Author's Notes: Since I was remiss in showing love to Squaresoft in chapter 2~I will remedy that here…I don’t own final fantasy 8, nor do I claim to own final fantasy 8, blah, blah, blah…(Who really reads this part anyway?)
For His Love
Squall’s cheeks flushed a dull red. When he began to speak, Zell interrupted him. "Hey, man, I’m not gonna say anything about that. I’m just trying to make a point here." Squall shifted, obviously uncomfortable with the turn the conversation had taken. He turned his head to gaze at the Balamb lights as Zell spoke.
"Every time I see you with her, it reminds me how alone I really am. I see how she changes you, Squall. When you look at her, you become a different person. Is that what love can do?"
Squall looked at Zell questioningly. "What about that girl in the library? What’s her name again?" Zell made an impatient noise. "It doesn’t matter…she’s not the one I want. She can’t make me happy, and I know damn sure that I could never be the man she wants." Squall looked confused at that, but Zell continued. "Even when I’m surrounded by people, I feel alone. I don’t know what to do, Squall. What should I do?"
Zell slowly looked up, lifting his eyes to Squall’s. Squall looked closely at Zell and was stunned by the pain reflected in his eyes. The plaintive sorrow in Zell’s voice wrapped around Squall’s heart like a vise. He felt something stir inside of him, and he knew without question that no matter how foreign this feeling was, it had the power to completely engulf him.
Zell needed someone tonight, Squall knew that much. What he didn’t know was what he wanted from him. I don’t know how to reach him. Squall thought. I don’t even know if I’m capable of it. Unable to tear his eyes away, Squall stared intently at his friend’s face, waiting for a sign of some sort. Anything~to let him know how to proceed. What do you want me to say Zell?
Zell didn’t turn his face away to hide his hurt. He only looked deeper into Squall’s eyes, as if he were trying to get inside his thoughts. His tongue darted out to moisten his lips and the picture he made was enough to make Squall come undone. What’s going on here Zell?
They stood there, the muscular blonde and the taller, darker boy, staring at each other as if the world had stopped. Zell’s eyes were unfocused and his emotions were laid out before Squall in some sort of unspoken offering. Squall kept his fists clenched tightly at his side to avoid reaching out and starting something he had no idea how to finish.
Zell suddenly looked down, and following suit, Squall took a step back. The spell was broken. Zell closed his eyes, wishing he were back in his room. He should never have come here with Squall tonight. Not while he was feeling so isolated, so…lonely. He had to pretend that nothing had happened lest he lose Squall’s friendship forever. Not that he believed for one moment that Squall would shun him for being what he was, but he knew that Squall had a hard time dealing with his feelings. How to deal with someone else’s could prove impossible.
He gave a halfhearted laugh; his face turned to the side. Taking a deep breath he looked up at Squall once again, so afraid to truly read his emotions, so afraid of what he would find. Squall was looking much the way he had when he’d opened the door this evening to find Zell standing there instead of Rinoa. The mask was firmly in place. Squall had retreated behind his wall once more. "Damn, Squall, I’m sorry, man. I just get like this sometimes and it’s hard to deal. Hope I didn’t weird you out or anything. I just didn’t know where else to go."
Squall’s eyes narrowed at Zell, his frown deepening for the smallest of seconds. Then he smiled. It didn’t quite reach his eyes, but it was a smile all the same. He meant to let Zell know that everything was okay; and for that Zell was grateful. Because no matter how Squall would pretend later that nothing had happened between him, Zell knew differently. He had seen the look on Squall’s face and he had become a master at reading his body language. Squall had felt the pull, and he’d been fighting it with everything in him. But Zell had anticipated as much. He hadn’t planned to break down in front of Squall in the first place, so he’d had no expectations tonight other than to work off his frustrations with his best friend.
Squall moved toward the entrance to the training center, looking back at Zell. "C’mon buddy, it’s getting late." Zell didn’t move to follow, merely shook his head. "I’m gonna stay here awhile. I can’t go back to my room right now. I’d just pace around like a caged animal. I need to wind down a little, but you go ahead. I’ll see you tomorrow."
Squall hesitated, clearly torn between making an escape from what had become a very awkward situation, and staying with his friend until he got it together. Common sense prevailed and Squall realized that Zell didn’t need an audience for his weakness. He paused on the threshold and turned as if to say something else, but Zell had already turned his back and was leaning over the balcony. With a sigh of resignation, Squall quietly left the training center to return to his room.
Zell continued to stare out into the darkness, his eyes no longer focused on the lights that transformed the Garden into an illuminated refuge. The lights began to blur before him, his thoughts so far away that he didn’t notice the single tear that slid down his cheek.
Squall woke feeling as if he had passed the night in turmoil. Which, in fact, he had. Sleep had eluded him from the minute he laid his head down until he’d noticed the grayish cast of the retreating night. Rolling over onto his stomach and burying his face in his hands, he moaned aloud. He’d probably had about an hour of sleep all night. He’d been kept awake not so much by dreams as by impressions of some sort. Hyne, what a night. Well, lying here pretending it’s not time to get up won’t hold off the morning. Might as well get something to eat.
