Disclaimer: The sexy, sexy guys in this fic don't belong to me. And neither do the girls. ;_; The song which inspired this fic, "Gotta Get Thru This," belongs to Daniel Bedingfield. *sighs, then perks up* I own my computer! ^^
Warnings: Shounen-ai, het, and mixed couples, Zell+Squall, evil-Rinoa
Just Another Day
By Balinese no Neko
Zell bounced back and forth lightly, fists at the ready. He cleared his mind of everything unnecessary and focussed his outward attention on the punching bag in front of him. I gotta do this, he told himself. I gotta do this. I can do this.
He started with a left hook, followed it up with a jab and a feint. In his mind, the bag took on an existence of its own, complete with face, history, and damned annoying personality. He glared at the person he'd imagined, wishing with a kind of vengeful bitterness that he wasn't just facing a punching bag. He poured his frustration into his punches, letting them hit harder and harder. He was barely holding back anymore, taking out the emotions he couldn't afford to let anyone see on the inanimate item.
The voice came in the middle of a flurry of blows calculated to make his 'opponent' flinch and fall back and Zell ignored it. He stepped forward into what would have been a proper opening, only to have to jump back as the bag swung towards him. Two jabs and a powerful uppercut knocked it back again and he snarled. Take that, bitch! A sharp right hook to daze the person and he danced back just enough to his coup de grace the proper power.
And as he stepped forward, bringing his left fist forward, someone else's face appeared where his target's was. Squall! With a startled oath, he pulled back desperately, managing to grind down to a halt before the blow could land. He blinked again and the punching bag appeared. "Shit!"
He bent over, resting his hands on his knees as he breathed deeply. He couldn't believe he'd managed to lose himself so thoroughly that something like that would happen. Belatedly, he remembered the voice that had called to him twice and turned his head. "Shit, Squall, you tryin' to kill me?"
The other man frowned at him instead of speaking, but Zell could easily predict what he would have said. Something along the lines of, "I called your name twice," no doubt.
The blond straightened and raised an eyebrow. "Well?" he prodded. "What'd you come down here for? I'm guessin' it wasn't jus' for my sparklin' personality." And face and arms and chest; he'd managed to work up quite a sweat. Nah, it was too much to hope for that Squall wanted to spend time with him.
Squall favoured him with an odd look. "I wanted those figures you said you had," he said abruptly. "For the Training Center, remember?"
Zell frowned himself, trying to think what he'd done with them. "Yeah, I know the numbers you mean."
An uplifted eyebrow as good as said, "Well? Where are they, then?" Out loud, all the brunet said was, "It's been a week."
"Think I don't know that?" Zell snapped, slightly annoyed. "They've been ready to give to you for about a week. I . . ." I left a message for you. His jaw snapped shut. Of course he had. And that was why Squall was standing in front of him right now, wasn't it. "I . . . guess I musta forgotten to tell you." He scratched the back of his head, knowing he'd come across as embarrassed about forgetting. "Gimme a sec to clean up here and I'll get 'em for ya right away." He snagged his towel and headed into the communal showers. Yeah, he had a private bathroom in his rooms, everyone did, but he didn't exactly relish walking back through the halls in all his sweaty glory.
"So, who were you fighting?" A casual glance over showed Squall leaning against the wall, contemplating his crossed arms.
Zell shrugged and turned on the shower nearest him. His towel was hung haphazardly and he slowly stepped out of his scant clothing. "No one, I guess." That should be enough to shut Squall up. He didn't initiate conversations often and continued them even more rarely.
"You were showing a lot of anger," Squall told his sleeve. "You must've been picturing someone's face on that bag."
Zell sighed and scrubbed fiercely at his hair. It wasn't as if he wasn't going to gel it right back up again, after all. "It was nothin' important," he muttered finally.
"Seifer giving you trouble?"
Zell almost laughed. "Seifer? Nope, it wasn't him." No, Seifer was whipped and that was that. He grinned at the memory of the last time the taller blond had tried to wind him up. Seeing the former Sorceress Knight cowering before Selphie was something he wouldn't forget in a hurry.
"Then who was it?"
