My Orphanage

Chapter Five

By Scarlet Fever

Squall paced back and forth in his bedroom in Balamb, rolling the now powerless Steel Orb in his bare hands, his gloves discarded on the desk nearby. How had Diablos just taken his power out of the icon item, and why? What was the point?

GF are here to help us... right? Why would they want to harm humans? Aren't we their reasons for even existing? Whatever... I don't understand.....

Squall was thinking of Diablos, but he was also thinking of Seifer. That was even more complicated to mentally work out. Why was Seifer in Timber? Why was he going under a different name? Why were Selphie, Irvine and especially Zell working with him?

Zell, I know you hate him.... I don't get it. You weren't even glaring at him. And, Selphie and Irvine... don't you remember how he gave Rinoa to Adel? How he followed Ultimecia? But, Matron also followed her. But, Matron.... she tried to make amends. He didn't. Matron's been asking about him.... should I tell her? What should I do? How is Rinoa going to feel.....? What did Seifer mean about 'only if Rinoa had a dick'? Didn't he and Rinoa date?

Rinoa came into their bedroom, bringing in some dry-cleaning she'd picked up. Even eight years after they'd gotten married, Rinoa still wondered if Squall would rather live at Garden. But, after getting married, a dorm room at the school just seemed too cramped and childish. So, they'd gotten an apartment in Balamb Town, where Squall could still be close by. She put the clothes in her closet, then put the jackets she'd picked up for Squall in his closet, which was far less full than her own. "Hi," she greeted, kissing him on the cheek. She smiled, looking into Squall's face, but then frowned. "Whoa.... what happened?" She sat on the edge of the bed, suddenly worried. Squall was always introverted, even a decade later, but she knew when something was seriously wrong, and now was one of those times. She'd become an 'expert Squall-reader', as Quistis called it.

"Squall?" She asked quietly after a period of silence, wondering if he even knew she was in the room.

"Huh?" He looked up, still rolling the Steel Orb in his palms.

"What's wrong?" Rinoa asked, smoothing the comforter around her. She'd just recently chosen it, but Squall hadn't noticed the change. He never did. "You didn't come to bed last night. Important Garden work?" There were often times that Squall wouldn't come home at night. Most women would have thought their husbands were fooling around behind their backs, but Rinoa knew that Squall would never do that. Worrying about Squall cheating on her was something she never had to do. He didn't really care about that stuff. "Squall?" She asked again.

He furrowed his scarred brow, thinking of Seifer with brown hair and glasses. "Rinoa....."

"Yeah?" The Sorceress asked quietly. People often forgot Rinoa was a Sorceress, and she was glad of it. It was a part of her that she didn't care for. In fact, she hated it. Though it had been a decade, she still had fear for the powers within her. And, even though it was a decade later, Rinoa was still a fledgling Witch. She would never be as powerful as Edea, and not just because Edea had the cumulative powers of Ultimecia and Adel within her. It was because Rinoa would never embrace her powers like Edea had, though the powers in her were indeed the former ones of Squall's 'Matron'. "Sweetie, something's really wrong. Tell me."

Squall stared at her for a while. "Can I ask you something? About your past?"

"What about it?" She asked. "Something about my parents?"

"No, about before we met... how you and Seifer..." Squall trailed off, not knowing what words to use.

"How me and Seifer what?" She asked, folding her hands in her lap.

"Did you ever kiss him?"

Rinoa was confused, not knowing why Squall was bringing this up out of the blue. She'd never talked about her past with Seifer really to Squall. It was something he hadn't wanted to know about. And, it was just that. The past. "Why are you asking....?"

"Just tell me!" He demanded angrily, closing his fist around Diablos's former icon item.

She was taken aback by his show of anger. "No, we never kissed."

"Why not?"

"I don't know.... why does it matter? It was a long time ago, Squall."

"You made me think he was your boyfriend."

Rinoa frowned. "I never said he was. I... I don't know what we were."

"You said that you thought you were in love with him. After we thought he had been executed."

"Maybe I did. I was only 16! What in Hyne's name are you bringing this up for, Squall?"

"Because I saw him last night!" Squall shouted, slumping against the wall.

Rinoa's lips parted in surprise. "You... you did? Where?"

"Timber." Squall kept staring at the Steel Orb. So, Seifer was an alchemist now, was he? What if... what if he had something to do with Blackball, really? He denied it so forcefully, but this was Seifer Almasy. Could he be trusted?

"You went to Timber last night?" Rinoa asked with a raised eyebrow.

"I saw him during my conference call with Zell, Irvine and Selphie."

"What....?" Rinoa was full of confusion.

"He's an alchemist, and he's helping them with Blackball."

Rinoa slowly shook her head, floored. "So... he's been in Timber... all this time." She stood up. "But, when I was doing census work, I never came across talk of him."

"He goes by a different name now."

"He does?" Rinoa put her hand on Squall's shoulder. He was very tense.

"Raef Emaissyl..." Squall hissed out.

Rinoa's eyebrows shot up. "That's Seifer?!"

Squall nodded stiffly, still rolling the orb in his hands.

"What's that....?" Rinoa asked.

"Diablos took his power out of our icon item."

Rinoa was again shocked. "Can they do that?"

"Apparently so," Squall snapped. Does Seifer know more than he's telling? Why is he back....? But, he did find out that Blackball is an icon item. So, all these addicts have really been junctioning GF. Is that why they're acting strange....? They're forgetting who they are. They aren't trained enough to junction. Why didn't Odine or Matron sense this? Maybe I should contact Laguna.....No, Laguna wouldn't be any help.

"Squall?" Rinoa asked, stepping in his line of sight. She saw a million things silently passing over his pretty face. Age hadn't lessened the delicacy of his features. "Tell me what's on your mind."

"Blackball is an icon item, according to Seifer. All these people who have been taking it are really junctioning a GF, and apparently it's Diablos."

"Oh. That's serious, huh?" She sat back down on the bed. This sounded like it was beyond her. After Time Compression, things had started to go back to normal. Irvine had gotten enough credits at Galbadia Garden that he was eligible to take the SeeD exam, and he'd passed. So, that made Rinoa the only one out of their 'gang' not to be a SeeD. Squall had gotten her the job in Garden's archive offices, but it wasn't the same. And, it wasn't like Rinoa could have trained to become one. She could have taken the classes, and maybe tried the exams, but being a mercenary and a fighter just wasn't in her blood. She wondered if Ellone felt the same way. She was the only one of the 'Orphanage Gang' that wasn't a fighter. Seifer may not be SeeD, but he had those skills in his blood. But, he'd been gone for so long..... Would people be happy to see him again? Rinoa knew that Matron asked about him often. Again, she felt beyond all this....

"Squall...?" Rinoa asked quietly as he sat on the edge of the bed, but far enough away that she had to reach her arm out to touch him. "How do you feel about seeing him again?"

Squall looked at his wife. "Angry."

"But.... why?" Rinoa asked. "How was Zell reacting....?" She tucked some hair behind her ears.

"Calm!" Squall exclaimed, a helpless tone coming into his voice. "I don't get it!"

Rinoa scooted across the bed, wrapping her arm around Squall's shoulder. "People do change..... It's been a long time, and I'm sure that Seifer's been through a lot, especially if he had to change his name..."

"How can you defend him?" Squall asked angrily, letting Rinoa wrap him into an embrace. He buried his face in her silken, fragrant hair. "You're the one that suffered most because of him..." Her body was so warm and soft against him, and he held her back.

"He suffered, too...." Rinoa pointed out. "Do you think he really wanted to give me to Adel?" Rinoa asked, running her fingers through Squall's hair. "We all suffered."

"We wouldn't have suffered if it weren't for him," Squall muttered.

"Don't you think you're being childish?" Rinoa asked, tilting his face up to look in his stormy blue eyes.

Squall's helpless look turned into one of anger. "Childish?" He echoed, pulling away from her. "No, I don't think that. Maybe I'm just the only one that remembers that he tried to kill all of us. He tried to give you to Adel... he fucking tortured me!"

"You don't have to remind me," she muttered darkly.

He got off the bed, the Steel Orb still balled in his tight fist.

"Where are you going?" She asked as Squall jerkily pulled on a simple black v-neck sweater.

"Out," he muttered, not wanting to look at her. Had she forgotten the past?! But.... was Rinoa right? Was he being childish? Squall went down to his Tempest, which was parked in its usual spot, and drove down the Balamb Highway to Garden. One thing he disliked about Balamb was that there weren't many roads that he could just drive on with his powerful sports car. He often took the ferry to the Galbadian or Esthar continents, just to drive. He was considering doing that just now, wanting to take the ferry to Timber, to see everything with his own eyes.

He parked his car and went up to his office, pacing around and thinking. But, his thoughts left him nowhere new. He didn't know what the meaning behind Diablos leaving the icon item was, and he also didn't know what Seifer was up to, or why Selphie and Zell were trusting him so easily, letting him in their apartment. On his way to his office, he'd noticed that Headmaster Cid's light was still on. He should probably make a report. Squall just found there were too many variables to make one as soon as he'd had the conference call the night before. He walked up the hall, the Garden silent during after-curfew hours. He gently rapped on the door with his knuckle, still holding the Steel Orb. He felt badly about raising his voice to Rinoa earlier. It wasn't her fault....

"Come in!" called Headmaster Cid's pleasant voice. Cid had come back to Garden the other day from his visit to Galbadia, and his meeting with the other Garden Headmasters. "Oh, hello Squall!" Cid rose from behind his desk, coming around it, a big smile on his face. He pushed his glasses up his nose. "Hard at work?"

