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 Seven - The Nature of Friendship

By Antenora

Seifer awoke gasping but, for once, it was not due to the nightmare he'd been enthralled in. This praticularly rude awakening was more due to the shock of ice cold water being poured over his head. He bolted into a sitting position, too shocked by the cold to do more then gap as someone dropped an empty plastic cup in his lap. He could hear the sound of his alarm clock blearing loudly through the otherwise quiet apartment as he caught his breath and turned a glare towards the man standing over him.

Squall returned the glare full force, crossing his arms over his bare chest, his expression lacking any trace of remorse from his recent actions. "It's six in the morning," Squall grumbled, dark circles heavy beneath his eyes. "Shut that fucking thing up before I break it into a thousand pieces."

"Good morning to you too, sunshine." Seifer grumbled, tossing the plastic tumbler at the far wall before rolling across the bed to pound his alarm clock into submission. The quiet which ensued was deafening in it's intensity as Seifer turned his angry gaze back towards where Squall stood motionless at his bedside. "Couldn't just turn the damn thing off yourself and go back to bed, huh?"

Squall remained silent as he turned and left the room without ever bothering to reply to Seifer's question, shutting the door behind him with a quiet snap.

"That's real nice, Leonhart!" Seifer called after him, shaking water from his hair as he stood up and stormed into the living room. "What the fuck..."

Squall was lying fast asleep on the couch, the blankets pulled up to his chin as if he had never moved at all. "Sleepwalking, huh? I remember you used to do that when we were kids." Seifer grumbled, glaring down at his peacefully sleeping houseguest, reaching down to trace a finger across the darkened skin beneath Squall's closed eyes. "You used to drive Matron nuts. You'd look like you were awake, act like you were awake and then, out of no where, you'd just fall right back to sleep again."

Seifer sighed, straightening and darting a glance towards the clock on the wall. Seven o'clock, already? How long had he been standing out here? Yawning tiredly, Seifer wandered back into his room to take a shower and get ready for work. The moment his door snapped shut, Squall's eyes opened to glare up at the ceiling. "I'm not a kid anymore, Seifer. I don't sleepwalk."

By the time Seifer reemerged from the shower it was a quarter of nine and by the time he'd managed to struggle into his work clothes, white dress shirt and black slacks, it was seven-thirty. The smell and sound of sizzling bacon met him as he re-opened his bedroom door and wandered into the kitchen.

Squall stood near the stove, poking a spatula into a frying pan, a plate piled high with bacon sitting beside the stove. Seifer hadn't realized Squall even knew what a stove was, much less how to use one. Yet there he stood, clad in his leather pants sans belts, a t-shirt which Seifer recognized as one of his own, and bare feet, cooking an entire package of bacon as if it were something he did all the time.

"I see you've found my closet," Seifer commented, snagging a glass from the cabinet and filling it up with water. He contemplated dumping it over Squall's head, but he didn't really want to ruin Squall's pants. He was rather fond of those pants.

"Wrong. Fujin brought your laundry over while you were in the shower." Squall responded, jabbing at a piece of bacon irritably with his spatula.

"That must have been interesting. What'd she say when she saw you lying on my couch?" Seifer asked casually, snagging a handful of bacon from Squall's over-growing plate.

"Nothing. She just gave me a funny look, shook her head and left." Squall replied, tossing another handful of raw bacon into the pan.

"Great. She's pissed," Seifer grumbled, hopping up to sit on the counter just behind Squall. "She's gonna read me the riot act when I get to work."

"She works with you?"

"Nah, but you bet your ass she'll make it a point to be there waiting for me when I get there. Today's her day off and I'm sure I've now sky-rocketed to the top of her list of things to do today." Seifer sighed, finishing off his bacon and taking a long drink of water before continuing. "She's probably already figured out that this was why I disappeared on them the other night. She hates it when I lie to her about things like that."

"I don't blame her," Squall commented, turning off the stove and unloading the last of his bacon onto the plate before taking the pan to the sink. "Why didn't you just tell them the truth?"

"What? That I saw you and flipped out? Hell, no. They worry about me enough as it is." Seifer sighed, catching Squall's arm and pulling the brunette away from the sink. "Hey, you're still a SeeD, right?"

"... what of it?"

"Can I hire you as my bodyguard for the day?"


