Fractured Millennium

By Scarlet Fever

"You want me to go to Centra?" Zell asked, his hands on his hips. He was standing in Squall's office, looking thoroughly confused, as well as a bit apprehensive. Squall's office seemed to have that effect on people. It was very cold and void of colour, and Squall's intense gaze didn't help. Or, maybe it was the fact that Zell wanted to fuck Squall desperately, so he was always ill at ease when standing in front of the large mahogany desk that dwarfed the Headmaster of Balamb Garden.

Squall had taken up the position after Cid had retired, and the school ran like a clock with Squall Leonhart at the helm. Nothing could distract him from his duties. Not Rinoa, and not Zell, no matter how much the tattooed blond wished it.

"Yes," Squall answered simply. "There's been a few problems there with some of our recon disappearing. I want you to take a few troops on a look see mission. Find out what's going on. You'll get a SeeD ship to Winhill, and from there, take a local boat..."

"Why?" Zell asked, interrupting Squall. "Wouldn't it just be easier to go all the way to the main Centra continent?"

Squall narrowed his eyes, showing his displeasure about being interrupted. "I don't take kindly to being interrupted, Zell, and you know that. As I was saying," Squall folded his arms on his impeccably clean desk. "Winhill is a logical start point, because you're going to be setting up an Intelligence Centre there, and work mainly from the town. It's a more logical answer than sending you all to Centra with no shelter."

"Well, Centra is a monster haven, anyway, Squall," Zell pointed out, trying to be helpful. "Why not just let the main continent be?"

Squall smirked, and Zell felt his insides melt. Squall Leonhart was very cold, and sometimes, Zell wondered why his intestines would get in knots, and his cock would get hard at the mere thought of the brunette SeeD. And, then, he would remember why when looking at Squall when he smirked, watching Squall walk across a room. His body, his aura commanded attention. From men, from women, from everybody.

"Just go to Centra, Zell..." Squall's smirk melted off his face. He opened his mouth to say something more, but stopped when his intercom buzzed. "Excuse me, Zell. Headmaster Leonhart?"

Zell cocked his head, clasping his hands behind him, resting his knuckles at the small of his back. He shifted his weight on the balls of his feet, feeling stuffy in his SeeD uniform. He almost felt like Squall was trying to get rid of him, on such a Mickey Mouse mission, at that. Maybe it was more serious than Squall was letting on. It was hard to tell what Squall thought was serious and what wasn't, because he took everything gravely, like a funeral was about to happen. Zell, as well as their other friends, like Selphie, Quistis, Irvine and Rinoa, thought that Squall would have melted, especially with Rinoa's friendly ministrations. But, even she couldn't thaw his icy veneer.

Zell noticed that Squall's face darkened, and his stormy blue eyes rolled. The blond couldn't help but listen in as Squall greeted Rinoa with the same clipped tone he greeted everyone with.

"Yes, Rinoa... I'm a little busy right now." He paused. "No, I didn't mean it that way. I'm the Headmaster. Yes, of course I love spending time with you."

Zell frowned deeply. It was hard to think of Rinoa as Squall's girlfriend. He was so detached with her, and Rinoa rarely seemed truly happy, always worried about what Squall was thinking, or where she stood with him.

Squall paused his conversation with Rinoa, fixing Zell with a cold gaze. "Zell, leave. The ship will depart from the Balamb docks at sixteen hundred hours." He turned his attention back to his intercom conversation with Rinoa, as if Zell had already left.

Zell grumbled to himself as he walked to the elevator. He hit the button with an angry finger, watching as the glass elevator descended. Squall could sure be an asshole when he wanted to be. He walked to his room, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his uniform slacks. He'd have to pack for Centra. Zell knew that Centra always had monster problems, and Winhill's economy suffered because of it, but Zell still wondered why Squall would chose him. As he began to pack socks and underwear, he wondered who the SeeDs to be accompanying him would be.

"I don't know why I like that guy..." Zell muttered to himself, stuffing some more clothes in his bag with irritation. "I mean... He treats me like a moron. But, he's fucking sexy as Hell..."

"Who's sexy as Hell?"

Zell gasped, stumbling as his heart lurched in his chest. He spun on his heel, which caused him to trip on the throw rug, and fall on his ass. "Ow..." He grumbled. He looked up to see Rinoa standing in the doorway, a twinkle in her coffee coloured eyes.

"Hi, Zell," she greeted, trying to swallow some laughter. But, it came out as a small smile on her heart shaped mouth. She came into the room, and regarded Zell, in his ungraceful heap on the floor. "Who's sexy as Hell?"

"Nobody..." He muttered, getting up. He rubbed his sore tailbone, and looked at Rinoa. "Hello, Rinoa."

She winked at him. "You can't weasel out of this one so quickly. Tell me who you were talking about!" She clasped her hands in front of her breasts, her mauve painted nails glittering in a ray of sun. The nail polish matched the long dress she was wearing, which was the same delicate shade of lavender. It had a chiffon layer of black over top of it, and made Rinoa look very angelic and pretty. "Oh, can I guess?"

Zell blushed, and turned back to packing. "Make it fast, then," he muttered, trying to hide the flush on his cheeks. "I have to go on a mission."

"Oh?" Rinoa cocked her head, her long hair falling over her shoulders. In the two years since the Neo-Sorceress War, it had grown to her waist. "Where are you going?"

"Centra," Zell muttered. "Me and a couple of other SeeDs are going to look for some other lost crews, and get rid of some of the monsters..."

"You don't sound excited," Rinoa noticed, her eyes sympathetic.

"No, I'm not. It seems like Squall is trying to get rid of me."

Rinoa waved her hands. "Pish posh, Zell. Squall's your friend."

Zell muttered something under his breath that Rinoa couldn't hear. She sat on the edge of the blonde's bed. "Maybe you're mad because Mr. Sexy won't be there?" She laughed, kicking her legs out.

"Shut up, you!" Zell commanded. "I don't even know who is going with me."

"So, is it.... Irvine?" Rinoa asked.

Zell made a face. "No...."

"What's wrong with Irvine?" She asked jokingly. "Okay, not Irvine... Hmmm...." She placed a finger to her cheek. "Do I know him?"

Zell turned his head away. "No..."

"Yes, I do!" Rinoa cheered, standing up to full height, which, in her heeled shoes, was taller than Zell. "I know you, Zell Dincht. I know him!" She pushed a finger into his chest. "Ha, ha!"

"You don't want to know who it is," Zell said, his voice very serious.

Rinoa noticed his tone. "Uh oh. That doesn't sound good." She cocked her head. "Is it Squall?" She asked seriously.

Zell's jaw dropped. "... No..." He whispered.

"Yes, it is Squall..." She sat down again. "You know... Your clothes are going to get all wrinkled if you pack them like this...."

"Rinoa..." Zell whispered. He paused for a long time while Rinoa dumped all his clothes on the bed, and began folding them. It reminded him of his mother. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" She asked, folding a shirt. "For having feelings? I don't blame you for liking Squall. He's hot..." She giggled, her cheeks flushing. She cleared away the blush by waving her hands. "How did you think I would react?"

"I don't know... Hit me."

She scoffed, playfully slapping him on the arm. "You're my friend, Zell. We've been through worlds of trouble before. I think you having a crush on my boyfriend isn't the end of the world." Rinoa sighed deeply. "Besides, Squall doesn't feel that way about you. And," Rinoa added sadly. "You know it."

Zell rubbed his temples. "Don't remind me, Rinoa."

She sighed. "Don't worry... I won't tell him."

Zell looked at her, his icy eyes meeting her dark, dancing ones. "Thanks..." He whispered. A smile cracked over his cute face. "You know, Rin.... You're smarter than you look."

"Hey!" She bit back a smile, trying to look pissed off. She shoved him, and Zell toppled onto the mattress. "You're so fucking rude." She looked at the clothes on the bed. "I'll help you do this. When do you leave?"

"In a couple of hours."

Rinoa nodded, neatly putting the clothes in Zell's bag. "There... Much better." She looked at Zell seriously. "I know that Squall treats you like dirt."

Zell sighed, walking into his bathroom to pack his toiletry kit. "He treats everyone like shit, Rinoa. I figured that he would have loosened up..."

Rinoa sighed. "I know. I mean... Sometimes he's gentle and stuff..." She huffed. "But, most of the time, he's an asshole. The Headmaster job is getting to him. He's so immersed with work. It's like he's a robot or something." She waved her hands, standing up. "Look, I'll go find out what other SeeDs are going with you. Who knows..." She winked. "Maybe you'll find Mr. Right."

Zell cringed. "Please, Rinoa. Just because you know my sexual business doesn't mean I want the rest of the Garden to."

"I know! Jesus Christ, I was just teasing, Zell!" She rolled her eyes, tucking some of her thick hair behind her ears. The highlights had faded out, so now her hair was pure obsidian. Her almond shaped eyes twinkled. "But, maybe I'm right. Maybe you just need a good hard fuck to forget about Squall, hmm?" She paused, placing a thoughtful finger to her chin. "Maybe I need a good hard fuck from Squall."

Zell flushed bright crimson. "Rinoa!" He stamped his foot.

She laughed. "I'll talk to you later." She waved and sauntered out of the room.

"Oh my God..." Zell muttered, burying his face in his hands. "I'm so fucking transparent."

Two and a half hours later, Zell was riding in a car with Nida Nomura and a female SeeD named Lavonia. Zell didn't know her, but found that her shrewd looking amber eyes were honest. She had long, pure orange hair, which was streaked black, making it look like tiger markings. Once in the car, Lavonia unzipped her SeeD coat, taking it off. It seemed she had the same dislike for dressing up that Zell did. Zell looked over at Nida, flushing when he remembered what Rinoa had said to him.

"Hey, Zell! I found out who you're going to Centra with. A female SeeD named Lavonia Carmichael, which doesn't really help you much. And, even better. Nida Nomura. He's very cute."

"That doesn't mean anything, Rinoa."

"Whatever you say. Well, even if he's not into guys, you can still look, right?"

Zell found himself blushing, and he looked out the window, like Nida himself was doing. Rinoa was right. Nida was pretty hot, emphasis on the word 'pretty'. Nida must have sensed that he was being watched, because his dark, exotic eyes shifted over to Zell. "You're in command, here, Zell. So, what are we doing?" Nida asked, his voice smooth.

Lavonia sighed deeply. "Sounds like Squall wants to get rid of us for a few days." She gave a hard look out the window. When there was silence from Zell and Nida, she smirked. "God, don't get so serious."

Nida raised one of his devilishly arched eyebrows. "From the way you say it, you sound very serious, Lav..."

She flipped some of her tiger hair over her shoulder. "This is a Mickey Mouse mission, Nida. Don't you agree? But, I guess it should be interesting. I've been getting tired of fighting the T-Rexaurs. And, Winhill has a lot of pretty ladies."

"You're a Lesbian?" Zell asked, his eyes widening.

Nida narrowed his eyes, and Lavonia just laughed. Nida responded while Lavonia cracked her knuckles. "Lavonia's the President of the Balamb Gay and Lesbian Association."

"Really?" Zell smiled. "I didn't know that."

She shrugged. "Well, we weren't classmates, so..." She smirked. "I was a few years ahead of you in classes."

"So, you're 23?"

She nodded. "I wonder if Headmaster Leonhart is sending me out there because I called him an asshole."

"Why'd you do that?" Zell asked.

"He was getting on my nerves. We were disagreeing about one of the GF classes, and he was being so stubborn..." She frowned. "I apologized, of course."

Nida narrowed his eyes. "Maybe he respects you. I have a feeling that there's more to this mission than a simple monster extermination."

Zell nodded. "Lavonia, what weapons do you use?"