With a quick movement, Zell shut off the water and snagged his towel. "I said it was no one, Squall," he said, his voice muffled as he rubbed briskly at his hair. After a quick drying, he reached for his clothes again, hopping a bit as he accidentally stuck both feet through the same opening. "Look, it's all right, I've got it under control. There's nothin' you can do about, either. Just . . . leave off about it, okay? I'm handlin' it." Hyne, he's being persistent today. Wonder what crawled up his ass.
Zell took a moment out of his meal to regard the hot dog in his hand for a long moment. Sure, I'm handlin' it, he thought broodingly, tipping the hot dog back and forth. Absolutely. He shrugged and took a bite out of his hot dog. Didn't look like it was going to give him the secret of absolute happiness anyway.
"Hey, Chicken-wuss, don't think those dogs can tell you what you need to know." The cafeteria table shifted slightly as Seifer sat down across from him and smirked.
"Back the fuck off, Seifer, or I'll let it 'slip' to Selphie what you're planning to do," Zell said evenly, chewing determinedly on his mouthful. He swallowed. "And since she's bound to ask why I've searched her out, I won't forget to mention that name you called me." Seifer winced.
"Aw, c'mon, Zell, you know Seifer don't mean no harm," Irvine said easily, swinging himself into the chair beside the tall blond. "No need to play dirty or nothin'." Zell stayed silent; he wasn't in any sort of mood to put up with Seifer's 'teasing'. The brunet sighed. "So what's the problem, li'l bro?"
Zell glared at him. "I happen to be older than you."
Irvine grinned, not so easily put off. "Yeah, but I'm still taller 'n you. Talk, li'l bro."
Seifer snorted. "As if, Chicken-wuss."
Snarling, Zell turned on him. "I said to back off, Seifer!"
Irvine put a restraining hand on Seifer's shoulder, which was just as quickly shrugged off, and whistled. "Man, Zell, you're stressed. Y'gotta do something about this. It's not good for you to be like this."
"You know, Irvine, why don't you just back off, too? Take lover boy here and go throw him at Selphie or somethin'. I'm fine."
"Why don't you tell him?" Seifer asked slowly. He held his hands up in a conciliatory gesture when Zell returned his glare to him. "I mean it! Why don't you tell him?"
"Because he already has someone. Remember?"
"Yeah, and with the way that someone's acting—"
"That has nothin' to do with it!" Zell raked his hand through his hair, only then realizing that he had forgotten to style it again after his shower. "I don't care if she's actin' like a jealous bitch, I'm not gonna do anythin' to give her a reason to be jealous."
Seifer shook his head. "Well, why don't you tell her, then?" Zell gave him a look.
"Duh, Seifer, she already knows!"
"Nah, I mean, tell her so she knows you're not trying to steal him away from her. I mean, you're willing to share him, aren't you?" Zell nodded slowly. "Well, then, just tell her that and it'll work out." He smiled far too smugly. "After all, it worked for me."
"Yeah, well, Irvine's a lot easier to get along with than she is," Zell muttered. He ran his hand through his hair again, tugging on it slightly before dropping his hand to the table. "Look. Guys. I know you're tryin' to help me here, but it's okay, really, it is. I just . . . need some time, that's all." Some time to keep myself from flinging myself at Squall's feet and telling him how I feel. I think it's safe to assume that this is no longer a schoolboy crush.
"You're not gonna tell him, are you." Irvine made it more of a statement than a question. Zell kept his silence. "Look, this isn't helpin' anyone here, least of all you."
"'M not gonna tell him shit," Zell said sullenly. "He doesn't deserve to know."
Irvine's eyebrow rose sharply. "He doesn't deserve to know someone loves him? What'd he ever do to deserve that?"
"I didn't mean it like that!" Zell protested. "He doesn't deserve to hafta chose between me an' Rinoa, that's what he doesn't deserve. He doesn't deserve Rinoa ripping into him, as if he had anything to do with it. He doesn't deserve any of that shit. He's, he's happy right now and I'm not gonna do anything to mess it up for him."
"Then what's the problem?"
"Irvine, think of all the messages you've ever asked me to pass on to Squall. How many of them do you think he actually got?"
Irvine snorted. "None. You don't pass them on."