"To keep Fujin from inflicting harm on my body, why else? You don't have any other plans for today, do ya?"

"You can't afford me," Squall replied, a smile tugging at his lips.

"What else are you gonna do? I don't have any more bacon for you to cook, Little Suzy Homemaker."

"Fine," Squall grumbled, slipping out of Seifer's grip and turning his attention to his rather large plate of bacon. "I'll go with you, but if the word 'rage' escapes her lips, you're on your own."

"Some bodyguard you are," Seifer grumbled, hopping off the counter and crossing the kitchen to help Squall finish off the bacon.


Squall grinned and walked off past Seifer into the book shop, purposely ignoring the glare Seifer gave him as he disappeared into the stacks, leaving Seifer at the front door to deal with Fujin's rage on his own.

"Fujin, be reason..."

"Be reasonable!?" Fujin exclaimed, her voice dropping into the normal tones she used when giving a lecture. "Be reasonable?! We find you sitting in a dark alley smoking like a chimney in winter and saying everything's fine when it obviously wasn't. You wouldn't even tell us the reason you were so freaked out. I haven't seen you that freaked out in a long time, Seifer. We were worried about you and when I came in this morning, Squall FUCKING Leonhart was sleeping on your couch." She broke off and cast a glance towards where Squall had disappeared, "No offense, Squall."

"None taken," came the reply from behind a nearby bookshelf.

"Don't you two act like you're old..."

"RAGE!" Fujin spat, turning her red gaze back to Seifer. "You saw him in the club that night didn't you? That's why you were hiding out in that stupid alley. Why didn't tell us about it? We're your best FRIENDS, SEIFER. Best friends tell EACH OTHER THEIR PROBLEMS! IDIOT!"

"Okay, okay, I'm sorry. Hyne on pyre, Fujin, do really have to lecture me like I'm a fucking child?" Seifer grumbled, folding his arms across his chest and earning a glare from Fujin.

"If you didn't act like such a fucking child sometimes I wouldn't lecture you like you're a fucking child," Fujin grumbled, her cheeks coloring slightly.

"I'm sorry I made you worry, okay? Tell Raijin that, too."

"Tell him yourself. He'll be in here in about twelve seconds." Fujin replied, folding her slender arms across her ample chest as the little bell above the door rang and Raijin came stumbling in.

"I came as fast I could, ya know? What's goin' on?" Raijin asked, bending over and resting his hands on his knees as he attempted to catch his breath. He stood up at the same moment Squall chose to step into view. "Holy shit! What's he doing here, ya know?!" Raijin exclaimed, obviously Fujin had neglected to mention Squall's presence to him.

"CALM!" Fujin commanded, kicking Raijin hard in the shin.

The darker man yelped, leaping away from Fujin and rubbing at his injured leg. "That hurts, ya know?!" He turned a weak smile towards Squall, "Sorry, I was just kinda shocked to see ya, ya know? It's been awhile."

"It has," Squall confirmed softly, his expression softening into a smile. Fujin and Raijin hadn't changed at all since he'd last seen them. Well, except for Fujin's newfound mother-hen instincts when it came to Seifer, but then she and Raijin had obviously been the ones watching out for Seifer during the last year. Just from spending a single night with Seifer, he could sympathize with her a bit more then he'd like to admit out loud.

"It's good to see ya again." Raijin's grin widened, the pain in his leg obviously forgotten as he walked over and clapped Squall on the shoulder. "What're ya doin' in Esthar, ya know?"

"I have to attend a ceremony," Squall replied, wincing as thoughts of Laguna which, of course, brought back thoughts of Rinoa.

"What is this? Twenty questions? Leave him alone, Raijin." Seifer cut in, silencing any further questions Raijin might have

asked."Sorry, ya know. Is he the reason Fujin was so pissed off when she called me?" Raijin asked, turning his attention to Seifer for the first time.

"Yeah. He's stayin' with me for a couple of days," Seifer responded, shooting Fujin a look over Raijin's shoulder. "I'm sorry I made you two worry about me again."

"It's no problem, ya know. Fujin was just really.... OW!" Raijin yelled as Fujin unleashed another quick kick to his already highly abused shin. "Damn, sorry. Ya don't have to be so violent, ya know?"

"WE'RE GOING," Fujin stated, blushing furiously as she snagged the protesting Raijin's arm and dragged him from the bookshop.

