Warning: This story contains yaoi/shounen-ai material. If you do not know what the terms 'yaoi' or 'shounen-ai' mean, then you probably have no business being here. If you are uncomfortable with boyxboy love, then you probably shouldn't be here. You have been warned. This story takes place after the game's end, so if you haven't finished it, you probably shouldn't read it as it does contain spoilers.

From the Beginning

Chapter Three - Known Truth

By Antenora

They had left the club immediately and headed back to the palace, only pausing to tell Kiros that Squall wasn't feeling well. Kiros had smiled and given them a sly nod and a wink before promising he would explain the situation to the others.

"So... ya feelin' better, yet?" Zell asked, flopping down on his bed and glancing over at Squall uncertainly.

Squall nodded, taking a seat on Irvine's bed while Quistis took a seat on the floor between the two beds, crossing her legs demurely in front of her. "Yeah, I... Did you see that guy I was dancing with?"

"The hot blond?" Zell asked, grinning wickedly. "Yeah, I saw him."

"Him?" Quistis raised a delicate brow in Zell's direction. "Since when do you go both ways?"

"I like variety. Besides, didn't ya ever notice how much time Irvine and I spend together?"

Quistis blinked, obviously shocked. "You and IRVINE?"

"Surprised that he ain't the ladies' man he pretends to be?"

"No, not really. I just thought he'd have better taste."

"Hey now!" Zell growled, chucking his pillow at Quistis' head.

Quistis caught the pillow easily, still grinning from ear to ear. "You got him drunk, didn't you?"

Zell frowned, not quite understanding the joke. "We were both drunk... it just sort of happened."

"Huh. Well, you learn something new every day." Quistis commented dryly, shaking her head. "Selphie must be heartbroken. Weren't they dating for a while there?"

"Are. Present Tense. They ARE dating. He hasn't told her shit. In fact, he's not plannin' on telling her or anybody else for that matter. Bastard. You'd think he was embarrassed of me or something." Zell sighed, his eyes growing uncharacteristically serious. "I dunno what the problem is. 'Sides that you two are the only people I've told and I don't think you'll be runnin' out to snitch to Selphie."

"Point taken. Want me to kick his ass?" Quistis inquired, her expression calm.

"Nah. Ain't worth it. He just ain't gettin' none from now on." Zell stated, folding his arms across his broad chest.

"Well, as long as you're okay with it. So, let's get back to the hot blond before I discover any more things I never wanted to know. No, wait, I do have to ask one more thing before we get to the hot blond. Squall, why were you dancing with a man? In fact, why were you dancing with anyone besides us? You have a G-I-R-L-F-R-I-E-N-D. An obnoxious, whiny, sickeningly cheerful bitch of a girlfriend, but a girlfriend none the less. Don't tell me that abstinance has finally driven you over the edge."

Squall shrugged, "I was just dancing. I wasn't aware dancing with another man made you instantly gay."

Zell grinned, his problems with Irvine apparently forgotten, "I think the official rule is: You can dance with another man and still be straight, but if you enjoy it you're questionable."

"Good rule." Quistis murmured, nodding to Zell before turning her attention back to Squall. "So?"

"So what?" Squall responded, frowning.

"So did you enjoy it?"

"I... I don't know. Maybe. I don't know."

Zell laughed, "Well, if any man could turn you out it would be that blond. He was damn hot!"

"I think it was Seifer."

Zell's grin instantly dropped into a frown as his eyes widened, "Ah, don't say things like that, Squall. Now I feel dirty."

"I'm not joking."

"Are you sure?" Quistis asked softly, her blue gaze full of concern. "I know you've been thinking about him lately, but..."

"It was him, Quisty. He looked... different, but it was definitely him."

"How do you know?"

"This." Squall touched a fingertip lightly against the deep scar between his eyes, the only blemish which marred his otherwise handsome face. "He had the same scar. It was definitely him. But as soon as I recognized him, he took off into the crowd."

"Well, if it is him, he's certainly changed. The Seifer we knew never would have run, especially not from you." Quistis adjusted her glasses thoughtfully. "No, he might have run from someone else, but not from you. You two were so close..."

"Close?! You call this close?!" Squall scoffed, tapping his fingertip against his scar once more.

"No, really. You were virtually a hermit. You ignored everyone, everyone but him. Even if all that inspired you to act out was rage and stupidity, at least it was something. None of us were ever able to inspire that kind of passion in you, not even Rinoa. Rinoa appealed to your kinder side, even made you smile, but it was nothing like the pure emotion I saw Seifer bring out again and again. And you were his rival. The one he respected the most. The only person I think he ever saw as a challenge. You were his equal, his match. I also believe you were probably the one who he trusted the most."