"Sir, I have a report to make."

"Hmmm." Cid crossed his arms, giving Squall a thoughtful look. "You sound more serious than usual. Is there a problem?"

Squall frowned as he looked at Headmaster Cid. The dark hair, the glasses.... it made Squall think of Seifer, for there was a little bit of a resemblance. No, no... Squall just had Seifer on the brain, that's all. "Perhaps. I talked to Selphie, Zell and Irvine last night."

"Did something happen?" Cid asked, concern in his blue eyes.

"Sort of." Squall put his hands at the small of his back. "They have obtained a sample of Blackball, and have the opinion of a professional alchemist on it. Blackball is actually an icon item, and the users have been junctioning a GF."

"How do they know this?" Cid asked, looking a little worried.

Squall pursed his lips. "Because the alchemist said so. He felt it when he touched the sample. And, they also believe because Blackball is like a Steel Orb, that it's Diablos behind it." Squall opened his fist. "This is Garden's icon item for Diablos. It no longer holds any power."

Cid frowned deeply, taking the Steel Orb from Squall. "How can this be....? And, this alchemist is certain? Who is it?"

"He goes by the name Raef Emaissyl, sir. But...."

"Raef Emaissyl?" Cid echoed. "Well, then I guess we can trust him. After all, Garden's been trying to contact him for years about being a teaching consultant, but he never replies to us...."

"Sir!" Squall interrupted sharply. "There's more."

"Oh? I'm sorry, please continue Squall."

"Raef Emaissyl isn't his real name. It's actually.... Seifer, Sir."

Cid was silent for a while, his eyes totally emotionless at first. But, then there was a flurry of activity in them, and Squall wondered what the other man was thinking.

"Seifer...?" Cid echoed, in a way that took Squall by surprise.

"Yes, Sir."

"He's alive.... he's been under our nose, all this time...." Cid trailed off, but Squall noticed he sounded far from angry.

"I don't know if we can trust him, Sir."

Cid frowned. "You trust Edea, don't you?"

"Of course."

"Then, why not Seifer? His actions were dictated by Ultimecia, same as Edea's." Cid stroked his chin, a look of wonder still on his face. "And... he was with Selphie, Zell and Irvine?"

Squall nodded.

"They must have thought carefully about this whole thing...." Cid sighed. "He's really alive..."

"Sir?" Squall cocked his head.

"Oh!" Cid exclaimed, like he'd forgotten Squall was in the room. And in fact, he had. Edea was the far more vocal of the two about missing their child, but Cid did miss him, and a lot. Seifer may have been a problem child, but he was still their child. And, it made him feel closer to his wife at that moment, even if they were separated by the Horizon Ocean. And, it also made him bad for fighting with her before he'd left. They hadn't patched things up yet. She'd be so happy for this news. But, if Seifer had changed his name... he'd been hiding this whole time. What if he didn't want to see them? "Squall, thank you for telling me. I will contact Esthar as soon as possible, to see if we can figure out why and how a Guardian Force would just leave their icon item."

"And, about Seifer?" Squall asked.

"I think that Selphie and Zell can handle that."

"Yes, Sir." Squall left, but he didn't agree with Cid's order about leaving Seifer to Irvine, Zell and Selphie. It wasn't that he didn't trust them, but it was that he didn't trust Seifer. Squall went back to his office, slumping in his chair, head resting in his hands on the large desk. Squall hadn't felt this conflicted in a long time, and he hated feeling conflicted.

Things had been very busy in Timber for the past few days, especially for SeeD who were trying to help the Timber Police keep the peace. Zell, Selphie and Irvine had been worked to the bone. Blackballers were starting to riot, and the police force were overwhelmed. Because they were so busy, Zell hadn't seen Seifer since the day they'd kissed. Though it had happened three days ago, Zell could still taste it on his mouth, like it had just occurred.

Right now, he was rubbing some Xiphias Balm on his elbow, which was sore and stiff. About five years ago, Zell had broken it in a fight against a group of terrorists that had been blowing up trains out of Esthar. Now, it always acted up, and got stiff in this rainy weather of Timber's. Selphie was laying on the floor of Zell's living room, groaning because her back hurt. Irvine had gone out briefly to pick up some junk food and beer. They just wanted to relax for the evening, hoping that Timber Police wouldn't call for their help again. And, the research on Blackball wasn't going anywhere. They didn't know how to begin on Diablos. All they could really do for now was look up literature on the history of Guardian Forces. There actually wasn't that much about them. They were so shrouded in mystery, something that seemed so foolish now. How had they let themselves rely so much on something that they knew nothing about?

"I'm ba-aaack!" Irvine called, sailing into the room. He put the 12 pack of beer on the coffee table, putting his cowboy hat on Selphie's head. "Uhh... I thought you might want to see this." Irvine pulled out some magazines out of a plastic bag.

"No thanks," Zell muttered, seeing some magazine called Sexy College Girls.

"Not that!" Irvine exclaimed. He handed Zell a couple of tabloid magazines.

"More porno?" Selphie asked, frowning up at him from the floor. She'd sat up, and was now leaning against the coffee table.

"I got one for you, too..." He said in a condescending manner. He put a magazine in her hands with boys kissing each other on the cover.

"Awww!" Selphie exclaimed. "You're so sweet."

Zell frowned at the tabloids in his hand. Why would Irvine give him these ridiculous rags? But, then he saw it. A sidebar on the top of the cover. Sorceress's Knight Returns! Living in Timber all this time! Page 3.

Zell flipped to page three, and saw a picture of Seifer from back then... ten years ago. Looking angry and surrounded by Galbadian soldiers. And, a picture from now. It looked like someone had taken the picture from across the street without Seifer knowing. He was downtown, and Zell read the story. Apparently, a clerk down at City Hall leaked the story that 'respected blacksmith Raef Emaissyl is actually Seifer Almasy in disguise. He came to city hall on Monday and had his name changed back.' Monday? That was the day that they'd kissed. Had Seifer really changed his name?

"What's that...?" Selphie asked, looking at Zell. "Why're you reading the tabloids?" She popped open a beer, raising an eyebrow. "Those things are so stupid. Oh nooooo, a Blobra and a woman mated in Galbadia. See the pictures inside!"

"Seifer changed his name back..." Zell trailed off.

"What?" Selphie went over and looked through one of the other ones.

"There was only a small blurb in the Timber Chronicle, and an even smaller blurb in the Galbadia Times. Only the tabloids seem to really care."

"Why would he do this?" Selphie asked.

"He's tired..." Zell trailed off. "He said he was sick of being afraid, of hiding."

Selphie nodded. "Have you seen him since....?" Selphie asked, putting her hand on Zell's shoulder. "Maybe he found out something about Blackball?"

"No," Zell answered. "I haven't seen him. But, maybe he did.... I dunno."

Selphie sat beside Zell on the couch as Irvine flipped through a stack of CDs. "Do ya miss him?"

Zell shrugged a shoulder. "I don't know. Maybe a little, but then I wonder.... I mean, it hasn't been that long since we saw him again... I can't believe it's Seifer that I'm thinking about like this."

"Since when does it take more than a day?" Selphie asked. "I mean, Squall and Rinoa sort of fell for each other pretty early on. Look at me and Irvine... I'd forgotten all about him, but I started to feel things for him quickly when we met again. I think it's similar to you and Seifer. He has all the familiarity of the past, but he's changed. Sure, there's lots of the old Seifer in there, but he's learned a lot of humility. He's not the same person that started the Garden War." Selphie's eyes clouded. "Besides, that wasn't even him. It was Ultimecia."

"But, when you first saw him, you weren't quite so forgiving... maybe I'm just letting other things blind me."

"I was surprised to see him," Selphie pointed out. "I got over it. Just like you did. And, I don't think it was your dick that made you change your mind about him. It was him alone. It was how you connected mentally." She tapped her temple with her index finger. "Besides, people who kiss each other like that aren't in it just for the sex."

Zell flushed. "Wh-what?"

"We kind of walked in on you..." Selphie trailed off with a wink, laughing nervously at the angered look on Zell's face. "It's not like we were spying!"

"Speak for yourself!" Irvine exclaimed, flopping down in a chair. "I wasn't spying!" He grew sombre, brushing some of his now chin-length hair out of his eyes. "You think Edea will have better luck with finding out about Diablos...?"

Selphie shrugged. "We haven't heard back yet..... I guess that's not good news."

"Well, and even if he tried to contact us, this is the first time we've really been here in three days." Irvine started air-drumming along with a song that came on.

"You should call him!!" Selphie exclaimed, smacking Zell's arm.

He just rolled his eyes at her. "We aren't children. He'll call about Blackball when he's ready to."

She grunted, crossing her arms and looking at Zell like he was a moron. It didn't seem childish for Zell to want to call Seifer... it seemed childish for Zell not to. She just gave up and started talking to Irvine. She heard the phone ring after a while, Zell having started reading through the tabloids again. He laughed and showed her an obviously doctored photograph of a person that was supposed to be the Great Estharian Swamp-Monster, even though they didn't have swamps in Esthar.

"Hellooooo!" She asked, waving for Irvine to turn down the music.

"Good, you're there. I'm on my way." The person hung up the phone, and Selphie looked at the receiver for a moment before hanging it up.

"Wrong number?" Irvine asked.

"Seifer's coming over... I think." She shrugged, opening another beer. "He just kind of hung up."

