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 Six - Contemplation

By Antenora

He was awakened in the dead of night and found himself blinking up at a frighteningly foreign ceiling. For a brief moment he almost panicked, but then he remembered that he was Squall Leonhart, the commander of Garden. The commander of Garden did not start screaming like a sissy just because he didn't quite know where he was. He was a man of cool logic. He was a man who'd often been called such things as cold and merciless. A man such as he did not panic over the sight of a strange ceiling.

The facts came back to him slowly, now that he was fully awake, and he remembered the almost-fight with Rinoa, walking aimlessly through the streets of Esthar, finding Seifer...


He was in Seifer's apartment. Seifer had offered to let him stay here until he worked out what he was going to say to Rinoa. That was why he was starring up at a ceiling he didn't recognize and probably why he had almost panicked over it. The only question remaining was why he had woken up in the first place.

That question was answered a moment later as a low moan rumbled through the small apartment, reaching his ears despite the wall which should have muffled the sound somewhat. Seifer was moaning and it sounded more a moan of pain then pleasure. Damn, what had he gotten himself into staying here? Slowly, Squall pushed back the blankets that lay over him, inhaling sharply as cold air hit his bare skin. Why the hell was it so cold? He would swear it hadn't been so damn cold before.

Still mildly annoyed by the freezing air, Squall got to his feet and padded silently across the carpeted floor to Seifer's room. He considered knocking, but that just seemed too strange. Of course, this entire situation was pretty damn strange. He didn't even know why it was he was standing in front of Seifer's door at all. Seifer was a big boy, whatever nightmares consumed him he could damn well deal with all by his damn self. Another moan sounded out and Squall sighed. If he didn't go in there and wake the bastard up he'd never get any sleep.

That decided, Squall opened the door and stepped inside the darkened room. He could barely make out Seifer's form on the bed in the dim light, which shone through the bedroom's only window. He was still fully clothed from what Squall could tell, boots and all. That did it. He really was the same Seifer that Squall had always known. Seifer never did really know how to take care of himself. Squall let out a quiet curse and strode over to the bed, giving the blond a firm punch in the arm.

Seifer started awake, blinking up uncertainly at a very grumpy Squall Leonhart. Well, that wasn't a sight he'd been expecting to wake up to at all. "Squall?" He questioned, his voice gruff with sleep. Squall merely frowned down at him, crossing his arms across his bare chest. His silence made Seifer feel strangely awkward and embarrassed. "Wh.... what?" He asked finally, his voice betraying more of his nervousness then he would have liked.

"Can't you at least take your boots off like a normal person before you go to bed?" Squall inquired, raising an eyebrow in Seifer's direction as if Seifer should have expected him to come in at three o'clock in the morning just to tell him that.

Seifer resisted the urge to punch Squall in his smug mouth, sparing a glance towards his shoes before grinning up at his disgruntled houseguest. "This is my place, Leonhart. I can go to bed any way I damn well please. Don't tell me you barged in here this early in the morning to tell me that?"

"No. You were loud. It woke me up." Squall murmured, his expression softening a bit.

That was probably the truth, Seifer reflected, Fujin had mentioned that he tended to get rather loud when he was having a nightmare. And he had been having a nightmare. Torture, Squall, and Ultimicia: the usual suspects. He intended to tell Squall to mind his own damn business and go the hell back to bed, but all that came out was a quiet 'oh.'

Squall sat down on the edge of the bed and Seifer found himself starring at Squall's bare chest and the way the lean muscles bunched as the brunette sat tensely at the edge of his bed. A soft sigh drew his attention back to Squall's face as the brown-haired man spoke, "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Hell, no," Seifer answered immediately, thoughts of Squall's muscles forgotten. "I don't even want to fucking think about it."

"I have nightmares, too." Squall murmured, bracing his arms against the edge of the bed and starring off somewhere beyond Seifer's head. "All the time."

There was something horribly sad in Squall's expression, some emotion that couldn't be expressed in words and Seifer found himself sitting up and reaching for the brunette despite himself. Squall didn't protest as Seifer's arms found their way around him, didn't move away when Seifer pulled him closer. If he'd thought about it, Seifer probably wouldn't have ever reached for Squall in the first place, but he hadn't thought about it. It had been mere reaction, as natural as breathing and it still seemed that way as he pulled Squall back against his chest. Squall made no move to resist, but he didn't relax in Seifer's embrace either. If anything, he actually seemed to tense up even further, doing a remarkable impression of a marble statue.

Seifer sighed, resting his forehead against the younger man's bare shoulder. It wasn't that he'd expected Squall to just melt against him, he hadn't expected anything at all. Still, it was nice to be able to hold someone again. Comforting. He rather hoped Squall felt the same way and that was why he was allowing this. "We're both pretty fucked up, aren't we?" He asked softly, not really expecting a reply.

