Warning! This story contains language and GRAPHIC descriptions of yaoi (sexual acts between two men), as well as some mild nonconsensual 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.) Thanks to Miracle Shining for her inspiration on this one... I just hope she doesn't think I stole her idea for the nonconsensual scene! ^_^;;;;

Downtime in the Garden

Chapter 5: A Night Alone, A Morning Apart

By Dark Ki

Squall knocked for the fifth time. "Zell, come on. I know you're in there."

Zell pulled the pillow over his head, trying to muffle the sound so he wouldn't be tempted to rush over and let Squall in. He knew that Squall would just want to hold him, and he couldn't bear to let the person he loved touch him when his hands and soul were so stained with blood.

"Please. I just want to talk."

Squall, just run away while you still can....

He didn't know how long he laid there, waiting for the knocking to stop, but somewhere in that span of time, he drifted off.

His dreams were dark, laced with shadows and blood and a sound like thunder cut off into short bursts. A bloom of crimson unfurled from the chest of the person a few yards from him, dimly visible through the haze. The cry Zell heard was horribly familiar.

"Oh god, no!"

He held Squall with trembling arms, feeling his lover's lifeblood flow hot over his skin, plastering his clothes to him. Squall looked up at him with empty eyesockets that still managed to hold an accusing glare.



And the blood poured from the gaping holes where Squall's eyes should have been... spilling to the floor in a thick torrent... pooling around Zell... filling his senses... filling his dreams....

Zell sat up with a scream, choking back the bile in his throat. Sleep was just not an option, he decided. He needed someone to talk to, and he knew that the people of the GARDEN were out of the question.

She was startled when she opened the door to see him standing there, but not enough to keep her from giving him a warm hug. "Zell, what are you doing here so late? Don't you realize what time it is? Won't you get in trouble?"

"I was always good at sneakin' out." Zell wrapped his arms around her, careful not to hurt the fragile woman. He was afraid to let go. "I really need to talk to you."

"You know you can always talk to me." She smiled and let him rest his cheek on top of her head.

"I... I don't know how to tell you this, but... I'm in love with my best friend."

"That quiet young man? Squall?"

Zell nodded, blushing a little. "We... we're kinda together now. At least, we wanna be."

"Then what's the problem?" She could feel the tension in his broad back, and her hands massaged at the knots in his muscles as he talked.

"I just can't be with him. I... I don't deserve him."

"Nonsense! You're a wonderful young man, Zell. I'm proud of you, and I think you should follow your heart. And I know that staying away from the person you love isn't what's in your heart."

He sighed. "I guess you're right, but...."

"But, nothing. You be sure to tell him how you feel. No lies, no keeping secrets. Just the truth of your heart."

Zell tightened his embrace for a moment, in acknowledgement of her words. "You're right. I guess I just needed to hear it from you." Reluctantly, he let her go and turned to the door.

"You're going now? Can't you stay the night at least?"

He shook his head. "I wish I could, but I have to go back. I've gotta lot to do tomorrow. But do me a favor. Please be careful."

"Aren't I always?"

"Yeah. I...." He sighed again. "There's so much I wish I could tell you."

"It's alright. Just go to him, Zell."

Zell smiled. "Thanks. I love you, Mom."

"I love you, too."

Zell stepped out the door and let the night swallow him.

But Zell didn't go back to the GARDEN. Instead, he wandered through the nearby town, not really caring where he went or noticing much about his surroundings. He didn't even acknowledge when it began to rain; he let the cooling drops slick back his perpetually spiked hair and trickle down his face. He slumped onto a wet park bench, dimly watching the lights of the cars and the neon of the clubs. His eyes wandered across the unmarked span of the Red String. He thought back to Friday night and the memory of Squall's mouth at his throat, Squall's hands exploring his heated skin. He closed his eyes, imagining how good it would feel now, feeling the sting of how badly he missed holding Squall in his arms.

No, I can't... I can't ever touch him like that again. I wish I'd never let him touch me to begin with.

His heart ached that he was breaking his promise to his mother, but he'd never be able to face Squall. His head fell back over the edge of the bench, and he let the rain wash over his face, lulling him into a fitful slumber.

Squall tossed and turned in his sleep, sobbing and clutching at his chest. Deep in his dream, he stared up through tears of pain at the face of his lover.

Zell was laughing at him.

Squall could feel his lifeblood flowing between his fingers from the bullet wound in his left pectoral. He heard the sound of the next round being chambered into the rifle. The muzzle pressed against his forehead.

Zell was laughing at him.

"Why are you doing this...?!" Squall cried. "Zell, I love...."

Zell was laughing at him as he pulled the trigger.

The sound of that shot didn't jolt Squall awake. Somehow, it was the one he heard, saw, and felt through the haze of red covering his vision as he lay dying... the one that rang out after Zell swallowed the muzzle of the rifle with the same tenderness that he once used on Squall.