Zell looked over, glad that Seifer was coming over, but a little apprehensive. When they didn't see each other for a stretch of time, no matter how small, Zell's mind started to work, his rational side wondering what the heck was going on, how he could so rapidly accept Seifer into his life again, and especially in this way. Before, they'd merely been classmates and Seifer had been Zell's source of misery. But, now... he was such a source of contentment and joy... Zell didn't know how it was possible. But, when he heard a purposeful knock on their door, all his mental protests seemed to dissolve, and when Seifer just let himself in, too impatient to wait for someone to come to the door, Zell's heart constricted.

"Hey," Seifer muttered glumly, looking as tired as they all felt.

"Where have you been hiding?" Irvine asked, giving Seifer a salute. "SeeD don't like to be kept waiting..."

Seifer made a rude noise, coupled with a sarcastic face. When his gaze landed on Zell, he became uncertain. He sat down beside the other man, but wasn't sure how to greet him. He saw that same hesitation in Zell's face. Zell leaned in, as if they were going to kiss, but Selphie and Irvine were right there, so that was out. It's not like it was a secret to them what was happening, but it still felt awkward, and still a very private thing. But, shaking hands would have just been going too far into platonic territory. Zell looked around, seeing Irvine wrapped up in his magazine, but Selphie was looking at them with a lopsided grin on her face. Zell leaned in and kissed Seifer's cheek instead, actually kissing the corner of his mouth. It was chaste, and yet... so very intimate. Seifer kissed him back, and Zell felt warm right down to his toes.

"Awww," Selphie muttered in disappointment. "Only on the cheek?"

Seifer gave Zell a confused look, then looked over his shoulder at Selphie, who was smiling stupidly at them. "Hi..." She said.

He looked at her again incredulously before turning back to Zell. "I've been trying to call you on and off for the past couple of days."

Zell sighed, handing Seifer a beer, which the other man refused. "We've been really busy. Blackballers are starting to riot more. Where have you been?"

"Working," Seifer muttered, groaning wearily as he kicked his boots off, slumping on the couch. "Because of the same riots, every fucking yahoo in Timber wants a weapon, and half of them actually got permits." He sighed. "And, I did get a chemical makeup on that Blackball."

"You did?" Selphie asked, kneeling beside him on the couch, hands in her lap.

"Doesn't help much, though. It's made of chemicals that no longer exist."

"Ummm, what?" Irvine asked. "They obviously exist if Blackball does."

"It's not like Diablos is just walking into Items 'R Us and buying this stuff. It's advanced alchemy and magic. Too advanced. I started to look through alchemy archives, and half the shit isn't even listed, and the others are all from looonnnnggg extinct."

"Stuff like what?" Selphie asked.

Seifer closed one eye as he thought. "Essence of Vith-Kuxsha, Varuna Wings, Hypello Blood... stuff like that."

"Never heard of it," Irvine mused.

"Nobody has," Seifer muttered. "It would just be so much easier if you could find Diablos."

"Then what, though?" Selphie wondered. "Diablos is a Guardian Force... could we actually destroy him?"

Seifer cocked his head. "I destroyed Odin, didn't I? It's possible."

"It's better than nothing. Maybe there's reference to some of that stuff in Garden archives. I could run it by Rinoa..." Selphie got up and started pacing around. "But, if he's using all this weird stuff, how is he making it?"

"Didn't we fight Diablos in a different dimension?" Zell asked after a while. "Remember when we first left for our mission in Timber to help the Forest Owls... Headmaster Cid gave us that lamp, and Diablos was inside it."

"That's right!" Selphie exclaimed, throwing her hands out as she spoke. It caused the open bottle in her hand to splash right all over Irvine's chest. "Ooooohhhh!" She stared at the stain. "Oh, Irvy... I'm sorry!"

He folded up his now wet magazine, and stared up at Selphie. "Now look what you've done..." He slowly stood up, beer running into his pants.

She put her hands to her temples, cocking her head back and forth. "Oops."

"Oops?" He echoed, smacking Selphie in the chest with his magazine. She squeaked, jumping back. But, a smile was growing on her face. She turned around to walk away, but Irvine smacked her in the butt. "You're dead," he said lowly.

"Gotta catch me first," Selphie hissed, tearing off into her apartment, Irvine close on her heels.

"They're how old?" Zell asked as he heard Selphie laughing from in his living room.

"I think it's cute," Seifer murmured, turning so he could look at Zell. He leaned his temple against the couch.

"Yeah, cute..." Zell echoed, staring straight ahead. He could feel Seifer's gaze like a laser on the side of his face.

"You don't sound serious," Seifer said. "I was being very serious. I like how comfortable they are with each other. Not many couples have that level of friendship after they start a sexual relationship. I even like how they buy porno for each other." He gestured to the magazines. "They know that each has active sexual fantasies, but aren't threatened by it. They accept it, and embrace it." He smiled warmly. "It must be nice to know that you're that rock solid. That they were meant to be."

"No one's ever really said that about them. Most people just think they're having a 'good time', and it's not really that serious. I mean, they've been dating as long as Squall and Rinoa, but aren't married and still act silly around each other."

"If people see that as a lack of commitment, fuck 'em. Just because Selphie and Irvine aren't married yet and playing house doesn't mean their relationship is less serious that Squall and Rinoa's." Seifer's eyes trailed to the table again. "So, I guess you saw my picture..."

"It's just the tabloids. It doesn't matter."

Seifer shrugged. "I don't care. At first, I was really worried about what people would say, but it seems they don't care anymore. The world moved on, and has new problems. I mean, one of my employees quit... her brother died in the Trabia Garden bombing, but I knew there would still be bad feelings."

"How do you... feel?" Zell asked, turning also so he could finally look Seifer in the eyes. God, his eyes were beautiful. "About being Seifer again, I mean."

He shrugged. "I've always been Seifer, so the same really. I've been too busy at work to really care."

"It doesn't bode well that all these rookies are buying weapons...." Zell frowned.

"Quite a few were resistance faction members, so had weapons permits, but they're all out of date. But, yeah... using weapons out of fear is never a good thing." He sighed. "I just wish I could have been a bigger help with that chemical makeup. I'm still looking into it, but I wouldn't hold out much hope."

"You've already been a help," Zell murmured, putting his hand on Seifer's thigh. "We wouldn't even know it was a GF behind the whole thing without you."

"Speaking of revealing lies..." Seifer trailed off after a long yet comfortable silence, Zell's hand still on his thigh. "Have you told anyone else you're gay?"

Zell shook his head. "Nah. I'm going to Balamb tomorrow I think, though."

"Just like that?" Seifer asked. "Don't you have an assignment here?"

"Selphie and Irvine can handle it. I'm only going for one day. I want to talk to Ma...." Zell looked at Seifer for a while. "Come with me."

"Wha....?" He trailed off with a laugh. "Yeah, right." He looked around the room. "I don't think they're coming back," he noted, referring to Selphie and Irvine.

"I was serious, you know?" Zell cocked his head, catching Seifer's gaze once more. "About you coming to Balamb with me tomorrow."

"And, what?" Seifer asked sourly. "Just mosey up to Garden with you?"

"I'm not going to Garden."

Seifer frowned. "C'mon, Chicken-Wuss. You really wanna take me when you tell your mom you're gay? A man you haven't fucked yet, and only kissed once?"

Zell leaned in and kissed Seifer soundly on the mouth. "Now it's been more than once," he murmured, only pulling away just slightly. He was close enough that he could still feel Seifer's breath on his lips. "I just want you there."

"I don't think it's a good idea," Seifer whispered.

"....okay." Zell was disappointed, but he still smiled when Seifer's hand cupped the side of his face, and his heart skipped when they kissed. Zell had never felt a relationship like this before. It just felt so different from the other times he'd kissed guys. It was still a powerfully masculine kiss, but the reasons he was kissing Seifer were what was so drastically different. Zell's sexual lust for Seifer grew bigger and bigger every time he saw the other man, but it wasn't his sole drive for spending time with him. Maybe because they hadn't just fallen into bed, Zell was now able to explore other feelings. If they'd had sex right away, he would have been preoccupied with those thoughts, instead of how wonderful this simple kiss was, and how nice it felt to have Seifer's mouth trail down the side of his face, and start to kiss his neck, nibbling at the skin in a way that made Zell's brow furrow with desire. Zell's hands moved strongly up Seifer's back, their legs twining together.

Zell kissed Seifer's cheeks, then found his mouth once more. Seifer kissed him back, and their mouths opened against each other, the kiss warm, wet and heavenly. Seifer's tongue moved slowly against his own, thoroughly tasting Zell's mouth. Zell's hands were in his hair, and Zell's body was so hard with muscles against him, and so very warm. God, Seifer had missed this.

"Stay tonight," Zell whispered into Seifer's hair as they started to nuzzle against each other, breathing in the smell of each other's skin, revelling in the feeling of another man against them, for they were both starved for this type of meaningful contact.

"But, the roads aren't washed out..."

"Stay," Zell repeated.

"Do you want to have sex?" Seifer asked quietly. It wasn't that he was afraid to have sex with Zell. Far from it. But, if they did, it was a very big, very lasting step. Not in the sense of committing to a relationship, but that if they thought better of trying to be a couple, they couldn't forget it happened.

"I don't know," Zell admitted. "I just want you to stay."

Seifer wrapped his arms tightly around Zell's waist in response, feeling the same way Zell did. Both were mature, grown men. They weren't the children they'd been when they knew each other last, and yet.... there was that hesitation of a youthful relationship. In a few years, they would be both 30, and yet they were hesitant about coupling, about crossing that final barrier. But, maybe it was actually a far more mature way of going about things when really examined. They were old enough to know that a relationship didn't mean just sex, that there were far more pressing issues between two people that didn't just go away with an orgasm.