"We'll call ya later, ya know!" Raijin called to Seifer as the door slammed shut behind them.

Seifer chuckled softly before turning to face Squall, "So."

"So... what?" Squall asked, leaning back against one of racks and folding his arms across his chest.

"Wanna go home?"

Squall starred at Seifer for a long moment in stunned silence. What was Seifer asking him exactly? If he wanted to go back to the Palace? If he wanted to go back to Seifer's apartment? The Palace was definitely out. Seifer's apartment? He wasn't really sure he wanted to go back there alone. That would give him way too much time to think. Think about why he was there and what he was going to do about Rinoa. He didn't want to think about any of that right now.

"Hey, cut the inner-monologue shit, I'm trying to talk to you." Seifer grumbled, glaring at Squall irritably. His glasses had slid down his nose and it only served to make him look all the more annoyed. "Damn, I hate when you do that. I wasn't asking you to build me a spaceship with dental floss, I just want to know if you wanna get out of here."

Squall's gaze narrowed slightly. He had never liked it when Seifer mocked him. Was it his fault that he liked to think things through thoroughly instead of just jumping to conclusions without a thought like some people knew? "Don't you have work to do?"

"Fuck that. I haven't had a sick day all year and there's never anyone in here on a Thursday. Let's go home." Seifer replied, striding to the front window of the small shop and putting up the closed sign.

"...Why'd you come in at all if you were just going to go home?" Squall asked, rolling his eyes irritably.

"So Fujin would have a chance to yell at me and get it over with. She feels better once she's given a good lecture." Seifer smiled, locking the front door and turning back towards Squall. "She's done a lot for me, they both have. I wouldn't be here now if it weren't for them."

"... what do you mean?"

"Nothin'," Seifer replied shrugging his shoulders vaguely. "Don't worry about, Leonhart. It was a long time ago. Let's get out of here."

"Irrrrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiivvvvvvvvvvvvvviiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!" Selphie yelled, storming into the room Zell and Irvine shared at promptly nine o'clock in the morning.

Zell glared up at her from where he lay, having been having a very nice dream until it had been rudely interrupted by Selphie's intrusion. "What the hell, Selphie?! It's too early for you to be bargin' up in here yelling for..." He glanced towards Irvine's bed suddenly wondering why the cowboy wasn't saying anything only to discover that Irvine's bed was already quite empty. "What the fuck?!" Zell yelled, sitting up and throwing his pillow at Selphie as hard as he could. She caught it, grinning broadly. "He isn't even here and you're hollering like that?!"

"I didn't know he wasn't here when I opened the door." Selphie responded, blushing slightly as she tossed the pillow back to Zell. "Where'd he go?"

"Like I'd know? I was too busy SLEEPING," Zell snapped, crossing his arms across his bare chest. Wasn't it bad enough that he had to deal with Irvine being a jackass with Selphie acting like he was her boyfriend's keeper? "He's probably out hitting on Rinoa, better go flog him." Zell commented finally flopping back on the bed with his newly re-acquired pillow.

Instead of leaving as Zell had been certain she would, Selphie crossed the room and leaped onto Zell's bed, landing squarely on his stomach and grinning at him. "Let him. Then I can have my wicked way with his boyfriend while he's out of the room."

"Wh...WHAT?" Zell responded, looking for all the world as if Selphie had just calmly informed him that she was in fact a cross-dressing hippopotamus.

"What, what?" Selphie asked, batting her eyelashes and smiling innocently.

"What do you mean what? I'm asking you that!" Zell yelped as Selphie dropped a quick kiss on his forehead and bounced back off the bed.

"Go ask Quisty, I'm busy. I have to go find Irvine and smack him around like a bad, bad doggy!" Selphie called, waving at Zell over her shoulder as she dashed from the room.

Zell starred after her in shock for a long moment before her words finally clicked, "QUISTIS TREPE! I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!" Zell roared, pushing himself out of the bed and storming down the hall to Quistis' room.

He didn't bother knocking before barging in. Quistis sat calmly at the room's small table drinking a cup of tea, her eyes widening in surprise at Zell's entrance. Zell slammed the door behind him before storming to stand near Quistis, his arms folded across his chest. He noticed, with no small amount of irritation, the way Quistis' cheeks turned a bright shade of red. She most have known what he was here about and she had better be embarrassed about it, he thought, nodding to himself with satisfaction before he took a deep breath and began yelling. "What the hell, Quistis?! Why is Selphie calling me Irvine's boyfriend?! What'd you tell her?! What's going on?! And why the hell are you SMILING!" Zell finished, his eyes narrowing in the face of Quistis' barely stifled laughter.