She pulled a bag into her lap, and then pulled out a pair of gauntlets, that tinkled together because of all the metal. They were long, and would have reached up to her biceps. At the elbows, there were some wicked looking blades that shone in the light coming in the car windows, their curved, sharp edges looking very dangerous. At the knuckles, there were curved claws, that were six inches in length. The metal was slightly tarnished in crimson, and Zell knew it was probably the blood that wouldn't wash out.

"Wow..." Zell touched the leather of the gloves. "They look like animal claws."

"Tiger claws," Nida pointed out.

Zell looked at her hair. "Did you dye your hair like that on purpose?"

Lavonia smiled thinly. "Fuck, you're dense.... I'm a Lycanthrope. I can change into a tiger. It prevents me from Junctioning a GF, but monsters don't react the same to animals as they do to humans."

Zell blinked. "I didn't know that..."

Nida laughed quietly. "Squall makes her keep it quiet. But, Lav can't help but blab to everyone."

She punched Nida's arm. "Shut up, Fly boy."

"You two seem to know each other well," Zell noticed, not asking about Nida's weapons. He knew Nida fairly well, and knew that he used sickles and other such curved blades, as well as powerful magical abilities, such as cursed daggers and rare spells. Zell frowned. Actually, Nida was probably on the mark. Nida and Zell were high level SeeD, and Lavonia had an extremely rare ability, so it couldn't have been the easy mission that they were thinking it was.

"Zell?" Lavonia called, snapping her fingers, her black nails waving in front of his tattooed face.

"Sorry..." Zell waved his gloved hand. "So, how do you know each other?"

Nida frowned. "She ate my cat when in Tiger form."

"I did not," Lavonia muttered, her voice acidic. "Nida dated my brother."

"Maybe Squall sent us on this mission because we're all fags," Zell muttered, closing his eyes when he realized what he'd said.

Lavonia and Nida didn't seem to care either way, and went back to bickering with each other. Zell looked out the window as Balamb's dock got closer to them. He saw the SeeD ship. "Okay," Zell said, taking charge. "When we get to Winhill, we have to set up the surveillance equipment as soon as possible. I'm good with Machinery, so that shouldn't be too hard to assemble. Nida, since you're such a good pilot, you can take care of the radar set up, since you can read it best. Lavonia, you can do perimeter checks in Winhill before we set out to Centra. You can also help with the hand held frequencies once the equipment is set up."

"Right," both Lavonia and Nida answered, in unison. They quickly got on the ship, and it was almost immediately sailing towards Winhill. They all decided to stay out on the deck, enjoying the sea air. As the Centra horizon became visible, Lavonia stilled her motions.

"What is it?" Zell asked, looking out to the sea. Lavonia's gaze was fixed on something.

"A great beast..." She whispered. "A Guardian Force." She pointed out to the sky over the main Centra continent.

Nida's hands moved to his back, where his two giant sickles were strapped. "It's Bahamut..."

"Fuck..." Zell swore under his breath. He remembered after the Neo-Sorceress War, when Squall had freed the legendary King of Summons. "Do you think he'll come this way?"

As the ship got closer, they could see Bahamut clearly. In the distance, Bahamut reared his head, fixing the ship with his cold glare. But, he didn't come towards them. Instead, Bahamut flew in further to the Centra continent, disappearing from view once more.

"Well, this complicates things," Nida muttered darkly. "Maybe the rest of the SeeD teams met up with Bahamut, hmm?"

Zell nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah. Look, when we get the equipment set up in Winhill, I'll contact Squall and tell him. Maybe he can do something, since he did use to use Bahamut as a Guardian Force."

"But, he let him go," Nida pointed out, his shaggy ebony hair blowing around his pretty face. "Bahamut was never one for subordination."

"We'll worry about it when the time comes," Zell said darkly. "Come on.. We should look at the maps."

Zell was slumped in his chair in front of the equipment. It had taken a lot longer to set up than he'd first envisioned. He was also out of breath, because some of the console equipment had been heavy. He and Nida were both sweaty, and Nida had abandoned his SeeD jacket, which gave Zell a secret eyeful of his cute body.

"That was a lot harder than it should have been," Nida muttered. "But, at least we can contact Lavonia." He turned on a radio. "Lav?"

"Yeah..." Her voice sounded very far away, as well as having a slightly lower context than usual.

"Is your connection bad?" Zell asked, noticing the tinny sound of her voice.

"No... I'm in Tiger form. I'm speaking telepathically. I'm at the shore now. There actually aren't that many monsters in this area... Nothing for us to worry about. But, I'm getting this weird feeling."

"What sort of weird feeling?" Nida asked. He looked at the radar. "I'm not picking up anything..."

"No..." Lavonia answered. "It's nothing... Alive. I can't put my finger on it. It feels magical."

Zell and Nida shared glances. "Okay... Just report if you see anything else, or you find out what that feeling is," Zell said.

"Will do..." She severed the connection, but not before they both heard a deep, rumbling growl from her.

"I'm going to contact Squall..." Zell muttered.

Nida smacked one of the monitors. "Shit. I'm getting a lot of interference from this monitor. I'll go fix it..." He nodded and left the command room. They were using an abandoned house in the small town, famous for flowers and monster invasions. Zell patched a connection to the Garden, and to Squall's office's number.

"Squall Leonhart," the cold, tired voice answered.

"It's Zell."

"How is everything?" Squall asked, not beating around the bush.

"Fine. Lavonia is searching the perimeter around here now, and Nida is fixing a few of the radar signals. Squall.... Why did you choose us?"

There was a slight pause. "Because, it's your duty as SeeD."

"That's not what I meant," Zell said, matter of factly.

"Because you're all good SeeDs. I trust you all."

"Is Lavonia the only Lycanthrope at Balamb Garden?" Zell asked.

"That's confidential," Squall said. "Anything else to report?"

"Yeah. We saw Bahamut."

There was another pause. Zell knew Squall well enough to tell that he was surprised. "What?"

"Yeah," Zell continued, kind of pleased that he caught Squall off guard. "He was flying over Centra. He saw us, but didn't do anything."

"Don't get complacent," Squall warned, as if Zell were a child.

"I'm not stupid!" Zell exclaimed angrily. "Jesus Christ, Squall. I know that we have to watch out for Bahamut. I already have Nida instructed to track him, and we're working on building up certain defences if he attacks us."

There was another pause where Squall sounded like he could have been surprised. "Okay, Zell."

Zell wondered if he was imagining it, or if the tone of Squall's voice had actually changed. It sounded more husky, sexier. The blonde was glad he was sitting down, because his cock twitched in appreciation.

"I'll keep in contact," Zell said, wanting to end the conversation as soon as possible, and to keep it going forever. "Bye."

"Bye, Zell..." Squall whispered before hanging up.

Zell stared at the receiver for a few minutes, dumbfounded. Squall had sounded... Flirtatious. What was going on with him? Or, it could have just been Zell's imagination. He was better on the latter.

Nida came in, and found Zell still staring at the receiver. "What did Squall say?" Nida asked, cocking his head. "Something confusing?"

Zell shook his head, putting the receiver down. "Yes... Well, anyway, I told him about Bahamut. We'll just have to keep our eyes open."

Nida nodded, yawning. "Are you hungry?" He opened a bag, and pulled out some sandwiches. "I know they're not Hot Dogs, but what are you gonna do?"

Zell laughed. "Yeah, I'm starving." He suddenly frowned. "I think there's more to this mission than we think... Do you think Squall's intentionally withholding information from us?"

Nida shrugged. "If it were dangerous, he would have let us know. Besides, looking for lost SeeDs, or the cause of their death, is a serious matter."

Zell nodded. "Yeah, you're right." He took a thoughtful bite of his sandwich, not able to get the sound of Squall's voice out of his mind.

Lavonia's paws soundlessly hit the grassy earth as the sun began to set. Her feline eyes could see movement all around her, from small rodents to monsters hiding in the trees. That strange feeling hadn't disappeared. There weren't any monsters around that it could be caused by, so it really had Lavonia puzzled. She hadn't contacted Nida and Zell again, because there was nothing to report. It felt distantly like magic, almost like one big draw point. But, no draw point could ever emanate that much power. She stopped on the beach once more, looking out over the water. It was very peaceful, and Lavonia swished her tail happily.

Where is that feeling coming from? She wondered aloud. It verbally came out as a small growl. Suddenly, her Tiger's body stopped all movement. She felt it again, that giant presence. Bahamut. But, there was also another one. They were a spec on the horizon, but coming closer. The second creature seemed to have a human energy signature. Bahamut and a human?

"Nida... Zell. Bahamut is coming my way."

"What?" Zell asked, his voice shrill in her cloaked earpiece. "What are you going to do?"

"Don't come this way..." Lavonia muttered. "They'll just think I'm an animal."

"Are you insane?!" Zell sputtered.

"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" Nida asked quietly.

"It's better than getting you guys in a fight with Bahamut. Oh, and there's another life form with Bahamut... A human, I think. Possibly riding him."

"Shit," Zell swore. "We'll keep an eye on you through radar."

"Okay. I'm severing the connection now. Bahamut may have some telepathic abilities."

She watched, her amber eyes trained solely on the dot that was getting bigger and bigger. Lavonia watched the massive wingspan, and sat in her place, like a passive animal. Her eyes widened as Bahamut landed near her, a person with him. Their back was turned, and a long black coat hid their frame. She growled low in her throat, and Bahamut's eyes whipped over to her. Lavonia stood up, sauntering around, like she didn't care about them.

"A Lycanthrope..." Bahamut muttered, his voice loud and echoing across the beach.

Lavonia cocked her feline head, and the person with Bahamut turned around. Suddenly, all the air seemed to be getting thicker and thicker. Lavonia found that she couldn't breathe. It was that distant magical feeling. It wasn't centered around this companion of Bahamut, but it seemed to react to him. And, she finally realized that it was a man. The air was too thick, and Lavonia found herself reverting back to her human form. As she collapsed on the sand, her mind not able to handle the rise in power, she saw blue flames lick around the man standing under Bahamut's wing, and the empty look in his icy green eyes, welcoming her into oblivion.

Zell ran down the beach, their magic radars going through the roof. And, all that he could get from Lavonia's intercom was distant static. Nida had stayed behind to watch the radars for anything else, or a return of Bahamut, who seemed to be gone. As well, he wanted to see if he could find out who exactly had been with the Great Dragon. He skidded to a stop when he saw the distant silhouette of Bahamut, heading back towards the main Centra continent. "Lavonia!" He cried, whipping his head around. He saw her, propped against a tree, a blanket around her shoulders. Like, she'd been taken care of before Bahamut and whoever had been with him, had helped her before leaving. He tapped Lavonia's shoulder. "Lavonia?!"

She tossed her head, her orange and black hair falling everywhere. "Z...Zell?"

He nodded, smiling when she opened her eyes. "Yeah. Are you okay?"

She looked down at her body, seeing the blanket around her shoulders. "Yeah, I guess so." She stood, leaning on Zell's shoulder. She smiled, and stood on her own after a few minutes. "It was so strong... That force."

"What was it?" Zell asked, looking out to the sky of Centra. Bahamut was vanished from the horizon. Something on the Centra continent was drawing the Guardian Force. Zell's icy eyes narrowed dangerously.

"The force was... Magical... Like a huge draw point."

"Draw point?!" Zell asked, confused. "I don't understand..."

"Neither do I," Lavonia admitted ruefully. "But... Bahamut knew I was a Lycanthrope immediately... That's impossible. Guardian Forces don't have that ability..."

"Could it have been the person with Bahamut, and transferred the information?" Zell asked, thinking on his feet.

Lavonia shrugged. "Maybe. I don't even really remember anything... Just... Blue flames, and... Green eyes. He had green eyes."

"Green eyes?" Zell asked, running his hand through his spiky bangs. "Hmmm...." He looked back to Centra. "I'll take you back to our little base. Nida can give you some Potions or something."

"Thanks, Zell..." Lavonia whispered, letting him lead her.

