Disclaimer: All the characters, places etc., are the property of Square, not me (::sniffs::). I'm just borrowing them for my own nefarious purposes. I promise they'll be tidied up, and sent home all clean an' sparkling.

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WARNING: Rated for implied yaoi, implied violence, explicit angst, and Zell's potty mouth…er, mind…whatever.

A Dangerous Game

By Seshat

You always come to me when he turns you away. When he hurts you. It's getting pretty damn often these days.

It's not as if I'm bitching...I like it when you're close to me. Sometimes I like it so much that I can forget the reasons you're here, the countless times I feared you never would be. I just don't know if I'm any good at this…I'm not used to being the one who puts all the pieces back together. Especially not pieces as badly shattered as the ones you bring to my bed, late at night.

You never show it - you'd probably rather die - but you're so fragile, so vulnerable when you're sleeping. You don't even seem to care that you're being held by hands that could easily kill you. No gunblade, no magic, maybe this is your one concession to recklessness. As if the risk is worth it just to not be alone, even if that fleeting closeness could cost you your life.

I guess we both know you can never get that closeness from him, not unless you count...

We never spoke about that night. It made sense not to at the time, but it bothers me now. You wouldn't look at me, you wouldn't talk to me, but you were more than willing to scare the shit out of me. The only emotion you did show was the angry swipe at the single tear that slid down your cheek, like some traitorous show of weakness. I caught the soft wince you tried to suppress when I held you. You caught the shock I didn't even begin to hide as I pulled off your shirt. But neither of us said a word. Guess there wasn't that much to say. I just cast cure on the hypnotic pattern of cuts and bruises that decorated your body, like medals given for honour, or courage, or some such shit. Marks of ownership, worn with pride. Fuck, I'm surprised you even let me heal them.

When they were there again tonight, I wished I'd made you confront me back then. The cuts are never deep, the bruises carefully placed, a couple of low level spells is all it takes to reverse the external damage. But that's not where it's hurting, is it? And no spell I know can fix what he's done to you.

What he's always been doing to you. Something we should have realised if it wasn't for the GF's making Swiss cheese of our memories. If we'd even bothered to look.

I'm looking a lot now though, and it still makes me wonder how the others can't see it. I watched the same old tired scene today in the cafeteria; the dulled threats, the half-hearted insults, until right on cue, Rinoa stepped in and broke it up. How she doesn't know is fucking beyond me. Sure, the girl's not the sharpest tool in the box, but `...the hell?`, you know? Do the two of you really hide it that well? Cover it with so many layers of rivalry, casual anger, and arrogant posturing, each as transparent as glass? To those of us who care to notice.

Brought back to the fold, just so your dangerous little game can pick up where it left off. I can't believe you were dumb enough to fall for that. I've seen the way he treats you, heard the things he says about you when you're not there. Since gossip races around this place as if it's ass was on fire, you've probably heard it too, even if you'd never admit it. I've known him long enough to know how much of an asshole he can be, but ever since I fell in love with you, every swipe he makes cuts me too.

Cuts me, bruises me, fucks with my head, messes with my heart. And there's not a damn thing Know-It-All-Zell knows to do about it this time. Still, I can't help fearing that I've left it up to you for too long. You won't fight him. You might physically battle, rip each other to scarred shreds in training, but you will never fight him. You've been giving in to him for so long, I think you've forgotten how.

Maybe a part of you doesn't want to.

I've never understood the hold he has on you. It amazes me that, strong and proud as you are, you let him have so much control. Is it because there's no-one else who could? Is it all about atonement and penance? Is it the last step on that desperate ladder you've both been climbing, all our lives? Does it make him stronger to kick you down, or you stronger because you take it, and still manage to hang on somehow? Is your resilience the only thing that gets to him?

You know, there was a time I used to be so intimidated by you. Fuck, no I wasn't...I was scared of you. But that was before I realised what real fear is. The kind that's always hiding in your eyes when you talk about him.

I'm still confused by the way you look at me. I know what I want it to mean, but that's just one more thing we've never talked about. I'm just terrified that despite what he does to you, you're going to turn around and tell me that you still love him. Oh, yeah baby, I know that you do. I know it's what keeps driving you back to him.

Strange as it may seem, I don't doubt that you trust me. You know that I would never...could never hurt you. And not just cause you'd never let me - I see it in your eyes sometimes, it's as if you're daring me to try. To see if you can be any more broken than you already are.

No...I won't believe that. After everything you've been through, I won't believe that he's been able to break you. Not this easily.

I think that what scares me most, isn't that he's won. It's that you've quit.

In the end, the decision is surprisingly easy. More often than not, it gets me into trouble, but I've found that being direct always gets results. And I need to be doing something, I've had about as much as I can take of biting my tongue. It's not natural.

You might hate me for interfering, but that hardly compares to how much I'd hate myself if anything happened - to either of you - knowing I'd had the chance to stop it.

And it's going to stop. Tonight. One way or another.

Cautiously, I disentangle myself from your arms, and slip out of bed. I glance over at the clock, as I dress haphazardly. 3:44 a.m. Good. At least there won't be anyone else around to watch me make a scene.

I make it to the door, before I hesitate. It takes me a moment to realise it's because you're watching me.

"Where are you going?"

I know what I'll see before I turn around, but it still sends tiny shivers, of something vaguely reminiscent of Quez, through my veins.

You're beautiful. Long, pale stripes of moonlight coolly caress your skin, flawless once more from the magic. There's a rare innocence in your question, and an unusually conspicuous anxiety in your voice. Part of me wants to fall back into your arms, tell you I'm not going anywhere...ever. But I'm one rational thought away from losing what nerve I have, and damned if you're going to stop me.

Because you could, so easily. I'm as much your fool as you are his. You want the world to think you can make it on your own, that you can take care of yourself, but you still refuse to face your demon. Looks like I'll have to do it for you.

You'd kick my ass into next year if I told you that.

"Couldn't sleep. I'm just gonna go take a walk, clear my head." I lie. "S'okay. Go back to sleep baby."

You just shrug, close your eyes, and smile.

"Hurry back, Chicken Wuss."

*~ fin ~*

Authors Notes: If anyone got this far without saying "wow, Zell's so OCC!", I'd be so amazed I'd eat my keyboard! But I've read so many fics where Squall has to rescue Zell (or vice versa) from Seifer, I thought a different take on that triangle would be interesting. Besides, I don't necessarily think Zell is the type who'd need rescuing - I don't know, but I find it a little unbelievable that he'd be the kind to just sit back (or should that be lie back?!) and take it. I admit, you probably need to suspend your disbelief a little with Squall, but hey, maybe he wouldn't just accept Seifer back out of the goodness of his heart, maybe there'd be a vengeance driven ulterior motive there. Or maybe not. Either way, I'm not completely happy with this fic, but it's been sitting in my head for weeks now, and there's only so much room in there ^_^

As always, LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK! I live for reviews, I tell ya!

One last thing, (very nearly unrelated!) once and for all, how the hell DO you pronounce `Seifer`? Help me out, just to settle a little…ahem, debate. Thanks in advance.

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