Author's Notes: (to the tune of "a hunting we will go") They don’t belong to me…They don’t belong to me….no matter how I wish they did….They don’t belong to me…*bows* thank you, thank you….

For His Love

Chapter 4

By Pixie158

Quistis touched her napkin to the corners of her mouth and lay it down on the table beside her plate. Rinoa watched her in fascination as she collected the remnants of her breakfast and lay everything in neat rows on her tray. That done, she used her napkin to swipe any crumbs off the table and onto the tray. She then lay her napkin on top of her tray and pushed her glasses up once again. Patting her hair to assure herself that no strands had escaped the tight bun she wore, she looked up to find Rinoa, elbows on the table, chin resting on the back of her hand, staring intently at her.

Quistis gazed at her in amusement. "Can I do something for you, Rinoa?" Rinoa suddenly straightened up and flashed her a shy smile. "Um,’s just that….well…" She faltered, at a loss for words. Selphie gave a decidedly unfeminine snort. "Go on Rinny, you can say it. She’s a neat freak. You should see her closet…it’s disgraceful."

Quistis sat back in her chair and crossed her arms over her chest. "Oh, so it’s disgraceful that I know where my belongings are? Why don’t you tell her why you can never find a matched pair of socks in your room?" Selphie laughed. "I don’t have to do that, she’s been in my room, she knows that I’m a little…unorganized."

Quistis rolled her eyes. "Unorganized? HA! There could be a dead body under all that stuff!" Selphie tilted her head to the side and smiled sweetly at Quistis. "Yeah? Who’s to say that there isn’t one?" Thoroughly enjoying the easy exchange, the three girls failed to notice Zell’s presence at the table. He stood by the table, clearly unsure of what to do, what to say.

He held a bottle of juice, standing awkwardly beside the table, trying to catch Squall’s eyes with his own. But Squall had averted his eyes and pretended to be interested in the conversation taking place between the three girls. Zell sighed softly and began peeling off the label on the bottle he was holding.

Quistis looked up to see Squall and Zell both standing and doing their very best not to look at each other. "Well, are you guys ready to go?" Squall looked up at this and said, "Yeah, I’ve been ready. Let’s go." And with that, he turned and began walking out of the cafeteria. Rinoa still sat at the table, staring after him with a puzzled look on her face. Selphie jumped up and grabbed Rinoa’s hand. "C’mon, Rin, let’s go." She yelled out over her shoulder, "You guys hurry up!"

Quistis watched the two girls hurry out of the cafeteria and then her gaze slid over to Zell. He was paying entirely too much attention to that bottle. "Zell, did you and Squall have a fight or something?" She asked softly. Zell shook his head immediately. "No, nothing like that." Quistis could sense his reluctance to discuss it, so she smiled gently and lay her hand over his. "Okay, but if you need to talk, remember, I’m always here to listen." Zell grasped her fingers in his and squeezed. "Thanks, Quisty. That means a lot to me."

Quistis stood, still holding Zell’s hand. Tugging him to his feet, she pulled on his hand playfully. "Come on, you. Everyone’s waiting for us outside." Following where she led, Zell couldn’t help but wonder if anyone was waiting for him at all. I doubt it.

Squall stood by the water’s edge, rolling seashells back into the water with the toe of his boot. Rinoa and Selphie were stretched out nearby on beach towels, resplendent in the skimpiest bathing suits he’d ever seen.

"What are you doin’ over here looking at sand when there’s two pretty little gals layin’ over there half naked?" The unmistakable drawl of Irvine Kinneas startled Squall and he spun around, not liking the cowboy’s proximity.

Taking a step back he shook his head at Irvine. "Is that all you can think about, Irvine? Naked girls?" Irvine pulled his tawny hair out of its’ ponytail and shook it loose. "Nah, sometimes I think about guns." He spoke so seriously, that Squall had to laugh. Irvine was always good for a laugh, that was for sure. Looking up, he spotted Zell and Quistis walking towards them, hand in hand. Irvine raised an eyebrow. "Well, well…those two are lookin’ pretty friendly all of a sudden." Squall frowned. "It’s not like that between them." He protested. Irvine smirked, "You sure about that?"

