Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Final Fantasy VIII, however I do intend on using them for my own selfish amusement!

Author’s Notes: Some people have said that they noticed a bit of OOCness in some of the characters… especially Squall… but I do have to point out that this IS an AU!!!

A World Apart

Chapter 13

By Zen

Seifer stepped into the hallway, softly shutting the door behind him. His thoughts were a jumble of half-formed insults - all aimed at Quistis. "Just plain stupidity, if you ask me," he muttered as he walked back down the landing.

On reaching Squall's door, Seifer decided to stop being a pussy and go back inside. 'So what if Squall was having a good time with someone else? What did it really matter?' All that mattered was that he was having a good time and not dwelling on things that he shouldn't be.

Taking a deep breath, he opened the door and was instantly rewarded with one of Squall's fabulous smiles. Even Zell managed a half-hearted grin at his sudden appearance.

Acting as if nothing had happened, Seifer resumed his position behind Squall on the bed. Soon bored of the movie, he rolled over onto his back, sighing slightly as the coolness of the satin soothed his wounds.

This was how things should be...with the exception of Zell's company, of course. He could do without that. Nevertheless, Squall's proximity to him made him feel comfortable and safe. Staring up at the ceiling, Seifer's mind wandered, his eyes eventually falling closed as he began to drift.

Lulled by the darkened room, Seifer replayed the incidents of the last few days over in his mind, feeling a sense of wonder at all that had happened. As the sound of the TV gradually faded away into nothing, he slipped deeper into unconsciousness, and was soon lost to the dreams his mind created - dreams of stormy gray eyes and soft skin brushing over his...

When the last movie had finished, Squall glanced behind him and smiled at what he saw: Seifer was sleeping peacefully with a slight smile on his face. Squall briefly wondered what his friend was dreaming about...but was soon pulled from his musings by Zell moving about the room.

"Sorry man, but I gotta get going. Mom will have my head if I'm not home soon," Zell whispered.

Squall nodded, but couldn't help noticing that Zell seemed in a hurry to leave; he hadn't even mentioned staying the night, which was strange. Although that could probably be chalked up to Seifer's presence, the two of them hadn't gotten off to a good start and it was likely Zell didn't want to push his luck. That was probably for the best. Besides, Zell could stay the night later, after Seifer was a bit more comfortable. They might even decide that they could be friends. Oh, who was he kidding?

Squall helped Zell pick up the movies and put them back into their cases, which he then handed over to his friend, who quickly shoved them into his backpack.

"I'll walk you home," Squall offered, trying to determine what kind of mood Zell was in. Usually he had no problem telling - Zell was always in a good mood - but there was just something off about him tonight. First of all, Mrs. Dincht never yelled at or grounded Zell for being late home from Squall's, and secondly, it was Friday night - Zell didn't have a curfew on Fridays. Squall wanted to ask if something was bothering Zell, but, afraid of waking Seifer, he decided it would be better to wait until they left the room before he delved into the situation.

Zell nodded his head in silent conformation and together they headed for the front door.

The cool night air helped clear Zell's head a little of the confusing thoughts and conflicting emotions that he had been trying to hide all evening and, as Squall fell into step beside him, he could almost pretend that he wasn't losing his best friend. Zell didn't know why he felt that Squall was slipping away from him, but something about the way that he had discovered Seifer in Squall's room had just made him believe that their friendship was never going to be the same. Seifer had looked totally comfortable there, as if he owned the place, and his comments had really pissed Zell off. Though, for Squall's sake, Zell had decided it would be better to pretend to have a good time, than to start a fight with someone who could - and probably would - stomp him into a billion pieces. Why Squall would take up with someone like Seifer was completely beyond his imagination. Squall tended to avoid those types of people, yet there he was with one of them in his house - in his room, even.

Zell shook his head and sighed, thinking wasn't helping the situation. Squall had his reasons, however strange or suicidal they seemed to him, and he was his best friend, that, Zell was determined, was not going to change. He would fight for Squall's friendship if he had to.

Zell's super quiet behavior didn't go unnoticed. Squall was more than aware of the silence, and found it a little unnerving that the usually chatty Zell seemed to be lost in thought - yet another clue that things were not as they seemed.

