cure himself.

Squall merely watched him, eyes that normally called up thoughts of storm clouds were calm and dark in the night. Zell backed off and nodded once, lost as to what he could possibly do or say when faced with that expression. His hands still tingled.

He thought to ask Squall to tell him when he was ready to head back to camp. Instead, he sat on the sand and watched the darkness outside the little ring of warmth he’d created as the steady rhythm of stone scraping metal picked up again.


The sky was an endless black dome, stars twinkling bright. Zell found himself wishing for clouds, something to cover up that weighted black. Apparently, someone in the universe was feeling mischievous; no sooner had the thought crossed his mind than Squall loomed above him, blocking out his view.

“Hey. Man.” Zell gestured, complaining that his star-watching had been interrupted.

Silent, Squall sat on the sand beside him, one leg bent and his arm resting on the knee. He tilted his head back. “You’ve been staring at the sky for the last half hour.”

“The sand was startin’ to bore me.”

Squall made a sound that was suspiciously close to a laugh, even though it leaned more towards a grunt. It was enough to make Zell cock his head and look at his profile. “You done bonding with your gunblade yet?”

“Why did you track me down?”

“Quistis asked me to. Can anyone get a straight answer outta you, or am I just special?” Zell turned back to looking out at the desert.

“She could have just as easily found me herself.”

“…must be special.”


“Man, what? I want out of this desert, I’ve got sand in places that shouldn’t even exist.”

“What’s the story behind this?”

Zell froze as he felt leather-clad fingers touch the side of his face, almost gently trace the outer curve of the black ink. He flicked his gaze back to Squall, not daring to turn his head. “What story? It’s a tattoo. Looks cool.”

Squall’s hand lingered for a brief moment more. It fell away as he spoke. “Tomorrow, I want you to take Selphie and Irvine to the G-Missile Base. Do what you can to stop the launch. Quistis and I will be going back to Garden. We’ll have to take Rinoa with us.”

Several questions instantly crowded into Zell’s mind, more than a few jokes and one nasty jibe at Squall’s intelligence. On its heels were words of thanks and appreciation. What he said was, “Okay.”

They sat in silence for some time after that, the crackle of the fire the only sound other than the quiet shift of sand against clothing as Zell shifted. Squall would be going back to Garden, in the direct path of the missiles, and was charging him with either stopping or diverting them. Mostly, Zell was just incredulous.

Never a spring of patience, he finally said, “Are you ready to go back now?”


“Look, Squall-”

“I think this makes it the third.”

Even as accustomed as Zell was to Squall’s tendency to think first, speak second and neglect to inform the rest of them of the steps in between, he didn’t quite follow the leap that time. “What?”

Squall merely shook his head. “No matter what the outcome of the base mission, I want you and your team-”

His team. Squall was giving him command of his own team.

“-to avoid Garden until you’re contacted.”

Zell sat bolt upright. “What the hell are you thinking?”

“I want people out there that I can trust. If G-Army moves against Garden, we’ll need it.”

“What about Irvine?” Zell asked, only somewhat mollified. There were things going on in Squall’s head that he wasn’t about to share, despite how much Zell might ask.

“If he follows the order, stick with him. Lose him if he goes against your command.” He said it so simply.

“It’s weird hearing you dish out orders like that. Guess I’d better get used to it, huh?”

Squall turned to face him, and Zell had the unsettling feeling that this was the calm before the storm. Grey eyes were flat and cool, quiet like the desert sands, quiet as they had been ever since the escape. But he’d seen those sands thrown into a screaming whirlwind, just as he’d seen the calm skies whipped into a frenzy. If the storm was of Squall’s making or another’s didn’t seem to matter.

Squall’s silence stretched on until Zell’s unease grew and he was forced to respond to it as he always did. He spoke. “Squall?”

“You’re going to start to babble again, aren’t you?”