"What about his groupies: Ya Know and Rage?" Zell asked, leaning forward as Quistis continued her explaination.

"Fujin and Raijin were very much his friends. Completely loyal only to him. However, he didn't have to work for them. They just came to him. He wanted you, Squall. Your friendship, your trust. The problem was that he, like you, was too stubborn to admit that he needed you. It was easier for him to pick fights with you, to provoke a reaction from you. He couldn't stand to be ignored by you."

"You've put a hellva lot of thought into this, haven't you?" Zell asked softly, awed by Quistis' analysis.

"What else did I have to do? I've been an instructor since I was sixteen years old. It was unprofessional to be friends with my students and the other instructors were just so... old. I spent a lot of time questioning and observing my students' behavior

patterns.""That's actually kind of scary." Squall grumbled distractedly. Quistis' words disturbed him, stirring up memories from those days when they'd all been SeeD cadets. The fights he'd had with Seifer. Seifer's words to him during the Dollet mission. Seifer applauding him and the others when they'd been accepted as SeeDs and he had not. The shock of seeing Seifer on the television monitor, threatening President Deling. His disappearance and reemergence at the side of the Sorceress. Being tortured in the D-District prison. Seifer's eyes during that time, so different from the eyes he knew so well.

"Squall. Zell to Squall. Come in, Squall." A pillow followed Zell's words, smacking Squall straight in the face. Squall blinked at the blond man as the pillow fell into his lap. "Welcome back to the show."


"Squall, listen. Seifer's probably been in hiding all this time. Esthar would be the ideal place to do so. It's huge and few people living here have ever actually seen him. Taking that into consideration, it wouldn't have been too difficult for him to alter his appearance a little and blend in with the crowd. You said he looked different, right? Different how?"

"There was something strange about his hair, but the lights made it hard to tell, it seemed darker in some places. Plus, it was longer and he has bangs now. He was wearing glasses and he's lost weight... a lot of weight."

"And the tattoos! Don't forget those!" Zell remarked, eager to be of assistance.

Quistis and Squall both frowned at him. "Tattoos?"

"Ah, c'mon, you didn't see 'em? They're kind of like mine, only they run all the way up and down his arms. Like he's got blacks cords winding around his arms. I don't believe you didn't notice. They were the sexiest thing about him after his body."

Quistis chose to ignore the last, focusing instead on the useful part of Zell's contribution. "Now, that's something we can use. Tattoos like that have to be pretty rare. It shouldn't be too hard to track him down if we just ask around in town tomorrow."

"What if he doesn't want to be found?" Zell asked, glancing back and forth between Squall and Quistis. "I mean, he did go a hellva long way to keep from being noticed and he took off when he saw you."

"Even if that's true we should still make sure he's all right." Quistis replied, her gaze on Squall, who remained silent, his expression unreadable. "We'll keep this between the three of us and since we'll be gone in a few days he won't have to see us anymore if he doesn't want to."

"Ah, hell, let's do it. Couldn't hurt to try, huh? We probably won't even be able to find him, but if it'll make Squall feel better, we should give it a shot."

"Make me feel better?" Squall whispered, his gray eyes fathomless. "I wonder..."

"Don't think about it too much, Squall. Let's just do it." Quistis responded gently, pulling Squall to his feet and steering him towards the door. "Now it's time for you to get back to your room before Rinoa and the others come back. It simply wouldn't do for them to come back and suspect that something strange is going on."

Squall nodded mutely and allowed Quistis to usher him out the door, not even noticing that Quistis stayed behind in Zell's room as he wandered off to find his own room still locked in a daze. Once Squall had disappeared safely into his room, Quistis turned back to find Zell starring at her a slight smirk on his face. "What?" She asked softly, finding herself smirking back.

"That's a new one for you, Quisty. Since when do you do anything without thinking out every possible outcome? You never do anything without a game plan." Zell questioned, eyeing Quistis suspiously.

Quistis merely flashed Zell an innocent smile. "Who says I don't have one?"

"I thought as much. Well, don't tell me. I probably don't want to know." Zell grumbled, his eyes narrowing further.

"Well, fine then. I wasn't going to tell you anyway, blabbermouth." Quistis' smile brightened markedly before she turned to exit. Before closing the door, she turned back to throw one last glance in Zell's direction. "Get some sleep. We're going to start the search tomorrow morning."

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