"Pants." Quistis commented simply, her lips quivering with amusement as she carefully set her teacup on the table.

"What the hell are you talking about?!" Zell hollered, waving his arms to emphasize his irritation. "I'm talking about you BETRAYING MY TRUST and all you have to say is PANTS?!"

"You've forgotten them," Quistis murmured, the first giggles escaping her lips as Zell realized that she was right. He had been so angry he'd forgotten that he slept in the nude. He blushed furiously, "That's not funny, you know."

"No, it's really not funny at all." Quistis agreed, but it didn't sound terribly convincing coming from a girl who was laughing her ass off at his expense.

"I'll be right back," Zell mumbled, practically running from Quistis' room, her laughter chasing him all the way back to his room. He ducked into the room and slammed the door, leaning back against it and breathing hard. That was so stupid. What was even stupider was that he was embarrassed. Really embarrassed. It wasn't as if Quistis had never seen him naked before. She was his best friend, he changed clothes in front of her lots of times. So why couldn't force the blush out of his cheeks? Why was his heart pounding so hard that it was difficult to breath?

"Zell? May I come in?" Quistis asked, knocking on the closed door gently. She really hadn't meant to laugh, it was a very serious situation, but having Zell standing there yelling at her as naked as the day he was born was just... it was funny. Of course, it hadn't been funny when he'd first come into the room. Naked and wearing that terribly serious expression. That hadn't been funny at all... it had been...

"What do you want?" Zell's voice called and Quistis heard the sound of quick footsteps and rustling clothing, which clearly meant that he was only now getting dressed. Quistis flushed as an image of Zell rushing around the room, still half-naked, invaded her mind. No, she did not think of Zell in that way. Zell was her best friend. And best friends did not get even remotely aroused at the thought of their best friends naked.

Zell opened the door a moment later, his shirt on backwards and his hair hanging in his eyes a moment later, glaring out at Quistis irritably. She noticed absently that he was still blushing. "What?"

"They aren't dating, Zell." Quistis answered, sighing heavily as Zell continued to regard her with suspicion before opening the door to allow her into the room. "And I didn't tell Selphie anything. She guessed all on her own."

"Oh," Zell responded, closing the door with a soft click as Quistis sat down on the edge of his bed. "I should have known you wouldn't say anything."

"Yes, well, I understand how you would have leapt to that conclusion after what Selphie said," Quistis sighed.

"Yeah, well, I'm sorry anyway." Zell offered, crossing the room to sit down beside Quistis on the bed. "So..."


"Are we going to go back over to Seifer's place today?"

"I... um... yes. Selphie will be going with us, I told her about him." Quistis admittedly softly.

"Why the hell'd you do that?"

"Well, I was trying to distract her," Quistis replied, suddenly finding the material of her skirt terribly interesting. She's fidgeting, Zell realized blinking in surprise at the revelation. Fidgeting was a sign of nervousness and Quistis was never nervous. "She's.... rather determined to play matchmaker for Irvine and you. She's convinced that you're secretly in love with each other."

"I am not in love with that moron!" Zell exclaimed, realizing with a start that it was absolutely true. Of course, he'd known he wasn't in love with Irvine. It had been a one time, well, a three time thing and, though it had been nice, that was all it had been. Irvine was... Irvine. He'd hurt Zell's feelings by denying that there had been anything between them. But, it had been a small sort of hurt. More an injury to his pride then anything else. Irvine was his friend, but that was all he really wanted from Irvine when it came right down to it. Friendship and some friggin' honesty wouldn't hurt either. He wasn't in love with Irvine. He was in love

with...Quistis smiled slightly, looking altogether thoroughly relieved. "Oh, that's good. I was pretty sure you weren't."

"Yeah..." Zell murmured, starring at Quistis for a long moment.

"Well! Now that that's settled, I'm going to..." Quistis began as she stood, but Zell's hand darted out to catch her hand. His expression silencing whatever she had been about to say. "Zell?" She murmured, starring down at her best friend with surprise.