Zell jerked his head back, opened his mouth to protest. And for a moment, a split-second, he lost his mind. Temporary insanity, a quick trip through the rabbit hole. The orange-red glow of the fire outlined Squall in a sooty glow and would have cast his face in shadow if not for the brightness of the moon. The sharp contrast was of heaven and hell on earth, and Zell weighed the wrath of one against the taste of the other.

“No, man – I think I’m gonna kiss you.”

Squall’s eyebrows lowered slightly. “You’re going to kiss me,” he repeated. He didn’t seem that surprised about it, just doubtful.


“What the hell for?”

“Shut up, Squall.”

Squall shut up. For whatever reason, he shut up, and Zell leaned forward to bring his mouth to Squall’s. The other’s lips were warm, not soft but firm. He could feel the edges of a frown tugging at Squall’s lips, making them press into a thin line. He began to pull away, picking up the pieces of his dropped sanity when a hand gripping his collar tight stopped him.

“If you’re going to do it, do it right,” Squall said, the leather of his gloves creaking.

“You’re supposed to kiss back,” Zell tried to reply, but the words stuck in his throat as he moved, lifted a hand to grip Squall’s wrist and kissed him again. Squall’s lips were softer now, still not pliant but almost as if he were waiting for Zell to do more.

Common sense and basic want warred, and Zell found himself running his tongue across the other’s lips. He traced the soft flesh, nearly cursed when Squall’s lips parted and tongue touched his. Then Zell was being pulled closer, fumbling for a moment while he tried to figure out what to do with himself as Squall inexorably dragged him across the sand and almost into his lap.

Squall’s mouth was against his again, one gloved hand gripping the back of his head and forcing him down to continue the kiss. The rhythm changed, turned from exploration to greedy hunger in a breath. Zell let his eyes close as sharp teeth caught his bottom lip, bit hard before Squall drew it into his mouth. Zell was gripping his shoulders, breathing hard and wondering when he’d swung his leg over Squall’s and sat himself in the other’s lap.

Cool leather touched his legs, the rattling bite of steel followed as Zell shifted forward and disturbed the ammo belts slung low on Squall’s hips. He blinked open unfocused blue eyes and sat back, not noticing when Squall leaned forward in an attempt to keep the contact from breaking.

“What are you doing?” Squall’s eyes had narrowed, grey catching the heated light of the fire.

Zell’s hands were gripping the belts, trying to shove them out of his way. “Trying to get in your pants, ‘cept you’re wearing a fucking chastity belt.”

Squall caught Zell’s wrists in a painfully tight grip, and for one frightening minute, Zell thought he’d gone too far. A kiss was a kiss, but turning around and groping Leonhart…that was either brave, or stupid, or both.

Zell looked up slowly, caught the edges of something close to a smile on Squall’s lips. He was laughing. Muted, deep in his chest, Squall was laughing at him.

“See who’s laughing in a minute…” Zell muttered, taking Squall’s mirth as, if not permission exactly, then clearly not an objection. Quickly, he traced the lines of leather, finding the belt that rested above the others and undoing it, moving immediately to the next. The metal buckles hit the sand with quiet thumps and a scattering of sand.

Squall set a hand in the centre of the other’s chest and pushed. “Back off for a minute.”

Uncertain again, wishing he would just say what he wanted, Zell started to back down Squall’s long legs. The other pushed away from the rock wall, slid down onto his back at the same time he bent a knee, knocking Zell of balance and tumbling him to the ground.

Zell propped himself up on his elbows as Squall leaned over him and said, “Are you trying to make me eat sand?”

The answer was a grunted, “No.”

The look Zell gave him was eloquent in its doubt, but Squall, as always, was unaffected as he settled himself on his knees above Zell’s chest. Forced to either stare at the threads of white shirt or make room, Zell chose to lay back on the ground, blond hair mixing with pale desert sand. Squall shifted forward again, and the other raised his arms, rested them against leather-clad thighs. His fingers reached for the buttons, taking Squall’s position as invitation, and still managed to be startled when the closures came free and no objection was made.