"Oh...." Seifer trailed off, pulling away. "Speaking of dates.... I got this invitation the other day for a hospital fundraiser party. Wanna go? Selphie and Irvine can come, too. It was for 'guests'."

"Sure," Zell murmured, feeling a little lost when he looked in Seifer's peridot eyes. Did Seifer feel just how lonely Zell really was, an entire lifetime of solitude cumulating into this one experience with his former archenemy? "Where's the party at?" He asked, not really caring.

"At this Timber businessman's house. Count Aka-Manah."

"...oh." That was an answer that just sucked all the pleasantness out of Seifer's invitation.

"Oh?" Seifer echoed. "What do you mean?"

Zell shrugged. "I've met him before."

"You have?" Seifer raised an eyebrow, which contrasted with his dark hair.

"Haven't you?" Zell asked dourly, the mood killed by the memory of the almost sleazy air around Daeva Aka-Manah.

"No," Seifer answered. "I got invited because of my reputation in commercial circles. I mean, we aren't of the same social scene." Seifer watched as Zell got up, getting another beer and slowly pacing the room. "When did you meet him?"

"At an art gallery... thing," Zell muttered. "I feel like I've met him before...."

"What's he like?" Seifer wondered. "Did Selphie and Irvine meet him, too?"

"Just Selphie. She thought he was handsome."

"And, you didn't?" Seifer asked playfully. But, he frowned when the other man wasn't biting. He also stood up when Zell made a put-off noise and went into his bedroom. "Oh, come on Chicken-Wuss..."

"Don't call me that!" Zell exclaimed moodily.

"All right, all right." Seifer got up too as Zell closed the door connecting his apartment to Selphie's, obviously still in a bad mood. "So, what do you distrust about him? Is he your typical black-hearted rich man?"

Zell shrugged, putting his hands on his hips. "I don't know... he seems.... dangerous, somehow."

Seifer narrowed his eyes. "Well, a SeeD's instincts are usually right. Maybe...." Seifer trailed off. "You think he could be up to something illegal?"

Zell frowned. "Are you trying to hint at that maybe he's got something to do with Blackball? Maybe he's a dealer or something?"

"Someone's gotta sell it on the street," Seifer pointed out. Zell sighed angrily, going into the bathroom, starting to brush his teeth. Seifer leaned against the counter. "I don't think Diablos would blend in with Bridgeport Square's crowd."

Zell spit toothpaste into the sink. "I wish you would come to Balamb with me...."

Seifer shook his head. "No." He cocked his head. "You want to go to the party with me or not?"

"I guess," Zell answered, popping his memory pill as he disjunctioned Ifrit. "It will give me a chance to watch Aka-Manah again."

"Well, I was hoping for it to be more of a 'date', but I'll take it." Seifer also took his memory pill, but Tiamat wasn't with him.

"Not much of a date," Zell muttered. "We won't even be alone." He started to unbutton his shirt, getting ready for bed. Seifer pursed his lips, wondering if this really was such a good idea. He could still just go back to Archimedes, or go home. Because, if he got attached to Zell, and Zell went back to Balamb.... Seifer knew it would happen, but how would he deal with it, if he really did fall for the other man? Zell noticed the distance icing up Seifer's pale eyes, and took a step forward, taking Seifer's hands in his own, looking up into his face. Seifer's face was so familiar to him from years of classes at Garden together, but it was like he was looking at that face in a new light, meeting him again for the first time. Zell put Seifer's hands on the part of his chest that was exposed from his half-opened shirt. Seifer's hands were warm against his skin, hands feeling strong with a lifetime of using a gunblade, and working with his hands on a regular basis.

Zell and Seifer stared at each other for a long time, not sure what to do, what to say. Zell had never been this tongue-tied around a man he found sexually desirable. But, maybe that was because he'd never shared a mental connection with them like he did with Seifer. Seifer's hands swept up the sides of Zell's neck, his mouth coming down on top of the other man's. Zell pushed Seifer's shirt up his torso, fingers feeling the warmth of his flesh and the hardness of his abdominal muscles. They broke apart, and looked at each other for a while, looking for any hesitation in the other's face, and seeing a little there. But, also seeing desire and want. Zell turned around and went into his bedroom, Seifer staying behind in the bathroom for a few moments, collecting his wits and trying to straighten out all the feelings that were racing through him. He went into the bedroom, and Zell was kneeling on the bed, a serious look on his face, his shirt half-open and his hair messed up, looking so desirable. Seifer also kneeled on the bed, and they faced each other, not touching, not talking.

Zell undid the rest of his shirt buttons, and took the garment off. He tossed it to the floor, still kneeling in front of the also kneeling Seifer. He then lay back on the mattress, looking up at Seifer when the other man leaned over him, studying him. He ran one hand through Zell's corn-coloured hair, and ran the other hand down Zell's hard chest and stomach. Zell let out a shaky breath, reaching his arm up and gently taking Seifer's eyeglasses off his face. Seifer took them from the other man, and put them on the nightstand as he pulled off his shirt. He propped his weight up on his elbows, his weight pressing down on Zell's body.

"Seifer....?" Zell asked quietly as their fingers stroked over each other's faces and shoulders. Zell's fingers lovingly traced the muscular lines of Seifer's bare back. "Can I ask you something?"

"Hmm?" Seifer cocked his head, kissing Zell's forehead.

"How much would those gloves cost me if I'd had to pay for them?"

Seifer laughed quietly, kissing down the side of Zell's face, tongue tracing the black lines of his tattoo. "Well, subtracting the 400 gil you already paid.... 199,600 gil."

Zell's eyes widened. "Huh....?"

"The gloves cost 200,000 gil, and that's me under charging."

"How come you're not a millionaire then?" Zell asked, starting to breathe a little heavier as Seifer's hands stroked over his lower abdomen.

"How many people do you think actually buy weapons with Crystal Fangs and Ruby Dragon scales, dummy?" Seifer asked, smirking as Zell glared at him. Zell smacked his shoulder, and Seifer didn't let his face show that it hurt, despite the fact that Zell had meant it as playful.

"Sorry...." Zell whispered sheepishly. Seifer figured he'd failed in hiding that the little punch had hurt.

"It's okay." Seifer kissed the side of Zell's throat, his mouth then following his fingers down Zell's chest, breathing in the smell of his skin and the feel of his muscles, hard under the satiny pull of warm, soft skin. Zell let out a small little noise when Seifer's mouth covered his left nipple. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been like this with another man, especially not when he'd last been like this, so meaningful and filled with more than just sexual desire. He ran his hands through Seifer's falsely dark hair, arching as Seifer's mouth moved farther down, deeply kissing his stomach. That was an odd way to describe someone pressing their lips to his stomach, but it wasn't just a peck. Seifer's mouth hovered over his skin, tasting it. Zell's insides felt like someone was gripping them in a fist, and he almost felt like Ifrit was flaring in him. But, it wasn't the Fire God. It was the blood rapidly moving in his veins, it was the feeling of desire taking over his nerves. Zell's eyes closed as Seifer's mouth moved up his chest again, finding his own mouth.

Zell jerked as Seifer's hand moved down to cup his genitals, which were hard and trapped in his pants. What had caused him to jerk wasn't Seifer's hands on him, but a loud noise from upstairs. Their noisy neighbours.

"This is why I live in a house," Seifer muttered, looking angrily up at the ceiling, fingers tracing the hardness of Zell's erection through his pants. Zell sat up, their mood shattered, for it had been very fragile. He could see hesitation in Seifer's eyes. He hated that hesitation, for he'd felt it, too. And, he also knew it was bred from outside circumstances encroaching, bleeding into rational thought. Why did it matter about the past, or about what others like Squall, or even his mother, would say? Didn't it only matter what Zell and Seifer felt? And, Zell knew he wanted to be with Seifer, not just sexually, but he wanted to be with him. The way Squall was with Rinoa, and the way Selphie was with Irvine. Zell took the next logical step, and removed the rest of his clothes, so he was naked. The hesitation vanished from Seifer's eyes, being replaced by dark, masculine lust.

Seifer's strong arms came around Zell's now naked body and kissed him fiercely, feeling all that wonderful and naked flesh pressed to him. Zell groaned, friction against his tender and exposed genitals. Zell's hands worked and fumbled and finally got Seifer's pants undone too, so they were naked together. One part of Seifer wanted to throw Zell down at fuck him, to be fucked by him, but the other part wanted so much more, and that was the part that gently wrapped his arms around Zell's body, holding him tightly. Zell held him back with strong arms, and Seifer sighed into Zell's neck. They held each other like that, nude flesh against nude flesh, breathing in the scent of each other.

"God, we're pathetic," Zell murmured as he and Seifer lay down on the bed, Seifer's beautiful body pressed flush to his back.

"Why's that?" Seifer asked, kissing the nape of Zell's neck, his tongue slowly moving down Zell's spine.

"Do you think we'll ever get around to having sex?" Zell asked. "Seems like something always stops us, and that something is us...."

Seifer's hands rested on the other man's hips as his mouth moved downwards. "Because we've been alone for so long that the sex isn't what we want," Seifer whispered against Zell's spine, his tongue still moving downwards. He kissed the small of Zell's back, where the other man had a small tattoo of a fire rune from an old religion of the Centra Empire. Zell arched backwards, rubbing his face with his hands, feeling feverish and giddy. Seifer's hands were strong on him, and his mouth was hot. Seifer's hands moved down Zell's thighs, and his mouth that felt hot on Zell's back felt positively on fire when it covered the head of Zell's erection.