Before Squall could respond, Irvine ambled off in the direction of Rinoa and Selphie. He studied Quistis for a moment, taking in her modest choice of bathing suit and the little sarong she wore tied around her hips. Her hair was still pinned tightly atop her head, and she wore her glasses. It made Squall smile, he could always depend on Quistis, she was constant, he’d give her that much.

Inevitably, he moved his gaze to Zell. The sunlight shone on his blonde hair, showing it’s subtle highlights. He wore long baggy shorts and walked with a towel slung casually over his shoulder. He turned his head to look at Quistis as she spoke to him and Squall’s attention centered on the tribal tattoo that snaked down Zell’s cheek. He wondered idly what it would be like to trace the lines of it with his fingertip. What the fuck am I thinking? We’re talking about Zell, here! Try as he might to feel horrified with the directions his thoughts were taking, he found that he simply couldn’t. The very sight of Zell shirtless, coming toward him with that deliberate stride sent a shudder through him.

Feeling more than a little guilty, he shifted his eyes to Rinoa, stretched out on her stomach, her long black hair falling around her shoulders and trailing onto the towel. The sight of her warmed his heart, as it always did, but he didn’t feel the shock, the excitement that he had felt when Zell had turned his eyes on him last night. This has got to stop. I can’t feel this way toward him…he’s my friend, and that’s all he’ll ever be.

"Pretty sexy, huh puberty boy?" Squall stepped aside, startled at the smooth voice at his back. "Dammit! I wish you guys would stop sneaking up on me! What do you want, Seifer?"

Seifer stood by Squall, the very picture of self-assured arrogance. Quistis and Zell approached them, Zell looking more than a little wary. "Uh, hey Seifer, whatcha doin’ out here?"

Seifer feigned hurt. "Careful there, you’ll make me feel unwelcome." Quistis glared at Seifer. "Well, in that case, I’d say he was on the right track."

Seifer leveled his amber gaze on Quistis, letting his gaze traverse the length of her body. "Good morning, Instructor." Quistis blushed at his suggestive tone and ducked her head. Zell moved in front of her. "Come on Seifer, lay off." Seifer spoke to Zell, but continued to stare at Quistis. "I just have to wonder what she hides underneath that cool exterior. I bet it’s something she doesn’t want anyone to see." He moved closer to Quistis, thoroughly enjoying her discomfort.

Zell stopped him with a hand on his chest. "That’s enough, Seifer." His tone was firm, his words brooked no argument. Seifer swiveled his head toward Zell. "Oh, yeah? Says who, chicken-wuss?" Zell motioned to Quistis to move aside. "I’m not going to let you draw me into your stupid little games, Seifer. So go bother someone else."

Squall saw the way Seifer’s mouth tightened. Uh-Oh. He moved towards the pair, but it was too late. Seifer had drawn Hyperion and hit Zell in the face with the butt of his weapon before Squall could react. Zell went down immediately, but was back on his feet in an instant, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. "You fucking bastard! What the hell’s the matter with you?"

This drew a chuckle from Seifer as he fastened Hyperion to his side once more. "Don’t talk back to me Chicken-Wuss, next time I might not be feeling so generous." Having said that, Seifer turned his back on Zell and sauntered off towards the Garden. Zell lunged at him, but Squall grabbed his arms from behind and held him tight against him. "Don’t. That’s what he wants you to do. Here, turn around and let me see." Zell turned to face him, the rage in his eyes still burning. "Who the hell let him back in anyway?" Zell mumbled. Squall sighed. "I did, I’m hoping he’ll take this chance to redeem himself." Squall rubbed at the corner of Zell’s mouth with the tip of his thumb and frowned in consternation. Zell hardly dared to breathe. I can’t believe he’s touching me…not after last night.

Quistis stood with the others a few yards away. Rinoa had jumped up the second Seifer had drawn his gunblade, but Irvine had held her back. Quistis persuaded her to let Squall handle it. She yelled over to Squall, "He okay?"