As they neared Zell's house Squall decided to take the bull by the horns and see if he could find out just what was wrong.

"Zell?" he asked quietly, not wanting to startle the blonde boy.


"What's on your mind? You've been quiet for ages - I can't remember you ever being this quiet. It must be something serious, right?" he said in a rush, wanting to get it out before he lost his nerve. He'd hoped to come across as genuinely concerned, but the words seemed to ring hollow in his own ears. Perhaps it was because, deep down inside, Squall knew what was bothering Zell.

Zell looked at Squall for a long time, trying to decide whether or not to try and put into words exactly what he was feeling, because he wasn't sure if he even knew.

Sighing, he shook his head and smiled. "It's nothing. I guess I'm just tired," he said, deciding that saying something would only worsen the feeling in the pit of his stomach. And besides, Squall would never betray their friendship; it was stupid to think that he would lose him. Seifer's presence was probably just a temporary thing, and getting jealous of him would make it seem like he had some designs on Squall other than friendship - which was just plain weird!

Relieved, Squall smiled back and bid Zell goodnight. They'd been such good friends for so long, that he really didn't want to fight with him about anything, much less Seifer. Hopefully things would die down and the two would somehow get along. Wishful thinking though it was, it eased Squall's mind enough for him to let things go and walk home...

As he walked, his mind was a jumble of half-formed ideas and thoughts about what he could do to help Seifer and Zell get along. Suddenly, Squall realized that he would have to sleep in the same bed with Seifer when he got home. The thought made him stop dead. His eyes widened and his breathing became shallow. His heart began beating wildly like the fluttering wings of a caged bird. His cheeks grew flushed and his palms began to sweat. Fear and desire swept through him, making it hard to just keep standing; icy-cold fingers of dread that raced down his back, while longing formed a lustful heat in his groin.

Why hadn't he thought of it before? Clearly, Seifer had to sleep somewhere.

Squall bent forward and placed his sweaty palms on his thighs, trying desperately to ignore the waves of dizziness that threatened to fell him. Nausea came and went as tiny lights danced and flashed behind his closed eyes.

He supposed that he could always try and sleep on the couch...but he didn't like the idea of being out of his room. His room was his sanctuary, and now it was Seifer's too. No one could hurt either of them there. There was no need to be afraid of sharing a bed with Seifer, right? It wasn't as if anything would actually happen.

With this thought, Squall's stomach stopped clenching and his icy chills slowly faded until he was at last able to take a deep breath without fear of passing out. Doing so, he managed to gain enough composure to make it all the way back to his front door.

His hand shook a little as he reentered his house, and he busied himself by turning on the porch light and locking the front door, checking it thrice just to buy himself more time. When there was nothing left to do, Squall stood and stared at the stairs leading up to his room. Part of him wanted nothing more than to run up those stairs and nonchalantly slip into bed with Seifer. The other - irrational - part of him was terrified that, despite what'd happened between them earlier, Seifer would beat the crap out of him for attempting such a thing - or, worse yet, laugh and call him a faggot. The thought was terrifying.

Deep down, Squall knew that Seifer would never be that cruel to him, but then again, hadn't he just been cruel to Zell? The one person Squall cared most about? Clearly, Seifer was capable of being malicious...

Shaking his head, Squall forced such self-destructive thoughts from his mind, and resolutely marched up the stairs. Upon nearing his room, however, his nerve again faltered and he made a detour to the bathroom, deciding that a shower was in order. Squall undressed and turned on the faucets, cursing his cowardice and indecisiveness as he watched the water swirl down the drain. Shutting off the tap, he redressed and walked back to his room.

The light inside was off, but that was okay, for being safely back in the dark confines of his room caused the confusion and desperation that Squall had felt downstairs to melt away, and he was able to walk, not too hesitantly, over to the small bed-side lamp. Switching it on, his gaze fell to the sleeping form it illuminated. In sleep Seifer seemed so different. The hard look he normally wore was softened and the creases furrowed in his brow were gone; he seemed younger somehow, and so much more vulnerable. Squall wondered if his face did the same thing when he was sleeping.