Zell's chest heaved, and he gasped as if he'd been underwater and deprived of oxygen. As Seifer's mouth surrounded him, Zell found it hard to get air. Every bit that came out of his lungs came out in shaky breaths, matching his now shaking body. He opened his eyes, looking down his body to see Seifer looking up at him. It seemed such an intimate gesture, Seifer looking up at him, mouth around Zell's erection. They maintained eye contact as Seifer's hand joined his mouth around Zell's penis. Zell closed his eyes as his hips were lifted off the bed, Seifer's hands massaging his thighs and hips., fingers tracing all the lines and curves of his muscles. Zell flung an arm over his face, panting as his hips worked up against Seifer's mouth. He ran a hand through Seifer's hair, wrapping his legs around the other man's shoulders. He slowly pushed Seifer's head down, gently forcing him to deep-throat. Seifer emitted a quiet moan, his throat working around the erection. Zell moaned in turn, rocking his hips up against Seifer's face. He'd never been very passive in bed, even when receiving oral sex, or even when he was a bottom. Seifer showed appreciation by quietly making a noise of contentment that was muffled by Zell's dick in his mouth.

Seifer's fingers kneaded Zell's muscular ass as he moved his mouth in time with Zell's hips. He watched Zell's reactions, watched how he was panting and whispering Seifer's name, how he was enjoying himself. His sexual reaction was much like the rest of him; so full of fiery passion. Seifer's tongue probed Zell's urethra, and he smiled around Zell's cock as the other man gasped, moaning Seifer's name. Seifer liked hearing his name repeatedly fall from Zell's mouth. He'd been very lonely over the past 10 years, but that wasn't to say that he hadn't had a couple rolls in the hay. But, those two men had known him as Raef, so he hadn't heard his real name come from them in moments of blinding bliss. It... meant a lot to him to hear Zell call his name, to know that he was giving Zell pleasure. Their relationship at Garden had always been full of passion, but now it was a different sort, a sort that meant so much more.

Seifer laughed quietly as he pulled his mouth off, teasing Zell. The tattooed blonde cursed him, gripping a handful of Seifer's hair to force his mouth back down on his penis. Seifer kissed the tip, and nimbly licked down the shaft to Zell's testicles. "Seifer...." Zell panted, his hands moving up his own chest, touching his own nipples as he bit his lip at Seifer's ministrations. His mouth was as skilled as his hand with a gunblade. "Seifer," he whispered again as Seifer started sucking on one of his balls. He groaned, bucking his hips. "God.... Seifer...."

Seifer gently bit into the soft flesh of the other man's inner thigh as he parted Zell's legs. Zell groaned again, and Seifer liked how vocal he was. When Seifer's tongue gently and quickly probed Zell's rectum, the other man made a surprised little noise. That surprised little noise turned into a pleasured moan when Seifer did it again, slowly pressed the tip of his tongue into Zell's tight rectum. His hand massaged Zell's testicles and stroked his erection. Zell moaned Seifer's name over and over, loud enough to be vocal, but quiet enough for it to be intimate. Zell wondered if Seifer was getting any enjoyment out of this, since he was solely concentrating on Zell's pleasure. But, he supposed that Seifer would have just stopped if he didn't want to. Even now, he wasn't the sort of man to do something unless he wanted to. Zell was shivering, even though he was hot and sweating, from what Seifer was doing to him, how Seifer's tongue teasing his asshole and gently pushing into him made Zell feel.

Seifer pushed his tongue further into Zell as he continued to rim him, one hand massaging his testicles, the other stroking his cock. Zell was making noises that Seifer hadn't heard from another man in quite a while. In the past decade, it was true that he'd had sex with a couple men, but that had been years ago, and since then Seifer had been alone, with no one to wrench these kind of masculine, sexual noises from. Zell let out a sob as he came, calling Seifer's name. It had been so long, too long, since he'd last felt like this. He felt the hot stickiness of his release on his belly, which was rising and falling dramatically because he was panting so hard.

He slowly opened his eyes when he felt one of Seifer's fingers drag across his belly. Watching Seifer taste his semen sent a shudder of fulfilled desire through his body. Seifer licked up the rest of it as Zell felt like weeping, and felt retarded for it. And, when Seifer wrapped his arms tight around him, Zell did let out a low sob, Seifer's body folding around him, spooning him perfectly, as if they were meant for each other, as familiar as if it had always been so. Zell's face was turned so their cheeks were pressed together, but he didn't feel foolish for letting out that sob. He didn't feel foolish because he knew Seifer felt the same way, that he felt so full after being so empty for so long. Zell let the feeling of being in Seifer's arms, sated by orgasm, wash over him. He soaked it in, erasing ten years of lying and loneliness. No, a lifetime of it. All under the hands of his former enemy. Though, Zell started to feel a bit selfish. After all, Seifer had given him all this pleasure, and Zell had done nothing to return the favour. He wondered if Seifer minded....?

Zell opened his eyes, for he'd fallen asleep. He wasn't in Seifer's arms when he woke up, but he knew Seifer was in bed beside him. One of the lamps was on, and Seifer had his head and shoulders propped up by pillows, reading something, eyeglasses back on his face.

"What're you doing...?" Zell asked, yawning. His vision was blurry with sleep.

"Just some reading," Seifer whispered.

"Wha....?" Zell stopped as he yawned again. "What are you reading?"

Seifer looked over. "An alchemy textbook. You still going to Balamb in the morning?"

Zell yawned, and he thought he nodded, but was too tired to be sure.

"Then you should get some rest."


"Go back to sleep, babe." Seifer leaned down and kissed Zell gently on the mouth. It only took Zell a few moments before he was out once more. Seifer went back to his reading, searching for references to the old ingredients that made up Blackball. Though he was contented to be in bed next to Zell, after cementing their relationship as a sexual one, reading these books made him think of Raijin, wondering even if he was still alive. It still hurt Seifer so much that he'd had to turn his back on Raijin. Had Fujin and Raijin felt this awful when they'd had to turn their backs on Seifer ten years ago, when he was so under Ultimecia's sway that he couldn't see reason right in front of his face? Maybe death would be a blessing for Raijin, and that thought killed Seifer, and made him all the more determined to halt Diablos in his tracks.

Laguna knocked again on the door to Edea's room at the Taygeta Hotel. After their kiss, Edea had distanced herself from both the Presidential Palace, and the President himself. She'd left the palace, not telling anyone where she'd gone, and wouldn't take calls, even though Laguna had much to tell her. "Edea, please."

No answer.

"I know you're in there, Edea. I can smell your perfume."

"No, you can't...." She murmured sadly from the other side of the door.

"Yeah, you're right..." Laguna sighed heavily, pressing his forehead to the door with his broad shoulders slumped. "But, I need to see you. Not just for me." Laguna had emails and Timber tabloids in his hands. There was so much known now from Timber, and Seifer had been seen there. "Your son is alive."

That was what did it. Edea rushed across the room, unlocking the door. She knew that Laguna wouldn't lie about such a thing. "What?" She asked, the force of opening the door blowing her hair back off her shoulders.

Laguna held up the tabloids that had been sent to him from an International Newsstand by the Airstation. Edea saw the bar at the top and snatched the rags from Laguna's hands. He came into the room, closing the door behind him as Edea poured over the article, slowly lowering herself to the edge of the queen-sized bed with its bright red comforter. It made her hair look all the blacker, her skin even more milky. God, she was beautiful, and Laguna's heart ached for her, feeling guilt and love for her at the same time. How could he be thinking this way about a married woman?! It was so spineless, and yet... he knew it was more than simple lust and desire for her curvaceous body. He cared deeply for Edea, loved her.

"He's alive..." Edea murmured, looking at the articles in the tabloids. The images of Seifer from back in those fateful days, under Ultimecia's control. And, the image from now. He'd been in Timber the whole time... and with the dark hair and eyeglasses, it brought out a little bit of a resemblance to Cid. It wasn't anything really major that anyone other than Edea would have noticed. Seifer looked so much like Edea's mother, and looked so beautiful... all grown into a man. The scar that Squall had given him was absent from his face, and he had a distant smile on his face. How Edea missed seeing him smile.... she hadn't really seen it since he'd been a little boy.

Edea looked up at Laguna, wonder on her sensual face. She smiled. "He's alive..."

"There's more," Laguna said quietly, happy that she was so happy. "They figured out who is in charge of Blackball."

"They did?" Edea felt proud of Zell, Selphie and Irvine, but her mind was more cemented on Seifer.

"Seifer helped," Laguna said quietly. "He gave his professional opinion as an alchemist."

Edea nodded. "Yes... this article says he was going by a different name there. Raef Emaissyl.... an anagram."

Laguna nodded. "The Sorceress you were feeling actually wasn't a Sorceress...."

She wasn't paying attention. She was staring at the recent photograph of Seifer in the Timber Tattler.

"Edea?" Laguna put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Did you hear me?"


"You couldn't feel the Sorceress because it wasn't a Sorceress," Laguna repeated.

"Who was it then?" Edea asked, pursing her lips. She wanted to go straight to Timber to see Seifer. She had so many things to tell him, so many things to apologize for.


That got Edea's attention. "What?"

"Seifer told Squall and Quistis that when he touched a Blackball, he felt it was an icon item."

"So... all these poor souls that are addicted to the drug are actually addicted to Diablos's power," she mused sadly. "What would possess a GF to do such a thing?"

Laguna shrugged. "Nobody knows. Diablos also took his... it... whatever... he took his powers out of Squall's icon item, so they can't summon him to get answers."

"There is a lot about Guardian Forces that we don't know," Edea said haltingly. "But, what about Seifer.... and the other children in Timber? If Diablos is there, and if they're figuring it out.... will they be in danger?"