"Yes." Squall replied, his voice still cold and distant, "We are both really fucked up."

A soft chuckle escaped Seifer's lips, "If you know that, why are you here?"

"I didn't want to go back there," Squall replied, his tone of voice making the answer sound rehearsed.

"So? You could have gone and stayed at a hotel or something. Why did you come looking for me?" Seifer responded, enjoying the feel of Squall's cool skin against his forehead.

"I didn't..." Squall murmured softly, leaning his head back against Seifer's shoulder so that he could stare up at the ceiling. "It was an accident that I ran into you and the others earlier."

"Fine," Seifer grumbled irritably.

Squall remained silent for a moment, certain it was his turn to speak, but not quite knowing what to say. He hadn't thought about it, really. Seifer had offered and he hadn't said anything, but he hadn't left either. Why? Because he wanted to know why Seifer had run out of that club like the hounds of hell were on his heels when he'd realized the idenity of the person he was dancing with. He wanted to know why Seifer wasn't acting at all like the Seifer he had known. Why he'd liked the feel of Seifer's body against his own... why he still liked it...

This was really stupid, Squall realized silently, though he wasn't sure what he was referring to. It could be any number of things, but letting Seifer hold him was probably topped the list. He wasn't even sure why Seifer was doing it, but it was nice. Nice to be held by someone who didn't expect anything from him. Rinoa always expected something for her embraces. A kiss, maybe. Words, usually. He'd become an expert at figuring out what each embrace meant, but with this... he couldn't tell. As far as Squall could tell, Seifer was just holding him for the sake of holding him and that was something strange. Strange and unexpected... but not unwelcome.

"I don't know." Squall murmured finally, not quite sure why he even said it out loud. "What do see, Seifer? When you dream?"

"Still going on about that?" Seifer grumbled, tightening his hold on Squall as he debated whether or not to just break down and say it. "Her. I dream about her and..." ...and you, he finished silently. Squall remained silent for a moment, just long enough to make Seifer wonder if he should have said anything at all, before he twisted around in the circle of Seifer's arms so that he could see him clearly.

"Ultimicia?" He asked quietly, accessing Seifer with his eyes. What was he looking for? Seifer wondered, meeting Squall's gaze evenly.

"Yeah, her. Who the fuck did you think I was talking about?" Seifer muttered irritably. Why did Squall care about his nightmares? Squall had always been pretty self-involved, wrapped up in his own thoughts without a care for anyone else's. It didn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense. Of course, very little about this night made a whole hell of a lot of sense. Squall was practically sitting in his lap, half-naked and asking him about his dreams. Maybe he was going crazy. That would explain a lot. Sure, that would make perfect sense, he was crazy, there was an iceberg sitting in his lap, and any minute purple penguins would start dancing across his ceiling.

"...did you ever see it?" Squall finished quietly, snapping Seifer from his thoughts.


"Her castle... did you ever see it?"

Darkness, pain, the never-ending screams of the dying. "No," Seifer lied, looking away from the man in his arms. "I never saw it." Not really that much of a lie. He had heard it more then seen it. Why was Squall asking all these questions? What the hell was this?

"What happened to you after the time compression? Where did you go?" Squall asked and Seifer barely resisted the urge to strangle him. Trust Squall to finally become positively verbose at the most unexpected, inconvenient fucking time. It reminded him vaguely of a shirt he'd seen Raijin wearing once; 'No one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition' or some shit like that. It'd almost be funny if it didn't make him so uncomfortable. He didn't want to lie to Squall and, even more then that, he didn't want to tell Squall the truth.

"Why all the damn questions all of a sudden, Leonhart? You weren't ever interested in anyone but yourself before?" Seifer spat, releasing his hold on Squall. He was about to haul off and shove the brown-haired man off the bed when Squall's look stopped him. There it was again. That strange sad expression, as if he were... hurt? Suffering? What the hell was that look about anyway?

"I'm trying," Squall said finally, his voice quiet and almost ashamed. Which was, of course, ridiculous. Squall Leonhart was a iceberg and icebergs weren't ashamed of anything. Seifer tensed beneath that strange gaze, knowing instinctively that something was very, very wrong here and it, for once, wasn't just him. Slowly, the sadness vanished from Squall's expression to be replaced by the unreadable, narrow-eyed expression Seifer was more accustomed to. Squall's eyes faded to a particularly disturbing dark blue, which Seifer recognized easily as the first sign that Squall was really pissed off.

When he spoke, Squall's words were clipped and abrupt. "I'm trying, Seifer. I'm trying and you're not fucking helping."

"Trying to what? Help me? Isn't that sweet." Seifer spat, mistaking concern for pity.