Dressed and looking as alert as was humanly possible given the night he’d spent, Zell surveyed the cafeteria. He spotted Quistis, Selphie and Irvine seated at a nearby table, apparently just sitting down to breakfast. Squall was nowhere to be found. And neither is Rinoa. Silently telling the voice in his head to shut the hell up, Zell weaved in and out of the tables that were scattered throughout the cafeteria. Selphie smiled brightly at him as he approached. "Heeey!! Have a seat, Zell!" He mumbled a greeting to everyone and sat down beside Quistis. Irvine motioned to his plate, which he had yet to touch. "You gonna eat, Zell?" Selphie giggled. "Well of course he’s going to eat, we’re talking about Zell here!"
Quistis smiled at that and peered at Zell over the rims of her glasses. Absentmindedly pushing them up with her finger, she swallowed the bite she was chewing and looked harder at Zell. "You look tired. Feeling okay?" Irvine smiled licentiously at them and pushed his hat up. "I’m sure he’s feeling just fine, huh Zell? Spent a sleepless night did ya?"
Zell looked up in surprise; not sure he’d heard him correctly. "Maybe you had a late night visit from that little filly that’s in the library all the time." Selphie sighed loudly, blowing her bangs out of her eyes. "Oh, for Pete’s sakes Irvine! She’s not a filly! Can’t you tell the difference between girls and horses?" Zell cringed when he saw the light come into Irvine’s eyes. Way to go Selph, give him an opening next time, why don’t you?
As Irvine opened his mouth to amaze them with another of his famed witty sexual retorts, Quistis cleared her throat and focused again on Zell. She’d seen the look on Zell’s face when Irvine had mentioned his sleepless night. Something was going on. Using Selphie and Irvine’s ensuing argument as good cover for what she was about to say, she leaned in close to Zell. "Are you okay? I mean, did something happen last night?"
Zell looked around the cafeteria, not really in the mood today for one of Quistis’ heart-to-hearts. Finding no immediate distraction, Zell smiled absently at her. "Nah, I’m okay, just one of those nights I guess." Quistis looked unconvinced, but decided against pursuing the issue.
Zell rose abruptly and everyone winced when his chair scraped across the floor. Selphie stopped blessing Irvine out long enough to look up at Zell. "Where ya going?"
Zell nodded at the breakfast line. "Gonna grab something before there’s nothing left." Slipping his hands into his pockets, Zell headed toward the line. Quistis stared at his retreating form, not hearing one word of the absurd conversation Selphie and Irvine were having. Wonder what’s wrong with Zell? Pulled out of her reverie by the shadow falling over the table, Quistis glanced up, startled for a second. Squall grinned at her. "Jumpy this morning Quis?" She frowned at him and scooted over to make room when she spotted Rinoa standing behind him. Quistis could just make out the fringe of black hair that fell across Rinoa’s forehead over Squall’s shoulder. Her head appeared to bob up and down and Quistis almost laughed with the realization that Rinoa was hopping on her tiptoes in an attempt to see what was going on. Quistis leaned to one side, trying to give Squall the hint that he needed to step aside, but he wasn’t even looking at her.
Squall quickly scanned the cafeteria, his gaze landing on familiar spiky hair. Ignoring the feeling that had settled into his stomach, he looked away quickly, focusing on Quistis again. She was staring at him in the strangest way, it was unsettling. He glanced away just in time to see Selphie pelting Irvine with little potatoes. "Why are you such a pig sometimes, Irvy? Honestly!!"
Rinoa laughed, her soft voice sounding like delicate wind chimes. Moving in front of Squall she covered her mouth with her hand in an attempt to hide her laughter. Selphie noticed her immediately and smiled broadly. "Hey, Rin! You guys have a seat!."
Squall raised his eyebrows at her. "I don’t know Selphie, are you done throwing food?" This elicited another giggle from Rinoa as she watched Irvine picking little fried potatoes off his jacket and the brim of his hat. "Dammit Selphie! Now I have grease all over me!"
This proved too much for Rinoa and she laughed out loud, unable to control herself. Irvine stood from the table and wiggled his shoulders, sending potatoes to the floor. "I’m gonna go change, you guys gonna be here when I get back?" Selphie shrugged. "Nah, I think we’ll head outside and enjoy this sunny day. Meet us near the beach, k?" Realizing she’d made plans for everyone without consulting them first, she glanced around the table, eyes wide. "That’s if it’s okay with you guys?" Rinoa smiled. "That sounds great…I can’t wait to get outside today." Squall didn’t respond as he was still staring toward the breakfast line, obviously not paying attention. Quistis stared pointedly at Squall. "Fine with me, but I think we should wait for Zell." There it is, she thought as she saw Squall’s expression change at the sound of Zell’s name. "That okay with you Squall?" She asked innocently. He answered quickly, too quickly. "Uh, of course. We should wait for him."
Rinoa smiled at him, oblivious to his distraction. Quistis narrowed her eyes, her mind turning this way and that. What the hell is going on here?
Author's Notes: Tried to make this one a little longer. Hope it’s not too long! Thanks for the reviews~they really help keep me motivated.
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