A few hours later, Zell was in a boat to the Centra continent. Lavonia and Nida were still in Winhill, mainly because Zell hadn't told them he was leaving. It had been Zell's turn to watch the radar, and Nida had been sleeping, while Lavonia was in an Elixir induced sleep. He'd left a note for the pilot of the Garden, saying to keep an eye on the Centra continent. Zell didn't want to put anyone else in danger, and the 'green eyes' thing bothered him. Also, the blue flames.

"What does it mean?" Zell wondered. He sort of felt like a Siren song was calling him towards Centra. He wasn't even sure where to go. When his boat landed on the shore, Zell jumped out, flexing his fingers, preparing for a fight. But, it seemed like there weren't any monsters around. It was eerily quiet. "Maybe Bahamut had something to do with it?" He wondered aloud. For some reason, the image of the Centra Ruins entered his mind. That was a logical place to start looking for the missing SeeDs. He began jogging, keeping his eyes opened for any movements from Monsters. He was almost at the Ruins, when he felt something in the air.

"What is this?" Zell asked, looking in all directions. It felt like very thick magic, like what Lavonia had tried to describe. It felt like a giant draw point. Zell stumbled, falling to his knees. He coughed, and tried to stand, but the force of the magic was just too much. He fell on all fours, and saw a shadow approaching him. Zell tried to raise his head, but it felt like it weighed a million pounds. He saw feet enter his line of vision. A pair of scuffed black combat boots. He tried to look up, but his eyes were beginning to unfocus. All he could see were a pair of green eyes. So beautiful, like a sea. Zell narrowed his eyes. The eyes look haunting, like Zell had seen them before. He couldn't really think more, because he blacked out.

Nida stirred from his sleep, opening his eyes. He'd snoozed in a chair, and expected to see Zell, hunched over the radar and eating all the food. But, there was nobody there. "Zell?" Nida called, sitting up and running his hands through his silky raven hair. "Zell?" he called again. He noticed a piece of paper beside one of the radars. Nida picked up the paper.

Guys, I went to Centra. I think I know where Bahamut is going. Lavonia is too injured, and I want you to keep an eye on the radar. I'll be back soon.


"Shit!" Nida swore. "Zell, you idiot..." He picked up the phone, and called to Balamb Garden.

"Squall Leonhart..." The Headmaster answered, his voice bland.

"Squall, it's Nida," the Asian man answered, his words running together.

"Nida..." Squall whispered, his voice light. "What is it?"

"It's Zell. He ran off to Centra alone."

"Shit," was Squall's reply. "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know..." Nida answered. "Lavonia is still passed out. He left a note, saying he knew where Bahamut went."

"What does that mean?" Squall asked.

"I don't know," Nida answered. "What do you think I should do?"

Squall huffed into the phone. "I don't know. Trust Zell's Judgement?"

Nida frowned. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah..." His voice became throaty. "Nida..."

"Yes?" The Asian man asked lazily.

"Have you given any more thought to what I asked you?"

Nida frowned further. "Squall..." He began.

Squall laughed throatily into his end of the line. "You're beautiful, Nida..."

"And, you're with Rinoa," Nida retorted testily.

"So?" Squall asked. "I want you. Don't you want me?"

"That's not the point..." Nida muttered, feeling heat rise to his cheeks, and travel to his cock. "You're with Rinoa. Besides, Zell is what's important now."

After a pause, Squall said "I agree. Well, expand your radar, and when it gets light again, look for him. He might come back on his own." Squall changed the subject. "What about the magical energy that Lavonia felt?"

"It hasn't come back, Squall."

"I love the way you say my name..."

"Squall, please..." Nida whispered.

"How I would love to hear you beg under different circumstances..." Squall said, his deadpan voice lilting with laughter.

"We can't do this!" Nida hissed. "I respect Rinoa. I won't be a party to breaking her heart."

"What if I wasn't with Rinoa? Would you fuck me then? Would you let me fuck you?"

"That would be different..." Nida began. "But..."

"Consider it done, then."

"What?!" Nida exclaimed.

"If my separation from Rinoa is what it takes, then you shall have it." Squall laughed sadly into the phone. "Anything for you."

"Yeah, until your next desire comes along," Nida spat. "What, maybe you'd want to fuck me and nobody else for two, three months? And, once the next pretty girl or boy came along, I'd be tossed aside, just like Rinoa."

There was a long pause on Squall's end. "That really hurt, Nida." He sighed deeply. "How could you think that what I feel for you is anything but genuine?"

"And, what you feel for Rinoa isn't?"

"I didn't say that," Squall pointed out. "I see you more than I see her. And, I can't ignore what I feel for you, what you do to me." His voice lowered a couple of octaves. "And, I know you feel the same way. Your beautiful, beautiful eyes can't lie, Nida."

"Squall... I'm hanging up now. I'll contact you if there's more about Zell..." He hung up before Squall could say anything else to enrage his morality, or fuel his desire. Squall had been correct in the fact that Nida wanted him. Nida did want Squall Leonhart. And, he hated himself for it.

Nida rubbed his face with his hands, grumbling into his palms. He had to stop thinking about Squall, and start thinking about Zell. "Zell, you're such a fucking idiot."

Zell briefly awoke a few times from his blackness. The first time, he felt like he was being jostled. He slowly opened his eyes, only to see blurry shapes and colours. He was being jostled because he was being carried. He felt like a child in his mother's arms again. So warm, so comfortable. Like home. Zell groggily tried to turn his head, but was only met by the warmth of a chest, and a heartbeat under his tattooed cheek. He tried to raise his head, to see who was carrying him so gently, but he blacked out before he could even incline his neck.

The second time he awoke, it was because he smelled something. It wasn't food. It was skin. Human skin, and soap and shampoo. It smelled wonderful, and familiar. Zell also felt warm. His head was still killing him, and he couldn't seem to focus his vision. He heard a voice.

"Get some rest," the voice said. Male, soothing. He then felt a hand on his forehead, which felt cool against his skin. "You've become ill...."

Zell opened his mouth to respond, but found that he couldn't move his lips. He sighed, and slipped back into unconsciousness.

The third time Zell woke up, he gasped in shock, nearly having a heart attack. He was staring into the eyes of a Tonberry, who was calmly watching him, amber eyes large and impassive.

Zell let out a strangled gasp, sitting up. His head was killing him, and he had to slump back down again. It was then that Zell realized he was laying in a bed. Where was he? The Tonberry squeaked at him, prodding Zell's side with his small, mitten-like hand. It made a loud squeak again, and Zell tried to cringe away, afraid the turtle-like monster would attack him. He'd yet to see the Chef Knife that Tonberrys wielded, but Zell didn't want to take any chances, especially when he was in this condition.

"What are you doing?" A voice called. Zell realized it was the same male voice that he'd heard earlier. It sounded familiar. Zell tried to open his mouth to answer, but then realized the man was talking to the Tonberry. Where were they? Zell tried to think, but his head was swimming. "Get away from him..."

Zell blearily opened his eyes, and saw a pair of hands pick the Tonberry up by his stumpy middle, and put him back on the ground again. The Tonberry made a happy noise. Zell was thoroughly confused. Tonberrys were naturally very shy creatures. Who was this man that the Tonberry seemed to like so much? Was it the same person that Lavonia had seen with Bahamut?

"Where....?" Zell croaked out, trying to look up to the man's face.

The stranger lowered his body into the chair that the Tonberry had been perched on. "Shhh. Just rest now. You have a fever." The hand touched his forehead again, and Zell couldn't help but nuzzle his hot face into the cool palm. Zell's tired eyes met the gaze of the man sitting beside him, and he gasped. He was staring into a pair of pale green eyes, that in some lights looked blue. He saw the jagged scar between those clear, lovely eyes. Zell took in the whole face of Seifer Almasy, then blacked out again.

When Zell woke up again, he still felt ill, but he could at least sit up. When the martial artist had finally struggled to a seated position, his head and muscles throbbed. Zell touched his forehead, which was hot and sweaty. He slowly looked around, expecting his Mother to come bustling in with soup and water. However, they were very different surroundings. He was in a bedroom with stone walls. There were candelabras around, and were giving off gentle lights. Zell thought for a few moments, trying to piece together what had happened. He remembered going to Centra because he'd seen Bahamut. And, he also remembered the oppressive magical force before he'd passed out. Then, everything else was a blur. He remembered only brief images. Being carried, a cool hand against his forehead, a Tonberry, and Seifer... Seifer Almasy.

"Where am I?" He asked aloud. "Okay, if there were Tonberrys, that must mean I'm in the Centra Ruins..." He looked around again. "Did I actually see Seifer?" He swung his legs over the bed, and stood, feeling like his legs were without bones. He looked down, seeing that most of his clothes had been removed. He was just wearing a tank top and his boxers. In the bed, he'd felt hot, stifling, but now that he was standing, he felt cold, like he was made of ice. Zell picked up the blanket, and wrapped it around his shoulders as he pushed his way out of the room.

Zell found himself in a large chamber. Odin's Chamber. It had been so long since Zell had been here. The last time was when himself, Squall and Selphie had fought Odin. There were a couple of Tonberrys wandering around, and when they saw him, they started squeaking at each other, cocking their heads to look at him as they shuffled around. One of them tripped at his feet, then made a squeaking noise. It almost seemed to smile at him. Zell walked further, and saw a huge, curled up figure. He could hear breathing, and it sounded very loud in his ears. Zell stopped approaching when he realized it was a sleeping Bahamut. The Dragon's wing was curled around something, and his large head was tucked up beside it. It was Seifer. He was sleeping, curled up next to the King of Summons.

Zell blinked, and walked towards the sight that he was seeing. He couldn't believe that Seifer Almasy was curled up next to Bahamut, like the Guardian Force was a cat or some sort of docile pet. He also couldn't believe that Seifer was the one who saved him, that it could have been Seifer that showed up when Lavonia felt that strange magical energy. Zell had so many questions as he watched the sleeping blond. However, his legs seemed to want to stop working. Zell stumbled, and hit the stone ground with a thud. This seemed to wake Seifer from his sleep, because Zell saw his eyes open. He stretched, and sat up, which caused Bahamut's wing to slide off his torso.

"Seifer...?" Zell asked, his face a mask of confusion. "What...?"

Seifer yawned. "What are you doing? You should be laying down."

Zell just looked at him, dumbfounded. "Seifer...?" He tried to stand, but his legs prevented it. Zell once again fell in a heap at Seifer's feet. He tried to crawl away as he saw one of Bahamut's dark eyes open.

Seifer sighed in the back of his throat. "You should really be in bed. I didn't save your life so you could die of a fever..." He held out a hand, offering it to Zell.

The crumpled blond took it gingerly. He swooned on his feet, and fell against Seifer's chest, which was as hard as a wall. "You saved me...?" Zell croaked out, the room spinning around him.

"Come on," Seifer muttered dryly, offering his shoulder to support Zell with. He just sighed when they'd gone a few steps, and Zell crumpled once more.

"Dammit, Chicken Wuss..." Seifer gently chided. "You should have stayed in bed..."

"Don't call me that," Zell muttered, as he felt Seifer pick him up and carry him. Zell couldn't help but fold into the embrace, because his muscles felt very sore and weary. He also noticed that he'd felt it before somewhere. A brief flash of memory came to him. Just after he'd passed out. Being carried in a warm embrace, a heartbeat under his cheek. "Seifer?" Zell asked weakly as he was put in the bed.

"Hmm?" The scarred blond murmured, wrapping the blankets around the other man's body.

"Why are you with Bahamut? Why are you in the Centra Ruins? Why..."

Seifer laughed quietly. "Just get some sleep, Zell."

"Tell me!" Zell demanded hotly. However, it just came out as a small wheeze.

"Okay, I'll answer one of your questions for now if you promise to stay here."

