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 8: Dark Daylight Sky

By Dark Ki

Squall frowned. "Zell, are you sure?"

Zell nodded, his face devoid of color. "He didn't even bother to disguise his voice. He probably thought I'd keep quiet, even if I knew." He closed his hand around Squall's, not caring if anyone noticed. "We gotta do somethin'...."

"If you jump up and start yelling accusations now without any proof, no one will believe you. If you really think that Mr. Almasy is responsible, then we need to find a way to confirm it."

The two boys jumped at the sound of Cid clearing his throat in annoyance. They half-turned in their seats, looking guilty. Cid frowned. "Talking during an assembly like a couple of children, you two? After everything you've been through in the past few days, this doesn't make me happy."

"Sir, may we be excused?" Squall asked. "I... I'm afraid I'm not as well-off as I thought I was."

Cid's eyes drifted down to where their joined hands rested on Squall's thigh. "Then I don't want to leave you alone. I'll accompany you both back to the dorms."

"Sir?" Zell whispered. "Is it okay if Professor Trepe goes with us instead? I need to talk to her for a few minutes."

"Regarding what, Mr. Dincht? Remember, right now you're not in a position to ask for favors."

"I can't say, sir. But I need you to trust me, please."

Cid hesitated. The desperation in Zell's voice sounded sincere, but the boy was still under barracks arrest. Deep down, Cid prayed that there was no reason to be suspicious of Zell; he'd known the boy since Zell was thirteen. Cid kept his expression carefully neutral. "You have until the end of assembly to get back to your dorms and tell Professor Trepe whatever it is you wanted to say."

"Thank you, sir," Zell sighed, getting to his feet and helping Squall up as well. Squall groaned as pain shot through his shoulder and chest from his wound, and Zell carefully supported him as the boys worked their way down the aisle to Quistis. Zell leaned down and whispered something to her; Cid couldn't make out the words. Quistis slowly got up.

Cid saw Mr. Almasy glance up from his speech notes, his cold blue eyes fixing right on Zell and Squall for a brief moment. Zell shivered and quickly led Squall up the aisle to the exit, with Quistis following close behind.

"Zell, slow down!"

Quistis hurried after the two boys, wondering what could've spooked Zell so badly. Squall's face was pale with pain; their rushed pace was taking its toll on his wound. Only when he moaned softly did Zell force himself to slow down.

"Are you okay?" Zell brushed Squall's bangs out of his eyes with his free hand. "I didn't mean to...."

Squall shook his head. "I'm fine. Just take it easy, okay? He doesn't know that you suspect him."

"Him?" Quistis asked. "What are you two talking about?"

Zell ignored the question until the three of them were safe in his room. He helped Squall sit on the bed, settling next to him and checking his bandages carefully. "Professor Trepe, there's somethin' I have to tell you about the shootin'."

Quistis pulled up a chair and sat across from the two boys. "I'm listening."

Squall leaned against Zell, resting his head wearily on the older boy's shoulder. Zell sighed and slid his arm around Squall, rubbing his back gently. "The person who told me to shoot Squall and that other man... I know who it is."

Quistis leaned forward a little, her brows arched with surprise. "Who?"

"I... I know you probably won't believe me, but... it's Mr. Almasy."

Quistis' mouth dropped open in shock. "What?! Zell, that's a very serious accusation to make against someone like Mr. Almasy! Do you have any proof?"

"Do you think he's stupid enough to leave any?!" Zell exploded. "Who'd believe a kid like me over someone like him? Even his son gets more respect around here than I do, and everyone knows what an asshole he is!" His cheeks flamed with rage and embarrassment, and he felt hot tears trickle down the flushed skin. "I knew you wouldn't believe me, and there's nothin' I can do to prove I'm innocent!" He broke down into strangled crying, and Squall instinctively embraced him, kissing the top of his golden head and rocking him gently. Zell sniffled and tilted his face up to Squall's.

Quistis watched in silence as the two boys shared a gentle kiss, not caring that she was watching. Somehow, they looked impossibly beautiful together. For once, the hot-headed, boisterous Zell and the quiet, withdrawn Squall seemed whole. Quistis realized that the sight of the two didn't make her uneasy at all, and she found herself hiding a faint smile behind her hand. When they finally broke apart, Squall was smiling as well, and Zell looked a little calmer.

"I believe you," Squall whispered.

"And so do I."

The boys stared at Quistis. "You... you do?" Zell asked.

Quistis nodded. "Somehow, I do believe you. But the problem is convincing the others. And if Mr. Almasy finds out that you know about him, he might try to come after you and Squall."

Zell looked alarmed. "But... with Squall wounded, he'd be an easier target!"

"I'm not dying, Zell. But I do agree that I'm in no condition to fight, not that he'd come after me directly. First of all, he'd probably have me sniped again, and I wouldn't be surprised if he got Seifer to do it this time." There was more than a hint of hate in Squall's tone.

"Then we need to set up a trap to catch whoever's responsible." Quistis raised her hand before Zell could protest. "And I'm saying that because there's a possibility that you're wrong. Remember: innocent until proven guilty?"

Zell sighed. "Yeah, I guess so."

"Wait." Zell looked pained, but he forced himself to ask. "The first man I shot... who was he? Is he okay?"

"Essec Vinlaud." Quistis soothed. "Don't worry, Zell. He's fine."

"Vinlaud?" Squall exclaimed. "As in, the father of Therin Vinlaud?" When Quistis nodded, Squall's eyes narrowed. "If the Almasy family really is behind this, that explains everything."

Zell clapped a hand to his forehead. "Oh man! If I'd known, I woulda figured out who was givin' me those orders a long time ago!"