Squall nodded. "I’m gonna take him over to the infirmary, just in case." Quistis nodded to herself and waved to him to let him know she’d heard him.

Rinoa had stared after them and looked questioningly at Quistis. Quistis smiled reassuringly at her. "They’ll be okay, don’t worry." Rinoa smiled weakly as she watched Squall lead Zell back to Garden.

Having let go of Zell’s arm, Squall set a slow pace on the way to see Dr. Kadowaki. Zell attempted a smile, but grimaced in pain instead. "I’m not dying Squall, we can walk a little faster." This elicited a small smile from Squall who responded by answering in his best Commander voice. "I realize that, Zell, but I want to take all of the necessary precautions, and I definitely plan to file a report on this one." He paused briefly, then continued, "Just because I’m giving him a second chance doesn’t mean I’m going to stand by while he tears down everything that we risked our lives to save."

Zell felt a surge of pride at his words. Squall was everything a Commander should be. Zell was thankful for his leadership every time they ventured into battle. They walked in silence the rest of the way, and when they reached the infirmary, Squall spoke first.

"Dr. Kadowaki?" he called. The short, heavy-set doctor peeked out from behind a curtain and motioned for Squall to hold on a minute. Squall looked at Zell and smiled reassuringly. That simple action was enough to make Zell weak. His indecision was rapidly fading with each kindness Squall showed him. He may not understand what it is he truly wants…but I do…

His thoughts were interrupted by Dr. Kadowaki’s reappearance. "Well, now," she began, "What do we have here? Come on into this room and have a seat." Squall followed the Doctor and Zell into a small examining room. One he himself had visited not so very long ago.

Squall opened his mouth to speak, but Zell spoke first. "I had a little run in with Seifer. He busted my mouth with his gunblade." Dr. Kadowaki shook her head slowly. "That boy is a danger to himself and everyone around him. I wonder if he’ll ever straighten up?"

Squall spoke up, "He’s gonna straighten up, all right. He’s not gonna run wild all over Garden and be excused for it. Not anymore."

Zell almost smiled at his conviction. He had been the first one at Zell’s side when Seifer had hit him. Zell had seen the look on his face then, and it gave him hope.

Dr. Kadowaki ministered to Zell’s mouth, cleaning it and checking him over. When her brief inspection was through, she smiled to the boys. "You’re going to live, Zell, but it’s going to be very sore in a few hours. I suggest you take a mild sedative before bed tonight."

Zell nodded. "Alright, thanks Dr. Kadowaki." She waved his apology away. "You’re welcome Zell, when you’re feeling better come on back and let me have another shot at that Ifrit." Zell grinned at that one and winced with the pain it brought.

When Squall was satisfied that Dr. Kadowaki was gone, he moved away from the curtain and stood over by the window. He stood with his back toward Zell for a moment, seemingly at a loss for what to do. The sunlight filtered weakly in through the blinds, casting shadows here and there. Zell waited silently. Is he going to say anything at all? Squall ran a hand through his hair, his thoughts in turmoil. I have no idea what to say to him, I shouldn’t have come. But he knew he wouldn’t have been able to help himself. Seeing Zell on the ground, bleeding, had brought the warrior in him right to the surface and it had forced him to recognize the feelings that had been lying dormant in him for so very long.

Turning, he gazed at Zell through lowered eyelashes, his lips parted as if to speak. The air of innocence that surrounded him was at odds with the look in his eyes and it proved too intoxicating for Zell to resist any longer. He was on his feet and backing Squall up against the wall before Squall knew what had happened. Pinning Squall’s hands over his head with one hand, Zell grabbed the back of his neck with the other and pulled him down roughly to possess him in an almost savage kiss. Zell pressed Squall harder against the wall with his body and nipped at his lower lip while his hand fisted tightly in Squall’s silky hair. Squall made a whimpering sound deep in his throat, and if Zell didn’t know better, he would swear it was surrender.


Author's Notes: Please forgive my impatience. I couldn’t stand the tension any longer. But I won’t promise that Squall’s surrender was ultimate…we’ll see….

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