Zell nodded. "Why are we here?"

"I live here," Seifer answered simply. "I live in the Centra Ruins. It's easier this way. I mean, I don't have to know that people are going to spit on me, and I don't have to put up with people. I like it here. The monsters outside Odin's Chamber keep me in shape, and there's an old Well and energy generator under the Ruins from an old civilization, so it's more than habitable."

"What about Bahamut... Or, that strange magic...?" Zell asked, panting heavily. His head was killing him.

"It's a long story," Seifer whispered.

"Where are Fujin and Raijin?" Zell asked, suddenly realizing that Seifer's cronies weren't with him.

"Gone," Seifer muttered, shrugging. "I can't say I blame them, though." He smiled distantly. "When they associated with me, it affected their reputations as well. I mean, a few weeks of it didn't matter, but being a pariah really grates after a few months. We sort of parted ways, and I went on a sojourn, and wound up here."

Zell nodded distantly. "Why here? What about Bahamut?"

"There were no people here. And... The magical energy that you felt is strongest here."

"What is it?" Zell asked, his eyelids drooping.

"You need to sleep," Seifer said again, standing up. "We can talk later..."

"No..." Zell protested weakly, reaching out for Seifer's wrist. He grabbed it and used all his strength to pull Seifer back down. "I'm fine. What's wrong with me anyway?"

"You just have a fever," Seifer whispered. "After you passed out, you'd been outside for a while." He gave his trademark smirk. "You're lucky I found you, Chicken Wuss..."

"Don't call me that!!" Zell cried, coughing afterwards.

Seifer chuckled. "You're still the same, at least."

"Tell me about Bahamut..." Zell whispered, his eyes closing.

"Well, when I was looking into the magical energy, I ended up going to the Deep Sea Research Facility, or Battleship Island as you so liked to call it, I met up with Bahamut. I'd thought that Squall had still kept him as a GF..." Seifer trailed off when he realized that Zell had fallen asleep again. He snorted. "Can't even stay awake for the answers to your questions, huh?" He smiled distantly, getting up. Seifer blew out the candles and left Zell to his feverish rest.

When Zell woke up again, Seifer was sitting beside his chair, looking at some sort of map or chart. He had a pair of glasses on, and when he noticed that Zell was awake, he pushed the tortoiseshell rims up the bridge of his straight nose. "Look who's up."

"Seifer....?" Zell rubbed his eyes. "I feel gross..." He sighed, feeling like a Ruby Dragon was sitting on his chest.

Seifer put the map or whatever he was looking at in his lap. He put a hand to Zell's clammy forehead. "You're still burning up. I'll draw you a bath. Or, do you want food?"

Zell frowned. "A bath?! This is the Centra Ruins..."

"I told you there's a well under here. And, I know how to do plumbing and machinery. I got the highest marks in machinery, remember?"

"I got the highest marks!!" Zell protested weakly. "Until I broke everything..."

Seifer laughed. "Come on. I mean, it's a wooden tub and shower, but better than nothing, no?"

"What are you looking at?" Zell asked, slowly sitting up. He rubbed his head and pushed his flattened bangs out of his eyes. Thinking about it, a bath would have been nice. He had no idea how long he'd been out. "How long have I been here?"

"Two days," Seifer answered. He pulled out a pen, marking something off on the map. "It's a map that I made of the world. I have a few of them."

"Why...?" Zell asked, groaning as he fell backwards. His body refused to listen to his brain. He felt one of Seifer's strong arms wrap around his waist. "God, my whole body aches."

"You're very ill..." Seifer pointed out. "Once you're better, I'll get you back to your boat, and you can go to your post in Winhill."

"My post?" Zell asked wearily. He had to lean on Seifer's body. "What gave you that idea?"

"The fact that I saw Lavonia when I went there. I felt the Draw Point, so I went there."

"You know Lavonia?" Zell asked, looking up at Seifer, who looked very distinguished in his glasses, like how Quistis did.

"Not personally. I saw her around school. She's a Lycanthrope, so she kind of stood out in my mind."

"How did you know that?" Zell asked.

"I pay attention," Seifer whispered, leading Zell to a balcony like room. It had an open ceiling, that showed it was dusk. There were a lot of plants, in pots and growing out of the cracks in the stone. There were also crumbling statues of women in robes, that were falling off their bodies. One was carrying a water jug, and when Seifer pressed a knot in the rock, water began pouring out. The tub itself was cherry wood, and looked more like a hot tub. Zell also noticed that there was a shower hook up. "Wow..." Zell whispered. "Nice set-up."

"I have to be resourceful when I live shunned away from society..." Seifer dipped his hand in the tub, testing the water. He flicked some drops of water at Zell's face. "Good temperature?"

Zell lazily waved his hands. "Stop that!" He looked at the map in Seifer's free hand. "So, why the map. And, what about Draw Points?"

Seifer sighed, propping his glasses on the top of his head. He looked at the map for a moment, as if contemplating the markings he'd put on it. "It has to do with Ultimecia..." Seifer trailed off, stopping the water flow. "There you go." He stood, and made his way to the door.

"Hold it!" Zell commanded, his voice gentle and not as angry as he wanted it to sound.

"What?" Seifer asked, his voice teasing. "You want me to bathe you?"

Zell flushed. "No. What do you mean... Ultimecia? Tell me!" Zell demanded.

"Your bath will get cold."

Zell propped his weight on the edge of the tub. "Tough shit. Tell me."

"After Time Kompression," Seifer began, sarcastically imitating Ultimecia's voice, which sounded eerily similar to the Sorceress. "There seemed to be this strange presence everywhere. I couldn't really put my finger on it, and nobody else seemed to feel it. And, by nobody, I mean Fujin and Raijin, because they were the only people who would talk to me." He sighed, putting his glasses back on. "I noticed that I felt it around Draw Points..." He paused, looking at Zell. "What are you doing?"

"Taking off my shirt..." Zell muttered. "Go on."

Seifer paused, trying not to look at Zell's bared torso. Zell had been the first person he'd had real contact with in a long, long time. He felt something hot move through his body, and tried to still look at Zell's sculpted form, while also trying to make it look like he wasn't looking at all. "The Draw Points seemed to be acting strange, but again, I was the only person to notice. I got the same feeling that I would get when I was working for Ultimecia. I kind of drew the conclusion that Ultimecia had a last ditch plan if she were to be defeated. It seems that the Draw Points, which are a rift in the space continuum anyway were becoming Time rifts as well. It was Ultimecia's final plan. I personally call it the Fractured Millennium."

"Fractured Millennium?" Zell asked, noticing a crimson stain on Seifer's cheeks. He also noticed that Seifer's eyes, though downcast under the lenses of his eyeglasses, were trained on his body. Zell almost wanted Seifer to stop talking so he could hide the lower half of his body in the tub. Zell was beginning to feel heat move through his body, and he knew it wasn't all from his fever.

"Yes. Ultimecia is using the rifts to try and still achieve Time Kompression. The energy that you and Lavonia felt was the Draw Points coming to full strength. The Time rift was being achieved."

"How come it made both of us pass out, but not you?" Zell asked, dipping his hand into the water. It felt nice and cold on his hot skin.

"Because I was Ultimecia's Knight at one point." Seifer snorted. "I really bastardized that term. Anyway, since I had been so close to Ultimecia at one point, I picked up a few of her abilities.. Kind of like through osmosis or something."

"What sort of abilities?" Zell asked, cocking an eyebrow. Even that motion seemed to hurt.

"Time Mage abilities." Seifer noticed the look in Zell's tattooed face. "I'm not a Sorcerer or anything. But, I do have the ability to close the rifts."

"Lavonia saw blue flames..." Zell whispered. The water was so cool...

"That's the Time Mage ability. I must have scared her. I didn't mean to hurt her. That's why I moved her out of the way."

"What about....?" Zell trailed off, a coughing fit overcoming him.

"Okay, okay..." Seifer whispered. "Take your bath."

"But..." Zell muttered. "I still want to know stuff." He sighed deeply. "Just turn around while I get in the tub or something."

Seifer averted his eyes, and heard the rustling of clothing. He took a seat over the feet of one of the stone Goddesses.

After Zell had gotten in the tub, he said "Okay."

Seifer turned around, and saw Zell lazily looking at him, palming water onto his flushed face. The tub was deep enough that the only nudity that Seifer could see was part of Zell's chest. It was still enough to make Seifer yearn, though. Yearn for human contact. Despite the fact that Seifer mostly preferred to be away from spiteful townsfolk, he still was alone, and rarely saw humans. His companionship was the Tonberrys, and Bahamut.

"Tell me about Bahamut..." Zell trailed off, slouching in the water. He sighed, closing his eyes.

"Well, when I started to tell you, you fell asleep, Chicken Wuss.... Are you sure you can stay awake this time?"

Zell weakly splashed some water in Seifer's direction. "Don't call me that." He cocked his head. "I promise to stay awake this time."

"Well, as you know, since you're the King of Trivial Knowledge, you'll know that the Deep Sea Research Facility is the biggest place for Draw Points. So, I go there a lot. Bahamut was also there. I guess that Squall let him go, and he went back there. I was there."

"Didn't he fight you?" Zell asked, surprised.

"No." Seifer shook his head. "He saw me closing a rift. He felt the energy, Ultimecia's power, and asked what I was doing. We started to fight, but I didn't want to. He asked why, and I told him that I didn't desire his powers. See, after I picked up these 'abilities', Junctioning just doesn't seem to work for me, and it hurts, so I don't do it. I didn't want Bahamut's power, and he seemed to respect that. I think he at first wanted to keep an eye on me..."

"Like, he thought that you could still be working for Ultimecia?" Zell asked, rubbing the water over his face again. It felt strange to be talking to Seifer while he was naked in a bath, but it was worth it to find out about what Bahamut was doing there. And, Seifer's story was also intriguing. Zell had to totally concentrate on the story, because his body was starting to have ideas, his mind starting to go off to fantasy land. Seifer was a beautiful man, and the fact that Zell was naked in the same room as him was making his already hot flesh tingle. The fact that Seifer seemed to be blushing only egged Zell's fantasies on. Like, Seifer jumping, fully clothed, in with him. The water lapping around their flesh as they kissed and touched each other. He shook his head.

"Yes," Seifer answered sadly. "But... It's like Bahamut is my only friend. I would call him a pet, but I think he'd eat me if I did."

"I saw you sleeping, curled up next to him," Zell admitted. "I don't think Bahamut would let just anyone do that."

Seifer shrugged. "Maybe you're right. But, I'm glad he's here. I don't have any human friends anymore. I think if I were alone, I'd go totally insane."

Zell raised an eyebrow. "Who says you're not crazy already?"

Seifer laughed. "Fuck you, Chicken Wuss."

Zell paused. "Are you sleeping in the big room because I'm in your bed?"

Seifer nodded. "Yes."

"I'm sorry."

The scarred blond waved his hand. "It's fine. Besides... You'll be back at Garden in a few days, and I'll have my bed to myself again."

"So, why the map?"

"So I can mark off all the Draw Points. Maybe I'll find a pattern."

"So, you've been doing this for two years? Living by yourself, closing Draw Points?"

Seifer nodded. "Yeah. But, I think it's all in vain. New Draw Points pop up all the time. There are just so many of them...."

"Why haven't you got to anyone with this? Why haven't you gone to Squall?"

Seifer snorted. "Because I sound like a lunatic. Come on... It's a pretty far fetched story. And, who is going to believe the word of Seifer Almasy... Ultimecia's whore?" He rolled his eyes. "Besides... The Garden relies heavily on Draw Points. I doubt Squall would let me get rid of them all."

Zell nodded distantly. "But, I could back you up. I mean.. Lavonia and I both felt the energy."

Seifer shrugged. "I doubt Squall would want to listen to me anyway."

The tattooed blond nodded. "I doubt he would." He frowned deeply.