"Quistis... I..." Zell's quiet words were interrupted by a loud knock on the door.

"Zell? Quistis? Are you two in there?" Rinoa asked, her voice carrying a strange edge neither had ever heard before. Zell and Quistis exchanged a look before going to the door, neither realizing that their hands were still locked together as Zell opened the door to reveal the Squall's blue-clad girlfriend.

"Can we help you?" Quistis asked, raising an eyebrow at the dark-haired girl.

"I've decided. I want to talk to Squall. Where is he staying?" Rinoa demanded, as if the only reason she didn't know was simply because she hadn't wanted to know. Zell just barely managed to resist the urge to roll his eyes.

"What part of 'time to himself' did I not quite get across to you last night?" Quistis replied, her eyes narrowing. She usually restrained herself when it came to the girl, but there was something about Rinoa's tone of voice, which, for lack of a better way to describe it, really pissed her off.

Rinoa's gaze narrowed marginally, "Quistis, I am not going to fight with you about this. Tell me where MY boyfriend is."

Quistis shrugged, unaffected by Rinoa's demands. "Sorry, Rinoa. Besides being my best friend, Squall is also my boss. So I'm afraid I can't disclose his whereabouts to anyone unless it's a matter of life or death."

"This IS a matter of life or death." Rinoa grumbled, "Our relationship is hanging in the balance. He's upset. He needs me to be there for him. I know that's hard for YOU to understand, but we're in love. I know he wants to talk about everything. He's just upset. If you knew him half as well as you think you do then you'd know that he needs someone to talk to right now"

Quistis shook her head in slow disbelief, barely able to process the condescending tone of Rinoa's voice. Zell stepped behind her slowly, taking her other hand as well and holding them both tightly to keep either from slapping the woe-is-me expression off Rinoa's pretty face.

Rinoa observed the two friends for a long moment before speaking again her voice rising in anger. "That's really sweet. Could you two focus on me instead of on each other for just a second?!"

There was just no end to how much she HATED Rinoa Heartilly. Quistis felt Zell's hands tighten on her own as she leaned forward to meet Rinoa's gaze directly. "Shut. Up. I am finished being polite, Rinoa. I have told you repeatedly that Squall needs some time to himself. If you know Squall half as well as YOU think you do, you would understand that the last thing he needs right now is you hovering over him asking him what he feels. And the last thing he EVER needs is someone to talk to. If you care about him at all you will give him the time he needs to sort things out on his own."

Rinoa looked taken aback by Quistis' words for a moment, but then the fire of anger returned to her eyes. "Fine. If you won't tell me where he is, I'll find him myself." With that and a final anger glance, Rinoa turned on her heel and strode away, her heels clicking against the tile floor.

"What's she gonna do? Send her flying monkeys after him?" Zell grumbled, starring after the Squall's girlfriend with

irritation.Quistis giggled tiredly, "Maybe..."

A loud crash drew their attention back to the corridor down which Rinoa had just disappeared. "Sorry, Rinoa! I didn't see you there! Better go get that checked out! Boot bruises can be a real bitch! I'd take you myself, but I have to chase the cowardly cowboy!"

A moment later Irvine dashed around the corner. He turned back towards the hall, flinching and holding his head. "OW! Damn it, Selphie. I said I was sorry!"

"Then you'd better say it again!" Selphie yelled, as one of her thin boot clad legs appearing from around the corner and connecting with Irvine's shoulder. A moment later the rest of her, wearing Irvine's hat and a rather large grin, came darting around the corner as well. She was also, Zell noticed, wearing Quistis whip tied to her belt. "You'd better keep saying it until I forgive you!"

"Sorry! Sorry! Just stop doing that!" Irvine yelped, dodging another kick aimed in his direction. "Sorry!"

The pair came grinding to an abrupt halt near where Zell and Quistis stood and Selphie leapt up on Irvine's back, her arms tight around his neck. Both were smiling brightly as if they hadn't been fighting at all. "Hey guys," Selphie grinned as Irvine's arms looped beneath her knees to keep her from choking the life out of him.

"Um... hi?" Quistis remarked, raising an eyebrow the beleaguered cowboy and his hyperactive companion. "Should you two really be smiling like that when she was kicking trying to put her boot through your head about five seconds ago?"