Reaching down he brushed his fingers across Seifer's forehead, smiling when the corners of Seifer's lips lifted slightly. What had he been so afraid of?

Quickly, Squall undressed, dispelling his embarrassment at being naked with Seifer in the room with the thought that Seifer had already seen him naked. He'd seen everything and he hadn't turned away - that was all that mattered.

Squall slipped into his pajama bottoms and climbed slowly onto the bed. The clock read 3:30. Wow! He had taken much longer to get home than he'd thought, but that was okay. Tomorrow was Saturday and with nowhere special to go, he could sleep as long as he wanted...with Seifer lying beside him. Feeling content, Squall switched off the light.

Lying down on his side, Squall was careful not to disturb Seifer. He'd never slept with anyone in his bed before; Zell usually brought a sleeping bag. He closed his eyes and tried to even out his breathing, but when Seifer rolled over and threw his arm across him, his breathing didn't just slow down, it stopped dead, panic washing over him.

Seifer sensed something was not right. His bed seemed way too soft and there appeared to be something moving beside him. Opening his eyes, he realized that his arm wasn't thrown over "something", but, rather, "someone", someone who smelled incredible and needed no introduction; his nose telling him immediately who it was. Smiling, he pulled Squall closer until his chin rested on top of his head. His body molded itself around the other as if it was the most natural thing in the world, and within minutes he drifted back to sleep.

Squall was surprised when Seifer pulled him closer, although he didn't try and struggle; the arm around him felt nice and warm, and the body behind him was certainly pleasant enough, protective and comforting. In fact, he found himself wanting to explore the sensations further, but was stopped from doing so by a big yawn that just about split his face in half. He hadn't been sleeping well lately and Seifer's body was so very warm. It wasn't long before both boys were fast asleep.

Both boys were startled awake the next morning by a loud knock at Squall's door. Squall groaned and tried to bury his head under both Seifer's arm and his pillow. Amused, Seifer let him continue this for a moment before nudging him off his arm. Getting up, he went to the door, leaving Squall to snuggle himself further into his satin sheets.

A smiling Laguna greeted him when he opened the door. Seifer quirked an eyebrow and smiled tentatively back, unsure as to what he should do next.

"Squall trying to dig his way to China via his covers again?" Laguna asked, smiling brightly and peering around Seifer to observe Squall.

Seifer couldn't help it, he chuckled; Laguna was a really funny guy - when he wasn't gaping at things he shouldn't be.

"Well, hey, I didn't mean to wake you guys up, but I thought maybe Squall would like to take you to go and get some things. I noticed that you didn't exactly bring a whole lot with you."

Seifer stiffened at the mention of his belongings. Surely Laguna was not so stupid as to send Squall with him to collect some of his stuff. If there was anything he really wanted he'd go and get it himself; there was no way in hell he was taking Squall to the place he laughingly called a home.

Laguna noticed the sudden shift in the boy's demeanor and wondered what it was he'd said to make that happen. Maybe Seifer thought that he was giving him charity? Whatever the reason, Laguna decided he had better make his exit quick before he made the situation worse. Stepping around Seifer, he went over to the bed and gently shook Squall awake.

Seifer didn't want to intrude on their conversation, so he left Squall's room and went into the bathroom. Suddenly the shoe was on the other foot: Quistis stood there as naked as the day she was born. She was so shocked at being walked in on that she forgot the towel she was holding. Seifer, being quicker on his feet and better able to handle the shock, smirked and he let his eyes crawl over her body. He wasn't interested, but the look he received in return made him reel it in fast! Had she really just smiled at him? Backpedaling as fast as he could he slammed the door shut, and practically ran back to Squall's room.

Squall and Laguna both looked up when Seifer flung the bedroom door to. He was flushed and breathing hard, and when he slid down the door to sit on the floor, neither Laguna nor Squall had difficulty surmising what had happened. Laguna burst out laughing while Squall hung his head to hide his amusement.

When Laguna was finally able to control himself, he headed for the door, patting Seifer on the head as he let himself out.