"Squall hasn't changed, has he?" Seifer wondered, mirth tugging at the corners of his mouth.

"Not in the least..." Zell said laughingly. "I dare say he's worse."

Seifer and Zell remained silent for a few minutes. Seifer sighed eventually, standing. "I'll make some food and leave you to bathe in peace. Besides, I have to chart a few more things..."

Zell nodded, watching Seifer leave, admiring the other man's form. He got the distinct impression that Seifer was very lonely, but wasn't letting it on. Zell wouldn't blame him in the least if he were. Having only Bahamut, and Tonberrys to keep him company would have driven Zell up a wall. He was surprised that Seifer was as coherent as he seemed to be. Zell sighed deeply. He thought he'd seen the last of Ultimecia. He hoped in the back of his mind that Seifer was actually crazy, but part of him knew that the other man was telling the truth.

Nida looked up when he heard a door opening. He rubbed his eyes. He felt like he was going blind from staring at a radar screen all day. There wasn't any sign of what could be Zell on the Centra continent. Actually, it was very quiet. There also didn't seem to be any additional sightings of Bahamut, or the mysterious person with the Dragon.

"Any word on Zell?"

Nida sat up in surprise, the chair clattering behind him. "Squall?!"

The brunette nodded crisply. "Yes. I decided to come and view the situation personally. Any sign of Zell?"

Nida shook his head, looking beyond Squall's shoulder. Rinoa was standing behind him, worrying her hands in front of her forest green pea coat. "Rinoa?"

"She insisted on coming," Squall muttered, giving Nida a look that the Asian man cared to ignore.

"Hey!" Rinoa spat, a pissed off tone entering her voice. "Don't say that like I'm being a burden!" She put her hands on her hips, her eyes glistening with worry. "I was scared for Zell. At least I care about him." She turned her gaze to Nida. "Hello, Nida..." She quickly embraced him. "Zell will be okay."

"I know..." He whispered, giving Rinoa an encouraging smile. Nida then looked over the top of her head at Squall, who was giving Rinoa a hard look as if to say that she shouldn't have come. He also was giving Nida veiled looks. It angered the pilot. Rinoa was right there. "Zell's one of the best SeeD we have."

Squall nodded. "I agree. And, you're the best SeeD we have for tracking on Radar."

"How's the other SeeD?" Rinoa asked. "Lavonia, wasn't it?"

Nida sighed. "She'll be okay. That magical energy did a number on her."

Squall crossed his arms over his chest. "Rinoa, go make yourself useful. See if you can help her. You're good at healing."

"Gee, thanks," she muttered sarcastically. She gave Nida a sad gaze, and Squall a hard glare before hurrying off.

"You don't have to be so mean to her," Nida pointed out.

Squall smirked. "I wasn't being mean. She is good at healing." He took a step forward, invading Nida's personal space, with Nida both detested and adored. "And, this way...she's out of the way. You know..." Squall poked a finger gently into Nida's chest. "I was hoping that she wouldn't come. I wanted to be alone with you..."

"Stop it!" Nida commanded, his voice coming out as a low hiss.

Squall frowned. "Nida, do you know how hot you look when you're angry?" He cocked his head, his bangs falling into his eyes. Nida had to stifle a groan of desire. "As you can see, Rinoa and I have problems..."

"You wouldn't have problems if you flirted with her half as much as you flirt with me."

"You're such a challenge," Squall whispered, leaning in so his face was very close to Nida's, his breath washing over the other man's face.

"And, if I gave in, you'd have to go for someone else, right?" Nida tried to crane away, but Squall leaned in further, his lips brushing Nida's earlobe.

"No..." Squall whispered. "I've told you a million times, Nida. I fucking want you."

"Dammit, Squall. How do you think this makes me feel?" Nida asked, trying to step away from Squall, who was now holding his wrists. "Rinoa is here with you. I like her, and don't want to hurt her. You're putting me in a very uncomfortable position..."

Squall chuckled, biting his lower lip. "I'd like to put you in many uncomfortable positions..."

"Rinoa is your girlfriend!" Nida snapped.

"Nida..." Squall whispered, his voice suddenly serious, and sad. "I want you. Badly. I can't ignore that. I don't want to. And, I wouldn't be pursuing you if I didn't know you felt the same. I know you want me, too, Nida. Even though your morality and ethics make you push me away, your eyes and body can't lie to me."

Nida sighed, knowing that Squall was right. "What about Zell, hmmm?" Nida asked sharply. "Do you even care about him? You should stop thinking with your dick, and start thinking about rescuing Zell..."

"I agree."

Both men turned. Rinoa was standing in the doorway, one arm draped across her chest. She was examining her fingernails on the other hand.

"Rinoa!" Nida gasped. "I'm so sorry."

She waved the hand that she'd been looking at. "Don't apologize, Nida. I heard the whole conversation. I'm not angry with you. In fact, I find you noble." She gave a hard look to Squall. "Unlike some people." She pushed herself off the wall, her long pea coat billowing behind her as she stepped towards Squall, an eerily calm look on her pretty, heart-shaped face. "Lavonia is still resting. That magical energy really took a beating on her, seeing as how she can change into a tiger and all..."

"It's called Lycanthropy," Squall muttered darkly.

"Shut up!" Rinoa spat. "You have no right to question me."

"Were you careful?" Nida asked, concerned. "It's sort of contagious, you know."

Rinoa smiled, waving her fingers. "Only if she's in Tiger form, and she bites or scratches me. I'm not as dumb as some people think..." She put her hands on her hips. "We need to have a little discussion later, Squall."

He snorted, saying nothing as she stormed out. Before Squall followed her out of the room, he raised a flirtatious eyebrow at Nida, giving him a soft smile. Nida just bit his lip, huffing his displeasure. Now, he not only had to worry about Zell, but he also had to worry about Squall and Rinoa fighting, and the possibility that the scarred SeeD would be available. "Why do things have to be so fucking complicated?"

Zell's fever did not want to seem to leave him alone. Seifer was feeding him, and taking care of him as best he could, but Zell knew the other man also had to worry about the Draw Points, and the Fractured Millennium. Zell had looked at the maps that Seifer had brought to him to see, and Seifer's story seemed more and more likely. Zell dreaded to think of what would happen if enough Time Rifts opened. If one or two broke open, Seifer said it wasn't a big deal. But, if enough ripped the Time and Space Continuum, it would be the same effect as Time Kompression. Zell had asked Seifer if there was a way to stop it permanently, and Seifer had said that's what the maps were for. He was trying to find any sort of pattern, be it mathematical or geological. Seifer thought that the Deep Sea Research Facility had something to do with it. Zell had to agree. Part of him wondered if Seifer would take off while Zell was laid up with his fever. He knew that Seifer would probably have to go, but Zell didn't really want him to.

It was kind of like old times with Seifer, when the scarred blond had been in the Garden. Seifer still teased him, but it was more playful, mournful. Zell knew that Seifer was glad to have a human to talk to, so when he teased, it wasn't to be hurtful. And, even the nickname 'Chicken Wuss' made Zell feel a little better.

Zell sighed, stretching his arms above his head. He didn't think that Bahamut cared too much that he was there. He knew the Dragon remembered him, and Zell wondered if there was resentment there. But, sometimes, the King of Summons seemed glad Zell was there, like it was good for Seifer. Zell wondered in the back of his mind what would happen to Seifer once Zell went back to Winhill, went back to Garden, went back to Squall....

Zell had almost told Seifer about his feelings for Squall, but chickened out at the last minute. He sighed when he smelled something good. It smelled like bread. He also liked that Seifer was waiting on him. It kind of made Zell feel good, like it was getting Seifer back for things done in the past, even if there was a new calm between them. Zell also had to admit that there was something about Seifer that was greatly turning him on. Maybe it was the scar... It reminded Zell of Squall.

"Are you hungry?" Seifer asked lazily. "Or, are you just going to throw it up again?" He placed some soup and bread in front of Zell. "I don't know why your fever isn't going away..."

Zell shrugged. "Whenever I get sick, I really get sick."

"I guess..." Seifer sat down, and put his hand to Zell's forehead. "You feel a little cooler."

"Thanks to you," Zell admitted, eating some of the food. He felt a lot better. This was his fourth day with Seifer, and he'd barely been able to eat anything.

"Praise for me...? From you, Chicken Wuss? That must be a first..."

"Shut the fuck up!" Zell exclaimed, which just caused Seifer to laugh. Zell put the spoon down, sighing heavily. "Can I ask you something?"

Seifer cocked his head. "It sounds serious, Zell..."

Zell paused. "You called me Zell..."

Seifer shrugged. "Not the first time. Why?"

"I like it better than Chicken Wuss..." He sighed again. "I need some advice, I think. And, you're the only person around right now, and you're kind of detached from the situation."

"Shoot..." Seifer said, sitting back.

"I have... Feelings for someone. Someone that I can't have. And, this person is a total asshole.... I don't know why I like them..."

"Them? This person. Don't play the pronoun game with me, Zell. Tell me who the guy is."

Zell blinked. "You knew it was a man?"

Seifer cocked an eyebrow. "Straight people never play the pronoun game. So..." He cocked his head, smirking. "A man," he began counting on his long fingers. "Someone you can't have... An asshole. It's Squall, isn't it?"

Zell nodded quickly, a jerky motion. "Yeah."

Seifer shrugged. "So... You like him, so what?"

"Well, what about Rinoa? She actually knows that I like Squall... And, he doesn't feel the same way..."

Seifer nodded. "Okay... Do what I did. Rinoa knows... She probably gave you that speech of 'Maybe it's not meant to be', and just brushed it off."

Zell's lips parted. "Huh? Do what you did?"

Seifer laughed darkly. "I think everyone's fallen for the Ice Princess. And, trust me... You won't thaw him."

"You fell for Squall?!" Zell screeched.

"Why don't you say it a bit louder? I don't think Trabia heard you..." Seifer muttered. "Yes, I liked Squall. And, Zell... This is going to sound cruel, but if I couldn't get him into bed, I doubt you have a chance."

Zell sneered slightly, but allotted that Seifer probably had a point. Seifer and Squall had shared a very passionate rivalry, one that could have just boiled over into sexual tension. And, at one point, they'd known each other better than anybody else. "What should I do?"

"I don't know. Do you really think that Rinoa and Squall will break up?"

Zell sighed. "I hope they do. I think I love him."

That seemed to shut Seifer up. His eyes widened. "Love?" He echoed hollowly. "Hmmmm... Well, then I don't know what to tell you. Maybe this is something you should talk about with Squall himself." He stood up. "I'll be looking at my charts. Just call if you need anything..."

Zell scrubbed his face with his hands. Seifer's advice didn't really instil him with a sense of hope. He sighed, thinking about what the other man had said. He fell for Squall, too? But, it hadn't sounded like Seifer was in love with him. Zell felt like he loved Squall. Seifer was probably right. He would have to talk to Squall once he got back to Winhill.

"All the more reason to get better, I guess...." Zell muttered to himself. After he'd eaten, he tried to go back to sleep, but found that he couldn't. Zell decided to stretch his legs, so he got out of bed, wrapping a blanket around himself. Seifer had loaned him a pair of pyjamas, but they were far too baggy for him, considering their height difference. When he walked out to the large chamber, he found Seifer's maps and charts abandoned. He heard the huffy breath of Bahamut, and turned around.

"Where's Seifer?" Zell asked.

"Bathing," Bahamut stated in his echoing voice, that seemed to boom across kilometers, yet sounded like a hoarse whisper at the same time. Zell knew it was because the Guardian Forces mostly spoke with telepathy, and their voices only sounded like whispers outside one's mind.

"Oh..." Zell whispered.

"You'll be leaving soon. Everyone leaves him."

Zell narrowed his eyes. "What do you care? I thought you would resent me because we harnessed your powers..."