"Oh, that? That was for Rinoa's benefit," Irvine volunteered, still grinning widely. "Selphie 'accidentally' booted her in the head. I'm sure she's on her way down to the medical room right now. She won't be running off searching for anyone for a few hours."

"How did you overhear our conversation?" Quistis asked suspiciously at the same moment Zell, who was obviously confused by this entire scene, asked: "You two aren't fighting?"

"Not anymore. We had a nice, LONG talk about his nasty habit of playing it straight and he promised he'd never do it again. I forgave him, of course, because I'm a very forgiving person." Selphie smiled, pressing an affectionate kiss to the Irvine's ear.

"Of course, she doesn't mention the fact that, before we had this long talk, she snuck up on me and practically beat me to death with that whip." Irvine commented, rolling his eyes.

"I don't remember saying you could borrow that..." Quistis remarked, a smile tugging at her lips. "But I suppose it's all right since it was used to do good."

"Hell yeah! We were just on our way back here when we heard Rinoa howling about Squall's whereabouts. When she stormed off, we decided that we'd help out." Selphie explained, "So can we go see Seifer and Squall now?"

Quistis sighed, glancing at Irvine, "Seifer being in Esthar isn't really that much of a secret anymore."

"Sure it is!" Selphie commented, "It's an orphanage gang secret and those are the best kind. Now, let's get going!"

"Have you decided yet?" Seifer asked, glancing over at where Squall lay, sprawled across the couch. Neither had spoken since they'd arrived back at Seifer's apartment. Seifer had been lost in his own thoughts of the past and Squall, well, who could tell? But Seifer assumed from the pensive expression on his face that he was thinking about Rinoa. He wasn't sure why that annoyed him. Thinking about Rinoa was why Squall was staying here in the first place, wasn't it?

Squall shrugged, continuing to stare up at the ceiling as if it were the most interesting thing in the world, "No."

"I don't know what's so fucking hard about this. If you loved her you wouldn't be all tore up about this, would ya?" Seifer grumbled, earning himself a nasty glare from Squall. He shrugged it off, walking into the kitchen and pouring himself a glass of water. "Don't glare at me like you don't know it's true, Leonhart."

"You think it's that damn simple?" Squall asked sitting up, continuing to glare at Seifer just to spite the older man.

"I know it's that damn simple." Seifer responded, leaning back against the counter as he sipping from his glass. "Just make a decision. What the fuck are you so afraid of?"

I don't want to be alone again, Squall answered silently, his hands curling into fists against the well-abused couch cushions. "You're really one to be talking about being afraid? Why've you been hiding out here for the last year? Why do you wear that make-up to cover up your scar? Those glasses? What the fuck are you so afraid of?"

Seifer's glass slipped from his fingers, dropping to floor and shattering across the cheap tiles as he strode across the room to look down at Squall with fury lighting his features. He leaned down until their faces were inches from each other, glaring into Squall's piercing blue eyes. When he spoke his voice was deceptively calm. "You really want to know that bad? You really want to know what I'm afraid of Leonhart? I'm afraid of myself." The last came out in a barely audible hiss.

"Why?" Squall demanded, refusing to back down.

"Somebody hit you too hard in that thick skull of yours, Leonhart? Do you not remember the things I did?" Seifer growled, pushing away from Squall and pacing across the room, stopping when he'd gotten as far from Squall as could and proceeding to burn a hole in his living room wall with his gaze.

"I remember. Kind of hard to forget a couple hours of high-voltage shock treatments," Squall spat, pushing himself up and striding after Seifer, coming to a stop just behind the blond man. "I also remember the way you looked at me. That wasn't you, Seifer."

"You don't know anything," Seifer grumbled, but they could both hear his conviction weakening.

"The hell I don't." Squall growled, grabbing hold of the larger man and spinning him around before shoving him against the wall. "I know you. I've always known you. Sometimes I think I know you better then I know myself and that WAS NOT YOU."

"The hell it wasn't!" Seifer responded, the fury returning full force as he reached up and grabbed hold of Squall's borrowed t-shirt, turning the tables on the younger man and shoving him up against the wall. He held him there mercilessly, using his body as leverage to pin the smaller man against the wall. "I remember, Squall. I remember everything I did during that time. Everything. Fujin and Raijin know that. I've told them that time and again, but they're loyal and they stay with me anyway. But I'll tell you the one thing I've never told them. The one thing I never wanted them to know. The one thing that would have made them leave me behind." He leaned in close, his lips resting against Squall's ear, his voice as cold as Squall had always imagined himself to be. "I enjoyed it."