"Fuck it. Whatever," Squall grumbled, practically leaping off the bed and storming across the room. What was he trying to do? Get Seifer to tell him what the hell was the matter with him? Why he'd run off and left him and everyone else believing he was dead for over a year? Why the fuck did he even care? What was he even doing here? In Seifer's apartment? In Seifer's bedroom? Why had he let Seifer hold him? Because he wanted it? Because Seifer wanted it? He didn't know. What the hell was the matter with him? He wasn't good at this sort of shit. Trying to help someone else... he just wasn't built for it. Seifer was right about that. He'd never wanted to be a hero, never wanted to be someone people looked to for guidance, for leadership. Never wanted to be involved in anyone else's problems.

He had reached the door and was pulling it open when Seifer hit him from behind, slamming the door closed once more and pinning Squall quite efficiently against the rough wooden surface. Squall tensed, feeling Seifer's breath against the back of his neck. It was warm, just like the rest of Seifer's body. As warm as he was cold.

"Sorry." Seifer murmured, letting his head drop against the wall next to Squall's. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that about you... it's not true."

"Yes, it is. This was a mistake," Squall replied evenly, starring hard at the door. "I just wanted to make sure you were all

right.""I know." Seifer murmured, his voice rough with some unspoken emotion. "I know."

Squall's eyes widened as he felt tears slip across his bare skin. This wasn't happening. Seifer was NOT crying. Seifer didn't cry. Seifer couldn't cry. Seifer had never cried. Not once that he could remember. But Seifer was crying now. No gut-wrenching sobs or sniveling, just silent tears falling against Squall's bare shoulder with the weight of a lifetime of pain behind them.

"We're really fucked up," Squall murmured, repeating their earlier comments and earning a rough, tired laugh for his trouble.

"I'm glad you're here," Seifer commented, pushing away from Squall and striding back to his bed, collapsing down on it with a slight smile on his face. "You can go back to bed, Squall." It was a dismissal and an unspoken assurance all rolled into one neat, tidy little sentence. Squall gave a nod and opened the door, stepping through without a word.

As he was about to pull the door shut behind him, Squall hesitated, casting a glance back at Seifer who was already lying on his bed once more with his eyes closed. Still completely dressed. Squall's gaze narrowed, his tone full of the threat of impending violence. "Take off those fucking boots or I'll come over there and take them off for you."

Seifer chuckled, toeing off the boots and letting them drop to the floor with two heavy thumps as Squall closed the door.

"I am a burrito."

Quistis cracked one eye open to peer across at her roommate, who was currently wrapped tightly within a cocoon of blankets. Selphie smiled brightly at Quistis or at least Quistis guessed that's what the girl was doing. All she could really see of Selphie was the girl's merry brown eyes. "Good morning, Selphie."

"Burrito," was Selphie's only reply and Quistis couldn't help smiling at that. Selphie really was cute sometimes.

"What are you doing? It's only..." Quistis glanced towards the clock on her bedside table, "...eight. Why are you up already?"

"I've been up all night," Selphie answered, pulling the blankets away from her face. "Can you help me?"

"I don't know if I'm qualified to provide you with the help that you need." Quistis replied evenly, still smiling.

"Ah, come on, I'm serious."

"Sorry, but it's hard to associate serious with a burrito," Quistis giggled. "What is it you want my help with?"

Selphie sat up, slipping free of her cocoon to reveal red and white striped pajamas. She really kind of resembled a very cheerful candy cane as she pulled a pillow over and shoved it into her lap. "Well... I was trying to think of ways to get Irvine to pull his head out of his ass, but I can't really seem to think of anything that might work except maybe using a crowbar."

Quistis' mind darted back over Zell's confession and she frowned heavily, "Are you two having problems?"

"No, no, not us. He's just an idiot. All I ever hear from him is 'Zell this' and 'Zell that', but he won't just come out and just say 'I want to fuck him senseless'. It's so annoying..." Selphie grumbled, pummeling her pillow mercilessly. "Boys are dumb."

Quistis choked back her shock at Selphie's outburst, "I... aren't you two... I mean... aren't you and Irvine still an item?"

Now it was Selphie's turn to look shocked, "Is that what he's been telling everyone?! No wonder Rinoa keeps making those 'someday we'll get true commitment' comments to me like I'm part of the 'stupid girls looking for a pretty ring' crew! I'm gonna kill him! Blow him up! Pummel him to paste!" Selphie's smile was a little scary as she promptly demonstrated her emotions on her pillow before throwing the poor, abused pillow across the room. She looked back at Quistis, pinning the blond girl firmly in place with that strange smile. "Did he tell you that himself or did you hear it from someone else?"

"Actually, Zell..."