This caused Bahamut to laugh deeply. "I came willingly. You harnessed nothing."

"Your very protective of Seifer, aren't you?" Zell asked suddenly.

This caused Bahamut to pause, his eyes locked thoughtfully on Zell. "Perhaps I am. He treats me like no other human has treated me. And, that includes your infatuation, Squall Leonhart."

Zell balked. "Wha....?"

"You forget I have superior hearing..." Bahamut trailed off, mirth in his multifaceted voice. As if bored with the conversation, he flapped his great wings, and exited the chamber. Zell saw the Dragon take flight and disappear.

Zell went over to the bathroom area, and knocked on the door. "Seifer? Bahamut left..."

"That's okay..." Seifer said, his voice muffled through the door. "He can come and go as he pleases."

"Can I come in?" Zell asked. "I need to talk to you."

"Fine..." Zell heard the sound of splashing water, and came in. Seifer was leaned up against the back of the bathtub, watching Zell with hooded eyes. "What is it?"

"I think I should go back to Winhill now." He found himself sitting on the edge of the tub. "I've stayed long enough, and I have to get back to my duties at Garden. And, Nida and Lavonia, as well as Squall, are probably looking for me."

Seifer nodded distantly. "Are you sure you'll be okay, though. I mean.. It's not like you're getting in my way."

Zell didn't say anything, but he thought he could hear a twinge of sadness in Seifer's voice. He wondered if Seifer would miss him, miss plain human contact. Zell lowered his voice. "I also want to thank you for taking care of me, and giving me advice on Squall..."

"No problem," Seifer answered, looking at Zell coolly. "You still look sick, though."

"Aren't you going to miss human contact?" Zell blurted out. "I mean, I like to think that I know you pretty well. Even though you still tease me, and still call me Chicken Wuss, I mean... You're nicer to me. I think you miss being around people. Bahamut may be a good companion, but he can't give you what a human could... Right?" He inwardly cringed. Zell knew he shouldn't have said that.

Seifer just looked at him for a few silent minutes, not saying a word.

"I shouldn't have said that..." Zell whispered.

"It's true, though.. Right?" Seifer asked, his voice bland.

"I'm sorry... I always say things without thinking," Zell pointed out.

"Fuck me," Seifer said suddenly.

"And, I never think of anyone's feelings... Huh?" Zell blinked.

"Fuck me," Seifer repeated.


"You're right..." Seifer moved in the tub, so his arms were draped over the edge, and he was looking at Zell, sitting very close to him. "There are things that Bahamut can't give me. There are things that only someone else can give me."

"You want me to fuck you?!" Zell asked, shocked.

"Or, let me fuck you."

Zell laughed, thinking Seifer was joking. But, when the other man's wet hand moved up on his thigh. Zell's whole body shivered. "What about Squall?" He asked.

"What about him?"

"No strings attached?" Zell asked.

That seemed to make Seifer pause. "No strings..." He echoed.

Zell let the blanket fall to the floor as he leaned in to kiss Seifer deeply. Although he was still feverish, he knew the heat rising in his body wasn't from his illness. He moved his hands to Seifer's cheeks, which were damp. Seifer's wet arms came around Zell's body, dampening the pyjamas that Zell was wearing. The smaller blond gasped deeply when he lost his balance, and topped into the water with Seifer. But, what made him really gasp was when Seifer's hand moved into his pants, touching his hardening cock. At the touch, it twitched, jerking to full erection. Zell moulded his body to Seifer's, parting Seifer's legs with his thigh. As Zell ground his thigh against Seifer's crotch, he felt the scarred blond pull off the shirt of the baggy, sopping wet pyjamas. Zell moaned, struggling out of the shirt, which caused the water to splash and ripple around them. Zell then raised himself to his knees, and pulled the pants off himself. Once he was nude, he settled himself in Seifer's lap, which elicited a groan from both of them.

Zell opened his mouth to Seifer, letting the taller blonde's tongue snake into his mouth. When Zell's mouth was filled with Seifer's tongue, moving against his own, something constricted tightly in Zell's chest. And, he knew it was pure desire. He hadn't felt it in a while. Sure, he felt it for Squall, but since the Headmaster was so cold-hearted, he hadn't really gotten to act on his lust. But, with Seifer, he could let it all out. Seifer said 'no strings', so Zell knew he could let loose with all the pent up desire he'd been feeling for Squall, but couldn't act upon.

Seifer breathed across Zell's mouth, running his hands down the smaller man's back, and into the water, cupping Zell's ass. They rocked their hips together, and both men groaned as the water lapped around them. One of Seifer's hands moved up Zell's back again, moving to his chest. The other hand stayed on Zell's ass, his fingers tracing between the muscular cheeks. When one of his fingers poked into Zell's body, the small blonde let out a squeak of pleasure, mashing his lips against Seifer's. He backed his hips onto Seifer's hand, so the finger slid deeper into him. The water made it easier, and Seifer's digit slid in effortlessly. When it swirled in Zell's channel, the tattooed blonde broke the kiss, throwing his head back. When Seifer inserted two more fingers, he groaned low in his throat, sounding almost animalistic. Seifer's fingers moved within his body, stroking over his prostate in small, slow circles. Zell didn't bother holding back the low groans and grunts that were working their way out of his throat.

Zell didn't protest in the least when Seifer raised them both to their knees, so the water was only up to their thighs. Zell also didn't protest when Seifer turned him around, pressing his smaller body against the edge of the wooden tub. Zell gripped it heavily, hearing the wood creak under his hands. He gasped when Seifer's teeth gently dug into the back of his neck, giving him a love bite. As Seifer's teeth sunk into the delicate flesh of the nape of Zell's neck, he pushed himself into Zell's body. Seifer groaned at the heat coming from Zell's body. It was almost burning him. He knew that part of it was from the other man's fever. He pushed himself in further, wanting to completely surround himself with that warmth. Zell threw his head back, arching his back when the head of Seifer's cock brushed his prostate.

Seifer pressed his cheek into Zell's hair, biting down on the other man's earlobe, trying to push down a wave of pleasure that threatened to make him ejaculate. Zell had been right. He was missing out. This was the first time he'd had sexual contact with another human being in two years. That was a long time, considering Seifer was still in his early twenties. With the fact that he had barely seen any people in that time, even his imagination had drifted away from sexuality. But, being inside Zell, touching Zell's body like this, having the feeling of another man next to him, it made Seifer wonder why he left society behind in the first place. And, it felt extra nice because he knew Zell, there was a bond there, a connection. It just seemed to make it all that more emotional, all that more passionate, what a real relationship would have been like.

As Seifer thrust into Zell, they both moaned, and the water rippled around them. One of Seifer's hands moved to Zell's cock, while the other moved to the edge of the tub that Zell was gripping so tightly. The scarred blonde intertwined his fingers with Zell's, and held on tightly. When their hands fused together, Zell turned his head, finding Seifer's mouth with his own, pushing his tongue between Seifer's lips. Zell rocked his hips in time with Seifer's thrusting. When they found a perfect rhythm, their wet flesh sliding and slapping against each other, they both whimpered, moaned and panted. As Seifer's hands ran over his body, Zell could feel the desire for pure contact in the other man's touch. Even if Seifer wouldn't vocalize it, the tattooed blonde could tell that Seifer was lonely. He moved his body, so that as much of it as possible was touching Seifer, wanting to give him more contact.

Zell felt Seifer's hand speed up on his erection, and the other hand tightened around his own. He knew that Seifer would come soon, and he knew that he himself would come soon. But, he still gasped in pleasured surprise when he felt the hot semen explode within him. Zell whimpered, his whole body shivering as Seifer milked his erection, finally sending Zell over the edge. When he came, he slumped backwards into Seifer's arms, sighing heavily into the scarred blonde's mouth. Both of Seifer's arms came around Zell's body as they kissed gently, tremors of delight still moving through their bodies, still causing their muscles to shake.

Seifer nuzzled his face into Zell's hair after their lips broke apart. He knew Zell would go away again, go back to his life as a SeeD, go back to wanting to fuck Squall, just the way Seifer had fucked Zell. He knew that he would be alone again, totally without human contact, so he revelled in the feeling of another human, a warm body to touch and caress. He didn't voice any sort of request for Zell to stay, because he knew the other man wouldn't, even if Seifer begged. And, Seifer would never beg. He was still Seifer Almasy after all, even though part of him wanted to.

Rinoa crossed her arms over her chest. "Who the fuck do you think you are?" She asked sharply, her dark eyes flashing. "Just because you're the Headmaster of Balamb Garden, just because you're the son of the President of Esthar? You're not above everyone else..."

"I didn't say I was..." Squall muttered, crossing his arms over his chest as well.

"You think that you can just do as you please, fuck who you want, intimidate Nida into sleeping with you?!"

"It's not like I'm raping him," Squall pointed out, as if it were the most logical thing in the world.

"And, you care nothing for me?!" She asked shrilly. "Was our whole relationship just an inconvenience for you?"

Squall snorted. "Of course not. But, don't lie to me, or yourself. Our relationship is lukewarm at best. You don't interest me anymore."

Rinoa balked, unable to process what Squall said. "Wha... What?" She panted a few times. "You asshole. You fucking asshole. You know... I hope that Nida turns you down. I hope that you never fuck him. I hope he has more sense than to get involved with you. I'm sure you'll throw him away, too when you get what you want."

"You know nothing of my relationship with Nida!" Squall yelled, showing uncharacteristic anger. "So, why don't you shut up."

"I know that he doesn't seem that interested in you!" Rinoa yelled back, taking a few steps towards Squall, her chest pressed against his in a threatening manner. "Maybe he keeps turning you down because he knows that you'll just get rid of him when he 'doesn't interest you anymore'," Rinoa spat.

Squall took a couple of steps back, but Rinoa repeatedly jabbed her finger into his chest. "You know," she continued. "You deserve to be alone. You don't know how to treat other people."

"Shut up, Rinoa."

"And, I don't even know why I wasted my time, why anyone would waste their time with you. I don't know why someone as nice as Nida or Zell would even think of fucking you!"

Squall stopped moving, blinking his stormy eyes. "What? Zell....?"

Rinoa's hand fluttered to her lips in shock. "Oh, shit..." She whispered.

"Zell wants to fuck me?" Squall asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Why do you care?!" Rinoa exclaimed angrily. "You don't seem to care whether Zell lives or dies, so why would you care who he wants to fuck?"

Squall frowned. "What I do sexually has nothing to do with anything else in my life."

Rinoa laughed darkly. "Oh, really? Well, your sexual desires sure do make you an asshole." She spun on her heel. "I'm staying in Winhill to help Lavonia get better. We're comrades from now on... Nothing more." She gave him one last poisonous look and stormed out of the room.

Squall huffed, crossing his arms over his chest. "Well, Nida... I'm free now." He smiled distantly to himself. He remembered all the times that he and Nida had been alone on the bridge of the Garden together. Squall had wanted him even before he'd started dating Rinoa, but had never had the nerve to say anything to the Asian pilot. Squall figured he had to thank Rinoa for making him more open to go for what he wanted. And, what he wanted was Nida. "But... Zell?" Squall muttered to himself, looking out a window to the ocean. He could barely see the outline of the Centra continent across the blue water. "Do you really want to fuck me? I guess Rinoa's blabbermouth is good for something." He bit his lower lip. "I know you want me, Nida. I know you feel the same way. I wonder how you would react if Zell entered the picture, hmmm?"

Zell noticed that his boat was in the same condition as how he'd left it. "Seifer..." Zell trailed off. "Did you see any other SeeD come through here?"

Seifer cocked his head, looking around for monsters. His hands were twitching, ready to reach for the Hyperion strapped to his back. "SeeDs? No... Why?"

"There were some groups that came to Centra to gather information, and they disappeared."