"We don't know," Laguna murmured, putting an arm around her shoulder. "But, they're all trained for this sort of thing. They can handle it."

"But, what about Seifer?" Edea asked, golden-brown eyes widened. "He...."

"Don't worry," Laguna whispered. "Alchemists are usually good fighters since they have to get items from Monsters, and it's Seifer... he grew up at Garden."

She sighed. "He's really alive.... but... maybe he won't want to see me. Especially after he finds out I've been lying to him his entire life."

Laguna held her, putting his chin on the top of her head. "I felt the same way when I had to tell Squall the truth. I worried he would hate me because I didn't try to come find him, that I wasn't there when his mother died... He never even got to meet her."

"Oh, Laguna... you had reasons.... You were locked up in Esthar's secrecy. Cid saw Seifer every day... I could have easily told him after Adel had been put in stasis..."

"Esthar's secrecy was a lame excuse," he muttered. "Sure, I think he'll be upset at first... but... look at me and Squall. It's slow going, but we're getting closer, and Seifer's a lot more emotional than Squall, right? That's good news..."

Edea cocked her head, giving Laguna a rueful smile. "You're just trying to cheer me up."

"Is it working?" He asked, winking.

She laughed quietly. "A little."

"Squall didn't seem all that trusting of Seifer," Laguna pointed out gravely.

"Because of when he was Ultimecia's Knight?" Edea asked, but it was a rhetorical question.

Laguna shook his head, staring into Edea's eyes. Her beautiful eyes.... "I think it has more to do with Rinoa than Ultimecia," he admitted, voice catching in his throat. "Selphie and the others trust him though...."

Edea's heart was filled with happiness at the idea of seeing Seifer again, and in her joy, she hugged Laguna fiercely, laughing as he held her back. Their lips then met in a kiss, Edea's heart fluttering in her chest, sharing this happy moment with Laguna. It felt so right, even though it was the wrong man. When was the last time Cid had fuelled this kind of passion in her? When was the last time he'd readily talked about Seifer with her? Cid was very silent on the subject of their child. That didn't mean that he didn't miss Seifer, because Edea knew he did, but she just felt so much more connected with Laguna on that subject. She felt more connected with him on a lot of things, especially the way this kiss was making her feel. She had word of her child, she had Laguna here.... "No," she whispered quietly, pushing her hands against Laguna's chest. "This isn't right." There was a tortured look in her eyes.

"Edea, this isn't me just wanting to get off," Laguna admitted, glad he was sitting down. That old, stupid leg cramp was starting to act up. "I care about you!" He stroked his fingers through her hair. "I love you!"

Edea made an angry noise, vaulting off the bed. "Laguna!" She exclaimed heatedly. "You shouldn't have said that to me. I'm a married woman!"

"I know that!" Laguna exclaimed, also rising. He grit his teeth because of the pain in his leg, but he didn't let it get the better of him. "I didn't tell you to hurt you, Edea! That's how I feel!"

"Well, what am I supposed to say to that?" She asked, crossing her arms a little angrily, and definitely defensively.

"I...." Laguna sighed heavily. "I'm sorry, Edea. I don't want to hurt you... really."

"I.... I know that, Laguna."

"Well, I'm just glad you're happy about the news about Seifer...." Laguna shuffled his feet. "I... I should go." He turned and opened the door.

Edea watched Laguna's back, knowing that if Laguna left this room, they would probably not see each other for a while. Edea would go back to Centra, since they knew what was going on in Timber. It was Diablos. So, Edea's services wouldn't be needed in Esthar anymore. She could go back to her life at the orphanage. She could go back to her life with Cid. She could try to rebuild a relationship with Seifer, if he wanted to even see her again. And, Laguna would stay here in Esthar of course. Perhaps they wouldn't see each other in years, perhaps ever. They would avoid each other to avoid these feelings making them do something they shouldn't. Her heart constricted, and she called out "Laguna!" She didn't want him to walk out of her life. She didn't want him to leave like this. He looked over his shoulder, such conflict in his eyes. It was the same conflict that warred inside her. She ran across the room towards him, and their arms tangled around each other's bodies, mouths searching each other out.

Her hands eagerly tugged at his casual shirt, unfastening the buttons, ripping one off in her haste. His fingers pulled at her thick hair, their tongues filling each other's mouths so fully that neither could breathe. "I don't want you to leave," Edea whispered between kisses. "What's wrong with us?"

"Edea...." He panted, fingers finding the lacing at the back of her velvet gown. He pulled and tugged at it, both of them panting and making mewling noises of desperation. "We... we should stop." He'd gotten her bodice undone, the shoulders of the dress falling down, exposing the curve of her pale shoulders and her upper chest, her cleavage rising and falling with her breath.

"No," Edea said quietly, her hands sweeping down Laguna's chest. "Please don't."

"But, what about Cid?" He asked, their bodies crushing together, her breasts flattening against the planes of his chest.

"I... don't know..." She panted. "I just know I don't want you to leave."

He finished unlacing the back of her dress's bodice, the gown falling to the ground, so she was just in a slinky black silk slip. That too soon went to the floor, her nudity pressed to Laguna's body. It had been so long since he'd touched a woman like this. Sure, he'd had other things in his life to keep him busy, but Raine had been dead for 27 years, and Julia Heartilly had long ago married General Caraway and had Rinoa, and died in that tragic car accident when Rinoa was just five. But, this feeling of a woman next to him, and one he'd known for years and cared deeply for... there was nothing that could replace that, even if she was another man's wife. It felt so dirty and wrong, but his heart just wouldn't let him stop, his body agreeing.

He was soon as naked as she was, and they wound up on the floor, too wrapped up in pure desire now to care about reaching the bed. They still knew this was wrong, but their bodies were now in control. Rational thought didn't apply anymore. Edea felt like she'd been in the dark for so long. She loved Cid dearly, but where had the passion gone? When had that feeling of love mixed with desire disappeared? When had she gotten so complacent? In Laguna's arms, and under Laguna's hands, she was far from complacent. Her nails raked up his back as he bit into the mound of her left breast. He kissed and licked across her shapely bosom, hand going down her soft and flat belly. Her hands pulled at his hair, forcing his face up for a brutal and wanton kiss. As Laguna's hand went lower, feeling the coarseness of pubic hair, he could feel the electricity of her Sorcery under her hot skin. Their mouths were fused as they rolled around on the floor, limbs tangled impossibly together, both making animalistic noises of desire. Laguna buried his face in her breasts as he entered her, both of them moaning with all their pent-up lust for each other, so heady and sinful. Afterwards, they would feel dirty, low and guilty, but now all they felt was the heat and friction between their bodies. She felt Laguna's strong hands and mouth on her skin, and he felt her body all around him, her soft hair and purposeful mouth. Then, he wasn't thinking about how he was wronging a close friend in Cid. He was thinking of how he wanted her like this over and over. He wanted her like a drug, he wanted her to be his so completely. And, at that moment, she was.

Selphie yawned, stretching her arms over her head. Irvine was making her breakfast (sometimes he's just the sweetest guy in the whole world), and she was going to Zell's apartment to ask if Seifer and Zell wanted some breakfast too. For, she knew that Seifer had spent the night. How could he not have? It was impossible to ignore what was going on between Seifer and Zell, how they were bonding so fiercely. She would be greatly surprised indeed to know that Seifer had gone home. When she went into Zell's bedroom, still dressed in her lacy lavender camisole and matching short-shorts, she was indeed surprised, but not because Seifer wasn't there. He was, but it was Zell that wasn't. And, the bathroom door was open, lights out.

Seifer was fast asleep, curled up with a serene look of contentment on his face. There were a stack of books piled haphazardly beside the bed, some of them still open. Selphie peered at them as she crawled onto the bed. Alchemy books. She gently poked Seifer's bare shoulder, leaning over him. When he opened his eyes, she yelled "Hello!!", and he gasped, heart wanting to jump right out of his chest.

"Fuck!" He gasped angrily. "Are you insane?!"

"Expecting someone else?" She asked playfully, laying down on the bed beside Seifer. "Where's Zell?"

"He....." Seifer trailed off, yawning. "He went to Balamb for the day."

Selphie raised her eyebrows, rolling over so she could look at Seifer. "Huh? Why?"

"Wanted to see his mother," Seifer muttered, trying to pull some more blankets around him, but Selphie was laying on them. "Do you mind?"

"Oh, to tell her he's gay... right?" She then smiled brightly. "Or, to tell her you're his boyfriend?"

"We're not boyfriends," Seifer lied. Selphie also knew he was lying. "Well... not officially. Now, get out."

"Are you naked under there?" She asked, starting to lift up the blanket and look underneath. Seifer smacked her hands away. She raised her eyebrows. "Nice."

"Does Irvine know you're in here?" Seifer asked testily, wanting to just go back to sleep. He closed his eyes deliberately, hoping Selphie would get the hint and leave him alone. He wanted to fall back asleep and have nice dreams. Dreams of him and Zell together....

"Does it matter?" Selphie asked. "It's not like you're going to fuck me.... Are you?" She asked.

He snorted.

"Soooooo....?" She curled up next to Seifer, head resting on his shoulder. "Did you and Zell have sex?"

"None of your business!" He exclaimed, opening one eye to look down at her. "I swear, you are the nosiest fucking person in the world."


"Part of the job," Seifer finished sourly. "Right." After a few moments, he asked "what are you doing in here, anyway?"

"Irvine's making breakfast. Want some bacon?"

"No, I mean in bed with me."