"Then it's more important than ever that we confirm once and for all exactly who's behind this." Quistis patted Zell's shoulder reassuringly. "Here's what we'll do...."

"Ms. Mika Sienne, please report to Principal Kramer's office."

The last few people filing out of the assembly hall looked up at the loudspeakers, just as they always did when there was an announcement. Mr. Almasy frowned, tucking his notecards into a pocket in his trenchcoat. Mika Sienne was the guidance counselor for the school, but she also served as a stenographer of sorts when there was an inquiry of a student or faculty member. It was also policy for them to announce the name of the parties being interrogated so security would be on alert; a few years back, one student accused of beating another had escaped Kramer's office and fled, but no one knew to stop him as he walked calmly but quickly out of GARDEN. Mr. Almasy waited, curious.

"Ms. Sienne, please report to the principal's office immediately. Statement to be taken from Dincht, Zell. Ms. Mika Sienne, please report...."

Mr. Almasy froze at Zell's name, then let a small, sly smile cross his lips. So the boy had turned himself in. With Leonhart and Vinlaud out of the way and Dincht taking the blame, everything was looking downright rosy. With a soft chuckle, he headed for Kramer's office, determined to be there at just the right moment to see everything fall into place.

Kramer's secretary wasn't present in the front part of the office, so Mr. Almasy just breezed in and hovered by the door for a moment, listening with glee to the heated lecture inside. Cid Kramer was chewing the Dincht boy out thoroughly, going on and on about morality and such nonsense as the blond boy tried to protest. Mr. Almasy was about to knock on the door when he heard a chair hit the floor as the occupant got up suddenly, followed by a shouted accusation.

"It wasn't me! It was Seifer Almasy, and I can prove it!"

Seifer's father stopped before his knuckles could rap on the wooden door, his eyes wide. They thought his son was responsible? If they could connect Seifer to the shootings, then everything they'd worked for would be lost. He was about to storm in when he heard his son's voice through the door.

"Get real, Dincht! You know I didn't have anything to do with it, and if you slander me again I'll make sure you never set foot in GARDEN again!"

Then, Kramer himself: "Seifer, if Zell can prove this, then you are in some serious trouble yourself."

Enraged at the thought of everyone taking sides against his son-- his son!-- Mr. Almasy burst into the room, fixing a burning glare on the Dincht boy. "My son had nothing to do with either the Leonhart or Vinlaud shootings! How dare you accuse him!"

Cid Kramer rested his hands on his desk, his eyes suddenly filled with remorse. Mr. Almasy frowned, uneasy.

Quistis stood, folding her hands primly before her. "Mr. Almasy, I think you know how to best protect your son."

"What are you blathering about, woman?! The best thing for my boy is for you all to stop throwing accusations around and arrest the guilty party!" His eyes never left Zell's face, but the blond boy stared back at him with no small measure of cool, even hatred.

"And it will be done," Kramer said softly. He shook his head and pressed the button for security on his commline. "Why, Crisman? After all the hard work you did back when we were students here... after everything you've done for us now...why did you do this?"

Crisman Almasy reeled back in surprise. "What?! What the hell do you think you're doing, accusing me now?! My son and I are not responsible for the actions of some young punk who'll do anything to get ahead!"

"You're right about one thing, Mr. Almasy," Quistis replied. "Your son is innocent. But you aren't. You see, you've admitted your guilt already."


"The details of the Vinlaud shooting were never made public, to protect the family." Cid countered, though he seemed to take no pleasure in doing so. "How else could you know about it unless you were responsible?"

"There has to be another reason!" Seifer exploded. He turned to face his father, desperation written all over his features. "Tell them, Dad!"

Mr. Almasy's expression turned stone neutral, his gaze never wavering from Zell's face as the blond boy got up and walked slowly over to him, standing toe-to-toe with the older man and doing his damnedest to stare him down despite his shorter height.

"Tell your son, Mr. Almasy," Zell hissed coldly, spitting out the name like a mouthful of bitter poison. "Tell him how you threatened my mother if I didn't kill my best friend and an innocent kid's father."

"Dad...?" Seifer got up, looking completely stunned for the first time in his life. "It's not true, right...?"

"Go on and tell him how you wanted Squall and Therin out of the picture so he could be first in our class. How you were willin' to kill innocent people just because Squall's the valedictorian and Therin's salutatorian. Were you hopin' Mr. Vinlaud's death would drive Therin outta GARDEN?" Zell's words hung in the air like icicles, contrasting the heated rage in his eyes. "But Squall had to go directly, since he doesn't have family to attack, right?"

Seifer's father suddenly seized Zell by the shoulders, spinning him around to pin the boy against his chest. Zell grunted and tried to pull free, but Mr. Almasy still had the strength of his days as a member of SeeD. The man took something out of a hidden pocket in his coat, pressing it to Zell's throat. Zell felt the sharp edge dig into his flesh, drawing a drop of blood, and he stopped struggling.

"This is the knife-sized version of your gunblades. Small, made of a special alloy so that the weapons detectors couldn't find it, and I assure you that it's just as lethal as a normal gunblade." Mr. Almasy's voice was trembling with fury bordering on madness. "I don't think I have to tell you all what'll happen if you interfere with my leaving GARDEN with this boy in my possession. So just sit here and hope that I dump him somewhere you can find him, dead or alive."

"Dad, stop!" Seifer shouted. "Don't do this!"

"I'm sorry, son." The man sounded like he was on the verge of tears. "But this is for your own good."

With that, he backed slowly out of the room, dragging a cursing Zell with him. Seifer sank into his chair, shaking his head in disbelief. Quistis turned to Cid, who picked up the commline and dialed into the dorms.

"Squall? We've got a massive problem on our hands, and that problem has a knife to Zell's throat."

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