Seifer frowned. "Well, I never saw them. Monsters probably got them, and dragged their bodies away. There are Ruby Dragons in the forest. They eat people."

Zell frowned. "Just don't let anything eat me, alright..." He held his stomach. "Man, this flu does not want to disappear."

Seifer winked. "Don't worry... I'll be the only thing on this continent that eats you."

Zell snorted, turning his face away to hide the blush. He could still feel Seifer's hands on his skin, Seifer's cock in his body. It kind of felt nice that they were acting like nothing really happened, but it also didn't sit well with Zell. It was like Seifer was purposely trying to show that it didn't affect him. Zell knew better, though, because he'd felt the desperation in Seifer's caresses. But, the tattooed blonde wasn't about to call Seifer on it.

"Okay..." Zell stepped into the boat. "I just hope I can stay conscious." He gave Seifer a lopsided grin. "Seifer... Thanks. Thanks for saving my life, for taking care of me."

"Don't even mention it, Chicken Wuss." Seifer gave Zell another wink. His face then became serious. "Can I give you a little bit of advice, Zell?"

Zell looked up at the other blonde. "Sure...?" He gave Seifer a perplexed look.

"People say and do things opposite from what they mean..." He smiled thinly at Zell. "I should go. Just... Take care of yourself, okay?" He gave Zell a salute, and began walking the other way.

Zell blinked a few times, not really sure what Seifer had meant by his little gem of advice. He shrugged, pushing his boat out into the ocean. Seifer Almasy wasn't really the person to give advice about people. As he floated away from shore, he picked up the oars, watching the tiny spec that was Seifer disappear, and felt something deep in his chest constrict again. He slowly rowed, his muscles still killing him. Zell knew the way to Winhill, so he arrived fairly quickly, his muscles aching, his fever returning. Maybe he should have stayed longer with Seifer. Maybe Seifer needed him... Zell laughed to himself. Seifer would kill Zell for pitying him. But, Zell couldn't really help it. The small blonde was thankful when he reached the beach outside Winhill. When he'd pulled the boat to shore, he collapsed on the beach, unable to go farther.

Zell sighed into the sand, and felt that he was laying there for a while. Eventually, he heard angry footsteps, like someone was stomping away or towards something. Then, he heard a voice. It almost sounded like an Angel. "Rinoa..." He croaked out.

"Zell?!" She gasped. "What...? Oh, My God...." She kneeled beside him, touching the side of Zell's face. "Shit!!! Zell, you're burning up!" She grunted, wrapping her arms around his body, and picking him up. "I'll take you back to Nida and the others, okay?" She said sadly. "Oh, Zell... I'm so sorry."

He looked up at Rinoa, surprised that she could carry him. She had a distant, dark look in her eyes. "Rinoa... What's wrong?"

She laughed darkly. "You're hurt and sick, that's what's wrong.... And... We'll talk later." She looked down at him, grunting. "You're heavier than you look." She shuffled towards Winhill. When they got into the town, Zell heard another gasp. Nida.

"Rinoa, what happened?" He felt Nida's hand on his face. "Jesus.. He has a fever." Zell felt his weight being transferred from Rinoa's arms to Nida's. "I heard about Squall..." Nida whispered.

"Squall...?" Zell croaked out.

"Zell, who did this to you?" Rinoa asked, as if forgetting Squall's name was even mentioned.

Zell tossed his head back and forth, feeling like he was going to pass out. "... Seifer..." he whispered. "Where are you...?" he breathed out before blacking out.

"Seifer?!" Rinoa gasped. "Seifer did this to him?"

"But... He asked where he was..." Nida pointed out, hurrying to the medical facilities. "I thought Seifer was dead."

"Let's just get him some help. We should probably talk to Squall, too..." Rinoa muttered, saying his name with utter scorn.

Squall looked down at Zell's body, wondering if it was true that Seifer hurt him. Squall wouldn't have really listened to Rinoa, but Nida also heard it, and Squall would take Nida's word as the Word of Hyne. Zell was healing now, and medicines and Elixirs had taken his fever away. Squall's eyes travelled across the room. Nida was on the other side of the room, looking at some charts, pretending that Squall wasn't there. Squall wanted to smack Rinoa. She'd probably poisoned Nida to him.

Zell murmured in his sleep, and Squall sat beside the small blonde's bed. When Zell's icy eyes opened, Squall's gaze briefly flickered to Nida, who noticed that Zell was up. Their gaze met for a fraction of a second, and Squall smirked, while Nida looked concerned for Zell. Nida then looked at Squall, frowned, and went back to what he was looking at.

"Squall...?" Zell whispered.

"Hey, Zell." Squall smiled at him. Even though Squall desperately would do anything to get Nida, he was glad that Zell was okay. "Feeling better?"

"Yeah..." Zell rubbed his head. "Where am I?"

"In Winhill... You still sound very tired..."

Zell nodded. "Yeah, I am...."

"Get some more rest," Squall whispered. He briefly looked at Nida, something that Zell noticed, and then Squall's lips came down, brushing against Zell's. The small blonde, even with his foggy senses, could hear Nida utter some sort of strange noise Zell furrowed his brow. People say and do things opposite from what they mean... Squall's lips brushed against Zell's again, and the blonde couldn't help the feeling of desire that went through him. Zell also couldn't help the fact that he was tired. However, something about Squall's attentions to him didn't sit well. Zell closed his eyes, and lay still, as if he was sleeping.

"You didn't poison him, did you?" Nida asked darkly after Zell had been silent for a few moments.

"No..." The brunette SeeD whispered. "He's just passed out." Squall sauntered over to Nida. "So, you heard about Rinoa and me, right?"

"I did..." Nida whispered, keeping his gaze on the charts in front of him.

"And?" Squall asked, pulling the papers out of Nida's hands. "I heard the noise you made when I kissed Zell. You were jealous."

"Squall..." Nida turned to face the other man, finding that Squall was standing very close to him. Their noses were almost bumping. "What are you doing?"

"I remember how much I wanted you when we were alone on the Garden bridge... When Quistis and Xu would leave, and it was only you and me."

"Squall... What about Zell? What about Rinoa?"

"Zell will be fine. And, Rinoa and I are through. Now, you and I can fuck to our heart's content."

"Don't you have any heart?" Nida demanded.

Squall smiled, his mouth moving to Nida's cheek. His moist mouth trailed over Nida's cheekbone, and moved to his earlobe. "You know, apart from hunting, a Lion is a very docile animal..." As Squall spoke, his tongue traced the curls of Nida's ear. "They sleep for most of the day, impassive, not caring about anything. True, you can't get too close to them, but they're still distant and aloof. That is..." Squall bit gently into Nida's earlobe. "Until they find a mate. When a Lion finds a Lioness that he wants, that he desires, he will exact his dominance to get her. He will chase her, he will do anything, even eat her cubs to get her." Squall smiled into Nida's hair, his tongue moving against Nida's throat. "And, he always gets what he wants..."

Nida wanted to crane away from the touch, but found he couldn't. It felt too damn good. He wanted to kick himself, but his body was totally reacting to Squall's touch, to the way his words sounded, to how his breath felt against Nida's ear. When Squall's mouth moved near his own, Nida found himself tilting his neck, and meeting Squall's mouth, capturing it in a kiss. Squall's tongue immediately pressed into Nida's mouth, and the Asian pilot felt like Squall was melting. This cold man, made of ice and stone, was melting against him. When Squall's arms wrapped around him, Nida couldn't help but reciprocate in the sinful embrace.

Zell tried to pay attention to what was going on, but they were whispering to each other, and whatever Squall was saying must have had an effect, because he heard both men gently moaning. It reminded Zell of himself and Seifer. The sound of flesh against flesh, water lapping around them, echoed in Zell's mind as he fell under again.

Nida broke away from the kiss. "We shouldn't do this... Zell could wake up."

"So?" Squall breathed, attacking Nida's lips once more. He'd waited so long to kiss Nida Nomura, and wouldn't wait any longer. He wanted to scream when he heard a door open. Lavonia came in the room, her face still pale, but looking healthy once more.

"Sorry to interrupt, but our machinery is picking up that magical source again. This time, it's at the Deep Sea Research Facility..."

"That far away?" Nida asked.

"Maybe it's Seifer...?" Lavonia asked. "Zell said that Seifer was the one who did this to him."

"But..." Nida began, wanting to point out that Zell had also asked for Seifer, but Squall interrupted him.

"Let's head there. Rinoa can stay here with Zell. We'll take the Ragnarok to the Deep Sea Research Facility."

"What if Seifer's there?" Lavonia asked.

"We'll deal with him," Squall stated blandly. He gave a small smile to Nida before leading the way to the Ragnarok.

Seifer sighed, sitting in front of the water where the Ultima Weapon had been housed for hundreds of years until Squall's part had woken it up.

"You sound troubled..." Bahamut stated.

"I hope Zell's okay," Seifer whispered. "And, also these Draw Points are going insane. I knew that it probably originated from here. I'm just glad I can confirm it now. The Fractured Millennium will begin if I can't figure out what's going on here..." He looked at some of the machinery around. "I'm sort of stumped. Zell was always good with this kind of thing..."

"You're better off without Zell," Bahamut said in his calm, echoing voice. "He hurt you, just like I thought he would. He left to be with Squall Leonhart."

"No strings..." Seifer whispered. "And, it's okay. Really. It was nice to be around other people, though."

"Then, why didn't you ask him to stay?"

Seifer laughed. "Because, I don't beg. I never have, and I never would. Zell's got feelings for Squall." Seifer frowned darkly. "I'm sure Squall doesn't return them, though."

"Forget about him. Humans only disappoint, anyway." Bahamut flapped his wings, soaring up in the air. "I'll go up to the top."

Seifer nodded as Bahamut disappeared. "Yeah, I guess you're right, Bahamut...." He looked around at the machines, something tugging within him. He picked up a discarded piece. "Oh, my God..." He turned the metal over in his hands. "Ellone..." He whispered. "The Junction Ellone machine...." He looked all around him. Thousands upon thousands of pieces of machinery were scattered everywhere in this Research Facility. "Ultimecia, you clever bitch...." He looked around again. "You knew that the machinery was here, and twisted Time to bring about your Ellone machine... You've planned the Fracture for all this time..." The trouble was, Seifer had to figure out how to stop it.

Squall, Nida and Lavonia entered the Deep Sea Research Facility, not expecting any monsters. But, they came face to face with Bahamut, who looked up as soon as they entered.

"Bahamut!!" Squall exclaimed. That must have meant that Seifer was around somewhere, too.

"Squall Leonhart..." Bahamut greeted darkly. "Why have you come here?"

"There is a strong energy here."

"The Fractured Millennium will soon begin if it's not stopped," Bahamut answered cryptically. Squall, Nida and Lavonia looked at each other, confused.

"What's the Fractured Millennium?" Squall asked. "And, where is Seifer?" Squall made a move to pass Bahamut to reach the deeper part of the Research Facility, but a giant wing prevented him from going anywhere.

"You will not descend into here..." Bahamut commanded, his voice laced with threat.

"Let me pass!" Squall demanded.

"You are not my master anymore!" The Dragon said.

"And, Seifer Almasy is?" Lavonia asked, her metal claws out in front of her.

"If you want to fight..." Squall trailed off.

"You will not win this time," Bahamut pointed out.

"Shit..." Nida trailed off, pulling out his sickles. "This is not good. We don't have time to fight with Bahamut. And, who knows what Seifer is doing..."

Lavonia looked at a miniature radar that was attached to her belt. "That magical energy is getting stronger. What the Hell is the Fractured Millennium?!" She demanded.

"Ultimecia's last attempt at Time Kompression," Bahamut hissed.

"So, Seifer is still working for her..." Squall muttered under his breath. "Fine." He turned his attention to Bahamut. "If you won't let us pass, we'll go through you.

Bahamut screeched, and lashed out at Lavonia with his tail. She jumped out of the way, but was nearly hit.