Selphie shrugged. "It's just platonic. Am I making you uncomfortable? I could make you a lot more uncomfortable," she added with a laugh.

"Not really uncomfortable," he answered. "Just... confused."

"Did you miss us?" Selphie asked out of the blue.

"What do you mean?" He asked with a yawn.

"I mean all this time... .did you ever think about Garden? About Zell and me and Irvine and Quisty? Did you ever think about Matron, and even Squall and Rinoa... and wish you were back with us?"

"You wouldn't have wanted me around," he muttered. "Especially not Squall. After what I did to Rinoa...."

"It wasn't your fault!" Selphie exclaimed quietly. "You're sorry for it. That's all that Squall can ask of you. Rinoa's forgiven you...."

"Are you sure about that?"

Selphie didn't answer.

"You know..." Seifer murmured after a while. "I did think about Garden a lot. I think I missed everything in a way.... but, there are so many bad memories attached to that place. I don't know if I could ever go back. But...."


"I.... I'm glad that you guys accidentally ran into me again."

"At first, I was mad to see you," Selphie said, sitting up. "But, now....." She smiled. "You're one of the gang again."

"Sort of," he mumbled. "I really appreciate you guys trying to make me feel welcome, but I seriously frigging doubt I'd get the same treatment at Garden."

"Even if we hadn't had the orphanage as a past, you make Zell happy. That's reason enough."

"You talk as if we're married," Seifer said, flinging his arm across his eyes. "It's not like that."

"What's it like, then?" Selphie asked. "You like him, right?"

Seifer didn't answer.

"You think he's cute, right?"

"... maybe."

"And, he thinks you're cute, right?" Selphie crawled up next to Seifer again. "You're totally a couple, and I don't care what you say."

"A couple?" He echoed.

"I think you were a couple before you ever even kissed. Just like Squall and Rinoa."

Seifer lowered his arm and glared at the sprightly brunette.

"Hmmmm, I guess you didn't like me saying that, huh?" One of her hands slid under the blanket. "Here, let me make it up to you."

He slapped at her hand. "Get lost!" He smacked her hand again when she pinched one of his nipples. "You're a pervert." He flung a pillow at her.

She laughed, catching the pillow. "What do you expect? Look who my boyfriend is...." She trailed off as she heard a door open, and then footsteps. "Speak of the devil."

"I was wondering what was taking so long..." Irvine murmured, still holding a spatula in one hand. He was only wearing a pair of forest green briefs and his cowboy hat. "Where's Zell?"

"Balamb," Selphie said cheerfully as Seifer covered his face with the pillow he'd thrown at Selphie, groaning.

"Take your girlfriend," Seifer muttered, voice muffled by the pillow. "And, go put some clothes on!"

"Hey," Selphie exclaimed, standing up on the bed then jumping off, casing the whole thing to shake. "At least we're wearing clothes."

"What?" Irvine exclaimed sharply. "What were you doing in here?" He asked, a little accusatory. "Making the moves on my woman, Seifer?"

Seifer gave them the finger, face still buried under the pillow. "Oh, wait..." He called, sitting up as they started to leave, talking amongst themselves. "I got an invitation the other day in the mail for a charity party benefiting the Forest Owl Hospital. Wanna go? It's tomorrow night."

"What about Zell?" Selphie asked.

"I already asked. He said fine, though he wasn't very enthusiastic."

"A party, eh?" Irvine asked. He tipped his hat. "We're totally there. So, like... why wasn't Zell thrilled?"

"Because it's being thrown by Daeva Aka-Manah, and Zell I guess doesn't like him." Seifer almost instinctively got out of bed, but realized he was indeed naked under the sheets.

"Oooh, the Count?" Selphie asked. "He's dreamy."

"Zell thinks he might be into some shady stuff."

Selphie shrugged. "Like what....? He seemed nice to me."

"Maybe you were just blinded by his girlish good looks?" Irvine offered. He'd seen pictures of the Count, and he had a face that made Squall look rugged.

She bumped Irvine's hip with her butt. "Compared to your ugly mug? You bet."

"Just 'cause Seifer's around, don't think I won't slap you," Irvine hissed playfully.

Seifer watched them with a distant smile on his face. He'd been very serious the night before when he'd told Zell that he liked the relationship between Selphie and Irvine. He did. They were so easy and comfortable with each other. Really transcending that border between friends and lovers. They were so fun, and even though they sniped at each other, it was all in jest, and there was deep-rooted love and affection there. Would he and Zell ever be like that? It was a nice thought....

Irvine groaned, leaning against the doorframe as Selphie and he playfully bickered. "Irvine...?" She asked, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?"

"You look kind of pale there," Seifer noted.

He put a hand to his chest. "I.... I think it's Quetzacoatl."

Selphie's expression became stricken and clouded with worry. "Here...." She led Irvine away from the bedroom towards Zell's living room. "Sit down, okay...."

Seifer used the chance to quickly pull on a pair of jeans, not worrying about underwear for the moment. He also threw on his discarded shirt, and went out to the living room. Selphie must have raced quickly back into their apartment, because Irvine was wearing flannel pants and she was now pulling a sweater on him, still wearing her own pyjamas. He was shivering. "What's going on?" Seifer asked, looking at Irvine's face.

"I... I dunno," Irvine said through chattering teeth. "Just, all the s-sudden...."

"It's like when Ifrit went bonkers in Zell...."

"Disjunction Quetzacoatl," Seifer said quietly. "Is your GF acting fucked?"

"I don't have Cactuar on...."

Irvine nodded and did so when he put his hands around the Dynamo Stone icon item, gasping for air, but he almost immediately stopped shivering.

"Why would Quetzacoatl just start acting like that?" Selphie wondered, wrapping a blanket lovingly around Irvine's shoulders. "You think it's 'cause of Diablos?"

"It's very likely," Seifer muttered. "We've all had this happen to us." He looked over when someone knocked on Zell's door.

"You think Zell's back from Balamb already?" Selphie asked, for who else would it be? She got up and went to the door. Seifer had started to go, but Selphie put a hand on his shoulder. After all.... they weren't sure who it could be. If Seifer answered Zell's door, and it was Squall or something... that would be an ugly scene. Seifer used the chance to quickly go into the bathroom and brush his teeth. He always carried a bag with him with clothes and stuff like that, since during this time of year, he never knew if he was going to get to his house, and because he often stayed so late at the store he was just too tired to make the drive, and would crash with Fujin, or at one of the hotels. Or, now... with Zell. He brushed his teeth as he heard Selphie answer the door, wondering if she bothered to cover up her lacy little pyjamas. Probably not. He heard a voice, and his stomach curled. It was a woman's voice, deep and commanding, and so very familiar to him, and yet... not at the same time.

"Can I help you?" Selphie asked, opening the door to see someone she'd never seen before. It was a woman wear a royal purple gown in a crepe material. It looked antique, definitely not a common style. It had a square neck, and she wore a large necklace. No, necklace wasn't the right word. It was more like a draping collar of many strands of beads and jewels in gold, the gems exploding with colour, most of them iolite to match the purple gown. She had a robe over it to cover her shoulders, thick and expensive looking velvet lined with black fur. Her face was a blank mask, her hair braided up along with a delicate gold coronet. She looked like a princess. Selphie was a bit flabbergasted.

"I have come to visit my Master," she said in a very commanding voice. She had a powerful air around her, and Selphie wondered if she was a Sorceress. Suddenly, she was very wary.

"Master....?" She echoed. "I think you have the wrong place...."

Seifer had come out of the bathroom, that voice curling in him, calling to him. When he stepped into the hall, the woman with her chocolate coloured hair and black eyes pushed past Selphie, going directly towards the bespectacled man. She clasped Seifer's hands, much to his surprise, and nodded at him. "I've come to speak with you on a matter of import."

"Uh... who's that....?" Irvine asked, still wrapped in the blanket on the couch.

Seifer peered into this woman's face. She was very tall, about Irvine's height, and exuded such power that was familiar to Seifer. He'd heard her voice in his head many times, but coming from a human mouth, it lacked the ethereal and reverbatory quality he was used to. "Tiamat....?"

She nodded, giving Seifer a thin yet determined smile. She turned to face Irvine and Selphie. "It was I that caused Quetzacoatl to act up. If he is disjunctioned, I may speak to you without eavesdropping."

"But...." Seifer looked at this woman, unable to believe that it was his dragon summon.

"You are surprised to see me in human form," she said, sitting regally in an armchair, looking at them all with fathomless black eyes. "You shouldn't be."

"Are you sure.....?" Selphie whispered to Seifer. "I mean, are you sure this is Tiamat?"

Tiamat frowned, and the air started to fill with a dark energy, her hands on the arms of the chair turning into claws with sapphire blue scales. "This is not a time for you to be questioning me," she said, voice echoing in more than just the room. It echoed in their heads, as well. "For I have tidings you may wish to hear."

"About...?" Seifer asked.


He sat down on the couch beside Irvine, Selphie on Seifer's other side, hands folded in her lacy lavender lap. "What do you mean?" Seifer asked.

"You should get used to 'Summons' in human form, especially because you'll be seeing a lot of them."

"You can be in human form...?" Selphie asked, cocking her head. "I didn't know that."

"There is much about our world you do not know," Tiamat answered. "It is a world of fathomless age."

"Were you human once?" Seifer asked. "Did... was this your human form?"

"Long ago, yes. I was known as Thuban Alwaid. All Summons have a human name, and all have a human form. We also have varying forms of our spell from ages past, and times long dead."

"So... Odine didn't really invent GF, did he?" Selphie asked.