The silence fell between them as hard and cold as the truth Seifer had whispered against Squall's ear. As hard and cold as the ice lance which had once pierced Squall's shoulder and landed him in D-District prison. As hard and cold as the edge of a sword, carving against their skin imparting the scars which bound them.

Seifer expected Squall to shove him away, but instead Squall just lay there against the wall silently. When he spoke, his voice was emotionless. Not cold exactly, just devoid of any human emotion. As if he had shut himself down completely. "Which part did you enjoy the most, Seifer?" Squall murmured, his arms snaking around Seifer's waist and holding the blond tight against him when Seifer attempted to release him and back away. "Don't make me repeat the question."

"Torturing you," Seifer growled, saying the first thing that came to his mind. Anything to get Squall to release him, but if anything his response only caused Squall to tighten his grip all the more.

"That's pretty general. You must have a particular moment that sticks out in your mind. Was it watching them chain me to the cross? Telling them to flip the switch? Flipping the switch yourself? Having the extraordinary privilege of kicking me in the stomach?" Squall replied, his voice still lacking any trace of emotion.

Seifer twisted in Squall's arms, but for some reason he couldn't seem to break Squall's iron grasp. "I don't know! What the fuck do you want from me, Leonhart?!"

"A straight answer."

"Flipping the switch! Now let me go!"

"Wrong answer. Try again."

"What?! What do you want!?!"

"I want you to say it, Seifer." Squall murmured, his lips brushing against Seifer's ear. "I want you to tell me the truth."

"I already have!"

"No. You haven't. You may have enjoyed the power, the control, but you didn't enjoy the things you did." Seifer just laughed, but Squall continued heedless of Seifer's response to his words. "I never told anyone what I saw in your eyes while I was strapped to that metal cross. But you told me one of your secrets, so I'll tell you one of mine. I saw fear and pain hiding behind the cold gaze of a stranger. You were scared. Just like you're scared now. You may have been laughing while you flipped that switch, but inside you were screaming." Squall whispered as he felt Seifer still in his arms.

"I knew what I was doing, Squall. I thought I was doing the right thing," Seifer whispered, his voice haunted by the demons of his past. "She took my dreams and made them into something else. I didn't want it and I did. It's like I had two people in my head. It's still like that."

"... I'm sorry."

"Why the hell are you sorry? I'm the one who killed all those people... I'm the one who..."

"Shut up. Just shut up. I don't care about any of it, Seifer. Those people who died... I didn't know them." Squall grumbled, knowing how cold and awful it sounded and not really caring. He didn't care about them. He should, he knew he should, but he didn't. He never had. To him they were nameless, faceless casualties of a long ago war. What mattered to him was the man in his arms. "Stop blaming yourself. It was a war. People die."

"That sounds like you," Seifer murmured, resting his chin against Squall's and slipping his arms around the smaller man. "Do you care about anything, Squall?"

"I care about you, Squall answered silently tightening his grip on the former sorceress' knight, I think you may be all I really care about.

A knock sounded through the apartment and Seifer stiffened in Squall's awkward embrace. "Door," he murmured, raising his head from Squall's shoulder.

Squall's eyes narrowed, "Don't care."

Another knock.

"I don't think they're going away. I'll just..."

"If you even try and move I will not be held responsible for what I do to you," Squall growled, his arms tightening around Seifer almost possessively.

Another knock, more insistent this time. "Squall? Seifer? Are you in there?" Zell's voice called.

"See? It's them. They probably think we've killed each other."

"Let them."

Knocking became pounding and Squall turned his murderous gaze towards the door, "I love them. I do. I really, really do."

"Then maybe you should answer the damn door," Seifer grumbled, annoyed as much by the knocking as by Squall's stubborn refusal to make the knocking stop. "Because I don't love them and if that noise doesn't stop soon I won't be held responsible for what I do to them or you."

"Fine," Squall spat, but he made no move to release Seifer. Instead he merely raised his voice, "WE'RE FINE. WE'RE ALIVE. GO THE HELL HOME!"

Much to Seifer's surprise the knocking stopped and there was the a sound suspiciously like giggling fading away beneath the sound of Hyne only knew how feet pounding down his stairway.

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