"We have to hurry!" She pointed out. "That magical energy is getting stronger with each passing minute."

Zell woke up, and his eyes met the calm, dark gaze of Rinoa. "Rin...?" He asked.

"Yes," she answered quietly. "You're still in Winhill. How do you feel?"

"Better," Zell answered truthfully. He slowly sat up, looking around. "Where are Squall and Nida?"

Rinoa frowned deeply. "Squall could be in Hell for all I care. But, they went to Battleship Island."

Zell's eyes widened. "Why?"

She cocked her head. "Because there's a magical energy there. It keeps getting stronger."

"The Fractured Millennium..." Zell whispered.

"What?" Rinoa asked, confused. "And, they figured Seifer would be there. This way, they can get him back."

"Get him back?" Zell echoed, now the one who was confused. "What are you talking about?"

"Seifer was the one who did this to you, right?" Rinoa stated. "You said it was him when me and Nida brought you into town..."

"No!" Zell exclaimed angrily. "Shit... We have to go to Battleship Island."

"What? Why?" Rinoa asked, trying to push Zell back onto the bed. "You need to rest."

"Seifer saved my life!" Zell cried. "He helped me. I can't let Squall and the others do anything to him."

"Seifer... Helped you?" Rinoa cocked her head. "He was in Centra?"

"I'll explain on the way!!" Zell screeched, already stepping into his SeeD uniform, which had been on a chair beside his bed. "Come on, Rinoa. We have to help Seifer... And, stop the Fractured Millennium."

"What's this... Fractured Millennium?" Rinoa asked as she ran after Zell. They both headed to where a small SeeD aircraft was. "Wait!" She commanded, pulling out her Shooting Star. Her blue duster fluttered behind her, and she smoothed her hands over her dark blue dress. "Zell! What are you babbling about?"

"Ultimecia left her legacy after we killed her!" Zell screamed, jumping in the plane. "Get in!"

Rinoa did as she was told when she heard the name Ultimecia. "So, what does this have to do with Seifer?" Rinoa asked as they took flight.

"Because Seifer is trying to prevent it. He picked up a few abilities from Ultimecia after being her Knight. She's using the Draw Points to trying a rip Time," Zell explained as he steered towards the remote Research Center. "And, Battleship Island is like one big Draw Point..."

"So, Time must be starting to Compress?" Rinoa finished, her eyes wide. "This is terrible. And, if Squall and the others do something to Seifer, we're all doomed."

Zell nodded grimly. "He's the only one who knows what to do. At least he has Bahamut to protect him... I shouldn't have left so soon." He slammed his hands on the steering wheel. "I thought I wanted to come back to see Squall..."

Rinoa flinched. "Oh, Zell.. I kind of let it slip that you like Squall." She gave him a sad look. "We were fighting, and I didn't mean to tell him..." She sighed. "I'm so sorry."

Zell pursed his lips. "He used me!" Zell muttered. "I gave up Seifer for someone who used me!"

Rinoa was confused. "Huh? What are you talking about?"

"When I first woke up, Squall and Nida were in the room. Squall kissed me. I couldn't really put my finger on it, but it just felt wrong somehow, and Squall kept looking over at Nida. Then, I think Squall said some stuff to him, and they started kissing... It's all a blur because I passed out again."

"That sounds like Squall..." Rinoa muttered. "Anything to get Nida in bed."

"Oh... Seifer..." Zell whispered.

"What happened between you two?" Rinoa asked as the Deep Sea Research Facility neared.

"That doesn't matter right now..." Zell muttered, landing the ship. "We have to help Seifer."

Seifer ran up the stairs, heading to the top floor. He felt very proud of himself. He wanted to get Bahamut out of here, because he'd already put his plan into motion. He'd figured out, after looking at all the machinery, that the Junction Ellone Machine had existed from the parts of the Deep Sea Research Facility, so basically, the entirety of Battleship Island was the Junction Ellone Machine that Ultimecia used. He already had plans about blowing it up. Seifer stopped to catch his breath. The explosives that he'd set up, made from pieces he'd found, as well as a little bit of magic that he could muster, were set to go in twenty minutes. That left enough time to get out easily, but not a lot for dilly dally. But, he only had one floor to go, and Bahamut could fly away easily. He figured to go to Winhill next instead of Centra, to tell Zell and the others about what was going on.

"Hey, Bahamut, we have to get..." He stopped when he saw the Dragon fighting with Squall, Nida and Lavonia. "What's going on?" Seifer exclaimed.

"Seifer!" Squall exclaimed. He stabbed his gunblade deep into Bahamut's underbelly.

"NO!" Seifer exclaimed. "Stop. What are you doing!" He pulled out the Hyperion, and stood in front of the bleeding Dragon.

"You're still working for Ultimecia!" Lavonia exclaimed. "You're helping the 'Fractured Millennium' come to pass!"

Seifer scoffed. "No! I'm trying to..."

"Save it," Squall muttered. "You're still in league with her. After what you did to Zell, what makes you think we're going to believe you."

"What I did to Zell?" Seifer said darkly. "You mean save his life?!"

"He said you were the one who hurt him..." Squall hissed.

"But..." Nida interrupted. "Zell also said..." He frowned when he was drowned out again.

"We have to get out of here!" Seifer yelled. "This place is going to blow up."

"Shut up!" Squall commanded, pointing his bloody gunblade at Seifer's throat. "I won't listen to Ultimecia's Knight."

"Stop!" Nida exclaimed, but he said it at the exact same time that someone else did. Zell came running in, tailed by Rinoa.

"Zell!" Seifer exclaimed. "You told them I hurt you?" Seifer's eyes actually looked hurt.

"NO!" Zell cried. "Stop it!" He stood between Squall's sharp blade and Seifer, holding his arms out. "I won't let you hurt Seifer, Squall."

"What?" Squall looked at Zell like he had three heads. "This is Seifer Almasy! Your enemy. He hurt you, and he's helping Ultimecia achieve Time Compression again!"

"No!" Zell repeated. "Seifer saved my life, and he's trying to prevent Time Kompression."

"We have to get out of here!" Seifer cried. "It's going to explode. I set bombs to destroy this place."

"What?" Bahamut grunted.

"This place is the past form of the Junction Ellone Machine."

Zell's eyes widened. "That's why there were so many rifts here..."

Seifer pushed Zell along. "Come on!"

"Not so fast!" Squall commanded. "How do we know you're telling the truth. Zell has been sick. He could be thinking anything."

"NOT NOW!" Seifer screamed angrily. "If you want to die, you can stay here." He pushed past Squall, and looked at Bahamut. "Are you okay?"

"Yes," the Dragon answered simply.

"We have to get out of here..." Seifer whispered. He looked harshly at Squall. "I'll get Bahamut to fly me to Winhill. We can discuss your stupid accusations there." He quickly got on Bahamut's back, and flew off.

Squall just blinked a few times. He felt Nida tugging on his arm, and he followed the other man out to the Ragnarok. He saw Zell and Rinoa get in the small plane they'd come in, and he slumped in the seat beside Nida when the Asian man started the Ragnarok.

Zell sighed deeply, looking out the window. The sun was gone, and the water looked very dark, the moon hitting it only slightly. He was waiting for Squall and Seifer to finish talking. He was glad that Seifer had discovered the problem. The resonating rocks in the Deep Sea Research Facility had helped with Draw Points, as well as calling the Ultima Weapon when it'd been there. And, Zell couldn't help but be thoroughly impressed with Seifer figuring out that the Junction Ellone Machine had come from the Battleship Island ruins. He almost felt proud.


The tattooed blonde turned when he heard his name. Rinoa was standing behind him, a sheepish look on her pretty face. "Oh, hi Rinoa."

"I'm so sorry!" Rinoa burst out. "I should have never betrayed your confidence by blurting to Squall..."

"It's okay!" Zell exclaimed, smiling at Rinoa as he waved his hands. "Actually, it was probably for the best. I saw that Squall will never want me. His... Almost unhealthy lust for Nida prevents that."

Rinoa frowned. "I was hoping that Nida would bluntly refuse him... But, it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Nida's a sweet guy. He can do better."

Zell shrugged. "Well, it's for the best. It actually opened my eyes, so I guess I should be thanking you."

Rinoa balked, laughing in disbelief. "Really?"

"Yeah..." He whispered. "So, you're single now..."

She laughed. "Yeah, it appears so." Her face darkened for a moment, then brightened again. "So..." Rinoa leaned against the wall beside him. "What happened between you and Seifer. Squall could have accidentally killed you, you know."

"I know," Zell whispered. "But, Seifer saved my life. I couldn't let Squall hurt him."

"Is that all?" Rinoa asked sceptically.

Zell smiled distantly. "Maybe I'll tell you some other time."

They both looked up as the door opened. Seifer came out, looking tired and sort of pissed off. "God..." he muttered, rubbing his gloved hands over his face. "Squall can be real bitch when he wants to be."

"Tell me about it..." Rinoa muttered. "I guess I should be thanking you, Seifer." She gave him a wink. "You saved us from a danger we didn't even know existed. I kind of feel guilty for even using Draw Points at all..." She laughed, running her hands through her long raven hair. "Well, I'll give you two some time to talk." She frowned when Squall came out of the same room Seifer had been in. "I suddenly feel tired..."

Squall shot her a look, then turned his attention to Nida. His eyes lit up when he looked at the other man, who seemed almost annoyed.

Zell couldn't help but sneer a little at Squall. He figured he'd get over Squall wanting to use him to make Nida jealous, but Squall could suffer for a little while.

When Seifer and Zell were alone, the taller blonde leaned against the wall, in the same place Rinoa had been standing. "Thanks..." Seifer whispered. "For saving my life and everything."

"That makes us even...." Zell whispered, meeting Seifer's gaze. "I'm so sorry," Zell admitted. "I didn't want them to think that you hurt me... I don't even know what I said."

"No, it's okay... Nida straightened everything out. Squall wouldn't listen to me at first, but as soon as Nida said anything, it was okay..." He frowned, his beautiful face scrunching up. "Squall can be a real fucking prick sometimes."

"I'm starting to see that..." Zell said quietly. He looked at Seifer, and they remained silent for a few moments. Zell was the first to break the silence. "I guess the Fractured Millennium can't be a threat anymore, if the machinery is destroyed..."

"I'll still keep my eye on it," Seifer replied. "When Ultimecia is concerned, you can never be too careful."

"What are you going to do now?" Zell asked quietly.

Seifer shrugged. "I don't know. Go back to the Ruins, maybe..."

"Won't you be lonely?" Zell blurted out. "I... I'm sorry."

"You're probably right..." Seifer whispered. "After we... You know... I just realized... I miss people. I mean, Bahamut is very loyal to me, and the Tonberrys are funny, but..."

"It's not the same," Zell whispered.

"No," Seifer concurred.

"Seifer, you know when I said 'no strings attached'?"

Seifer nodded, his greenish eyes thoughtful. "Yeah?"

"I lied. There are strings attached. Because... I don't want you to leave again. I want to know that I'll see you again..." Zell turned to face the taller man. "I want to know that you're still around."

Seifer sighed. "I have to agree. When I gave you that advice, I was actually talking about myself... People say and do things opposite from what they mean. I meant it as a hint to you. I would have never begged you to stay, and I won't beg anything of you now, but... I really didn't want you to leave. Even if you were sick and I had to fucking wait on you, I still liked having you around, and when you touched me...."

Zell reached out, grazing his fingers over Seifer's cheek. "I actually used the advice concerning Squall. Maybe it helped. At least I'm not hung up on him anymore."

Seifer laughed sadly. "So....?"

"You won't have to beg me..." Zell whispered, wrapping his arms around Seifer's neck. He titled his head upwards, and met Seifer's lips in a kiss that caused his heart to jump in his chest, and ceased Time.


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