Thuban Alwaid barked out a humourless laugh. "Odine is a pompous fool. We have existed longer than this world as you know it has."

"How old are you....?" Seifer asked, fascinated and a little worried. After all, Tiamat must have come here for a reason.

"After so long, years cease to matter. I suppose if you want to put a timeframe on it, I would be just about 3 million years old."

The three humans were rendered silent. Finally, Selphie asked "are all GF as old as that?"

"What about Hyne?" Irvine asked. "The legend says that Hyne created humans...."

"That is somewhat true," Tiamat answered. "Hyne existed as a Sorcerer long ago, after a great disaster destroyed much of the human population. He gathered survivors, bred with women, and life was born again. Stories like Hyne have happened before, and will happen again. The cycle of human life is such." She cocked her head, the jewels around her neck tinkling together musically. "Most Avatars are about my age. The old court, with the exception of Leviathan, is all about the same age."

"Avatars?" Seifer echoed.

"That was the name of Guardian Forces in my time. Each time has a different name for us. Back when the continents you know didn't exist, back when countries were under different names, and worlds completely varied. When your world turns to dust and the land masses align in new continents, and new cultures arise, we will have a new name."

"How old is Leviathan?" Selphie asked. Could this really be happening?

"He is about 8 million years old. The Ancient Court wasn't created until Bahamut took the throne and organized us. Leviathan joined then."

"This is all wonderfully fascinating, but why are you here?" Seifer asked.

"To give you insight to Berith's... I mean Diablos's plans."

"Berith? Is that Diablos's human name?" Irvine asked.

"He went by many names as a human. He grew up in poverty, but when his skills as a clairvoyant and a necromancer were of help to the king at the time, he became Berith. His true name is one that is familiar to you."

"Really?" Seifer cocked his head.

"Now, you must understand something before I continue..." Tiamat trailed off, and for the first time, looked uncertain. "To reveal such information to humans... it is unthinkable in our world. I may not be able to help you against them."

"Them?" Selphie looked at Seifer and Irvine.

"The other Guardian Forces. Though we all have our allies and friends, as well as enemies in the court, we would never take the side of a human against one of our own."

"Then, why are you?" asked Seifer, suspicious.

"Revenge," the dragoness answered.

"Against Diablos?"

She nodded. "Revenge against Diablos and my father. If you try to kill Diablos, Father will stand in your way." Tiamat pursed full lips. "Master, I would watch myself if I were you. You have enemies in the Summon Court."

"I do?"

"For destroying Odin. Shiva will never forgive it."

"Why would Shiva care?" Irvine asked, still shivering a little.

"They were lovers. When Odin was a human man, before he'd ascended to our Court, Shiva had fallen in love with his strength and regal beauty."

"Summons can be lovers....?" Selphie asked. "Sounds kind of romantic."

"It can be," she said stiffly. "Shiva's loyalty to Odin was unwavering, such is Diablos's loyalty and love for Father."

"Who is your father? Is he a Summon too?" Seifer asked.

"Why...." She trailed off, laughing a little. "Bahamut is my father, of course. The King of Summons was my human father."

"Bahamut!" Selphie exclaimed. "Does that make you Princess of Summons?"

Tiamat laughed at Selphie's human enthusiasm. "Not quite. I am a member of the Ancient Court merely. Along with Bahamut, Diablos, Shiva, Ifrit, Leviathan and Alexander. And, my status in that Ancient Court is laughably low. I've been thrown out."

"Is that why you're here?" Seifer asked. Selphie and Irvine grew very silent, letting Seifer talk to his Summon.

"And, because of my horrible relationship with Father. He would like nothing better than to see me thrown out of Court. And, he is King, so his word goes."

"Why does he hate you?"

"... Later." She waved her hands. "I am here about this issue on your plate. Diablos and his little drug. You know that it is not really a drug, not the same as opiates or your chemical laboratory drugs. The people are addicted to Diablos's powers. He does it merely for his pleasure, for he is a demon, through and through."

"Yeah, he's the evil GF."

"Evil?" Tiamat echoed. "Evil is a word that... we do not understand. It is such a meaningless word to us. Even the so-called purest Summon in Alexander can be considered 'evil' by your definition. Anyway, Diablos will throw many tricks at you, for that is what he loves best, aside from his dead arts and Father."

"You said that his name would be familiar to us....?"

"Yes," Tiamat said, folding her hands in her lap. "You know Diablos as Daeva Aka-Manah."

Selphie gasped, and Seifer was taken aback. "So..." He said to himself. "Zell was right not to trust him...."

"Daeva is the name that Diablos was born with, born into complete poverty. His mother died of consumption, and he was orphaned. But, he had strange powers, ones that his King, eons ago, found fascinating. Diablos is not only a powerful Summon, but you must also beware of his black art magic, the ability to summon armies of the dead to fight for him, and his cunning trickery."

"We're supposed to go to his party tomorrow night!" Selphie exclaimed.

"And, if I hadn't intervened to warn you, you wouldn't have left alive. Diablos knows very well who you are, for you are connected with one of his current masters, in Squall Leonhart. I'm sure he finds the whole thing very amusing."

"And, the other Summons would just let him destroy all these people's lives?" Seifer asked angrily. So, was Raijin just a little game to Diablos?!

"They would let him have his fun, but while Summons and humans have an ill-at-ease relationship, it is a parasitic one. We feed off each other, thus need each other."

"Well, what are we supposed to do?"

Tiamat cocked her head. "At least this way, you aren't going in blind. You can prepare yourselves. Diablos is a dangerous summon, but not an omnipotent one. However, because he is a favourite of Father's, you may have to fight the both of them. But, you can bring backup from your little school, and you can be prepared."

"Why are you doing this?" Selphie finally asked, having listened in silence for a while. "You just said that Bahamut is your father, and that Summons aren't supposed to side with humans over other Summons."

"Because I'm barely even a Summon anymore, all because of a father's hatred that has lasted millions of years."

"Bahamut hates you?" Selphie cocked her head. "But, he's your father, you said. How can a father hate his daughter?"

"Because I was not born a man," Tiamat answered stiffly. "I come from a time where women were lower than the level of dogs. We were only meant to procreate children, and then our uses ran out. I was the first born, and Father always hated that I wasn't the son he'd been expecting. He had Mother executed for the crime of me being a girl. Subsequent women also met the guillotine for bearing daughters rather than sons. Though, because I was the first born, I could not be dispatched like my sisters."

Selphie's face paled, and she looked at Irvine, who was in shock over the whole thing, over having a GF in the room with them, talking to them as a human.

"Wives were kept at home, not to be seen. Men would keep the company of other men, because talking to, and socializing with women was deplorable to them. It still is to him. Even though we've not been human for millions of years, it's hard to forget. It enraged him further that upon my death, I also became a Summon, the Dark Flare to his Mega Flare. I am nothing to him, and my powers begin to fail."

"In Ultimecia's time..." Selphie noticed that Seifer flinched when she said that name. "You weren't a GF then."

"I wouldn't know about that," Tiamat answered. "For, that time hasn't happened. I would have lost any intelligent though upon becoming a monster for her. I know of it because of Time Compression, but none of the particulars." She stood. "I have completed the task I set out to do. Diablos and Bahamut may know I came to see you. Ancient Summons are very powerful, in more things than spells for human use."

"Wait....!" Seifer called. "How... how did you become a Summon?"

"I'm not exactly sure," Tiamat answered. "There is just a certain something in people who ascend after death. It can't be predicted. I supposed you could think of it as a 'destiny' of sorts. Myself, I died at the hands of a thief when our city was sacked by a warring army. Father died in the same war, so we became Summons at around the same time. And, maybe only a few years later, that's when he started finding the others and creating the Court. Diablos was the next, and since then, has been Bahamut's right hand. He is also what in my time, we would have referred to as a concubine."

"We can't fight both of them...." Seifer trailed off.

"Perhaps not, but I hope that I've at least helped you, opened your eyes to the situation a little bit. I owe it to you, a fine Master such as yourself." She went to the door, opening it.

"But, wait... I have so many more questions!" Seifer exclaimed.

"Perhaps another time." She stepped out into the hallway, her shadow on the wall across shaped like a great dragon. In the blink of an eye, she was gone.

"Well, shit..." Irvine muttered. "I think we're fucked."

"What now....?" Selphie asked.

"I think you should contact Garden. Hopefully Zell gets back soon, and we can figure out a plan."

"I can't believe the Count is really Diablos," Selphie sighed. "And, he seemed so nice...."

"Yeah, well that 'nice' guy is planning to fucking kill us," said Irvine.

Seifer silently pursed his lips, mulling over what Tiamat had told them. It was true that he had killed Odin, but that didn't mean that it would be a walk in the park to fight Diablos and Bahamut, not to mention any other GF that wanted to jump in the fray, like Shiva from what the dragoness had said. Seifer knew that the situation was dangerous, but he didn't care. He owed it to Raijin to get to the bottom of this mess, even if the current incarnation of his (former) friend didn't want the help. And, there was also the fact that Zell, and even Selphie and Irvine, were in danger. Diablos knew them. Perhaps he didn't know about Seifer yet, but he couldn't count on that. Seifer had no clue that GF were so old, and to be millions of years old, they all must have been very powerful. Seifer thought of how he could have been walking Zell right to his death, and though nothing had come of it yet, the thought shamed him.

Seifer knew that Zell was SeeD, and could more than handle himself, but there was no way that he would let Zell, and Selphie and Irvine who were being so nice to him and making him feel more like his old self than he had in years, walk into this alone. Not when he.... cared so much about them. Not when he cared so deeply for Zell, and was even falling in love with him.

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