He looked up, drawn by the weighted feeling of hot summer storms in Squall’s eyes. And when Zell slid his hands inside to cup the firm, heated length and draw it out, he tore his eyes away from Squall’s face. He dropped them down to watch his fingers glide along the soft skin, over the flared ridge of the head. Squall swallowed his groans, but Zell felt the fine trembling begin in his legs, muscle straining.

Zell’s lips were wrapped tightly around the tip of Squall’s cock, arms between his legs and hands gripping the leather stretched tight across his ass. When he hesitated for a breath, Squall pushed forward, drew his attention back to the salted taste of skin. He’d lost a minute somewhere, didn’t remember the change in position or when he’d taken the hard cock in his mouth, and couldn’t care less. He tipped his head up, eyes already closing, and sucked on the smooth flesh. Felt his tongue rub over it, his teeth scrape lightly, and with a forcefully muffled groan, he pushed Squall forward, taking the length deep.

There was the fluttering thought of discovery, followed quickly by concern about his obvious lack of technique, but a low moan fell from Squall’s lips. The first wordless sound of pleasure he’d made. Gloved fingers dug into the sand above Zell’s head. He pushed his tongue against the slit, curled it back into his mouth to taste the tiny bead of liquid like a piece of candy.

That same sound echoed again, deep in Squall’s throat. Zell heard it, gave up the pretence of knowledge. Shoulders bunched, he rose up from the sand, filled his mouth with the firm length. He took Squall’s thrusts, grunting softly with the effort, the crackling of the flames as distant as a memory.

He heard Squall groan, felt him tense and drive forward, brushing the tender softness of his throat. Seconds later, Squall jerked back, spilling come across his tongue. Zell felt the wet heat slide over his bottom lip, trailing down as Squall withdrew and smeared his release across Zell’s mouth. He flicked his tongue out to catch it, pushing the drip back into his mouth with one finger and sucking it clean.

Squall’s chest was heaving above him, flames tracing glistening highlights across the bare skin of his face and hips. He slumped slightly, catching his breath while Zell collapsed back against the sand, drawing in gulping gasps of air. His own cock was heavy and damp against him. Squall shifted off of him, righting his clothes as Zell sat up and started to unbutton his own shorts.

“What are you doing?” Squall’s voice was low, husked with proof of his pleasure.

“I’m so fucking hard I hurt, man. I’m jerking off.” Silence met the announcement, and he hesitated only a moment, well aware of Squall’s eyes on him. “You don’t have to watch.”

Leather brushed across sand, and Squall knelt in front of him. Still wearing his gloves, he pushed the clothing aside, took Zell’s thick erection in one hand. He flicked his gaze up and started stroking, no preamble or gentleness, just quick, sure strokes that forced Zell over the edge with a painfully sharp rush of pleasure. He choked on a breath, felt the built pressure finally snap in a burst of heat. Hands still held him as he came, fingers trailing over the head and through his come, spreading it against his skin.

Zell slumped back on the sand, eyes wide and unseeing while his brain tried to catch up to his body. He breathed the cool desert air, nerves tingling with the memory of Squall’s hands. With half his mind elsewhere, he tucked himself back in his clothes, waiting until his legs stopped feeling like rubber before getting to his feet.

Squall was standing by the rock, cleaning his gloves with a rag. He flicked his gaze to Zell and kicked sand onto the fire, dousing it. And then he stood and watched, and waited.

Zell lifted a hand. There was a touch of nervousness in the gesture, more habit than anything. He moved to run it through his hair, stopped as he caught the scent of Squall and leather. The hand dropped back to his side.

“Guess you’re ready to go back now,” Zell said.

The other nodded. “We leave before dawn. I want your team out before mine.”

Feeling awkward, and a little of something else, Zell returned the nod. “I’ve got your orders. I’ll check our contact points.” He started walking back towards the camp, and couldn’t help but feel like everything was slanted just a little to the right.

He heard the scrape of metal against stone, heard Squall’s footsteps in the sand behind him. And when Squall stepped up beside him and kept pace, Zell swore the world tilted just a little bit more.


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