"AH-HA!" Selphie shrieked, leaping up and waving a finger in the air as if she had just discovered the key to unlocking all the secrets of the universe. "Fucking cowardly cowboy strikes again! I should have known! Stupid man! So scared of his own feelings he has to hide behind my skirt... or under my skirt depending on exactly how you look at it." She flopped back down on the bed and offered Quistis an apologetic smile. "I'm a little hyper. I drank a lot of coffee last night."


"Anyway, you're Zell's best friend.... right?"

"Where are you going with this?" Quistis asked suspiciously, sitting up and pulling her knees against her chest.

"Well... has Zell told you anything else about Irvine...?"

"Um... well..."

"Ah-ha! They have had sex! I knew it! That silly bastard kept denying it, but he was always giving Zell that 'oh, I want you...' look from underneath the cover of his hat like I couldn't tell. I KNEW something was going on. Ha! The great detective Selphie is never mistaken!" Selphie grinned widely, "Zell is just as retarded for Irvine as Irvine is for him, right?"

"I... um... I don't know... I... " Quistis answered, frowning a bit at the thought. Was Zell in love with Irvine? He hadn't said so... but... "Maybe..." Quistis responded finally, forcing a smile.

"Heehee... I thought so. I'll take care of everything, don't worry. They'll be humping like rabbits in spring by tomorrow morning and then I'll make Irvine tell me all about. In graphic, heart-pounding, palm-sweating detail." Selphie rubbed her hands together, looking a bit evil.

Quistis' stomach twisted a bit at the thought of Zell and Irvine as a couple, but if it made Zell happy then she was happy... right? Of course she was. Zell was her best friend, just like Squall was her best friend. So why did the thought of him with Irvine make her feel so...

"So how's the 'get Squall the hell away from Rinoa' project going?" Selphie asked, her voice breaking through Quistis

thoughts."H...how...?" Quistis managed, her eyes widening with shock for the second time that morning.

"Ah-ha! I knew something was up when he didn't come back last night. I could hear Rinoa pitchin' a fit all the way down in Irvine's room. She's so LOUD." Selphie grumbled, apparently unaware that she herself was rather loud. Of course, Selphie's loudness was more amusing then annoying. "How'd you get through that conversation alive?"

"I hit her with a brick," Quistis replied her expression so serious that for a moment Selphie had a hard time telling whether or Quistis was joking. It wouldn't be that she would particularly blame Quistis for hitting Rinoa with a brick. Rinoa was kind of a titanic bitch to her, but Quistis was a better person then that. A fact which was confirmed a moment later when Quistis' serious expression broke in favor of a small smile. "I just told her that Squall needed some time to himself, listened to her bitch and moan for about an hour, and went to bed. It wasn't half as difficult as I thought it would be. She's smarter then she lets on. She knows something's going on, but she isn't quite sure what it is and until she finds out there isn't much she can do except complain and wait."

"So what IS going on?"

"That... is a secret."

"I can keep a secret," Selphie prodded, leaning forward eagerly. "I'll find out sooner or later anyway and I can help if you tell me."

Quistis pondered that for a long moment. It would be useful to have someone else with a clear head clued in to the situation. Plus, knowing about this might distract Selphie from her other plan. Not that Quistis was opposed to getting Irvine and Zell together... Quistis frowned, cutting that thought off with quick efficiency before turning back to Selphie. "We found Seifer."

"Hell, yeah!" Selphie exclaimed, practically leaping off the bed again in her excitement. "I knew he was okay! I knew it! Hell, yeah!" She bounced across to Quistis bed, folding her hands into her lap as she landed beside the blond girl. "So, where's he been? Is he coming back to Garden with us? When do I get to see him? Is that where Squall's at now? This is cool! Booyakka!"

"I don't know." Quistis murmured, her mood dampened a bit by Selphie's questions. "I hope he'll agree to come home with us and I'll take you with me when I go back there this afternoon, if you want. Squall's staying with him right now and I didn't have much time to talk to him last night. I was too concerned about Squall."

"Is he okay?" Selphie asked, sobering.

"Which one?"

"Either of them, both of them. Are they okay?" Selphie replied, frowning. She'd known Squall was having problems. It had been obvious for a while, but they weren't close enough for her to do much of anything about it and Seifer... Seifer had disappeared without a word. He was probably a far cry from 'okay.'

"I don't know. I'm hoping that they'll be able to help each other, but they're both so unpredictable. I think they'll be okay... I hope they'll be okay." Quistis answered slowly, her expression tightening. "I wonder if it was a mistake just dropping Squall into Seifer's lap like that."

"Nah. I'm sure it'll be fine, but we'll go over there later and check to make sure they haven't killed each other. Now, I'm going to take a shower. We have a LONG day ahead of us." Selphie grinned one last time before bouncing off in the direction of the bathroom. Quistis smiled after her, silently hoping that the dark-haired girl was right.

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