Squall sat up with a scream, his wide eyes blind for a minute in the pre-dawn darkness of his room. He broke down and sobbed, trembling with a force that threatened to shake him apart. It took him nearly a half-hour to calm down enough to get out of bed and trudge into the bathroom, feeling miserable and drained. He pulled himself into the shower and stood under a warm, massaging spray. He braced his hands on the wall, wishing that it was Zell working the knots out of his muscles. Tears swelled in his eyes, and he closed them to blink the stinging drops away. But he saw red behind his eyelids, a thick, dripping crimson, and the sound of dual murdering shots rang out in his mind. With a gasp, his eyes snapped open and he sank to the floor of the shower, staring at his hands.

Zell... where are you?

He couldn't believe how helpless he felt without Zell. Squall remembered how cold he'd been towards his best friend when they first met, and how they'd eventually found common ground to build their friendship on. And now, after what had happened between them, Zell's sudden change of attitude was more than strange. It was downright frightening. Squall knew what Zell had been too shocked to think about Friday night: that even under the influence of the toxin, Squall would never have done what he did if he didn't desire it at some deeper level.

What did I do to make him push me away?

The water turned cold, startling Squall out of his musings. He quickly turned off the shower and stood there, letting the drops trickle down his skin. Through the bathroom door, he could hear the faint chiming of the comm unit next to his bed. He wrapped a towel around his waist and padded into the other room, scooping up the unit and pressing the receiver to his ear.


"Squall?" Quistis's soft, concerned voice came through crystal-clear. "Are you busy at the moment?"

Squall frowned. "No, not really. I just got out of the shower. Why?"

"I know it's really early, but I was wondering if you could meet me at the cafe in a half-hour."

"Is something wrong?"

"I was hoping you could tell me," Quistis said gently.

"Oh." Squall sighed. "I'll be there."

Squall cupped his hands around his coffee mug, feeling the heat of the dark liquid through the thick, glazed ceramic. It was hot enough to burn, but Squall didn't care. All of his attention was focused on the steam curling from the coffee's surface.

"Squall, what's going on between you and Zell Dincht? I heard about the incident with the picture, and about that little scene in the cafeteria the next day." Quistis sipped her own coffee. "You two are my favorite students, and I'm worried about the both of you."

The boy's shoulders heaved in a silent sigh. "I'm fine, but Zell's not. He doesn't wanna have anything to do with me."

"Look at me."

Squall forced himself to raise his eyes to his teacher. He could see no signs of accusation or anything else negative in her expression. All he saw was a gentle understanding, but he still said nothing.

"I want you to answer me honestly. Did something... intimate... happen between you and Zell?"

Squall's gaze dropped until he was staring back into his mug. He nodded once.

"Squall, I may not be much older than you, but I know when I see someone with a broken heart. You're in love with him."

It was a statement, not a question, and Squall couldn't deny it. He fought back the urge to flee and nodded once again. "I thought he loved me, too...."

"I think he does. Just give him time."

"What makes you say that?" His voice was quiet, subdued, but more bitter than the brew he was drinking.

"He told me."

Squall's head snapped up and he fixed Quistis with a look of surprise. "What? When?"

"Last semester. He came to me because he didn't know what else to do. Did you know he was more worried about hurting your feelings than how he felt? That he was afraid you'd be disgusted with him, and that he thought the closest he could ever be to you was to be your friend?"

"I... I had no idea... he never told me...."

Quistis thought for a moment. "Maybe you should take it easy today until the stealth exercise. I'm excusing you from your classes. Perhaps you should take the time to think of what you can do to convince Zell that his feelings aren't misplaced."

"Misplaced?! After everything we did?!"

Quistis smiled gently. "Sometimes it takes more than that, Squall. Matters of the heart are rarely so cut and dry."

Squall sighed. "So I noticed. I just hope it's not too late."

Zell managed to slip back into his room without anyone seeing him, stripping off his damp clothes and tossing them over the edge of the shower door to dry. He knew he was going to be in deep trouble for missing classes, but he didn't care. After tonight, it wouldn't matter. He pulled on fresh clothes and flopped back onto his bed, running a hand through his wet hair. He took a deep breath and immediately regretted it; he could detect the remnants of Squall's scent in the air and in the sheets. Biting his lip, he turned to rest his cheek on the pillow.

Shining against the white fabric was a single, dark, shimmering strand of Squall's hair. Zell plucked it from his pillow and held it up, watching the light play off it in flashes of auburn fire. He closed his eyes and remembered burying his face in that thick, unruly hair to muffle his cries, though Squall made up for it with his own. He still wore the mark on his throat, and he knew that the matching one he'd given to Squall had yet to go away.

I'd give anything to be with you one more time, Squall... one more time before it's all over....

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