Zell pounded the table suddenly. "But that's just it! I do! But anytime I leave him a message or something, it 'mysteriously' disappears! An' how many times do you see him and me together, anyhow? Something always 'comes up' that requires our precious resident sorceress stealing away our Commander."
"Zell," Irvine said after a long pause, "they're young and in love. You gotta expect them to sneak away to be with each other."
"But it's been a year for them, cowboy," Seifer said thoughtfully. He nodded. "Yeah, I see what you mean, Chicken-wuss, now that I think about it." He shook his head and chuckled. "Damn, she's sneaky. Glad I escaped her clutches when I did." He leaned forward. "Look, if she's not gonna back off, even if you're not really posing a threat to her, then you should do something. Turning the other cheek is all well and good, but when it comes right down to it, we're SeeD. We're good at fighting our own battles, it's what we do. Sometimes you gotta show the world you can only be pushed so far."
Zell found himself filled with a cold anger and pushed himself away from the table. "I'm not going to fight over him like he's something I can own," he hissed.
Seifer looked startled. "Wha—? No, Zell, I didn't mean that!"
"Look, just . . . back off, all of you, okay? This is my life an' I'll live it jus' fine by myself. This isn't your business an' I'll thank you to keep your noses out of it!" And with that, he stormed off, heading for the safety of his room.
Irvine whistled again, staring at the martial artist's retreating back. "Well done, Seifer," he murmured. "I think it's safe to say that you've found a much more dangerous way to piss him off."
"I—I didn't mean it like that."
The brunet sighed and leaned up against him. "I know you didn't, big guy." He bit his lip, staring at the doorway where a startled Squall was looking in the direction Zell had stormed off in. He said something to Rinoa before leaving, following him. "We've gotta do something."
"Ohhhh? I can think of something I'd like to do with you," a voice purred in both of their ears before a pair of arms exuberantly tried to hug both of them at the same time.
"I nominate Irvine to be tied up," Seifer said immediately, reaching back to ruffle Selphie's hair. She laughed and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
"You would," she chided. "Really, Seify, I should be the one saying that. You broke my bed, after all."
"Shouldna told her you were ticklish," Irvine drawled, grinning mischievously. Seifer just groaned and shook his head.
Selphie sat down on Irvine after squirming her way between them. "So, whose life are we invading now?"
Zell sat with his back to the door, wrists resting over bent knees. He tipped his head back and sucked in a noisy breath He probably shouldn't've blown up at Seifer like he had. For once, the other man seemed to be trying to help him. Not that there was much to help with. Rinoa didn't like the potential threat he posed and he wasn't selfish enough to push her away from Squall. Stalemate.
"Time," he muttered to himself. "That's all I need. Just . . . a little more time. Really. A bit more time and I'll be just fine."
A soft knock on his door startled him into jerking his head even further back and hitting it against the door. "Ow! Dammit!"
Zell's eyes widened. Of course it was Squall. Why would it be anyone else? It was only right that Squall should be here to test him, there was just no other way for the world to work.
"Zell? You okay?"
The blond cleared his throat hastily. "Uh, yeah! I'm fine! Why'dja ask?" He winced. Let's try to sound a little less like we're lyin' next time, shall we? he told himself acerbically.
"You ran out of the cafeteria."
"Um, yeah, so I did. So?"
"You didn't look too happy. What happened?"
Zell winced. "Irvine and Seifer were just being nosy," he mumbled.
"Zell, you going to let me in or do I have to keep on talking to your door?"
"Uh, well, I was just goin' to . . . uh, that is, I was gonna take . . . a nap! Yeah, I've been pretty tired lately and I thought I'd see if I could catch up some."
There was a long moment of silence as Squall hesitated. "I . . . told Rinoa I'd eat lunch with her . . . . Are you sure you're okay, Zell?" Zell winced again. Of course he was. The guy he loved was, unintentionally, to be sure, ripping him to pieces. Of course he was okay. In fact, he was super.
"Yeah, I'm okay," the blond said weakly. "Go on, you don't wanna keep her waitin'. I—I'll just take my nap, okay?"
There was another pause. "If you're sure, then."
Yeah, he was super-duper-ally-uper. Absolutely sure of it.
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