"You walked in on Quisty, didn't you?" Squall asked, trying to control his mirth. "Don't worry about it. Dad and I have always told her to lock the door but she never listens. We've walked in on her lots of times, so don't let it get to you, okay?"

"Quit smiling!" growled Seifer. "This is probably the most mortifying day of my life! She smiled at me! Can you believe that? I'm doing my best to put her off and she...smiles at me!"

Squall chuckled slightly and went over to where Seifer was sitting. He squatted down in front of him with his arms wrapped around his knees.

Seifer couldn't help but watch in fascination at Squall's graceful movements, all thoughts of Quistis fading. How could anyone want to hurt Squall? How could he let it continue? The awful revelation that Squall had trusted him with was made all the more shocking by Squall's seeming lack of interest in protecting himself. Well, if Squall wouldn't do it, then, by God, he would!

Seifer reached out and brushed away some stray strands of hair that had fallen into Squall's face. His eyes searched for, and found, Squall's stormy gray gaze and, bending forwards, he softly brushed their lips together. Electric tingles shot through Seifer's body at the contact, and his hands moved to cradle the back of Squall's head, urging him closer. Squall unclasped his hands from around his knees and rested them on Seifer's shoulders. The kiss deepened and their tongues wrestled against each other as, once again, Seifer's hands began to roam over Squall's back. This time, however, Squall didn't pull away, instead moving to straddle Seifer's legs between his own.

Not days before, Seifer would've dismissed the idea of Squall sitting in his lap as an impossible dream, but here it was - a reality. He didn't want to push his luck though; having Squall shy from his touch again would hurt him severely. Reluctantly, he pulled back and just wrapped his arms around Squall, pulling him tight into his chest. When Squall finally pulled back, Seifer let him go, although he immediately missed his presence.

"Dad gave me the car keys and his credit card so that I could take you to get some stuff," Squall said, not looking at Seifer.

So that was what Laguna had meant. Not going home to get his stuff but going to buy new stuff! Seifer didn't know what he'd done to get this kind of treatment, but he certainly wasn't going to say no.

He crooked a finger under Squall's chin and tilted his head so that he could look him in the eye. "Okay, let's go."

Seeing that Seifer wasn't angry, Squall immediately brightened and gave Seifer a brilliant smile that he would never forget.

Squall's smile brought an answering quirk to Seifer's lips, and he reached up to pull Squall back into his embrace.

Squall found that he liked being in Seifer's arms; it seemed to him that - as long as he was there - he was safe from anything that life threw at him. Content, Squall snuggled deeper into Seifer's strong embrace and just allowed himself to be held. It didn't matter that they scarcely knew each other; something much deeper connected them both. Something that could be felt but not understood, and Squall could no longer deny that Seifer had awakened in him a sense of self worth, although he couldn't remember when that had happened.

How things had come so far so fast, Squall didn't know. But, after so much had gone wrong in his life, it only seemed logical that, when something finally felt right, he recognized it. Though never in his wildest dreams had he thought that someone could tear down all his defenses in such a short amount of time. Walls that had taken years to develop, built out of pain and necessity, crumbled before Seifer as if they had never existed.

Seifer wrapped his arms tighter around Squall and closed his eyes. Too many things in his life involved violence and hatred, and he didn't know if he had to strength to protect what was happening here. Just what that was, he wasn't sure, but he felt powerless to stop it. Squall roused in him things that he'd thought long dead, feelings and emotions that he hadn't known he possessed.

It'd begun the moment he'd run into him in the hall. Seifer's first thought had been of beauty, and sitting there with Squall holding him, he could almost imagine that he was part of that beauty. Squall had become his anchor, keeping him steady on his path, giving him purpose and meaning where none had existed a few days ago. Was it any wonder he held on so tightly, never wanting to let go? How could he? To let Squall go would be to lose a defining part of himself - one that he had only just discovered...


(End Chapter Thirteen)




A/N: Many Heartfelt Thanks and Gratitude go out to my Beta Avatar Infidel! Everyone who has read the original version of this Chapter will definitely be able to see the difference. Without her, I don't know what I would do. Thanks again Sweetie! You deserve just as much credit for this story as I do. It may have been my idea, but without your input, it would be mediocre at best.

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